Dust Pan Game Resource Pages

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I pick paper and pencil RPG's over PC games when I can.

The difference between Paper and pencil RPG’s and Computer RPG’s, is you my fair GM, it's you.

Lets go at this through the lens of my recent computer gaming.


 I am giving Skyrim a second chance. I played it when it first came out but that was a bad gaming time for me there were some first person shooters I would have rather played with friends and I basically never gave it the time it deserves. 

Then there is the walking, the interminable walking, not my favorite part of the game.

So this time with “legendary edition” in hand, I started over. (Legendary edition is a great deal BTW three of the DLC's in the package for like $35.)

My character is Fin, Nord, 2-hannded weapon specialist, nothing fancy.

Let me share a story from the travels of Fin:
I have had this early quest floating around on my list, “retrieve a mammoth Tusk for so and so. “ Getting a tusk form a real mammoth is not something I feel like trying any time soon, being only level 15 I know a giant would literally toss me out of the game.
Each one of these guys comes with a "Don't F with me" bumper sticker.

In the meantime I had started the quests at the wizards’ college, and was talking to the grumpy librarian orc in the Arcanum when I spotted a tusk just hanging out on top of a book case. Bingo. I waited until no one was around, the orc had moved to the far side of the room , I “hid”,  waited until the icon said “hidden “ , then snatched that tusk and walked. (Where does one hide a mammoth tusk? Let me just say I got some stares from the local ladies)

I took the tusk back to Whiterun and dropped it off, finished the fetch quest, everyone is happy (sort of).
This is the good. This kind of computer RPG has advanced to the point where in many cases how you solve a quest is up to you. I was not going to kill a mammoth for the tusk. Risk messing with the giants? No sir, no thank you.

I saw an opportunity to fill the quest, perhaps a bit underhanded, but so what, it was my choice, I could have just left the tusk there to collect dust in the Arcanium.  The game the computer game let it happen.  Had I been caught in the act there would have been repercussions, fines, jail, a mad orc sorcerer shooting death balls at me, and all that good stuff, but that was my chance to take.  Awesome.

A few minutes later I was walking towards a camp of breakaway summoners who had stolen some books from the college. Due to some issues with a herd of Mammoths and their friends in the way I had to go around a mountain side via cliff hopping to get to my destination. While I was traveling I started to hear voices nearby, so I hid on the cliff. Along come three mercenaries, tracking me!

Make a long story short they  found me but wish they hadn't, my dwarven forged 2 handed sword took the head clean off the first merc (my favorite skill) and laid the others low after a brief skirmish. One of them was carrying a note.  

A note from the library Orc,
“Find the thief Fin, get my processions back, kill him if you have to.
 Love, Orc guy”
The #1 cure for any "Librarian Fantasy" you might have.

Ok Fine I think it’s cool that he sent mercs after me, I honestly do. In a table top RPG however I would be asking the GM, “WTF no one saw me steal that tusk?” and the Gm would say, “You stole from a magic college, they have ways - cause magic.” While I am fine with that in a computer game it’s only because I have no one to ask, I have to accept.

In a paper and pencil RPG after that first guy’s head and body got all estranged from each other, I bet there would have been a morale check. I could have taken one of them alive. At which point I would have sent the guy back with a note shoved into the severed head’s mouth that Read

“Dear Orc guy,
 I’m on college business getting your lost books back, I don’t know about your processions, but send more mercenaries if you want to, we’ll sum up latter.
Yours Truly, Fin.”
Not fin, but you get the point.
No matter how good PC games get they will never match what a player can do when interacting with a live GM. The “on the fly,” creative process is impossible to fully integrate into a pre-programmed game. The best games feel like sand box games in some situations, like when I finished the quest by stealing the mammoth tusk.  In the end however a player quickly realizes the games are creating an illusion of freedom, by allowing the player to choose which rails to ride on, while not ever really being able to take the rails away.

 The give and take between a GM (and the group in a Gm-less game), and the players, and the world they are making stories in together is the thrilling part of RPG’s for me. It’s what keeps me coming back to RPG’s even as I creep toward my 40’s. I am not sure I will ever find that gaming rush  in a PC game.


To further the example, when I found the books slaughtered a bunch of apprentice wizards and some gal called the caller, I went back to the library. I completely expected to be run out of the place as a thief, however When I got there nothing of the sort happened. 
Perhaps it was because I was mid quest, the Orc guy acted as if nothing had happened, like he never sent mercenaries and I never stole a dusty tusk from his bookshelf.  I was fine with it; again because it is a PC RPG, I looked at it as a boon. 

 If it were a paper and pencil RPG I would have been confused as all get out.  Again PC games don’t have that flexibility and likely never will. I turned in my books and was rewarded handsomely. Thanks Orc guy and, did you get that thing I sent you?


As an aside, before any one jumps my shit (this being the interwebs and all) and tells me how awesome Skyrim is, I know.
The post is not so much about Skyrim as it is about the inherent limitations of the form.
It’s REALLY, REALLY good…the best game of its kind in my opinion.
I plan on spending a lot of time going through the game.

Thank you for reading:

Please feel free to leave questions comments and fresh vegetable offerings to the god of the ever hygroscopic gut, below.