My gaming habit, part 2

I miss playing West End Game’s classic d6 Star Wars. Back when there was an expanded universe but fewer movies, we were left wondering what the Clone Wars actually were, before Knights of the Old Republic, hell, before Shadows of the Empire, we had a lot more empty space to fill. I only got to play a few sessions here and there, but I enjoyed making characters and rolling fistfuls of dice. I’d like to play that again, or possibly run a campaign myself. It would be good for doing something like Firefly.

I think what I miss most is the feeling of the early sessions. I only played a session or two before I agreed to run my own game. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t really know the system all that well, but I could tell a yarn and I played off of the players well. I’m good at thinking on my feet and rolling with things.

Growing up means I have the ability to afford books and supplies I didn’t used to be able to get (though the majority of my collection I bought back in college, used).

I miss the adventure of exploring something new. I think that’s why I’m constantly reading through RPG books. I get sparks of ideas as I read through the texts, inspirations and thoughts of what I’d like to do with a game.

My problem is I lack focus. I dive deep into something over a short period of time, until I feel that I know it so well… then it becomes old hat, and I start looking for that next hit of creativity.

That’s why I keep leaping to new experiences. I distro hop in Linux, trying out new programs and systems. I keep looking for the next big thing in web browsers. I read everything I can over gaming systems, trying to find the one that fits perfectly, right now.

But my tastes invariably change after a few weeks. A few things have kept my interest. White Wolf books are entertaining reads, as they’re less reference book and more purple prose. GURPS lets me model the real world and has tons (probably literally) of material available. D&D has become a cultural experience as it becomes more popular and wide spread. I like sharing war stories with other players and DMs.

I know what I crave too. I like things that are not too rules heavy (crunchy). I like having the freedom to play off of my players’ crazy ideas and say, “That sounds cool! Let’s see what happens,” and letting the dice fall where they may. I like lighter, story-driven systems. I like letting my imagination fly. I like it when players talk after the campaign about what happened during the game. I like building memories.

I just wish my mind was built for the long haul, instead of looking for the next hit of something new.

My gaming habit, part 1

I’m going to switch gears a little bit this time, and focus on rambling about tabletop gaming, mostly the noble RPG.

I won’t be diving into mechanics or resources. This is a 1000 ft overview (about 305 m for the rest of the world) of how the games make me feel. If you want to discuss mechanics or the like, leave a comment! I do enjoy getting into that kind of thing too.

Though I’ve had some dry spells, I’ve been gaming for a couple of decades now. I started with the second edition of AD&D. Looking back on it, it’s got a number of different die rolling mechanics all mixed together. Sometimes you want to roll high, some you want to roll low. Sometimes you roll a d6, a d10, a d20, or d%. Balance is done by making some classes advance more slowly or by limiting what some fantasy races can become. No dwarven mages or half-orc paladins in this game.

It’s weird, it’s not as streamlined as I remember, it can be a little punishing. …but I love it. It’s still one of my favorite games, because I didn’t know it all when I ran. I just ran it and made up rules on the fly.

Castles & Crusades is close to how that game played, but a little more streamlined. You want to roll high most of (all of? I can’t remember initiative rules) the time. They tried to unify how things work. Any fantasy race can be any class, but classes still advance at different speeds. Wizards require more experience to level up than rogues (or is it thieves?). It still has the old school feel, from what I understand anyway. I’ve never been able to get a group together to play.

I want to remedy that. I’d love to play, but I’d be happy to run.

We’ve been playing a lot more 5th edition D&D lately. It…. is okay. I like how simple it is to make up rulings as we go, and there are some interesting character options for classes and races. But it doesn’t excite me as much as older editions. I got to really dislike the complexity of 3.5 D&D. There was too much focus on character builds (even bringing up the world “build” in 5e gives me the shivers) and mastery of system mechanics in 3.5. I personally prefer characters to form more organically than worrying about what I can or will do 3, 4, 5 levels down the road.

It’s a fine game, it runs well, and it’s fun. It just doesn’t feel quite right to me. It’s probably my second favorite edition, but considering I’ve only played three different editions…

I’d like to give 4th edition D&D a shot. I listened to a lot of the complaints gamers had when it came out and worried it “wasn’t D&D” enough. I started to get into it more after reading 13th Age. I like the strategy involved with combat (I’ve considered getting into war gaming), I like the changes to lore, and I like the ease of building balanced encounters. I just haven’t tried it yet. Again, most folk aren’t super enthusiastic about it. Still, I collect some of the books. I love the artistic choices in the books I have.

Speaking of 13th Age, I love what they’re trying to do with the game. It’s made by former D&D designers (from both 3rd and 4th editions of D&D) and it’s the game that they play, using mechanics from their creations. But they made it into something lighter than either version of D&D and focus more on story.

Damage and hit points do get amazingly high, but they increased damage as well, to balance things. Characters only go up to 10th level in the core book, but the players have much more say in the setting, with the One Unique Thing that makes their character different and the creation of backgrounds instead of skills.

There is a free System Reference Document if you’re interested. The core book is one of the easiest reads I’ve ever had with an RPG product. It’s more conversational tone with the creators even bouncing ideas back and forth and at the readers.

GURPS holds a special place in my cold, black heart. We even named our dog Gurps. I have a slight preference for the 3rd edition over the newer 4th edition, but that’s partly because I have a LOT of books for the older edition. They’re nearly the same, with a few tweaks for playability sake in the 4e book.

GURPS lets you design characters at a much more granular level than D&D. You spent points on attributes instead of rolling for them (by default! I know there are other ways of making characters in D&D). There are no classes (though you can add templates!), so you can pick and choose skills as you want (with GM oversight into what is an isn’t allowed in that particular game). You can get a good feel for who you are playing with Advantages (which cost points) and Disadvantages (which give you points), though a clever player can attempt to game the system. There is one primary mechanic for the game, which is nice.

GURPS is, however, more of a toolkit for making your own game than a complete game. This means that there is no defined world, lore, or the like. The Game Master (that GM again) is expected to decide what extra books they’re using (if any), which skills are relevant, which Ads and Disads are okay, etc. It’s work on the front end, but easier on the back end.

Character creation can be more complex, but once you’re done, the character sheet has most of the info you need. Combat can be complex or simple, depending on what rules the GM is allowing and which they’re ignoring.

It definitely isn’t a game for everyone, but it does try to be any game for those who enjoy it. It also lets you organically grow your characters. The books are dense and read more like a textbook, but the splat books (extra books with additional material) are great for just about any game, if you ignore the GURPS-specific material. They’re well researched.

That leaves White Wolf and their catalog of games. My personal favorite is Vampire: the Masquerade. I love the lore. I’ve been reading the books for fun, because they’re written more like fiction with some mechanics hidden inside. Like GURPS, it’s a point buy system with an easy (though different) mechanic.

There are less options than in GURPS (which can be a good thing). It doesn’t try to model everything (like GURPS does). I think I prefer the tone of earlier editions of the book, where you focus on taking a human, turning them into a monster, then watching them try to deal with the downward spiral as they fight their nature (with nature almost ALWAYS winning in the end!) than the world-spanning plots in later editions. Not that those can’t be fun!

I find myself reading White Wolf game books more frequently because they’re meant to be read, not necessarily studied. All of the games use the same basic mechanics, though the themes, powers, abilities, etc. can vary from game-to-game.

I’m pushing over 1,200 words already and there are other games I’d like to talk about (I’m looking at you, West End’s D6 system!). I’ll save those for later.

If you’ve gotten this far and aren’t completely board off your chair, you’re a personal hero of mine!