I seem to be in the mode to review recent gaming.
Delicate threat balance – Tuesday, I ran City of the Lost. The mod is very strange in one particular way: if you do what you should do, it’s absurdly easy; if you don’t, it seems brutal. Now, deciding to do things the easy way is easy. My table (as a player) had much the same experience that my players had – things were stunningly easy. Sure, I could have increased encounters, made it more likely the players would fight enemies in the mod, or do anything so that they were truly threatened rather than just in a state of expecting doom. But, should I have? While Shadowlands mods in general aren’t as nasty as players expect them to be, the ease of this mod may give the incorrect idea that the others are not particularly dangerous. Still, because of the rewards, the story, and the acclimation advantage, it’s the obvious Shadowlands mod to run first.
Delicate party composition – Friday, I got my first taste of a RuneQuest campaign that has been running for a while. I wasn’t terribly surprised at the incredible levels of metagaming, in this case, in terms of the focus on profit. It is my nature to try to have a coherent world view with my characters and my concept’s world view has a hard time integrating with the greediness. Does that mean creating a new character? Probably means getting killed early on since the others lack any sort of desire to have someone with different ethics around. I could cave, of course, and just be a spearchucker in the party with no personal interests or goals, much like how I play my Conan character almost all of the time after I realized the Conan group was very metagamey, if not nearly as much over money/stuff, more so on whatever sounded like action or the direction the GM expected, even if other (more logical) choices ended up with the same level of action and the GM didn’t care what direction the party decided upon.
Delicate Negotiations – That would be the name of mod SoB07 of HoR3, which I played Saturday. I keep getting reminded of how I don’t like using Skype for audible, vastly preferring Ventrilo. That aside, this was easily my favorite mod of the new campaign. It had way more structure. Personal efforts mattered for more than just personal side stories. There was logic to how things worked and plenty of possibilities for doing different things. While I couldn’t really accomplish anything that wasn’t written into the mod with my efforts at furthering personal interests (I guess fictions will have to be done to further my personal interests), my character was highly successful at achieving mod goals, mostly because he was suited to the mod’s requirements but also because I found what I was doing interesting. Even the rewards, which is something I often complain about as seeming arbitrary, made sense to me and didn’t offend me even though in a minor respect they could be highly unfair.
Delicate deck desirability – I built a new deck, today, for our V:TES session. It’s of a very different style from my norm in that it’s fairly focused. I can see the deck being interesting in a deck matchup sense, but it was fairly boring to play. Sure, that I could annihilate people with Lightning Reflexes is something so different from my norm of passivity in all things that it has amusement value, but the random combat nature of, say, my Dem/Vic deck is so much more appealing. Even my !Nos fight/vote deck that plays lame cards like Carrion Crows and Immortal Grapple has been more interesting than “I hit for 2. Do I want to nuke you? Yes. I hit for 2 a lot more times.” I played my Greatest Fall deck with some tweaks and that was much more interesting though I didn’t do much that the deck was supposed to do. When the deck was borrowed for the third game, it did almost everything it was supposed to, which was amusing to watch … for a while. I really need more decks like my Dem/Vic deck where random cards just appear and, while the card quality is decent and its strategic play is somewhat coherent, it’s unknown at the detail level how it will play from turn to turn and game to game.
Games are delicate. Usually, one can speak of the delicate balance that either exists or doesn’t in a game. Try to fix one thing and likely create just as big a problem elsewhere. But, there’s also a delicate element to flavor. It’s harder to demonstrate, of course, but some games, particularly RPGs, can suffer a lot if the flavor lacks the right feel. I’d argue that the Scorpion Clan in L5R has a huge concern with capturing the right balance between being “official” bad guys, not really being bad guys, and being competent at dirty tricks without being grossly overpowered because they get to use tactics no one else does.