Saturday, July 6, 2013

Returning to RPGs after 16 years

I haven't played any tabletop RPGs since high school.  The very last game I played was D&D 2nd edition at my childhood residence. My friend was DM, four or five players, and a dice rolling program I whipped up in QBASIC on an old 386 machine.

Time passed.  I had a career.  My hair fell out.  I got married.  

I began delving into the world of RPGs about two months ago, and have read the rules to at least a dozen gaming systems.  In my childhood, I played with many game systems, including D&D, MERP. LOTR Adventure Game, Rolemaster.  The only ones I ever got to play with others were D&D and MERP (one time).

Thinking back to my childhood, I wanted to get into a simple RPG that was relatively accessible to new players.   It also had to be affordable.  Preferably free.   My goal was to learn a game system and invite my small group of friends over to play.  Maybe it would evolve into a new tradition, coming over every month or two to play. 

I read the rules to many free RPGs such as USR2d6Drawbridge, Zombie D6-Lite, just to name a few.  Most of them quite lovely.   This fellow has written an exciting blog on his use of USR.

I investigated many games in the OSR school of gaming: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Microlite20, just to name a few.  Each of those lovely, just a little too complicated for me and for my group.  I also spent a week of my free time  researching Tunnels and Trolls.  Lastly, I explored newer games with modern mechanics but an old school feel such as Old School Hack and Dungeon World.

The unified task resolution system of Dungeon World, as well as the emphasis on story over mechanics, appealed to me enough to buy a pdf.  I read it.  I read the players guide.  I studied the character sheets.  I read session reports and play-by-forum posts.

Turning to my friends, I invited them all for a game of Dungeon World.  I have presently 8 people coming, and now I am afraid.

Let me back up a bit.  I'll explain my fear.  Three points relate to this:

1) The title of this blog is Minimalist Role Playing Gamer.  I tend toward minimalism in gaming.  That includes board games, video games, and rpgs.  I tend to prefer simple mechanics with any complexity emerging from those mechanics.  My reasons being a) it's easier to get my non-gamer friends to play and b) my wife is more likely to play and c) I tend to minimalism in many things.   RPGGeek has a geeklist of minimalist RPGs.  That's just a few of them.  

2) I try to be nice to people and be accommodating.  Unfortunately that often leads to a person wanting a foot after you've given him an inch.  Big mistake.  On the other hand, Dungeon World encourages the GM to "say yes."  I hoped that if I let the players customize their characters a bit, then they'd be more inclined to play.  I opened up a can of worms with that one.  I will have to practice my "no's".

3) While under the influence of some kind of tropical, fruity rum beverage, I spoke enthusiastically at a wedding reception to folks about the game.  So now I have a large group coming.
In attempting #2, I neglected #1.  To accommodate the desires of the players to play certain kinds of characters, I downloaded some unofficial variant classes for the game and offered one from the list to my friend.  Well the others got to look at the list and asked to play some other characters.  Before I knew it, my simple selection of characters became quite a hodge-podge and I became overwhelmed.  I'm going to have to memorize more characters than I planned, and try to find a way to let each of them shine at least once during the adventure.   

Lesson learned:  Say "no, pick from what's available."  I also learned that there are simpler game systems than Dungeon World, and should have picked something simpler.

As for #3, with eight players, I don't know how I'm going to making this adventure any fun at all.  Have you ever had an 9 way conversation about anything of depth?   I don't think it can happen.   I have no doubt that someone, or a few someones, will play a minor role, or no role at all in the game.  The Dungeon World system allows me to change the camera spotlight to ask specific players "while that's going on, what do you do?"  

Lesson learned: don't make invitations when you're buzzed on rum swizzles.  And without apology, limit the number of players.

I'm going to follow through on this game.  I don't know if I'm going to play it again in the future with a large number of people.

In the meantime, I've ordered copies of Fighting Fantasy and Sorcery!.  When it comes to rules, as far as I can tell, it doesn't get much simpler than Fighting Fantasy.  3 stats, GM improvisation, simple combat.  This is a game that looks easy to get into and to play on-the-fly if looking for something to do. Plus the sample adventures are cute.  

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