Over this past week’s vacation from work, I broke down and picked up a first-person shooter for myself. I’m not much of a console gamer - there’s something about using console controllers that I just find awkward, and if one is using the TV to play a console game then no one else can use the TV for it’s more common purpose. So I tend to prefer computer games, especially for FPS-style games (I find the reaction time and precision afforded with a mouse and a keyboard way better than a console controller).
Anyhow, I picked up Rogue Warrior, a so-so computer game I bought mostly because I think Richard Marcinko is a hardcore throat-stomper who’s more or less made a second successful career out of being a well-marketed bona-fide badass after his first career as a Navy SEAL ended at the hands of a wrathful US government-delivered jail sentence. the FPS game would have been decent maybe ten years ago, around the era of Rainbow Six and the like, but these days is woefully outclassed. However, since I don’t play a lot of video games, the novelty of a new game, filled with ridiculous profanity and all sorts of gratuitously brutal “kill moves” kept me entertained for a handful of evenings.
And yes, I’m getting to a point...
One thing I noticed was that every level I played, there were opportunities for utilizing some of the little perks of the game. For example, the beginning of every mission, your enemies aren’t aware you’re there, and you have the option of taking out the first half dozen or so bad guys in hand-to-hand “kill moves” which are pretty entertaining. Most every mission also has at least one area where you could enjoy yourself sniping at the bad guys with a handily available sniper rifle. There’s also at least one close-quarters battle area where a shotgun or SMG can be very handy.
Now, the cool part is that you don’t HAVE to kill people quietly in the beginning of the mission, or snipe at them at another point in the game, etc. etc., but there is an option to use these features and while you don’t have to, it makes it fun to do so.
This got me thinking about role-playing game mechanics. While it is perfectly possible to play an all-human, no-spellcasters game of D&D where there is no magic and no magic items, and no one ever goes into a “dungeon”, you’d be hard pressed to give me a reason why this is a good idea. Similarly, playing a Traveller game where you never leave the low-tech planet you’re on, or a Shadowrun game where there’s no cybernetics, or an Ars Magica game where no one plays a mage. There’s nothing stopping you from ignoring the primary “draw” of a certain RPG, but it gives me pause to consider it because if you ignore what makes that game unique, I feel there’s little point in using that game in favor of another, far more generic and flavorless system.
Of course, this is different than “picking and choosing rules” or coming up with homebrew solutions. I’m talking more about ignoring whole reasons why the game was created. Using my own homebrew Tankards & Broadswords RPG as an example, I’ve designed the game from the beginning to facilitate episodic play. For someone to take the game and use it in a linear campaign wouldn’t be “doing it wrong”, but on the other hand, why pick my RPG out of all the hundreds out there and then not use that which helps set it apart a little from its peers?
So my question to the reader is, when would you or when have you taken a game system and then completely ignored or thrown out that which most strongly defines that system, and why would you or did you do this?