Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Swag - RPGs I'll Never Play

I normally ask for RPGs that I intend on playing at some point.  I think I've just given up and, this time around, asked for games that I want, but would never buy since I don't think I'll ever get around to playing them.

This year, I received Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, and Mongoose's Traveller: Core Rule Book.

Over the years, I think I've probably played five percent of the RPGs I've own.  That's a wild guess, but it seems about right.  It used to be finding players was the biggest issue.  Now the issue is time.  Life is funny.

Traveller was one of those games I that I was super excited about when I discovered it in 1981 - soon after my discoverer of Dungeons and Dragons.  I ran a few adventures, but the players were far more interested in fantasy, and I think my ability to pull of sci-fi wasn't as great at the time.  My attempts later with Star Frontiers were a much bigger hit.

That didn't stop me from continuing to buy Traveller, Traveller: 2300, MegaTraveller, and Traveller: New Era products.  I'd sit around and make characters, design starships, and populate stellar subsectors.  All my copies disappeared in various moves and book cullings over the years.  Then I found Stars Without Number, which has been filling my sci-fi RPG void very well.

Except . . . SWN is extremely abstract about a lot of things, including world creation and starship building - two of my favorite parts of Traveller.  During play, the abstract system is wonderful for creating scenarios and having a great ship battle in a short amount of time.  But when I'm sitting around, thinking about potential scenario or trying to get a fix on what a shuttle actually looks like and how combat would flow inside, I reach for the detail of Traveller - which just isn't there.

Of course, I make it up as I go along and everything is okay.  But sometime I just want some structure - and Traveller was all about structure.  I picked up a battered copy of the MegaTraveller Referee's Guide to try to stitch ship building in - but it just wasn't flowing well.  This Mongoose edition of the game, while similar, appears to be a much better match.

Reading through the Traveller book has been great fun.  It's very much like Classic, with adjustments that I really like.  I've sat down and made some characters even.  It's great for that.  Actually, I think this version is the best organized I've seen to date.  It makes me even want to run the game.  The big issue for me - the kicker - is lack of advancement.  While I don't really care - DMing advancing or static characters doesn't seem to be a problem - I think the players would mind.  They are so . . . accustomed . . . to gaining levels an/or skills that static characters would probably freak them the hell out and bore them - or frustrate them - to tears.

But part of me says that they maybe NEED that.  Traveller is supposed to take away a big part of meta-gaming by focusing the players on what their character are doing NOW, as opposed to how they should shuffle points or prepare for the next level and worry about that upcoming HP roll.  It gives them a character - one they didn't exactly expect - and says PLAY THIS NOW!

I'd like to see that in action one day in a longer campaign.  How would it change the player's attitudes?  Oh well.  I don't see it happening.  But I will be stealing the ship stuff and grafting it into my SWN game - assuming that I have the LEET SKILLS to do so.

Okay, I've probably talked enough about Traveller.  Now, on to Doctor Who!

I was surprised as hell when I got Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space.  It's a box.  It's a heavy box.  Heavy.  It's crammed packed with shit.  Pretty shit.

There is a quick start guide, a player's book, referee's book, adventure book, and all sorts of extra thick card-stock character sheets, punch-out equipment cards, and little XP token things.  Oh, and there are these awesome Doctor Who dice.  Everything is nice and colorful and very pretty.

Okay, I thought, nice try, guys.  You spat out a pretty looking game designed by the BBC marketing department to increase the reach of the Doctor Who 'brand.'

Then I began to dig into the books, and was surprised there there looks to be an actual game here - a game designed by people who might know what they are doing.

In the beginning of the players book, it tells a story about Rory - one of the characters (well, WAS one,) of the TV show.  The little story involves huge and strange shaped objects going missing all over the universe, and the TARDIS crew trying to track them down.  The shapes were odd - tetrahedrons, octahedrons, dodecahedrons, icosahedrons, an the like.  Turns out a race of giants was stealing these huge objects to play a role playing game.

Okay, yeah, it was stupid.  Doctor Who is often stupid.  But it's stupid for a reason, and if you just lay back and relax and go with it, the stupid turns into cool.  And that was cool.  Like bow-ties and fezzes.  And that little story was a nod back in time to the beginning, to Dungeons & Dragons.  The game doesn't even use all those dice.  It just uses the d6.  But they chose to mention the dice anyway.  And that tells me that the designers are MY KIND OF PEOPLE.

I have a lot more to read, but the base game appears very cool.  You can make whichever character you like - a rival Timelord or a street sweeper or Goldie Hawn circa 1968.  The mechanics are basically a 2d6 point by system, like Traveller made love to Champions-lite or something.  It's simple, with various levels of success or failure.  Nothing innovative here - just comfortable.

Actually, the box, the books, the feel . . . it's all comfortable.  Opening it gave me a similar feel to that of opening the old D&D box way back in 1981 - except full color and glossy.  Interesting.  I think they did that on purpose.  AND, this thing is currently cheaper that the Traveller book on Amazon.  Go figure.

Regretfully, I doubt I'll ever find enough people interested in playing it in person.  Even The Boy is all MEH about Doctor Who these days.  He never got over the change from #10 to #11.

So I'm really happy with my Christmas presents.  Maybe I should just make some characters, pull out the Mythic Game Master Emulator, and play these in the wee hours of the night.

- Ark


  1. I think my "percentage of owned rpgs played" might hover depressingly around your number...and yet I still buy...

    1. DungeonMastahWieg - Well, you know, curling up with a well written RPG can often times be better than slogging through the latest modern pulp rewrite of a LOTR clone - yanno? So playing the thing can be secondary to just shear entertainment value. :)

      - Ark

  2. The beauty of Doctor Who is that you really don't need a lot of players. In fact, I'd say that the game runs most comfortably (to use your word) with 3 or fewer players (much like the show).

    As for The Boy (I call my son the same thing) try to get him into some classic who. Show him the vast history of the show. Or, get him the (shameless plug) Time Traveller's Companion supplement which covers all of that in a neat 240 page package and gives more options for Time Lords and their stuff.

    Either way, I'm glad you like the set. It was a metric butt-tonne of work and I'm always happy to hear that folks are pleased with it...


    1. Jabberwock - Well, looks like A Traveller game is happening soon, so a Doctor Who game is seeming more realistic now. I guess all I have to do is complain on the blog about something at it happens. :)

      And if you are who I think you are - hey! Funny how many designers end up commenting about my blog rants. :) And if you are who I think you are and you live where I think you live - wow - aren't you on the wrong side of the pond? I figured that DW would have been a UK only shop. Maybe I am underestimating globalization though.

      And yeah, I'll check out the Companion. :)

      - Ark