For those who don’t know, I play a little card game called Magic: the Gathering. Every year, as new cards come out, we get a different take on a different world through the block system. For me, and many, many others, the best block that Wizards of the Coast (Wizards or WotC) ever created was the Ravnica block. That was seven years ago now. As with another popular block, Mirrodin, being revisited seven years after the fact, this fall we will “Return to Ravnica”. If you have ever heard me talk about Ravnica or Magic, you would imagine that I, and a large portion of the Magic community, are pretty darn excited. Well, you would be right, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have serious reservations. So take the jump for a speculative look at the “success” of the Return to Ravnica block.
I get frequent e-mail questions about gaming from our Critical Hit listeners. Often they ask me my opinion on a game setting or a particular power in 4th edition; but there is one question that I get more than any others, and it goes something like this:
HELP! I have an awesome campaign planned but ever since my players discovered that they can sell copper for 2 silver a pound they’ve decided that they are just going to become miners and settle in a sleepy mining town. How do I get them to pick up their swords and staves and head over to the bad guy’s teleporting, time-machine castle, which is also a werewolf factory?
Kevin Von Realperson
And I usually try to offer some advice. Although that is not what I will do today. This article is not about what Kevin should do. It’s about what Kevin should have done…
I used to play a Halfling Monk back when I was in college. As it turned out I made a lot of thematic choices that made the character really powerful, which is nice. Unfortunately, as my poor karatehobbit found out, sometimes you can make thematic choices that completely screw you over.
Here at Major Spoilers we get frequent e-mails from our readers and podcast audience. One of the questions we get most frequently for Critical Hit goes something like this:
My friends and I decided that, for a change of pace, we wanted to play an evil D&D campaign. So I ran them through character creation and we started playing… and it was a horrible mess! We didn’t get anything accomplished, the game devolved into a four-hour, player vs. player combat and one of the PCs insisted on killing and raping all peasants, livestock and furniture he came across. Is it even possible to run an evil campaign without the game just falling apart?
Glad you asked, real person. The Answer is yes.
One of the first lessons game masters learn is to be flexible. Whether it’s by observing a more experienced GM say ‘yes’ at all the right moments, or by doing some soul-searching after watching the collapse of their fourth campaign in as many months. All game masters learn flexibility eventually. Most gamers will agree that a game master who is willing to let players push the boundaries of their game makes for a better gaming experience.
But how flexible should the players be?
I have a very organic approach to my role-playing games. As I run games for people and play in other people’s games I simply incorporate things that work into my style and eliminate things that don’t. One of the many options available to game masters that I have always ignored are puzzles. Really it wasn’t until a recent comment from a Critical Hit listener that I stopped to consider why this time-honored game mastering option never worked its way into my lexicon. And it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I managed to put my finger on it: Puzzles discourage role-playing.
If you are like me, you are usually happy to see a new supplement come out for your favorite role playing game, new powers, new options, new directions. But what happens when the new options are strictly better than the ones in the core book?
Do you have what it takes to be God’s Watchdog in the West that never was?
Tabletop role-playing games, as well as LARPs are exercises in social contracts. Whenever a group of people sit down to play they all have to agree on the system, the arbitration of said system and on hundreds of unspoken rules. Of course, in this hodgepodge system there’s always room for someone to start rocking boats, rattling cages and tipping over cows.
I have always been amazed at how isolated tabletop gaming groups can be. Since I started role playing I have met people who have never played anything other than second edition D&D, likewise I’ve seen groups who play Vampire LARP exclusively. There is very little in the way of a unifying culture for gamers, whereas every sci-fi enthusiast has probably seen an episode of Star Trek there are gamers who have never played a game of Dungeons & Dragons. This, in and of itself, is not an issue, the problem is that, as with all isolated pockets of society, myths and stigmas begin to develop. The kids playing Paranoia think D&D is too simplistic, the kids playing D&D think the guys playing World of Darkness are pretentious, and nobody understands what the hell the Nobilis kids are doing. So in an effort to combat gamer bias I’d like to tell you about some of the games that are out there, waiting to take you to brand new experiences.