I barely even notice game descriptions [at conventions] anymore. They nearly always, to me, read like a variation of “Some dudes are doing something you don’t like. Stop them with violence,” so they don’t tell me anything about what might make the game interesting.
And he’s right. It would be pretty neat to play some games where the primary conflicts couldn’t be solved through violence, if only as a change of pace.
Figuring out how to do a “non-violence” session of D&D:
- Maybe violence is just a strategically dumb move, like if every monster in the dungeon is way tougher than you. This becomes more of a stealth mission, either trying to creep into a place, or trying to escape. For several years now I’ve wanted to run an adventure where PC’s are accidentally teleported into a much deeper level of the dungeon than they anticipated . . .
- Maybe violence isn’t the focus of the adventure, though this begins to get into areas of play that aren’t well-supported.
- A cross-country or oceanic race, for example, would offer the chance to overcome a lot of wilderness hazards. (In D&D, most wilderness hazards take the form of monsters you have to kill; I much prefer Mouse Guard‘s approach to wilderness and weather hazards. But I suppose with old-school “imagine-the-hell-out-of-it” principles players could try to cope with travel emergencies.)
- An attempt to solve a particularly vexing problem by means of researching a new spell or magic item. Spell research is one of those cool things that tends to happen away from the table, but trying to acquire super-bizarre metaphorical ingredients, like “the tears of the moon” or something, might require a lot of creative thinking from the players.
- An attempt to build a stronghold. I can imagine all sorts of stuff going wrong here: incompetent architectural design, labor trouble, low-key interference from neighboring powers who want to test the new guy on the block. And of course the peasants are watching to determine if this new guy really deserves their respect. Again this gets into social-style adventuring that isn’t always handled well by D&D rules, but would probably be an interesting change of pace.
- Maybe violence is morally problematic – like, the whole scenario is caused by horribly wrong violence and its tragic after-effects can’t really be remedied by more of the same.
Some of this stuff, like magical research and stronghold-building, skirt pretty close to the carousing mechanisms that the New York Red Box uses between sessions. (The workings of the carousing system has been pretty opaque to me as a player: Tavis uses some kind of Apocalypse World -derived 2d6 + Ability Mod system, where 10 is an unqualified success, 7-9 is a compromise somehow, and 6- is a bad failure; Eric I think is using something like a saving throw system.)
Anyway: as an RPG player I’d like to play in the occasional game that wasn’t predicated on solving conflicts by the application of superior force, that’s all. (I am not saying that violence in gaming is bad; just that it’s boring sometimes.)
tax: 2e Slime Cult Specialty Priest
Been mucking around with 2e lately. The 2e Cleric is ridiculously powerful. Perhaps as an acknowledgement of this, the 2e Players Handbook introduces Specialty Priests, which are sort of like themed mini-Clerics. The 2e Druid is arguably one example of this though they don’t explicitly say so in the text IIRC.
Anyway, specialty priest who worships primordial subterranean slime gods:
Restrictions: Constitution 15, Charisma 12. Followers of the Slime God must be hardy to endure filth and ordure, yet they remain mysteriously compelling. Alignment: any non-good and non-lawful. The Slime God is indifferent to human welfare and scorns efforts at systematizing.
Weapons Allowed: Non-metal armor and weapons that are mostly wood. Flasks of burning oil, acid, and poison are permitted. The idea is to be immune from most Ooze attacks, while mimicking them in return.
Spheres: Major access to: All, Charm, Creation, Divination, Elemental, and Necromantic. Minor access to Animal, Healing, Plant. According to the cult, slime exists at the juncture between insensate matter and all living things–the protoplasmic goo is a link between plants, animals, and the raw elements, and the quintessence of life itself. I’m throwing in Divination and Charm just because I like the idea of extremely charismatic priests driven mad by unspeakable insights.
Granted Powers: command Oozes, Otyughs and Fungi (as evil Cleric commands Undead). At Level 7, transform into Ooze (as Druid’s shape-changing ability).
Ethos: To the anti-priests of the cult, we weren’t created by any gods in the service of a divine purpose. We crawled into the sunlight after countless eons of muck for no discernible reason. If you’re puzzled and confused by the world you live in, that’s perfectly understandable: it’s not supposed to make sense. We’re just globs of muck, doing what globs of muck do: eat, shit, puke, ejaculate, and die. There’s no relief from that: it’s the bedrock of our existence. And if the social institutions of the surface world appear corrupt, hypocritical, and historically contingent–almost as if there was no divine plan at all–well, that shouldn’t come as a surprise . If you’re expecing our society to be pure and wholesome, you’re misunderstanding who and what we are. There’s no destiny. There’s just the continuous consumption of rotting flesh to shit out nightsoil to keep the thing going.
Amid all that mindless biological twitching, there’s a lesson to be learned. Don’t let people tell you to do stuff on the basis of some goofball ideology. Here and now is what matters. Being left alone, and leaving others alone even if it means they’ll drink their own piss, is a cardinal virtue: you don’t have authority to tell others what to do. And that applies to yourself too. You have to reconcile yourself to the fact that your life and its attendant suffering is pointless. Don’t have hopes, or daydreams, or wishes for anything other. Just this: over and over, just this.