Game Night!

It’s game night tonight and I have no idea what we’re doing. It’s bullet time!

* It’s been several weeks since Urban Shadows, and the fizz miiiight be out of the bottle now. Dunno. I know at least two players are okay with it, but one “misses the roleplaying” (see previous) and another feels like everything is so reactive that he basically misses the roleplaying as well. It’s weird, right? Story is great, sessions are fun, and yet there’s still that dissatisfaction. Interesting. It’d be trivially easy to get it up and running again re love letters. Or even a reboot, why not? But why bother if they’re just treading water? 

It might be that PbtA games are honestly more fun to run than play, at least for our group. Dunno. Thinking about it. I think it’s not true in the same way for all three of my regulars.

* The state of affairs re scifi indie roleplaying continues to be dire. Star Wars, right? So I looked back at my shelf and started pulling titles off to re-read.

Myriad Song just has no direction or guidance at all, and the cute die pool thing isn’t really getting me pumped. I just don’t have the right head space atm to dig into it and force it to work.

I took another long hard look at Edge of the Empire next, and man do I dig the dice. I dig a lot of that game, but Obligations once again loom large as terrible and Motivations, wtf. I’m probably thinking too hard about it and just need to run it “like a roleplaying game” and stop expecting/demanding that games make it easy on me to run.

Then I looked at Firefly and wondered if it’d be funner with folks who are more mechanically minded than my family. Maybe! 

I have Uncharted Worlds in hand but it’s not really inspiring me.

I’m never going to back to FATE so Disapora is a no-go.

Thinking about Burning Empires gives me a backache.

Dunno. It’s been a problem since forever. I have speculations as to why scifi gaming (detached from explicit license celebrations) just don’t seem to do it for me. Got me thinking about how much character-driven sci-fi there actually is in fiction, you know? Not much, I think. It might just be a dumb thing that I can’t put characters before plot/premise and still have it be scifi.

* I think the “I miss the roleplaying” thing has put me into a tailspin of reflection/introspection/navel-gazing. It probably concurrent with a more general ebb in my ever-lengthening sine wave of passion for roleplaying: I’ve had a nice multi-month run of enthusiasm, so it might be time for a multi-month ebb. Boardgames!

* Fall of Magic is still sitting in its box. I’m having a hell of a time getting folks interested. As soon as I describe it as “systemless, like how Durance is” eyes glaze over. Might go into my convention-only pile, along with Montsegur 1244 and Night Witches and Archipelago.

* I’m 99% sure I’m in for Dreamation and I am so stoked. If I can afford the plane tix I’m in. I’ll need a roomie! 

* I kind of go hull-down for the holidays anyway (complicated lifetime feels), and I think the general holiday disruption’s impact on my gaming schedule doesn’t help. Nobody’s had to cancel for holiday reasons (yet)! But I also kind of don’t want to make firm plans for a high-commitment game until the new year, I think.

0 thoughts on “Game Night!”

  1. Hey, Paul Beakley I missed Dreamation last year, but have been noodling getting back there this year. Let me know when you’re in fer sure and we can be roomies or something.

  2. “Thinking about Burning Empires gives me a backache.” You’ve already won your own thread/post with that one.

    I’d also suggest giving Star Wars d6 a shot. Why not?

  3. You’re my favorite RPG grump!

    I think sci-fi is so hard because the actual fabric of existence, society, and all the trappings are up for negotiation. I have an issue with spongy magic (as happens in World of Dungeons), and sci-fi can easily become all magic. The essence of rapidly changing technology is that there’s this sharp distinction between the possible and the impossible – but it’s always in motion. (“What? It’s going Warp 10?!”) Without crystal clear setting expectations, instead you just have mush. I think that’s why playing ‘Star Wars’ or other properties really helps to level set this. (In fact, Star Wars pulls away from this completely there’s AI, but they’re just metal people; there are laser guns, but they’re just revolvers; there are spaceships, but they’re just boats or motorcycles.)

  4. Further – I hear you on the dissatisfaction front. I think a lot of gaming is just ‘maintenance gaming’. When you (as we do) assemble a bunch of wannabe writery designery types, there’s this constant side topic about could have been better. How could the system have better supported us, how could we have made better choices, what would have been better timing for that bang..

    Role-playing games are so complicated (not just procedurally, but in terms of the sheer volume of obvious and non-obvious choices that are happening at all times) that there’s limitless surface area to chew over.

    I think partly it’s part of an ongoing learning process, wanting to do it well, but I do think it interferes to a degree and produces a sort of dissatisfaction. When the session is just “cold pizza”, it’s still pizza!

  5. The obligations and motivations are really there as hooks to use, abuse or ignore as you see fit in FFG Star Wars.  They can be handy if the story is in a lull and you need something to happen.  They can be used as ties to encourage a reaction out of a character.  But most of the time they are just there and out of the way.  They are probably the weakest part of the system and fortunately they are the least important.

  6. The only rpg I remember that was actually “to play sf” (as a genre) was Shock: , most other “sf games” actually are based on a single book or TV series or a specific kind of dystopia, or something like that. It’s not strange, seeing that when most players say that they want to play “sf” they really want to play Star Wars or Firefly or Star Trek (I don’t know if I am explaining myself: these ARE sf shows, shows that asked “what if”, but PLAYING in them is not: it’s not asking “what if”, it’s “return there, I liked that”: it’s for this reason, I think, that playing in them doesn’t “feel” like sf)

  7. First, I’m 100% with Michael Prescott. SF gaming is much harder because of the improvisational demands it puts on players. Fantasy gaming takes place in a technologically simple time and magic is handwave-y. But we read and like SF because of the scientific details and consistency. Most people can’t improvise with scientific literacy. This is the Transhuman Space problem.

    As for “maintenance gaming,” I’m 100% with him there, too. The crowd that provides the endless enjoyment of these comment threads are usually designer-types caught in a bind. The sanctity of the RAW conflicts with the dissatisfaction of rules that “aren’t quite right.” Non-designer-types happily apply house rules to change their games into something that works for the group, but most here would probably shy away from that approach. The result is a little dissatisfaction in play and a perpetual search for the “RAW perfect” system. 🙂

  8. Paul Beakley, reading Fate & Destiny (the newer Star Wars book). What is the problem with Motivations/Obligations? With your adversity to Fate am I to guess this means that you dislike mechanics that encourage certain behaviors along these lines? Just looking for a small unpacking of these things!

  9. Obligations don’t really work at all unless you’re playing every session as a self-enclosed thing. If you roll every session but you’re mid-flow in things, that’s really awkward. Paying them off is … okay, I guess, maybe a little too discretionary? I dunno. I played a bunch of EotE with two different groups and both times there was something about Obligations that just didn’t click with them/me. I should go back through my pre-collections posts and refresh my memory.

    Motivations are incredibly weak sauce, just a bonus XP source? Eh. Boring way to shape play. Also, the Motivation tables, if you’re using them, are weird and don’t really map well across character classes. I’d probably ditch it or do something more nuanced with Destiny points. I have no idea what that looks like, other than something where you can generate Light/Dark points, maybe, via your choices. It’d be a major rewrite/superhack.

    That said, EotE is my current leading candidate for space adventure right now.

    FATE: I very much enjoy mechanics that encourage behaviors. I don’t like how FATE does it. Nobody I play with really feels the compel mechanism is that interesting. There’s a lot of fiction-stretching bonus-grubbing via traits. The final roll doesn’t feel that meaningful beyond a modifier threshold. Honestly I think Cortex Plus is a better implementation of what FATE does. I’m probably in the minority on that, and I really don’t want to start a fight with the FATE fans.


    I remember there was something about that. I would really like to run a Fate game for you sometime, if you are willing. At the end, if you are still on that boat then I would happily agree to disagree! Call it similar to a gentlemen’s wager!

    It is my experience that many more mainstream games (D&D 5th ed and Fate & Destiny are two that I have read) where I can see the fingerprints of indie game design upon them and feel very frustrated that the mechanic has no real teeth. That’s why when I started reading Fate & Destiny I wound up running World of Dew. The dice mechanic for F&D seems very constrained with what you can do with it compared to World of Dew.

  11. John Aegard you may be right! I think they’re not super enthusiastic about system-less play. I mean we’ve done Carolina Death Crawl and Durance and they were, you know, okay. Kind of fillers maybe?

  12. I think Nathan Paoletta hit on something way up above, in that when I think about running/playing SF, I tend to think about “generic” games that I can use for SF. Since SF can be pretty much anything, I figure that I’ll start with the foundation for what the game is “about” — is it fighty? is it about Big Ideas™? is ti about just tooling around space? — and then look for a game that does that and then have lonely fun making it SF.

    E.g., learning that The Expanse started as a d20 game makes me want to dust off my copies of d20 Modern and d20 Future. And I have fond memories of one glorious session of Star HERO I ran. And, PTA, heck yeah; pitch your SyFy show and go. And there’s always Burning Sands, which should be less brain-hurty than BE.

    And I still hope to one day give Eclipse Phase a shot, as clunky as I understand it to be.

  13. Literally this is the first time I ever heard of Fantaji. I’d be extremely curious to hear what Paul has to say about it, because from skimming that KS page, it strikes me as intensely not-for-me… but honestly, I would have said the same thing about DitV from just reading a splat summary of it.

  14. “Hi, I’m Paul and I’m super picky, but also really interesting! My campaign is all about reviewing games, playing them, and then griping. We don’t ever really like anything, but I will boil myself alive in a game before giving up on it, and what happens to me is totally fascinating. If you want to see more of my pickled deconstructions, consider donating to my campaign!”

  15. Sorry if that came across as kicking you while you’re down, I know your dissatisfaction isn’t comfortable. The main point I should leave you with is that I’d totally back a “Paul plays/reviews games” patreon.

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