21 March 2013

A Brief Exploration of the Beauty of RPG Books, or, The Drool Factor

I like RPG rulebooks. This is no secret. I've talked about it before. I like owning them. I like reading them. (Except, apparently, when it really counts, i.e. just before I'm set to run a game. Then it just feels like a chore...) Even though it's obviously the content that really counts (and, in the end, actually playing the games, not even that, but the company you play with), I must admit I have a soft spot for pretty, colourful, high quality printing... So here's a little procrastinatory post about a few rulebooks, past, present and future.

Recently, I backed a Kickstarter for an experimental game called Alas Vegas. This is actually a ready adventure or mini-campaign rather than an open-ended game system. Not something I usually invest in, but it sounded pretty interesting. Plus due to the success of the Kickstarter, the book is getting lots of extras, including additional adventures for use with the rules. The main reason I decided to buy it, though, was the persistent nagging of John Kovalic (author of Dork Tower) on Twitter... I'm only getting a paperback version, though. 'Cause, you know, money not growing on trees and all that.

Another book much on my radar currently is Monte Cook's new science fantasy game Numenera. I missed out on this when it had its own Kickstarter last year, and only discovered it recently when people were talking about the new computer game based on the setting, currently in its own Kickstarter campaign (Torment: Tides of Numenera, supposedly a 'spiritual successor' of Planescape: Torment, a classic I never played myself). Anyway, the concept of the game sounds pretty cool, as does the book. A phrase like '416-page, hardcover rulebook and setting guide filled with beautiful full-color art' is just music to my ears... The game is currently available for pre-order. And... as expected for a book this size, it ain't cheap. Currently pretty much a no-go for me, I'd say. Hm, maybe a b-day request?

As for what's going on right now, I've been running a game recently using the Buffy/Angel rules by Eden Studios. I ran a campaign with this system a few years back as well, and I've always liked it. The system is (mostly) fairly simple, yet (in my mind) robust enough. The rulebooks are pretty high quality (full colour hardbacks mostly), the writing fun and tongue-in-cheek (as befits the topic of course). They're some of my very favourite books in my RPG collection, in fact, right up there with my Pathfinder books. Of course you have to be a fan of the shows to really appreciate them (which I am)... (EDIT: I meant to clarify that neither of the games I've run with the system have been directly based on Buffy. The system is flexible enough to accommodate other modern day supernatural stories.)

Looking back further, one of the first RPG's I remember fondly, as an object as much as a game, is probably the Star Wars RPG by West End Games (2nd edition, revised). This was a shiny full colour hardback volume at a time when most of my RPG books were flimsy booklets in cardboard boxes. (With the exception of the 2nd edition AD&D books, which, while not bad, aren't quite as pretty and colourful as the SWRPG.) Looking at it now, the edges of the pages are rather yellowed, the paper slightly crinkled, but it's still a cool book.

In summation, so many cool games, so little money, so little time to play...

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