Summertime is bullshit for setting up a new RPG, amirite?
I feel a little discouraged by our premature ejection from our last game. Kind of a combination of the vague disinterest folks developed in the face of constant delays, and feeling, I dunno…maybe a little taken for granted. Like, I’m totally confident that I’m very good at running games. But I also feel like that very good pianist at the bar you like to go to, who’s always good so you don’t really notice because it’s comfortable and expected and just part of why you like going to that bar. It’s fine, really. Just kind of a funny observation, since I think at least one of my players has felt taken for granted as well.
I’m not quite feeling pumped, like, anxious and itchy, about getting another game going. I love it — looove it — when I’ve got one cooking and we’re meeting regularly and everyone is at least modestly excited about playing. But summer is bullshit, as posited above, so nobody’s sharing that urgency with me right now.
So I grabbed a piece of paper and started going over my uh rather extensive collection both on my shelves and in PDF, looking for the games that for-real interest me. It’s a good way to start feeling excited, for me at least! The list ended up being pretty long. Now I’m slowly ordering the games by how bad I actually want to run them: for this particular group, at this particular time.
Here’s what made the cut, in order, and my current priority list along with notes to myself.
Apocalypse World 2E: I haven’t actually played OG AW since 1E came out! Many years now. Gone through tons of PbtA and hacks but man…the (new and improved) original is up there. Downsides: Lukewarm enthusiasm by at least one and maybe two players for PbtA-style play. We just ran a Dungeon World hack. And I’m not sure I’m ready for what I’m sure would be a pretty grim story.
The Veil: Looks rad as well as pretty distant from straight Apocalypse World. Jonathan Perrine, one of my newest additions to Tuesday Game Night, says it feels more like a more-distant PbtA relative, like Headspace or Uncharted Worlds. I’ve got this concern, and it’s so dumb, about running back-to-back games on the same platform. But I’ve got at least one player actively interested in the subject matter.
Blades in the Dark: We ran a couple sessions out of quickplay 6, maybe? And another of my players ran his own side game from the same quickplay. We have two copies of it floating around. Downsides: I wish I had a better sense of how robust the not-criming part of the game is. It was not especially strong out of the quickstart rules. Grinding out job after job didn’t feel awesome but I think that was just a limit of my understanding of the game.
Torchbearer: I haven’t played since the playtest! And I’m still feeling uninspired to take on full-bore Burning Wheel. But! I’m still not persuaded Torchbearer is “fun” in a way my players would enjoy. It might get my Burning Wheel cultists off my back, though. That’s no small thing.
Coriolis: It’d be straight space adventure, which I’m reflexively mehhhh on because my best players also prefer strong melodrama, which I don’t think Coriolis really gives a shit about. But it looks like fun, for real, and Fria Ligan has consistently delivered fun games, at least in the short term.
Soth: Been on my list since last year’s BigBadCon. And I think I could do it in two sessions. Strong contender. Feel like I need five, though. Given the short run I think it might be a good match. But! I think one of my players has played it before. I know there are alt rules for replays, so not a big deal. Hmm.
The Clay That Woke: I can’t tell if this is a sunk-cost fallacy thing happening (I spent $70 to get the wooden tokens, it must be good!) and I’m intellectually intrigued by how it plays out. And I’ve got a players who’s played it in a con setting, I think. It doesn’t really viscerally speak to me. But I confess I’ve been interested since I got it. Weighing whether I actually want to ask my players along for the ride.
Epyllion: Lands in a funny space for me. I really enjoyed a con game of it, but it’s … gentle, I guess. Not explicitly “childish” in any way. But the central themes of friendship and teamwork and mutual support…I feel like my local players might scoff at that? Also, I’ve got the Jonathan Perrine factor: he’s probably the single most experienced Epyllion player on the planet due to his Magpie connection, so I both feel a tiny unease asking him to run it even more as well as my own har har let me show you how it’s done! impulses.
Urban Shadows: I want this game to work so, so bad. I’ve run it…hm…one longish campaign, two short side games, two one-shots. And I finally got to play for the first time at NewMexicon. It pushes a lot of my buttons. My Tuesday Game Night players have been through it, though, and I know at least one of them was deeply dissatisfied with how it played out (and acknowledges that we all learned how to play it better). This and Sagas of the Icelanders are my favorite PbtAs. And I feel a tiny bit like maybe I should offer up a not-PbtA next. So.
Wrath of the Autarch: Looks rad but also too long-term right now. Also pretty game-y and not really role-play-ish. Not sure all my players are up for really digging into how to play it well. If I had a better sense of whether or not it’s a good experience in, say, five sessions, I’d have a stronger opinion. Maybe Phil Lewis can chime in.
Masks: You know, maybe? Don’t love supers but I hear nothing but the very best from folks about this game. Kit La Touche says it puts off Strong Female Protagonist vibes. The teen thing again, though. Same problem I have with Tales from the Loop and Monsterhearts. I need to find a way past that I think.
Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine: Tough one. It’s like The Clay That Woke in that intellectually, I’m super-interested in decoding it. How does it work? Why did she write it this way? My players even surprised me when I brought up the heartwarming aspect of the game before, and they replied that they had grown tired of grim/dark/grimdark. I’m having a hard time getting stoked about rewiring everyone’s expectations of how a session “should” play out.
Legacy: Life Among the Ruins: I have the hardest time fitting this and Apocalypse World in my head at the same time. Quite different games and quite different tones! I feel like I’d need to run these, like, a year apart from one another. The family-building aspect is super interesting to me, though, because I’m looking at similar tools for my secret Real American West project.
Tales from the Loop: Another Mutant hack. The kid thing isn’t speaking to me. And someone pointed out that the central mystery of the game — the Loop itself — is never really addressed. It’s just the excuse to have weird-shit-of-the-week type play. I may just need to be in the right mood for it.
So that’s this week’s FOMO.