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Thinking Out Loud

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bitten by the RPG Bug...

While I've always enjoyed roleplaying games, I find I actually prefer running (or "DMing") roleplaying games than playing in them. But playing can be awfully, fun, too! Jay Moore (MUkid) is running a D&D campaign set in Eberron, and he's a great DM -- you can tell he puts a lot of time and effort into preparing for each session, and his enthusiasm rubs off on the players. It's been a great time.

The only downside to playing in such a fun campaign is that I desperately want to run a campaign of my own! It's been several months now (discounting GenCon) since I've run a group, and I'm starting to go through withdrawal. I had run several fairly long (9-18 month, meeting anywhere from 1/month to every-other-week) campaigns for Dungeons & Dragons with several different groups, as well as numerous shorter 1-5 session "mini campaigns" to try out new genres and systems.

Well, the fever is rising and I really, really, really want to find a group of gamers to develop a campaign for once again. While I'd be willing to play Dungeons & Dragons, all the writing and work I do for d20 D&D starts to wear on me, and I'd really like a change of pace. As such, the RPGs I'm most interested in running for a group right now include:

Warhammer Fantasy. The new 2nd edition looks sweet, despite some questionable marketing/release strategies. I really like the dark, gritty world and relatively low power curve -- it helps limit the "monty haul" gaming style, when a sword used early in your adventuring career is still useful later on. I like many things about the game, but probably wouldn't stick as close to the canon of the Warhammer universe as others. And the setting is rich and deep, allowing for political and intrigue driven stories as well as military pursuits.

Deadlands. One of my favorite settings for any RPG -- Wild west + Cthulhu = Hot Fun! The game oozes with great theme, chills and creepiness. Unfortunately, the system is a bit cumbersome and can take some getting used to. This isn't a problem for players willing to invest a few sessions to get a feel for how things work, but sometimes the mechanics can get in the way, prompting me to use some much simpler conventions. Still, despite the quirks, the supplements, game environment and concept are top notch.

Marvel SAGA System. I love super hero games, and there is none finer than TSR's SAGA system, a card-driven game that captures the high action of comic books better than any other game I've played. Period. The downside of superheroes can also be one of the appeals -- established characters are rich with existing history, and vary greatly in power/ability. Who wants to be Hawkeye or Daredevil when you could be Spiderman, The Hulk or Captain America? As such, creating custom heroes, preferably in a setting where the comic book pantheon doesn't exisit, makes for a much more compelling - and interesting - game setting.

Call of Cthulhu. I'm always up for Cthulhu, though the high mortality/insanity rate generally precludes long term campaign style gaming, I'm incredibly fond of the game, and think it's one of the best systems for short 1-3 session story arcs, where players can really focus in on a plot hook and endure greater risks than they'd normally undertake, since the slow spiral into madness and destruction is part of the fun. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu F'tghan!

4 Comments:

  • Hey, I've heard about this game called Legends of Alyria. Might be worth a spin. ;-)

    Actually, while I'm promoting games, check out Polaris. This game is a thing of beauty, although it's definitely out there on the odd rim of indie gaming. It's very good stuff, though. Very good.

    By Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra, at 4:03 PM  

  • Aaahh, how I'd love to play some indie games, especially Sorcerer, Life With Master, Universalis and Little Fears... But since most indie designs are a bit further from the norm, it's hard for me to drum up interest. Also, in my personal opinion, it seems that a great many indie rpgs are built around a neat theme, mechanic or concept which is fun to explore short term, but often lacks long term/campaign viability.

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 9:50 PM  

  • Well, yes. In that respect, they are a lot like board games. ;-)

    By Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra, at 8:08 AM  

  • Seriously, the small focus is precisely what I like about indie RPGs. I tend to prefer a broad variety, rather than exclusive focus. In boardgames, this means that I tend to bounce from game to game, rotating back through the old favorites, instead of camping on a single game until I suck all the marrow from it. My approach to RPGs is largely the same. I like being able to pass through different ideas, each addressed in a focused manner. Also, as a father of five children, I don't have a lot of RPG prep or play time, so I tend to want to cut to the chase and focus on solid, intense play. Games with a small but intense focus tend to produce this sort of play, and I generally find it in the indies.

    Of course, if you asked me my top five RPGs, I'd give you this answer:

    --Legends of Alyria
    --Nobilis
    --Polaris
    --Unknown Armies
    --Wraith

    Only two of those are specifically indie games (with UA hovering on the borderline). Nobilis and Wraith both come from "mainstream" publishers, even if they aren't quite mainstream games. ;-)

    Sigh. Wraith could have been so amazing....

    Anyways, that also gives you an idea of the sort of play that I'm looking for. Watching a character level up over time just doesn't trip my triggers anymore. I say this as a former Rolemaster addict, so you know that my tastes have shifted over time. :-D

    By Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra, at 8:29 AM  

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