Monday, November 19, 2012

Descent into Madness

As I've noted on more than a few occasions, I have, in addition to face-to-face gaming, been playing in and refereeing several different RPGs via Google+ Hangouts. If anyone among my readership hasn't already given this a whirl, you really ought to, because it's a lot of fun. These days, it certainly seems as if the center of gravity in the old school world has shifted to G+, due in no small part to the exceedingly large numbers of games being run there. This hobby, after all, is about playing games, not merely talking about them and, as I said, there are a lot of games for every taste being run on Google+.

Among the games I'm playing is Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, refereed by the awesome Shawn Sanford. Among my fellow adventurers are the equally awesome Jason Sholtis and Will Douglas, though we've recently had an influx of several more stalwart souls to add to our company. That not only improves our chances of survival but also the fun. One of the many lessons Google+ has taught me is that roleplaying with only two or three players is a pale imitation of what it's like to play with six or more players. My online Dwimmermount sessions, for example, typically have at least six players and I've sometimes had as many as eight. Yes, it requires a bit more coordination to deal with the presence of so many players, but it more than repays the effort in terms of dynamism and chaotic creativity.

Back before DCC RPG was released, I remember that one of the big knocks against the game was that it used "too many dice" and had "too many charts." Having actually been playing the game for months now, I can honestly say that neither of the critiques holds much water. In play, one only uses a few dice types or charts at any given time and, as time goes on, their use becomes second nature. Moreover, the presence of these dice types and charts adds a lot of delightful unpredictability to play, so much so that I found myself thinking (as I often do) that what many RPGs need is more, not less randomness.

As it happens, Shawn Sanford is a huge Rolemaster aficionado, having used that system for years with great success. He's also currently involved in Iron Crown Enterprise's open playtest of the next iteration of this venerable game system. Consequently, we often talk about Rolemaster, a game with which my past experience has been decidedly mixed, but that, I freely admit, I've long been intrigued by. So, I've been slowly acquiring some of the old Rolemaster products I remember from the early '80s and examining them, not so much with an eye toward actually playing the game -- though I wouldn't shy away from doing so if an experienced referee made himself available (hint, hint) -- but in order to get a less biased understanding of it.

As I've noted before, "old school" is not synonymous with "rules lite" and we do the larger hobby a disservice when we talk as if it were. For that reason, expect to see more musings on some of the more complex RPGs of the '70s and '80s, since they're very much on my mind these days.

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