Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Eight-Way Plan for 2014

Okay, so I know I've got some play reports to post...tremulus, D&D...and I'll get to them, honest! But for right now, I want to write about my plans for roleplaying in 2014.

So, here's the rundown...I've got EIGHT separate roleplaying games I want to either start running or continue running through 2014. They are as follows:

1. Dungeons & Dragons: The Big One. With my overarching agenda of bringing new players into the hobby and appealing to as wide an audience as possible, D&D will be a big focal point of 2014. The previous year marked my return to role-playing, and so I dipped my toes into a wide pool of water, and learned alot about myself, my players, and the various games out there. But this year, it's time to refine my game. So D&D, for better or for worse, will be a part of that. I plan on primarily sticking with 4th edition until 5th edition comes out. Then I'll switch to 5th. I'm really excited to be on the ground floor of a new edition of D&D. I was late to the 4e party, so I'm pumped to be at the beginning of 5th!

2. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: My allegiance to D&D is mainly ideological in nature: it's a brand-name, and I'm looking for new players, so we fit. But when we get into actual gaming practice, D&D and I don't actually see eye-to-eye as much. The 4th edition's focus on tactical play does not mesh well with the more narrative style of GMing I specialize in. That's where the other fantasy RPGs on this list come in, especially Warhammer. This game is fantastic. It's all the depth and detail of D&D, but with an equal emphasis on narrative and storytelling, as well. It's a gorgeous, slickly-produced game that is well-poised to seduce players away from D&D and into the larger world of roleplaying games. The plan is to bring them in with D&D, get them hooked, then ramp them up to "the harder stuff." If I sound a lot like a drug dealer to you...well, call me your pusher!

3. The Burning Wheel: Luke Crane's indie classic wasn't originally on my agenda for the year, but an incredibly thoughtful and totally unexpected birthday gift from a new friend has amended my course. The Burning Wheel is legendary for its elegant mechanics, and so I look forward to studying the book and "burning" up my table in 2014. This also gives me the point of reference I wanted to branch out into the other games that use the engine...Mouse Guard, Burning Empires, and the recent Torchbearer.

4. Dungeon Crawl Classics: I was vehemently against the so-called "Old School Renaissance" movement...and then I happened to pick up Mr. Goodman's 500-page homage to late 70s/early 80s fantasy roleplaying. I was stunned by how goddamn good it is! Truth be told, DCC is not an "old-school" roleplaying game. It has very new-school mechanics in it, but integrated into an old-school theme, so well-done that it really does feel like this game came out the year I was born, instead of last year. This is the first OSR-style game I have had any emotions other than contempt for. It's just too cool of a game to not bring to the table at least a few times...especially for my older gamers!

5. Numenera: I have struggled with bringing Monte Cook's masterpiece any justice at the table. It's such a beautifully-bizarre world, and I feel like I haven't done it or the excellent game system its due. That will change in 2014. With my abrupt about-face on running published adventures, I'm charging right back into the Ninth World, armed with adventures bound to become modern classics..."The Nightmare Switch" and the epic "The Devil's Spine." These adventures will give me the context and confidence necessary to really sink my teeth into this incredible game.

6. A Post-Apocalyptic RPG to be Named Later: I, as a GM, have two preferred genres: fantasy, and post-apocalypse sci-fi. I have had plenty of fun with the former, and in 2014, I intend to indulge the latter. I have not decided on the game yet. Other Dust, a companion game to the indie darling Stars Without Number, is immediately up for consideration. Hell on Earth, the post-apocalyptic version of Deadlands, is also up there. And, of course, Vincent Baker's masterpiece Apocalypse World is way, way up there. Hell, I'm even considering the game of my youth that probably turned me on to the entire genre: Kevin Siembieda's classic Rifts. And, of course, we can't forget zombie apocalypses, which totally count and are totally awesome, as well. That puts Rotworld, All Flesh Must be Eaten, Outbreak: Undead, and my own full-on AW hack World Gone Mad all on the radar, too. So, yeah...lots of thinking to do there!

7. The Right to Know: This isn't an RPG par se; it's the name of my Cthulhu mini-campaign. I ran the first of the eight planned episodes, "The Digital Tome," twice last year, and both times it went extremely well. I just finished the first playable draft of the second episode, "The Sudden Knife," and look forward to getting some playthroughs of that in, as well. I hope, by the end of this year, I've got at least playable drafts of episodes three, four, and five. Ideally, I'd have the whole eight-part series done, but let's be realistic, here! Though I played "The Digital Tome" as a Fate Core game (and it went very well), I'm still looking for an RPG that'll do it right. I have a lot of crazy, microscopic-level detailed thoughts about the system and the adventure, which I'll get into in a later entry.

8. 13th Age: Finally, getting back to my nefarious scheme of using D&D as a gateway drug, 13th Age is practically built to be an off-ramp from the D&D highway. It uses many of the same ideas and mechanics as D&D, but tweaked in just the right ways to make gameplay faster and more narrative-focused. In fact, many of 13th Age's coolest innovations, like the Escalation Die and character Uniques, can be ported directly into D&D without breaking anything! The dream is to take a D&D group and gradually introduce 13th Age concepts to them, so that after a few sessions, we're actually just playing 13th Age! Sneaky, huh?

Well, there's my master plan. We of course know what happens to the best laid plans, and given my absolute fascination and short attention span with RPGs, it'll be interesting to see how the year plays out as opposed to this list. However, for now, if I can at least stick to some of this plan, 2014 is going to be an awesome year for RPGs.

Update One: January 13

After my first play session with DCC yesterday, I'm pretty certain that game is going to drop from the year's agenda. It is a great game, but it's appeal to the old-school is much more exclusively-focused than I originally thought. In other words, I thought anyone would love DCC. Turns out the whole "old-school" theme only really resonates with people into that kinda thing! So my Eight-Way Plan may in fact become a Seven-Way Plan.

Also, after some extensive thought, I'm quite certain I'm going to stick to Fate Core for my Cthulhu campaign. I will replay the first episode a few more times and continue to tweak my hack to get it just right, but I think that will be easier (and more fun) than trying to discover and learn a Cthulhu-themed RPG that does exactly what I want it to do.

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