Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Houses of the Blooded, And The Nature of Needing Rules

One of the most intriguing new products at Gen Con was John Wick's Houses 0f the Blooded, which I sadly did not have $40.00 free to purchase (with kiddo #3 on the way, I just couldn't get that bill past the Wifely Parliament). And that fact wears on me greatly.

John was nice enough to give me a pretty full pitch, and I loved what I heard (and later read up on). As an Amberite (OK, RPG Amberite), I am all about the intrigues, passions, and struggles of a privileged nobility. The admitted inspirations of the FATE system and Jared Sorensen's Octane are both plusses in my book as well.

That said, I'm curious to see if this makes waves with some of how the game is being presented. John has gone out of his way to call the purported differences between it and D&D. I hate to use Wikipedia, but to quote the article there on this game:

Its author has described it[2]as the "anti-Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game," emphasising elements of the fantasy genre that D&D overlooks. Taking a more swords and sorcery approach (rather than "generic fantasy"), the game focuses on romance, intrigue, courtly dangers, and domain management.

Now, I see what he's driving at, and I like the way he's talking about emphasizing those parts he doesn't think D&D does a good enough job of exploring. But I guarantee it'll not sit well with some of the D&D partisans out there. Hey, I have my Rules Cyclopedia, and I'll sling dice for Uncle Gary any day. But if John Wick has a game geared and designed to do a, shall we say, more focused job of focusing on romance, intrigue, politics, etc., then I'm more than happy to check it out (as soon as I can!).

In the end, if nothing else, it comes down to the familiar "what can (or can't) D&D do?" question. Folks feeling D&D doesn't do enough or does too much of some things is one of the bigger reasons we have so many different RPGs out there. People that were playing earlier D&D editions in the 70s and 80s will tell you they didn't need any sort of social mechanic to roleplay those items out, and they're right. Kingdoms fell, backroom deals were brokered, and dynasties made all without the benefit of any social rules to reinforce that. But just like with a combat system that might emphasize the gritty or the cinematic, a game dedicated to certain social aspects by its rules may also serve to enhance a certain type of play style. It doesn't mean you can't have martial or social struggles without the specifc rules for it, it just means that with the rules, you might be moved or encouraged towards a certain style.

Will there be a backlash against a gaming claiming to be the anti-D&D? I don't know. Likely not a huge one. But in the larger sense, its one more entry in the book on the nature of rules, how needed they are, and what they mean to a game.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I picked up the $5.00 pdf version from IPR.

Neet use of Fate and Universalis type elements to distribute authority etc.

On the "anti D&D" rhetoric, I have two thoughts.

He's got a point, "System Matters" and though you can play politics and social conflict at your D&D table, a game like this (or any of a number of others) will make your game be more about that and do it better.

He is a bit over the top with it of course as you say. So he will appeal to those already thinking a certain way and turn off those not thinking that way. It is unnecessarily confrontational in my view.

That said, it's a good read and looks like a fun "blood opera" style of game.

When he talks about wanting to explore theme of Tragedy RPG's overlook, I think he should give a nod to Polaris/Thou Art But A Warrior because they are in that tone as well.