Whipping up a batch of fresh New Year's resolutions early this month, I treated myself to breaking last year's most successful one: thou shalt not play computer games. For an entire year—with the notable lapse with obsessing about uniting the wild Orlanthi clans of Dragon Pass over my Iphone screen—it was a resolution that I not only accomplished, but thrived under.
Computer games—especially the ultra-layered and complex strategy games like Europa Universalis and its love-children—and I have a long history of love/hate. Predictably, I will load one up, getting increasingly drawn in, having great fun at first and then minutely and gradually it turns to something isolating and chore-like.
Stopping cold turkey, a relatively easy thing to do given the tendency of cprgs to become lifeless, cut-scene-dominated railroads these days, freed up more time for an activity that energizes me: face-to-face gaming (and it's close-enough equivalent on Google Plus).
What kind of gaming crack could send my packing back to a computer screen?
Planescape Torment, a game I avoided for years despite my longstanding love for the Baldur's Gates and Icewind Dales—my only real connection to D&D for decades. Never a big fan of the hokey AD&D extra-planar hooha, the setting sounded as appealing as that famous trainwreck Dragonlance to my ears.
I was wrong. Not only is it a great, mostly non-linear game with relatively deep rich layers, but I found it actually inspiring my campaign neurons rather than just glazing them over. A number of ideas intrigued me about the game enough that I want to find a home for them back in my face-to-face gaming:
Scrodinger's Character. In Torment your PC's attributes emerges during actual play than in pre-game chargen--a game concept that Zzarchov employs in Neo-Geek Revival. While not being a big fan of D&D's alignment, I did dig the idea of starting as Neutral through your own choices developing into another. It gives alignment a dynamism, more like a vector, that seems more satisfying and resonant with human character then just picking one at the beginning and staying within its confines unless you make a major transgression.
Likewise the idea of picking class during play, you start as a fighter and can move into other classes as you interact with NPCs and make choices, appealed to me. Granted both ideas I explored somewhat with my zero-level rules, but possibly something to be toyed with in later level play.
Extra-planar Hub City. With the growing energy around open world play with FLAILSNAILS and Google+ gaming, this idea has more appeal to me. I still am not a big fan of the AD&D idea of a multiverse but a cherry-picking of some of the more interesting planes coupled with gates into other campaign worlds on the prime sound like something I'd like to develop.
Spells and Gear with Flavor. This was a big one for me as it's one of the areas I feel like I have to stretch my creativity more. I want a world were magic is steeped more in the specific feel of the setting, where spell names and effects frame around a character's doctrine. Where even a re-skinned Magic Missile, Reign of Anger, drips flavor.
I also want more items like charms made from hardened blood clots and parasitic flies that melt on your tongue and weapons that hold strange backstories and an array of unusual powers and curses.
(If folks are interested I have compiled and edited two documents totaling over a 100 pages all the descriptions and AD&D tabletop mechanics of the magic items, weird gear and unique spells. Bestiary coming next. Drop me an email if you are interested.)
Curious to hear if others have been inspired by the game or another of its cousins. If you have ported back a piece or large section for your own tabletop game.
Now back to Baator.