King Arthur Pendragon

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Resolution

It's true that as 2012 came to an end I began to really consider GURPS as a viable alternative to my previous gaming choices. It's also true that 2012 was not a good year in terms of gaming, not because I had any lack of player (if anything, I had too many players), but because, for one reason or another, every game fizzled. I won't go back to that subject. You can read all about it here.

I read GURPS 4th edition cover to cover. I enjoyed it but as I began preparing my space opera campaign, I realized I was wasting an ungodly amount of time wrestling with the mechanics. I could just sketch the beginning of a campaign and let the players loose with the rules to create anything they wanted within the premise of the game: a ragtag band of misfits wandering the galaxy, treading the fine line between law and crime. Not unlike Firefly or Traveller. However, I knew that none of my players had read the Player's Guide, so it would take God knows how much time to finish their characters by having them pick and choose from the hideously enormous list of advantages, disadvantages and skills. For the neophyte, it can be a daunting task. I set out to prepare templates of occupations instead, so I could pare down the list of available choices to only those I deemed appropriate to the genre. And the more I did this, the more I felt the need to do something else.

GURPS is a very fine system that does what it sets out to do. It just isn't for me. When I waste more time thinking about the mechanics and how to translate into numbers what my imagination creates, it isn't for me. Almost all roleplaying games have this element of conversion from imagination to mechanics in one way or the other, but I'd rather  spend more time conjuring  people, places and plots than defining what are the appropriate skills for a space academic. I even tried to switch to swords & sorcery with GURPS Conan as it's a genre close to my hear, but I felt that trying to pare down the list of skills to maintain the fast-paced tone of the stories was inglorious. I ended up cutting out almost half the list (do people really need business acumen in S&S?) and the more I cut, the more I wanted to cut. Savage Worlds does it so much better with only half a dozen skills.

Looking back to what I most enjoyed playing in 2012, AD&D 1st was at the top of the list. I only played about half a dozen sessions using the venerable Keep on the Borderlands, but they were immensely enjoyable. I never held the players hand or led them by the nose, they showed lots of creativity in dealing with the NPCs at the fort and the obstacles outside, the thief with 3 hp was having lots of fun just surviving combat, the ranger wanted to kick the bad cleric's ass and take the magic plate mail for himself and overall the level of excitement was high. We ended up cutting it short because of a rules lawyer and a whiner. I had to let these two go and, in retrospect, the whiner was whining because his expectations of what an AD&D 1e game ought to be were different from the group's. By the end of it all, much time had been wasted dealing with internal conflicts leeching most of the fun from the game.

We fumbled the rest of the year but nothing was as fun as those first months when the group adventured in and around the lonely keep on the borderlands. I kept the core group so I decided to make my New Year resolution: to play a campaign of AD&D 1e for as long as it was fun. Will I be able to do it? I am not averse to accepting new players but I have to be more picky. There's a huge disconnect between old school gaming and player's expectations nowadays so I have to be totally open when explaining the gaming style I want for my campaign. I will blog about my experiences as the campaign develops. What's your New Year resolution? Tell me what do you intend to accomplish this year in your hobby?

The True Master

For a few weeks I have been avidly reading stuff about The Tomb of Horrors, that most classic tournament module, reviled by some and praised by others. One thing they all agree on is that the module is a real meat grinder, although some spout that it's an unfair scenario that tricks the players into certain death while others defend it can be "won" by a careful and methodical approach and by ingenuity. I think the picture below summarizes it best. It certainly made me smile.