Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Filler material, masochistic Marx and Game mastering advice

Blog post, 26th of January 2011.
So very tired.

Working update
Obligatory Simpson's references to one side, I had hoped to release a demo tape of a certain project here today.
Unfortunately that tape hasn't made it to my in-box and so I can only supply vague details on the project, insert disappointed crowd noises here.

Recently a side project was offered around the course, a real world brief, offered by a real world organisation, with the promise of a real world commission.
Naturally almost all those present jumped at the thought, and so one of the tightest deadlines possible was set to select which ever team could propose the best method of meeting this brief head on.
This deadline has now past, and I am happy to say that the group I belong to (all two of us) is still in the running, the bad news is so is everyone else.
As this is such a rarity for a university course, they cant afford to hand it off to a team who can't do it justice. This means an additional 2 days and the possibility of various teams being merged to form the best results.
The deadline is closing and so I look forward to announcing the full results, discussing the winning teams victory no matter whom they may be.

So Slightly inflammatory opening title aside, Karl (or Charles) Marx.
A recent task called for an examination of one philosopher from a huge pile of potential subjects.
Seeing as his works made such sense to me in the past, I picked up a book on comrade Marx and began re-acquainting myself.
However, I ran into a bit of a problem. You see all my prior teaching focused only on Marx's theories in regards to sociology, while the current book takes a look at more of the history. In specific Marx's own history.

And despite all he inspired, all the events for which he was a catalyst, it doesn't change the fact that the poor man lived and died in absolute poverty because he wasn't very popular.
His views were so unpopular with the Bourgeoisie he was 'revealing' that they cast him out of France and Germany, forcing him to live in England with not a penny to his name.
At many points he could have salvaged something of his life, recanting his views in return for a university posting, or focussed himself on the life of the working class and strived for better.
But no he did not, and suffered for it, loosing loved ones and station for his views.

I can't really decide if this was noble self sacrifice, stubborn headiness or anything in between.

Game Mastering
As noted elsewhere, I play and run games.
In fact I play with people from across the world, am a player in a long running pod-cast soon to be published as a game book of its own, and run stories for audiences ranging from 15 to 28.

So its little surprise I have a thought or two to spare on the matter.
The piece of advice I wish to suggest today goes for both players and game masters.

There is a party limit.
This may differ for each game but be aware there is an optimum number for the story.
Many people know the song about how lonely the number one is, well games often run down the same line. 1 player will get lonely with just themselves and the "game master".
The challenge soon dissolves, and a huge section of the game is missing due to the lack of anyone to interact with. You may as well be a pair of children with their toy box for all the character development and story that gets done.

Two will always feel like their missing something, needing to spread themselves too thin to cover all bases. Being unable to specialise and forever finding themselves incapable of acting when their other half is missing.
Not that its impossible, in fact a great Pod-cast I recommend you visit has a series of two man party games.
( Captive souls adventures).

But most games require either a trinity of power, or a classic fantastic four. Three and four member parties manage to find how best to balance against one another, how to cover all that is needed without loosing a focused identity on each character. Perhaps its the standard templates enforcing themselves upon us, or just how people best function but you can't deny the most common themes are a trinity or Warrior, Rogue and Mage, or a 4 person team of specialists.

This doesn't rule out a larger group, but bare in mind, the lager the party the harder a job it is to keep everyone happy.
In a group of six your often going to find yourself stretching to find reasons to keep the team all together at once, to involve them and keep them involved as a functioning unit without just lumping them all into a horrific conglomerate creature.
But even if you do manage it, your players will notice. A good party consists of the right people, your friends who will recognise the strain being put on you and so in turn feel regret, and probably leave the campaign for the greater good.
While its no bodies fault or anything everyone will feel let down by their own inability to include that unlucky ex-player.
So please take this on board, there is always a party limit, and you should never feel sorry for having to remind people of it.

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