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Winning is for Losers


An alternate title for this might be: why I love to hate D&D.

Confession: I used to play a lot of 3.5 D&D (and still will, given the chance - shout out to the CO crowd!). A LOT. In fact, I was part of a community of nerds (the CO boards - for "Character Optimization") who made a practice out of exploiting that ridiculously "baroque-en" system (my term - I coined it first!) for fun. I think we did it almost in a gleeful, anarchistic attempt to show how the basic design of the system was so flawed that creative reads were almost being ASKED for.

I even wrote some guides. Yep, those were the days.

Not really. I promise, I'm getting to my point: D&D was silly.

Why?

It was born of war games. As the great Frank Trollman put it, "In its origins, D&D was a wargame like Warmachine or Warhammer. You had a field filled with tiny men, and they fought each other with swords and bows. Eventually, someone got really lazy, and wanted to replace a large number of fighting men with heroic fighting men who would be easier to paint because there were much less of them. And that, right there, is the origins of D&D."

As most modern gamers have realized, the awesomeness of that laziness wasn't fully understood at the time. Because the real reward of the classic "win" RPG ended up being a BYPRODUCT of all that tactical fighting, competitive, die-rolling, hit-point calculating, encumbrance vs. how-many-feet-of-rope-can-I-carry ridiculousness:

Story.

So now we have Fate and Dungeon World and all those lovely, nuveau RPGs which focus on story, character, and the creativity which made those old-school RPGs worth all the investment it took to learn the silly, imblanced, cumbersome ruleset. But I've come to those late, and while I could have been learning those systems, instead I've been building my own.

Genre is my personal attempt to get over a few major hurdles to a good RPG that I still stumble on as a grownup with non-gamer friends:

1) The GM.

Look, man - I'd LIKE to have 40 hours to prep a game for a couple of friends, but ... really? I got a job, a kid, and, y'know, STUFF TO DO! Writing THIS is a bit much; GM-ing is WAY too much! And who wants to be stuck being the director ALL of the time?

I wanted a game where nobody was in the GM hotseat - in which EVERYONE was equally responsible for a character and the story as a whole. In which NPCs were just PCs who nobody was really focusing on right now, thank you very much. In which the time investment was minimal and equal.

2) Bad isn't GOOD.

And that's just SILLY. In a DnD game, players would hiss, spit, and throw things if their characters were stripped naked and thrown in prison, lost a limb, or were otherwise dramatically inconvenienced.

But that sort of thing is EXACTLY what makes a GREAT story!

The competitive, "kill/win/get stuff" mentality of the classic game was an impediment to a good story. I wanted a game in which players would happily - even GLEEFULLY! - kill off their characters should a narratively appropriate moment occur. In which the point was the STORY, not WINNING.

3) Rules, rules, rules.

I have some great people in my life. All but ONE aren't gamers. They all ARE, however, creative, funny, literate, clever, and quick-witted ... in short, the kind of people who would LOVE to play an RPG if they didn't have to spend 28,374,628 hours learning a bizarre set of rules that are utterly unrelated to telling a good story.

Hence, Genre: a game which plays on something we, as a global culture, have more of than any other humans in the history of hairless apes:

Media literacy.

We KNOW tropes. Most people don't know the word, but if you ask them what happens when a guy walks through the swinging doors in a saloon, they'll tell you the music stops and everybody looks. Or when a chase is raging in the streets and passes a guy with a fruit stand, that it's a guarantee the stand's getting knocked over and the proprietor will run out into the road, shaking his fist.

I wanted something that would use that intuitive, almost instinctive bank of "story Legos" to good use, and give people the feeling that they could, in a raw, un-regulated way, pick up the chaotic bits of good story and BUILD something. Granted, it might be a weird, lopsided, awkward story, but it would be THEIRS.

So there you have it - my reasons for sinking so much of my time (more than 7 years, now ... eek!) fiddling about with this game.

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