The Black Campbell got me thinking about the Seven Games thread that has been running on G+ for a while. This was a topic I had been studiously ignoring as it doesn’t seem to easily break down into 7 discrete games for me. I tend to run more than one game at a time, and I tend to run games over long periods which makes it hard to remember what was being played when and in what order, but also makes it hard to remember the little games that filled in the cracks. When I decided to really think about it, what I noticed is that although I buy and experiment with a lot of games, there is a clear preference shown for having a simple, flexible system with a lot of flavors.
The last seven games (not exactly in order) I ran were:
- All for One: Regime Diabolique (Ubiquity, Triple Ace Games)
- Desolation (Ubiquity, Greymalkin Design Studio)
- Call of Cthulhu (Basic Roleplaying, Chaosium)
- Technoir (Technoir, Jeremy Keller, Cellar Games)
- A Time of War (Mechwarrior 4th Ed., Catalyst Game Labs)
- Hollow Earth Expedition (Ubiquity, Exile Game Studio)
- Aces&Eights (Aces&Eights, Kenzer&Company)
As regular readers of my blog know, we have just passed the two-year mark of focusing pretty tightly on learning and using the Ubiquity Roleplaying System in its different iterations. This game revitalized my enjoyment of gaming, and has been a pleasure to learn and use from the beginning. Of the four games it supports, I am still most fond of All for One, but each game and its designers has my deep respect. The level of creativity and risk taken by Greymalkin Design Studio to create Desolation is impressive. Exile Game Studio’s creation and ongoing development of the system, Hollow Earth Expedition, and its licenses should be an example to other companies. Triple Ace Games conscientious and dedicated investment in developing their licenses (All for One and Leagues of Adventure) is frankly beyond compare in the industry as I see it. They are the ones setting the bar for what a games company needs to be in the digital world.
A Time of War
My other big focus over the last two years has been A Time of War. This iteration of Mechwarrior is being run in e-mail and we are on our second campaign. Battletech/Mechwarrior for me is one of those long-term on again off again love affairs, but this system for it is the one where everything has finally clicked. It is fast in use, specific in application, and suits my style of play. It straddles an old-school outlook with the clean and stable mechanics of newer games, and an incredible universe to mess with. My only problem thus far is not getting to play it around a table with my friends and achieve the same sort of intuitive comfort with it that I have been able to get with Ubiquity. Running it in e-mail does not lead to the same sort of retention that repeated use night after night provides – particularly with the level of detail the system allows.
These two game systems, have taken up virtually all of my gaming over the past two years, but the use of these two systems has really entailed running two Hollow Earth Expedition campaigns and planning two others, playing in a Desolation campaign and then running one, and then running a campaign for All for One: Regime Diabolique – all while running back to back campaigns for A Time of War. Is this two games, or is it more?
Call of Cthulhu
During this period I ran a Call of Cthulhu session as is my wont. I gathered a group of experienced and inexperienced players, prepared a lot of handouts, and set them loose. Call of Cthulhu is an easy game to learn and grasp, and is exemplary in allowing the GM to interpret events as best befits the emerging flow of the story. Picking up this game again was as always, like dancing with an old flame – each of you knowing the rhythms of the other, working in tandem without thought. Each time I do this I think, I should start another long-term Call of Cthulhu campaign, but then… is there ever enough time?
I ran Technoir in this period as well as an event for the newly formed Seoul Gamers Meet-up group. This seemed like a very different style of gaming from what I normally prefer, but once in the thick of things I found my voice quite quickly. It was hard for the players to accept taking on Noir aspects to their characters, their actions, and the setting, however so I had to let ideas of running this game go. As I was already trying to get the group ready to tackle pulp with two fists, diverting attention to build up readiness to tackle a genre so specific as Noir was not in the cards with the amount of time available.
Aces&Eights is not exactly the 7th game on this list, as in and around that same time I was also running both a Trinity campaign and a Palladium Fantasy campaign, but of these it was the new one and so I list it here. It would also be the one I would pick up again if I found the time and a set of players for it. Once learned, and characters are built, Aces&Eights plays like a dream. It is fast and detailed both, which is no mean feat. The finely drawn setting is coupled with interesting mechanical choices and innovative takes on task resolution and combat which can be distracting at first for some, and evocative of the genre for others. Opinions are strongly divided on this game, but I think much of that can be traced to it needing a little effort to get into. Character creation is sadly the biggest single hurdle to clear in playing the game, and with that coming first, a lot of casual gamers who might have otherwise loved this game were no doubt dissuaded from trying. Honestly, despite what seems to be a slow process, character creation for the full Aces&Eights game is worth it, and the game is very rich for doing it. This is not a game where you walk in with a character idea and try to force it on the system. This has an old school feel where you roll your dice and take your chances. You play the character you discover. It’s well worth it.
The Big Seven
It is a little hard to define the games I have run most often in my life. As near as I can figure they are Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: The Masquerade, Vampire: the Dark Ages, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, and Mechwarrior. I should make room in there somewhere for BECMI/AD&D as they made up the first 7 years of my gaming, but, it is hard to tell really. I ran World of Darkness games for as long or longer and during that period played more often and more deeply than at any point prior or since. In my point of view, the World of Darkness is really just one big game and I ran it as such – huge, sprawling, complicated webs that crossed generations and regions and realms of reality. The same holds true for the Aeon Continuum and I generally ran the three games in that series as one as well. I would return to the Adventure!/Aberrant/Trinity games again as I have more tales to tell there, but a return to an as-printed WoD setting seems highly unlikely to me at this point. Other than Wraith: The Oblivion, there is no setting that I have not explored to my own satisfaction. While I can envision my own take on these worlds, it would take the right players, and the completion of other projects which interest me more. I am very glad that I found these games when I did, and that I was so lucky as to game with the people I did at this time. The system was not as bad as some would have us believe (look at the bones!), especially in light of what it was designed to do. Its application was often lacking, however, and that can kill the best of games.
So what is ahead? It should be no surprise that I would run any of the Ubiquity games in a heartbeat. This is truly my go to game now. I am also very satisfied with A Time of War and will continue to run it and to look for local players. The big new thing though is that in 2013 I will be exploring RuneQuest and its derivatives. After such a long time running the version of BRP in Call of Cthulhu, it is past time to take a look at the source. I expect to be reviving my old, and very short-lived Stormbringer and Nephilim games, and taking a fresh look at Hawkmoon. All of this should lead to perhaps presenting a sword and sorcery world of my own devising based on types and scopes of fantasy I have always tended to overlook. In a few months, posts on this setting will appear like the Serial Setting posts for Hollow Earth Expedition did. Shortly before that, a new series on the creation of the setting will begin on my YouTube Channel. Much like the last two years was devoted to addressing my weakness as a GM of heroic pulp adventures, the next period will be about looking at heroism and ideology of a very different type in a much harsher world.
I hope you will join me for the ride, and share your insights as we go~
Darken others' doors: