Whether your character is a vampire, medieval hero, occult investigator, cybergear netsurfer, or starship pilot, few game sessions will pass without the players taking actions that would be considered a crime in our world---and probably a crime in the world of the game. Roleplaying game storytelling has used the crutch of crime fantasies since the beginning, and there is no end in sight. Layers of drama and symbolism aside, is there not something wrong with a storytelling hobby that glorifies criminal behavior as the primary protagonistic component? What is the true source of our enjoyment of this hobby? Is it the portrayal of an alternate personality? Is it the exploration of a given set of genre conventions? Or is it the illicit thrill of engaging in criminal behavior, sanctified with a safe trapping? What is the source of our [fun and excitement] anyway, and why?
POWER KILL is meant to suggest a few answers. Or at least, to ask a few questions.
- John Tynes, Power Kill rules (http://www.johntynes.com/rl_powerkill.html)
Power Kill is a free (as in beer) set of rules for a metagame meant as an adjunct to any ordinary FRPG. Through the use of post game Q&A sessions the rules drag out the old and hackneyed idea that characters in any given FRPG are facets of the players themselves. As an added bonus Power Kill's rules even come within spitting distance of stating that anyone who plays FRPGs is fleeing reality. Unfortunately in his quest to draw parallels where parallels do not necessarily exist the author completely ignores or forgets that correlation is not causation.
Mr. Tynes probably thinks he's being "edgy" or "clever" but read past the pseudo intellectual trappings and you might notice that Power Kill is about as sophisticated and insightful as a Chick tract. I would have expected better from someone who writes rule books for these games -- even if he was responsible for a Stargate SG-1 RPG that the people of earth were only saved from because the company responsible died before it could be published.
Deconstructing the attraction of players to FRPG is really something that shouldn't be attempted without at least a passing familiarity with psychology. I don't claim to posess such knowledge myself, but it's a safe assumption that with this understanding comes the realization that there are no glib "one size fits all" answers to the loaded questions that Power Kill poses.
So why am I reminded of a hipster Jon Katz when I read the Power Kill rules? Much like Katz, Mr. Tynes forsakes research for fast answers and a thinly veiled sense of smug superiority. Just as Katz is (after all) The Journalist, Tynes is (really, my dear) The Game Designer; He already knows the answers he's looking for so everything else is simply designed around them.
I realize that my opinion is not shared by many (any?) other gamers, but we've come a long way since the 80's and seeing this flavor of pop psychology espoused by someone inside the industry (tongue in cheek or not) disturbs me.
The shrill tone I have taken in this write-up is not exactly condusive to keeping a level head, but please bear with me. On this particular subject sabby
and I have quite amicably agreed to disagree
. As happens often on e2 nodes, sabby's w/u presents additional facts to my own and a vastly more popular (if directly opposing) point of view. I am happy to see this more prevalent viewpoint represented on e2 despite the fact that I don't agree with it.
Once apon a time anti-gaming types would frequently cite "damning" quotes from actual RPG manuals. Of course these quotes always turned out to be fabricated, distorted or taken out of context. However because gaming advocacy isn't sensationalistic enough to garner the same level of press it has always been quite easy for the facts to languish in reletive obscurity. Power Kill is not only easier to use in service of the sorts of arguments these people build than some dry AD&D tome, it's so poker faced that even real journalists are likely to miss its humor.
It is quite possible that sabby is correct and I am entirely missing the point of Power Kill but considering that even he admits a vehement desire to not share it with non-gamers I think my point (however marginalized and ham-handedly expressed) is still valid enough to leave here.