Monday, February 27, 2012

RPGs and Group Dynamics

Disclaimer: For the people of both groups that I am talking about (Situational Blindness and Marks of Eberron), please don't misunderstand the post. Yes, I'm writing about y'all. But I'm doing my best to be as fair and balanced as I can. Whatever that means.
So there I am, playing my pally (Sir Varis Phlan) in my weekly 4e Eberron game, The Marks of Eberron. I've been playing in this game for a semester and a half now, and we've accomplished quite a bit. We've stopped a massive uprising of undead, burned brothels (a staple of any sane RPG group, I believe), and wandered over to Xen'drik to gather artifacts for the mysterious Chamber. This is my second PC (the first dying in a tragic potion drinking accident), and I like him as a character. He's a gruff and foul-mouthed Paladin of the Silver Flame who's looking to get revenge on a cardinal for murdering his mother, but still takes time to help build a church in between his adventures.I also like him mechanically. Like all pallies, he's remarkably tough. So tough, in fact, that he can take crits and walk out with only ten damage dealt to him. Pretty special, really. Well, the DM decided to see how far he could push my guy and... he just died. At the teeth of a Dracolich.

Granted, I had it coming. I marked like no one else's business and made sure to be as annoying as a pally can be (particularly when he's doing radiant damage to a zombie-like creature). Here's the weird thing, though.

I didn't care one wit. In fact, I was pretty bored. So bored, in fact, that my overly-neurotic self wanted to sell all my 4th edition books and jump straight into Burning Wheel.

What the hell is wrong with me? I wondered. I like 4th's system of combat, that's for sure. The At-Will, Encounter, and Daily system that 4th uses is extremely intuitive to me, as well as the skill use. I hemmed and hawed, and thought, and decided to hold off on dropping out quite yet.

The next night was my 4th edition game, Situational Blindness. And I had a blast! Combat was awesome, plot was generated by the players just as much as by me, and we ended early because a certain SOMEONE rolled yet ANOTHER nat 20 on a Bluff roll! Everyone was done, so we just sat around, and watched 3 seasons of The Guild.

Not sure what the hell is wrong with me, but oh well. I guess some of the difference is in the groups themselves: the people from my group, Situational Blindness, are all very intensive on storytelling. They want to build a narrative, and what a narrative we've built! It's messed up just how... convoluted that story gets. But there's 7 plot intensive people sitting in a room, what do you expect? Marks of Eberron is different. Not everyone is wanting the same thing. Some of us want plot. Some of us want to relax and kill shit. Some of us are new to the game, and are just excited to be there. The focus doesn't seem to be quite... there. Dunno, maybe I'm just nuts. Group composition seems to be pretty important, however.

So yeah, I think I learned something very important: people need to be grouped very carefully. They can't be shoe-horned into someone else's plot and dreams, they need their own room. That requires pre-game work, but, as I'm realizing, that stuff is extremely important. Without it people can't really connect in and play a role, because the game's not theirs.

What does that mean for me and Marks of Eberron? No idea. Obviously, I have some more thinking to do.