Thursday, March 28, 2024

Intelligence In The Land of Player Skill

Gamers often discuss the idea of "player skill" vs "character skill" in games. That is: my wizard can speak Elvish--that's character skill--but my wizard knowing that a slow, tough monster with no distance attacks is best attacked with distance attacks is player skill. I know that so my wizard knows it.

In most games I like, what my wizard does is the result of both.

Some people don't understand how the Intelligence stat works in games where player skill is an element (since an intelligent player can add so much to the character's vocabulary of ideas) and I thought of this the other day:

A high-intelligence PC functions like a modern person who has a phone with internet and remembers to use it.

Do I know who Jonathan Livingston Seagal is? I do not, really. I remember the name, that's all. In fact I got his name wrong. But if I had a higher Int I might not have. But I have the internet so I can look him up and then know. A high Int PC would have a better chance of already knowing.

A high Int PC has facts at their disposal. 

As we know: not everyone who has the internet and uses it is actually smart. For example, just because they can all google what a logical fallacy is doesn't mean that they'll avoid using them in their own thinking. The person "playing" these people isn't smart, even though they have the information.

A high-Int PC played by an average-Int player player is like most people on the internet: lots of access to facts, very little ability to use them to figure things out.

An average-Int character played by a high-Int player is like a clever person on an alien planet--they can figure stuff out, but only if they get help with what everything they're looking at is, does, or why they'd want to do it.

So there you go.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Some Jim Ward (RIP) Facts


Game designer Jim Ward has died.

Some Jim Ward facts:

  • Jim Ward wrote the first sci-fi RPG: Metamorphosis Alpha, which came out a year before Traveller and had a cool premise: you are stuck on a generational ship full of space experiments and don't know it. It also had lots of weird tables.
  • RPG historian Jon Peterson, the guy who wrote Playing At The World went around playing games GMed every major game designer he could find and when I asked which was the most fun he unhesitatingly said Jim Ward's Alpha game
  • Jim Ward's Facebook posting style was extremely boomer.
  • Jim Ward was Drawmij (Jim Ward backwards) of Drawmij's Instant Summons in the AD&D spell list.
  • Jim Ward wrote the "mindbending psychedelic blasphemy" known as Deities and Demigods which I am always extremely excited about as in for example this long blog post.
  • I enjoyed his work a lot, especially his knack for bugfuck insane details, which is the best thing about old vs new D&D.
  • A lot of old TSR guys who knew Jim Ward in real life are still alive and on the internet and if you enjoy those old games and supplements you should talk to them before they die, too.