Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Just Another Fantasy RPG

Recently a friend told me to take a look at Dungeon World, a more Cortex-esque fantasy RPG.  Ironically enough, I've been wondering about the latest edition of Castles & Crusades, which I ran a few years back.  It's on its fifth edition, which frankly seems a little ridiculous to me, especially because I understand the changes are minimal, but since I skipped the previous four, I'm wondering if enough shifts might back the game worthwhile.
But here's the thing.  I own a lot of fantasy RPG's.  A lot.  For D&D alone I own Basic, Expert, the all-in-one compendium, 1st and 2nd editions of D&D, 3rd and 3.5 Edition, Fourth, Essentials, and now the trial D&D Next.  I also own Hackmaster, Swords & WizardryLabyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, OSRIC, Pathfinder, and the aforementioned Castles & Crusades.  Outside the D&D family tree I own Palladium Fantasy, Dragon Warriors, Rolemaster, Ingenium, and if it counts, two different editions of Ars Magica (including the original, which I like the best).  At some point in the hopefully near future, I'll be getting my copy of Blade Raiders.
So there's a point where I (and certainly if not I, then the real life Irene) might ask myself, "do I really need another fantasy RPG, especially given that I'm running a superhero game right now?"
And well, it's a good point.  Frankly it keeps me from rushing out and buying Dungeon Crawl Classics (that and the whole weird dice thing).  But at this point I'm having an introspective conversation with myself about what kind of campaign I want to play, and then which game might be the best fit.  Or rather, if I ran another fantasy campaign, what kind I would like to play.  Here's my general prospectus:

  • A sandbox campaign, much like the Westward Marches, where the PC's basically go out in little forays into the unknown
  • The unknown is a combination of random wilderness encounters and pre-established multi-encounter locations
  • A game where people have a reasonable number of options for character creation (what constitutes a reasonable number?  Good question.  More than four?)
  • A game that plays well with as little as three, as much as eight, and on average five or six players.
  • A game that an intelligent but inexperienced newcomer to RPG's could pick up after a couple of sessions
So part of me looks at that and goes, "well, that could be most fantasy RPG's, right?"  Except I don't think Rolemaster is all that easy.  Ingenium has some rules issues (although hopefully they are being dealt with).  B/E D&D, and its immediate clones, have race-as-class, which I'm unsure about for the way it restricts character creation, although I've seen some good arguments.  I put up with the six page character sheet for 4th Edition for years, and watched gameplay degenerate into a push-button process of selecting which move you want to do in combat.
I do realize that the fourth bullet point is probably the most difficult.  I have six players on average, but honestly would like to invite some new people into the group.  We're also almost entirely adults who have jobs and in some cases families, so there's a little rotation in the line-up.  I'd like a game where the group feels like they could go out even if they are short the tank, or the striker, or whatever and at least make a good go of it.  But I know from personal experience that six players in 4E means a single combat takes an hour.
So I'm constantly looking for the sweet spot, the combination of crunch and flexibility, flavor and generality, that I want in a game.  Somewhere hovering around Castles & Crusades, Basic Fantasy, and D&D Next is where I think I want it to fall, but I don't know.
Your thoughts or experiences?  Comments welcome.


  1. I don't have much tabletop RPG experience but my favorite has been a campaign in Vampire: The Masquerade. Of course, that gave me all of my own "sweet spots" : simple and fast character creation, simple dice rules, and I can play a truly evil villain.

    Cath from Dramatics and Words

  2. One system is never enough!!! :)