Computer Games · General · Table Top RPGs

Why Fallout is not MY post-apocalypse

I first played the game Fallout when it was released, and I spent a lot of time with the various iterations of that franchise, missing only New Vegas. I love the nods given to the earlier media, such as the leather armor (the “road leathers” in FO4) referencing the costume Mel Gibson wore in the Mad Max movies, particularly The Road Warrior. I like the various factions and the description of the world after the disastrous war of 2077.

But these were not my gateway into the world after civilization.

In 1980 or so, I got the box set for Gamma World. I had been playing D&D for just long enough to be eager to devour each issue of Dragon when it got to my local library, and this new game was advertised, and something inside me needed the game. Some of my most memorable scenes were from that game. It still strongly influences me in my gaming choices. Unconsciously, I weigh every game I mean to get into against it. Every setting is measured against the world as imagined by its authors (as then interpreted by my 12 year old understanding of it).

So then what else gets there for me. Well, I missed out on the hype train around the recent edition of Gamma World as seen through the D&D4 lens, so I didn’t get it and really haven’t looked at it more. Shadowrun was also a post-apoc I could and did enjoy. The recent slou of games in the OSR tradition based to some degree or another on GW are really cool, and I have enjoyed as many as I have looked at. The upcoming nod from the guys behind Dungeon Crawl Classic looks really nifty. Also the background behind Wil Wheaton’s “Ashes of Volcana” setting for the Fantasy AGE game is pretty cool, though for me it misses some essentials.

The elements that make a post-toasty (term from THuD) cool for me include

  • It happened here- to some degree or another it is this world that has passed away.
  • Psionics or magic is a thing
  • Mutations can be both good and bad, but the chaos of the apocalypse leaves no two beings too similar.
  • The original critter needn’t be a human. Best if it is possible to be any sort of animal, robot or maybe even a plant.
  • The world has been destroyed, but there is hope still in our protagonists’ hearts. -I like a tale of rebuilding, not one of further drift into death.

I do not think there is any way the current iterations of the Fallout franchise can be anything like a real role playing experience as created by folks around a table. I do not see how it could be possible for the computer based games to allow for the amazing variety of possible characters a real tabletop game can provide, nor can it provide for the level of choice in the actions of the player characters.

 

 

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Computer Games · General · Miniature Wargames · Off the Farm · Table Top RPGs

Producers & Consumers

Throughout the history of games, the rules and the pieces have all been set by a few for the many to enjoy. Or so it may seem, anyway. Among the folks creative enough to enjoy games involving the imagination, whether they be boardgames using abstract tokens to represent troops and armor storming the WW2 battle lines, miniature wargames using models on a terrainscape of sand and styrofoam, or the people represented by penciled in sheets in a candle-lit living room; among these the lines blur considerably between the producers and the consumers. Whether it is a simple house-rule that makes sense to everyone around the table, or the DM’s long hours of effort to create an evening’s destruction and mayhem for her friends to carve their way through, or the player who has an idea and throws something together to sell to other players.

My creations are many. As yet I have only ever published one item, a sheet of stick figure miniatures that I made up for the Deadlands Reloaded game my friend ran us through.

Time to turn left on that side road. I had to wonder why my stick figure miniatures struck a chord with my friends and others. For the same token, why is it that I can be so much more immersed in a pencil on quad ruled paper dungeon adventure than I can in a more richly modeled environment, whether it is a detailed layout on a table top or the amazing world of the Elder Scrolls games? I think that while one shows me stuff, I am limited to what it shows me, see, while the more simplified makes me engage my imagination to fill in almost everything. It is the same thing as the difference between reading the Harry Potter books and going to see the movies. Am I the only one who thinks that however pretty and talented Miss Watson was, Hermione should have been curlier?

The same advantage holds for the recent spate of indy and OSR games that seek to pare down the rules complexity instead of getting every last thing nailed down into a table or chart. It is really cool to have five hundred pages of awesome new world to adventure in, but when I get one of those things, I find myself afraid to get some detail of the setting wrong; or worse, calling my GM on some detail they got wrong. I have been that insufferable know-it-all turd that dragged a game to a screeching halt over a detail that any GM should have felt free to alter at their own table. Sorry, Ted. (He won’t even play with me anymore, and who could blame him.)

Back to the topic, I guess, though I suppose I was more about the stick figures and rules light stuff.

Unlike a gallon of gas or a taco or a box of detergent, what we do with games almost immediately takes us from being a mere consumer of products to creators. Reading the first paragraph in a game should send pictures blazing through my head of ideas I had never seen in that way before. Even when the game is a lush world on the computer screen, my creativity goes into the experience in the same way a book is not complete without the reader’s participation. In short, we are all producers and creators. We always have been.

Thanks.