Friday, May 29, 2009

Play = Validation

As the latest round of "what is Old School?" winds back down, I'm reminded that the best, most enjoyable, and maybe only way to fully demonstrate what we're all going on about, is to invite new or curious folks to game table and show them. At its heart, this hobby is really the same thing that goes on Friday at the pub with the guys, listening to your co-workers brag about the perfect game or perfect bang, right on back to shivering Cro-Magnon man huddled around the campfire at the edge of a glacier, whiling the dark hours away with tales of how the amazing things in our world came to be.

Story-telling is perhaps the oldest pasttime we have (not the oldest profession, mind you), and I've found that despite the funny names and entrancing dice, gaming can come naturally to the most unexpected people. Its like the tradition is genetically wired into our nervous system. You can't help it. Tell someone they've got a sword, a rope, and a torch, and before them lies a yawning stone portal flanked by obelisks, and they're going to immediately start formulating in their mind how to handle the situation. Really, the only way to stop someone from this is by barraging them with a whole bunch of rules right off the bat.

One thing rules-lite gaming has surprised me with is how much greater the "shared world" experience is. My high-school buddies use their old character names as message-board aliases. From 20-30 years ago. And still remember exactly what they all did. And where they did it. Not just stuff like "yeah, we beat the Temple of Elemental Evil", but stuff like, "remember that shop keeper in Veluna who tricked us into soliciting a succubus after we bullied him into a bad price for those gems?" The little details. Am I the only one amazed by that stuff? I can't remember what my fifth grade school principal's name was, but all this other stuff...

I picked up a book called "Night of Knives" this week, by Ian Esselmont. Its another book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. If you're familiar with these books, you'll note that these are written by Steven Erikson. Well, Esslemont's writing them too, him and Erikson created the world out of their old D&D game from decades ago. Shared experiences and story-telling, nicely demonstrated for all to see.

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