I think this catches me up, and imma cheat this time:
Burning Wheel I think is still my favorite game for open-ended play. Heavily player-authored, gorgeous short and long term reward cycles, constant focus on narrative tensions, pretty much the perfect adventure-story framework if you like your stories about incompatible needs rather than testing one’s abilities.
But can we talk for a minute about the assumptions built into today’s question? Here it is:
“Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?”
I’ve been bopping along the #rpgaday #rpgaday2017 thing in good faith and reading as charitably as possible, reframing where I feel like the question could be more interesting. But gosh, something is really bugging me about today’s.
Maybe it’s the “which.” That sure sounds like PICK ONE AND ONLY ONE to my ear, even reading charitably. And it’s probably useful for focusing answers. But it’s also a bald-faced invitation for fans to defend what they love. There’s no need at all to know much about the bigger world of game design. But more to the point, it also includes everything. The exceptions, the RPGs with explicit endings, are vanishingly small. A rounding error in the list of all RPGs available.
Maybe it’s the “prefer,” because that assumes folks are at all introspective about what and how they play. I think it’s not controversial to say that most players have not played much and wouldn’t really know how to evaluate one game over another anyway.
Maybe it’s the “open-ended.” Probably because every single time we shut down a long-running game that hasn’t landed on a satisfying end note, it feels like failure. I can feel my brain cringing at the word “open-ended,” both as a reminder of that failure and because I cannot imagine a game I would want to run foreverrrrr.
Orrr maybe it’s the “campaign play” bit. At some point the standard terminology of traditional roleplaying started really grating on me. The semiotics of trad gaming bum me out! “Campaign” is an explicit callback to the military, therefore the hobby’s wargame roots. One of my favorite daydreams is to imagine a hobby in which the foundational games were rooted in story-making, and it was the wargaming folks who rolled in later with ideas about how to add character identity to their wargames via the old-school story-making games. What would those games look like? If I ever attain time-travel and it’s not a one-use kind of thing, I’m totally trying it.
Probably it’s just that the whole question gives me the blahs but I feel compelled to ramble anyway.