Friday, October 29, 2010

It's the End-of-October Gaming Update

Well I thought I would take a break from the usual updates and reviews to collect my thoughts about where my gaming situation stands. These are the kind of working DM posts I like to see on messageboards so hopefully someone else likes them too.

D&D 4E is the hot interest for me right now. It's taken over the majority of my actual playing time plus most of my planning time as well. Something just clicked for me when re-reading it in the spring and now I have 2 active campaigns and binders of ideas and outlines for about 4 more piling up on a bookshelf nearby. I have a few issues with how a few things changed and a few issues with why things changed but the main feature is that it just works. It has my creative juices flowing again and it has my players trying different approaches to things far more than they have in the last 5 years. Heck, least session they actually avoided a frontal assault on a defended position by using skills and succeeding at a skill challenge! That has not happened for a long time in a D&D campaign (and has ended a campaign or two as a result) and was pretty amazing to watch. I expect 4E to be the main game for our group for quite some time to come - maybe even long enough to run all of those campaigns I'm thinking up.

The Phlan campaign is up to Session 11 and Session 12 will happen tonight so I have some writeups to post.  It's going well and the middle of the heroic tier has really crystallized over the last few weeks as far as what I want to include. I had a vision of the beginning and the end points since before we started but the middle had a fair amount of blank space and that's really coming together now. We've been playing almost weekly recently so it's humming along nicely. The party is at 3rd now and will soon hit 4th.

The Gray Vale campaign had session 3 a week or so back and may work in session 4 this weekend but Halloween may cut it short too. It's on an every other weekend schedule at best so progress is a little slower but they are at 2nd level and headed to 3rd.

D&D Basic is still on the radar. The recent flurry of excitement and disappointment over the new red box has kept this spark alive, plus I like the little campaign area I came up with for it. We at least need to finish up B1 or B2 before I let the dust gather on it again, though I would like to work in Isle of Dread too. We'll see what time allows. It's definitely second priority behind the apprentices 4E campaign but it will progress again soon. The party here is at 2nd or 3rd except for the Elf who is still at 1st though he is very close.

AD&D is still in my head too, but is probably on the back burner for now. I still want to do the Temple-Giants-Drow-Demonweb campaign but I'm having a tough time finding a consistent place to fit it in on the schedule. There isn't a lot of rules overhead with this as I have acquired PHB's for everyone it's just a matter of finding a good regular time that people can make. I was thinking Sundays but with football season in full swing I don't necessarily want to give that up and Sunday afternoons are also when I sometimes fit in the apprentice campaigns. now the plan is to let them play in this one too, but it would come at the expense of the Basic game and maybe some of the 4E campaign too. With busy kids Sunday afternoons are about the only time we don't have some kind of commitment to something. Plus some of my other players just aren't available Sunday afternoons. I will figure it out eventually but for now it's hanging out there in space waiting to begin.

Star Wars d6 - a really fun game that can be run quite well with just a rulebook and one adventure - though of course I do have a shelf full of supplements for it. We haven't played in a while because I have all 3 apprentices playing in it and that means I have 4 schedules to sync up - tricky. It may get worked in this weekend, we'll just have to see.

Necessary Evil has been squeezed out to a degree because 4E is the cool new kid and because I only have my 4 original players in it. With the D&D group expanded to 6, the idea was that we would play NE on those nights when only part of the group was available. The problem is that almost everyone has been available almost every time, so we aren't having to fall back on it. This is not a terrible problem to have but it does mean that NE has been quiet for a while. I do love the system -it's the opposite of D&D in many ways - and it will be played more in the future.

Potential additions:

I've been thinking about working in one more RPG to accommodate one last combination of available apprentices and I'm leaning towards superheroes. I thought about more D&D but one of them is younger and might not quite be ready for all of it yet. I thought about Star Wars Saga edition but I don't want to run two different versions of Star Wars at the same time. I'm really leaning towards Marvel Superheroes because the characters are familiar, the color chart thing makes it pretty easy to adjudicate, and I have lots of stuff for it including maps and counters and heroclix figures. I want it to be low-maintenance and high-fun in actual play and I think that system might just do the trick. I'm not 100% just yet but I'm looking at material and figuring out what we might do. Savage Worlds is another option but I'm not sure what to run for them with it. Deadlands might be a little much but Pirates could be fun. My other thought is to pull out Heroquest or Warhamer Quest and let them fight their way through a truly boardgame version of D&D.

All of these Apprentice games might seem like they are competing for space but they really aren't - at any given time I typically only have 3 of them at home with only 2 of them interested in playing a game, so one challenge is to have a sort of standing option ready to play with whichever combination of kids is available. Progress may be slow but as long as they're having a good time then it's time well-spent.

Other Random Thoughts:

I really like Hero System but it usually takes a while for a new player to learn it well and it can look intimidating too. I do like it though. Maybe down the road a bit.

The new 4E-based Gamma World is out now and it looks interesting. I have every version of GW published to date and it's a game I really have become attached too over the decades but I'm not sure when I would work it in. I will probably pick it up soon but I wouldn't mind firing up a 2nd edition game of it right now and the only reason I can't is time and Apprentice availability.

I've though about switching over whole-hog to d20 games for all of my campaigns and shelving everything else for now to build on that whole similar-system-synergy and make it easier for new players. D&D 4E, Star Wars Saga, and Mutants and Masterminds (2E -I haven't gotten in to 3E yet) would cover enough cool things that I could run for years and be just fine and the players would have some serious system knowledge after just a short time. There are some differences (powers vs. talents vs...powers?) but I don;t think that would be a huge issue. The problem is I really like some of my other systems.

Traveller is a great classic game that is in a real renaissance now with the Mongoose edition but I think that with kids at least it will always lose out to Star Wars when it comes down to "we have 2 hours - which game do you want to play" so it will be awhile before it gets used again.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is another great game and is really not for kids so it will have to wait until the grown-up group comes up with serious extra time or decides that D&D sucks - so it will be awhile here too.

Rifts - ah Rifts. The kids would probably be all over it if I showed them all the books.The system is a cluster-f nightmare of 80's heartbreaker design but it does work to a point. It's just ugly and largely makes no sense. I think after the clean design of 4e and the elegant simplicity of Savage Worlds and Star Wars d6 that I may lack the ability to fight through this anymore.  A Hero conversion is a possibility but it would take some work and I'm not sure it's worth it when I have a half-dozen other games I can run and have a bunch of fun with a tenth of the preparation.

Anyway I have one more "thought" post in me and then the session summaries will resume next week so stay tuned.

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