Musing about Upcoming Campaign (and System)

Its looking like I will be facilitating a face to face regular RPG game. And now I’m looking at the systems that I’m planning to suggest to the group:

Of particular note, Dungeon World is not on the offering. One of my players has requested a bit more “crunch” than Dungeon World. And as I pressed him for more information, it sounded as though he had worn through the playbooks. He has just started a D&D 5E game and enjoys the diverse characters within a given class.

Whitehack 2nd Edition is on the list because the rules are a streamlined revisitation of D&D 0E with some more modern sensibilities. I believe there is enough “crunch” to this game even though the rulebook is quite compact. At present this is one I want to see in play.

D&D 5E is on the list because at its heart, my game table has been a Dungeons & Dragons table. I’ve run 2E, 3E, and played 4E. And 5E is an amazing re-engineering of previous editions with attention to some modern developments (bonds and aspects).

Wrath of the Autarch, a dark horse but one with a lot of appeal. First its heavily inspired by Birthright, so that’s a huge plus for me.

Scarlet Heroes is on the list in part because I love the Red Tide campaign tooling. I would love to have a system that requires little in the way of translation for that tooling. Since I’ve been considering a Sandbox campaign, I would like to use Sine Nomine products – the gold standard of sandbox adventuring.

I decided to add DCC RPG to the mix based on a conversation about character funnels. DCC recommends that players start with a few 0th level characters, fragile and weak, then send them through a funnel and see who survives.

When I bring the games to the table I’ll ask the players what they are after:

  • Do you want a “story arc game” in which encounters are always feasible for the characters to overcome? This will result in a more “railroaded” story being told.
  • Would you rather have a “sand box game” in which characters choose where to go, and reconnaissance is greatly rewarded as encounters are not tailored for character level? This should result in more emergent stories.
  • What style of Fantasy are we looking for? I had talked a bit about Eberron’s pulp-noir feel, but I have a campaign map brewed up as well.
  • How do you feel about starting with a character funnel? Make 3 or 4 characters and lets play some disposable characters to see what “sticks”

I played in a D&D 2E Birthright in which the GM started everyone as 0-level characters and we played a few sessions. The GM took notes and when we hit level 1, he handed us a standard class with a few tweaks to show our character’s nuances. It was an interesting experience in which the players had to rely on player skill to overcome challenges.

One thing is clear, I will bring to bear numerous resources from the OSR that I’ve been accumulating. More on that later.

Fate Point Economy: All the Glories of Accounting and Fiduciary Obligations

It is no secret, I dislike Fate. In the hands of an awesome GM, it is a great game. But that is true for any game. However Fate has always come off as a system that assures a particular outcome; Narrative consensus.

In the Fate games that I’ve played there comes a point when someone invokes the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!” and proceeds to burn through many free invokes and a few fate points. And they “win” the conflict.

The narrative beats may feel like the “good guys” are on the ropes, but the underlying mechanical economy appears to insure, through actuarially asserted models, that success will happen.

One of the consequences of invoking the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!” is the extended moment of aspect scrounging. It always reminds me of the old Wheel of Fortune segment in which the winner for the round would buy stuff from a show room; “I’ll take the porcelain dalmatian for $400 and the crystal ash tray for $200 and…”

And while there is a concerted table effort to scrounge up all related aspects related to the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!”, this process invariably feels like the table is awarding participation ribbons for attending a graduation ceremony for 2nd grade.

So how would I solve this?

Invocation of Aspects give Advantage or Disadvantage (as per D&D 5E). And Advantage or Disadvantage does not stack. In other words, you get one invocation in your favor.

Does this break Fate? Perhaps. But unless you are a vetted Fate GM (and you know who you are) I won’t be playing Fate‡.

‡ – Unless it is the Diaspora mini-game for Spaceship conflict. That mini-game is fantastic. Or Wrath of the Autarch, which on my last playing had mini-games and inherent time constraints, thus removing the ubiquitous “I’m going to MATH this!” moments.