A Focus on Power Fantasies Ruins TTRPGs For Everyone

I saw someone post on Twitter that Dungeons and Dragons is all about power fantasies and, as a result, most people play characters that are like them in an effort to roleplay situations that make them, personally, feel powerful. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this idea and a WHOLE lot of thoughts about how it can play out in actual games. Part of the problem, of course, is that making any blanket statement based on your personal experiences shows your personal biases, privelege, and frequently overlooks the experiences of people who aren’t like you. I’m going to try to avoid making any such statements here by talking about my experiences specifically, but I will have to generalize a bit unless I’m going to write an entire novel. Which has a certain appeal, but this isn’t really the medium for discourse at length.

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Puzzles Are Fun

I’ve always enjoyed puzzles (had a puzzle party when I was 4, because I loved them so much), but they represent a sort of one-and-done amount of entertainment that has made it difficult to justify the cost. The introduction of local programs that allow you to change out your used puzzles for someone else’s used puzzles (usually with a small fee to support the local business coordinating these efforts since you’re not buying a new puzzle, or using a store credit system similar to buying and selling old video games) has made it easier for me to get my hands on new puzzles and they’ve formed the backbone of my non-electric entertainment over the past year.

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I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 3

I’m actually not that sad right now (super tired, though), but I feel compelled to stick with the title. My time off messed up my sleep schedule since I didn’t make myself go to bed at the right time every night and my past few nights haven’t been much better thanks to anxiety and new video game enthusiasm. The two kind of feed into each other, so it’s no wonder I’ve had trouble the last few nights. Anyway, time to start the third installment of my favorite recurring series on this blog! This time, I’m going to talk about Koroks in Breath of the Wild.

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Three Hundred of the Most Occupied Hours of My Life

In my nightly video game time, I’ve been doing another run-through of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’ll admit I’m not particularly interested in the game any more and I approach playing it the same way I approach playing Sudoku: I don’t expect to really get anything out of it other than a stretch to the non-artistic parts of my mind. I enjoy strategy and puzzle games for this specific reason, but a lot of the time I play them, it’s because I think I need some mental exercise or a monetary occupation rather than because I actually enjoy it.

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Living Life In Compatability Mode

I’ve been using the same copy of Microsoft Office 2003 since I got it with the laptop I bought for myself that year. When I went to college, I would send the papers I wrote on my laptop to library computers to be printed. The library at my college had a much better budget than I did, though, so they had the latest microsoft office version, meaning I got so used to seeing “File Name [compatability mode]” at the top of all my documents that I eventually stopped noticing it unless I wound up editing a file started on the library computers on my personal laptop.

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Playing At Righteous Wrath But Only Managing Indignant Pique

So, I finally beat (sorta) Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and started playing Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. P:K was a bit of a letdown because the alignment system actually factored pretty heavily into the decision-making process for running my kingdom and had some incredibly significant impacts on the “post-game wrap-up” storytelling of the playthrough I finished. I didn’t get the long ending, since my character was content to let things shake out the way they did and just be finished with the whole farce, but my freedom-loving chaos mage apparently was a terrible ruler despite promoting mercy above all else and created a police state using magical surveillance technology. Still not sure what that came from, though I do know some of my advisor meetings kinda glitched through the cutscenes because I was doing a lot of saving and loading to get good outcomes because I didn’t want to deal with that shit. Anyway. I finished that and started the next game.

Wrath of the Righteous starts out pretty intensely, with a decent helping of mystery and stakes that are amped up pretty much instantly, but that was a nice follow-up to the expanded character creator whose UI is… Well, parts of it are better, but not all of it. It’s difficult to get a full-picture of your character when creating them or leveling them up, information is hidden in weird places, and some choices aren’t terribly intuitive. The greater number of options is nice, but the fact that information like which attributes matter most for each class and class variation being hidden in different text windows makes trying to figure out where my points need to be spent a pain in the ass. Especially since some of the class variations change what your primary attribute is. But that’s mostly a problem for Pathfinder as a whole than something tied specifically to this game. They just don’t fix the problem in the game.

After all that, though, the improvements show up. Being able to rotate the camera is nice, though it is made necessary by the somewhat cluttered environment you find yourself in at all points of this game so far. Since things are only transparent in a small bubble around your character, you have to get used to rotating the camera on top of moving it around, zooming, and managing your party. It gets very onerous in large battles that involve multiple angles of approach, too. It is a necessary skill to learn, though, because an object being transparent doesn’t actually mean it isn’t there. Clicking in the wrong place (on the roof of a house that was rendered invisible by your party, for instance) can have nasty ramifications in battle because you think you’re attacking an enemy but really you’re sending your character through an entire mob of foes to be ruthlessly cut down as they walk to the nearest reachable point to the invisible roof you clicked on.

Camera gripes aside, I do enjoy the fact that being persuasive and having a high-charisma no longer feels absolutely necessary to the game. I still made a high-charisma character and didn’t change off it when I got the option to retrain them because I like playing that type of character, but I no longer feel like that’s my only good choice if I want to do everything. I could easily see myself playing a different class some time in the future. Maybe a fighter, barbarian, or something more melee-based than my usual style.

I’ll also say I’m a bit frustrated that so many characters seem to be good at rogue skills early on because I built my sorcerer to be good at those things as a fun build idea and it wound up being so incredibly redundant. Half the characters I got initially could do those things as well as, if not better than, my character could. And not one single character was smart until I got through the whole long introduction section and into the exploration section. I actually missed a bunch of stuff early on because none of my people had any of the knowledge skills. I even got a whole pile of magic items I couldn’t properly use because no one had a decent Arcana skill. Seems like a bit of an oversight to me, given the importance of magic items to this game.

Well, I’ve aired all of my grievances now, so I think I’ll wrap up. I’m a bit too early in the plot to really comment on that (I had some install troubles and started the game 72 hours after release, but I’m not sure I can blame the game for this one since one of my hard drives might be corrupting), but it seems interesting so far. Much more so than P:K’s was since that amounted to “become a king and find out who is fucking with your attempts to become a king!” It’s definitely worth playing and hopefully future patches will continue to iron out the problems. If nothing else, P:WotR is in a much better place at launch that P:K was. Solid progress.

Still, as the title suggestions, I’m not sure where “Wrath of the Righteous” enters into the equation. Sure, demons are bad and they shouldn’t be in our world, but that’s more of a “fighting off an invasion” type thing. Righteousness has nothing to do with fending off a murderous invasive species. So far, the only “Righteousness” I’ve seen is the kind that is Good twisted to commit acts of Evil that has me wondering how all these god-empowered assholes could still be granted powers by their gods when they’re torturing and executing people without trials.

I Might Have Escaped Too Hard

Once again, I am confronted by the weirdness of the time I write these posts versus the time I post them. It’s a bit different this time, though, since I’m writing this only two days before it goes up. There will be no gap in post coverage, but it has been almost a week since I wrote my last blog post. I respect the break I took because I do feel better rested, but I also don’t want to not have blog posts for six days. Also, I have a lot to say since I did that thing where I escaped with a variety of activities and did a lot of thinking in the background while I kept my fore-mind busy. I’ll skip this upcoming weekend, but I’m going to get a couple extra posts written this week to fill in the gaps I created while I rested.

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The Best Laid Plans And All That

The problem with having some grand, magical plans for reflection and processing difficult memories, is that life so rarely aligns with these kind of intentions. I’d initially planned to have my week off set aside as a time to reflect, to journal a bit, and to prepare myself for the months ahead, but pretty much none of that has happened and it seems like very little of it will happen. Life got in the way.

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Alignment Systems Lack Nuance

I’ve been thinking about alignment in tabletop RPGs a lot lately. It came up because the game that I’ve been playing lately, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, has an incredibly clunky alignment system that pushes characters towards lawfulness and goodness (on a 9-alignment system of good vs evil and lawful vs chaotic with neutral separating each alignment from the others) because the basic assumption is that a decent person is “neutral good.” Anything that is a little orderly is lawful, anything even a bit self-oriented or anti-established norms is chaotic, anything other than being decent is neutral, and anything absolutely reprehensible is evil. I disagree on so many levels it is difficult to find a place to start other than the very basic assumption: I think most people, even allowing them to be decent human beings, is “true neutral” or unaligned.

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Reclaiming Past Gaming

Today, as I consider what birthday plans I have made and what my holiday weekend has in store (this is going up after all that, since I write these a week ahead of time), and I gotta admit that the idea of buying my favorite chips, my favorite sodas, my favorite snacks, foods, and treats so I can hunker down in my apartment to play old SNES and N64 games is so tempting I’m not sure I can deny myself.

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