Thursday, December 18, 2014

The List of Ten

A couple of months ago, I made a list called "The Big & Little Five." These were ten tabletop RPGs I was going to primarily focus all my concentration on. The idea was to narrow my extremely-wide interests on RPGs, but still give me enough room to be flexible and try out different things. 

I still believe this is a good idea, but now I would like to update the list. Yesterday, Geek Native published my latest review of The One Ring Roleplaying Game. As you can see from reading the review, I am quite enamored with the game. Looking ahead to the games I want to run in 2015, I definitely want The One Ring on that list. So now it's time to update the list. I'm also now just calling the list "The List of Ten" because I think Big Five and Little Five is silly and sounds confusing. 

Anyways, as of December 18, 2014, the ten roleplaying games I want to devote most of my time on are:

  1. Dungeons & Dragons (all editions, mainly 5th)
  2. World of Darkness (all sub-worlds, mainly The God Machine Chronicle)
  3. Shadowrun (5th edition)
  4. The One Ring
  5. Star Wars (Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion)
  6. Fate Core
  7. Eclipse Phase
  8. Numenera/The Strange
  9. Warhammer Fantasy role-playing (third edition)
  10. Call of Cthulhu (6th edition currently; 7th once it's in print)

So the big heartbreaker: Apocalypse Engine games are off the list. Does this mean I'll never play or run them again? Absolutely not! It just means that my focus is off of them for now. I feel like the real power of the Apocalypse Engine is not in its mechanics but in its design theory (structuring RPGs like a conversation, making moves, agendas and principles, etc.). That design theory, however, can easily be applied to any other game, and so I have taken the games themselves off the list, but know that the philosophies of those games very much guide my GMing technique.

Two notable genres are missing from the list. One of them is superheroes. That's not exactly surprising. I literally cannot remember the last supers game I've run. I've written before about my problems with the genre, and though I have a solution I'd love to explore, that's a full campaign commitment I'm not sure I'm ready to make on an experiment. As for superhero games, there is the all-mighty Marvel Superheroic, but the almost-unforgivable sin of not allowing character creation (except for a tacked-on appendix after the game's publication) is a hard pill for me to swallow. Hero System is a little bit too crunchy for me. Mutants & Masterminds looks like a lot of fun, so I might have to look into that. Anyways, the search for a decent supers game is on.

The other notably-absent genre is post-apocalyptic. Numenera can do in a pinch, but it's a little weirder than most conventional post-apocalyptic settings. Eclipse Phase is technically post-apocalyptic, too, but not earth-bound. There are a few interesting ones out there, but nothing that's really got me excited to play in a world like that. This is going to have to change soon...with the new Mad Max movie on the horizon, and the ever-present popularity of the Fallout videogames, and of course The Walking Dead, this is a big deficiency on my List!

Most of the games on my List are very thematic. For whatever reason, theme enhanced by gameplay (or vice versa) is a big Thing with me right now. The One Ring showed this clearly, but even before that game, I was ranting and raving about Edge of the Empire and how its mechanics complement the themes of its source material, as well. 

There are two exceptions to that currently on my List. One is Fate Core. Being a universal system (I hate the term "generic"), Fate Core is a game designed to be customized for whatever genre/setting one can imagine. The other exception, Eclipse Phase, is one of the greatest settings for a game I've ever read, but it's saddled with a fairly crunchy, detail-driven system that I'm not too big on. For that reason, both of these games may fall off the List very soon. In the case of the former, I'm not too keen on making my own setting when I have these other games that have fleshed-out, detailed settings for me, ready to run great games in. In the case of the latter, I have little desire to refine or hack a clunky system when I could just play something else, even if I loved the setting.

Another common theme on this List are high production values. Each one of the games on the List looks great, with professional layout and high-quality art. As I've said before, my focus as a GM is on bringing new players to the hobby, and that's much easier to do with pretty pictures and flashy production values over a scrappy indie game that looks like it was thrown together on MS Word. I have all the respect in the world for the indie scene, and I fully recognize that they play an important part in the hobby, but my mission as a GM unfortunately takes me away from the indie scene, not closer.

So as 2015 begins and I return to GMing a weekly game, look to this List for possibilities on what I will run!

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