Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Games, Old Games, New Gamers, and Old Gamers

Barking Alien had a post yesterday inspired by a post from Monsters and Manuals last week that started some wheels turning for me. Rather than restrict it to a comment on those worthy blogs I decided to make it a post here as it goes to the heart of what I do with the hobby. So go read those really quick if you haven't then come back here for the next chapter.

Noisms uses the phrase "the tiresomeness of new systems". I sort of get that, but for me the "tiresomeness" usually comes in with new editions of games I already have that don't really change anything. Especially when they come out far too quickly. Truly "new" systems are interesting to me. For example:
  • Third edition D&D was amazing at the time - such a radical revamp of the game that still felt like the game!
  • I thought D&D 3.5 at only 3 years into the new system was an annoying money grab on many levels, even if there were some areas that could stand to be tuned up. 
  • Pathfinder, 6+ years after that, with a stated goal of re-balancing and reexamining the whole system without completely changing it made sense to me, even if it wasn't completely new. 
  • Fourth edition was so much change I hated it at first but I eventually came around and got to like it for its strengths and it definitely felt like a completely new game. 
  • Fifth edition I am not settled on. There are innovations there, but there is a lot of change that I am not sure is an improvement. I need more time with it, but I enjoyed reading through it to see what had changed.
Did you miss this one?
There are other examples:
  • After 20+ years of picking up Champions books I skipped the latest edition because I just didn't need another slightly tweaked set of Hero rules. 
  • M&M 3E was a fairly significant revamp to M&M 2E - recognizable, but not instantly compatible.  
  • ICONS was a very different approach to supers and I loved it. Mixing elements of Fate (which I did not have at the time) and Marvel Super Heroes (which I love) with an emphasis on simplicity and speed made a very entertaining mix and introduced me to some new ways of doing things.
  • Marvel Heroic then came along and turned everything upside down with a radical new approach to Supers that I still think is one of the bigger innovations of the last ten years. It's completely different mechanically than the others I mention, but still feels at least as much like a superhero game as they do. 

There are many older games I like just fine. I prefer older versions of Gamma World, for example. If I wanted to play a "pure" cyberpunk game then CP2020 is what I would reach for on the shelf. For Star Wars I'm doing d6 or Saga Edition, not FFG's new stuff. One of the primary reasons may be that I almost never feel like I have exhausted the possibilities of any system that I like. Run a game for a year and I probably have a dozen new ideas for campaigns that I will never get to run. About the only reason I would skip an old game is if there's a version I think is truly better mechanically, to the point it's not worth the hassle of that older version.  

There are many newer games I prefer - Marvel is one example. I like Mongoose's edition of Traveller probably best of all. Newer is not always better, but it's almost always worth a look. Icons is better to me than Heroes Unlimited. 

Sure, there is some attraction to running a game that I already have, that's not being expanded every month by a publisher in the form of $35 hardbacks, and that I know like the back of my hand. I'd happily run that game, and I have.

However, I also like to see what's new, what someone is doing with an old setting that has new mechanics, or someone tweaking old mechanics to use with a new setting. Just, show me something innovative or interesting, don't just sell me the same old thing with a couple of tweaks (40K, I'm looking at you). Push me to the point I dislike it at first and that it takes a second or third reading to truly grasp it. Take a good setting and system and streamline it like Deadlands Classic vs. Deadlands Reloaded. Take an old setting and give it a new mechanical overlay like DC Heroes to DC Adventures. Do something completely different like Numenera. In short give me a reason to care, something new to chew on besides replacing d20 rolls with 2d10 rolls or changing up the skill list. 

As BA mentions in his post, it's an ongoing experience, a learning experience. I don't ever expect to find that one perfect game - I pretty much reject the concept - but I do think some games can just be flat out better than others and I acknowledge that someone may have a way  of looking at things game-wise that is awesome that I would never have come up with myself. That's part of what makes it fun.

Coda: The preference for existing systems is not restricted to the older generation:
  • When FFG's Star Wars games came out I talked with them about getting a copy of the Beginner Set to try it out. "Why?" was the response. "We have Saga and it works just fine" - and this is coming from the then 14-year old. He didn't want to be bothered with learning the new system, he just wanted to play the one we already had. In contrast he hated d6 when we tried it because for him and his generation the prequel movies carry a lot of weight and the d6 system just is not good for that. Of course, neither is "Edge of the Empire" and that's probably at the heart of it. Saga best fits his vision of Star Wars and that's that.
  • He likes pretty much every edition of D&D (and Pathfinder) but he's cautious about 5th and would just as soon play one of the older editions as spend time figuring out yet another version. 
  • He will play pretty much any superhero game if he has the chance and recognizes that Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Heroic, M&M 3, and Icons all have a different feel and likes that he has so many options. 

1 comment:

Barking Alien said...

Fantastic post Blacksteel.

While I may not share all your system preferences, I agree wholeheartedly with your approach to the subject.

If the next game better than the one we have? Does it improve on something, or just give us a different feel? Is that feel something we haven't thought of before, or haven't looked at quite that way, and is it portable over to a game we like better?

If we never give the new games their due, we will never know.