So, yeah. I’ve been away because of a particularly busy work schedule. But I’m back! I’m sure there will be much rejoicing, &c.
ANYWAY. Our WFRP group bit the dust after one of our players became largely unavailable. I don’t have much patience for leisure activities that require byzantine scheduling; I do too much of that madness already at work. Some months went by in which there were no RPGs, and those months were unpleasant.
At the moment, I’m getting to play for a bit, which has been a pleasant change. Even more surprising is the fact that we’re playing one of the most stuff-less games in the universe, and I’m really digging it. Somehow, it’s 1994 again, and I’m back in college playing Vampire: The Masquerade. We’re even using first edition rules. Don’t really know how that happened, but there it is.
Of course, the Storyteller system has always caused a minor disturbance in the Force in our household. I have loved it for a long time. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s one of the easiest systems to run poorly and to play poorly. Having tried it myself, I know that it’s extraordinarily difficult to be a good ST, and even one mediocre player can substantially weaken the game. Still, some of the best campaigns I played in my 20s were Vampire and Changeling games, and I’ve always maintained that with a good group, the Storyteller system makes for better sessions than most other games. My husband, on the other hand, has maintained that the Storyteller system is broken at its core, with a weak rules system bolstered only by a decent mythos. For the most part, we just generally steered clear of discussing World of Darkness when we talked about RPGs.
Then, someone at work mentioned that he ran a game and that we’d be invited if we were interested. We did one of those “interview games,” where you play out one game just to see if you all like each other and then agree vaguely to talk about whether or not you want to keep going at some noncommittal point in the future. We met in the evening on a Saturday, planning to do some other stuff that evening after we tried it out and then to get back to the ST later if we decided we wanted to keep going. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t hopeful that my husband would want to keep playing, and I just hoped that it would kind of suck so I wouldn’t be caught with one of us wanting to play and the other not.
Chargen made me nervous; our ST was very laissez-faire. I’m a hoverer, so I was kind of freaked out when he didn’t worry too much about what was on our sheets. To be honest, I’m always kind of freaked out by character sheets, because I never know if the person running the game will count on us to know just the right skill to get us through a weirdly-constructed moment of the game specifically designed to play to our characters’ strengths, ie, an encounter designed around some bizarre skill I took on a whim that’s written in the margins on the back of my sheet and that I forget immediately. Still, he was so not worried about what I was taking that I thought, “Oh, yeah. We’ll probably remake these later if they don’t fit the game. Right.”
Except nope. We started to play, and I realized that the ST wasn’t very interested in what was on my character sheet because he was only secondarily interested in the mechanics of the game at all. I had that feeling of total magic I had back the first time I played a White Wolf game, which had been presented to me as “the English major’s D&D.” Our ST’s that perfect rules minimalist/’say yes’ kind of gamer, the sort that many people want to be but most can’t really manage well. We rolled dice only a few times in our first session, because most of the stuff we wanted to do, we just did. I have to admit that after managing all of that WFRP stuff, I felt kind of liberated. Nobody had to flip cards or worry about whether or not to add a puzzle piece to their stance tracker at the start of the game. We just negotiated the story. I had forgotten how much I love RPGs when the mechanics almost entirely disappear.
The other major revelation for me came after our second session. (Yes, there was a second session–my husband happily scheduled it that very evening.) We played for about seven hours, I think. I say ‘I think’ because there wasn’t a clock in the room and I didn’t look at my phone once. Now, I can’t tell you the last time I went for more than an hour without looking at my phone. Even when we played WFRP, we usually had several breaks in which I had the chance just to sneak a quick peek at my email or text messages. Still, during that second session, I totally forgot I even had a phone, and when we broke up the game at 1am, I was shocked to see that so much time had gone by.
For me, those are all the hallmarks of a truly great game: a lack of bogging down in mechanics, an emphasis on combat only when absolutely necessary for the story’s advancement, and a storyline so compelling that you forget your own name temporarily.
Anyway, more later on how all that’s turning out–and, of course, what I bought for it. I’m also looking forward to an upcoming playthrough of the Star Wars Beginner’s Box, which is happening at some point. Soon. Theoretically. We spent tonight making some nice cardstock buildings for that, so I’ll post a bit about those, too, and about how I only got glue on 75% of the nearby furniture. In the meantime, though, I hope everyone’s well!