The Gassy Gnoll: What Makes a Game Badass? (RPG Blog Carnival)

When Jonathan Jacobs kicked off the July RPG Blog Carnival with Bad Ass Gaming, I didn’t really have anything to contribute. But then it hit me… maybe I’ll just explore what the term “badass” means in terms of my own gaming experiences.

So what does “badass” mean? Like most of English, you can’t tell what it is just by looking at the word. Let’s break it into its two obvious parts – “bad” and “ass.” Bad can mean the opposite of good or be slang for something that’s awesome. What makes it more difficult is that it can mean both “bad” (not good) and “bad” (awesome) at the same time – such as in the phrase “bad to the bone.” Depending on the context, he’s either cool all the way to his skeletal structure or he’s an evil dude who you don’t want to mess with. And I’m guessing that depending on his mood he can be both!

What about “ass” then? It could refer to a person’s buttocks, a donkey, or someone who’s being stubborn, uncooperative, and generally a pain in the butt. Take your pick. Again, context is important. And you could have an ass being an ass and sitting on his ass…

Damn I love the English language. It’s convoluted and fun, even though it has to be impossible at times for folks learning English to understand what the heck we’re talking about with our colloquialisms, turns of phrase, and accents!

According to Merriam-Webster Online when you put the word back together, “badass” is an adjective describing someone ready to cause trouble or someone who’s amazingly good at something. Ok, so let’s go with that.

The carnival topic is “Bad Ass Gaming” – which we can assume has nothing to do with an evil donkey playing a game. But I can interpret the topic at least three different ways.

  1. The players or characters may be badasses.
  2. The game may be badass.
  3. Or the whole experience of gaming might be badass based on input from the other two possibilities.

Honestly, all the best gamers are badasses, so let’s get that much out of the way. Gaming in general involves multiple disciplines of applied knowledge and imagination in ways that I’ve seen no other activity come close. When you get a group of great players together with a great GM, magic happens. ‘Nuff said.

One example I can come up with was when I was GMing a campaign of Ninjas and Superspies from Palladium Books in college. I had two awesome, creative players, and they inspired me to run a session that I swear lasted twelve hours and involved a three or four hour car chase. I don’t recall the particulars, only that by the end of the night we were all exhausted and wondering how we lost that much time gaming. I just think of it as managing to get us all in the zone for a hell of a ride.

The other side of the equation is having a badass game. And though I love Jay’s game BADASS, it boils down to a collection of pages inspiring certain avenues of group creativity. That’s it. No matter how well written and illustrated a RPG happens to be, ultimately its nothing without great players. So I guess I just answered my own question!

So the answer to “What makes a game Badass?” is “great gamers.” No matter what the system, if you have a great group of people having fun and using their creativity to generate a shared storytelling experience, you’ve got badass gaming.

Now if I could only find a badass group of gamers to play with (beyond my wonderful family of course)…

What about you? Any badass gaming stories to share? We’d love to hear ’em! Leave a comment below!

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