Casting Shadows has a great post up today about the way genre interacts with play at the table. He’s talking about players and playing the game. Well, hopefully you’ll take a moment to read it as well. I find that I feel very much the same way and I want to take what he’s driving at and take another tack at it.
Mutants and Masterminds illustrates what I hope to get at in an interesting way. M&M gives the GM tools to help emulate/enforce the genre conventions of superhero stories. It might not have been the first time a game did such a thing, but for me, it was the first time I really took it in, really explicitly understood the desire to have mechanics to shape the play experience in a way that goes beyond task resolution math. And the funny thing is — the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.
I’ve run a lot of Amber games. Here’s the thing about Amber. Unless the players embrace the setting, embrace the notion of how they are drawn to Amber and that reality calls to them in unique ways, unless they embrace being an Amberite, the game is a lot less fun. And I know some will call me crazy but when I consider using some sort of “pay-as-you-go” reward dole to get players to embrace the genre, the setting… well, I can’t think of anything that would destroy the fun faster.
In the Casting Shadows post, he also makes the point that one of the barriers is that players will all have different conceptions of the genre they bring into the experience with them. What really is Pulp? What’s Steampunk? Expectations of play are a huge thing and clashes can certainly taint an experience if not well handled.
I don’t have any easy answers. And I know that for many people the M&M experience is exactly what they want. But I’ve always found the idea of handing out a reward for what should be a reward in its own right to be a strange thing. Of course, I like games with no dice, little advancement, and where a genre expectation is that your character will suffer… so, I’m not entirely sure that I’m a trustworthy source…