Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Flickering Flame

Looking for old Iron Raven posts? Unfortunately I have decided to archive them. After a big move, both in the real world and in gaming, I've decided that I wanted to start fresh and make room for a new direction and new ideas. This is Iron Raven Gaming MK-II, designated the Raven's Court and will serve as a compendium of my thoughts, epiphanies, and tales of all things gaming in my life.

To celebrate this revitalization, and in response my transition to more narrative focused play style, I'd like to start right in by discussing the reason for that change and give you an idea of what to expect from this blog moving forward.

A Gamer's Heart, Divided

Anyone who knows me can tell you that gaming constitutes a significant part of my life, and that phrase extends beyond table-top games. I'm an avid PC and console gamer as well, and it is safe to say that for every hour I've spent around a table rolling dice, I've spent at least three jamming the WASD keys of my keyboard. Both genres have advantages over the other.

Table-top play, for me, has always been about the feeling of immersion and freedom that, while video games can get pretty darn close (ie: Elder Scrolls: Skyrim), they can never perfect. This is because everything in a table-top game is in control of the people playing it to the point where no amount of downloadable content or pre-programmed alternate endings can conceivably match the variability of a table-top game.

On the other hand, the biggest draw to video gaming over table-top play is spelled right out for you in the word itself: video. The visualization isn't just in your head anymore, it's on the screen and you can watch it, which come with all sorts of new sensations. There is a certain rush of adrenaline when you play some video games that is difficult to replicate in a table-top game. Play the Lisbon scene of Assassin's Creed: Rogue or the Cliffside Village scene of Tomb Raider 2013 and you'll quickly feel what I'm talking about.

...when suddenly! (Story Time!)

To me, then, it always been one or the other. At least until one faithful day when I penned a character for a Pathfinder play-by-post game on a role-playing site.

She was a cut from my usual cloth: a clever lass with an agile hand and a sharp tongue. In the spirit of role-playing a new aspect as often I do, however, I decided that she was going to be a risk-taker. Little did I know how far I would actually take that, and how much fun it would turn out to be in the end.

The first few encounters went pretty normal. Straight up fights in hallways against inferior opponents that essentially devolved into a back-and-forth clobber-fest. Everything changed in the third fight. A good old-fashioned swarm attacked us, and with our mages having used their crowd-slaying abilities already, most of the party members were ready to retreat.

One of my oldest RPG friends is known for his 'crazy ideas' and I guess you could say he rubbed off on me a bit, because in that moment, running was the last thing on my mind. Instead I was pulling up character sheets and looking through inventories, trying to find something to use.

As it happened, one of the other PCs had a vial of perfume. At that point I decided it was time for my character to show her daredevil attitude. My character called for the party member to throw her the perfume while she snatched a lit torch out of another's hand. On the run, my character emptied the perfume into her mouth, vaulted, and sprayed the flammable liquid through the flames of the torch as she passed over the swarm.

I rolled a few checks (most of which were mid-range, nothing to cheer for but nothing to make me fall on my own sword), but in the end the DM didn't care. He thought that the act was too cool to fail, and so my character's make-shift fireball lit the swarm ablaze she landed gracefully on the other side with a rather sour taste in her mouth for the rest of the dungeon.

What I realized, though, is that as I was writing the post where my character was attempting this dangerous act, I kept missing keys because my hand was shaking with excitement. The simple idea of taking such a risk (since I didn't know the DM would fiat yet) with a character I was invested in was enough to capture some of that same adrenaline fueled sensation that I often felt when facing a really difficult boss in a video game. All of a sudden, my eyes were opened to a new avenue of playing.

High Risk, High Reward

Since that event, I've been putting more thought into what sorts of games I want to play in. I've always tried to maintain a healthy balance between making a character fun and interesting, and trying to stay within the confines of what the rules say I can do. The more and more I look at this balance, though, and all the opportunities lost to a conservative, obedient way of thinking, the more I feel like the scales are already tipped.

What I'm allowed or 'can' do according to the rules, to me, just isn't enough. As the old saying goes: rules are made to be broken, and I think by adding the opportunity to transcend the 'can's and 'cant's now and again, a new air of excitement can be breathed into any game without breaking the reality that we role-players strive so hard to build and maintain. After all, boundaries are worth having, but they shouldn't be unbreakable, especially not when it comes to an outlet for an imagination.

Great Expectations

In the end, I think every member of a table-top group's biggest hope is to walk away from a session with a real sense of anticipation for the next one. And regardless of how that anticipation is kindled, what matters is that we're taking steps to feed the flame as much as we can.

And so this shall be my own personal fire-pit: a place where I'll explore the many facets of table-top gaming and exciting new horizons for creating compelling plots, wondrous worlds, creative characters, and heart-pounding adventures. Let's take our games to the next level of fun.