Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ow! Stop Hitting Me With That Axe!

Everyone seems to love categories and labels. And the RPG hobby is no exception. One of the labels getting some discussion over at the Barking Alien blog is "Story game." Detractors of this type of game claim that they are simply railroaded stories that are passed down from designer to GM to player.

As the designer of one of these "story games" (links over on the right), I must disagree. AiO is not simply about recreating the adventures of Dorothy & Company word for word. It incorporates the broad themes of the stories, friendship and exploration, but anything you do with the rules and setting I've provided is up to you. (One of my Facebook fans even ran an adventure called "Beavis and Butthead Do Oz.")

One of the things that I think is going on is that many players out there are trained to view violence as the primary solution to many gaming situations. Since RPGs grew out of wargames and drew inspiration from adventure fiction, this is actually kind of understandable. Even in games and genres where "I hit it with my axe" is not the preferred solution as it is in D&D, these gamers will not complain as long as it remains a valid solution.

Many story games, however, take differing approaches to combat or put the focus on other areas of gameplay. This often means that "I hit it with my axe" becomes a sub-optimal solution or maybe even a bad solution to the scenario. So players are not really being railroaded by story games, but may be feeling restricted when that favored option is taken away from them.

 AiO is actually a good example of this. Although hitting things with your axe (or other Deadly Weapon) does have an effect on an opponent, it will not kill them. Once a foe is defeated, you still have to figure out what to do with them afterwards.

Because this idea is so pervasive, I worry that my game's potential success is ultimately limited. I have a friend who is a self-admitted hack & slash gamer who will sometimes ask me "Now when are you going to design something that people will actually play?"

What do you think, guys? How important is combat in the games you play? Could you deal with a game in which "I hit it with my axe"  was the wrong course of action more often than not? Are you playing a game like that right now? Are you playing AiO?

1 comment:

mike larsen said...

The importance of combat is all dependant on the story you want to tell,and in the fore mentioned scenario Beavis and Butthead Do OZ (which i ran..he he)
there was very little combat,except for the end fight and the winged monkeys did most of that for them
personally i can deal with no-combat and or combat as a last resort game
right now i am writing a scenario for AIO,which hopefully i will be running at a Con near you and it will not be too combat orientated and most if not all gamers will get that. and i enjoy AIO as is DON'T CHANGE A THING,

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