Miscellany

KublaCon is over.  There was more V:TES than usual as we played until late Saturday night.  Wackiest stuff was my bringing out Lithrac, Tashaing, Freaking, Computer Hacking, having my predator Hostile Takeover my one dude, paying 11 for him, as he bled with Democritus for 6, which I Archoned, leaving my predator down about 21 pool and me up, also kept the edge for like 4 straight turns, bring out Reg, who takes like 5 actions in a turn, including diablerizing a Preternatural Strengthed Homa, only to burn to Carlton.  Pentex on my axe’s first vamp finally got broken when I ousted my prey.

But, in general, I did very little.  Sure, we played 2.5 hours of my convention campaign of Solomon Kane, went better than normal.  Played some Type P Magic.  But, no role-playing.  Lots of sitting around doing nothing.  Lots of caring my manbag around for no reason. 

This all feeds into an actual topic – I got into a discussion with one of my SK players about how a lot of gamers stop doing scheduled events.  I’m even starting to get there with Gen Con, where Heroes of Rokugan is becoming my “I hang with people I know” thing instead of doing unusual stuff.  A theory he floated was that gamers go through a cycle where they don’t know other gamers, get to know them through events, hang with their friends, newbies backfill.  Gamers age.  I actually like getting some sleep at cons.  I’m more likely to get sick with lack of sleep as I was at DunDraCon and was starting to feel today.  I also have a been there, done that mental block to committing to a scheduled event that, in the past, I would have signed up for.  DDC, with its insipid signup errors and generally bad process, which has screwed me out of two conventions of gaming, has also left me with permanent mental scars.

Still, I see the pattern, with Gen Con being the collateral evidence.  I need to break this pattern, methinks.  SK is a lot of effort that I could instead spend time playing, and I’m tired of feeling like I have no real reason to be at some of these cons.

Technical Readout 3025 may very well be the best RPG supplement I’ve ever seen.  Why bring up a 1986 product I’ve owned since the ’80’s?  BattleTech has such a rich background/concept and mechanics that inspire.  I actually considered BattleTech at Kubla, a game I’ve played very little.

But, I was talking about this one product.  It’s so ludicrously better than other technical readouts.  But, it’s more than that.  First, I’m not much of an art guy, but the art is well suited to the concept, even if some of it is ripped off from RoboTech.  It’s also far better than other BattleTech products.  But, the heart of 3025 is that it tells stories.  Lots of stories.  The ‘mechs, et al, have stories.  The pilots have stories. 

BattleMech design in BattleTech is often moronic.  Nobody would ever choose A , B, or C when D exists.  I don’t own every supplement and I don’t think I own any of the novels, but 3025 does something I’ve only seen in BattleTechnology Magazine – justify stupidity.  The terrible, terrible designs have a story behind why they suck so bad.  Economics, politics, history, mistakes are all used.  There’s a verisimilitude to the product so lacking in not only other products for this game but for so many products (within the context that different genres have different levels of realism).

3025 sells me on the world, on what it’s offering up.  I’m into the idea of piloting a Blackjack to prove an underdog can win, even if the design is atrocious and pretty much unfixable.  In contrast, I was just telling someone how I’ve really lost interest in the Worlds of Darkness.  Too many problems with even the concept of the worlds working mixed with bad mechanics have left me cold.  As much as I don’t care to make any effort to do WW RPGs, even with all of the vast logic problems 3025 has and the undermining of the concept with other eras of play, I still am drawn in.

Now, everything is relative.  So, what’s wrong with other supplements?  Lot of times, it’s too little flavor.  Yes, I understand that numbers typically drive sales, but when I need something for my writing or for my GMing, it’s knowledge.  What was Santo Domingo like in 1607?  What are the rivers near Vera Cruz?  What are reasonable names for …?  Even books that are supposed to be flavorful are fails.  Emerald Empire is considered a superior L5R book, heavily in demand.  It’s very heavy on flavor, supposedly.  It’s very heavy on not having world info that I’m actually looking for, which just annoys me no end.  The books with new paths and advanced schools and other crunch generally have better info on the world.

I’m a big fan of GURPS books, not the game, which I don’t think I’ve ever actually played!  But, I’m constantly using the books for reference, whether Camelot, Aztecs, Russia, Blood Types, etc.

Anyway, 3025 tells stories, lots of stories, and good stories (even if they are a paragraph long).  That’s what RPing is all about – telling stories.  It’s not like other supplements aren’t great.  I just can’t think of any other product that tells a bunch of good stories.

Actually, it’s what other gaming is about, too, at least for me.  Why will I still play Magic?  Because some games have stories.  My main goblin deck – Wolf (I used a naming convention for Type P decks based on clans for other games, so when I ran out of BattleTech clans, I moved on to Vampire clans) – played Goblin Ringleader, got 4 for 0 card advantage, and lost when Wail of the Nim wrecked my board.

I realized recently that every fiction I did for HoR that had a mechanical effect made my characters worse.  The deadline is tomorrow, so I’m done with fics that can do anything mechanically.  I finished the last today.  Do I ask for a rank of Lore: Unicorn?  What do I do to screw over my character to keep my record intact?

It’s a failing of boardgames how bad they are for stories.  Sure, while the game is going on, there might be some epic drama, but afterwards, not so much.

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One Response to Miscellany

  1. Azel says:

    I too have found GURPS worlds remarkably refreshing for plot hooks, flavor, and general reference, even though I also don’t play it. My currently favorite RPG, also part of SJG coincidentally: In Nomine, has several very strong books in a similar vein. Off the top of my head I can rattle off Liber Reliquarum, Liber Servitorum, and Liber Castellorum as being pretty handy books I’ve come across. They explain the utility of various levels of things that would normally be overlooked (for example, Corporeal Artifacts). And they give beautiful, complex stories as examples of such utility that they literally become plots unto themselves.

    Mechanics are great, but sometimes I’d like something smaller than a novel or vignette to get some brainstorming ideas. Improv and planned creativity is great, but a well done example leaves me refreshed because I have a starting point from which to flesh out. Also good hooks are godsends when you have PCs “unexpectedly” wandering off the story line; you distract them all the while grounding your world more.

    It’s been almost a decade, but if I remember correctly Blue Planet and L5R: City of Lies were remarkable products in terms of flavor. Actually Blue Planet was a real standout in that at times it felt there was more flavor and fleshing out than mechanics. But all that’s buried in a box in the closet so I cannot go verify my faulty memory…

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