Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The State of the Games at the End of the Schoolyear

No, not the main game - that comes later in the week.

For the Apprentices this is the last week of school, down to just a couple of days now. With summer schedules we might actually get more game time in, but it's hard to tell.

Not long after school started we began our 4E Temple of Elemental Evil game and sad to say we have averaged less than a session a month due to complicated schedules and trying to accommodate and include some friends, which has only complicated the schedule that much more. I will say that 4E is not really built for short sessions and that makes it harder to fit in. They're about finished with the Moathouse so I'm going to try and wrap that up this weekend when everyone is here and set the stage for the next chapter. I'm still interested in converting and running it, and they're still interested in fighting through it, so we will press on.

What has been filling our shorter batches of time has been ICONS. I have to say this is one of the major discoveries for me and the crew of the last few years, as it's perfect for running with low to no prep on either the DM or the Players' part and it still has just enough crunch to make them feel like they're accomplishing something. The easy availability of inexpensive adventures online is a hidden strength of the game. Even if we don't finish a whole story arc in one sitting they (and I) still enjoy the time spent in-character.

Our Basic D&D game has largely fallen by the wayside. Everyone likes it because it's fun and it plays much faster than 4E, more like ICONS, but for most of the last year if we have time then they'd rather play lite supers than lite D&D. Oddly enough I still get excited about the campaign world and add to my notes on it regularly. It's a very old-school approach in that most of the people and place names are homages to someone or nods to places we have lived. I have a vision of them suddenly clamoring for a sustained campaign in BECMI/AD&D and me being able to unveil a fully-formed campaign world ready to romp in but that's probably not very realistic. I do have one glimmer of hope though.

Star Wars has also largely fallen by the wayside. I chalk it up to time available and it being 3rd priority at best. After D&D and Supers there's not much time for anything else and that's where it falls. I still have all of my notes, and a campaign outline, and I think it would be a blast, but it's close to impossible to sustain 3+ campaigns on a regular schedule, even when all of the kids are here. Even ICONS tends to be played in self-contained adventures without any overt connections. Running through a 12-24 session campaign over 10 levels is a tall order. Plus their interest ebbs and rises too - sometimes they are all about the Jedi and the clones, other times we go for a week without hearing about anything. I could probably push this more if I tried, but I'm trying to let their interest guide me. Plus it's not like we ran a lot of sustained campaigns at their ages back when we were playing. After the lack of interest in a Star Wars game among my regular adult players I wonder if there's something to the genre itself that makes it a harder sell then fantasy or supers or even more general science fiction games.

As far as the Apprentices go...

  • Apprentice Who is getting more interested but still has a shorter attention span than the others. He loves ICONS and played Basic D&D (with Apprentice Blaster running!) and had a good time but his experiments in 4E left him a little winded and he was getting bored by the end of one combat encounter. He's cautiously interested in M&M and has had a good time with Star Wars so there's promise for the future. Side note: For the younger set, I can't recommend ICONS enough. I use a green d6 for the "plus" and a red d6 for the "minus" so it took very little time for him to pick up the mechanic and the rest is largely making it up as you go along.
  • Apprentice Blaster is up for almost anything but D&D (any flavor) is probably his favorite, followed by closely by Supers in general and ICONS in particular. He's run a session or two for the other two and is probably most likely to start running his own games with some of his friends. He's very action-oriented and wants to get things done. he's much more Logan than Reed.
  • Apprentice Twilight has about zero interest in anything at this point. The teenage girl is a fickle thing and though she was as enthusiastic about seeing Avengers as anyone (she wore the shirt for opening night without argument and has actually seen it one more time than I have at this point) she has no interest in rolling dice as a character right now. I'm giving it time.
  • Apprentice Red has the busiest schedule of any of them. He's the oldest so he gets what is cool about them as much as anyone and has shown some interest in running as well. He's just distracted by learning to drive and girls and stuff like that  - playing D&D and Warhammer is no longer the girl-repellent that it once was, which allowed us that intense focus that burned things into our young brains. He does like his D&D and ICONS though, and he likes M&M quite a bit too. He and Blaster argue quite a bit but when they work together they can power through adventures rather impressively. he's likely to put a little more thought into his characters and backgrounds, which helps drive the other two to step up their game in that area too.
That covers the past and the present, what about the future?

Well, for one, I think ICONS will continue to be a major player. Supers in general is very popular here and I intend to push M&M into a prominent role too via some limited campaigns that I have plotted out. BASH may get a tryout, at least one, to see if it's worth some of our time. I also am looking forward to formally introducing them to Champions this summer, probably after we play through one of those M&M arcs. 

The other big player is the new Marvel game. The boys really liked our run-through of Breakout and I am waiting on Civil War to be released to fire this one up again. I even ordered some new dice to make sure I had enough to run it.

On the D&D front I expect to continue ToEE 4E through the end of the year and then see where things stand. I'd like to run through the whole adventure and then into the G-D-Q series for Paragon and Epic. My hope for rekindling the Basic game is to convert it over to the Next playtest rules for now and to each new iteration over the summer as they release. They made B2 part of the kit so I might as well, right? If that goes well then maybe it springboards into a new campaign with the official new rules sometime late next year. Plus it lets me bring my little homebrew world back into play which is a good thing too.

Beyond these I'll see if there's any more room for a third area of focus like Star Wars or Deadlands or Gamma World. Deathwatch would be a big player with the older boys but it's yet another set of rules to keep track of and that's more of a barrier for me than I thought because I have to be the rules expert on the thing. Later. The system I most feel that I'm neglecting is Savage Worlds, so I hope to work it in sometime too.

They really liked the looks of this one - even without powers
Anyway, there's the update and collected thoughts for the year 2012 so far, and some ideas for the future. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Lead Legion said...

Impressive rundown. I've been following all your games, mind you. but I'd never really realised how many you were running over the course of the year till I saw them all laid out.

Blacksteel said...

Hey thanks Lead - I look at it and see the number of games planned vs. number of games run and feel like I should be doing more. I've resolved to put the "main" games on a more regular schedule for the summer so we will see how that goes.