Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Season of Endings

Des and I played our final Solo GPC session last night. After nearly four years, our Pendragon campaign has ended. (And now I can get back to work on writing up session narratives. Just 25 game years to catch up on...)

If everything plays out as anticipated, my Sunday group's Deadlands campaign will be wrapping up in two sessions' time. Session 23 should be the finale. We'll then see a pause before the next big thing - "Horror on the Orient Express" for Call of Cthulhu - jumps off early next year. (I'm waiting on the Kickstarted new edition to drop, then want to take time to prep, as well as wait out the hectic and cancellation-prone holiday season.) We'll likely fill the gap until then with one-shots and short-arc campaigns.

The Deadlands campaign has been running since March. I hadn't anticipated it taking this long, but here we are. Time long ago, running a consistent campaign for six months was but a pipe dream. Never mind running an on-again, off-again campaign over nearly four years. I'm happy to be at a place where such campaign epics are the norm.

Because we're nearly at the big final boss fight in our Deadlands campaign, we took a break this week due to an anticipated player absence - we want to make sure we've got everyone along for the final push. I took the opportunity to run the group through a session of Dungeon World. I've been quite taken with the "Apocalypse World Engine" that powers DW; I think it has serious potential to fill that third, "narrative" spot in my trifecta of go-to systems. (I still want to take FATE for a spin so I can compare and contrast the two.) So there's a seed of new beginnings there.

Still, I can't help but feel a bit...deflated, what with these two huge campaigns wrapping up so closely together. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to a winter of noodling around. A nice breather before the next big venture.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

[System Wank] What Is Best In Life?

I've been doing some "self-blogging" lately, which is to say, keeping a log of my unformed thoughts that are just way too esoteric even for the normally solipsistic standards of this blog. (I believe they used to call this "keeping a diary.")

At any rate, an interesting question burbled out of these scribblings: when it comes to converting a systemless fantasy world to a system of choice, which is better - to have a conversion I'm 100% satisfied with but have it be for a system I almost never run, or have an "okay" conversion that will actually get played?


This question arose as I was cogitating my current favorite fantasy game world, Uresia: Grave of Heaven, which is currently available in a systemless edition. Since 2008, coinciding with the start of this blog, actually, I've taken Uresia for a conversionary spin with several systems now: Rules Cyclopedia, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Barebones Fantasy, B/X D&D, FATE, and, most recently, Dungeon World.

(Yes, I've jumped on the DW bandwagon. More on that anon.)

Some of these have been mere noodling stabs at drafting a conversion document, others have actually made it to a handful of sessions. None of the attempts have so far found quite the right sweet spot that I'm looking for.

Now, the setting's author, S. John Ross, would probably be the first to say, "You're way overthinking this, dude." And he's quite right. But there's so much awesome crap packed into this setting, I really want to be able to hit everything in a manner that I find completely satisfying. SJR uses his own system, Risus, to run Uresia, but I find it to be just a bit too rules-lite for my taste. Each one of those systems cited above covered some elements of the setting well, but left others in a sort of hazy limbo.

Ultimately, I'm looking for something that's crunchy enough to mechanically cover the most flavorful aspects of the setting, but also flexible and toolboxy. It also helps if it's a system I'm familiar with; some of the systems cited above could probably do the trick, but I'm not proficient enough with them to make something happen. The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that the system that fills all these criteria for me is GURPS, specifically GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. The across-the-board toolkit approach of the system would allow me to tailor races, magic, equipment, and, well, everything to perfectly match the qualitative descriptions offered in Uresia's systemless Second Edtion.

Problem is, I've weighed GURPS in the balance and found it wanting. It's not like I dislike the system, it's just that I don't anticipate a time in which I'll be running it. It's not just personal preference, either. The vast majority of the people I play with simply aren't interested in crunchier sorts of games such as GURPS, even in its more streamlined Dungeon Fantasy incarnation.

And so we come back to the question at the top of the post: which is better? Do I want a nice, crisp, clean conversion that covers all the bases the way I want them covered, but that sits on the shelf for who knows how long, unplayed? Or do I accept a conversion that leaves out or glosses over some really cool aspects of the setting in the name of actually being able to play in said setting?

What to do, what to do?

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