This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is once again being hosted by Campaign Mastery, on the theme of Making Loot Part of the Plot. While I do not generally engage in the genres and styles of gaming most commonly associated with the concept of “loot,” I do think that there are many elements to this topic that are a significant part of what may otherwise seem to be ‘lootless’ gaming, whether we recognize it or not.
Excuse me, could you direct us to the Isle of Dread?
Like most my age, I got my start in RPGs with fantasy, namely D&D, and I stuck with it until I found games that annoyed me less systemically, and engaged me more thematically. That said, my first instincts when starting to plan a game session are heavily rooted in my early years as a DM, and I am thankful for it. My early forays into scenario design followed the model of framing the session in a series of questions to establish a sense of what it would entail, and providing an external motivation for the characters. [Who is involved? What is involved? When does the rooster crow? Where is this scenario located? Why the hell are events happening? How might players try to avoid them? + reason(s) to perhaps not want to avoid them]
In my youth the one natural resource I was certain would never be depleted was unsolicited opinion. In those days it was because I was fairly sure we’d nuke ourselves into oblivion before learning the Wisdom of Kirk as it relates to war, but now I must resign myself to the very real possibility that it is instead because the universe hates us.
As a fledgling GM in the 80’s one unsolicited opinion to which one quickly learned to become sensitive was whether your game was a Monty Haul campaign or not. Regardless of the reality of that assessment, to be branded a Monty Haul GM was death if you were at all interested in having the good players sit at your table.
What was the inevitable reaction for newcomers behind the screen?
Stinginess…! This manifested either as a reduction of material and magical gain to the point of inconsequentiality, or putting Tiamat and Bahamut in a small chest protected with four traps, and an army of wraiths to balance out the addition of a generic sword +2 to the campaign. Of course I exaggerate a little, but you get the point. Rarely did I see anyone trying to balance loot with story and character concerns rather than treasure tables, and when I did, I would endeavor to game with those people.
And now, Elric had told three lies. The first concerned his cousin Yyrkoon. The second concerned the Black Sword. The third concerned Cymoril. And upon those three lies was Elric’s destiny to be built, for it is only about things which concern us most profoundly that we lie clearly and with profound conviction.
― Michael Moorcock, The Elric Saga Part I
Most of the fiction I remember being discussed in those long-gone days dealt with signature characters and their signature items, and rarely did this devolve into the sort of kill crap to find rewards sort of routine that so many fantasy campaigns seem destined to do. GMs who saw this, and wondered if there was a way to make the campaign flow in a more immersive and character-driven way, as opposed to a competitive, player-driven way tended to move the story along with quests, favors, and the call to heroism, and I found that in those games the magic and other loot was an extension of the character and their view of the world, not a curious function of surviving the perils. I liked this a great deal as a new player in their games, but found it hard to emulate consistently when running my own campaigns at first because I hadn’t had the opportunity to get jaded and cynical (about gaming) yet. Once I accomplished that feat, it became a lot easier to find the fun in challenge rather than in the rewards of daring. As a 13-year-old, I had no idea that true world-weariness would have to wait until I was 15….
The secret of loot as I saw it then, and still see it now, is to root the game in things which are meaningful to the characters as though they were real people, regardless of the level of immersion to which your game group subscribes.
We’re on a mission from God-The Blues Brothers
All for One, and One for All
- Inquisition of the Week: Best Game Nominees from Critical Hits ” RPG (critical-hits.com)
- Making The Loot Part Of The Plot (Elthos RPG)
- October RPG Carnival- Loot Part of the Plot from Wrathofzombie’s Blog ” Role-playing (wrathofzombie.wordpress.com)
Darken others' doors: