Got through setting up our upcoming game of The One Ring last night. It took a really long time, and we didn’t have any bandwidth at the end to actually play at all (other than talk about the fiction in the opening moments). That surprised me at first, because the choices look pretty straightforward and there aren’t any calculations. Just fill in numbers, underline things, write things down.
But of course what I was forgetting was that once you enter the realm of mathematically optimizing packets of fictional capacity, that’s a whole different deal.
On the one hand, I really like the full-throated cooperative spirit that this kind of game encourages: Are all the journey roles covered? Do we have folks that can serve in every combat position? Oh my god how did we forget a healer? Can we hit Encounters with the full range of skills? How can we squeeze the most out of these virtues and rewards?
It kind of makes me wish there was a similar all-in approach to more drama-driven games, you know? Like: do we have an unreliable shitheel? Is someone handling the role of moral center? Oh my god how did we forget the damaged soul in need of redemption? And so on.
I hope we can extract some decent character play out of these constructs. Some games are better for that than others! But it feels weird, I think, to try and shoehorn characterization into a set of values that represent a group’s best efforts to tackle a range of tactical challenges. Then again I’m not really sold that Tolkien himself was particularly concerned with characterization or tackling the human condition. So, a good fit.