Sunday, July 10, 2011

P&P RPGs vs. Computer RPGs

What aspect of Pencil & Paper RPGs is intrinsically superior to Computer RPGs?   One word:  Creativity.

As a Player, I can only do what the computer programmers and level designers come up with for me to do.  Even if it's a million things, the fact is, I as the Player can not "invent" any of them.  I can only select from the list of things that someone else invented for me to do.

As a Gamesmaster, I can create my World with the infinite variety and complexity that pleases my artistic sense.  But in a Computer RPG I can not do that.  I can only go along for the ride as a Player.  I can not do any of the cool things that Gamesmasters can do in their own Worlds.  Of course there have been some pretty good games that allow people to create their own Levels of Dungeons, and Gamesmaster to a certain degree.  But I think that even the best of these are left in the dust by a Pencil & Paper RPG, which has no limitations to what can be invented, since there are no constraints other than limits of human imagination.

So for creativity I go with Pencil & Paper RPGs.

That said, what Computer RPGs give us is immediacy.  I can hop on to a game instantly.  No scheduling with friends required.  I can run around in artistically beautiful looking Worlds.  I can run around and gain points and level up and brag to my friends.  I can even, if I want to, schedule time with my friends to meet them online and play with them.  So for instant gratification, and eye candy, nothing beats the Computer RPG.

Which is better?  Well, that depends on what you're really interested in.  But one thing is certain... despite the similarity in names, Computer RPGs are a very different animal than Pencil & Paper RPGs.  And for me, Pencil & Paper RPGs win hands down, every time.


TyphoonAndrew said...

I agree totally, the pen and paper is much better. Shamefully I do not get to play them half as often as I can spare the time for computer games. Organising 4 players is a nightmare.

I thought for a while what would happen if we allowed a few attempts at an end boss, akin to how the computers do. Give the characters a save point, and let them have a few tries. The battles could get complex, and they could learn strategy properly.

vbwyrde said...

I find the same thing about scheduling players. Especially after college. People get busy with life, and schedules tend to get complicated. It is one of the big drawbacks to P&P RPGing. On the other hand, the creativity aspect is so great, I find it's still worth the effort. What I've done is to focus on mini-campaigns and solo-adventures that can be slung together to form campaigns, or just run as one-shots. I'm trying that technique over the summer to see how that goes since my player group is in flux and two players are moving out of town.

On the other hand there is the possibility of IRC based RPGing, which I've tried a little bit in the past. I may give that a go later on and see how it works out.

The idea of Save Points for P&P RPGs is an interesting one, but I would want to incorporate it into the story somehow. I'm thinking a magical artifact of some sort. A lost relic of the Time Lords maybe? It would work that you could put it on the ground, initiate it with some incantation or ritual, or mechanism (doesn't matter which), and it would be active for the span of one hour, lets say. If the players lose the battle it rolls back time to the beginning of the battle and they can start again. It can only do this a certain number of times (maximum would be three for me), and the final result is the "real" one... which means it would be risky to use. While the team could learn the opponent's tactics, and hidden weapons, and properties, it could also happen that in the third try they just get unlucky. So using it is not risk free. But it could, and usually would, help. The other thing is that I would have it that the artifact comes at a cost to use such as a lot of Mystic Energy, or Gold (for the trigger device), or some such. And lastly, that the artifact is not infinite, and can only be used X number of times before it burns out, or gets used up. That way the party would need to give consideration to which battles they use it for (the important ones), and not just get an infinite number of free re-tries.

Anyway, thanks for the thought! I like it! :)