Game Necromancy

Game Necromancy

What are we on now? 11? The non-charitable, non-thoughtful replies are starting to wear me out. But let’s trudge ahead.

The angle I’m interested in here is the rebirth of a particularly catchy premise that’s currently burdened by its fussy, awkward, time-consuming roots. Tastes change all the time and sometimes old ways are better, but I think it’s also true that sometimes there are better solutions available to specific play experience goals. Games are fashion as well as technology.

So: the game I’d most like to see reborn is Traveller. Not the generic sci-fi adventure framework it’s built on. There are lots and lots of generic sci-fi adventure solutions out there. I’m talking about the specific setting and premise of Traveller from its very earliest inception: veterans, mostly, at loose ends and looking for shit to do beyond the Imperium.

Yeah, I know about Traveller World. It’s nice, really. But it also feels like a pretty shallow PbtA refactoring of Traveller-as-played, not Traveller-as-conceived. That old premise is absent (and if we’re being honest, was only very lightly there to begin with). You’re just playing scouts or merchants or whatever. There’s also the matter of what PbtA is good at modeling (genre emulation (cue definition argument about genre)), and the fact that, well, not every damned thing needs to be a PbtA hack. It’s like how Dungeon World is a PbtA emulation of the experiencing of playing D&D. Which is fine but not what I care about.

Runner-up: Runequest in a format that gradually spoon-feeds everyone the vast complexity of the Glorantha setting, doesn’t require months or years of study, and directly addresses the core ideas of the game: the mythic symbolic heroquests, the conflicts between faiths, but most of all the bronze age mindset necessary to make any of that make sense. Invoking and maintaining a non-modern mental framework is on my short list of things I want to accomplish in design before I die. I have no idea how I’ll do it! But Glorantha gaming is my test case (also Pendragon, although the split stats and attached incentivized achievements come close).

Ugh…I just ran across the review of Heroquest Glorantha and now my head is bruised from the repeated strikes on my desk every time the word “narrativist” is used.Ow there it is again! I have no experience at all with Heroquest Glorantha so it’s entirely possible that this is a solved problem. I’ll never know, though, because the internecine warfare between Glorantha camps makes it impossible to find any direct explanation of what it does.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

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0 thoughts on “Game Necromancy”

  1. FYI, there is a new edition of RQ coming out real soon now; you can download the quick-start at the Chaosium website, too.

    Which review of HQ were you looking at?

    “Narrativist” is one of the most misused bits of Forge jargon ever.

    The one time I played HQG was amazing, but I also had a GM who was a Glorantha veteran (and designer of the game) who could dole out tasty, bite-sized bits of setting as we played.

    As for Traveller, I feel like both Diaspora and the Firefly games made noble attempts at what you’re talking about, but, yeah, a focused game that did the hobo-veteran thing would be great.

  2. Believe it or not, I hear you on the spoonfeeding. Even though I’ve jumped into Glorantha headfirst, turning that into something I can run has been a huge hurdle for me. I’m actually hoping the new Red Cow book they just released on running a campaign does it but I haven’t been able to read it yet. But to your post, that’s a supplement and not a core rules set. Do you have any examples of other games that teach setting through play? I see how Pendragon helps teach the mindset of the period but not the setting exactly.

  3. Spoon feeding. Oh that’s a tough one. The ones I’m thinking of rely on creating stuff on the spot rather than coming to grips with an existing canon. So, like, the Fronts process for Space Wurm vs Moonicorn, in which everyone buys into a bespoke space opera setting. Or the Spout Lore move in Dungeon World.

    I really like the lore sheet idea in Weapons of the Gods, too. Spend XP to buy a sheet, and that sheet is now part of the world.

    Hm. Oh the phases of Montsegur 1244 where you stop to introduce the basics of the Cathar faith, and then again about the Perfects in the Cathar Church and how they work.

    But the Montsegur 1244 solution reminds me of the players who kind of hate learning about performance-critical details after the game has started. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but I know some folks prefer to know everything so they act “correctly” from the very beginning. Which I think is very much the Glorantha problem, yeah? If everyone can set aside the impulse for “correct” play, you could so easily introduce interesting details as you went.

    Or Glorantha ceases to be an established canon, and instead is a set of values: there are cults, there are religions, there are races, but it’s on the players to create their Glorantha procedurally through play. Which probably misses the point for most Glorantha fans who are all-in on the shared canon.

  4. Paul Beakley There is an old saying in the Gloranthaphile community of “YGMV” (your Glorantha may vary) meant to encourage people to do just that, or take what inspires you about bits of the setting and throw out the rest, without having to worry about other people jumping on your case, but I still find it impossible to relate with a lot of the Gloranthaphiles who require everything categorized and defined.

    Using the books I think everything is there to do what you’re describing but yeah, all the heavy lifting is on you.

  5. Your Traveller idea sounds like the sort of thing I could get behind. Hard (or hard-ish) scifi is one of those things that I find always disappoints me in RPGs, and I think that says more about me than anything. And, well, about the very specific and idiosyncratic things that people mean when they say “hard scifi.”

    Not to mention I want to have reasonably plausible interstellar travel, and I don’t mind the characters having to do a bunch of complex math and calculus… but I don’t want to have to do it.

  6. You might have inadvertently provided me with my answer to this question, Paul: Weapons of the Gods. The lore sheets are a brilliant bit of tech that I can’t remember other games having picked up in the same way. From what I can recall from reading it (never played! Don’t ask me to review it!), it also had the roots of Exalted 3e‘s combat engine.

    As for Runequest, I hear you. Gaming in any long-established world (Glorantha, Forgotten Realms, Tekumel, arguably the WoD) asks the players to walk a lore minefield. It also requires that the GM be the most knowledgable fan of the material, which isn’t always possible.

  7. I have a legacy-boardgame-inspired design I’m doodling on that has a sort of…sealed loresheet envelopes. You pay to open it, and you get whatever is inside. Hope it’s good stuff! Might not all be!

  8. I would definitely take a look at the new RQ quick-start. There’s an included adventure, “The Broken Tower,” that on the surface seems like a standard one-shot fetch-quest, but the details are “Glorantha” enough that I think someone expecting a D&D-style scenario will be surprised. I.e., the PCs are mostly part of the same tribe, what they are searching for is a mundane-but-important community resource, and the Big Bad is something that can be dealt with in many ways, including a cult-focused, bronze-age-y one.

    Disclaimer: I’ve have on read it, not played it.

  9. New RQ looks and feels right.

    I am rediscovering my fondness for Traveller, the third RPG I ever knew about (D&D, RQ2, Traveller) back in the early 80s.

  10. Hmm, so you mentioned two of my top games… Why a rebirth? What’s wrong with the original games, both RQ and CT are still in print. For less of a fire-hose of Glorantha I think works, take RuneQuest 2, Cults of Prax, and the maps therein and have at it. Maybe add in one or two of the early modules (Apple Lane and/or Snake Pipe Hollow). That’s how I played back in the day and it was just fine. If you want more, gradually add more material, ignore anything that contradicts what you’ve established in play.

    For Traveller, take Books 1-3 or The Traveller Book or Starter Traveller, rollup a sub-sector and have at it.

  11. From a Glorantha perspective, i see your angle, so really more of a guide on how to use the existing product with some background on the setting details? And I guess the same for Traveller?

    I guess for Traveller, the answer in part is to get Christopher Kubasik to pull his writing together and publish a book…

    And maybe we need the same sort of thing for RQ.

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