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Monday, December 7, 2009

Fates worse than death

When I started getting back into gaming (say 2004), I went in head-first with my collection of Rolemaster books clutched tightly. Managed to convince a couple of my friends who'd never played to give it a shot, and honestly, it went pretty well for a couple of sessions - in that we were having fun.

The PC's came from a town on a lake. In the middle of the lake was a ancient magical gate which was held closed by three arcane brotherhoods, as it had in past times been used as a passage for horrible demons of the Void.

Ooops! Go figure - the first session began with something going wrong with the gate! One of the brotherhoods had become corrupted, and the town could no longer be guaranteed safe - and so, the PC's were given the task (by the non-corrupted Orders) of securing a tower in the wilderness nearby - in case the unthinkable happened, and control was totally lost.

As far as the 'story' goes, it is secondary to this post, sorry. The long and short of it is this: they go and get to the tower and explore the weirdness of it, and find that some of the local denizens have claimed it (Gratar - nasty toad-men). In battling against the Gratar, one of the PCs (a big trollish fighting machine of a character) receives a fluke critical hit from a far inferior opponent. The result of this hit is a broken leg. The other characters help him back to the tower after the combat is ended, but this was to be the last session we played.

Conclusion: broken legs are worse than death.

I admit that I waffle on the simulationist/gamist axis - but find myself more and more sympathetic to the gamist side when it comes to things like this. Two months of (game) time spend knitting bones is kinda a drag (assuming no MacGuffin Inc. Super Healing Wands are available...). I love the detail of systems like Rolemaster, but that night, when the percentiles came up with a broken bone, you could feel the 'fun' rush out of the room. I would have honestly rather had the roll come up double zero and present some hideous insta-death effect - there. Done. The character's dead. End of story.

Obviously there's a couple of 'solutions' here - use something other than Rolemaster, fudge the healing rules, ignore the 'unfun' effects, etc... but the general conclusion I've come to is that lingering game-mechanic effects of realistic wounds are kinda a drag.

I'm playing in a game of 1st edition Tunnels and Trolls right now, and two of my companions have recently lost appendages to horrible noxious slime attack. Sucks, yes. But it was handled really well in the sense of - OK - cauterize the wounds, get a fake foot and a hook to replace the lost hand, AND KEEP PLAYING! No weeks or months of convalescence - No "realistic" save vs. blood loss and shock, etc. This is the way to do it in my opinion. Facts are still facts (in the logic of the game) - Drugan's got a wooden foot and Melanthios has a hook instead of a hand - but these facts do not import a bundle of realistic assumptions that would detract from getting down to the playing of a game.

I like that.


Timeshadows said...

Personally, I like the roleplaying and tactical re-thinking necessary to run a character or group who are banged up a bit. It is a spin on the Resource Management sub-game, and heightens tension.

Tim Shorts said...

Its great when things don't go as planned and those weird things happen in game. You could have had one of the corrupted brotherhood tempt him with healing his leg...for a price. If a GM and player can embrace these situations they often become the most memoriable of the game.

Ragnorakk said...

It didn't seem an insurmountable no-fun thing to me at the time - they were in a secure location with no immediate pressing problems (none obvious anyway) - it was the player getting bummed, which set off a cascade of bummery...

I always like it when players think in long time frames - it may have just been the case of differing expectations or something here.

Andreas Davour said...

It do sounds more like an opportunity for further adventures to me, with the suggestion above about the corrupted brotherhood being a very interesting one.

But, I have personally played in a group where something like the above described happened so I get a feeling it was something else.

Bad feelings can wreck a game and if you're not on top of things, at once it goes to hell directly.

You wrote you were getting back to gaming, so I think it was a case of being a bit rusty with the people managing skills. People do play Rolemaster all the time and and manage to have fun. My experience was with Rolemaster, but it was all about bad people managing skills.