Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Friday, 6 July 2012

The D&D alignment system is perfect.

Yes. That's right ladies and gentlemen. The D&D alignment system is the best system out there, and it does its job perfectly. It applies to every type of sentient being, and every character, without exception. It has no flaws whatsoever. I haven't been drinking.
"Shjust gimme the keysh I can totally drive.. "

Now I know what you're thinking. Well... no I don't, but judging by the millions of alignment debates that are scattered throughout the interwebs (including a couple I've participated in), many people don't agree with me.
There are many complaints, but generally speaking, there are two.

Argument 1: "My character is complex, not simply an alignment."
Of all of them, this argument makes the least sense to me, because it actually perfectly demonstrates the opposing viewpoint. It's correct. Alignment is not  the same as character. It's not the same as personality.

Counterargument: It's not meant to be. 
Your strength score doesn't tell you whether that strength is in your legs, arms or core. It doesn't tell you how fit you are. It doesn't give you your body type. It doesn't tell you your BMI. It doesn't tell you your childhood or at what age you stopped growing. It doesn't tell you why you are as strong as you are. It doesn't tell you which gym you go to.

Strength, like alignment, is there to perform a function in the game. You have to come up with the rest on your own.

Additionally, yes, everyone fits on the axis somewhere. Are you good or evil? If it genuinely doesn't apply, you're neutral. I know there's more to your character, and yes, you can sometimes act outside of your alignment and still be in character (because character and alignment aren't the same), but you didn't hem and haw for a week about your 13 wisdom not fully representing your dreams, aspirations and life experience. I'll never look at your alignment and know if you're a cat person or a dog person.

Though I could guess..... 
It's one facet of your character. The rest might not even be on your character sheet. You might take some inspiration from it, just like you would any other stat. (I have the highest Wisdom and Intelligence in the party... why aren't I leading it? Maybe my character fears responsibility. Maybe he underestimates himself. Why am I a fighter and not a Wizard? Maybe I idolized a warrior when I was young. Etc.)

There have been attempts to fix it as a result of this complaint of "I'm more complex than that". It's fascinating stuff. The most interesting attempt at a fix is the expansions. Trying to add in another axis (making it 3x3x3). Turning it into 4x4, or 5x5 alignments instead of 3x3. Trying to force it to distinctly cover each personality type, and failing, rather than letting it be a general consolidation.

"Pfft! All humanity represented by 9 alignments?! I'll try 12."

This brings me to the next point.

Argument 2: "It doesn't work."
This one is the key I think. I'm not sure exactly why people don't think it works, yet going through the vast majority of arguments on the topic, one thing seems clear. It doesn't work. It doesn't do what it is supposed to do. It doesn't perform its function.

That function is (according to them) building, and defining your character.

And there's the real problem.
Most of the complaining, comes from people that are using it for the wrong jobs, then complaining that it doesn't do the job very well. "This teacup is a rubbish wallet!"

"Put tea in it? Then my money will get soggy!"
Counterargument: Its job is mechanical. Not creative.

The alignment system is there, so that when the Cleric casts "Detect Evil", or the Paladin uses his ability to "Smite Evil", the DM can look at the thing on the sheet, and generalize, whether or not it works, without a Doctorate in Psychology, and a peer reviewed paper on the matter at hand.

It can move. Like strength drain, or constitution loss, or getting more intelligence from a Wish spell.

It's not there to be a placeholder where your character's personality should be. It's not there to replace the need for motivation. It's not there to replace morality. It is, like every stat, on every character sheet, in every system, a generalization of one element of your character used in game mechanics.

"Can you lift the rock? What's your strength?"
"Do you see the thief? What's your spot skill?"
"Did you grab the crossbow first? What's your initiative?"
"Will you solve the puzzle? What's your intelligence?"
"Does the guardian let you pass? What's your alignment?"

It's not very good at writing your character's backstory for you. Defining your character. Building your character. It answers "yes/no/not applicable" to two questions. Are you good? Are you lawful?

Overall, it leads to some convoluted arguments about what morality is, and there is a good argument to be made that in some D&D definitions of Good and Evil, they are not adequately represented as opposites. This is in part because D&D doesn't go out of its way to define it. Leaving some leeway for DM discretion.

It simply lists some examples of things a good person might do, and things an evil person might do.

It doesn't overcomplicate. It does everything it needs to do to function in game, and honestly, doing more would actually start to intrude on character (No! You're not a good character due to section C of definition 3!). I'm never, ever, going to use it to build my character's backstory/mind/personality/morality. I'm not going to use it as a sole definition of my character's actions any more than I allow my initiative score to.

In every way it needs to be, and really, there's only one way it does need to be, it's perfect.

Although, whenever I try to put my money in it, being a conceptual paradigm rather than strips of leather really holds it back.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Running Games at Comicon

We'll run Shadowrun; Because fighting a troll is no fun if it isn't cybernetically enhanced. 
I had a great time at comicon, which you might expect, but if I'm honest, I was dreading it.

All I could think of was "What if it all goes horribly wrong". Not only was I risking disappointment just by showing up and it not being all I'd hoped for, but I was gonna be on stage too as part of my Improv Troupe, and worst of all, I had my own section I was running, and I was going to be running it alone.

I was placed right next to the people playing Magic: The Gathering and WH40K, both with established fanbases in the UAE, and here I was trying to spark something new. Talking to the organizers there had already been a couple of miscommunications. My table had been given to some Kuwaiti guy. He had wanted to run D&D games and they thought we were the same people.

But he hadn't shown up according to the organizers... in fact, the table next to him was empty too. Two no-shows. Two free tables.

"You can have them both if you want".

Oh God no... I don't even know if I can handle one, I need to be on stage too and there's no-one to man them if I leave em...

"Great! I'll take them!"

So I start to set up, I've brought as much as I could from the car, and ran back down to the for the second batch, I wave at Gimli as I pass him, he smiles, waves back, and says hello. I grab the rest of the stuff from the car. I realize what just happened.

I'm not f---ing Gimli... I'm John Rhy... oh forget it. 
I run back, carrying my stuff, but he's gone inside and I can't see where. Ah, he's a big celebrity, probably doesn't want to be pestered by fans. So I go back to my booth and start setting up. A few friends make appearances. A couple of people with VIP passes are wandering through the stalls but mostly people are still fixing things.

Hey! John Rhys-Davies is coming around saying hi to everyone!

Then he came round to my stall, like he did everyone's stall, to wish us luck and ask us what we're doing. This guy, who has been in films nominated for 30 Oscars, and won 17, is going around showing genuine interest in what people are here doing.

This in a town where many people with comparatively few accomplishments saunter around looking down on everyone else because they have an expensive handbag, or go to the best clubs.

"Well, I hope you make a ton of money!"
"Well thank you, but I'm not making any money here today, this is a labour of love"
"Even better!"

That set the tone for the rest of the con. The atmosphere was completely different from the elitist attitude of the big city. Nobody here was vying for status. Nobody had egos that needed to be massaged in order to get the slightest cooperation. Everyone was here just wanting to show people the things they loved doing.

The organizer showed up flustered because the Kuwaiti guy showed up and was asking for his table.

"Erm, this is the guy, he erm. He's here. I mean do you... er"

"It's fine. Go run the event. We'll sort it out."

Me and the kid calling himself Q were allied within about 30 seconds. He could have access to all my stuff if he was running games, and I'd talk to people about gaming and explain what it was to the newcomers. He could have one of the tables... in fact he could have both if he needed them.

No egos. No infighting. No alpha male bull I'm so used to in office politics, dealing with artists on the comedy circuit, or even family gatherings. If he wanted to take a break I'd deal with the games and he could look around the con. If I needed to take a break or look around the con, he'd take over.

The first people started to arrive, and I had to explain my booth to them, and am met, almost universally with "That sounds great! Can I play?"

All over the con I found people just like me, who had been telling colleagues in stuffy offices what they do in their spare time and had been met with at best, feigned interest.

Oh... that's... certainly different. 

Stall by stall, early on day 1. "So what's do you do" was met with timid explanations, followed by bursts of enthusiasm as the exhibitors realize the people here, even if fantasy, or comics, or cosplay, or gaming was not their "thing", weren't asking out of polite small talk.

The 2 days were a joy, I ran games, played games, talked to hundreds of like minded individuals, found some new comics I enjoy, several people who liked my booth brought food and water for me and the other people running games. Friends (old and new) came to help run and play games.

It was exactly what I'd been looking for: A cynicism free zone, in the middle of Dubai.

Next week: Shadowrun Writeup!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A Roleplaying Community?

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Gulf Roleplaying Blog!

 Here I'll be updating games I'm playing across the UAE, and inviting DMs to make posts about games they're currently enjoying. The theory being that it'll show people reading the variety of games that are going on in the UAE (but are currently hidden away).

 For example, did you know we've been running Dark Heresy and and AD&D games in Abu Dhabi? Did you know there's a Call of Cthulu game, a shadowrun game, an upcoming custom game based on a dream someone had in Dubai? Wasn't that game of Twilight 3000 (nothing to do with vampires) we just finished playing great? Did you know I'm developing my own roleplaying system and want to run some games to test it out?

 Of course not. Why would you? Nobody is talking about them unless they come up to me in the street because I'm wearing a D&D themed shirt and tell me personally. So there's an easy solution: We all go out and buy roleplay based shirts and wander the streets hoping to run in to each other.

 Some have come up with crazy ideas that'll never work. Things like a website slash forum thingymajiggy, a blog (You're on it), a twitter and a facebook group.

 I say we do the shirt thing... but if you want to go trying out your new fangled computer things you go ahead.

 - Omar