Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Challenging the PLAYER not the CHARACTER

James M over at Grognardia, made a post today about "Gangbusters".  In his post, he shares this observation about the scenario.  I think it neatly summarizes how "new school" and "old school" differ.
The other thing I love about Murder in Harmony isn't really about the module itself so much as about the type of old school play it (and Gangbusters itself) exemplifies. All of the clues that help the characters resolve the central problem of the module can only be found by looking in the right places or asking the right questions. There are no mentions of "a DC 15 Gather Information check reveals ..." or "Succeed at an Observation roll to notice ..." in this module. Instead, the text assumes that the players, through their characters, will try and think things through on their own, collecting information by visiting the crime scene, interviewing witnesses, and generally employing basic investigative techniques to amass enough clues to point them to other clues that might enable them to resolve the central problem of the module. Murder in Harmony is thus very much about challenging the player, not the character, which I think is an important feature of old school gaming.
This isn't new ground.  I know it's been said before, but I'm currently GM'ing a Swords and Wizardry based game AND I'm playing in a 4e game.  The cognitive dissonance between these two experiences is staggering.

I'm just trying to make sense of what's swimming around in my head.

3 comments:

A Paladin In Citadel said...

If I read in the papers that you've been institutionalized, i'll understand why.

Jim said...

@Paladin -- thanks for understanding. I'll need someone to testify on my behalf... :)

grstrayton said...

I fully agree with James' comments. In fact, that's how I run my 4e games (I was playing 1st Edition from 1979 up until 4e). I talk about this sort of thing on my blog, if anyone's interested. But essentially, I present "puzzles/mysteries" for the PLAYERS to solve. For example, a huge frog statue with a large emerald in one eye socket and nothing in the other. Eventually they players figure out through playing (not dice rolling) that they need to find the matching emerald and insert it into the open eye socket in order to open the second door that leads down to the next deeper level of the dungeon.