It’s the first Blurbs from the Booth and today I talk about why I love Living games!
I’ve stood at the invasion of Elturguard as the companion went dark. I’m immortalized in a statue commemorating the defeat and sealing of an elemental in Mil Takarn. I’ve thrown waves after waves of demons against intrepid heroes as they stood valiantly in Jappa. I’ve hacked computers owned by Renraku and stolen a wizard only to sell him to a different corporation in Seattle. I’ve single handedly destroyed skyships as during the invasion of the floating fortress. And you may have too.
I love living games. Living games are long running campaigns where a series of modules are put out by a company or group in a particular game system. The living game will place rules on what can and can’t happen in character generation and each module so the story that every character experiences is somewhat standardized. Games like the Living Forgotten Realms, Living Arcanis, Shadowrun missions, Living Divine, Pathfinder Society, Legends of the 13th Age, and others all fill me with only happiness. Now I know many others out there poo-poo the idea of a “regulated” game, but I don’t mind slight changes to the rules. Where they only see “limitations” because they can’t do everything they want, I see only opportunities and awesomeness. Here are some of the high points I see to living games:
- Unity-Every week, I go to church. I’m a Roman Catholic and at just past midway through, we all say the Our Father. I get a feeling of unity with the larger group out there. I’m not just one guy, I part of a larger whole. I get that same feeling during a battle interactive (a large multi table game where parties can often interact with one another to help each other out). I’m filled with a feeling that few can experience when I know several other people are all out there at the same time all fighting for a common goal.
- Shared Experience- I talked above about all the crazy things I’ve done in game as a GM and a player. You may have done something similar, and that is AWESOME! We might not have ever met, or ever will meet, but we have shared something that only a few other people can. We can sit down at a bar or a con and talk about the crazy stuff that happened when I tried to steal the gem and what happened when you did it. No two tables are the same, but the basics will be there and now we have some comradery that would never have existed if it weren’t for our shared passion for an RPG.
- Family/Friends-I’ve met friends at living games who I would have never, ever know existed. These people came to my wedding, go with me to other cons, play other random games, and have become an important part of my life. I look forward to hearing from them on a regular basis. Living games give you an impressive opportunity to meet people you would otherwise not know existed.
- Personal Opportunities-Everybody has to start somewhere. Monte Cook did not start writing 1000 page source books. Neither will you. But a great place to learn about the industry is to do the grunt work of it. Cons and living games get your name out there. I’ve ran games for Wizards of the Coast and got to have sit down chats with heavy hitters in the industry, and it was amazing! Also, since living games are constantly looking for people to write, it’s a great place to make some in roads. Now, I’m not saying this will the minor leagues compared to major league baseball, but it’s at least like playing in high school. It will get your feet wet and get your name out there. Have a favorite game and want to make a name for yourself? Check their website. Most have a proper procedure for you to try being a writer.
- Groups-Have a game you love, but can’t find a home group to do your crazy My Little Pony/Cthulhu version of it? Go check out the living games. Any company worth their salt will have an awesome website to support their living game. These websites will help you find games or even give you Google groups to start playing in. Then you find some friends, and eventually crazy Cthulhu Shuterfly with some equally crazy people.
- Achievement (Real)-Paizo does this amazingly well. The more you GM for them, the higher your rank. I was at the table where the first five star female Pathfinder GM earned her rank. In addition to being with an awesome group of people, I got to witness something phenomenal. Or, think of it this way, YOU GET TO LEVEL UP IN REAL LIFE!
- Achievement (Not as Real)- Every Living Forgotten Realms adventure ends with a reward sheet. Every Pathfinder Society event ends with a chronicle. You get a tangible reward for playing. Now, I know it’s just paper, but you “earned” that. There is a reason why so many companies are popping up selling game aids that represent in game achievement like gold and weapons. It’s not much, but these represent some hard work by your character. And, while not as great a say winning a football game, getting your sheet for winning the day does feel pretty good.
- Effects on the Game World- I’ve been part of a vote to turn the Companion of in Elturguard. I’ve changed the world of the Forgotten Realms forever. Can you say that? Often times in each living game, the people who run the campaign ask for feedback based on what the characters did. This affects future mods and ultimately changes the world. I want my character to be part of the world and to make a difference. Do you? While I know you’re home group now destroyed Cormyr, but did you change the larger world outside your home group? This is an awesome aspect of Living game: real, tangible effects on the game you love.
- Company Opportunities-I honestly play more “living” games then I do home games. I play a lot, but I prefer the play games where anybody can drop in and play and everybody gets a shot to have some fun. These games give companies who might not otherwise get their game out there a shot to make some noise. As a player, if I can’t find a group to play a game, then I won’t spend the $90+ to play Dungeons and Dragons (Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide). But if I know that I can easily just jump into a random group and play for free a bunch of times, I am much more likely to buy those three books and as many source books as I can get my hands on.
- Portability-Some people are locked in an area and can only play RPGs with one group of people. In some of these groups, sometimes you have to deal with people you otherwise would not like, since it’s your only shot at playing a game. Living games don’t have that problem. Don’t like how I GM your game? You can most likely find someone either online or close by who will run the game system you love for you. Or you could start your own group and get other who loves your game to join you! Its win-win!
- Spreading the Good Word- You have a system you love. Whatever it is, you absolutely love it. And I’m happy for you. So you go to a con or two and run your intro game with pregens you personally created and a mod you wrote with love. Your players all adore the game and say they will get every book then can! And they don’t. They look around, see no one else playing, and forget about that greatest game they ever played. Living Games give you a bit of help with spreading your word. Now, that group that loved your came know how to find others. They know that others are playing. They will (hopefully) join up with those others and now play your game. And your game will spread.
- Adventures- We all love RPGs. It’s why you’re reading a blog on a RPG website. What’s harder is having that game ready when your friends show up. Every week they’re going to show up and you have to spend the prep time to get the game ready, and they don’t care that game prep takes away from your spin class because in this example your friends are mean. Any Living game worth its salt will have a giant back log of adventures and whole quests for you to work through. And they are cheap, well put together, and right there!
- GAMES!-WHY ELSE ARE YOU PLAYING A RPG! Here are some games that you don’t have to (usually) pay for! Great living games give you a good taste of a game that a demo can’t. You get to play a few sessions and maybe even gain a few levels. Honestly, if you’re at a con and you see a new living game you’ve never heard of, give it a shot. You’ll get your new pregen character and some fancy new adventure logs. You have some tangible rewards and you got to play an awesome new game that you can show your friends back home with a ton of adventures for them to play and other new friends to show it too.
This is what I see when I see a living game. Give them a try if you can. You just might get more out of them then a simple game. See if you feel what I feel when I step into a room with a couple hundred of my comrades at arms.