Why I’m a contradiction as a gamer

I don’t think I follow typical norms as a gamer.  I mean, all gamers are unique and that pluralism is what makes gaming a fun hobby.  But, unlike many I’m a little two-faced when it comes to my personal preferences.  Here is an example:

My consistent joy in most of the gaming that I do is in number manipulation.  A lot of guys like it.  Whether we’re doing sport stats, or fantasy football or baseball or tabletop gaming, its all following a common love of numbers and working them.  Most of my games are inherently number based.  Battletech is a numbers game.  Most video game RPGs are numbers games disguised with a little story and quirky characters.  Most board games and card games are predicated on you understanding your statistical probability of a favourable outcome for you to make informed decisions.

So, naturally, most people expect that I would follow the same likes in tabletop role-playing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Like most tabletop RPG players, I started out with Dungeons and Dragons (2nd).  That led me to a wide variety of RPGs that I’ve played:

Marvel Universe, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, Savage Worlds (my current favey), d20 Modern, GURPS, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Star Wars RPG (WEG and d20), Star Trek RPG, etc, etc, etc.

Woah, hold on a second, Pathfinder isn’t on that list?  Nope.  And for very good reason.  In my mind, Pathfinder represents the opposite of what I like in an RPG.  RPGs are about story and characters.  I despise number mining in RPGs.  The reason is that there is only so much we con construct a story around an artificial probability matrix and have it be any good.  Pathfinder (and 3.5, which spawned it), represent the height of powergaming/min-maxing driven number mining RPG.  No thank you.  I don’t want to spend hours at a time mining numbers while trying to craft an interesting story.  Stories work best when they are organic and stat-focused RPGs have a tendency to devolve into limiting character thinking based upon mechanics.  Blech.

RPGs that de-emphasize mechanics are my cup of tea.  Amber Diceless Role-playing and Call of Cthulhu are good examples.  Amber has no dice.  CoC is a world in which probability is never in your favor and the whole point of the thing is to “not lose too hard”.  You’re going to lose.  Its a question of whether you make a good show of it or not.

This puts me in the “contradiction” category, as many gamers don’t see a distinction between what they “do” in tactical board or card games and what they do with RPGs.  I see a vast difference.  To each their own.  I tend to use RPGs for my love of narration, not my love of numbers.

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One thought on “Why I’m a contradiction as a gamer

  1. donnald johnson

    I agree about role playing games. The other games I don’t know. One joy I have when playing some games is collecting numbers. Data mining for the sake of mining data. I play a couple of old Avalon Hills sports games just to mine data, to crunch and play with. I play a football game and a Indy racing game. Fun.

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