Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In which I quickly retreat back to High Adventure

Well, that didn't last long.

So remember when I was anticpiating a shift towards the more naval-gazing end of the RPG gaming spectrum? How could I not make such an assumption, what with me running two games that both seemed to promise a palpable shift away from chucking dice and slaying beasties and into the territory where considerations of theme and story reigned supreme. As it turns out, things weren't quite dire as all that.

I've already written about my Blue Rose impressions, but I'll just re-iterate here that it's an aptly named game, for it truly is a case of a "D&D by any other name" smelling just as sweet. Plus I've wanted to run a pirate-based campaign for years, so this should be lots of fun.

As for my Castle Falkenstein game, that sadly has been retired after one session by mutual consent. There were a couple issues with it once we got down to the nitty-gritty of actually playing it. First, the setting of this particular campaign combined with the character Des created proved to be a rather intense combination, and we're both sort of in a more light-hearted mode right now. Second, the game really is an ur-indie document, and a lot of its baseline assumptions for how to play a "proper" game didn't really sit with us. Particularly the whole bit about keeping a campaign/character journal. We both essentially write for a living, and we didn't really feel the need or urge to take on more writing as a recreational activity!

Having said that, reading through and preparing the Falkenstein campaign gave me a lot of food for thought vis-a-vis 90s-era game design, and may well form the fodder for a future post. Plus, the bit that I did run told me that I definitely want to do more steampunk gaming in the future. Probably more of a "pure" steampunk game without all the magic and faeries.

Something else I came to terms with after putting the kibosh on Falkenstein is reconciling an old, silly prejudice of mine, that of the attitude that running adventures/campaigns that are entirely one's own creation is somehow better than using published modules. I think I've always had this attitude, but I can't really say where it came from. Probably some residual adolescent snobbery on my part.

But the fact of the matter is that my old Pendragon campaign was one of the most successful--if not the most successful--campaigns I've ever run in large part thanks to the plethora of published adventure material I was able to draw upon. The adventures and monolithic Great Pendragon Campaign gave me a structure to hang my own GMing from. When I was feeling burned out, I could simply trot out an adventure and run it as is; when I more in the zone, I could, to return to an analogy I've made before, riff wildly off the melody line established by the GPC's year-by-year events log. After I ran my one Falkenstein adventure, my brain felt like it was on fire, and I couldn't figure out why. I realized later on that it was due to the fact that it was the first time in a while I'd tried to run something wholly original.

I think this is another reason I always return to D&D and Call of Cthulhu--there's just so much good material out there for both games, it's like standing before the world's biggest gaming Smörgåsbord, fingers poised to pick the choicest bits from the heaping piles of goodness.

Speaking of heaping piles of goodness, in the wake of Falkenstein's demise, Des finally took a seat behind the GMing screen! She's started up a one-on-one Pendragon campaign with me, and I couldn't be happier with how it's going. In contrast to the epic campaign I ran, this one's much more focused at a lower level, which is exactly what I wanted out of it. There's something kind of pleasantly reassuring about aspiring to own a single manor and deciding to put in a mews to support my falconry habit. And as I suspected, Des is proving to be a more than capable GM: she has a background in acting and is very good at keeping things focused and on-task. Plus, and yes, maybe this has to do with the whole "being a girl" thing, she immediately filled the campaign with NPCs and relationships and allies and rivals and other such things as that. Plenty to chew on and have fun with.

As for myself, I'm of course sticking with the Blue Rose campaign for as long as that wants to last. Since two of the three players are either newbies or getting back into gaming after a long absence, there are the inevitable scheduling issues. The last game was about two weeks ago and the next game isn't for another two weeks, but hopefully after that we'll be able to settle into a regular biweekly schedule. But apart from that, I'm sort of taking it easy so I can focus on projects both game and non-game related. Gaming-wise, I want to get back to doing BRP conversion work for my Rifts:2112 setting (not publically shareable, unfortunately) and I'm pretty keen to pick up on my Dragon Warriors-Magnamund conversion. And there's always background reading for campaigns yet-to-come.

Topping that list are Cthulhu-related books. Listening to the Lovecraftian Tales from the Table revived my interest in running some Cthulhu, which is never far below the surface to begin with (hell, Rifts:2112 is essentially a Cthulhu setting). As I mentioned in a previous post, I definitely want to run a CoC campaign before the year is out, probably as a follow-up to Blue Rose (I'm really going to try and limit myself to running one campaign at a time--hey, these are the kinds of problems you want to have, right?). Right now I'm sort of torn between Delta Green, which I've never really run in any kind of extended or satisfactory manner, and Masks of Nyarlathotep. We'll see.

In the meantime, I scratched my itch by running a Cthulhu one-shot with Des last week after the latest Pendragon session (hooray for all-day gamefests!). It was quite fun and satisfactory. I think I'll post a little actual play narrative of it since it was such a neat and tidy little adventure.

And I think that's about all the news that's fit to print, for now...

Woods: But as for me, I'm off to battle aliens on a faraway planet.
Marge: That sounds like a good movie.
Woods: Yes...yes, a...a movie, yes.
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