November 13, 2013
The Fluff Of A Game: Simple Vs. Complex
When selecting a new game to play, the game’s inherent fluff – its canonized story – should be something to consider. This is true no matter if you are introducing new players into the hobby or preparing a game for a bunch of veteran players eager for their next great adventure, the fluff matters. By their very nature, games have various levels of fluff depending on the game in question. Games based on already existing works such as Star Wars: Saga Edition, the Dresden Files RPG, the Marvel Universe Role-Playing Game, and even Call of Cthulhu have a sometimes laborious amount of fluff to them because you have all of the original works to draw from. Sometimes, this may be what you are looking for in a game as it allow you to bring your players into this established world and let them feel as though they are a part of it through their characters. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite so awesome as the feeling you get from having a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader himself. Unfortunately, as I have discussed before, therein also lies the problem. Unless your Gamemaster is willing to drastically change the cannon of that world, your experiences in them will be limited by what has already been set. For example, though my Jedi duelist has fought against the Sith Lord, I could have never beaten him. Why? Because my character is not the one to bring down Vader and his Emperor. That destiny belongs to Luke Skywalker.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are games with virtually no inherent fluff to them whatsoever. Generic games like GURPS, BESM, or even Dungeons & Dragons have little cannon you have to know. D&D has its set cosmology and pantheon, but otherwise it exists as a fairly open and free-roaming fantasy role-playing game where GURPS prides itself on being completely generic, providing the crunch to which Gamemasters can add their own fluff to. These games can be great for allowing player characters to make their own marks on the history of those worlds. They become the legendary heroes of which countless tales are told. Bards sing of their exploits and the gods themselves etch their very likenesses into the stars. Its all very incredible to experience, but at the same time these worlds can also feel very empty at times, or worse, very generic. Once you have saved one elvish forest based on Mirkwood from Lord of the Rings, you have saved them all. To flush out these worlds, a great deal of work is thrust on the shoulders of Gamemasters, sometimes more than the Gamemaster is willing, or able, to put into it.
Then you have my preferred games; the ones with a good amount of fluff to them that is completely unique to their own worlds. The fluff of Anima: Beyond Fantasy, Rifts, World of Darkness, or Shadowrun helps these games come to life in ways I have never seen before. When you interact with people and places of these worlds, they feel real. Whether you are talking to Empress Elisabetta Barbados, Erin Tarn, Prince Maxwell, or the Great Dragon Lowfyr, you feel as though you are talking to a living, breathing part of that world. The cannon of these worlds exists as past tense, allowing the future to be shaped by your characters. Recently, I ran “The Lady” for a group I was introducing Anima to. After the adventure was finished, and they had saved Corvinus island, a friend of mine brought out his copy of Gaia: Beyond Dreams, the Anima world book and showed them the entry on Corvinus, where it told of the actions of unknown heroes who saved the island and stopped the evils of the Nightmare Lord from drawing it, and everyone who dwelt their, into the Wake – the world of dreams and darkness. It was a great experience let them feel as though they had shaped the events of this wonderful world that they were now a part of.
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