Why I (usually) oppose RPG design intentions


 I can't find it for the life of me, but in one of the Mage the Ascension books (the Revised Era of the late 90's, not the M20 stuff), there was a grey little side bar, and it made something clear.

DON'T RUN AROUND PLAYING YOUR MAGE CHARACTERS LIKE SUPERHEROES unless you like really want to but still...

A blurb for the "Wanderhome" says the following
"I grew up reading books about Redwall. The opening pages were full of lavish descriptions of the communal feasts that mice were scurrying about preparing, and the playful merriment that all the rabbits and other woodland creatures were getting up to. I loved those opening pages. But they always gave way to long chapters about war, pillaging, and slaughter. The meadow was monotonously besieged by evil, violent forces. Wanderhome asks a question I wish more games would ask: what if the meadow gets to stay safe and happy this time? What if those opening pages get to last forever?”

A DCC RPG blurb proudly proclaims

"...Dungeon Crawl Classics feature bloody combat, intriguing dungeons, and no NPCs who aren’t meant to be killed. Each adventure is 100% good, solid dungeon crawl, with the monsters you know, the traps you fear, and the secret doors you know must be there somewhere."

These are the designers intentions for their game. They spent their hundreds or thousands or hours and hundreds of thousand of their own dollars to produce this game with that intended audience and that intended focus of play.

And here I am, dreaming of 
...a Crossover Classic World of Darkness game in which the players are all essentially a supernatural edgy Justice League fighting existential threats to reality like Cthulu or the Wyrm or Demons yada yada...
...A Wanderhome game where the players don't fit in to all the parties and fun-having because of their dark, violent pasts and are being passive-aggressively ostracized...until the war come home again that is...

...A DCC RPG game of great intrigue and emotional investment where sometimes killing thangs and grabbing treasure isn't the solution, centered on the kingdom in which the PCs live...

Why do I do this? To be contrarian and edgy and get attention? Of course!

And also because the ways these playstyles rub against the system causes sparks, for me at least. WOD was particularly diligent in making sure there were consequences to playing the game like D&D, like  Elder Vampires opening cans of whoop-ass on the player character if they borke the masquerade and all that.

What's funny to me though is...with most of our favorite stories in this world, or at least mine, getting a powerful lord to try to kill you a central part of the narrative. A dungeon in D&D may be set up on the entire premise that you made some social misstep and the consequences are coming to kill you, in the form of town guards or avenging angels or who knows what. But what is implied in the WOD side bars where it tells you not to play "Raven Two-Swords" is that the Prince will simply, inevitably, and eventually kill you and all will be returned to normal. Its not the start of a new conflict...its simply a punishment.

With Wanderhome, which I haven't played mind you, I am intrigued with the idea of "what if these pastoral, bucolic people are not so kind, and covertly, or overtly, ostracize anyone who has committed a crime or been involved in violence, in order to keep their noses and tableclothes clean. What if there is no one that wants to 'heal' them, or these pariahs don't want to be 'healed'. And what happens if they are needed again?" I don't know many combat veterans but I have heard so much about how they can't always integrate in civilian society. Maybe, sometimes, its because society is frightened of them and can't handle their attitudes. I'd love to see that played out.

And with DCC, having NPCs that are vital to the story (but not invincible mind you) sounds like a challenge, to take players that want to grind through a dungeon and have them play politics or feel some drama in between monster encounters sound like a good way to spend some brain cells.


So why don't I just play a different game that fits? If I want Justice League...why don't I play the latest attempt at a DC based superhero game? If I want Wanderhome with violence, why not play Pugmire?
Its often because I love the lore of a setting, but want to play a different style of game. Like cWODs lore is like literally nothing else, so it would not do to play a different game. A JL game, cWOD style, can't be done without the lore, or at least it would be inordinately hard.

Or, its because I want to push myself out of my narrative comfort zone. A DCC soap-opera, political intrigue game is in my level of experience but I am still not as comfortable with that style as, say, an adventure type romp. Playing Wanderhome straight would be even further outside my comfort zone, though I have done it before and its been freaking amazing, so playing the above example game might be a good way to meet in the middle.

Your turn

How have YOU purposefully played an RPG the "wrong way", as in against design intentions. Did you play Call of Cthulhu where the investigators won? Did you play V:tM more like the Blade movies? Did you turn Shadowrun into a Business Drama?

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