Friday, April 11, 2008

What kind of game you play changes with who you are

When Vampire: the Masquerade hit the shelves in the early 90's, it immediately struck a chord. I was interested in creating characters that were designed to really just interact with the environment. I would be happy to just play a character who walked the streets, talked to people, and tried to figure out how to exist as the un-dead in a world not meant for him. I created settings and adventures designed, for the most part, along that idea. Did it work? Did the games fly? Sort of. Some went well, others didn't. Some players just wanted to play Immortals With Cool Powers, some engaged in some kind of revenge-fantasy, some wanted Dungeon Crawling With Fangs.

But here it is, around 16 years after the first edition of V:tM came out, and every now and again I get the itch to run that game again. I sit down, try to work on a setting, and then drop it. It just doesn't work; I'm not in that place anymore. My early 20's seemed to be the right time to play and run Vampire, you know? It was the time to feel disassociated from my peers, to feel like I didn't belong, and to express that in a game. A good number of people felt the same way, too, and some games built up from that were pure magic.

But im in my mid-to-late 30's now, and times are different. I still put some of my life into my games, but I'm trying to say something different now. I think about my home, my family, and how to carve out a victory from a life that keeps trying to hand out defeat. And you know what game speaks to me when I think of that?


Funny, huh? When I think of a game in that setting, I think of people building a better life for themselves, using their wits and their strengths. Characters for the setting just seem a little more real; they have dirt under their fingernails. They're working hard just to keep what's theirs.

Some of the best times roleplaying I've seen recently have come out of a couple of different Serenity games. Very little was drawn from Whedon's setting. Rather, characters seemed to be built from the players' frustrations with the working world, with their economic situations, from their desire to really be heroes in a world not meant for heroes. I've seen game sessions that were almost entirely about how to make the next couple of credits, how to keep enough fuel in the ship to make the next credit to get to the next job. That cycle of despiration is a hell of a motivator.

I'm going to try to re-create that kind of environment when the new edition of Traveller comes out. I want players who will create characters who are real, born out of their own fears, frustrations, and see what stories come out from them.

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