I’m not a comic book guy. But I love superhero shows and movies. And there was a time when I got pretty caught up with certain comic book heroes and stories (working grave yard shift at 7-11 with a comic book rack.) So I know my way around a lot of the bigger stories and heroes. I even make a point to occasionally check the bigger anthologies out from the library in order to understand them better. The real bottom line here is that I am very familiar with comic books and the stories in them.
One thing that comic books do that books don’t do is really capture the action of a scene. I have a pretty good imagination. And some writers do a fantastic job of capturing everything that might be happening in a scene. I can get a pretty good idea of everything involved in a combat encounter from a book. But a comic book can do an even better job of that, of capturing the motion, and all the scenery and backdrops and props. As a role player, that sort of thing is important.
I heard a phrase on a podcast the other day that really sparked my imagination and thinking when it came to encounters and encounter building. The subject was what was allowed or encouraged in an encounter. And one of the speakers said that his rule of thumb was to allow anything you might see in a comic book.
He was talking about implementing rules and such. Like you never see a comic book hero come up 5 feet short in their charge and just have to stand there and wait for the bad guy. I think that is a really good thought. And is something I am trying to embrace as a GM and as a player.
One of the reasons why I am taking my character in the Denver game in a different direction is because of this. The rules limit my ability to do one type of outlandish action. In response, I am simply going to get even more outlandish and cinematic, rather than pound my head against the wall that is the game style. Instead, I will embrace the outlandish possibilities inherent in the relatively cheap magic creation rules in Pathfinder and go nuts. Because we all have some pretty crazy amounts of magic, I have been maybe a little too down to earth in my approach to them (well I am a Snake Shaman ;-).)
It is one of the things I try to teach and encourage the boys to do. Tell me what you want to do, describe it, get into the action, I will only shoot you down if I cannot justify it working. Before we play next I plan to go over two new rules of thumb.
- Describe what you want to do, don’t just roll the dice first. If I see it is possible then I will tell you what to roll.
- Think of your characters as movie or comic book characters, and try to do what they would do, don’t look to the rulebook to dictate your options.
I think one of my big failings so far as a GM is that by focusing on teaching them the basics, of getting the players to know the rules, I don’t encourage them to think outside the rules. But there is a progression there.
You have to learn and know the basics before you can improvise. Messi had to learn how to dribble and shoot before he became the artist that he is. The greats get there by making the basics a part of themselves first. It may seem like Role playing is just glorified Improv and they should just be able to walk in and get going. But watch a great Improv player to realize how much hard work goes into being able to think on their feet like that.
Knowing the rules first will allow a role player to then think about what they really can do. If I know that my character can hit the bad guy, then I can think about what would happen if I ran, jumped on a chest, and then leaped to hit that bad guy with a flying jump. It takes practice, playing time, and knowing the system, before you can assess the situation and try something like that.
To get back to comic books. The boys are at the tail end of their origin stories. They are beginning to really understand what they can and cannot do. I can see how some of them are pretty much at the point where they can handle the big encounter at the end of their origin story where they finally put everything together.