Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday night became Quest night

Warhammer quest that is. Again this follows and exhibits the Rule of Cool aka the Rule of Awesome and also the Rule of Fun

It was handy as I'm still doing work on the game so one of the other guys ran it.

Really? Really? I mean have you seen my AXE!!! Now sod off!

Its a really fun game. The mechanics are simple and it gets right down to the hack and slay really quickly. During play we made comparisons to just how alike Warhammer Quest was to D&D4th ed. Of course we came out on the side of WHQ and not on the side of D&D4. WHQ is so honest in what it does. So much more lean. So much less in the way of rule bloat. Ok there are times WHQ isnt very balanced. Particularly when you have a string of bad luck in an important room. The result can be effectively game ending, which is not so great. However this is a bit of an edge case. Your not that unlucky all the time and the game runs smoothly. Yet it has nearly all of the tropes of D&D 4th ed and more importantly (to us) earlier editions of D&D.

Look I know I have put on some weight! K!
So whats the game all about? Like many other games of its type - cooperative quest games - your on a mission which culminates in the fight with the big bad or some other genre cliche. Necessarily you need to chose a character - all have great flavor inherited for the most part from the Warhammer "Old World". The basic classes are nothing all that special. Barbarian, Wizard, Elf, Dwarf you get the idea. With more advanced add on sets - character packs - you can get Chaos Warriors and War Dancers to name a couple. You equip them with swords, armor, spell and staff and go off on either random or slightly more planned adventures - sound familiar. Well yes, its essentially a roll playing game in a box. A lot like Descent Journey into the Dark and not too unlike Claustrophobia too. And a lot like all versions of D&D and other role playing games.

The main difference is the role play part. You really don't do that - if you do you are bringing it yourself. There is not really much support for doing that in the game i.e. it doesn't give you pages on what playing a role is in an rpg context. It just lets this be either an emergent part of the game or not as the case may be.(also a bit like D&D 4th ed. heh)

While yes, it lets you level your hero and collect magic crap, it really does not develop the world or the character much beyond that. Other then some neat travel tables and what not.

This was something of a revelation during play. I came to appreciate a couple of things.
  • Basic combat is the most "simulationist" part of a table top rpg and as it is the most like a conventional game it is the element more people can game and what to be played like a game
  • An extension to that is some of the other mini games in rpg's most of which are solo in nature. Like character generation. But these is not really a lot of these tools for GM's
  • This highlighted the lack of mechanical game support in (other?) table top role playing games;  ultimately the most important part of any rpg if the game is to be played as a campaign and that is adventure design.

Really, I think, in order to call a role playing game a "game" it requires mechanical support for the GM's interaction with the game during campaign design. I've seen a number of very good adventure generators now and I think more work on this front will happen in the next wave of designs.

The light hit her wet chrome like neon sex
Already games like Leverage, Technoir, The One Ring, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, and to a large extent the Savage Worlds Plot point campaigns and Pizo's Adventure Paths, show solid movement in this direction. New OSR product like Darkness Visible and its parent game Stars without number provides solid GM mini games and "run-time" support. Interestingly Traveller has always provided at least sketchy support in this regard, by providing rules for planet and patron generation and definitions for what the planet/patron aspects mean. Add in Library data and the players backgrounds and away you could go.

It would be possible to suggest, based on the above position, that many previous rpg's have been "incomplete" in this regard. Not providing GM assistance, no lets say min games, to support adventure generation, left the GM in a state where they were required to do a lot of work, with very little. Support and direction is required for how to make a sustainable ongoing game. Not esays on good GMing (although there is no harm including this). If not for early modules there would have been little in the way of example. I'd also suggest commercial modules make a poor examples of the actual material required for running a home game. For example when I'm doing well with a game system and campaign, spiral bound notepads are my go to device for jotting up the game. That and a folio, to store lose paper.

Perfect example of GM support min games
Interestingly the OSR crowd cottoned on to this approach long ago with the idea of emergent play. Have lots of pregenerated easily "re-assignable', "Objects" in the Design and Plutonian sense. That is "things" that can be pressed into service. A few ready maps, villians, thugs, treasures and what not that can be pressed into service, to cover the emergent content which is coming out of the run-time spontaneous play.

However for the "Game" part of the hobby to really be present for the GM, I think its furthermore required we as GM's have a number of plot "patterns" we can reach to and press into service, to give some GM direction, structure and definition and importantly constraint, to the emergent play and to remove to much of the free form and thereby stabilize play for all parties.

That's where the work of S John Ross comes to the fore. Reach over and grab one of the convenient plot patterns and then continue on. Because a conventional table top roleplaying game should be much more satisfying then Warhammer Quest BUT a table top roleplaying game should provide the type of gaming support to the GM that Warhammer Quest hints is possible.

If you want a great old school game were you get nearly all of this, you had best go look at perhaps the most realized rpg ever published. Pendragon.

Possibly the perfectly complete game?

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