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.
If you’ve not heard of OSR you can find a basic definition here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_School_Revival
OSR games tend to be based on earlier basic editions of D&D, and I’ve no doubt that nostalgia is an influencing factor in some people’s love of these games–hell I’ve got loads of White Wolf World of Darkness books that I hold onto, even though I’ve not played it for ages, because it’s one of the first games I played–but I was never a big D&D player back in the day (I much preferred WFRP). So if it’s not nostalgia drawing me to the OSR and it’s not the central core mechanic–since a lot of OSR games don’t have skills systems and the class powers you get often use different mechanics–what is?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, following a ‘What type of player are you?’ survey that I did on Facebook:
I didn’t exactly find the results surprising since the major pull of RPGs to me has always been the excitement of a GM and a group of players coming together to tell interesting stories about characters and fantastic places.
I think that our RP tastes evolve with time, I know that when I was younger I used to love pouring over the various abilities and powers you could get for characters in certain games and thinking about how they could make games more interesting, but as I’ve run more games it’s the interactions between the characters themselves and their interactions with the NPCs and the world that really make the game fun and vibrant for me. When a game is going great I want the rules system to provide the necessary support to keep things consistent and then get the hell out of the way so that we can concentrate on the story, and I think that’s why I’m current leaning more towards OSR games, they’re certainly not the most simulationist or the most detailed by any means, but they give just enough whilst not interfering or slowing down the story as people pour over rule-books or calculate dice pools.