Collaborative Roleplaying

At Marmalade Dog this past weekend, I played in two sessions of DCC ran by Adam Muszkiewicz of Kickassistan. I went into some detail of how he ran the sessions in my post with a follow up on Marmalade Dog 20.

To sum up, he used the DCC rules and had us use a 3×5 index card. We rolled for our prior profession and our birth augur. We then went around the table and used those to pieces of information for different people to say why we were trying to get into Ur-Hadad. Then depending on our characters, we rolled our stats the first time we used them. For spell casters, we chose two spells and rolled for two spells. For random effects of spells that were generic, but could use some color, such as the memories of a dying god, Adam had a different person around the table explain what memories it was.

I believe that all roleplaying is collaborative. The DM/GM prepares some sort of setting, and sets the basic parameters, and the players buy into that and work with the DM to navigate the world. In my usual experience it is more one on one between each player and the DM or among the players as their characters.

However, this style of collaborative roleplaying involves the whole table in figuring out some piece of each character’s story. It is not in an invasive way that hampers or constrains the player, unless the player is not open to that style of play. Not having done that particular style of roleplay at the table, I was not sure I would like it. Having a DM, like Adam, who is very skilled in this style, and players willing to jump in the deep end, made for a very enjoyable time.

The use of the rules was minimal. Adam only had a huge number of dice and a notebook, and his phone to refer to the DCC app if he needed it. We relied on other players that brought their big fat hardcover DCC rule books. There was minimal consulting of the rules, usually only for spell casting, for the mercurial magic table and the specific effects of spells. Once spells were determined, we could have gotten by with the mercurial magic table and a copy of the effects of each spell among the players.

It was clear that Adam had a firm grasp of the rules. I could also tell that the basic mechanic of the DCC rules is one that makes it easy to jump in and play once you understand it. I think I picked it up well enough that it would make reading the rules come together that much faster. I do have a copy of the PDF that I picked up almost a year ago when it was available for one day for free or one day for PWYW, I forget which. I have not had time to read it, but I may do so now.

Adam is also comfortable with running a group of experienced gamers who know how to run with crazy ideas. We had a blast and much laughter. This is the kind of good time I remember from long ago when I started gaming with my brother and our friends. I don’t get to game with my original gang hardly ever, because I moved to Michigan, but I would gladly game with these folks!

I discussed this with Adam, mentioned that this style would only work with a DM that understands the rules thoroughly, or with a very simple ruleset.  Then we both said that Delving Deeper, by +Simon Bull, would be the rules to use. Adam mentioned his series on Delving Deeper, and I was able to tell him that his series convinced me to buy it. $5.00 for a physical set of rules, from Lulu via POD,that are basically OD&D with better organization and clarifications and table progressions that are consistent, such as for combat.

This could be done with any rule set with a DM versed in the rules and capable of improvising the whole thing, and players open to being creative. In the sessions that we played, it was mostly theater of the mind, with a crude map the first session so we understood how to move and rough locations. This style of play is fast with minimal consultation of the rules, and almost all of the by players for things related to spell casting.

Advanced preparation of the table for mercurial magic and then marking the location of each player’s spells on the first such session and copying them later would nearly eliminate the need to refer to the rules.

I liked playing this style of game, it was both entertaining to see the ideas of the others and fun overall. There was much laughing and kidding about the table. I would call this rule -1. Rule 0 is the DM/GM makes the rulings. Rule -1 is if you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I am not sure if I would be the best DM for such a style, but I think I could at least make it work. I definitely have to up my game in terms of off the wall ideas.

I did pretty good in our session on Saturday. Since my character had been struck by lightning, flaming hands and color spray looked like lightning. So each time I cast color spray, i did something different with the color. When the last time I used it I said it looks like plaid lightning, Adam paused for the briefest of seconds, and said something like, “Alright, that’s good!”

For this style of play, those who aren’t good with on the spot improvisation could use a notebook to record wild ideas for describing interesting things. For my wizard who has a new memory of a dying god each time he uses one spell, I am keeping track of each memory invented by the other players. It will be interesting if I ever get to play this character again to see what other off the wall ideas I or others can come up with.

This type of role playing with rules only for some basic structure is as close to the make believe type stuff we did as kids with cops & robbers, etc.  Although with this, we are adults who know it’s a game and don’t get made when someone says, “You missed!”

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