The title of this might sound weird for this blog, especially given as how I have talked about video games in some of the most recent posts. However, I was re-reading “Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads” which is the writers from R. Talsorian Games giving advice to the players on ways to run better games. This was one of the articles under their Dirty Tricks for using on players and it got me thinking about how it basically says a lot of what I felt like saying and very succinctly, and its title was ‘Don’t Play Video Games’.
Huh? Let me explain. Videogames are predictable, they don’t change. You start on one level, beat down the henchmen monsters, defeat a few traps and take down the Boss Monster for that level. Then it’s on to the next level. Predictable.
Don’t be predictable. Make Arasaka a good guy for a change. Have a major villain change sides. Have a good guy do something evil for the wrong reasons. If they’ve just fought boostergangs, have a group of fuzzy, plague-ridden puppies behind the next door. Constantly change the parameters. Make sure that the Boss Monster skips a level every so often so they’ll go crazy looking for it (“We thought when we beat the Militech guards and got into the complex, we’d find the Head of Security there waiting for us!”)
So, their point was don’t follow patterns to keep your players on their toes. Make it more like real life, where things aren’t always arranged by location to be challenging. There is no ‘Random Encounter Table’ sorted by genre, if you look at some of the world’s worst tenant type shows for example, where one episode had a guy raising bees. Not something you normally expect, but it happens because real life is stranger than fiction.
I always talk about how combat is done in video games to make it longer, and it works because it is something everyone knows how to do. It is the same in most tabletop games, everyone has some sort of fighting abilities to hold their own. However, there are other ways to challenge people. Espionage and Diplomacy are two big ones, but you can also do a Research scenario. Or if you really want to make things different, we can break out storytelling and run a social conflict where fighting is not going to be the proper answer to things. These things shake up the players, making them break out of their comfort zone of relying on dice only, and