Monday, July 31, 2017

Tabletop Gaming as a Writer Among Non-Writers

I have a group of friends I like to game with. Our "usual" campaign is currently Hackmaster, but we've been having trouble getting everyone together. It's totally not like it was when we were fresh out of college and showing up every week was easy.

Nowadays, somebody often has a scheduling conflict.

But in a valiant attempt to still get in some gaming without a month going by, we decided we'd do a one-off without the one person who can't make it next Saturday. Hackmaster is on hold and one of our players offered a few possibilities for us to choose from.

I voted for Blades in the Dark, because he pitched the game as being like Dishonored, but everyone's part of a gang of thieves in a steampunk Victorian fantasy setting. It's probably also due to being deep in Persona 5, but I thought "Thieves! I want to do this!"

When I was in high school I loved the thief class in just about any game I could play it in, even though it usually sucked. And I know that's partially because games are generally set up around combat, but the fun part of playing a thief is all the sneaky out of combat stuff, and Blades in the Dark sounds really RP-heavy.

So our GM passed along the quick start guide and my brain went into overdrive.

I can't help it. When I'm creating a character I love building things out, whether it's for a book or a game, and the system looks promising. It might be what I've wanted for a thief campaign since high school.

The GM suggested waiting until Saturday so everyone can work on their thieves together and pick complimentary skills, but we talked a little bit about the playbooks (roughly equivalent to character classes) already via e-mail and I mentioned that I didn't want to fully develop my character until we got together.

By the time I mentioned this in conversation, I already had three possibilities. (I guess I have a lot of pent up thief ideas from high school D&D.)

Our GM said not to worry about picking my playbook too early, because it's really easy to get skills from other playbooks if needed, so I could pick whatever I wanted.

But you see, I'm a writer, most of my gaming group is not. So my problem wasn't that I didn't want to lock myself into an unsuitable playbook. I was afraid my character concept would be incompatible with the rest of the party!

Since I like to RP, character chemistry is important to me. My character needs a reason to be there.

For Blades, my favorite character concept is a former constable who got forced out for crossing the wrong people. He turned to thievery for issues that are more complicated than I'm going to get into here, but I liked the idea of a former cop who wasn't actually a criminal until after he was fired. Because he still has some sense of integrity, I wouldn't want to play this character in a crew of assassins. I'd use someone else.

His playbook isn't nearly as important as being able to play the character in an environment that works for him. Our gang of thieves still isn't decided yet, so if we roll as assassins or something similarly on the heavy side of scummy I have a different character in mind.

And nothing is wasted. I think my former constable might get reused in a story regardless of whether he shows up in game. I even know which universe he'd go in.