Friday, October 1, 2010

Opening the Floodgates

When I was growing up, I played a hell of a lot of role playing games. I started on D&D, but also played a ludicrous amount of Star Frontiers and Traveller. As I got older, I played lots of Shadowrun and Vampire. Even after I got married, I played Deadlands and Talislanta and a whole heck of a lot of other games.

But in the last ten years or so, I've kind of given that up. For one thing, I changed. I think RPGs appeal to people who wish they could be someone else. It's natural for a kid to want to be more powerful, but I think after a point, adults realize that they're more satisfied with their real lives, and lose patience with games that require them to pretend to be someone else. I'm pretty happy with who I am now (though I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds, and it wouldn't bother me if my hairline quit receding). So RPGs just don't grab me the way they did when I was so dissatisfied with my life.

Time was a big factor, too. Think of some seriously long board games, like Samurai Swords or Through the Ages, and you can still start and finish them before you could normally finish rolling up characters for a whole group. Even complicated rules will be like 40 pages, where your average RPG sourcebook these days is like 300 pages, and that's before you even start considering support material like sourcebooks and modules. The time you need to play an RPG can be overwhelming, especially if you have a lot happening on the side.

However, role playing games still have a lot going for them. You can exercise your imagination, and sometimes just reading through a rulebook can amaze you with the possibilities that other people have created. The process of group-based storytelling is downright compelling, even if you're well past being impressed by the ability to speak with a fake English accent. And these days, some of the most amazing artists in the world are being employed to create the illustrations and designs that grace nearly every RPG on the market.

Not only that, but my kids have been pestering me to play some RPGs with them. They know I'm good at it, having spent decades honing my gamemastering voodoo, and they want to try being someone else for a while. Like I said, this is a pretty natural tendency in kids. And honestly, any time my teenagers are actually asking me to spend time with them, I'm loathe to pass up the chance.

So I've decided to expand my horizons a little. I've reviewed roleplaying games once or twice at Drake's Flames, and I used to do it pretty regularly for So I think it might be fun to take a look at what people are making now. It's been so long that I don't even know what's out there, but it could be fun rediscovering something that was such a part of my life for so long.

I'm not going to replace the board game reviews - I love those - but I might sub in an RPG review every other week or so. They still take a stupid long time to read and play, so it's not like I could crunch through three a week, but every now and then, I can get my kids to sit around a table and pretend to be robots, or high elves, or barbarian bloodletters.

Here's where I could use some help, though. Since I don't have the foggiest idea what games are out there, I wouldn't mind some suggestions. And if you know someone who would like to get their RPG reviewed, have them drop me a line, and I'll see what I can do.

RPG fans, here's your chance to see your favorite games get a little recognition. It's also a chance to see the dorkiest games ever made get ridiculed mercilessly. You don't want to miss that, do you?


Jur said...

There's the White Wolf series: Vampire and Werewolf being the basics, but lots of other stuff.

Pendragon: ambitious nobles questing and managing their demesne in an Arthurian setting

Call of Ctulhu: well, I guyou can figure that one out yourself

Travveller, the SF RPG

and Paranoia. More slapstick in feel, but scarily realistic.

Kenton Henry said...

Man, can you review Mouseguard? I've been wanting to check it out because it's supposed to be a simplified version of burning wheel and the conflict resolution system (not just combat) sounds interesting.

It's supposed to be good for kids too, but I'd love to hear your trademark style of review for it. Of course, if making your kids pretend to be mice seems too mean, I totally understand.

Steven Davis said...

I don't know how well it plays (like you, I don't have time for RPGs as I've gotten older), but Cthulhutech is a hoot - the premise is awesome - Lovecraft + Mechs.

I'm not affiliated with them.

I'd also give Paranoia a shot. I'd guess you'd be a wicked Paranoia GM.

James said...

I will plump for Warhammer: Invasions. It is an LCG, think of it as a light CCG (it won't burn a hole in your wallet), and it currently resides as the highest LCG at Boardgamegeek. If you visit Fantast Flight Games website their is a wonderfully put-together animated introduction and play guide for the game. It is found here -

TyBannerman said...

Check out some of the so-called "retro-clones". They're small press attempts to capture the flavor of first edition (and pre-1st) D&D. There's a diverse and active community making a lot of cool stuff along these lines. - One of the first, and in my opinion, best of the retro crop. This guy has a really interesting take on Old School fantasy, really emphasizing the "weird tales" aspect of Swords and Sorcery. In particular, his adventure "Death Frost Doom" is an honest-to-god classic of dungeon crawling suspense.

TyBannerman said...

Oh, and a lot of the retro clone stuff, especially the rulesets, are available as free pdfs (Swords and Wizardry, linked above, for instance). You're bound to like that, you cheapskate.

wicsur said...

For something out of the ordinary, try Fiasco.

"From the Designer:

Fiasco is a GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust. It's like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it'd take to watch one."

Although I guess how well this plays (with your family) depends on your childrens age ...

Hanamigi said...

Try Runequest, it's violent and deadly, lots of bleeding and amputations, you'll like it.

Otherwise I'd suggest Polaris, but being it a game of "chivalric tragedy in the utmost north" I guess it isn't your piece of cake.

Enrique said...

My current top 2 are:

Warhammer Fantasy 3rd. Great mash up of RPG and board game. Nice transition game for a boardgamer.

Pathfinder. DnD 3rd edition, but good. Pretty much a fan version of 3rd by Paizo. Their playtesting was great and I loved being part of it.

John H said...

I'd be interested in seeing how you got on with current RPGs aimed at young gamers who are new to RPGs. In particular I'm thinking of the Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin, and the latest D&D 4th Ed Starter Set (the new "red Box").

John French said...

You should absolutely try out Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG. For a start, it's set in the successful Dragon Age computer game by Bioware. It's a mature world, so hookers are integral to it. If you don't think this wins, I'll stop reading you.

Ok, looks like you're playing with your kids... Keep the hookers for youself but do try this game still: it's old school and it's made for beginners. It's a total winner in my book.

Unknown said...

A new Red Box Edition of D&D for Fourth Edition just came out. Includes dice, battle maps and cardboard counters. Plays fast and smooth great introduction to the game. $19 at Walmart.

Matt Drake said...

Man, that's an awesome amount of feedback! Thanks!

I've requested copies of Mouseguard, Fiasco and Dragon Age. If none of those come through, I'll see what else I can drum up.

Anonymous said...

oh man, do Mouseguard and Burning Wheel

Anonymous said...

How about a Vincent Baker game?

Dogs In the VIneyard, In A Wicked Age, Poison'd, or Apocalypse World?