Monday, December 5, 2011
Gaming in Different Systems (to break up routine and keep the game fresh)
As far as this applies to me, I guess that part of the reason is that I have no desire to master a system. I am not, nor do I think have ever been, looking for a way to game the system. I don't want to get bogged down in the minutiae of the rules, the deep crunch that some enclaves of gamers dive right into, looking for a way to win at character creation or power combinations. I want to be able to play, and in most instances to be capable of running the game (if needed). But I still think the second rule should be to enjoy myself (behind the first rule – don't ruin anyone else's good time – and slightly ahead of the third rule – don't cheat unless you are the GM), and I usually don't happily read more into the rules than what I need to accomplish that.
There is a danger of sticking too long to a single system, though. Eventually, those little facets of the rules that I could avoid start springing up. Worse – and this is the situation in which I find myself – characters start to seem less like organic beings who grow and evolve over the course of play (yes, I am generally that reckless when it comes to anticipating character progression – a topic I have briefly covered before) and things to be optimized or trickerated (read: made to have many minor tricks that, in combination, amount to increased utility and abilities beyond standard or optimized builds). The characters stop having personality and become little more than the information on the sheet. And that is just boring to me.
I kicked around the MechWarrior RPG 2nd Edition (1991) and some GURPs (1986). I tried Fudge (1992) but found it too abstract for my purposes. My cousin tried to get me interested in RoleMaster but I prefer the rules-light, setting specific Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game (1984) and gave it a few months of play. Eventually I fell back into AD&D 2nd Ed., but that was short lived as we – as a group – came to discover Vampire: The Masquerade (2nd Edition) (1992). Vampire led to the other White Wolf games and it wasn't a little more than two years before the entire enterprise was back to looking like a bunch of dots on the page. The characters who started these campaigns – Demius Bloodclaw in the Dragonlance AD&D campaign and Richard Talisman in the Vampire chronicle, both run by Jeff Bergman – shone so much brighter as beings with whom I shared time and gave voice than those toward the end.
However, I find myself playing only Pathfinder these days (and only the Organized Play scenarios and modules). I have six character that I have played – Daenaris, Hymibi Jymbo, Kiara, Bellarius D'Nassi, Jenissa Halvarek, and Hedda Gørsyn – and one yet to be played (Aeoki Hyrushi, the character who is supposed to go with the picture at the beginning of the post). I find myself having a hard time being invested when a character may only be played two or three times a year, but it is even worse when the rules seem to take over the experience.
I don't feel any strong need to get involved in different games, but I know that throwing different systems into the mix helps break up the desire to look at the roleplaying experience as something that can be won by making a better, more powerful, more resource-laden character. In previous experiences, one of the things that changing systems did was expose me to new and different people. I already get a steady stream – perhaps too much – of that with PFS.
I know people who purposely plan short campaigns as a way to keep things fresh. One of the things this allows is to let the duties of GMing be shared (OP accomplishes this much differently), but it also means that the players will likely move on to a new game before anyone has felt the need to figure out how to make the best character they can. It keeps the focus on the roleplaying and the characters have to be found and defined quickly because they won't be around forever [Talisman was played for almost three years, Mistocles Sardis (Living Arcanis) was played for six years, and Daenaris was first played on 11/27/09]. I don't think that is what I want to do, but changing things up with different systems – on occasion – is usually a good idea.