I had my first gaming session on the third grade. At that point, the label ”role-playing game” was only vaguely familiar to me, something associated with anime-inspired graphics and item inventories.
game was a homebrew creation of an equally oblivious stablemate. I
suspect him to have been inspired by the early installments of Final
Fantasy and the like.
The core system was dead simple.
Each character had but one stat: Toughness. When two characters battled,
the one with lower Toughness died. Each time a character defeated an
opponent, their Toughness increased by one. No random element was
involved; it was diceless role-playing at its finest.
were enthralled by the game. We split into cliques to play the game at
home and grind our scores to the heights; the next day we
would compare our stats to see who was the best.
fun ended quite abruptly when the children in possession of some
real-life toughness declared us gamers ”Indians” (as in the Wild West —
don’t ask), and the sole game-designer of our class renounced his
Rules-wise, the game was abysmal. But the
core mechanic haunts me to this day — not because my campaigns have been
above similar tendencies, but because they have not.
— I bet there is no gamer who has not participated in a campaign with
exactly the same premise. Punch down to grow more powerful to have more
critters to punch down. The entire third edition of Dungeons & Dragons
was built around the premise, and the fourth edition took it even
further with its carefully balanced fights designed to challenge —
but not to jeopardize — the player characters.
love to be the bullies. They cherish the Dionysian heat of combat, but abhor the idea of losing their beloved alter egos. Kicking the dog is almost as fun as taking chances with the three-horned
dragon king, and considerably less dangerous.
players enjoy impersonating great white hunters, killing monsters for sport. I detest that
sort of action. It offers no challenge whatsoever, and becomes awkwardly
dull after a safari or two.
Therefore I have come to
believe that all combat encounters should be designed to leave player
characters with less than 50% chance of winning. All monsters would have
a trick or two that made them a grave danger to even the most powerful
player characters. Powers like dragons’ breath weapon or ghouls’
As for ordinary folks, I’ve began to
understand why their ”numbers appearing” amount in hundreds. Why not?
Only the murderhobo of murderhobos would want to grind through 300
zero-level peasants. Even if the fight was winnable in theory, it would
require such a nasty amount of book-keeping and die-rolling that no sane
person would be willing to slave through all the accountancy.
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I had my first gaming session on the third grade. At that point, the label ”role-playing game” was only vaguely familiar to me, something ...