Tuesday, September 22, 2020

2020 RPG Contemplation - The Fantasy Options

 When I can I like to have two games going so beyond yesterday's Sci-Fi choices there would likely be some kind of fantasy option. There is always a D&D type game going with our group ... it's just part of the Way Things Are. 

Given that. I spent a ridiculous amount of time gong back through my options ... thinking out loud continues below ...

  • 5th Edition D&D - Well sure, I have to think about this one. I was getting a little bored with it last year but simplicity has an upside too. Theros does give some nice options for that Mythic Greece game I've wanted to run for along time but I don't know... I'm just not that excited about running this system right now. Next year!

  • D&D 0-4th/basic/Expert/Advanced/etc.- Lots of material sure but I kind of want to do something different, something I don't have a multi-year run in yet. I do have some old school dungeons and adventures I would like to run and it would most likely happen with Labyrinth Lord but I'm not sure this is the right moment.

  • Pathfinder 2nd Edition - This is what I was planning on before the Great Shutdown. I had run several sessions and the party made it to 3rd level and liked the game so we were going to revamp the location, keep the characters, and get going for the long haul. Not getting to do that when i was all fired up about it ... well I still want to do that but as I said above I'd like to play something else first.

  • Age of Sigmar RPG - This one is new and I do like the setting but I don't actually own it yet. A bit hesitant to pick it up when I have a bunch of other options I am interested in and might be shoring up with a new book or two. 

  • Barebones Fantasy - I ran across this one on DTRPG, decided to look it over and really liked it. Its very similar to classic D&D at the core but it uses a percentile system for stats and a very interesting skill system - basically a D&D class is effectively a skill like "Cleric" or "Thief". There is a set of specific things each one lets you do and then some guidelines on letting players use it for other things in play as well. It hits a sweet spot for specific (as in "here's what this thing does") while still retaining tremendous flexibility so that we're not trying to look up some obscure rule about a specific ability in a specific situation that we all remember seeing but somehow cannot find in a 400 page rulebook as happens in some other games. It's been around for a few years and looks to be pretty well supported. This is a contender once I decide what I would want to do with it.

  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay - If I'm going to consider Sigmar I might as well consider the original - well 2nd Edition original anyway. I have almost all the books and have only tried to run it twice so they are very low-mileage despite my extreme like of the system. I know what I would like to run with this as well so it's a contender. 

  • Forbidden Lands - it's an interesting mix of old school (hexcrawl! PC strongholds!) and new design (dice pools! narrative stuff!) that caught my attention a while back and given the opportunity to run a new campaign I went ahead and picked it up. I need to read the whole thing but it's a contender at the moment.

  • Savage Worlds - This would probably be Beasts & Barbarians and it looks pretty awesome as it is very much Conan with the serial numbers very lightly filed off ... very lightly. It would be totally appropriate for a series of short adventures to kick things off again and we've been playing other Savage Worlds games for years so there is some system familiarity. I'm not sure it's the best option, but it's on the list.

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics - This is the most likely solution for a kickoff. It's surprisingly fun because it always starts with a zero-level "funnel" that winnows out the weak peasants everyone starts as but turns the survivors into accomplished heroes by the end of  the adventure. So you don't need to know much mechanically to begin with because there are not a lot of mechanics for starting PCs! I've had it for years, run it once, but we didn't get to finish the whole adventure ... this time we will. Even funnier is that I absolutely loathed zero-level characters when they first showed up in AD&D. Your 1st level characters are already limited, unskilled, and die to any halfway decent hit and now you want to spend more time at this level ... and even weaker? it was a dumb idea and seemed like a tremendous waste of time. With DCC it works very differently and it works wonderfully. 

Honorable Mentions: Runequest, Middle Earth Adventures, GURPS, Fantasy Hero

So, after spending a lot of time reading through games old and new the contender list for right now is:

  • DCC
  • Forbidden Lands
  • WFRP
More to come .. hopefully including some session reports.

Monday, September 21, 2020

2020 RPG Contemplation - The Science Fiction Options


Earlier this year I was running a Pathfinder 2E campaign in a homebrew setting, exploring, tinkering, getting to know the system with my players. Then "2020" happened and it all ground to a halt. Finally though there have been some murmurs in the group and it's time to contemplate what we might do for the last part of the year. So after setting my RPGs aside for the last six months  I've started diving in and reading through a bunch of rulebooks and a pile of old notes for many of them to determine my best options. I'd kind of like to have a fantasy game and an "other" game going and playing at different times. I'm not sure exactly how it would work so that's all a little fuzzy but we will figure it out. Thinking out loud ...

Star Wars
I have way to many ideas for Star Wars campaigns, covering all editions. Before the shutdown I was discussing a Republic-era game and I still like that idea a lot. I just see it as a longer campaign and I kind of want to start with something else before diving into that. A warm up game to get back into the groove sounds like a good idea. 

I discovered Traveller almost 40 years ago and I've played or run every version other than Traveller 5, Mongoose 2nd Edition, and d20.  I like the system  have some ideas and most of them are tied to the setting and I'm not sure I'm in the mood for 3rd Imperium stuff right now.

Jovian Chronicles
Serious left turn here I know. It's an easy pitch as "The Expanse with mecha" and that had me fired up. Humble just had the whole set of books up for not too much money so I dove in and started learning the Silhouette system. I really want to like it and I do think it's good but it gets fairly crunchy when it comes to vehicles ... and there would be vehicles everywhere in this game. mecha, fighters, bigger ships ... it would be a serious commitment to learn this. Thoughts started creeping in ... Mekton seems both simpler and more cinematic than this ... if I'm going to need a full on complex vehicle design system I already know Battletech way better than I'm going to know this ... so it's on the back burner for now. I still like the system and if I knew someone that already knew this system and I could play a while to learn it I would but I do not.

Well, sure - after the thought process above the military mecha campaign was a solid idea in my head and this is familiar territory. I have the first 3 versions of the RPG and I've played and/or run all of them but I thought I would take at the later version "A Time for War" - it's terrible. It reads and looks like it was designed by engineers and the system is shoehorned into a small box mechanically because of the overriding design goal of "make it work seamlessly with Battletech's system for pilot and gunnery skill and wounds. Bought it, read it, disliked it thoroughly. So, back to MW 3rd edition! Look - I have a whole starting campaign written up! House books, Mercenaries book, Rules Companion ... this is totally do-able. So this is one very much on the list. 

Dark Conspiracy
I don't know why but I do have a soft spit for this weird 90's game. Something made me drag it off the shelf and skim through it again. I have an adventure I like for it but it would very much be a one-shot at this point. The system is easy enough but I'm not sure I want to spend time setting up the universe for what would take us maybe 3 sessions to play through. Still thinking about this one. Conspiracy X kinda falls into the same pit - "90's secret conspiracy X-Files type game" is almost as unknown to people today as the "post-apocalyptic" game that doesn't involve zombies. Speaking of those ...

Gamma World
I love this game. Pretty much any version. Many people think it's a joke game but if you just play it straight it's amazing and it supports long campaigns just as well as early D&D did. Anyway it's always made for a fun game and here again I have at least one adventure I really like that my players have never experienced. Beyond this I would really lean more towards running Mutant Crawl Classics just because there is more system stuff to play with and it has a string of really fun adventures too. This is still on the list as well - actually both of them.

The 40K RPG - yeah that new one, not the old one
Interested of course, and it's not like I don't have the miniatures or know the setting, but this feels like a "later" kind of game. I don't have a solid campaign idea yet either so the fire is not quite as strong. we will get around to it but it's not a priority right now. 

Cyberpunk 2020 - because third edition was a mess
I know there would be some interest because of the computer game that's coming out and I have always liked the rules but anytime I start seriously thinking about adventures and situations and NPCs for this game I can't help but think "this would be cooler in Shadowrun" and then the whole thing kind of short-circuits. 

Aeon Trinity 
I've always wanted to like this game but the background feels ... preachy. The PCs are heavily tied to particular agencies because of their powers and it just feels like the metaplot is so heavy handed it gets in the way of letting the players do their thing. Now I've never run it so that's just my feeling after reading the new version again. It seems like a cool concept mixing near-future sci-fi with super powers but I think most of the pure space games and the pure superhero games do it better. 

Stars Without Number
Every time I read this game I am blown away. It's uncomplicated but not really "simple". It covers a wide range of options but doesn't really lock the GM or the players into anything. The advice is dead-on with how I feel about running games these days and the tools it provides are clearly a product of actual play vs. theorizing about the perfect RPG. Who would have thought that a fusion of Traveller and 70's-80's D&D would work so damn well? I have a set of ideas for this one, some adapted over from Traveller notes, that I think would run well and make for a fun campaign. It's definitely an option. 

So after weeks of research and contemplation my leading candidates are
  • Mechwarrior
  • Gamma World/MCC
  • Stars Without Number
So there's a chunk of what's been going on here this month. More to come!