Sunday, March 03, 2013

[SuperSunday] What does it mean to be "Super"?

"Super," "Epic," "Awesome," all adjectives that help us to define things that we find to be above the norm, appealing, and otherwise just downright interesting. Though, when we do this, we often say so for reasons that many people may not understand.

This past week has helped me to put a lot of these things into perspective regarding these terms, and how they can relate to tabletop gaming.

I suggest you keep your hands off me Capn's Hat!

You see, I got to spend some time with my Wife and I's parents after they had returned from a trip. During this time, we introduced them to an entertaining game of Pirate Fluxx. What we had hoped to be a simple game for them turned out to be pretty stressful as very quickly we had changed the rules to Draw 4, Talk Like a Pirate, and Play all. Not exactly the best way to introduce anybody on the first round of game play.

Rightly so, our fellow family members seemed overwhelmed and they wanted to try a game of Left Center Right. The fact that they shared with us in our game, it was a pleasure to try something new. An otherwise simple game, we were not sure what to think of it. Though between all four of us we still had a great time.

But why? Why was such a simple game as rolling 3 dice and exchanging tokens entertaining? The fact of the mater was the fact that it provided a fun means of breaking the silence and building a relationship. We got to laugh as my Wife's mother won game after game, and my Father In-Law and I laughed about the fact that "What is Mine is Her's and what is Her's is Her's." The game simply allowed for us to trade interesting comments and provide a chance to simply relax.

How does this apply to our Characters?

What many people often forget when talking about their Favourite RPG's, regardless of if it is very skill heavy, detailed, or simply run off the cuff with as little mechanics as we see fit, is the fact that the game itself is meant as a medium for many other things.

Those things that make us say "Super!"/"Epic!"/"Awesome!" are not always because of the mechanics or how they help translate things. More times than not, my wife simply just wants to hit things half the time, but it isn't HOW she hits those things with her character, it is how the "I hit them" translates to that awesome die roll that everyone can not help but say "Wow that was cool!"

The point of the game is simply to build relationships and build up a character that fits a style of play that molds with those around them. It is intended to do so in a cooperative environment that places at least some level of suspense with the players to fall on the edge of Victory or Tragedy. These memories live on with our fellow members of the round table (or virtual table).

The point of  the mechanics is to allow us to make choices for our characters that translate a level of risk with each roll, and allow even the most mundane situations to be opportunities for entertainment and enjoyment. Especially when a very skilled scout rolls that critical failure on their perception check, while turning to the other players and commenting on the fact that they had realized their shoes where untied amidst a very tense moment.

Yeah, sometimes a game can make you feel that awesome!
Sometimes, it can really get to one's head... and is a bit too much.

Where it falls Apart

It is this very element of the tabletop that I feel that many people often forget when discussing the pros and cons of any role playing system. Too many times I have seen "Well System XYZ doesn't work because of mechanic ABC, though my own system is better because..." Though often times this discussion devolves only to a single element of role playing.

Although much skill is set up with these discussions, figuring out how to make a character efficient or well balanced, it is still only one element of the whole picture. The system, the characters, and the Game Master all need to mold together in such a way that everyone has fun and appeals to all parties involved. And the fact of the matter is that the Game Master is the largest influence on that experience.

The Game Master's understanding and use of their tool of communication is more important than the choice of system, especially if the Game Master is comfortable with that system more so than others.

Once the players are comfortable with that style, the mechanics are not as important as the interactions between those at the table. Once people start fidgeting with dice or making off handed and distracting conversations the game has lost it's appeal and the sole purpose of the game has devolved. By finding ways to keep players engaged and invested in the experience we are able to really provide those truly "Super" experiences.

Now for those of you out there, what have been some of your favourite Super moments? Why do you feel they were awesome? What emotions/situations did they build up to and how amazing did it feel (or not feel) when they resolved? I would love to see what you all have to share!