10 May 2009


Hello again! Here we go, off on another week of the Game Dork's diatribes essays! Today, I found myself thinking (don't ask me why) about a game I was in once. It was a GURPS Fantasy game, inspired in part by a previous GURPS Space game run by a different friend, where each player created his own alien race. There were some really neat species in that game... but one of the players liked the idea so much that he started a Fantasy game along the same lines. I still use two of the races from that game on occasion: my Staglings and John's Ængoa.

But enough about the irrelevant details. The thing I was remembering was a conflict that arose from a concession that the GM gave to me: I had asked that there be no "common" language. Since, after all, there's no such thing as a "common" language in the real world; why on earth would there be one in any other world? I liked the challenge of finding ways to communicate without being able to assume that we could talk to anyone we met.

So when it came time to create a PC party, we had to address the issue of linguistics. How would the party communicate? Would we all learn a single shared language? Would we carry magic telepathic artefacts? Would one party member learn everyone's languages and act as translator?
And thus the source of the conflict: we were each playing a member of the species we had created. However, Mike's race (the Liebowitzians) and John's race (the aforementioned Ængoa) had developed an enmity towards one another. Thus, when it was suggested that the party all learn to speak Ængoan (a suggestion which the other players were happy to accept), Mike offered resistance. He attempted to convince us to learn a neutral "third-party" language that was not the native tongue for any of the characters.

Neither player would budge, so we had to develop a compromise. We finally decided to have three official party languages. Everyone would be required to learn at least one of them. We all expected that everyone would take Ængoan except Mike, who would take Old Imperial. Hopefully, one of the other characters would learn Old Imperial as well.

But the next week, Mike showed up with his new characters, and we were all surprised to see that his character spoke Ængoan. When asked why, he said, "Because it was obvious that that's what everyone else was going to speak." Which (finally) brings me to my point: If you knew that from the beginning, why did you cause so much difficulty?

I've said it before, but the point of gaming is to have fun. It's much easier to do that if we work together. Interparty conflicts are inevitable, but I really think that, on occasion, we might need to step back and say, "This may not be what my character would ideally want, but if I fudge it a bit for the sake of interparty harmony, this game will continue to be a lot more fun for both me and the other players." I know it can sometimes be hard for everyone to let go of their own needs and desires in the course of a game, but in the long run, it really does make things so much easier.

Another example from the same game: The party was charged with exploring one of a series of towers with bizarre mystical properties. However, during the journey to the tower, the PCs were continually getting sidetracked with superfluous encounters. I finally got so fed up with the delay in the story that my character used an invisibility spell to split off from the group and head to the tower on his own.

The game ended after that session, so nobody ever reached the tower. But it's the same thing: I could have handled that much better. I realised afterwards that it would have been nicer for me to bring up the issue to the other players: "Hey, guys, why are we messing around with these extra side stories instead of going to our actual destination?"

Anyway, it's something to think about. And with that, I will bring this entry to a close and bid you a fond 

Game on!

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