Saturday, April 4, 2015

A to Z: DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FROM TABLES


(An imaginary strong reaction/rant to that Alexandrian thing the other day about railroads and illusionism etc.  Note: only one small facet of my feelings about many issues, and I am happy to say I see it both ways but often find myself veering toward illusionism in the interests of keeping it fun)

About to pull an upper decker on A Thing Most Holy
Tables. I love 'em; you love 'em. We play these games and have played them always.  Why, the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide is ponderous, yes, but it's regarded as inspired and sacrosanct and we must all agree that Gary's curmudgeonly wisdom is Paternistic and Authoritarian but only for the players' and The Games' collective good. Ahem.  There's 2 or 3 tables on almost every page in that thing.

I once was at the receiving end of some offhand comments from some jerk that stung me just badly enough to not like him very much any more and not want to be his friend in that way that it's clear in retrospect he hurt my feelings like I'm in eighth grade.  It was about Gary's predilection for tables, if I recall correctly, and I thought myself clever for noting that Gary's Dad was in insurance and SO OF COURSE THERE'S TABLES, they don't call it Accidental Death & Dismemberment for Nothing!  Ho Ho Ho

Anyways, it's my fervent and deeply held belief that "Random" Tables (let's be frank shall we? there's  almost nothing random about it once you throw in your shaved d12) even the Pseudorandom tables we use and proliferate so widely are strangling the hobby into lifelessness.  yes, that's right. Your tables upon which you rely so heavily are in fact an addiction, a phylactery by which your withered corpse clings to what it thinks is good about life

We all (well, maybe some) of us work, have jobs, do chores, write things, doodle maps. We don't always have time to prep for every Unforeseeable Contingency that arises in the course of our games.  Especially if you're running a game and you already thought about it all week and the Traps are so Clever and the Monsters are Like Unforgettable and the Twists O The Twists and then Rodney is like WHAT IS IN THE GOBLIN'S POCKETS and you've been focused on the architecture and the sheen of the Chromatic Pudding and how all it wants is to mate with somebody with a Comeliness of more than 8 and LET ME GET THIS RANDOM GOBLIN POCKET CHART AND FUCK YOU, EVAN THIS WILL BE SO SEAMLESS NOBODY WILL EVEN KNOW I DINT PLAN THI


that - that right there ought not to be trusted. That's why there's all these reams and reams of despicable Excel and fucking endless d66 and d13 and d200 charts. Somehow the notion that raw chaos may take away my culpability for _something_ is what sticks in my craw. I Feel Like Maybe After Twenty Years of Thinking About It, with my knowledge base I ought to be able to just come up with some fun shit on the fly like a daily special of awesome Roleplayingness and it ought to be clever and part of me and whether it will kill your 3rd level Halfling or not is of no consequence. Just because it comes from in me and I am nominally AGAINST YOU somehow and can't be trusted to be judicious and fun and easy-going means TRUST IN THE DICE INSTEAD

blech. Fie.  FIE I SAY

when you de-bone it, what you have is a cool/fast/nostalgia-laden way to get information across.  I get it.  Kind of like a speedball of information that conveys tone, humor, a feeling of the possibility of the situation. Nobody ever says "YOU GOTTA GO EXACKLY BY WHAT IS ON MY CHART". We all get, I think, that these are clever ideas to get your noodle rattling around when you are in a pinch and that at the bottom of the thing is your judgement and hard-won expertise. It's gotten to be the go-to blog post for us RPG guys and occasional gal - the d12 table of X. There are those who do it well - Sholtis, yeah that's some good shit.  Everybody else, merhhhhhhhhm. Charts strangle us!  burn your charts!  Commit and believe that your ideas, even under the (imaginary) intense pressure at the table, your ideas and judgement can be trusted even if it leads to a TPK.  The fiction is not more judicious and impartial and therefore fair just because it's been determined randomly.

ALSO: TPKs are good and your character is not a special snowflake and even his/her/its Pseudo-Death has no meaning since its an imaginary event and the tumbling of dice is not somehow binding. Do your game science dice have the bound gods of Law contained within them?  Are they Donblas the Justice Dice?

a difference between the OSR/trad players and quote-unquote STORY GAMERS (some of you may read it as a slur)  that I see as almost laughably blatant is how the former trusts in charts and tables and the latter trusts in PEOPLE'S BRAINS. LARPERS (another slur!) do away with dice almost completely and so are not to be trus- There's the rub!  It's our traditional need and reliance upon the safety of impartiality that causes us to invest so much in dice and (it follows as Night Upon The Heels Of Day) charts and tables. Goddam, shit-sucking, charts.  The Dice run you, subcreature!  Stand up and say with one voice I RUN THE DICE THE DICE DONT RUN ME

The whole of the hobby is lousy with them.  I seen some cats trying to foster the die-drop table and maybe it's a good impulse, but I don't know.  The use of dice is a pernicious and wide-spread evil.  A malaise.  Yes, I said it.  A goddamn malaise.

here's the prefigured declaration in handy d9 table format (see what I did there? Ho Ho ho). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU ROLL ON THIS TABLE UNLESS ITS A d8/2 plus a d5 so it'll skew your probabilities all fucked up

1) The Oracle at Delphi was high as fuck and relied upon divine inspiration to get her players to do cool shit. I don't need Apollo or to smoke bay leaves to come up with good ideas for my players.  I don't need also: Excel.  Word.  InDesign.  Molybdenum-laced, laser cut polyhedra.  Complex digital or solid-state circuits, including but not limited to my iPhone. 
2) my cleverness is better than Some hunk of plastic's and further God doesn't play dice with his Universe, why you gotta play dice with yours?  In some cases, my cleverness fits better the game I'm playing with people and there is no way to fit in some other dude's table into my game, and if I do and that (7) laser-sword becomes a Mithril Frostblade, I mean, why the fuck am I using that chart, anyways?  It's like a crutch for nothing.  An imagination crutch. WHAT'S IN THE GOBLIN'S POCKETS....??? (you fucker)  CHICKEN BONES, USED KLEENEX, AND THE MF ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL.  Better by far than UH HOLD ON UH HOLD ON I GOT THAT TABLE AROUND HERE UH WAIT FOR IT JESUS IM SORRY GUYS I HAVE THE PERFECT YOU KNOW WHAT THERE'S A LINK FOR THIS ON WIZARDDAWN (no offense to Wizarddawn, I love that shit)
3) don't take the impartiality of dice and the impartial, spiritless safety of imaginary people as a positive development. Risks of even minor heroes are more meaningful when they can come to a messy end. If your characters aren't dying (even if they are later being resurrected/reanimated/buried forever) you're playing a boring game.  It's my opinion that Random Encounter charts are the worst and most egregious offenders, here.  In the hopes for impartiality and for the sake of nostalgia, I sacrifice a meaningful encounter for some quirk of the die, and then (don't get me wrong I love the Moldvay reaction roll, I almost swear by it) we spend 35 minutes tossing dice about whether the party can off some rats.  Why's it gonna be rats, or a centipede, or stirges?  Just fucking make something cool up, why don't you?  You know why?  You been looking at those goddamn random encounter tables your whole damn life!  If you were sane, and that lobe of your brain wasn't addicted to tables and nostalgia, you'd never have another stirge in your game, ever.  EVAR.
4) 5 tentacles or 50 tentacles or 15 makes no discernible, meaningful difference in a story.  If it does, it's bad writing/thinking
5) nobody is random when they write a table. They always put the best shit on the bell curve ends. C'mon "roll again and discard duplicate results?"  Yeah we all know it was late and you needed to work the next day.  I mean "pseudorandom".  That's fucked up.  That's like pseudopregnant.  pseudotruth.  Either it's random, or it's something else.
6) engineering and rules are not better than humanities and drama. There is no safety in predictability, no surety in the accurate simulation of some fantastical notion's adherence to pseudoreality. Or else there shouldn't be (more on this shit, later if I'm not summarily executed)
6) humanities and drama ought to be fostered. The rules should not account for all the permutations of the system in which you play. That's like 3.5 type stuff. Yeah - you grimaced because you know what I mean
6) if you had a bad reaction to my criticism of 3.5, then see #6
B) unexpected results cannot, by their nature, be found on any chart

NOW TO MONETIZE THIS BLOG AND PAY OFF MY STUDENT LOANS

EVIL NOAH OVER AND OUT

"Your squad broke under fire, and failed their Ld roll.  Commisar K has a bolter shell for you."  I wonder if a failed orders roll would prompt that.  Hmm.  Maybe another blog entirely.


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