Friday, 9 August 2019

Look, Robot: Stanislavski Vs Brecht In Tabletop Roleplaying

I was looking for Greg Costikyan's Bestial Acts, his sketch of a 'Brechtian' RPG, but instead came across this interesting essay by Grant Howitt, Stanislavski Vs Brecht In Tabletop Roleplaying. I especially like the fact that it begins, "This is going to get pretty wanky, here, so brace yourselves", before thinking seriously about what we are doing, and what we should be trying to do, when we play our PCs. This includes section titles such as "Play your PC like an NPC" and "Don’t compromise your character’s motivations, but do get them into trouble". I certainly don't agree with everything, and find the closing passage to be inimical to 'old school' style play. 
"Remember that time you had fought your way down to the bottom of the dungeon, and you were low on healing potions and all injured and you saw a dragon in front of you, laying on its hoard, eyes glinting through the thick darkness? And collectively, even though your characters and tired and beaten up and abused and could easily go home, hire an army, come back and kill this thing with minimum risk, you say – “Fuck it, let’s do this. Imagine the stories.”"
I mean, in my book, that's a TPK right there. And a deserved TPK, in which the players have made decisions aware of the risks (and potential rewards), rather than something sprung on the players and their PCs by a poor GM. Trusting a GM to fudge in order to make a good story is corrosive to the 'game'. There are, I presume, systems which would facilitate and reward these kind of decisions, but for me, the important point is that it is the contract of the game and its procedures that does this work. And, why can't trying to recruit an army willing to venture into the depths of a terrible dungeon be an adventure in itself?

Nevertheless, the essay is an interesting read for a Friday afternoon.     

2 comments:

  1. I'm with you on that completely. I don't mind if my players try pulling off crazy plans, but I'm not going to make the challenges any easier for sure. When their bravery/foolishness does pay off, it's even more cherished - exactly because they triumphed against odds they were aware of. When it doesn't, well, those skeletons that signal danger in dungeons have to come from somewhere, right?

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