Wednesday, September 8, 2021

How it Started versus How it's Going


Barking Alien had a great post about those games we started with and which ones we still play. It's been awhile since I've gone down this road but let's see ...

I started with Holmes Basic D&D. Still have my copy though it is in rough shape from major use. This was 1979-1980. It was pretty much just D&D for the next few years though I did start writing up my own game with Jedi and Cylons and things in there too. Lots of graph paper was consumed as I dove into AD&D and the new Basic Set and then the new Expert Set and Dragon magazine. 

By the summer of 1982 I added Traveller. That was the second game I really dove into. So many cool things - character generation, ship construction, star system generation - so much in those 3 little books.  

I had been aware of the other TSR games for some time but had not acquired any of them. Later that year I had picked up Star Frontiers and it was not all that much like Traveller but it had its own attractions - the maps! The counters! An interesting take on actions and combat and races and gear - I really liked playing it. 

During 1983 things really exploded as I added Gamma World, Star Trek (FASA), Top Secret, Boot Hill, and Champions. 

The 80's were a great time for RPG's as by the end of the decade I had jumped into Marvel and DC supers games, Twilight 2000, Star Wars, Warhammer Fantasy, Ninja Turtles, Runequest, GURPS, Mechwarrior, and Shadowrun. There were new editions of various games in there as well plus starting up a miniatures hobby with Warhammer, 40K, and Battletech.

Out of those first few let's see ... I do still play and run D&D. Not that same version but I have run Labyrinth Lord (briefly) in the last 3 years. I'd like to do more as it does feel different than "normal" D&D now but schedules are such a constraint we are lucky to keep one game going steadily these days. 

Traveller is one I have taken off the shelf and considered but I haven't run it in at least ten years. Another one I would love to run but it just gets squeezed out every time.

I haven't run Star Frontiers since the 80's but I do still have everything and I do still love a lot of things about that system and setting. Nowadays it mainly serves as a source of inspiration for a potential Star Wars campaign - the adventures in particular. 

As far as the batch from 1983 ... 

  • Gamma World is another of the want-to's but I haven't run it in ... 20 years at least? I really should put together a short run at least.
  • Star Trek - I haven't run FASA Trek since maybe the 90's but I still have all of that material ... and the LUG Trek stuff ... and Decipher Trek ... and I just picked up the Klingon book for Modiphius Trek. So the systems have rotated over the decades but the setting is definitely still a player. Just have to convince at least two of my players to give it a shot. 
  • Top Secret - another box unused since the 80's. I did do the kickstarter a few years ago for a new version from the original creator but it is not a good game. These days when I get the itch for a spy game I'd say Spycraft comes to mind the most but it's just not a genre my guys care a whole lot about. Odds are this will keep gathering dust on the shelf. 
  • Boot Hill was a lot of fun back when but has since been rendered obsolete by Deadlands. Considering we had the most fun with Boot Hill crossing it over with D&D anyway this was not really a surprise. I usually hate "tech" analogies when it comes to RPGs but this is the best case for one that I can think of - everything we wanted to do in Boot Hill can be done easier, faster, and better in Deadlands ... any version of Deadlands. 
  • Then there is Champions ... so good and yet so long since I've actually run a game with it. I still love the system even if it's been bumped aside by M&M a lot over the last 20 years when a superhero game is discussed among the crew. I would still like to run it again so I picked up the lean and mean version and then earlier this year I grabbed the full double-textbook version. It may take a little while but it's on my radar and it will happen eventually.

So most of those early games are not major players for me these days. The oldest thing I've run aside from a D&D game with some regularity these last few years is probably d6 Star Wars and that will continue - it almost became the new game I'm running now. 

BA asks a good question about how people play only one game and for so long and I admit I have no idea. I love the bubbling concoction that is RPG design where new and innovative things emerge and change the way we look at things. D&D is a nice constant in some ways but there are so many other things to do out there that I cannot imagine sticking to one game only and ignoring everything else.  

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Deadlands Companion


The Deadlands Weird West Companion is a ... slim ... hardcover that's largely extra stuff for Deadlands Adventure Edition. Short take: This is a -very- optional book.

We open with a two-page spread that covers the publication history of the Deadlands game. I like this and I think more long-lived RPG's should include this kind of thing. 

Then we get to player stuff - more powers for harrowed, U.S. Marshals, metal mages (mad scientists who have become aware that their devices are working because of magic), voodooists (new arcane background),  and witches. It's all nice to have and brings some character types from earlier editions up to date but honestly I've never had anyone play any of those last 3 so this is probably the kind of book they belong in.

Next up is a chapter on Relics and this, surprisingly, is almost the longest chapter in the book! Deadlands doesn't do magic items the way D&D does but they do exist in the setting. They tend to be one-off, unique items tied to a person or event. So-and-so's pistols ... famous outlaw's boots ... somebody's coup stick - this is the kind of magic item in this section. There is typically a paragraph or two of background, a note on what power it holds, and a note on any taint it holds - yes, some of them have downsides. I've never thought of this as an item-focused game but if your players have some interest it could be fun and it does let a GM tie things in to some of the legends of the setting in a direct way. 

One thing I was surprised to see is an entire chapter that breaks down what happened in each of the four servitor campaigns. Now this was covered in a big-picture way in the main rulebook but here they have decided to give a summary of what happened and then they go into a rather lengthy breakdown of every core plot point in each of the four campaign books. I was really scratching my head at this as I don't know why anyone would need this level of detail if they are not running those campaigns! They are still available on DTRPG so one could certainly acquire and run them without much difficulty. It's sort of a timeline of the last 5 years of the setting but we already get a broader timeline and breakdown in the main book so this adds ... what? It's not wrong it's just a weird duplication of effort that has me wondering what the benefit is supposed to be.

There is a nice chapter on the hunting grounds which could be *extremely* useful depending on where your campaign takes you. It's similar to notes on planar travel in a D&D game: you may not need it early in your game and you may only need it once in a campaign but it's really handy to have if your game goes there. This section covers what it looks like, what lives there, how things work, and even includes some ideas on adventures that involve the hunting grounds. 

The next-to-last chapter has stats for NPCs both historical (Wyatt Earp, Seth Bullock) and Deadlands - specific (Ronan Lynch, Lacy O'Malley). This is handy stuff when you're running a game as if you want a more personalized statblock for your town marshal then maybe you clone Bat Masterson instead of using the generic law dog stats. This is all specific people - no generic stats or monsters here. 

Damn straight my Notice is a d12 ...

The last section is an old adventure from Shadis magazine (KODT! Joe Genero!) that hasn't been republished since then and it reads decently enough. It has some nice ties to other parts of the setting so I'd say it's worth working in.

Overall for me this book is director's cut material. There's nothing here you need to run a Deadlands campaign but if you're digging in and having a good time there are things in here that could be useful. I'd say the NPC's, the relics, and the hunting grounds chapters are all good examples of "expansion" type material. I would still say you want the main book first, some dice and cards and bennies, a GM screen if you like them, maybe an adventure ... then consider getting this book.