Thursday, December 19, 2013

(12 Days) #6 Gaming More With Less

Another post suggested from the NaBloPoMo people.

Paraphrased in gaming speak, "Are you gaming more with less?"

Back in the day in the late 80's, gaming with more was more.  Crunchy always trumped anything else.  D&D begot Palladium system, which begot GURPS.  If I had started gaming a year earlier, I would have turned to all the FGU tomes of convoluted charts before graduating high school. 

There was an idea that if a game had more specific rules, it was more realistic than the vanilla D&D.   Why then oh why did we pour over sci-fi tomes?  If the Tech Level for a 40d6 Dino Laser was the same TL that produce armor that was impenetrable to it, why bother?

Soon, real life settled in and I had less time to study books and charts.  Work, Girls, School, and Magic the Gathering cut into my role-playing time.  Less began more with TWERPS

I was introduced to The World's Easiest Role-Playing System, by Eric T Smith while we slacked off at community college.  After trudging through Gaming Club meeting after meeting, compiling massive character sheets for games we only played once, Eric broke out TWERPS, gave us all characters with one stat (Strength) and one item and we went to town.  Actually we left town, desperately running to the airport to escape a zombie apocalypse, 20 years before it was cool, man!

TWERPS was our default, if not go-to game, and we made a few order to Gamescience for their other products, with mixed results.

A year or so later, at the height of the "Complete" line of books for 2nd Edition AD&D, I committed heresy:  I banned all of them from the table. I did eventually permit one lone sub-race from the Complete Book of Elves, but I figured the social penalties from playing a "hated" elf far outweighed the statistical benefits (and I was right). 

The great thing about a homebrewed campaign is that, outside of a need for continuity, I could never feel forced to succumb to "canon."  Things were left bare until they were needed, and I was pretty good at making stuff up on the fly which didn't throw things off-kilter elsewhere.

Also around this time was the great Goth Revolution of Vampire, and the emphasis on storytelling, angst, pathos, and bunch of fancy terms that were discarded the moment everybody at the table wanted a royal rumble.  The Vampire dice pools never really reduced the amount of dice chucked at the table, but the grand idea of the story above the statistical accumulation seeped into D&D and most other genre of RPG.
Rule 0 "It's your game, make the rules work for you" was altered to Rule 0A "It's your game, make the rules work for your story."

I've never been one for story as the grand goal.  Fun around the table trumps story.  You can get a better story from a boardgame than a number of "hipster chic" campaign stories I've been privy to from behind the counter of the game stores I worked at.  That's why I scrapped six months of work on a Masterbook Fantasy game back in 2001 when Hackmaster first came out.  It's not less, but it had the base level of familiarity to it, and the parody elements allowed the learning curve to be a fun one, whereas every time I look at Masterbook, I felt like each cool new dynamic the game added was going to forced onto the players. 

Nowadays, I'm quite happy with a rulebook, adventure, and dice, no matter how it appears I run my CoC campaign.  I'm running Masks of Nyarlahotep more as a challenge to the group than anything else.  If they take the next step and become globe-trotting investigators of Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know, great!  If they pull back and continue to work around New York, or venture into Arkham Country, I'd have no problem with that either.

I'm actually Jonesing for a Risus game right now.  We've missed yet another Labor Day picnic game, and I wasn't going to force an RPG at a festive occasion like SATLOF when I had previously done it at Hoyce's bachelor party.  I've spent many a dog walk working on the basic premise of the game, as well as finding ways to blow it all up and still have fun (and a semblance of control) at the same time.  One day the Coffee Nazis shall make another appearance, and the ensuing chaos will make the players dream of days when caffeinated fascists from Seattle were their only worry.

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