This started off as a reply to the “What RPG’s are you Playing” thread, but I guess I had too much to say…
I have been playing D&D on and off since somewhere around 1979 but I have never done AS MUCH role-playing as I have in 2020. With game nights and band rehearsals both on hold, role-playing on line has become my main form of social interaction and has brought some incredibly fun times. One thing that I have learned is that role-playing, even more than board gaming, is highly dependent on the group. Players that can bring surprises, originality, and humor (including ridiculous accents) to the game can make any story engaging and fun. That said, in addition to D&D I have played a number of great games this year.
I think my favorite has been ULTRA VIOLET GRASSLANDS. Set in a world highly reminiscent of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series this game has been delightfully insane. Again, it helps that we had a group that was more than willing to really dive into the psychedelic elements of the experience and together created a story and characters that really shine. So, for example, we had an event where we all mutated in different ways based on the roll of a die. My mutation was that my character could no longer speak with words but instead radiated colors when he tried to talk. I thought this was going to be horrible but rolled with it and it turned out to be a hilarious experience. When we needed to distract a group of bionic monkeys, I said “banana yellow” to them…
I was also impressed by TALES FROM THE LOOP which has a very “Stranger Things” feel to it as we are all children or young teens that get caught up in a spooky mystery sometime in the 1980’s. I really appreciated how refined and simple the rules were which made it so much easier to focus on telling the story rather than fighting with the rules or having to pause to look things up. Our story climaxed with our group riding our bikes into battle side by side with scores of “living” toy Transformer robots. Hilarious. I loved the part when our DM (Josh Look) asked us to all describe our bicycles. Beautiful!
Josh also led us through a game of MONSTER OF THE WEEK, which was great. The core concept seems to be based on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with each player taking the role of one of the iconic tropes from that type of show. Again, streamlined rules made learning and playing the game very easy so we could focus more of our attention to the story. We only played once but I would play again in a heartbeat.
We also played some 3,2,1… ACTION! Which is another super slick role-playing game co-created by one of Josh’s friends John McGuire who does the Vintage RPG podcast. Based on the over the top action movies of the 1980’s, this high energy system uses the roll of one die to determine EVERYTHING which helps keep the flow of the game moving at a good clip. Our group volunteered to play test this game for John and we had an excellent time with the fun weapons and huge battle scenes. I really wanted to continue our game, but unfortunately the module we were playing had not yet been fully written so we had to stop. I’m hoping to pick this one up again when John is ready for us.
For the last few weeks we have been enjoying a game of TINY SUPERS, which is a super hero based game. Our weekly group had to take a short break from UVG so my buddy Dan thought this would be a fun way to spend some time. I love the way the rules break down every aspect of the super hero genre into discrete bits, covering not just super powers but also personality, friends, back-story, weaknesses and everything else. Creating a character was loads of fun. Unfortunately, the rules as written don’t always make sense and there were a few things that needed to be ‘tweaked”. Since Dan has worked as an editor and writer for both Marvel and DC Comics these tweaks came pretty naturally to him and he spent some time with each of us individually to help strengthen the foundation of what has become an incredibly enjoyable experience. It’s been fun seeing how very different all of our characters are, even in terms of what period of comics they seem to come from. My character “Doctor Gravity” is clearly from the world of Stan Lee 1960’s Marvel, while Shellie is “Margo the Magnificent” a magic user rooted in 1990’s Vertigo concepts. Getting all five of these fundamentally different heroes to work together successfully should prove to generate a very interesting story.
Finally, my friend Mike gathered together a group so that we could play a Christmas themed module of DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSISCS. This system seems to be based on older versions of Dungeons & Dragons, though it is a bit simplified and doesn’t get into specific skills or saving throws, basing everything the basic stats. It does add a few things, specifically the Heroic Deeds rule which gives a player an extra die and a chance to do extra damage on an attack if they are willing to specifically describe what it is that they are trying to do. This system adds a great deal of drama and humor to combat as players come up with different crazy ways to use that extra die. So rather than saying “I attack with my sword” the player can say “I jump up in the air and come down on my enemy swinging my sword in an attempt to cleave his head.” Whether the move succeeds or fails, we are all having more fun hearing this detailed description of the battle.
Well that’s about it for now, but we still have some time before we get back to face to face gaming. I know that there are few more games and “one shots” that my friends are yearning to host, so perhaps I’ll have another list in the near future. If anyone has a recommendation for a fun and quick game without too many rules please let me know. It’s far past my turn to run a game and I just have no idea what to suggest. Thanks!!!!