I was sitting down, relaxing, and knocking a couple of brews when I started thinking about my overall gaming style. I don’t mean genre but rather the style and tone of a campaign regardless whether it’s in space, a dungeon, or the back alleys of some city.
I came up with “Gritty Cinematic”. Sure, now and then I like grimdark and other times over-the-top action. But what really gets me going is something in between. It’s the tone of most of my campaigns, what I enjoy playing, and it’s also the tone I’m trying to put into YARC.
So let me explain my thinking. We all know grimdark. You can’t swing a stick without hitting yet another grimdark game. The “lucky” characters die horribly. Combat and action are something that really should be avoided. And characters quickly learn that there are worse fates than death. While cinematic games usually have untouchable, superhero like characters that really don’t face grisly ends and bouncs around the battlefield with impunity.
Gritty cinematic tries to land somewhere between them. Combat is dangerous. Death is a real threat. But characters are still able to push boundaries and do some pretty outstanding and heroic stuff. Sure you just slayed the Demon Lich Dragon Pyrohalitus but after a night of drunken carousing you’re found dead in an alley after getting knifed by a starving beggar.
However, doing such a tone can difficult when it comes to game mechanics. Grimdark puts an amount of frailty and ability limitations on characters while cinematic, as I said previously, makes them superheroes. I guess there isn’t one single mechanic that does it. It’s a combination of crunchy bits, metagame currency, and understanding on the players’ parts for how the whole thing works without feeling like the DM suddenly pulled the rug out from underneath the heroes.
I know I’m not offering anything really solid in this post because it’s can be a difficult to tone to manage and define. Much of it is like food. Season to taste. Or as that old saying goes, “You’ll know it when you see it.”
Keep rolling dice. Keep imagining. And keep having fun.