An Awesome Role-Playing Panel Discussion!

Btw…. You just lost the game;).

So I went to Otakon this weekend. It was a blast, had fun hanging with people and etc. Now there wasn’t hardly anything in the role-playing department, and I was actually surprised about that, and I was surprised that there really, at least when I was there, wasn’t any table top gaming going on in the game room. Oh well. What was awesome, however, was there was one panel called “Beyond Dungeons and Dragons” on Saturday by the same people who bring you GeekNights podcast. Now sadly I haven’t ever listened to this podcast, but I will tell you know that they have a new listener.
Both of them, Rym and Scott I believe were funny, had a point, and offered a different look at things. I’ll get into the games and what they covered in one second.
Their panel was fun with quite a few laughs. They started off by warning, that while DnD is near and dear to them, and very close to their hearts, they were going to bash it, with love, because they feel there are things it just doesn’t do well, and that there are other systems that do. Mostly the whole role-playing/diplomacy/skills side, where everything is left to one roll, and if it fails rerolling with a modifier or taking 10/20 (which they both thought was a terrible idea, and I agree. I never use the take 10/20 rules because I believe that there has to be the risk of failure in trying anything). Most people seemed receptive to their discussion and even if they weren’t, they were at least respectful. Except one… manboy.. This guy (maybe around 22) stands up and tried to be a man and shout, “You are absolutely wrong!” While he still said that, what actually came out was a meek neutered whisper that only people in a 2 row radius heard, turned around, his face all blotchy red, and looking like he wanted to cry, and stormed out. Many of us just chuckled and continued to listen… Some people take DnD too seriously.. They need to remember that it’s a game that everyone can have an opinion.

Alright so let’s cover what the panel talked about, not what some psycho, who cries himself to sleep every night, whimpered about! They covered several games all sounded like quite a bit of fun to me! I’m interested in any player feedback from any of these games if people have played them.

The first was Dread. Dread really has me excited. It seems like it would be AMAZING for pick up games and just running when people are sitting around the room and wanting to just have some quick fun! It is a survival horror game that is completely diceless. Everything is resolved by a Jenga block set. Say you are running away from a monster that wants to eat your feat and you tell the GM that you want to quickly scale a wall to get away. The GM says fine, take out 5 Jenga blocks (because the wall is mostly smooth and is 10ft high). So you take out those 5 blocks. The GM turns to the next players and he exclaims that he is going to break down a wooden door to get away from said monster, so the GM says take away 4 Jenga blocks. This whole mechanic seems just great for building tension!

Basically if you succeed you succeed. If you fail and the Jenga tower comes crumbling down, your character fails in the most horrible way possible, and also dies in the most horrible way possible! Epic! At some point (and I’m not sure if there are rules for when this can be used) you decide screw it! And knock down the Jenga blocks yourself, you succeed in the best way possible, but also die in the best way possible! Example is a monster movie like attack. At the end you say you are going to try to lob a grenade into the monsters mouth, but you decide to knock over the blocks, so instead of throwing it, the monsters lowers down, bites down you, but the grenade goes off, either killing it or severely injuring it, whatever! How cool is that?! I am totally enamored with the possibility of this game!

Next was Inspectres. The way the panel described the game was basically playing Ghostbusters style game. Now sadly I can’t remember all that they said about the game, but again it does sound like a great game, especially for running one shots, and very rules lite/heave role-playing/creativity type system.

They talked about Mouse Guard Now I honestly don’t know anything about the comic or the RPG, except that some would say shame on me for not knowing anything about the comic book or the RPG… From what they described it does sound like an intriguing system and sounds like it very much rewards role-playing.

Lastly they covered the Burning Wheel system. That is one that I have heard of repeatedly, and actually next to Dread am really interested in getting feedback on the system, how it works, feels, smells, tastes, etc. Their description of Burning Wheel makes it sound like such a great system, but I fear it may be too difficult or… I don’t know if free would be the right word, but I’ll use it.. For some of my players. As I’ve stated my gamers are casual and some really don’t desire to take the reigns and charge full steam ahead. They are more than happy to just chill and react, etc. So I don’t want to put them in the spotlight if they don’t want to be.
Anyways, the system really does intrigue me and I think for the price I shall have to get it, even if I never play it.

The whole point of the panel was to discuss that DnD mechanics are great in the combat area, but that they really don’t have rules or that the rules can be used for role-playing but they don’t fully facilitate it. The example I used at the beginning of the post where failure in DnD is punished and failed rolls are just rerolled until a success is hit, usually happens. In many of the systems listed above failure can hurt or even kill your character, but there are also rewards for taking risks and those rewards can even transcend death. Also a neat mechanic is that when you try something and fail, that is it.. That option is done.. If you attempt to scale a wall and fail, that’s it, you can’t try again, but it forces you to think of different options, role-play out different possibilities instead of constantly rerolling, attempting to hit the target number.

Thoughts, ideas, comments, and info always welcome!

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About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

4 responses to “An Awesome Role-Playing Panel Discussion!

  • seaofstarsrpg

    Of the systems mentioned about, I have only tried Burning Wheel, and while it had many things I liked (the character creation is fantastic) the system as a whole seemed needlessly complex and poorly explained. There was not a single combat that we did over the three months or so we played around with Burning Wheel that we did not discover that: we were doing it wrong or we had missed one or more rules or both. Still, lots of good elements, but it never came together in a pleasing whole for us. You may have better luck.

    • wrathofzombie

      That was one thing I did hear about Burning Wheel was that it was considered a game for experienced role-players and that it was crunchy. Not necessarily DnD crunchy, but that there was still crunch to it. I’m kinda wary about that at this point because I’d like to get away from the crunch for awhile. I’ve been playing dnd for 15 years.. That’s why I’m looking more towards Savage Worlds or even back to WoD systems for a little bit.

  • Scott

    Glad you enjoyed our panel. I hope to see you at future conventions.

    Of particular note we will be doing LOTS of tabletop stuff at Connecticon ’09, which is just two weeks away. Also, we will be bringing Burning Wheel creator Luke Crane and InSpectres creator Jared Sorenson with us to run game demos and panels. Any gamers within driving distance will not want to miss it.

    • wrathofzombie

      Thanks for doing the panel! It was really great to have something other than DnD (especially 4e, which just isn’t for me) shoved down my throat all the time. I really liked the way that you two conducted the panel with good humor and intelligent conversation. So thank you.

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