Play-testing of yet another “fantasy heartbreaker” began on Thursday night. Only had one player show up (thanks, Will!). Materials consisted of two pages of printed notes, a modified Keep on the Borderlands, two copies of Holmes Basic (for equipment lists), a couple D6s, a D20, and a case full of poker chips (because I didn’t have a chance to actually pick up dried beans from the supermarket, which would have been my first choice...have to remember to that this week).
Definitely a different game.
I spent a lot of this last week reading up on a couple recently published games: 13th Age and Dungeon World. There’s a good couple posts over at The Walking Mind discussing how these games (along with Cook’s Numenera) could act as easy transitional games for folks looking to move from D&D to “something else.” I, of course, have no interest in creating my own “transitional game” but what I’ve read I found interesting enough to at least take a look at these games…maybe I'll pick 'em up sometime this afternoon, if I get a couple more sales of 5AK to justify the purchase.
[ha…who am I kidding? If I can find any free time today, I'll probably be sitting in front of the TV or taking a nap]
Why am I not interested in creating a “transitional game?” Because I’m not really interested in transitioning gamers from one game (or one style or system) to anything else. I’ve made peace with Pathfinder, as I wrote a month or two back. People who love that game can and should continue their enjoyment. MY goal (as much as I have one…the concept is still pretty amorphous in my mind at the moment) is to bring non-gamers into gaming, table-top gaming, in the easiest and most accessible way possible while still:
- Playing up the strengths of the table-top game over computer games, and
- Firing the imagination of the participants (can’t be too abstract).
I like the system I’ve created. Despite the misgiving of some of my readers, there didn’t seem to be any issues with the game as a “class-less/skill-less” system.
Will, at least, didn’t have any issue with it…and we discussed (prior to play) how much he dislikes the “blank page of indie games.” Do you know what I mean? Where people are told during chargen: “pick five things your good at” or “assign 10 points between three descriptive phrases (that you make up yourself.” Some people dig the hippy-dippy, loosey-goosey-ness of games like FUDGE and RISUS…others (like Will) prefer a game with a bit more structure to ‘em. Me, too, for that matter…it keeps the game tight and focused, which is a lot easier for a lazy DM like myself.
[there are, of course, plenty of indie games that DON’T confront a player with a blank page, and you’ll find plenty of "structured" games…even “old school” ones…that have blank spots. Villains & Vigilantes have several powers of the “make this up yourself” variety, if I remember correctly]
Having said that, the magic system in the new project is a lot more freeform than what you’d find in any edition of D&D…or its retro-clones, or its pseudo-clones (the latter term being the one I’d apply to Five Ancient Kingdoms). And, of course, Will chose to play a magician of the “black magic” school. Duh…who wouldn’t?
Things ended up with quite the Clark Ashton Smith feel to it. “Nazaloth” showed off his sword skill by killing a pair of bugbears in Ye Old Caves of Chaos and then – after getting as much info as possible out of the corpses using some minor necromancy – decided it'd be a good idea to raise the corpses as large, hairy muscle. Unfortunately, that particular spell went awry and the ghuls, while raised, were much more interested in tearing apart their slayer than in following any orders. This resulted in a chase back to the entrance (where a group of recently freed slaves huddled awaiting their liberator) and tragic hilarity ensued. Nazaloth eventually got the dead under control and directed their rage on some latecomer bugbears, while he led the surviving refugees down the side of the cliff, using a makeshift rope crafted from the guardsmen’s bedding.
The main system question Will had was regarding the development system...mainly, where was the "carrot" of advancement to drive the characters forward? It wasn't enough to start out as a competent character, there was an interest in becoming "something more,"or developing and changing over time. I have some ideas for this (it's tied to the "bean counting"...natch) but I have to tighten 'em up.
But really, I don't have time for writing about this at the moment. I just wanted to get a quick note our (I've been meaning to do so for the last three days but, you know...busy).