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  • Writer's pictureDawn Dalton

Style Over Substance

Enjoying the way I game.

I'm having a bit of FOMO. I'm looking at pictures of my friends from Gamehole Con and realizing how much my gaming has changed.

I miss the old school way. When I started gaming in college, I joined a group of theater majors. That meant accents, props, and music were a huge part of our gaming sessions. It even meant there were a few sessions where we didn't roll a single die.

Two examples come to mind: a session of 7th Sea where our group was kidnapped by the Fey and forced to write a play and Little Fears where our characters were out trick or treating and looking for a lost friend.

Imagine being gathered for a gaming session and your GM telling you that you have two hours to write a play. Everyone tries to figure out what they need to roll to do this and he looks at you and says, "no, you have two hours to write a play. Go do it."

I still have the play somewhere in my gaming papers.

Years later, we are still talking about the game positively.

But then I moved and lost my gaming group. I joined others that weren't as focused on the role playing aspect and instead were focused on "beating" the game. Munchkins. People who min/max their characters until it's not fun for anyone to play with them because they can do it all.

And there were the rare players who wanted to make a fun character, but the interesting bits slowly got drowned out by the clattering of dice. It kills me inside a bit.

I'm not saying that there is a right or wrong way to game, but I miss actually storytelling when I game. I don't want to sit silent while one person dominates the entire game because they found the loophole to make the most epic character.

I want style and flash over substance. Give me a character who fails at things. Who doesn't know what she's doing, but she's going to do it with style.

I think that's why my CyberPunk character doesn't have that many pieces of Cyberware that have a function (other than her tool hand and antibodies). Everything else is flash: hair that looks like the matrix is flowing through it, light tattoos with physics equations, purple eyes. Anything to give her depth and make it to where I can tell a story with her.

I'm still looking for little ways to make my characters fun to bring back some of why I started gaming even in groups where it's more about winning. Characters who have tea parties, doing up my hair to match my character's style. Little things to pull me into the story we are creating.

Because, for me, it's always about the story. And I'd rather tell a story where my character failed then not remember anything because my character was built to never fail.

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