Magical Box of Limited Expectation

Perverse Access Memory: WISH 57: System, Setting, Style, and Play

Do you find that you play differently when you play in different game systems? For instance, do you approach D&D or Champions the same way you approach Vampire or Werewolf the same way you approach Amber or Nobilis? Do you build the some kinds of characters? What are some examples of different characters in different systems, and why do you think they evolved that way?


This goes back to the post (and lengthy number of comments on) from a few days back (Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes, for those keeping track at home.)
This is more evident in the comments, but I think it’s clear that a person’s perception of the game they’re going into strongly influences the kind of character they’re going to make up.
In my currently running DnD game, few of the characters are deeply involved in what I would call character-driven plotlines. This is basically an evolution of the game as it’s being run, which in my mind is a largely mindless hackfest with a vaguely overarching plot.
(I love the group, I do… but if it quacks, it’s a duck.)
One of the players commented that, with a lot of time having gone by, we really hadn’t had much in the way of exploring the setting that he’d read about on the web page.
Well, no, we hadn’t (and, I should note, haven’t) because that isn’t the way the group went… the majority showed up expecting an old-style dungeon crawl, so that’s what I gave them — the setting has thousands of nooks and crannies to cram bad guys into… I can do a game that way.
There’s a good quote in a Hitman 2 walkthrough that I read a few weeks ago:

“In this mission, you can basically succeed two ways… you can sneak in, arrange for the target to die, and sneak out, without anyone even knowing you were there, or you can go in, guns blazing, and kill everyone. I’m going to focus on the sneaky version, because the other way isn’t… you know… hard.”

We chose the easy option — people’s perceptions of what the game was going to be hugely affected the type of game I ended up running — the group that I wrote the website material for was frankly not the group that ended up playing the game. C’est la vie.
The same’s true of any game. I chuckle and shake my head when someone tells me that my Star Wars game has much more ‘story’ and ‘character development’ to it than a DnD game… see, due to running about fifty games a month, I take a lot of free, online modules, file off the serial numbers, throw in some familiar NPCs into certain roles to lend it an air of continuity, and let the players do the rest — probably half of the sessions I ran for Star Wars (which ran for just about two years) were based on Standard DnD modules I downloaded from WotC.
The player’s think there’s depth, so there is… if they don’t look for it, there isn’t.
Sometimes, I want to conduct an experiment — tell everyone that I’m going to run… hell, I don’t know, a diceless swashbuckler game where everyone plays close advisors to the King… or an Amber game, whatever. Ask for character write ups. Then, run it using straight d20 rules, first level — see if I can get them to break out the magic Box of Limited Expectation that’s been built around one game system or another.


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