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Question Period.

December 2, 2008

So, my good friend Fraser Ronald from over at Pen’s Tip asked me to give a little more revelation into why I was enjoying Far Cry 2 when I have made comments to the extent that I do not enjoy modern military themed tabletop RPGs. It’s a valid question, as Fraser is an RPG pal who’s preference is for modern military adventures, particularly when run using D20 Modern from Wizards of the Coast.

I do enjoy military themed tabletop RPG adventures, so let’s just make sure that we’re clear in that regard. However, as I have stated on a recent episode of The Accidental Survivors, they need to have something that is extraordinary or fantastic to catch my attention. To be honest, the only military-themed RPGs I have played have had that fantastic element (Fraser’s Qalashar Dogs one-off at GenCon, for instance) and I have never played a straight-up, hardcore modern military game. I simply can’t imagine something like that being any fun. Why? It just seems so ordinary.

n.b. When I talk about a military-themed RPG, I’m speaking of one where the players are ranked soldiers in a large action somewhere in the world, taking orders from on high.

But I do enjoy Far Cry 2, which I suppose one could say is a straight-up, hardcore military-themed game. Two forces are gunning for one another in a war-torn African nation, and it is your job to eventually track down and kill the arms dealer who has been arming both sides. There’s a difference, though, between what I would see has a military RPG adventure and Far Cry 2 (other than one being a tabletop RPG, and the other being a video game).

In Far Cry 2, you are not a member of a large military force, the commander of a large military force or even loosely attached to any large force at all. You are one man (in my case an ex-IRA assassin) who is out to make a buck and a name for himself. Stuck between these two warring factions, you have few friends and at any point a jeep could round a corner on a dusty trail and you could get shot at. You are a loner working both sides while you try to find information about where your target could be. If this were a tabletop RPG, I would play it. It’s fast and loose with nobody breathing down your neck telling you what to do.

There are a lot of different ways to tackle a military-themed RPG, and the way I am simply not interested in is when you and the other players are a small part of a larger machine. I need my characters to be larger than life heroes, capable of fantastic acts or incredible feats of daring. If I don’t have that, I just feel like my character’s a normal guy in a shitty place, and most times in my own life I feel like that. I play games for the escapism. If I want realism, I’ll shut off the monitor or put the dice away and go worry about the family budget.

I hope that answers your question, Fraser. If it doesn’t, well, in the words of a certain wiseman (or was it wiseacre?), eat it.


One Comment
  1. Makes perfect sense. Basically, rather than disliking modern military campaigns, you don’t want to be a grunt. You want your character to be a hero.

    I concur. You’ll be welcome into my spec ops campaign, were you can be Delta, SAS, JTF-2, or whatever strikes your fancy. None of them unheroic and none of them grunts.

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