Monday, 27 March 2017

Popular Mechanics: Systems Considered

For a blog rooted in tabletop gaming and role-playing, not a lot of talk has happened pertaining to the actual systems themselves. Which edition of Dungeons and Dragons do I favour? What kind of play do I prefer?

Well, I am not here to discuss the workings of the powergamer or the merits of the story game; World Building is the name of the game here - even if those worlds are explored by others through certain mechanisms. But this isn't without relevance and I would be somewhat ungrateful if I did not make reference to the system  I chose to use.

This is a personal story, not a considered review as such. It is coincidence that took me to The 52 Pages; if considered opinion kept me to it.

So I joined a gaming club and fell into the orbit of a GM who happens to have his own gaming blog - found here.  Now, I did get a chance to mess about with 4th Edition D&D; but this was, on the whole, rather stickier and clumsier a system - as I recall, on the one occasion I played with it.

As and when another circle of friends took up the dice of many sides, we gave Pathfinder a try - but again, this was over-complex. Skill after skill to be considered, multiple pages of tiny details, innumerable choices for equipment or abilities. It did not take, though other factors were at work: online play was not entirely smooth sailing.

So, when we gave it another shot face-to-face, I volunteered my services as GM, and took up The 52 Pages - which I had been making use of for perhaps two years by that point. This was easier to pick up and use - being only fifty-two pages long! - especially for character generation. Does anyone, I ask, need to know the weight of my dwarf cleric? ("How much of a simulation do you want this game to be?"  "How well, sir, are you able to simulate the behavior of the common-or-garden dragon?")

There is, perhaps a place for this. But this it is not my place, or the place of those who I had the joy of GM-ing for. Yes, The 52 Pages may not go beyond three levels in its current published form. No monster manual may be to hand. But any system demands drawing from other sources. Gaming systems or adventure modules are not things to be considered or used in isolation. Even if I am thinking only of Greyhawk or Tekumel or Middle-Earth, one's players may be thinking of Camelot, Ruritania or King Solomon's Mines in how they create characters or how they play them. Moreover, The 52 Pages more than makes up for this in its admirable simplicity.

This puts me in the position of being connected with the Old School Renaissance without having much in the way of experience of any other side of Dungeons and Dragons. It would be interesting to know for how many others this was the case; especially as this post is written in the wake of this post mapping the OSR.

My thanks, then, are due to Roger over at Roles, Rules, and Rolls. A fine mentor for the hobby and a talented GM!

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