Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Adventure Games and the Designer's Worldview

If you are seeing this post, chances are I accidentally posted it as its been in various draft stages for several years.

But I wanted to go on a pseudo-intellectual ramble about how an adventure game is shaped by the worldview of its designer due to how the mechanics function.

Gygaxian D&D is based upon a slow grind, the careful management of risk and accumulation of wealth through sound decisions.  Not only is wealth the point,  but reckless behaviour (even if beneficial in the short term) is a foolish choice.  It is about winning wars not battles,  you don't succeed by pulling off a big score through daring and luck.  You succeed with diligence, hard work and patience until you have enough wealth to buy your castle and retire.  Intentional or not, that is the mythical golden age of America middle class success story. It is also what originally (though I couldn't put my finger on it way back then) seemed off about D&D.

Neoclassical Geek Revival is about risking death on a razor's edge to get the big score.  Playing it safe lets you safely fail in a slow decline.  Wealth isn't the point, it is a means to an end.  Exploration and reputation are the point, and what you use wealth to finance.  The mortality/abject failure rate for characters is absurdly high, but advancement can be vastly faster. Retirement happens when you run out of ambition and just settle down to play it safe. That much more closely resembles my own worldview.

I'd be interested to see how this kind of faux-insight could be applied to other games and their creators.

What the hell, I haven't posted much lately, I may as well post this rather than continue to post nothing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Myriad of Grotesque Glares

Brother Adamson looked up at its curling horns as he was cloaked in the long shadows of its bat-like wings. Its gaping maw was surrounded by green mosses and its body was largely obscured by a blueish lichen.
  "Yes, we need to send someone up there to clean them soon" spoke the doddering old priest as he slowly shuffled down the path, leaning on a cane worked from gnarled juniper root.
  Adamson turned to face the old priest "I have always wondered why you Northmen carve these horrible gargoyles.  Forgive my bluntness, but to adorn a church of Law with demonic looking statues would give the pagan tribes you hope to convert the wrong impression.  Their dark temples only show the likeness of their so-called gods and this would imply we worship the agents of Chaos".  
   The priest shook his head and let out a brief sigh "You do not understand, these are not statues which resemble demons.."
    Adamson interrupted "I don't recall any agents of law with ba.."
  Adamson fell silent.
    The priest continued in a more subdued tone "which we maintain for utterly practical purposes."
   "But why would you commit such blasphemous idolatry?" asked Adamson as revulsion raced across his face.   "Oh this is far from any form of veneration, quite the opposite.  Surely you know the power a name has over a demon?" said the old priest, waiting for Adamson to nod before continuing "A demons true form has more power still.  To carve an exacting likeness of the demons physical body as it exists in the pit is to bind its astral form in this world.  It is rooted in this spot, rendered utterly impotent..though some say they can answer questions if a particularly potent rain flows over them."

    "If this is true, why is every artisan in the realms of man not carving more?" asked Adamson.  "Because they are only held in check by the power of Law and the holy ground they reside on.   Should a cathedral be defiled by the dark powers these demons are granted a physical form with which to defend their now blasphemous lair against the righteous forces".
   "Then destroy them!" he spurted before the priest interjected "And free the demon to possess the weak willed, blight fields and spread contagion?  Perhaps if we had a legion of clergy to exorcise these demons before it came to such a thing such would work.  But we do not have the luxuries and wealth of you in the south, we are an isolated priesthood in a hard and unforgiving clime. We use what tools we have in the fight to push back Chaos.  We are wardens of Law and these cathedrals are the prisons this world uses to keep the denizens of the pit contained.  We Northmen could use any help you Southerners could spare in keeping their walls standing."

Adamson stared back up at the grotesque gargoyle whose shadow he stood in and felt a sense of nausea deep in his stomach as a trick of the passing clouds seemed to let it blink.

"Yes, if we can't hire someone to clean him soon I fear weathering will soon disfigure the statue enough to release the demon within"