Friday, May 01, 2009

A definite hankering...

It's been a long time since I did any roleplaying, and longer still since I've GM'ed. There are various reasons for this, but they all boil down to two in the end: dissatisfaction and weariness.

My WFRP campaign ran for about 30 sessions over a period of some 16 months, ie. roughly every other week on average. I wasn't a seasoned GM, and I'm not really the seat of the pants type either, which meant that I put a lot of work into those games, not including the write ups here at RD/KA! (Keynote was a godsend!). In the end it was all too much for me. I was worn out.

What was more, I wasn't getting the satisfaction I wanted from the game. As I explained to the lads one night while we were eating dinner before a game with Bill: playing boardgames with Badger is a simple matter of opening the box and off we go; a 100% successful recipie for enjoyment, which couldn't be said of the roleplaying, even when it was going well; which wasn't all the time, naturally enough. This was my motivation to turn the Sunday sessions into a regular boardgaming bash.

Even when Bill became the GM, the group dynamic changed because the midweek date ultimately reduced us to just 2 PCs: Tony and me. I think this just wasn't enough to give the games real momentum. Quite why the 3 of us failed to reach critical mass escapes me, although I do know of some contributory factors. I now believe that primary among them was Katana.

Readers who've known me since bygone days might be shocked by that admission, since they'll be all too aware that Katana is one of my all-time favourite PC's, so close to my heart that I coined the phrase 'primary projection' to express what he meant to me. That is to say: he was a creative expression of some of the deepest wellsprings of my subconscious strivings. Well known primary projections include Conan and Philip Marlowe.

At first sight you'd think that I'd've been delighted to return to a PC like that; in the hands of the GM who presided over his creation and the first phase of his adventures; and with the player - Tony, natch - who, as GM, gave Katana the second phase of his adventures, when we first roleplayed together back in the late 1990's. And I was. It's a nice experience to pick up an old PC and 'put him on' like you would a well worn coat. And that blog I wrote upon his return weighed heavily in the balance which eventually tipped in favour of my acceptance that rpg's are art.

Even so, with the benefit of hindsight after the roleplaying had unravelled, Bill mused that going back to Katana might've been a futile attempt to relive old glories. He was right, of course. Precisely because Katana is that primary projection, he is too deeply embedded in pasts that can't be revisited. Sure Bill and I could do Katana easily and well, but it was, as Bill said about Frank Miller's Sin City, a five-finger exercise.

Worse still, with the benefit of lengthy reflection on Bill's offhand remark, I have come to the conclusion that not only was Katana too easy to play for the pair of us; he was also an unfair obstacle we unwittingly threw in Tony's path. I mean to say, teaming up Tony's Witchblade with Katana effectively reduced her to a guest star in Katana's continuity, instead of being a co-star in her own. This is OK for one-offs or short mini-campaigns based on player transience, but not if you want a proper ongoing series. Each and every player should enjoy equal billing after all.

All of this is by way of looking back at some of the mistakes made in past roleplaying in the hopes of avoiding them in the future because, yes, we're talking about doing some roleplaying. In the end Donald's wish to roleplay again was just too keen to ignore.

I'd already suggested to Donald that he try the HERO system, and was pleased he was agreeable. On that basis, Donald is talking about a couple of ideas. It's likely that we'll begin with his first: an outlaw mini-campaign using Iron Crown Enterprise's highly esteemed 1987 Robin Hood: The Role Playing Campaign. I am already looking forward to this. I'm thinking of a character who is a master of the quarterstaff. Whatever complaints people might have about HERO, it cannot be gainsaid that its skills list and combat system renders weapon mastery in rich detail, and with mechanics that reward real tactics and actual practice as opposed to just dishing out stat upgrades.

For my part, I have two ideas for mini-campaigns of my own. One is HERO too: a return to my take on TSR's 1993 Bughunters. One of two books I've got from the late, unlamented Amazing Engine system, I liked Bughunters' concept: clone troopers in space fighting the bugs? What's not to like? I immediately realised though that I would run this game with HERO instead of the dumbass TSR AE.

I ran this with Tony and other friends back in the late 1990's. I've still got all the material I worked up for the game and the setting (a piece of background work was posted to the Trollslayer forums a few years ago). It just needs to be updated, and I'd be ready to run it again. This is something I'd like to do, because I liked the kinds of stories I was aiming at in the setting; and I had a few surprises in store for my shell-shocked players. Unfortunately we moved on to other games, and never went back to my Bughunter.

My other idea is to go back to WFRP, naturally enough. I'd like to run a more hi-octane game in a classic D&D style, albeit with a bit more than just dungeon bashing; a game in which I'd unleash without let or hindrance the full power of the game's hideous antagonists and its deadly combat system. Of course, I plan on making the potential rewards commensurate with the risk.

We still don't know quite how, when and with whom our return to roleplaying is going to pan out, but we'll be getting something going for sure. Expect to hear more. ;)


Louise H said...

I wish you luck with your resurgent RPGs. Sadly our campaign (Pendragon- all the way from Uther onwards- it's been running for a couple of years now) seems to be coming to a premature end as it becomes more and more difficult to find weekends with at least 5 of the 6 of us available. Boardgames are so much more forgiving of RL commitments.

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Hello again Louise. Nice to read your comments again.

Pendragon is a game about which the buzz is all good. IIRC, it came from a stable with a good pedigree. 'Steady as she goes!' is going to be my motto for getting back to some roleplaying.

We'll also be using a format which I could recommend for your own group: mini-campaigns. These reduce the commitments to bite-sized chunks which are easier to fit around real life. Also, pick a genre - eg. superheroes, or campaign style - eg. urban adventures, that is suitable for PC's who drop in and out due to player transience. Finally, ringing the changes with a visit to another place and time entirely might refresh your group after such a long haul through one game.

Hope this helps. ;)