Playing D&D with Porn Stars got me thinking here.
"How's your group different?"
He asks... I posted this as a comment on his post, but I'm cross posting it here to keep track of my response. I figure there are two differences:
1) We are very informed by different systems, namely White Wolf, Earthdawn and Fading Suns. Not the mechanics, but the atmosphere. The PC's are dangerous, the world is not a threat to them, they are a threat to the world, and this sensibility has affected our thinking and play style. Sort of a noir D&D. While danger is everywhere, physical harm and personal combat(which the PC's are capable of handling) are only one of the many threats that they face. In our games Dragons know that humans can, and will, slay them, and act accordingly. Using your vocabulary we run a narratively driven clockwork simulation sandbox. The clockwork simulation kicks in every-time they interact with npcs, most people just live their lives and try to get by, paupers and prices both. The PC's are killers who hone their bodies and minds to lash into combat with the very abyss. No one forgets that, least of all the NPC's. And the PCs need each other, because despite their differences, they have this in common.
2) Were into this kind of play, so we write back stories to launch ourselves into developed characters. So, ironically, the moment in this new episode where Gia said, “I was a vampire…” and everyone was aghast, “to start?!?” That would totally fly in my games. Because someone over here has an idea for a veteran of many military campaigns, and this person is an up and coming wizard among the leadership of the mage community.
I’m glad you asked the question, because I never thought about how influenced we are by those other systems, thematically. Also, we often do this with new players, some completely new to gaming at all. I usually tell new players about the world, and ask them to bring a character idea, before seeing a rule book. Shinning moments of this include a friend who wanted to play a “Filth Monger.” Huh, “What’s that?” “Well she roots threw filth, with a team of apes, and finds long forgotten things and sells them to antique dealers.” Awesome, we settled on Sorcerer with the leadership feat, for the apes of course. Full-grown male chimpanzee monk for the primary henchmen. I would never take back an experience like that, but I wonder if we rob something from new players by denying them the “character background is what happens levels 1-6…” concept, which I like very much.