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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Game Opinions

Update on getting the LBBs: they weren't in any easily-accessible box in my storage unit. I did find Supplements III and IV in the location I expected to find the rest. Either the LBBs are buried at the bottom of a huge stack and would take a lot of work to get to, or I had them with me all along and just don't know where they are.

So I don't have much energy for a creative post tonight, and decided instead to give a run-down of a few games I've played, with a few thoughts on them as well.

OD&D: Duh. I started playing this before I ever saw the LBBs. About 1975 or '76, a fried of mine who learned how to play from a math teacher taught me and another friend. He didn't have the LBBs, just mimeographed charts, which I retyped by hand so I could run D&D, too. Turns out there were tweaks to the magic system, because when I bought Holmes later, I wondered what happened to "Piety" and "Magical Conductivity". Since I didn't have the books, the only description of the monsters I had was the table from Monsters & Treasure; I had to fill in details from my own readings in fantasy and mythology. Although I later drifted far from this approach, it's what I've returned to.

AD&D: When I bought Holmes, the Player's Handbook was coming out and I bought that, too. A friend bought the Monster Manual and the LBBs, then I bought the DMG when it finally came out. Like many others at the time, we improvised with the two systems together. We didn't see them as different games. We maybe tried to use the weapon vs. AC chart once or twice, but otherwise ignored it. Still, at the time I liked the huge amount of detail for spells and monsters. I don't really like that approach any more, but had fun with it in the most recent game I played in.

The Fantasy Trip: This was the first skill-based, level-less system I ever saw. I liked the minimal approach to attributes, the all-d6 chassis, and how easy it was to add dice when the difficulty increased, but had misgivings about the pluses and minuses to target numbers.

Rolemaster: A friend ran us through this a couple times. The amount of detail in the many charts was certainly attractive, but the many charts were the game's downside as well. Plus, the 100-level spell charts turned out to be a lie: Rolemaster spells increase in power and complexity on a much finer scale, so that 25th level spell turns out to be the equivalent of a 5th level D&D spell.

GURPS: When I first riffled through a GURPS sourcebook (Horror,) I immediately had a hunch it was a descendant of TFT. I began buying huge numbers of GURPS books and ran some Yrth games for a while and a few other settings, and played in some GURPS Traveller. I like the flexibility of GURPS and the simplicity of the core system, but eventually came to dislike large numbers of modifiers for special situations, as well as the intense detail of the build system. I had a pretty much identical experience and conclusion when I played in HERO (Danger International.)

oWoD: I played briefly in a Vampire game, but never got into it far. I briefly ran Vampire/Werewolf (with a mummy, too,) but that was a GURPS conversion. I think there are problems with the way powers are presented and I tend to dislike large-dicepool games, but as far as character construction goes, it's much more manageable than the GURPS approach. Unless there's some obscure skill or power with a different point-buy... Setting is interesting but overdone, and unlike some people, I think the the layout and internal design is crap.

ORC: These are the Vajra Enterprises games: Tibet, Fates Worse Than Death, In Dark Alleys. (I haven't played Kidworld.) The designer is a friend of mine, runs a great game, and his settings are very interesting; I recommend them. However, they are still "detailed build system" in focus, although it's maybe less overboard than GURPS. For those who like that kind of system, they're great, but I just can't get into them. I just read the setting material, and let my friend run the game.

TOON: This was great fun the one time I ran it, but we were also on shrooms, so perhaps my opinion isn't as relevant here.

Burning Wheel: Played it twice at a con. First time didn't go very well, second one was better. There's a lot of BW that resembles detailed-build games, even if it's a different approach than GURPS/HERO, so I'm not really enamored of the system.

InSpectres: I ran the UnSpeakable variant at a con and it was fantastic. InSpectres/octaNe is what I would run in situations where other people would pick Risus or Wushu. I don't want all my games to be high-improv, collaborative, narrative-focused games, but it's definitely the kind of game I like to break up traditional-style role-playing.

I've played a couple other games -- some homebrews and playtests (mine and others) and even original Traveller, but I don't have much to say about them right now. Maybe another time...

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