Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are we Heroes, or are we Adventurers?

My sign is vital. My hands are cold...

Or not.

And so, I come to you again, faithful, solitary reader. Like a Vampire, I slink in under cover of darkness in the early morning hours. Now that I have begun this mad affair, I am filled with passion and vigor, as I am wont to be. Like many of my ilk, that passion will soon fade, confronted by the obstacles that lie ahead. But, for now, I rush back to slake my thirst, to fulfill my desire, to quell my burning passion...

--to blog!--

All right! Now that I have completely and totally disgusted you, let's begin.

For my first true post, I wanted to discuss an issue that has come up amongst my gaming group in various forms for a while. It stems from the question - what do you want out of your game? To put it another way - are we Heroes, or Adventurers?

What's the difference, you ask. Well, faithful reader, the difference is between the second and third editions of D&D, the difference is whether or not you succumb to the horrors of the World of Darkness, or overcome them, the difference, is -- how many hit points do you have at first level?

All joking aside, it comes down to what your characters are capable of, and how difficult it is for them to survive. Adventurers are, to a certain extent, better and brighter than the average commoner or mook in whatever gaming world you play in. They have a knack for picking things up quicker, or an in with Lady Luck. For whatever reason, Adventurers survive, though typically by the skin of their teeth.  Heroes, on the other hand, are the best and brightest. They are capable of doing things the average commoner or mook could never dream of. (Unless they rolled a natural 20... maybe.) Heroes are powerful characters, a force to be reckoned with in any game setting. They don't just survive, they do it with panache, gusto, and some serious snark.

This is not to say that Heroes can't fail, can't die. On the contrary, I've seen many a heroic PC fail horribly. Everything from Bad die rolls, to epic martyrdom has been the cause.  But when you need to roll a 17+ on a d20 at 5th lvl to save,  there's something wrong. At least, to my mind, there is.

Which brings us to the crux of the debate among my group. Some members argue that they aren't looking to be Heroes.

--Let me clarify. In this case, when I say hero, I mean it more in the sense that they use the term in the Fable series. You are not necessarily good, or evil, just more than. You are capable of an epicness that most fall short of. --

Those gamers want to be what I have termed Adventurers. They want to know that nearly insurmountable danger lurks around every corner. Some even prefer to have the difficulty cranked up to 11. They want it to be, as one friend has put it, Nintendo Hard. The point being, that every level earned, every piece of loot discovered, then has more value. To some of them, characters in 3.X and other systems, are overpowered. And this leaves me scratching my head.

I'm not saying this is a wrong way to think, but, when I sit down at a gaming table, I want to do more than I do everyday, which is to say, get by. I want to emulate John McClane, John Lee (Chow-Yun Fat's character from "The Replacement Killers"), Conan, Gimli, and a host of others. I want to wreak havoc in this world, for good or ill. (Typically for good, but I digress.) In 2nd edition, and systems like Lamentation of the Flame Princess, I don't feel that I'm allowed to do that. Further, I feel that certain newer systems attempting to emulate Original D&D are specifically geared to brutalize the player.

Case in point. A couple of weeks ago, a friend ran a session of LotFP during our usual game night. The fact that it was built to emulate oD&D didn't inspire me much, and the image of a weeping peasant woman shakily holding faceless monsters at bay on the cover wasn't making things any better. To be fair, I will admit that I had a good time that night, but playing a dwarf is usually a blast. However, the character with the best stats was killed. DURING THE FIRST SESSION! Now, I know what you're saying, faithful reader, stats aren't everything. And, that's true. But, this death was through no fault of the player. The character was killed as a result of two attacks. Attacks that came from monsters that were not the least bit overpowered. (It might have taken less, but these particular monsters, like all monsters and villains in this particular DM's games, attended the Varnadore school of Villainy and Vilecraft. So...) Sure, we were able to resurrect the character, but only because another player wanted to roll up a different character, so her character sacrificed her life in exchange for the resurrection. All in all, a brutal first session. These characters are what I would term Adventurers.

This does not make me feel empowered as a gamer. Finishing a combat having done a cumulative 4 points of damage during several rounds, and having to gulp a healing potion leaves me frustrated and angry, not invigorated.

--Let me clarify again. I will admit, that for this particular gamer, dice rolls are typically low. I have several friends who try to convince me that it all averages out. And perhaps, over the entire course of my life, if one were to notate every single die roll, it might. But, when it counts, for the most part, my rolls are low. (Except in WoD. And I have no idea why.) --

On the other hand. In systems like Saga Edition Star Wars. I find myself regaling friends with tales of my heroism and the glory of my character's prowess. Nevermind the fact that I had 1hp left, it was bad ass.

This is not to say that gaming, for me, is all about combat. On the contrary, I have played in many a game where my character never rolled a die in order to strike an opponent. What matters is that I, as a player, feel empowered. I want to feel like I'm changing the world around me. Because, that's what heroes do. Leonidas didn't change at all in Zack Snyder's 300, but he sure as hell made the world change around him. When I pick up a d20, that's what I want to do. I want to be a hero.

Finally, this particular expulsion is not meant to vilify one particular system, or praise another. LotFP is a perfectly good system, and, well, without oD&D gaming would probably not exist. I have my issues with every system I've mentioned, and no system is perfect. But, at the end of the day you need to know your answer to that question, and pick a system that will help you become it.

Until next time, my lonely, ever faithful reader, I'll see ya when I see ya...

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on some level, yet at the same time I disagree with the idea that the old school games. You can be John McClane in the OD&D system and its clones. It just takes time to do so. John didn't start off bad-ass. He has more than a few levels under his belt before he got pulled into the mess we see in the movies.

    I have played both kinds of systems myself. I think the older systems, and clones, are a little better for various reasons. And I think the biggest reason is you are not saddled with as many rules as you in the newer systems. Thus, enabling your character to pull of more "McClane" style moves without having to consult rules and books from three different player handbooks to see if it is legal.

    Also, as a Hero, there is less of the something I enjoy very much as either a player of a DM. That idea of the Adventurer VALUING what he has! Heroes don't value what they have, their gear is nothing more than a tool for them to defeat the next monster. I blame video games for the "upgrade" nonsense. In older versions of D&D, yeah, you will get better and better gear. Yet there is a struggle to get it--unless you have a DM who just let you buy everything or create everything. Then it had better be a struggle to amass the wealth or gain the needed components needed for the items.

    That is just my opinion really.