Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Am The Game

I am considering creating a Game Blog.

It has been quite a long time since I ran or played in a tabletop RPG - that's those things like Dungeons and Dragons with funny dice to the layperson - and I'm getting the hankering. Sometime over the last year, I read Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East, and I really enjoyed a lot of the thematic elements and the setting. It's a mix of fantasy and sci-fi in a way that is completely unlike the one mix that most people have experienced of those two things - Star Wars. I am going to borrow some of his ideas.

I'll say right now: if you're thinking you might like to play in my game, think before you read the book. I won't be running a game that takes place anywhere near the events of the story, but it will spoil some of the mystery of the greater world for you.

The best description I can come up with for the setting is "post-post- apocalyptic fantasy western." I'm sure I'll draw inspiration from, and be criticized for allegedly plagiarizing, such diverse sources as Deadlands, Stephen King's Dark Tower books (his Midworld is a rich source of inspiration), Empire of the East obviously, and TSR's old Dark Sun world (indirectly... it's a bit of a jump from a harsh desert wasteland to a typical Spaghetti Western, but I'm such a big fan of Dark Sun it's hard not to let its influence creep in). I hope to create a setting that's all my own, however.

I've been hearing a lot of good things about the Savage Worlds rule system, and I might look into that. I have always harbored an ambition to repair Dungeons and Dragons, however, and with the recent release of D&D Fourth Edition, I think I'll probably run that way. I've been looking over the 4E core books, and I have to say that while I think they've lost something in verisimilitude and gained what I can only describe as WoWiness (a certain unreal, repetitive quality reminiscent of typical video game play), they have, in large part, smoothed out a whole lot of what used to make D&D suck: the unplayable frailty of new characters, the mismatched hodgepodge of different rules adjudications, and, most of all, the interminably long, boring combats that consume four-fifths of any play session. That's not to say that combats can't be interminable in the new rules - they can, as the playtests of the introductory adventure Keep on the Shadowfell painfully illustrate - but rather that I think the new rules provide DMs with tools for maintaining a good flow and possibly even making combat stay within it's appropriate sideline role in a role-playing game.

It will, of course, require some house rule "patches" to keep up a good flow and restore the verisimilitude. That's expected among experienced players. Restricting the new "healing surges"; stopping interplayer table talk during fights; and doing away with WotC's absurd (and cringingly WoWy) idea that you can only earn experience from 1) killing and 2) completing simple, generally "kill x and retrieve y" formulaic quests will make for a good start.

Oh, right. Where I was going with all this: I am considering starting up a new game blog on which I will chronicle the plot arc in an episodic story form (and perhaps occasionally gaming happenings as brief interludes). I think that this would be beneficial both to me and to the players. It will be something of an exercise in discretion to keep from including spoilers but still make a good story out of it. I will keep you posted.

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