10 January 2012

The RPG's of My Life

I've got a cold. Not a very bad cold, but enough to distract and demotivate me from doing anything really worthwhile. So, inspired by my previous post, I thought I'd spend a moment contemplating some of the various 'pen and paper' RPG systems I've used over the years and picking my favourites.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition) was likely the system I used most back in the 90's to run my games. (My longest campaign at the time was a Dragonlance game.) As a system it's of course about as classic as they come, and I do like it, although these days I've got Pathfinder to give me my D&D kicks, which means the odds of returning to 2nd Ed. are fairly slim. I have also run a few games with the so-called 'basic set', which was also fun, though I never got any of the additional sets.

The D6 System from West End Games was another one we used a lot early on. I was first introduced to it in their Star Wars RPG. This was a quality game I have fond memories of. Later I ran a campaign with the Hercules & Xena RPG, which featured a modified, somewhat lighter version of the system. I actually liked this version of the system a lot, but production values for the rulebooks were... let's just say less than perfect. It required some serious tweaking. I don't really see myself returning to D6 in the foreseeable future, but... never say never.

GURPS... Got the revised 3rd edition back in the day, and planned a lot of games for it, but for some reason none of them really got off the drawing board, so to speak. In the end we came to the conclusion that the system was just too heavy and detailed for the direction we wanted to take our games. I've played since in games run by other people using GURPS (3rd and 4th editions), though, and I think it's a fine system... as long as someone else is willing to keep track of all the skills and stuff. And knows what to do when combat happens. (Luckily these games haven't been very combat heavy.)

I used the 2nd edition of Big Eyes, Small Mouth for a couple short campaigns (and contemplated its use for others that never happened). It's definitely been one of my favourite 'light' systems, although lately other systems (like Fudge) have largely replaced it for me. I bought the 3rd edition, but I've never used it for anything. While I liked some of the changes, overall the game felt like it was getting perhaps unnecessarily complicated in some ways (and the official character sheet in the book was the ugliest I've ever seen, basically unusable).

One of my longest campaigns in recent years used Eden Studios' Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, which is based on the 'cinematic' version of the company's Unisystem. (My game wasn't really set in the Buffy universe, although it drew some influence from the show.) I liked using this system a lot, although it wasn't perfect. In particular, our group seemed to have trouble getting battles to run as smoothly as we would've liked, even though the system was pretty simple at its core.

And finally, there's Fudge. I'm using this system for my other main campaign currently (the other one being my Pathfinder game). And it's been pretty good for this game (epic, cinematic fantasy with steampunk trappings). Fudge is more a set of building blocks than a strict system, with a lot of room for customisation. I like to use a very stripped down, minimalist version of it, and I use it primarily for games where narrative is the main element. If I feel like messing about with a lot of rules and details, well, I've got games like Pathfinder to give me those kicks. But a lot of the time I just want the rules to stay out of the way. Oh, and Fudge can be downloaded for free. Yay.

All of these systems have their good and bad sides. All of them have been right for a particular time and context. Some I will probably keep using for a good time to come. Many of them I might not use again. But I'm still happy to have them in my bookshelf.

(I also have a web page with more details on many of the actual campaigns I've run over the years.)

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