Tuesday, April 02, 2024

The Light Dawns

THIS!!!  Yes, a thousand times, this!


Back in the day, I referred to this as “neo-classicalgaming,” which is to say, the sorts of games that came out of various deep dives into older games to see what was actually going on under the hood, rather than what everyone assumed was happening.  (The ‘90s were a terrible time where dumb “conventional wisdom” ruled conversations about RPGs, but much of the thinking from those days still lingers, especially in professional spaces.)


Anyway, point is, if the core of gaming is making interesting decisions, rolling the dice isn’t playing the game; it’s putting the game on pause while a random element is introduced to force the players into potentially rethinking their approach and how they value their various resources.  So the more a game has rules about a thing, the less it’s potentially about that thing. 


This creates weird mechanics that kinda sidle-up to their topic.  On the one hand, if you want the players to be making decisions and talking around the table about a particular subject, you can’t gloss it over with a dice roll.  On the other hand, what rules you do have should encourage conversation about the topic.  Mothership wants you to spend time on being stealthy, so it has rules that make combat very dangerous, and creating spaces where you’re going to be chased by critters that want to engage you in combat.  So the game’s mechanics encourage stealthy activity and conversations because the alternatives (touching the dice) are much worse from a mechanical standpoint.


Granted, these games require a LOT of trust all around the table; lack of skill and lack of trust can ruin a game like this.  Luckily, it only requires a modicum of social skills to be able to put together a good group and engage in this sort of gaming.