Day Three’s topic is ‘Favourite new game of the last 12 months’. I’ve been really bad at keeping up with the new developments in RPGs over the last year. I haven’t even acquired that many new games, so this one is a bit tough. With a huge pinch of salt as I haven’t even finished reading the book, let alone actually played the game, I would say the Firefly RPG by Margaret Weiss productions. It’s a really good iteration of a lot of the ideas put forward in the Cortex Action system, but in a more adaptable and generic way than the Leverage RPG (which was previously the flagship for Cortex Action). From reading it, it’s a very solid way of representing the kind of game that Firefly might inspire. I look forward to playing it when someone I know runs it!
That’s sort of the problem, isn’t it? It’s always the problem. A game only lives when you play it. Just like reading a play script without performing it or seeing a performance, you’re only ever going to have half of the text. The tension in roleplaying, as in acting, music or any other form of live entertainment, is between the static page and live play.
I have played a very small percentage of the RPGs I own (under ‘played’ I’m counting running or GMing as well). Some of this is because I like to pick up RPGs that contribute something to the wider gaming conversation as well as the more popular ones, but some of it is the simple, and sad, fact that I will never have the time, the energy or the groups to play or run every single game I want to.
I’ve actually played quite a good range of games over the ten years I’ve been gaming – not just D&D, World of Darkness, FATE and Uni System, but also Rifts, Cyberpunk 2020, Everway, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Dread, Scion, Monsterhearts, Icons and Don’t Rest Your Head. There are so, so many more I want to play. However, a lot of the games from my second list are in my collection for the sake of one specific thing they do really, really well rather than as generic systems. Some of them are even famous for things they do badly (Rifts). That means, inevitably, that they’ll get played and run less, while more generic and balanced systems like D&D 4th/5th Ed or FATE will be played more.
Add to that the tendency of the gaming community to like long campaigns and consistent groups (both of which are fantastic) and the majority of gamers probably won’t ever be able to run or play everything they want to. I think as well, I’m suffering from the fact that I don’t go to cons (and don’t like gaming with people I don’t know) – it sounds like cons are a great place to rock up, get involved in a game and leave at the end of it, but that requires you to be willing to brave a con that is for more than just people who want to sit around a table for hours rolling dice, which can often be a challenge.
The UEA Games Society has a time-honoured tradition of getting locked in Congregation Hall for 24 hours to play whatever people decide to run. It’s a great way of learning about games you’ve never played before – the problem is that games take a long time. 24 hours sounds like a long time, but when you factor in eating and socialising, board games and an election for the society committee, and the puny human need for sleep that many people feel, it’s a challenge to feel like you’ve done enough. There will always be times when things that you wanted to get involved in clash with each other – and times when everyone is well into their games and there isn’t anything new starting.
So, a solution? Yeah, sorry, I don’t have one. I wish I could say ‘Everyone should play things that have weird mechanics and aren’t any of the mainstream games’, but that’s dumb. People should play whatever they want, and a lot of those mainstream games are much better balanced and playtested. It’s silly to say that we should reject games written by people at the top of their profession just because everyone else is playing them too. More events like cons, 24 hour roleplays and evenings designed to showcase a particular system are good – our local games shops have already started doing that with great success (and that’s how I know Edge of Empire is AMAZING). But that requires GMs, and more importantly, GMs who are willing to take anyone into their game who shows up. On top of that (learned from bitter experience), pitching a game that anyone can show up to is a fine balancing act, as you can have too many players or not enough. Offering to run a game and then no-one showing up is pretty upsetting. Ideally, I would like some kind of publication (or website, though websites tend to get overwhelmed with more general RPG news) that highlights particular systems that may have been overlooked. But hey, if wishes were owlbears, right?
I suppose my way of trying to improve this is to make an attempt to read more of the games I own, and to maybe even start writing little scenarios or statting sample parties. I find it really hard to passively read things (literature student ahoy), so these methods actually help me interact with the games in a more active way, and as a nice side-effect, it means I’m prepped if I ever get the chance to run something without resorting to a system I’ve played lots. It’ll never be perfect, but even if I can feel like I’m engaging with my hobby a little bit more, it’ll be worth it.