Saturday, August 19, 2017

Day 19: Which RPG features the best writing?

I don't think most RPG's have notably outstanding writing. To me good writing for a game should inspire one to want to play it just by reading a rulebook. That can be a real challenge as you're not writing a story, you're trying to tell other people how to play through a story! Bad writing can stand out but when it comes to rulebooks it's more about organization and layout than writing style when it comes to making a good book.

I suppose the intersection of these things can elevate or sink a book:

  • The first Dungeon Master's Guide, the original AD&D DMG, has some organization problems but the writing is somehow really inspirational, at least for a lot of people. Style/art/eye of the beholder etc. notwithstanding a lot of people I see cite it as an inspiration. 
  • Shadowrun 5th edition is ripped in almost every review for it's terrible organization. Regardless of the quality of the writing the poor organization overshadows it to the point that for many it's a problem just getting through the game. 
Of the games I think of when I think about the quality of writing:
  • The old James Bond 007 RPG was pretty atmospheric at the time. I remember thinking it really sold the concept well.Flipping through it today it still stirs some interest in playing an agent who lives that high class life while traveling the world in defense of England.
  • Shadowrun in general has done a pretty good job here over the years, at least through the first three editions. One example  - integrating a comments section on each page or section long before we had common internet usage made it that much more interesting to read. 
  • MWP's Marvel Heroic is another winner here. I thought it did a really good job of integrating rules, examples, and setting into a cohesive whole.
  • Right now I think Dungeon Crawl Classics does a really good job of this. There's a ton of flavor in the words in this book and it conveys a setting and a tone when the game really has no specific setting - that's quite a feat.

One thing I notice from my choices - I think it is easier to write better when you have a setting to build on and not just a rules system. References to people and places, references to historical or future events, equipment, even jokes are easier to integrate when you have a strong setting to work with in a book. Even D&D 5th edition makes specific references to D&D lore and is a better book for it. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Day 18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

Well this is easy enough - Dungeons and Dragons! All editions combined this is easily more than half of my lifetime playing time.

Narrowing it down to a single version of the game, it has to be AD&D, the original. Because I had more time back then - so much more time! We ran multiple characters up into the teens - and even 20th once! We played through probably every published module, every Dragon adventure we could lay hands on, numerous homebrewed settings and adventures, and a bunch of random dungeons too.

It was about a ten year run for me as I didn't get an AD&D book until 1980 and it was the main game up until 2E came out in 1989. That covered all of junior high and high school and the first half of college and I spent a ton of time with it.

Admittedly, by the mid-80's we all knew its flaws but we didn't care that much - it was D&D! In between all of the others - Champions, Gamma World, Runequest, Twilight 2000, Traveller, Marvel, Star Trek, etc. it was the game someone was always ready to run, the game everyone had characters for, and the game everyone liked and knew how to play.

Honestly, that really hasn't changed. Some version of D&D has always been our core game, our baseline, and I do not expect that to change.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Day 17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I had to do a lot of thinking while standing in the main "library" room to answer this.

If we start counting different editions as different games then it's probably Hero 5th edition. It came out in 2002, I bought it that year, and I've never run it or played it with anyone. That's 15 years and that's a pretty long dry spell for me.

I've never run Aces and Eights and that came out in 2007 so that's ten years.

Underground is in this discussion too. It came out in 1993, I've owned a copy since around that time, and I think we made characters for it once but never had another session where we actually ran.

Hackmaster is in a similar situation: Had it since around 2001 but never ran it. We played around with making characters but never had an actual run and we were so wrapped up in 3E D&D at that time that it was never going to get serious attention.

If you don't count character creation as "playing" then those two would bump Hero 5 down to third place.

There are some other games that have been out longer that I have not played but I did not pick them up until later. I have a pretty decent collection of RPG's but unlike a lot of collectors I usually pick up stuff with the intent to play, not just store it on a shelf. Now I may have only run them once, but the vast majority of the games I own have been played at some point.

That said I own a fair number of RPG's I haven't run or played in 20+ years. I may have played them a ton in the 80's or 90's but for whatever reason I haven't touched them in the 2000's. They may have been superseded by later editions, no one else is interested in playing them, or tastes may just have changed but they still have some value to me and so they remain.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as-is?

Well, I try to always start playing a new game by running it as-is. That's how you should start it IMO. I'm always amazed at players who come into a game's forum and start talking about changing up rules before they've run a single session! You don't know !@$#$ about how a game works until you've played it. You don't know enough about how it really works until you've run 3 or 6 or 12 sessions. I don't understand those who are in such a rush to start switching stuff up. To me there's a huge difference between these two statements:

  • "Oh that doesn't look right - we need to change it"
  • "We tried it for our first few sessions and we didn't like it so we switched to this."
Anyway, right now we're playing our first few sessions of Edge of the Empire. Since it's effectively a referendum on the whole game system for my players I am trying to stay with the rules as written. If we find a problem I'll see how other people are handling it  - the rules have been out for 4-5 years now - and talk to my players about how we want to proceed. So far though it all seems to work as intended and we are having a good time. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I don't really "adapt" games that much these days as there are a ton of them out there nowadays and I can usually find one I like that covers what I want to do. If you want to broaden the question to using a system for multiple different types of games then I will say "Savage Worlds" - it's a great fit for a lot of genres and a good-enough fit for almost all of the rest. I've run and played different genres in GURPS, Hero, and d20 and SW beats them all in my opinion if I have to pick one system to run every possible kind of game. From cowboys to pirates to knights to jedi to juicers it works and works well in real, actual play. It always seems to be the "next" game on the list so we don't play it as much as I wish we did but it's a great game system and has been for a long time.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Day 14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play

Dungeons and Dragons. Any version.

  • Want to take a sailing ship to the edge of the world?
  • Want to stop a zombie apocalypse?
  • Want to start one?
  • Want to ride dragons into battle against evil?

From low-level rat fighting to building a castle and running a barony to invading the Nine Hells there's a ton of options for a campaign and nearly infinite directions the players and DM could take a campaign. I know because I've done it as a player and as a DM across a bunch of versions of the game.

Runner up
Any superhero game. The universe is yours! In fact, multiple universe may be yours! You can do basic street-level crime-fighting heroes if you like, and you could scale it up to repelling an alien invasion and invading the Nine Hells here as well!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Day 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

This may be a little different than what the creators of the question intended but it's the first thing that came to mind so ...

We were playing D&D 2E. We had been playing this campaign for a while with just a few players - about 4 altogether, and we ran if at least two people were available. I was running it and it was going pretty well. One guy, one I had known for years at this point, had been increasingly "insurgent". He went against everything the other players wanted to do, he went off on his own when the party was trying to do something, and was just generally difficult in-game. I was willing to tolerate a fair amount of this in-game as people play in different ways and every character doesn't have to get along all the time.

Then he started to let it leak out outside of the game itself - talking smack about the players, insults, sneering condescension, and making implications about their work and personal lives.

So I threw him out.

I told him that was enough, right in the middle of the session. He popped off. I told him exactly what was going to happen if he didn't stop and think about what he was doing and who he was doing it too. he doubled down on his approach. This was at my apartment at the time so I told him to leave. Then I picked up his stuff,  took him by the arm, and escorted him out. He seemed surprised. It briefly interrupted the venom spewing from his mouth, but not for long. Once I shut the door though it didn't matter much as we didn't have to listen to him anymore. We went on with the game and the campaign and didn't miss him at all.

So what this experience changed for me is that I don't tolerate disruptive, hostile, angry players. We all have bad days sometimes but you don't get to take that out on everyone else who showed up to the game. If you consistently show up mainly to screw up what everyone else is doing then you need to go somewhere else.

Note that this is not really a one-time-incident policy. It has to keep happening for me to consider telling someone to leave. It's happened one or two other times in the 20+ years since that first incident.

I see posts on messageboards every week asking how to handle difficult players and some of them I totally understand. Others though ... the only thing I do not understand is why you're asking what to do instead of telling what you've already done. If I have a group of 4-6 friends gathered together to do anything and one of them starts screwing it up for everyone else, I'm going to ask them to leave. That's just a basic social thing, it's not specific to tabletop gaming. If as an adult you can't get along with other adult humans who have a shared interest for a few hours, well, it's not my job to train you.

When I'm running a game, particularly at my home, one of my responsibilities is to protect the players time - to make them feel like we actually did what we said we were going to do when we set the thing up. Allowing someone to disrupt the game beyond a certain point is a failure on my part to do that, a failure as a host. I don't like failing at something like that so I don't let it happen.

It takes a lot of effort to get a group of people together and play something consistently. Add in whatever prep time the GM spends on setting up a campaign and then on each session. It's a lot of time and work. Do not let that one person ruin it for everyone. At some point:
  • They're not acting like a player
  • They're not acting like a friend
  • They're actively damaging things for everyone else. 
That's when it's time to cut them out and get on with things with the people who are there to work with the group and have an enjoyable time.