The news this week are the coming cooperation between d6ideas and Teilzeithelden, another German blog magazine.
On the content side we look at the second part of political gaming.
Last time I argued that structured presentation of information without any additional game rules´ can still be an ideal framework for exploring political aspects in your campaign using Blue Planet as an example (as you recall, Blue Planet does not provide any significant game rules for character interaction – or rules for political interaction, but features an in-depth description of the setting’s political situation and structure as well as a concise and very clear template on how to convey a certain character’s goals and intentions).This time I would like to contrast last times rather cerebral approach with a rather emotional alternative, which still does not require any specific game mechanics.
This time I will use D&D 3.5 as an example.
D&D, despite a long tradition of player-run fiefdoms in earlier incarnations of the game, is also not particularly well renowned for its integration of politics at its core – or even rules.
Yet, one of my most intense “political gaming experiences” was with this game and this particular edition, not despite its lack of political rules, but because of it.
This experience was due to the exponentially escalating options and power-levels of D&D characters in combination with the game’s focus on … let’s be honest, violent conflict resolution.
As a matter of fact nothing was indicative of a turn towards the political – neither the rules, nor the the setting nor the individual campaign nor the characters.
Quite the opposite was true, since everybody was really looking forward to remorseless killing and pillaging above and below the ground, with some sprinkles of detective work and laid back in-game chit chat inbetween.
At first glance, hardly anything changed despite leveling up. The only glimpses at “politics” were influential NPCs sometimes acting as patrons. Regardless, the game continued along the same lines as before.
Even when the characters came into positions of power themselves, the game might have continued unchanged indefinitely. Little would have prevented them from relying on brute force (or cunning magic) to solve their problems.
Suddenly, the players changed their minds.
They started to barter and scheme, to forge alliances, sign treaties and trade agreements and engaged in all manners of political activities. They did however distance themselves from any fighting.
I have repeatedly thought about how and why this particular campaign changed in tone so dramatically from literal to political battlefield par excellence. Currently I believe, the key, as suggested earlier, can be found in the emotional spectrum. Over the course of the campaign, players became attached to a string of –important and less important – recurrent NPCs, while at the same time these NPCs became more and more fragile in comparison with the player’s characters.
Dangerous situations, the player’s characters would have tackled head on without any second thought, became more than deadly for those around them. Out of concern for those vulnerable NPCs (who were more often than not there as scenery), the players and subsequently their characters suddenly strived for peaceful world. Certainly some conflicts remained (starting with necromantic empires to warring dragon clans and more), but nobody wanted to solve them by force anymore – too dangerous for … the NPCs friends, not the characters. So politics became the name of the game. Again, without rules.
In the next week, politics doesn’t feature much in our articles, but with a 5 as the result of our random article roll, we at least get a number of them.
On Monday, we have another page from Shadom’s d6 atlas series.
On Thursdayy, we take a look at new biomods for Blue Planet.
And on Friday, we publish the second part of our series on Advanced Classes for The Red Star.