I don’t know what it is about tabletop RPGs as a hobby. It’s incredibly fun! Also, incredibly draining at times, and if you are unlucky, likely to explode in your face.
I last blogged about my Pathfinder games in April 16. At the height of my RPG gaming, I was in four Pathfinder games, twice as player, twice as GM. Of those groups, only my Roll20 game with my gamecation friends survived.
Here’s an overview what happened:
- The first game already fell apart in December 15, because of inter-player conflicts and general ennui with the campaign.
- The second game I played in was super-fun, and we all got along great! It was an all-girl party, which was very RP-heavy, really awesome. However, the GM went through a really tough time last year and was out of touch for almost a year. We’re back in touch, but I don’t think we’ll pick it up again.
- My Rise of the Runelords campaign went really well up until September. The Skinsaw Murders is a great adventure, and the Misgivings part where a party explores a haunted mansion was everything I had hoped it would be. I gave the haunted players handouts, and it really messed with them. It was great. So what happened? The group was 3 co-workers, the boyfriend of one of the co-workers and my spouse. The female co-worker changed jobs, and ultimately it turned out that preserving the friendship when you don’t see each other daily didn’t work out. We had a fight in November, her boyfriend quit our Pathfinder WhatsApp group and I have quietly let the game die. It sucks. It really does, both for the friendship and the game.
- That leaves my online campaign as the lone survivor. For a time we were really on a roll and played twice a month but after gamecation we started fading as well. We finally had our first game of the year in early January, and have a game scheduled for February as well. Just once, I want a game to survive, and I love my players.
Game prep, my ultimate villain
Along with the online Pathfinder campaign, I am infrequently running a Numenera game. I started with two friends and my spouse, and we had a co-worker of one of the players join in later. He’s new to RPGs in general, but took to Numenera swimmingly. He plays a curious glaive who wears a sheen of ice. He has the curious thing down so well. Numenera is a fantastic system to teach new players, IMHO.
I love the Cypher system. There’s a marked difference in amount of prep I do for Numenera as opposed to Pathfinder. For Pathfinder, I tend to prep for hours, despite running an adventure path. I have to research monsters, traps, take notes on what happens where, and research spells. I spend so much time on D20PFSRD, it’s a bit ridiculous. It stresses me the hell out. Pathfinder is very crunchy, and we’re not even using all of the millions of options that have been published so far. I decided I won’t invest into any more of the rulebooks because it’s too much. I don’t need more options, I just need a fun game where I don’t have to spend way more time on prep than we’re actually playing.
For Numenera, I prep maybe an hour. I use Scrivener, create a bunch of NPCs, figure out the challenges they’re facing, and that’s it. For hardcore crunch fans, Numenera is probably too systems-light, but I really enjoy that I can look at a monster, see the level, jot down stats and focus on RPing the challenge. The system has plenty of options, especially now that with Character Options 2 we get two additional types, the Glint and the Seeker. Excited to try those out.
As described above, I am not that into Pathfinder anymore. I think it’s not a great system for new players. In retrospect, I wish I had been able to use something more simple for my Runelords group which was all new players. I am also slightly tired of running adventure paths. It’s a commitment for years. Ending games mid-campaign blows.
I listen to a lot of RPG podcasts, which I will post about at a later time. One of the podcasts I am listening to is One Shot, an actual play podcast that tries just about every RPG system out there. Big games, indie games, they try them all. It’s vastly opened my tabletop RPG horizon, and has woken a desire to try more different gaming systems. Just one adventure, take the system for a spin, have as much fun as possible with it.
I went ahead and tried that with my online group, but kinda sprung it on them on one of my not so great days. We played Beyond the Wall, an OSR-style RPG where the party all plays teenagers in a quaint village, kinda the YA style of fantasy. I think it was alright, but could have been better. It’s probably a ton more fun if you all create the characters together at a table instead of having to take turns online. My expectation was that the joint character creation and creating the village would be fun, but it didn’t work so well. My players are welcome to comment here!
Games I want to try
I have a huge list of games I want to try as one shots. I ran it by the friends who are back in touch now and they seemed generally interested. Here’s the systems I would like to try:
- GUMSHOE, e.g Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents – The GUMSHOE system focuses on investigative RP. The basic premise is that players will always find the necessary clues to solve a scenario. The focus is on what players are doing with the clues they find, not about rolling if you actually find the clues. I read Trail of Cthulhu so far, and thought the rules were elegant, and the sample scenario is fantastic. This one I am reserving for my online group, which has a bunch of Cthulhu fans.
- Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – The remains of my Runelords group, my two co-workers, are huge Star Wars fans. My spouse is a Trekkie, so I am not sure I can get her on board here. In any case, I would like to try the beginner’s box with my co-workers. It’s about adventures in the Outer Rim, bounty hunters and smugglers, no Jedi, in the early days of the Rebellion. The game has a unique dice system that I find very narrative, so I would like to try it.
- Dungeons & Dragons 5E – The ancestor of all RPG systems is supposed to have streamlined the way we play D20 based fantasy RPGs. I still love D20, but I want less crunch, less options, a more beginner-friendly game with less system mastery. D&D5e is supposed to be all, so I am hoping to try Lost Mines of Phandelver from the D&D starter set sometime this year.
- Blades in the Dark – Of all the systems listed above, this is the one I want to play the most. I am currently listening to an Actual Play, and am a bit blown away how elegant this system is. Basically, imagine the video games Dishonored or Thief. Set in a slightly steampunkish fantasy setting in the mighty city of Duskwall, you play a crew of criminals who as a team runs scores and tries to rise to the top. Individual players earn XP, but also the crew levels up. The game involves heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes. The thing I loved most about my dead Pathfinder game was that us girls were a crew of former criminals and I can only imagine how much fun it would be to explore this again.
There are more systems I eventually want to try, including The Strange, The One Ring, 13th Age, but those 4 above take priority.
Has anyone else run one shots or are all playing classic campaigns? Would be cool to know.