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OutofCharacter / ButIJustWantToKillSomething

But I just want to Kill Something!!

November 21 2008

I have thought about this topic sense GenCon. I attended a few sessions on writing this past years event and one of the topics I wanted to bring out was romance, a particular session called 'sultry versus slutty'. The topics were geared towards people who are writers rather than as roleplayers but I wanted to get a wide variety of input from people.

One of the questions I had asked was how to get my players more interested in the romantic angle of things, and to play up relationships in the game. I mentioned ideas I had about one player and how she was resistant. One of the speakers on the panel spoke up and said "She just wants to kill things, let her do it" which got a good laugh in the crowd.

The reason I bring this up is that I recognize the differences in gaming styles. I like to think I am well rounded, with running mysteries and puzzle solving as easily as a hack and slash sort of adventure. I do know that my players need both. There has to be times when I provide them with red meat - something to attack without questions - or I will lose some of my players. I also know that it all needs to make sense as part of the overall story arc.

I think that most games walk a line between story and combat. Combat makes up a larger portion of character creation than anything else. But characters built for nothing but combat quickly become boring to play. So I try to highlight the non-weapon proficiency side of things in various ways. In the current story arc of Trade Wars the group is in a foreign land. This means conflict in culture but also hampers their ability to perform they way the group would normally act. The group has very few people who can speak the language in the area they are adventuring in now. It takes group effort of using magic or training to overcome that obstacle. Plus add to that the idea that this story arc is basically one huge mystery and some of the players get restless.

I try to balance these things out by sequencing. I know that the current story arc of the Magic of Music has more mystery than combat. So the next story arc will have more combat than mystery.

I recently ran a story arc called The Bigger They Are that involved almost all combat. A Fire Giant lair, go in, kill everything that moves and leave. The group had fun with it and then we moved back to a more traditional adventure story.

With the current over arching story arc of Trade Wars I am walking a tighter line of moving from more combat intensive to less; admittedly with less success. Because the story arc takes place over so much real world time it can feel to the players that "we haven't killed anything in forever" when it has taken them 2 or 3 game sessions to play through one day of time. I try to reassure those that need it there will be red meat again soon.

Is it ok to just want to kill something? Absolutely. Everyone has stresses and problems in the real world that we would like to be able to get rid of in a quick and easy fashion. Most people do not resort to violence to solve their problems. That is why a good combat session can be cathartic, it allows people to blow off steam in a safe way. But just as shoving a mystery down someone's throat will backfire so can shoving a combat at them backfire; or result in something wildly different happening.

Ask someone about 'tea with the beholder' for an excellent example.