Friday, September 22, 2023

Why Everybody's "Deeply Magical" But Humans

Elves have magic--they're so magic that there's boots just called "Boots of Elvenkind" and they're magic just because they're elvenkind. 
Halflings can't be seen half the time, even when they're right there, and they just stumble ass-backwards into the best artifacts in the game. Dwarfs are out here mining mithril and making armor and axes that're double-strong just because dwarfs made them. And gnomes are always talking to badgers or whoever.

But humans are just these guys. If you found a "Axe of the Human Lords" what would that even do?

A great mystery--but I just now figured out why.

This table:

The demihumans all have level limits.

So, ok picture this:

You're elves, ok? Just won a fight:

Here comes the human general:

"Hail to thee, brave captain of the elderkin! Were it not for thee and thine veterans of aeon wars untold we mayhap would not hast defeated Sauron!"

"Not a problem, bro! He sucked, It was an issue, had to be handled."

"Yeah fair! Cool, so I talked to the DM and he says we get 9 billion seven hundred and sixty-eight thousand xp for defeating the horde of unfathomable darkness bent on wending all life and time round the iron gauntlet of its iniquitous will. So it looks like your share is...."

"Nah keep it."

"Whoa what? Are you peacing out on the campaign? Tolkien says next week he's got a one-shot with halflings!"

"Nah just we're all 7th level dude. We can't level up. And I checked with our wizards--they're all maxed out at 11, too."

"Truly the songs were modest when it cometh to praising the generosity of the eldár!"

"Nah its cool man, is it cool if we take the items?"

"Like the magic items?"


"Cool! See you next week!"

Why are all the other races but us so magical?

After a certain point, every time they go adventuring, they get all the items. That's why Galadriel's over here just giving campaign-saving items away because she's got extra.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Campaigns Are Inconvenient--And Always On Your Mind

Here's a thing you notice if you hang out in fan spaces--I'll use comics as an example because with games it'd be confusing.

A comics critic/pundit/gadfly starts talking: "Batman Batman Batman Spider-Man Iron Man Batman Superman X-Man X-Men Spider-Man Batman"

But then they're asked what their favorite comic of the year is--is it any of those superhero comics? No it is not. It is some indie comic they haven't mentioned all year.

They then go back to talking about Spider-Man and Batman.


I don't think they're being disingenuous or just trying to sound smart. I think that person genuinely does like the niche indie comic that they are trumpeting far more than the latest iteration of the fannish pop stuff they spend most of their free time in the fan-space talking about--even when they're not being paid to talk about that popular market-dominating thing.

Because the thing is, no matter how much you love any slice-of-life indie comic: it started, it ran for a few years or months, and then it ended.

Batman, on the other hand, not only has had thousands of stories, not only has been in print since 1939, not only is connected to Wonder Woman, Aquaman and every other character in his publisher's intellectual-property universe, not only has been translated into every medium imaginable where even more stories are being produced, but also: will have a dozen more stories out next month.

If you want to talk about only what is topical and what just happened--your favorite indie comic is over when it's over. Batman is still making moves. Stupid moves, maybe, but who doesn't want to talk about stupidity?

Even if (and perhaps especially if) all you have to say is how bad the new Batman material is compared to the stuff you like, there is always something to talk about. Whereas your favorite indie book is just sitting there, still being done and finished and not breaking news.


This isn't just about market share or popularity--it's about the content mill continuously putting the subject in the commentators' head. There's always something new going on with the X-Men, even if it's not new. You can't say that about Maus.

In the world of RPGs the equivalent isn't just a product with a content mill (like D&D or Pathfinder) it's a campaign.

Lots of you have off-label favorite games. Maybe you even get to play them once in a while. But what do you talk about, spread the word about, kibitz about? Your favorite game over and over? No: you talk about the campaign you're in.

You talk about what's going on--even if you like Barbarians of Lemuria better you're still talking about the breaking news: what happened in your D&D campaign.


I especially think about this in terms of the games from the indie RPG boom that are mainly good for one-shots: they have limited popularity not just because they're one-shots (there are, for example, indie-crazy groups happy to try a different indie game every month) but because you just don't want to keep talking about a single session that happened 4 months ago.

Despite indie rhetoric that games designed for one-shots and mini-campaigns should be more popular with busy adults than the time-consuming, scheduling-nightmare, lore-heavy, years-before-you-even-get-to-cast-Fireball-gorilla in the game store that is Dungeons & Dragons, the fact is that life-devouring games just make you talk more about them, which means people hear about them more, which means they get popular.

I also wonder this: do one-shot-friendly games have a popularity ceiling? Like: a point of popularity past which they just can't grow?

I don't know. Anyway I guess we'll eventually find out.