Enjoying the Scenery

I’m reading M.A.R. Barker’s The Man of Gold right now — finally getting more than ankle-deep in Tékumel — and it’s reminding me of a few gaming experiences where, for me at least, the primary joy was simply basking in the setting. And by “primary joy”, I don’t mean “the only fun I managed to find”; I mean: “Holy crap, forget about my character and please tell me more about trollish dueling etiquette!”

The games I am thinking about are two Tékumel events, one at Forge Midwest using Barker’s homebrew rules, and one at GenCon 2005 using Guardians of Order’s T:EPT; the excellent Gloranthan HeroQuest event I played at GenCon 2014; and a short-lived Wilderlands game with my old 3e group. All of these games featured engaging characters and conflicts, but also me sitting in rapt attention as the world around us was described.

It’s probably an obvious point that, given I already had an interest in Tékumel and Glorantha, gaming in those settings was going to naturally lead to me happily sightseeing. The Wilderlands game is perhaps the exception that proves the rule, as I had no real investment in that setting, yet I was won over the more we explored.

This could be nothing more than Hey, that’s what floats your boat, Mark, which is fine. However, I have been in games where I really could have cared less about the scenery. No, I don’t wanna know more about the kind of mortar used in the bridge we’re crossing can we please get to the keep already now thank you. And lord knows that my patience for massive tomes and endless splats has worn extremely thin over the years (excepting Tékumel and Glorantha), much less games where half the core book is a lengthy info-dump that forms a clear divide between “here are some rules” and “here’s a bunch of setting” and ne’er the twain shall meet.

Nonetheless, there are times, when the stars align just right, that despite having a strong preference for games that address big ideas, and where we’re there to get shit done, that I like just being there and looking around.

I don’t really have a summary essay question attached to this bit of musing, but everyone is free to talk about their feels. Does just “soaking in it” spark joy in you?

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