- Favourite Convention Game. Well, I’m glad this fell after GenCon, cos otherwise I’d only have one to choose from (a Hillfolk game at the last Dragonmeet, which was plenty fun anyways). Let’s go with the Paranoia: High Programmers game I ran on Saturday, because I mostly prefer GM’ing to playing, and it made me laugh a lot. I think one-offs might actually be the best way of playing High Programmers – the short campaign I ran was also funny, but players reported that the stress of constant secrecy and inter-party conflict actually turned the game into an ordeal. The low stakes of a one-off kept the focus on the comedy, to the benefit of all. You need to do a bit of hacking (all the secret missions that keep players fighting each other provide mid-to-long term rewards, you need something more immediate for a one-off), but my experience was that the payoff was worth the effort.
- Game you wish you owned. Intriguing! Do I pick something I know I’ll buy, but that isn’t out yet in paper form, like Rivendell or Feng Shui Second Edition? Or something that looks cool, but is just too expensive, like Demon: the Descent or Age of Rebellion? Should I be thinking of something rare and collectible, like Dungeons of Dragons 1st Edition, or the original Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader? Or more abstractly, something I wish I owned that just DOESN’T EXIST (to my knowledge), like a Terminator RPG, or a game that approaches superheroes in a way I find satisfying? I dunno. I want to own a lot of roleplaying games.
- Funniest Game you’ve played. Probably a Paranoia: Troubleshooters one-off I ran several years ago. R&D handed them a Black Hole Machine, and hilarity ensued. One of the PCs suffered a mental breakdown and was consequently promoted to Orange clearance. We had to take long breaks from this game due to laughter.
- Favourite Game System. Wow, how’s that for a heavy hitter, hidden away on Day 18. I have a soft spot for Savage Worlds, Gumshoe, and some iterations of Cortex Plus. But right now it’s got to be Fate Core or Powered by the Apocalypse, twin masterpieces of game design that have rightfully left their mark upon every noteworthy game release in the last year or two. Choosing between them is tough – Fate has more options and replayability, but the Apocalypse engine has been hacked into so many excellent games that I could spend the rest of my gaming career just making my way through them. For now, I’ll say Fate, because my recent purchase of Atomic Robo and conclusion of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer game has me on a Fate high. My answer could be different tomorrow.
- Favourite Published Adventure. Published adventures aren’t really my thing. My experience is that players much prefer campaign stories that were specifically tailored for their characters, and even if they didn’t, creating the framework for a story is one of the aspects of GM’ing that I find most satisfying. So let’s talk about the only adventure book I own: The Soul Reaver, for the Rogue Trader Warhammer 40K line, which I mostly bought to get rules for playing a Dark Eldar PC. It looks pretty cool, with a take on the 40K universe that’s quite rare to see in the rest of the line, and I wouldn’t mind giving it a go some time. On the other hand, the plot hinges around the PCs being captured halfway through the adventure, which sets off my alarm bells. To quote Ken Hite: “By and large, players absolutely hate for their characters to get captured: losing an arm is preferable to losing a few days in the box.” This probably merits its own discussion piece at some point.
- Will still play in 20 years time. Hopefully nothing? That probably sounds harsh, but I’m a firm believer that the games on offer now are a LOT better than the ones available twenty years ago, and I’m hoping that the next generation of game designers will continue that upward trend. So even if I am still roleplaying in twenty years time (who knows, right?), I hope I’ll be playing exciting new releases, things like the stuff we have now but better. If I DID decide to play a game that was 20+ years old, it’d probably be as a nostalgic indulgence. Most likely Warhammer 40K.
- Favourite Licensed RPG. I could talk about Warhammer 40K again, or The One Ring, Cubicle 7’s excellent Lord of the Rings adaptation. But lets mix things up a bit and talk about the Smallville RPG. So many interesting things going on here – five different stress tracks reflective of the genre, a mammoth (and frankly absurd) relationship-map-focussed character generation, and a core resolution mechanic that ensures levelling up your “Marksman” stat is less important that levelling up your “how much I love Lois” stat. I mentioned above that there aren’t really any superhero games I like, but Smallville is not a superhero game, it’s a soap opera game with superpowers. In that regard, it both perfectly replicates the source material and delivers a distinctly unique playstyle that is great fun to adapt for original stories. This game is so good that it made me forget that I don’t actually like the Smallville TV show at all!
10 days left to go, and I haven’t decided yet if I’ll do them all in one post or split it into two. Sneaking a look ahead, a lot of them look like they could be tough. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk about something new instead of the same games over and over again…