Feb 182013
 

This has been a blog that I’ve left to foment for quite some time, and it may even spill over into a second part, simply because, right now, I’ve been seeing role playing games all over the place, even though they’re not played by role players. My first example of this, is actually a role playing game, but I have had so much fun and good times playing it with people who didn’t even have the faintest clue what an RPG was, I think it stands up as a game that could never be marketed towards gamers, and still do very well indeed. I mentioned it last week when pimping a game that not everyone will have heard of, but if you missed it, the game in question was The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. 

0901K4-P111_jpgThis is primarily a game of getting together with friends to tell stories, and having a drink and getting excited while you do so, without having to worry too much about any real rules or system, instead just concentrating on having fun. I have played this game in a tent at a music festival, and at four o’clock in the morning after getting back home from a nightclub, and each time, there has been more none gamers involved than people who know what a d20 is. So what then is the appeal that this game has that other – more traditional – RPGs lacks?

First off I think it could be the simplicity of the game. In its most basic form it’s more like a magazine than an RPG, and once someone knows the rules, it takes minutes to explain them, and to get people to join in. The only flaw with that logic is that I know of quite a few RPGs that are just as easy to explain. OK, maybe easy to explain to other gamers, but even so, the most common game I play at the moment – Savage Worlds - is so quick and easy to play that its silly. Yet there are people in my life who would be happy to play some Munchausen, but who would scoff at the idea of sitting around the table with dice and pencils to play a game.

That's actually me, but I wear clothes like that all the time anyway.

That’s actually me, but I wear clothes like that all the time anyway.

This brings me onto something else that I’ve encountered quite recently: airsofting. I turned up to my first experience of this one a little apprehensive. I played a lot of laserquest in my youth, and know that I can get a bit addicted to this kind of game. Lazerquest is actually a darn sight cheaper too, as there’s no need to ever by yourself any extra gear. Something which is clearly not true of most of the people I saw at the venue. The venue I ended up at to have my airsoft cherry popped was called Halo Mill, and when we got there it was packed full of enthusiasts. I mean a good 30 guys all in full combat gear, or a variety of costumes. One dude was there as the eponymous anti-hero from the Hitman series of games. It was a little intimidating at first, but once you got into the swing of it, it’s a bloody good laugh, and I recommend anyone who gets the chance to take a shot at it.

What struck me though- maybe because I’ve been a gamer for so long, and was already thinking along these lines – was how ready the players were to assume the role of soldier/adventurer/combatant when they played. They weren’t heading into the arena as Dave the IT guy, or Phil the lettings agent, they wanted to take on the role of something a lot more exciting than they would ordinarily get the chance to.

I don’t know if they realised it, but for a hell of a lot less money – I don’t want to scare you by telling you how much a basic SMG or assault rifle costs for this hobby – they could play the roles of a future soldier with weaponry they could barely imagine, and fight battles on a scale that could never be reproduced within the confines of even the largest outdoor site. Maybe they just wanted the exercise? Maybe they wanted to really feel the weapon in their hand without the danger of live rounds? But, when this is same activity tales place with medieval hand weapons, we have no problem seeing it as role playing. OK, maybe re-enacting, but still, that’s a hobby that it is still considered geeky.

The people who I saw airsofting would almost certainly never equate what they did with what myself, and  - I expect – a lot of my readers do in our spare time, even though there are so many parallels. I’m going to be going back to this venue at some point, or if I’m lucky a new venture that a friend is trying to get off the ground, and I would actually like to talk to some of the players, and ask them if the idea of table top pen & paper role playing has ever appealed to them. And if so, why did they choose this hobby instead.

Running out of space, so I’ll continue this later, when we look at people running away from zombies, but for some reason, still not role playing.

Feb 112013
 

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300Another month, another RPG bog carnival. This time brought to us by the rather spiffy people over at Arcane Shield. It appears that February has brought out the old romantic in them, but like myself, they don’t want to spend the time doting on someone who presumably already knows that they are the love of their lives, and don’t require an extra dose of yearly proof around mid February. Instead they want us all to take the time to think about things that don’t get enough love. Those games that you just can’t stop thinking about, but seem to have passed by the majority of gamers. For me there really could be only one choice.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a gem of a game. In its first incarnation I remember it being barely more than a handful of pages, and was easily read and digested in a matter of minutes. But that isn’t why I love it so. My own version of the game is in fact a beautiful leather bound edition weighing in at a little over a hundred pages, and I still adore it. What makes the game stand out for me is two fold, and the first is its elegant simplicity, mixed with a rather wonderful layer of complexity just beneath the surface. Allow me to explain.

04-22-11-BaronMunchausen02

Click for the actual adventures of Baron Munchause.

This is primarily a story telling game with each player taking on the roll of an aristocratic explorer and adventurer. The game takes place in some mythical tavern or tent, where you have all come together to grab a moment of peace, and discuss your exploits with like minded fellows. The first player is decided by which adventurer has the highest social rank – I often choose a marquis so rarely get this honour - and then a gripping yarn is decided on. “Tell us Lord Du Ponte of the time you heroically banished Neptune from his throne beneath the waves to a small fishing lake just outside of Almondbury“. The aforementioned Du Ponte would then regale the table with this highly unbelievable tale, suffering constant interruptions from the audience as they inform him that what he is saying simply cannot have happened for a variety of unlikely reasons: “But good sir, the Duchess of Hertfordshire was at the time engaged to yours truly, and as such would be in no position to lure a horse to the Stone of Scone”, and wager money to the fact. At which point, the choice falls to Du Ponte to either accept the coin and the story continues with the embellishment now a part of it, or enter a bidding war claiming that what the other person said was untrue, and tossing a coin into the ring of your own.

The story continues until it reaches its conclusion, or until the rest of the room becomes bored and starts to throw bread rolls at the speaker. It is advised that bread rolls be procured before the game begins, as waiters can never be trusted to bring them in a hurry. Each person tells their own tall tale, and then a winner must be decided. All very simple you see, and a great way of bringing together people with the aim of not only role playing, but putting the emphasis on story telling in it’s entirety. You will notice that no dice were cast during the entire game, only money – or tokens – changing hands. For me this is a wonderful thing; as much as I like random mechanics, I don’t like it when they interfere with a good tale, and this game is all about the tale.. The complex bit comes next…

The winner of this little contest is judged by all present, and they do so by bidding what coins they have left on who wove the finest yarn. So, if you have successfully averted all claims to untruth in your story you will have received no extra coins. And if you have made certain that everyone knows how much exaggeration went into the other wild stories, you will also have no coins of your own left. This means that they will be in the hands of others, who will have to place them before someone other than themselves, thus giving you a greater chance of emerging victorious. A fine mechanic, and one that inspires more florid story telling. Telling a good story with passion and inventiveness in equal measure, also important in gaining points from your compatriots.

So, as you can see, a great game to inspire your more creative side. As to the second reason why I love his game; well that is going to be the subject of a separate article, but the short story is that it’s a great game to play with people who would never willingly join in a role playing game, for whatever reason that may be…