Sunday, January 15, 2012

Open Tables and Casual Play

Then cats just started coming over - sometimes they brought instruments, others just sang away.  It wasn't even the same cats every night, but they were all in it for the joy of the music.  Those jazz cats just showed up and played their asses off.

This is in my head and it has to get out.  It's rattling around up there.  Might sound familiar, but bear with me.

Imagine a gameplay style with the following attributes:

1) Large player base - say upwards of twenty or even thirty, but maybe a core of 8-12
2) 'Open Table' for casual play - players show up sometimes, don't show up other times.  You play using whoever shows up that night.
3) Players may have multiple characters, but only run one at a time
4) Single GM arbitrates house rules, but there may be Co-GMs or Assistant GMs based on how many players you're wrangling
5) Players can and do take their characters to other local games without issue and play wherever.
6) Although the world is in motion, player-character motivations drive activity each session

So what am I talking about?  The way Gygax played in the Long-Long-Ago?  Some kind of Neo-Braunstein?  An adaptation of a Living Whatever campaign?  FLAILSNAILS and ConstantCon?  A roadmap for marketing D&D 5e?

Nope.  I'm talking about the way every Vampire LARP I've ever played in works already, and has since the 90s. 

This should not have been a revelation to me, yet somehow it was.  And now I can't get it out of my skull.  The idea that "the proto-classic way of playing D&D", which these days has some vocal proponents for a resurgence, is essentially the same way multi-chronicle Vampire LARPs (like One World By Night or the Camarilla Fan Club) work.

Is there a lesson to be learned here, besides (in my case) "pay better attention"?  Not sure yet.


  1. This is exactly what I thought the Living campaigns were supposed to be when I first heard about them. I was quite disappointed when I dug into the details.

    For me, the biggest advantage would be strongly enabling PvP play. Not only strictly player vs. player conflict, but also shifting alliances and organic social groups. In my brief time in the Camarilla, I came to really enjoy that aspect of the game. It added a pretty amazing layer to the experience.

    Though, as a counter-point, there are numerous disadvantages to that style of play as well. You have to deal with uneven STs/GMs. You need a pretty good central clearing-house for events (though the internet makes that fairly trivial these days). There will inevitably be players who are disruptive, intentionally or not (munchkins, fish-malks, attention-whores, etc.).

    I would play in this kind of set-up, even in online play, in a heartbeat. The idea of doing the work to get it going, though, gives me heart palpitations instead.

  2. I'm with you 100% that a Living Campaign should be more like what we're talking about here. Still thinking about all this, and will post on the topic again once I have something cobbled together as far as observations. Thing is, a Vamp game has a lot of advantages as far as stitching together multiple people's games - same modern-era setting, they can all agree to move forward in realtime, etc. That's not going to work with linked D&D games the same way.