Musing on Play-Styles with some discoveries.

I’ve been looking everywhere for a new game. I’ve been hunting up and down for a fantasy game that will fill the void I left empty when I abandoned ship on D&D4E. The funny thing is, I’ve also been thinking a lot about system and what I actually want to get out of a system I’m playing. I discovered the Star Wars Saga System, and though I really like it, and I’ve been bitten by the Star Wars bug again thanks to reading it — it is not the solution to my problem. When I think about many of the best gaming sessions I’ve ever been involved in — as a player or a GM — I always think back to Amber DRPG. Amber has a unique lightness to it, in that it doesn’t use dice… So, I like rules-lite systems, right?

Except, I’m also a huge fan of Shadowrun, especially the new 4E/Anniversary Edition. Pretty rules-intense actually. But I got to thinking about it and I realized that for all the “rules” of Shadowrun, the game is still incredibly elegant and easy to “wing.” You can really get into a SR session and play with almost no prep and the rules don’t really get in the way once you have the basics down. I mean, I’m a pretty by-the-book GM, but you don’t have to try very hard to make SR work at the table. Same thing with Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2E. Lots of rules, heck, lots of charts and tables — but you don’t have to work hard to run a session and even as a player, once you’ve gotten used to a few things, the game is smooth.

The more I refined this thought over the weekend, I realized that what I was really looking for was a system that let me improvise easily but still follow the rules. It also had to have one other quality that I realized was super important to me. It had to be internally consistent. I don’t care if elves have cyberware and troll hermetic wizards can learn a spell that causes every corporate security goon in a room to have an orgasm (yeah, that spell exists). What matters to me is that the system (and all its subsystems) work well together, play smoothly and don’t force me to worry about something happening that upsets the flow at the table. Internal consistency is important to me in storytelling and it’s important to me in rules sets.

But I was on a quest for a game. I needed a new game that I could really sink my teeth into and just run amok. Something that met my criteria and provided a good play experience. I’ve been looking around. I tried out Spirit of the Century a little while back. It’s not my thing, but it has that nifty party building mechanic that is so awesome. I love it when a party comes together.

I looked into Star Wars Saga System, as I mentioned. It’s a wonderful game that I would love to see another company pick up. Heck, I’d love to see Wizards strip out all the Star Wars IP and release just the rules in an SRD/OGL kinda way. That would be amazing (and doable).

My girlfriend is currently enamored of Savage Worlds, and while it’s pretty good, and I’m still hoping she runs something with it soon, it’s not a system I want to run.

At the recommendation of the Dungeoneering Dad I looked into Castles and Crusades. It’s pretty great. If I get back into that style of play again, I think it’s going to beat out Pathfinder for my attention. I really like the way it takes “what I like about D&D” and makes it fun again. If you haven’t checked out C&C and you are a fan of that type of game, then I’d really give it a look. It’s got a lot going for it.

So, I’ve been busy. Reading a lot of games, learning some new tricks, thinking about what I want to run. I even dug back into my gaming collection and pulled out my copy of Elric! (yes, it has an exclamation point in the title). Elric is not a game I ever played much when I was younger, but now I really wish I had. This game is awesome. I was amazed at it’s complexity — but also its consistency. This is a gaming experience I really missed out on. Chaosium still has my favorite character advancement system ever. I love the fact that you don’t earn XP. You learn by doing. You can also train outside of adventures to learn new things or improve existing abilities — a point many games never indulge but that I’ve discovered in several 80’s/early 90’s games.

You all know, if you read here regularly, how I feel about the new Mutants and Masterminds…

Over the weekend, I visited RPGNow for the Xmas in July sale. I picked up a few things. One of which was by R. Talsorian Games (a company that used to be a favorite). I never really played Cyberpunk. I was definitely a Shadowrun guy. Even though I never got into Cyberpunk, I loved a little spin-off game called Cybergen. I got the chance to play Cybergen with some college friends years ago and I had so much fun. I really enjoyed the experience of playing teenage ‘runner type characters. It was a simple, cool little game with a lot of energy. I was really pleased to pick it up during the sale. If you’re ever looking for a change of pace — a game to just revel in and have fun for a little while — or a game that puts a little bright spot in the normally grim cyberpunk genre, Cybergen is a great way to do it.

The second game I discovered was Barbarians of Lemuria. I’d heard of it before but never seen it for myself. When I was poking around the RPGNow site and I found BoL, I picked it up, and I must say… I love it. I’ve already been converting characters from my Blighted World setting idea into the system and despite its size, it is amazingly robust. To Simon Washbourne — you sir, have made the game I always wanted to play. For those not in the know, BoL sets out to recreate the style of Swords and Sorcery play. It is a game for playing Conan-types, Grey Mouser types, and all that jazz. But it also has an excellent, simple, and evocative magic system that adequately combines the ability to cast spells on the fly and the need to limit powerful spells with intricate and time-consuming extras. It has a really nifty faith system for priest-types that doesn’t just make them another form or spell-caster, and it really works for making background up as you make your character. I’m deeply impressed. Especially because the game — despite being designed for this one style of play — does not overly limit itself. In just a little over 100 pages, you get an amazingly complete game that gives players and GMs a lot of freedom, while also remaining super simple to run and very wing-able. I’m really stoked about hitting the game table with this — and I’ve definitely found my game system for running my next game.

Now I just need some players interested in a swords-and-sorcery-political-intrigue-soap-opera. When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

PS — I actually picked up the bundle edition of the game that came with the less well-known Dogs of War RPG by the same author. I’m going to be showing it to a friend the first chance I get. If you’ve ever wanted to play GI Joe, the RPG… well, this is it. Considering that he actually ran a little GI Joe mini-campaign for us a long time ago, I’m really hoping that DoW might inspire him to break out the “Yo Joe” battle cry again. Gaming around here might be shaping up again very soon. Without a major publisher in sight… Awesome.

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