Engage Smug Mode

Or “why are so many people unwilling to play anything but D&D”?

 

I’ve just been reading a post on one of the online Facebook roleplaying groups that I’m a part of, where someone asked what seems like a fairly simple question: “What are the reasons that so many people are unwilling to play anything but D&D?”

Now, I’m not the worlds biggest fan of D&D–although I’ve played all but the earliest editions and have been looking with interest at some OSR stuff recently–but even as I was preparing a reply along the lines of “well there could be numerous reasons, visibility of the game line, it’s what their friends play, etc etc” a number of responses popped up that gave me serious pause for thought. I’m not saying that all of the responses were in this vein, but there were certainly a number of posts that suggested people who stuck with D&D were afraid to play other stuff, or were too self-conscious or were subterranean Morlocks crouching in basements fearing to step into the warming light of the cool new systems in town. Okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one, but you get the idea?

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Star Hex

Star Hex

 

Given my recent love affair with James M Spahn’s White Star–you can see my video review of it here–I’m thinking of running some OSR style sci-fi when when Dungeon World campaign wraps up in a few weeks or so; I’ve been looking at the concept of hex crawls and have even taken a few ideas from them to use in my ongoing FFG Star Wars campaign and the methodology seems to work well in a sci-fi genre. Given that so many sci-fi franchises have effectively been reskinning fantasy races to use as aliens for a long time, I thought it might be interesting to do the reverse and run a science-fiction setting where the fantasy analogues were embraced openly.

I’m not talking about a Spelljammer-esque fantasy in space style game but a science-fantasy game (ala Star Wars) that takes direct inspiration from fantasy races and ideas to use in the setting.

Sliding Towards Simplicity

Disclaimer: When I’m talking about crunchy, rules-heavy or simulationist games in this post, I’m not implying they’re bad–hell, play what you want–but they’re just not for me.

As you might gather from the disclaimer above, I’ve never really been a fan of simulationist games or ones that have vast tomes of increasing complex rules, TBH I’m surprised that I like FFG’s Star Wars so much given the number of specialisations, bonuses and other stuff that is in there, but I suppose preference is a fickle beast. Since sometime last year–probably even before that–I’ve been noticing that my preferences have been moving towards simpler and simpler RPGs. Whether you want to call them RPGs or Storytelling games is an argument for another time, I’m going to stick to using RPGs in this blog entry.

If you’ve seen any of my stuff online you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Fate and Dungeon World games, both of these have–in my opinion–a nice clear central mechanic that pretty much everything else in the rest of the game references, and for a long time I thought that was the big lure of these games for me, but I’ve also started taking an interest in OSR products.

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My Prep Dilemna

As anyone who has gamed with me will tell you–when it comes to running RPGs–I like to do my prep, some people can pull off amazing sessions with little to no prep and that’s absolutely grand, more power to them, however, I’m not blessed with a particularly good memory so it buoys up my confidence to know that I have notes prepared concerning what has already occurred in a campaign and what might be about to occur. However, this has left me with something of a dilemna recently when it comes to the prep for my Heart of Darkness Star Wars campaign and my Dungeon World campaign; both campaigns are recorded on my Youtube channel meaning I’ve got the actual play videos that I can refer back to in order to update my notes.

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RPG Rambles: For RP what do you go back to as sources of inspiration?

In this RPG Rambles video I ask what films, books, etc you go back to time and again as inspiration for your roleplaying sessions and campaigns?

RP Rambles: What I love about roleplaying

Telling Stories

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to my future and what I would like to be doing with my life, and however I look at it I keep returning to the idea of writing–and in particular storytelling–as something that I find both very gratifying and extremely important to me. Storytelling is one of the main reasons that I got into RP-ing and, no matter how my GM-ing abilities and gaming experience may have changed it’s that central desire to tell a story with other people that keeps bringing me back to the game time-after-time. Continue reading

RPG Rambles: What three things do you look for in a RP system?

In this video I ask people what three things they look for in a RP system.

RP Rambles: Star Wars, the Dichotomy of New and Old

In these RP rambles posts I generally talk and chew the fat about subjects in RPGs that interest me or interesting situations that I’ve encountered in games but that don’t fit neatly into any of my other blog categories. Constructive comments and discussions are welcome, please feel free to put them in the comments box at the bottom of this post.

One of the things that has always struck me about Star Wars is that it has very clear dividing lines; now yes you can say that smugglers like Han and Chewie are a bit more morally grey, but in the end everyone generally throws down of being on the side of light or the side of darkness. The other huge contrast in Star Wars is that between old and new.

Consider how each star wars film begins:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

We’re watching a science-fiction/space opera film, these are generally set in the future using technology that we can only dream at, however the first line of each opening crawl brings us back to this idea that this stuff happened ages ago, it might seem futuristic but actually it’s more like a myth or a legend.

This may seem to be a bit of a contradiction in terms, but it’s actually pretty clever and I love it for a number of reasons:

  • The creator is giving his creation a mythic frame of reference, we tend to ascribe more important or gravitas to ancient tales handed down (equating age with worthiness for right or wrong), so by making the stories seem mythic it makes us pay more attention to it.
  • It lends the stories a timeless quality, because they are futuristic but also set in the past the stories do not age as badly as some other films, books, etc do.
  • Myths are larger than life, full of gods and monsters, heroes and villains, these stories tend to touch something very deeply rooted in all of us, by creating a space-epic filled with the same elements the Star Wars stories also touch those same roots.

The clever combination of old and new is also reflected in the visual element of the franchise, contrast the sleek futuristic lines of the Imperial Star Destroyer with Maz Kanata’s run down and steampunk looking bar on Tokodana in the Force Awakens, one is sleek and deadly, evoking a sense of the futuristic (despite being filmed many years early) whilst the other is a ragtag, tumble down place that, droids aside, would not have looked out of place today or even earlier in our history.

Along with other mythic elements of the franchise the bringing together of these opposites, old and new, past and future gives extra weight to the stories that the various authors have to tell, combined with the franchises longevity and fan-base it is no surprise that Star Wars has become a massive part of modern life for many people, and I expect it will continue to be a part of our lives long into the future.


If the themes of myths and legends interest you in RPGs then you might want to check out the Mythic Gods & Monsters book written by myself and Johnn Four.

Image is Cowboy and his Lady taken from publicdomainvectors.org.