Obsession: RPGs

It's no secret that I obsess about things. That is to say, I get all gung-ho about a topic to the near-exclusion of all else, until I burn out. Then whatever I was working on stagnates... often for many months. This autumn, I burned out on code. It's time for a lull. ...I think I'll start again in earnest in January, but at a sustainable pace. : )

At the moment, I'm burning out on RPGs. Here's a list of some that I've looked (most closely) at, and a brief comment about each of them (minus descriptions--look them up if you don't know them/care):

  • Amber: This is the paragon against which all other RPGs must measure themselves. [satisfied sigh]
  • Ars Magica: I really like the idea of playing multiple characters, but the system didn't interest me at all, peeking at it. Doesn't seem worth it: you could get the effect nicely with any number of other systems. ...Plus Ars Magica is all about spellcasters, which I am not enamored with. I feel a little guilty passing on this one, since it comes so highly-recommended, but... so does HeroQuest, and you won't see me playing that, either: not my cuppa.
  • Battleaxe: Wow, amazing, amazing book. ...But it's a standard hack-and-slash fantasy game, and everyone who cares to play those plays D&D already, so why would this system ever get considered? ...Because it's free? ...How many D&D players do you know who don't already own at least five D&D books? [shrug] Laudible effort... wrong nieche.
  • Blue Planet: Okay, I own it... but wasn't impressed with what I read: waaaaay too equipment-heavy. Still, it's idea-fodder.
  • Burning Wheel: Neat! I bought this one already (actually in a case of mistaken-identity: I intended to buy Nine Worlds), and I'm surprisingly pleased. It's yet another fantasy kind of thing... but it's elegant: a simple system with loads of detail. Also a great value (as I said earlier) at $25 for two nice books. I've browsed them, already, but now I'm giving them a proper read, and finding I rather like it. As I said earlier, though: I doubt I'll ever play it. I'm still happy to own it. Great character-creation system (if a little rigid compared to, say, FATE).
  • D20: [sigh] Do I have to?!? D&D would be great, if it didn't focus so much on feats. Or levels. Or classes. Or half-baked skills. ...So that leaves... ummn... really handsome artwork? Yup. ...I still like the books: superb idea-fodder. Honestly, the books are best-of-breed in that respect.
  • Dogs in the Vineyard: I have it. I've digested it. I like it (a lot). ...but I really need to see it in action before I commit myself to it. It still seems like it could be great, though. I'm not a Western kind of guy at all, so I would play this as more of "Druids in the Vineyard" (a straightforward conversion with deserts to forrests, coats to cloaks (or staves), and guns to magical weapons), but it still seems fascinating.
  • Donjon: kinda neat, for what it acomplishes... but I'm not a big fan of dungeon-crawls, in general. I would play it, if there was interest. ...I wouldn't run it.
  • Everway: Very cool. Light, detailed, and inventive. Too bad it's dead. : )
  • Final Strike: kicks ass, for a lazy sunday night one-shot! Funny sourcebook, easy enough to learn. Interesting mechanic.
  • FATE: I adore this system--I think it's one of the best dice-based games available. I really consider this system "mine". ...meaning, when I think of running a game, this is the second one that pops to mind [cough Amber cough], and when I think about designing a game, this is the first system that I think to emulate.
  • Firefly: Like GURPS, but simpler. It still seems broken to me, and I still think multiple other systems would work better for the setting... notably Dogs in the Vineyard and FATE.
  • FUDGE: I love the mechanic. I dislike the detail. Play FATE, instead.
  • GURPS: I've seen it broken, so I would rather play something else. I've also seen it take five minutes just to calculate all the modifiers for a single roll in combat. How is that fun?!? I'll pass. ...Nice sourcebooks, though. : )
  • Great Ork Gods: A "joke" of a system, perhaps, but it's an awesome joke. ; ) Another "lazy sunday night one-shot" system.
  • Mountain Witch: a whole lot of hootin' and hollerin' over this game, and yet the mechanic is "roll 1d6. The highest roll wins". What ... the .. fuck?!? Why not just play DICELESS?!? (...I will say: I do like the "standoff" mechanic, in concept.) Still wanna play the setting? Play Dogs, but use the Code of the Samurai. Relationship dice match well to Trust, and players make their own Fate as they go. Rock on.
  • My Life With Master: This appears to kick ass, but I don't have it yet. I'll grab it early next year.
  • Nine Worlds: I just ordered it... and it sounds like it kicks even bigger ass. I'm really itching to get my hands on it!
  • Nobilis: Yum. It's not Amber... but close. And the book is just... yum.
  • Paladin: I really, really like this sytem! It allows to open-ended "super" powers, it's very, very simple, and it matches its theme effectively. I love the first half of the system especially... it starts to fade for me a bit after it goes into redemption and the penalties for going Dark. ...it seems to me it should be a constant temptation to go Dark, rather than "I'm out of Light, so I have to". [shrug] I'd have to see it in play for final judgement.
  • Polaris: I'll tell you about it when it comes in, if the spirit moves: I just ordered it yesterday... but it sure sounds spiffy. I made a character for it, once... and I loved that character, but never got to play it. ...So my hopes are (very) high.
  • Pool: Staple. I will definitely play this again, if not "as often as I can get away with it". Absolutely elegant: right to the point. 10-minute chrgen with enjoyable, serious play (as opposed to the Great Ork Gods / Risus / Final Stike kind of one-shot silliness). A gem of a game, for free!
  • Puppetland: I'm actually really itching to play a game of this! Demented and oh-so-cool. It's rules-light, and a friend has a copy, so I'll just borrow it and digest, rather than buying (though it's quite cheap).
  • Risus: Spiral of death makes this not-worthwhile, though I love the "heft" (or lack thereof) of the game. Still, I'd rather play The Pool.
  • Savage Worlds: I'm sure this would be fun, if I were a Gamist hack-and-slasher. I'm not.
  • Snowball: I actually helped playtest this one, back in the day, and really enjoyed it! ...but now that time has passed, I am less enamored with it. It's upfront about being a gimmick... it's the kind of thing you'd play once or twice, just to say you did. And I did. In fact, my chr, a crow, was perhaps the coolest chr I've ever made. Ever. But still, it's just a variation on The Pool... so... I'll just play Pool. : D
  • Sorcerer: I dunno. I didn't like it. Perhaps it's the focus on magic, again. Maybe the game seemed too gritty and negative. But it just didn't float my conceptual boat. I could get in trouble for saying as much, as it's Ron's game, and Ron is The Man. (Really: he's a genious and I love his game reviews: they always seem to resonate with what I like in a game...)
  • Soap: Lots of hype about being a cool, intriguing system. ...but I simply cannot bring myself to play a game based on Soap Operas. Sorry.
  • Trollbabe: Neat idea. ...but not neat enough to make me buy it. The idea can be captured with another system. (Paladin comes to mind.)
  • Universalis: Greatest world-building system ever... and I will always use it as such, period. (I honestly wouldn't consider running a game without using this first to develop the setting) ...now, for actual game-play, on the other hand... no. It's really less of an RPG and more of a "book-writing by consensus". ...Which is neat. ...or, it would be, if I were a writer. : D But the system is still a staple, and every gamer should own a copy.
  • Unknown Armies: Seems superflous to me with Nine Worlds around.
  • Urge: based on Sorcerer, and (IMO) quite a bit cooler... but again, it's perhaps just a bit too negative for me.
Believe it or not, I've actually looked at a whole lot more than this list, but discounted them out of hand for various reasons: a setting I don't like, too complex, or known-to-be-broken. My list is long enough that any reason to cull a system is valid!

...Which leads to the next point, which is: what are my choices? What systems will I lean toward, in the future? An enumerated list, in order of preference:
  1. Amber. (Duh.)
  2. FATE.
  3. Universalis. ...kinda. (Again: only for defining the setting.)
  4. The Pool.
But there are a number of contenders I have yet to test-drive:
  • Dogs In the Vineyard.
  • Paladin.
  • Puppetland / Final Strike / Great Ork Gods (ie: silly, light, one-shot fun)
  • My Life With Master Update: read a thorough review--decided it was too light a system.
  • Nobilis
  • Polaris (Update: bought it, read it, too weird.)
  • Nine Worlds (Update: bought it, read it, too greek!)
I hope to have all of the systems by the end of January... and to play each of them over the next year or so.

...And that's not to say I won't play anything else: I will. ...I'd just rather not. : D

Role-playing is one of the best hobbies available! It's social, it's cheap, and it really gets your imagination pumping. It's also (usually) filled with humor. There are penalties to pay for doing it (meaning it's widely considered lame by normals and it's damn frustrating when you can't play for weeks on end)... but on the whole, I'm quite happy to be a Gamer.

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