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Changes in good old roleplaying?


Enpeze

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Sometimes after reading through many threads on this board or rpg.net I have the impression that roleplaying changed alot since its beginnings. Which changes?

-extreme influence of anime on many games. Best examples are the advent of Exalted or the new Cthulhu Tech.

-scripted/railroading approach to adventures - gone are the days where in a module you just could not predict the outcome and stories have been simple, chaotic and non-linear. Are the adventures "overdesigned?".

-refusal to let PCs die - even in old D&D (spit) you could die in the first levels very easily - and later too to some extent, because the evil enemies became tougher. I played D&D (spit) 2 decades ago for one or two years (you know I was young and needed the money....) and I remember that the modules have been a very bad dungeon crawling and our GM has been bad...yaddayadda...but death of PC was never a problem. If you died you died, basta. Roll up a new one. This approach was cool and was the aspect I liked alot (ok...I liked all these egg-nogg drinks at our GMs house too...).

What do you think? Do you know of other aspects which changed the way roleplaying games are played from 1985 till now?

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To be honest, personally I'd disagree with you on all three points you make, at least as far as my own gaming goes! :lol:

I particularly dislike the anime influence - I lived in Japan for a number of years and the manga influence was just too sickly sweet, prurient, and overdone to take seriously, and even now the sight of a picture with eyes twice the size of the mouth and a ">" sign for a nose brings me out in a rash... :D

I also like open-form adventures, and am happily still as lethal as I ever was with my GMing.

If there has been a notable trend in RPGing over the past (gulp) 30 years or so, it's been to incorporate far more of the narrativist approach within the rules of the RPG itself, rather than leaving this up to the individual GMs to "wing" on the fly. At the same time this has often gone hand in hand with a loosening up of the "rules-heavy" mindset, which has tended to take PC fate away from the dice and the scenario and put it more in the hands of the GM and players "creating the story" - I guess this is where your point of PCs dying less often come in: when playing HeroQuest, for example, I was frequently distressed that pretty much the only way to actually KILL a character (as opposed to really, really, really Defeat him) was for me to decide to do so. That can lead to a sense of arbitrariness which I for one as a GM am not particularly comfortable with - I still like to feel like I'm playing a game, with concrete rules with crunchy results rather than some freewheeling group huggy session of "Let's Pretend" - just IMHO of course, and I'm aware that others have a ball with the heavily narrative approach, which is great.

One other major change of course has been computer RPGs. Solo stuff like Neverwinter Nights or Morrowind, online stuff like... well, wow, where do I begin! - have blurred the lines somewhat between tabletop and computer play. One thing I haven't tried yet is the over-the-net RPGing with tools like Klooge, although I mean to at some point - that looks kind of cool.

I think also - dare I say it - RPGing has become a bit more mainstream. When I was a wee slip of a lass, practically nobody but nobody without milk bottle bottom specs or an overbite played RPGs (I had the specs), whereas now it's hard to work out who are the bikers, who the goth rockers, and who the RPGers. Which is nice. If a bit scary sometimes.

Good topic though, Enpeze - I'd be interested to hear everyone else's opinions, especially as the whole Exalted / Werewolf: the Anagram / Anime RPG genres seem to have efficiently passed me by. :-)

Sarah

"The Worm Within" - the first novel for The Chronicles of Future Earth, coming 2013 from Chaosium, Inc.

Website: http://sarahnewtonwriter.com | Twitter: @SarahJNewton | Facebook: TheChroniclesOfFutureEarth

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I'm with Sarah here. Point for points:

1)Anime Influence: We've had a handful of anime RPG, and if anything has had a exteme influe since the mid 80s, it isn't anime.

2)Scripted/Railroading of Adventures: Are you forgetting the A series, B series, etc? Most of the TSR stuff was heavily scripted, when PCs being lead around by the nose from point a to Point B and eventually into the next module. If anything games have gotten less structured.

3)Refusal to let PC die: I don't see that. I have seen several games that had been less lethal than, say RQ. Many with good reason, such as superhero RPGs, or games that are more realistic--fixed hit points and instant damage is easy to play but not very realistic. What I have also seen are RPGs that do not revolve around combat the way most RPGs did in the old days. A RPG can do other things besides fighting every ten minutes. I've also seen RPGs that make RQ look pretty tame, combat wise.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Hello,

As I haven't played any recently published game, I can't have a clear idea about recent changes. For the 1975 to 2000, there has been a lot of gaming style changes:

- originally, heroic fantasy was almost the only roleplaying type available (not counting traveller and metamorphosis alpha). Since begining of the 80's, we have gobble of choice.

- originally, adventures were VERY linear (especially TSR ones, but T&T was not by much different in this approach) and we gradually had more choice in the adventures. I don't know if this is still the case.

- we always had a bunch of influences (SF, heroic fantasy, spy, supers,...) and styles (old style litterature, anime, movies, comics,...), so for me no change here.

- some games have been very lethal, some have not, depending on style (not counting heroes unlimited, superpowered games are not lethal, whatever the period. Most of the western games I have played are), the targeted audience and the author's tastes. For me, no changes here (but I don't play recent games). RQ or Bushido are deadly games and are dated 1978 (IIRC). Cyberpunk is deadly and is dated 1988.

- refusal to let pc die is for me a matter of preference of the GM (and, to a lesser extent, of the players) and has always been a debate.

- rules are on the average becoming lighter, less extensive (GURPS and Hero notwithstanding). I agree with Shaira this is driving responsibilities from the rules to the GM.

That's all for now.

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

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Hi guys thought I'd throw my 2 cents in.

Enpeze,

Your first point about anime influence! I think that this is a subjective thing, it depends on the gaming community around you and what they are playing. I think that I've seen influence on table-top rpg'ing from anime, the playing of supernatural 'immortals', card gaming and computer/console rpgs over the past 20 years. My inference of what this has contributed to is a breed of 'munchkin' (if thats the right term) power-rule players whose interest is not the stories and situations that their characters find themselves in but the heroic stature of their character. It also seems to me that this dizzying height of 'herodom' is paramount and how you get there is secondary.

Your second point. I suppose that my fellow gamers and I, (some of whom I've gamed with for over 20 years), have always though about the narrative journey of the characters. When we saw a setting we wanted to explore the places that we loved and really got behind the idea that, its the backstory of the setting and the actions of a character within a narrative that defines the heroic NOT that you've got uber-stats to do what the hell you want ensuring success. This led us away fairly early on from power-gaming and table-top rpg as single figure war-gaming. I like the idea of scripted scenarios, (possibly because I dabble in a little screenwriting) but only when the script says 'this is what will happen if the Player Characters DONT intercede in the narrative. That is no excuse though for a GM not to have done his homework and for everyone together not to forge a new story from his scenarios/ideas.

I think that also while I enjoy a dungeon bash as much as the next man for a little bit of entertainment, serious role playing for me never included most of the d&d modules that I read through. (I loved 'The village of Hommlet'). To have these architectural oddities where decades if not hundreds of completely isolated monsters of differing types inhabit a similar space without ever opening the door on each other and having lots of treasure, well that never seemed like anything else other than power-gaming to me. :) (Bet you can't guess that RQ2 was the first RPG that I picked up luckily).

As for you're final point. Well thats a fair cop guv for me. I don't avoid death in games but I don't let the dice decide the fate of characters on their own. I think of it this way, for our group interactive story-telling is the objective. In stories, there is typically no need for death without some underlying narrative device. I appreciate that thats not the same in real life, that you can walk out of your door and be hit by a car for no reason, but our games are not real life they are stories.

Now the reason for a death in a game may be the player wants to retire a character, that there may be some need for one of the players to sacrifice for the greater good, that a player may send a character into confrontation without doing the proper preparation, (cites Cthulhu as a classic example) and so I have no problem with destroying those characters utterly. But there is a point to the death in question. Hell it maybe that I kill characters off at the beginning of a campaign just to let the players know that I will if i need to. I just don't like the dice doing it with no point. (Of course all confrontation within a narrative could be seen has having a point, but I'm guessing you know what I mean).

But finally I guess the reason that RPGs change is that the demographic of people that play them changes too, (as already mentioned) and it's important to remember (certainly in my opinion) that this is story/game/art and people play the way they want to. I wouldn't prescribe how someone else plays or gets enjoyment out of their games. So bring on the power-gamers and WoW players and rule-gamers and let them have their fun their way.

My only true lament for the longevity of our hobby is that there are some games that have fallen by the wayside and we no longer find in the shops. I would love to be able to go and buy a copy of Ringworld and have it sat on my shelf. Or direct new players to purchase RQ2, IMHO the most complete RPG for the small number of pages in which it was contained. Still I guess that's what Ebay is for :)

Thanks for the interesting topic.

K.

125/420

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I would argue that the successful marketing of the d20 system and its increased popularity with computer and video game support has had a tremendous impact on how games are played. The d20 system catered to these new fans by focussing the system on combat (which any one who plays video games would be more interested in) and less on roleplaying (which Shaira's aforementioned overbite/milk-bottle-bottom spec [i have both afflictions] laden geek is more interested in).

This superficiality, as a result of marketing targeting such a wide audience, has led to a larger amount of RPG players that place more value in the question "How powerful do the rules say I am?" instead of the simple "What can I do in this situation?" or "What would my character do?"

Welcome to the Gamist era of RPG's. Ugh.

My parents found out I was playing RPG's as a kid and ripped them out of my hands. Why wouldn't they with the bad press that saturated the media at the time? Thus, in my sophomore year of college, having become bored with the limits and expense of video game RPG's (which I had only recently reclaimed) and having a pocket blasting with extra cash from my cushy on-campus internship as a marketing researcher, it dawned on me that I could re-enter the world of RPG's. I ran to the FLGS and purchased the gift set of the three core rulebooks for D&D 3.5.

I enjoyed them. For a time. I found combat to be cumbersome and over-detailed,and yet strangely under-detailed over time. So I purchased the New World of Darkness books. I still like them, but the main supplements (vampire, werewolf, mage), while having great ideas, really forced the idea of the universe upon the reader. In the Antagonists supplement it is even stated that zombies in large numbers are not to be a part of the World of Darkness' setting. While I can go ahead and do whatever I want, I find games which attempt to do that offensive. Metaplot without metaplot. Weird. And really difficult to GM.

Exalted was a stupid purchase on my part.

Looking for games that allowed for an immersive roleplaying experience, I purchased Nobilis. A little extreme, and I doubt I will ever run it, yet it remains a model for what I think of as the perfect game. I would most definitely play it with a HG who knew the "rules" (more like a feel) in a heartbeat.

So I purchased Unknown Armies. Wow. I have yet to run a game in it. It's so... dirty. But so incredibly beautiful at the same time. I honestly am still working on exactly how to run such a game and really push the system in a way that capture the player's imagination in a manner to do the wonderful ideas of John Tynes and Greg Stolze justice.

Over the Edge. More wow and a deeper understandind of how a game can be centered on characters and yet still be loosely controlled by the GM. Jonathan Tweet was a visionary. I have yet to play it.

Feng Shui. Cool. Very cool. A game that utilizes imagination to fuel its engine. Fun for fun's sake. It asks for fun and furious descriptions of actions in an over the top manner.

One gamer could only produce the phrase, "I hit him" despite encouragement and advise from the other players. I tried a few examples of nifty descriptions and he would just go with what I suggested uneditted. A perfect example of a product of the most extreme superficiality of today's RPG and video games.

Talislanta. WOW! So much setting, and yet so much freedom. Sechi's love for the world makes the reader love the world. He shows how vague detail can spark the mind. I ran it and my player, this time a very talented gamemaster I met while I lived in Japan, disliked how his magic was "too weak" and stubbornly pushed his magic into levels where Mishaps occured very often. This makes for a very un-fun game.

Call of Cthulhu. The masterwork. My first games as a kid were AD&D 2nd Edition. Here were the stats I was so familiar with, and yet applied in a way that was so different. The game is a beautiful narrative system that places the power of the story squarely in the GM's hands (the Idea, Knowledge, and Luck rolls are powerful tools) and the slow spiral into insanity as characters explore the apathetic universe is breathtaking and entrenching. It's very hard to find players for this game where I am. d20 is really the only game and few players like failing and dying. Thanks to the path of games I've read I now find failure to be just as interesting as epic success, if not more so.

My failures with Call of Cthulhu groups have been terrible. One player said he hated it because he didn't like failing. I looked at him oddly. What fun is a game where you can only win? This player was a fiercely competitive person and prone to sighing loudly when things did not go his way in-game and out-of-game. Another product of today's gaming.

With the announcement of 4th Edition D&D, I sold all of my d20 books, very, very finished with a system I had already grown to strongly dislike. I purchased Warhammer. Warhammer is a direct descendant of BRP. Fate points provide a compromise for d20 players fearing death and it's ease of play and deep setting instill the desire to really play a character. Combat is simplistic, but requires enthusiasm and imagination in order to make it shine. I like that.

I have also seen Warhammer's semi-narrative gameplay fail miserably in the hands of the new generation of gamers. It's not pretty to see. I actually began arguing with a player when he refused to write a character history for Warhammer and saw it as unimportant. As his argument continued it became clear he was actually just lazy. I only asked for some cursory details to help involve his past in the plot and told him a detailed history would be appreciated. His response was that it was the sole responsibility of the GM to place characters into situations, inventing the necessary reasoning, and move them to the next point. Which was odd that I was being told how to run the game, seeing how I was the GM. The nail in the coffin was when he concluded that attempting to "warp" a character's history into the plot was generic and boring.

Ugh. This kind of controlling, yet strangely controlled, gamer seems to be a product of the new kind of gaming.

One could say my follies were my fault, not including the interests of my player more directly. However, a GM plays the game too. Having character's succeed despite dice makes me wonder why we have dice at all. Having to invent everything for characters is a burden that, for me, creates more stress than fun. I feel like I don't have the right to make assumptions of another character because it demeans the concept of roleplaying.

Wow. This turned into a rant.

I would like to add that I've had very good experiences with other d20 gamers. One friend I had tried Feng Shui, loved it, and bought the game as soon as he could. We recently ran Warhammer and he had yet another similar reaction. Obviously the statements I have made don't apply to most gamers. I would say that it applies to a slight majority however... but I could be jaded.

Anyways... yeah.

Sorry for the rant, but it felt good!

I'm really looking forward to tearing into BRP and using this wonderful narrative system to create an original setting. I'm going to be moving away from my middle-of-nowhere midwestern suburb-with-no-city to a place near Boston in the near future. Perhaps there I can find more like-minded gamers.

Quick question to Shaira: Which region of Japan did you live in? I spent two years in Niigata Prefecture and wasn't so deeply immersed in the anime culture.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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The primary change that I've seen is a move away from the game being about challenging the players to being about challenging the characters.

When D&D was new, there was a definate sense that playing the game required a "skill" of the players. That good players could succeed where poor players would fail, regardless of the characters they were using. Tomb Of Horrors was designed to demonstrate this very fact. This is one of the reason that early D&D seems so random and hodge podge with oodles of monsters who exists for no reason than to screw characters over: rust monster, gelatinous cubes, lurker above etc. While this stuff seems silly and random to modern eyes, they existed simply to provide a series of different challenges for the players to overcome. Heck, back in those days we didn't bother naming our characters; they were simply an extension of ourselves. That's another reason why you don't see rules about spotting things or diplomacy in those games. The DM ruled based on how the players acted rather than on the skill of the character.

Naturally, as players got more experienced some began to look for more variety is the abilities of their characters which lead to AD&D's over abundance of classes as well as skill based games like RQ, Bushido etc. I think that the narativist element is an outgrowth of this as the seperation between the abilities of the players and their characters grew eventually leading to games such as Pendragon where the character is no longer 100% under the control of the player.

I see this change having an impact of PC death as well. When the game is focused on challenging the player, the survival of a PC is the hallmark of successful play. Since your character is just an entension of yourself, rolling up a new character just means your a little less powerful the next time you play; its no different from taking hit point damage in a sense since you haven't really lost anything because your ability is your own personal game-playing skill. The move toward focusing the game on the character's abilities means that you lose all that you have gained which is significantly more of a loss. Hence the gradual reluctance to have PCs die.

Of course, all this began well before 1985

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Quick question to Shaira: Which region of Japan did you live in? I spent two years in Niigata Prefecture and wasn't so deeply immersed in the anime culture.

Well, I wouldn't say I was immersed in anime culture at all - I generally avoided it like the plague! :D I lived in western Tokyo (Setagaya-ku) for about 5 years in the early nineties, working as a translator and interpreter. As you'll doubtless know from your time in Niigata, manga are everywhere in Japan - porno manga on the metro, kiddy manga on the TV first thing in the morning till last thing at night, loud and blaring and generally badly drawn and animated, blockbuster manga of "working in an office" to buy on your way to work, etc, etc. I think ultimately I found the entire manga "art" "style" (I use both words advisedly) to be very limiting - it was very hard finding something, either line art or animation, which didn't look like everything else. Admittedly it's one of Japan's "great contributions" to pop culture (along with the French), but it doesn't turn me on at all.

I found the same trend an absolute killer in Japanese RPG world as well. Most of the Japanese RPGers I met were otaku - teenage boys locked in their rooms which make Fear of Girls look like a feminist tract :D. I don't want to game with a load of Sailor Moon fans... :eek:

I remember several times buying one of the Japanese RPG mags - it had some stuff on Glorantha in it - and being terrified by the manga-effect on Dragon Pass. Suddenly my land of herodom and Truly Great Adventures had turned into an episode of Buffy...

Ahem. Seem to have gone off on one rather, there. Apologies :P Don't get me wrong - so much of Japan was marvellous, some of the subculture life there makes Cyberpunk roleplaying look dated. It's just the manga thing. Ack. Splutter. Cough.

Cheers!

Sarah

"The Worm Within" - the first novel for The Chronicles of Future Earth, coming 2013 from Chaosium, Inc.

Website: http://sarahnewtonwriter.com | Twitter: @SarahJNewton | Facebook: TheChroniclesOfFutureEarth

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On the most part, I agree. Anime has had a TERRIBLE impact on gaming. It's one reason I refuse to talk about Exalted.

However, I have a few guilty pleasures in anime. The Hellsing OVA, what with its neo-nazis, vatican agents, vampires (monstrous, not charming goth-bait) and large (yet realistic) guns scratches many itches for me. Cowboy Bebop is a magnificent Film Noir-ish production. It has an interesting setting that manages to be both distant and approachable. Full Metal Alchemist also has my attentions due to the fact that I'll be studying alchemy in graduate school and it actually has some fairly faithful references to written history... but Fullmetal Alchemist is most definitely not my favorite due to its fluff factor which is formulaic and smacks of the worst parts of Japanese culture.

Those are really the only exceptions to my complicit agreement. Dragon Ball Z is the Dark Lord Lucifer in video format, warn the young members of your family.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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Anime influence -- I think this really depends on the games you're playing. If you're playing Robotech, Dragonball Z, or some such game then of course their are influences. Personally I don't see them in the stuff I purchase, but then for the past several years my purchases have been largely limited to CoC or Pulp, with the d20 Modern and base D&D 3.5 books thrown in during an attempt to play D20.

Scripted/Railroaded adventures -- Really can't comment on this, I don't run someone else's adventures, I run ones that I create myself, and I tend to allow very free-form play. This is an interesting question as I'm actually getting ready to give my players a poll which will help to decide what our next campaign looks like, and one of the questions is if they want it to be more linear.

Refusal to let PC's die -- I played AD&D 1st Ed. in the early 90's, and I've played a little D20 D&D, in the AD&D I didn't really fear for my characters life, in the D20 game I did. I GM'd a game years ago, where the PC's were basically undefinable, and nothing I could throw at them challenged them. In the CoC campaign I'm currently running, I've had to pull punches on several occasions as killing the players would hurt the story I'm trying to craft, at the same time, there has been player death, and I will only pull the punches so much.

I can see a couple changes, one is a maturing of the rules. Let's be serious, RPG's are still a fairly young hobby, they've only been around for a little over 30 years. On the downside, I think one of the curses of both D20 and the times we live in is an emphasis on glitz over substance. Does every RPG book need to be hardback, on glossy paper and full colour? Personally "Basic Roleplaying" seems like a breath of fresh air if they keep the layout so clean and simple. Another problem I see are that the days of being able to get into RPG's cheaply. The basic entrance fee tends to be $40-150, this no doubt hurts on getting some people interested in the hobby. When you look at games such as CoC, Traveller, or "Empire of the Petal Throne" one thing you'll notice is that 40 now seems to be "young". The general aging of the RPG population has definitely had an effect.

Aging -- When I was 18 I thought nothing of getting together weekly and playing Champions. I'm now 40, have 3 kids, a job and other interests, all of which keep me quite busy. I still love to play RPG's, though now I typically only GM them. Our group has anywhere from 1 week to 1 year between sessions, as such the rules need to be simple enough that I can remember them without having to restudy, and having them bog down gameplay.

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I've noticed no anime influence. But then I don't play the anime influenced games and I've never lived in Japan, nor has any member of my gaming group.

I'd say in evolutionary terms that the original FRP genre has radiated; there are now games for Space Opera, Cyberpunk, etc, which did not exist in 1980. There are a wider variety of games that support different role-playing styles - some people love Herouest, it leaves me mostly cold, and some people hate it. At the same time that RPG was radiating into different niches and becoming a hobby {like model railroading was when I was growing up} that makes you merely slightly odd as opposed to downright weird; it has lost its original niche of weird college students who had two much time on their hands to World of Warcraft.

As for character death, it has probably become more rare for four reasons. The first is that in a fairly complicated system it can take a long time to create a character, so character death costs you something. The second is that as more decisions are made, and characters acquire personalities rather than being simple power gaming avatars, losing a character costs more. The third is that we just have less time to play the games - meeting once every three weeks if I kill off a character it might take 6 months for the player to get as good an understanding of his next character as he has of the one he is playing now. Finally, GM's are now more likely to have something besides character death to create dramatic tension in the game. In D&D 1st edition, the issue was whether you survived and came back with your EP, or rolled up a new character. Once you got to were you knew a cleric with Raise Dead, it was whether you brought back your EP from the current run you were on. LEDA {life energy draining} monsters were often more feared than ones that merely killed you, because they cost the player more.

I'd say that an increase in the importance of settings relative to rules is probably the biggest change. Nowadays, you're playing Fading Suns or Glorantha first; BRP or RQ or the Fading Suns system second.

On the other hand, I could probably find an AD&D game with a dungeon without looking too hard. Most players still play D&D; most of them still powergame {of course I also powergame }. etc. There has probably been less change in the hobby as a whole than people who change genres, try out edgy new systems, and put a lot of effort into their gaming would like to think.

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There has probably been less change in the hobby as a whole than people who change genres, try out edgy new systems, and put a lot of effort into their gaming would like to think.

I'm someone who does change genres regularly, frequently tries out edgy new systems (alternating with old-school games I never played the first time around), and puts a lot of energy into my gaming, and I'll agree with you 100% here.

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I don't know much about gaming in general - I rarely buy games except RQ/BRP/HQ and I don't go to gaming clubs. So, I can only really speak about my own experiences in gaming.

One thing that has changed is that games are a lot more commercial nowadays. When you look at the lithographic prints of games such as White Bear and Red Moon they look so amateurish compared with the glossy games of today. Also, with the advent of PDF publishing and print on demand companies such as Lulu there are a lot of small publications coming out.

Back to the original points, people bring a lot of baggage to roleplaying games. None of the groups I have played with have been particularly influenced by Manga, although some players did buy the comics and watch the films. Maybe some games have been but, as I said, I don't buy a lot of games these days.

Are scenarios more railroaded nowadays? I haven't noticed. Looking at some scenarios in the past, the ones in classic RQ supplements were normally very linear. Sure, the settings had a lot of plot hooks and were open but the individual scenarios were never more than do this then do that. There was a time in the 90s when scenarios were made into cameos with very little structure and were very open. However, such scenarios are difficult to write, GM and play, to say they are challenging is an understatement. Where games have a high scenario-churn it is easier to write the scenarios as simple linear ones.

It's hard to kill PCs now? Well, that depends on your style of play. If you sit down to a session, roll up a PC, play one session and then throw it away then it is not important if your PC lives or dies. If you play in a campaign over a long period of time then you invest a great deal of time and effort in your PC and you want him/her to survive. In our RQ2 campaign back in the 80s, we had a huge amount of PC death, sometimes we lost 5 or 6 PCs per session, but we always had healers available with copious Resurrects and Divine Interventions, so they generally came back again. So, those games were dangerous but not completely deadly. mOne of the many reasons I don't like Call of Cthulhu is that all my PCs have died or gone insane in the first session so I have never played in a proper campaign and I like campaigns. You could say that Hero Points make it harder to kill PCs, but GMs have always fudged rolls to keep PCs alive, so it's not really a new thing.

One thing that has changed is that I am now 26 years older than when I started roleplaying. My attitudes have changed, the way I thinnk has changed, the way I live has changed and the way I roleplay has changed. If I behaved, acted and thought the same way at 44 than I did at 18 then something would be very wrong with me. So, my gaming has become more mature. Also, I've played for a long time and have played in many similar scenarios, so I have experienced a lot of gaming, so it takes a lot to surprise me. All this makes me look at scenarios in a different light.

So, I don't think that roleplaying has changed a lot, although the quality of games certainly has. We still gather every week, month, holiday or year and sit around a table talking, having a laugh and playing games. Some of us might have laptops with scenarios on, others may be heavier and greyer but we still enjoy gaming.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

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-scripted/railroading approach to adventures - gone are the days where in a module you just could not predict the outcome and stories have been simple, chaotic and non-linear. Are the adventures "overdesigned?".

Always been that way. Most of the early D&D adventures were incredibly linear.

-refusal to let PCs die - even in old D&D (spit) you could die in the first levels

Well, the truth is that its just that many modern games are more honest about this rather than having it occur by GM fudging.

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I don't see the anime thing as anymore than one section of the gaming market. None of the games I've read recently seemed to have much anime influence... but then anime is a pretty wide open field.

Most of what we play is really open ended... there has been meta-plot stuff that has shown up... back ground events the PCs might get swept up in for a while that will most likely resolve regardless of their actions... but not much of that. I don't think there are any big changes there that I can see.

As for character death... I think there has been more emphasis on games as 'stories'... narrative... consensual realities... whatever. Seems mostly to be hokum for the loftier reaches of RPG.net... and not much on the mind of the kids playing D20 down at the game club. Even when I was in high school there were RPG groups I knew of that were all about magic and power and leveling... where no PCs died... or if they died they didn't stay dead for long. That was probably more about adolescent power fantasies... rather than narrative splendor.

I think there has been more emphasis lately on mechanics recreating genre... stuff like Spirit Of The Century, though not my cup of cocoa, seems pretty popular, and seems less lethal by design.

My friends were more of the sort that wanted a believable world, with believable consequences... we avoided violence as much as possible because it would get us killed. We didn't have any concerns about the PCs being the 'protagonists' and needing to succeed for the sake of the story...

Since then I've gravitated towards those same sorts of groups... I don't care for cinematic games... I like knowing my character can die... even for ridiculous, meaningless reasons (though none of my characters have ever been killed by a car as they walked out of their house!).

I'm fine with that... but I know a lot of people aren't, and never have been.

I don't see newer games going all that much one way or the other, rather they seem to go 'every which way'... BRP is certainly on the sharper end of the deadly-stick... it's got 'fate points' as an option, but I for one am glad they are 'only' an option.

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I don't know much about gaming in general - I rarely buy games except RQ/BRP/HQ and I don't go to gaming clubs. So, I can only really speak about my own experiences in gaming.

One thing that has changed is that games are a lot more commercial nowadays. When you look at the lithographic prints of games such as White Bear and Red Moon they look so amateurish compared with the glossy games of today. Also, with the advent of PDF publishing and print on demand companies such as Lulu there are a lot of small publications coming out.

I am like soltakss - I rarely buy any other kind of game stuff. I know a little about d20, and next to nothing about any other current (or even more recent than say, 20 years old) systems. I don't go to gaming cons or clubs. So I can't comment on a lot. I don't know about the anime influence, but anime is so popular now with college-age and below that I imagine it has influenced games.

But certainly, the games are much more polished now. Sometimes, I think they lost as much as they gained. Sure, the artwork's more polished - but I wouldn't say a lot of it is "better." The books are cosmetically nicer but a lot more expensive as a result.

The really tricky part is that I think some of the imagination has been stifled. Having these very detailed, heavily-supplemented settings - they're very nice, very impressive, sometimes even awesome - but it's taken some of the creativity out of the players. In a way, old D&D or AD&D had an advantage - you had spells, monsters, magic items - but no backstory. It was up to you to assemble them into a coherent (or incoherent) world or setting. I took it as a challenge to my imagination, and creating my first D&D world-setting was one of the most fun things I ever did with the game.

Ah well ... maybe I'm just a ol' fart.

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Actually, if you were to throw the roleplaying community and games open for analysis for this last decade, I would say that the 'pulp' style has had a bigger influence on game aesthetics than anime has. There are dozens of 1920s pulp games around now, while even mainstream games like D&D (Ebberon) and WoD (Mage: the Awakening) have shown a large dollup of 'pulpy' flavour.

Of course, BRP has always had a substantial pulp involvement the form of Call of Cthulhu, although the characters weren't quite as powerful as they are in some of the more modern games.

It has been said that the late 1980s and 1990s were dominated by a continual 'punk' motif. This last decade, however, has definitely been a 'pulp' one in rpgs, rather than anime.

The other counter point, which is well represented in some of these posts actually, is Forge-esque analysis. A decade ago, most gamers didn't continually make reference to GNS theory when criticising or commenting upon games. Personally, I think the whole Gamer-Narrativist-Simulationist debate is every bit as stereotyped as expecting every character to conform to Defender-Leader-Controller-Striker roles, but hey, I guess some people must feel it's very important to do so.

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As for character death... I think there has been more emphasis on games as 'stories'... narrative... consensual realities... whatever. Seems mostly to be hokum for the loftier reaches of RPG.net... and not much on the mind of the kids playing D20 down at the game club.

Well I think it also is a sign of a change from dungeon claws, and unconnected adventures to campaigns. If a GM wants to run anything that bring out characters as opposed to rolling dice, then he needs to work plot hooks around the PCs. That creates a potential problem in that if the PC dies at the wrong time, it can derail an adventure or even campaign.

As for whats on the minds of the kids playing D20, well with them it is generally, kill monster, get EP, get treasure-anything that keeps a PC around longer is good. Anything that doesn't is bad.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I don't know... we always played games with 'campaigns'... I don't remember ever playing a series of sessions of unconnected dungeon-bashing (that came much later... more as a wargame than an RPG)... and we always had character deaths (though usually with some hope for resurrection... maybe).

Probably a lot of my preferences and memories are owed to the great GM we had back in the day. He always made is game world seem so full of possibility for exporation and adventure.

None of use were 'master thespians' though and I don't recall much emphasis on character development... it happened, but most of us just started off with some stereotype and kept playing it that way.

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I don't know... we always played games with 'campaigns'... I don't remember ever playing a series of sessions of unconnected dungeon-bashing (that came much later... more as a wargame than an RPG)... and we always had character deaths (though usually with some hope for resurrection... maybe).

Probably a lot of my preferences and memories are owed to the great GM we had back in the day. He always made is game world seem so full of possibility for exporation and adventure.

None of use were 'master thespians' though and I don't recall much emphasis on character development... it happened, but most of us just started off with some stereotype and kept playing it that way.

Let me rephase thing. Now people are more likely to use long term character goals and themes for a series of adventures. The more character driven the campaign the more important those characters are.

RPGs have a lot in common with fiction. We are introduced to a central character (heroic or otherwise) and we watch him (her, it) face challenges until we get to the end of the story. If we see the central character get killed off early on, it can derail the story. It can get worse if the character gets killed off three quarters into the story, after the viewer has invested time an attention getting to understand the character and story.

Now the same holds true in an RPG game. Maybe more so, since the players have a vested interest in their characters that a viewer usually doesn't. No one really want the PCs to die, especially not the GM (if a GM brags about how many characters he is killing something is wrong).

In order for the game to be exciting there needs to be an element of the unknown and some risk. On the other hand we don';'t really want to wipe out the characters as it is counterproductive. The GM's job is to walk that tightrope between conflicting expectations.

Recently RPGs some RPGs have looked into other ways to maintain the risk other that death. For instance in most films, novels and legends we know the main character is going to be around, at least until the end. That's how stories work. Yet we can usually be kept interested in see how the character gets out of whatever mess he got into. we know Batman, King Arthur, James Bond, etc. is going to survive the current peril and make it to the end of the movie. In most fiction the writing ensures this. If is is good, it is still exciting to follow.

What some games have done is reduce lethality in one way or another to get that same sort of result. Some better than others.

But there are also games that just do it because people don't like loosing characters.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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It's the difference between a Short Story and a Series of Novels or a Film and a TV Series.

In a short story or film you have characters that are introduced, do something and then are thrown away. This is the equivalent to rolling up PCs for a one-off scenario. It's enjoyable and nobody much cares if the PC dies.

In a series of novels or a TV series you have characters that survive for several books/episodes, they develop and change and generally do not die. This is classic campaign play where PCs tend to survive for more than one scenario and players like to see them develop and add to the story.

Personally, I don't much care for the one-shot scenario and much prefer campaigns. That's one reason why I don't go to gaming clubs as they usually go for the "roll up a PC and do a scenario" approach with RQ this week, D20 the next, CoC the next and so on. That and they're full of geeks :)

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Let me rephase thing. Now people are more likely to use long term character goals and themes for a series of adventures. The more character driven the campaign the more important those characters are.

I agree, this is another change in roleplaying games the last 25 years. In these days you could feel that the center of roleplaying was not always directly on the character. It was rather the adventure module. You could complete with it with any other character you rolled up during the campaign. Not so important as long as you played through the module.

RPGs have a lot in common with fiction. We are introduced to a central character (heroic or otherwise) and we watch him (her, it) face challenges until we get to the end of the story.

Maybe we should explain what "heroic" means in this. Or if non-heroic means that a character could get killed at every moment in the story or not. I think if you answer the question with "not" then the character is not non-heroic anymore. Its just a low skill hero in disguise.

If we see the central character get killed off early on, it can derail the story.

I think it depends on the story and the flexibility of the GM/player if this happens. Additionally "story derailing" has a very broad spectrum of interpretation. Eg my interpretation of "story derailing" is that it is sometimes even necessary to play a story upside down and totally different from your plan in order to immerse players. I am always ready do this and change a plot for 180 degrees because of various cirucumstances (actions and ideas of the players, death of a PC or NPC etc.).

Now the same holds true in an RPG game. Maybe more so, since the players have a vested interest in their characters that a viewer usually doesn't. No one really want the PCs to die, especially not the GM (if a GM brags about how many characters he is killing something is wrong).

My experiences are different. Its not that I want somebody see dying, but I am a believer of dice rolling and destiny. Never fugding the dice is my credo. Fudging dice means railroading and this I absolutely hate. In your system the players are dealing the whole time with dangerous stuff and live dangerous lives but they should not suffer any consequences untill they approach some idealized final fight. (if this concept of final fight is always necessary is another can of worms) I would not call this a very realistic resolving of situations. Its sounds rather scripted.

In order for the game to be exciting there needs to be an element of the unknown and some risk.

But not too many, no? :)

Recently RPGs some RPGs have looked into other ways to maintain the risk other that death.

I absolutely agree and this was one of the main points of my question in my first thread post. (the point "refusal to let a player die")

For instance in most films, novels and legends we know the main character is going to be around, at least until the end. That's how stories work. Yet we can usually be kept interested in see how the character gets out of whatever mess he got into. we know Batman, King Arthur, James Bond, etc. is going to survive the current peril and make it to the end of the movie.

Thanks. Now we are at one of the main reasons of the change. Cinema! I am convinced that gaming is for many people just a replacement for interactive movies/TV. It was different 25 years ago because movies/TV has been not so prominent in our brains because there were fewer shows. A good example of this is that every even slightly successful TV show, book and movie gets his own roleplaying game today. 1980 there was not much sign of this. The players didnt play "firefly", "buffy" or "Battlestar Galactica" immortal serial heroes. They didnt play anime heroes or Conan d20. They played generic characters in generic worlds like dwarfs, fighters in ravenloft or a traveller merc.

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I've noticed no anime influence. But then I don't play the anime influenced games and I've never lived in Japan, nor has any member of my gaming group.

I dont care about anime too. I find most of it cheesy. But many younger players dont. Eg. Exalted is one of the most successful roleplaying games. Even D&D has some anime influences with the new Eberon world. Cthulhu-Tech is a crossover of anime and lovecraft. The SF and fantasy media is full of anime elements.

There are a wider variety of games that support different role-playing styles - some people love Herouest, it leaves me mostly cold, and some people hate it.

And there is another group of people which dont even understand the HQ rules from a technical POV. (like myself :))

At the same time that RPG was radiating into different niches and becoming a hobby {like model railroading was when I was growing up} that makes you merely slightly odd as opposed to downright weird; it has lost its original niche of weird college students who had two much time on their hands to World of Warcraft.

So we can say that roleplaying as we know it is dying slowly but steadily out?

As for character death, it has probably become more rare for four reasons. The first is that in a fairly complicated system it can take a long time to create a character, so character death costs you something. The second is that as more decisions are made, and characters acquire personalities rather than being simple power gaming avatars, losing a character costs more. The third is that we just have less time to play the games - meeting once every three weeks if I kill off a character it might take 6 months for the player to get as good an understanding of his next character as he has of the one he is playing now.

I agree. These 4 points are very valid. The games has become more and more "character-centric". Just regarding your first point "more complictated character generation" I think is it is the other way round. Its because the change of emphasis of todays games from the module to the character the chargen became more and more complex.

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Always been that way. Most of the early D&D adventures were incredibly linear.

Maybe I played other D&D modules than you, but I remember modules like "adventures in the wilderness" or "dangerous island" (or whatever the names has been) in which you could go whereever you want in a generic country/island drawn on hex paper. (ok, only 6 directions to be honest) This I would call non-linear.

Well, the truth is that its just that many modern games are more honest about this rather than having it occur by GM fudging.

My GMs in those days never fudged. They let you die with an evil grin.

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I don't see the anime thing as anymore than one section of the gaming market. None of the games I've read recently seemed to have much anime influence... but then anime is a pretty wide open field.

Of course its easily possible to circumvent anime-influence. But its present in many new style products. Just look at the covers of the games your FLGS has on its shelfs. Even D&D has with Eberon anime influence.

Since then I've gravitated towards those same sorts of groups... I don't care for cinematic games... I like knowing my character can die... even for ridiculous, meaningless reasons (though none of my characters have ever been killed by a car as they walked out of their house!).

I'm fine with that... but I know a lot of people aren't, and never have been.

Its good to hear that there is another hard lonely fighter in a world of softies. :)

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