Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Irons in the Fire; or, When the Heck Am I Going to Find the Time to Play All These Games?

My gaming Renaissance continues. And it's getting to the point where I've got a short list accumulating of campaigns I want to run. This is the problem with being mostly the GM--it does tend to limit how many games one can, at any given time, be participating in. Ah well. In an effort to help straighten things out, I'm going to list what I've got in the fire, as it were, and perhaps in the future come back and cross off each item as I (hopefully) get around to running it. (Ha!)
  • First up is, of course, the vaunted Pendragon campaign. This venerable old bear ("Old big bear! He likes the honey!") of a campaign is actually due to wrap up fairly soon, probably in the next month or two. Exciting and a little scary at the same time, especially for Des, who has come to view the campaign with the same level of commitment and excitement usually reserved for long-running television series. Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end, making way for...
  • One or two GURPS campaigns. We (Des and I) have a couple in the works. First up will be a grittily realistic game with Des playing herself as a 10-year-old. Can't go into too much more detail at the moment, but rest assured, things are going to go nuts once the campaign gets under way. I'm rather looking forward to it.
  • After that is a GURPS Castle Falkenstein campaign (for which Des has already made a character) that will be as over-the-top cinematic as the first GURPS game was realistic.
My hope with these two campaigns (each of which I would like to see last several months, if not upwards of a year) is to fully explore the GURPS system and in so doing establish a familiarity with it that allows GURPS to become the "go-to" choice for future campaigns. Having said that, all my other irons are specifically for systems other than GURPS. C'est la vie, what? Ironically, a couple of them still retain some sort of link to GURPS, so there's that, I guess.

So much for the three "primary" campaigns. In a bit of unintentional symmetry, I've got three let's call them "secondary" campaigns I'd dearly love to run (or play in, I suppose, although I'm not sure how exactly that might work). These may very well see the light of day simultaneous to my one-on-one campaigns with Des, as they're shorter in scope and could perhaps be run on an occasional, ad-hoc basis.
  • Let's see...first, there's Mythic Russia. I first learned of this game about a year ago, but was repeatedly stymied in my attempts to find a cheap copy. I finally resolved to pay out the nose to get it shipped from the UK publisher--and it was worth it, I have to say. I have a long-standing love of Russian fantasy and culture. GURPS Russia. The films of Ptushko. The art of Ivan Bilibin. So imagine my joy to discover an RPG not only dedicated to such, but using the Heroquest system, the product of two of my favorite game designers, Greg Stafford and Robin D. Laws!

    Well, the book so far is meeting and exceeding expectations, and I can't wait to get my teeth sunk in. I especially like the fact that rules for peripheral cultures, such as Teutonic Knights, Mongols, and Sibyriaks, are included. I'm already thinking of an idea of a Sami noble forced to leave the tribe and venture south, sort of in the vein of Princess Mononoke. There's also a sample adventure complete with pre-generated characters that looks like guaranteed fun--only problem is that it works best with 3-5 players, and I'd be hard-pressed to gather more than two players at the mo'.
  • Ever since downloading the GURPS setting Tales of the Solar Patrol a couple months ago, I've been itching to do a retro-sci fi game (thus my purchase of the Dan Dare and Flash Gordon books--inspiration, you know). But I wasn't totally sold on GURPS as the system, for some reason. I think it's because I prefer GURPS for hard sf, like Transhuman Space or cyberpunky outings. For space opera, I craved something else. Then I read Dr. Rotwang!'s review of StarSIEGE-Event Horizon, and I knew I'd found my system. Light on rules, a "toolkit" approach (perfect for adapting existing settings), and it comes in a boxed set with extra copies of the player's manual? Yes please! An added bonus is that it's based off the SIEGE Engine (haw) first featured in Castles & Crusades, so it should work with my goal of doing a sci-fi/fantasy crossover using the Rifts Phase World setting (see how I snuck another potential campaign in there? So much for symmetry). I've been looking for the "right" set of space opera sci-fi rules for years, hopefully this will pan out.
  • This last one requires an explanation more arcane than it needs to be, but I'll try my best to keep it succinct. Back in the day, when I was first getting into gaming, I caught Robin Hood fever. How could I not, what with the Kevin Costner vehicle in theaters and the Patrick Bergen/Uma Thurman version airing of FOX? And some cagey sales rep at my local B. Dalton's Books seemed to sense this, as he or she ordered a copy of I.C.E.'s Robin Hood: Giant Outlaw Campaign, a fine little setting sourcebook that came with two (count 'em!) different outlaw campaigns ("giant" indeed).

    Now, being young and naive, and having recently purchased--you guessed it--the GURPS Basic Set, and taking the blurb on the back about being able to use the system to run any RPG adventure supplement (not realizing that you had to, you know, actually have a grasp of both the GURPS system and the system you were converting from), I snagged the Giant Outlaw Campaign, my head filled with dreams sending a group of Merry Men off into the dark depths of Sherwood.

    Well, much like Daffy Duck repeatedly getting his bill bashed in by a rebounding buck-and-a-quarterstaff, my efforts to make use of my newly-purchased Giant Outlaw Campaign proved both elusive and frustrating. The dry text and "wargamey" layout (in which each subject was divided up by decimal numbers [Section 2.0, sub-section 2.0.1, etc.]) were also a big turnoff to my 13-year-old brain. The fact I lacked any semblance of anyone to game with at the time also didn't help. And when I did get a group together a year or so later, they proved singularly uninterested in the setting, Robin Hood fever having long since passed. But I held on to the damn thing, if only out of nostalgia.

    But now, I think, its time has come. After I picked up Burning Wheel this year, it immediately became my "go to" game for a certain brand of grittily-realistic medieval gaming (not to mention medieval Japanese campaigns, thanks to the "Blossoms Are Falling" sourcebook--GAAH! Another campaign snuck in!). And the Robin Hood sourcebook is a perfect fit. Very little conversion will even be necessary, and lo these many years later I'm actually familiar enough with both the Rolemaster and HERO system mechanics presented therein, so what work there is to do will be a relative snap.
So yeah, we'll see what I actually manage to get around to, and when.

In the meantime, I've got the Pendragon campaign, the PbP 2e/Planescape game, and the occasional nostalgic game of Rifts with Alex to keep me busy. Ooh, and Halloween is approaching, which means it will soon be time for our annual "Call-of-Cthulhu-athon"! These are the kind of problems you want to have, eh?
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