Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The latest experiment

Six players walk into a bar...throw down some books...and try to make a game out of it...

Except its actually 10 players...

So, I started a new game back in early January/late February, and I'm just now getting around to writing about it. Sorry (to the one person out there reading this).

The initial premise was simple: get some players together, leave the tech at home (books in hard copy only, no laptops), and most importantly run what the players want to play.

The last bit has always been a fundamental rule of mine--if the players don't want to play the game, then I, as a GM, won't have fun, so I always let them pick (doesn't mean that I won't make the marketing pitch and try to sell them on the games that I want to play). This time however, we put a spin on it...

We established the following guidelines:

Everyone is allowed to bring 2 physical game books.

  • ANY d20-based materials are fair.
    • Pick something you would like to play.
    • If you don’t have books of your own, you are free to pull something off of my shelves.
  • Whatever you bring will be the official list of allowed materials for the game…so if no one brings a PHB or equivalent, no one plays a fighter.
    • If you want to play something specific, bring the book.
  • We will work together to build characters (and figure out what exists in the world) based on whatever you bring (so bring something fun).
  • The onus of the world-building effort rests with the GM. Your level of involvement in world-building is entirely up to you…You are free to just throw in the book and say “I want to play this as written” or “I just brought this because I like X class or race or feat” and we’ll find a way to make it work. The point is to have fun with some reasonable constraints, not to make any over-think things.
    • That said, we will try to make an interesting world out of whatever anyone brings.
  • If new players show up later, they will each be allowed to introduce 1 new book to the list of allowed materials…

So, this seemed reasonable at the time...2 random, weird d20 books per player should mean roughly 10 books for me to internalize and try to build a game out of. 

Of course, I always invite a rather large bank of people, not expecting everyone to be able to commit. This time however...we had 10 players commit. Yeah...not 8-10 books, but 20. 20 books, carefully selected by the players to give them lots of broken options and combinations (or not so carefully selected to cause a chaotic mix of overlapping rules).

Obviously, not all book are equal for providing world-building material. But here are a few of the materials that really stood out that showed up on our table: Ponyfinder (originally an April Fool's joke--My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic translated to the Pathfinder system), the Midnight Campaign Setting (most commonly summed up as "Middle Earth if Sauron won"), Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed (which introduces some interesting races and PC-centric rules with some interesting implications), Tome of Magic (a class splat-book with some weird kabbalistic/Lovecraftian thematics), Encyclopedia Magica (a 4 volume set containing every magic item published for AD&D, with some nice d1000 tables in the back), and Fire and Brimstone (just in case there was any question on whether you get a saving throw when you come into contact with lava--spoiler, you don't).

What we can take from these sources (in short): (A) It's a fantasy game. (B) Magic items should be readily available, and interesting (no +1 swords here). (C) None of the sources have priests, except the legate in Midnight, so healing is hard to come by. (D) Lava kills you...and a player wanted to make sure of that...so make sure there is LOTS OF LAVA. (E) There are a lot of conflicting magic systems (more so since the books also included Ultimate Magic and the Spell Compendium), this is definitely the opposite of a "low magic" game.

Suffice to say, in the intervening 6 months we've had a lot of fun.

I'll try to post more on this in the near future.