We play games to win, but even RPGs that have no clear winner offer some motivation to play them -- advancing our characters, and not getting them killed in the process, is our competition. How do we go about the process of finding a strategy that wins?

It's nice and trite to say that all games begin with an idea or concept, but where does the idea or concept come from? What magic potion must one drink to BE a game designer? The fact is, if you have ever played a game and changed a rule, for whatever reason, you already ARE a game designer.

Hello, and welcome to my class. Today we shall embark on a satirical exploration of stereotypes found in RPGs - players and Game Masters alike. Everybody is parodied equally! Have fun as we apply each of these stereoypes to the "Orc and Pie" scenario.

By now, you've heard a lot about Dungeons & Dragons Online, and so I won't write this as if you know nothing. For a primer, you can visit the DDO website, or check out one of the more detailed reviews popping up online. What I will do here is share my overall feelings on the game, laying out what I think are the positives and the negatives.

It is much easier to say what is a bad game than what is a good game. Why is that? Why is it much easier to turn people off to a game than to turn them on? Is it really like winning the lottery or catching lightning in a bottle?

Powergaming, or "munchkinism", is a common complaint among players and GM's alike. Powergaming is accused of turning the role-play into "roll-play", lowering the worth of other player characters, and overall making the game less fun. But is powergaming really as bad as it is made out to be? Is it truly even bad at all?

It seems that whenever someone plays a cleric, they end up acting as an on-site hospital, healing the other characters after every battle and never really teaching or preaching to others about their religion or following their own religion's creed. This is rampant throughout the gaming industry, both in tabletop and electronic gaming.

People play thieves for their abilities; climbing, pickpocket, lockpicking, and in some games stealth and backstab. These are useful skills for any "adventurer" (a term I hate; it's not like you can put "Adventurer" on your resume) but there is more to a thief than just some cool skills.

I hate electronic RPGs. I know that I'm somewhat old fashioned, but I grew up on roleplaying games that used pen, paper, books and dice. Games where people could use fake accents and props, tell jokes and say and do stupid things during the game. Games where the story was tailored to the players and their characters, where the dialog was spontaneous and no one, not even the GM, knew what would happen next. So what would it take to make an electronic RPG that's worth playing?

The inside book jacket explains that "(t)his book is a celebration of that phenomenon (D&D, natch) and a tribute to the millions of players who brought the Dungeons & Dragons experience to life." When I think of tributes, I think of missing man formations flying over stadiums, of 21-gun salutes and taps played on a lone bugle. As a tribute, this book is the equivalent of a handful of cellophane balloons released from the rooftop of a car dealership just before noon on a Sunday, with Kool and the Gang playing on a cassette deck nearby.

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