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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Design or House-ruling to the next degree?

This one is a bit of a ramble, letting you know ahead of time.

Lately running my campaign (which not coincidentally I have not been running  in the  past two months) has become a struggle. It's a system struggle in that I  jumped into  running  the game using Dungeon World which I think is fun for the  players but has been a failure from my GM's perspective.
(My life with Dungeon world is Outlined here)
Hence  I am stuck between house-ruling 5th edition or  going back to good old 2nd edition AD&D which admittedly is my edition of choice, and house-ruling that, again.

This  got me to thinking, I have designed several games that I never mention on this blog, and no one ever plays. I know that sounds weird, and it is, however it's just how my brain works when it comes to games. I thin it's because I would rather write a game of my own than buy  another game I may never use. A side effect of this is that I spend a decent amount of time thinking about. "what if I wrote a game about (BLANK.) Many times when I'm thinking about  the  tropes of fantasy genre RPG gaming what I'm doing is courting the  question, "How would I write a game that suits the campaign I want to run?" 

It's an interesting question, and when someone house rules or smashes rules form one system into another is that what they're doing? Are they looking for that one system that presents their campaign just the way they like them?

This is how little baby fantasy heart-breakers are born. A person gets the  feeling that "Gee this game does not support the Luminary Cepholopodic Magic the way I had envisioned it for my campaign.."
So the would be designer sets to work house ruling the game, a few months latter:
The game looks like this.

The characters look like this:
And darn in that magic system works perfectly! A new game is born.
I have said on this blog before (And took shit for it) that eventually if a GM house rules enough they aren't  playing the original game any more. If I'm in a game and the GM says, "We play D&D first edition with some mods." If that same DM then hands me a three inch binder of house rules, I'm only reading that binder not my old Players Hand Book.
Where am I going with this? 
Who the hell knows I wrote it over the  course of three days I don't even know where I started .. and I'm digressing.
Should a GM  simply try to  pound a game into the shape he or she wants by house ruling it to death. Is it a good choice to start designing  a house game* rather than house rules?

Our group did this. 
Once upon a time when A little ditty named D&D 4th edition was about to come out, Jay and I were driving home from a game day and  basically  had a conversation that went like this. (Paraphrasing here this happened in early 2007 after all)
"Damn those books are expensive."
"True."
"We don't need them any way."
"yup, lets write our own game."
"F** yeah."

So we did. We called it Phase Abandon, as a group we played it pretty constantly until the past two years or so when we started experimenting with more board games, short form  games  and other projects. We played it at least 5 years uninterrupted crossed several genres, and  multiple stories. Why did this game enjoy success? From the very beginning everyone had some input into the game. It fit how we liked to play at the time.

So here is the  crust of this post finally. Like all good discursive blogs it will end with questions.
I have been working on the following projects off and on.
  • AAIE: Quick, comic, sloppy  Fantasy RPG with  random inept characters going off into the hard world.
  • Nova 74: Adventures in Splotation era america. Ask yourself would your life be more exciting if Magnum PI and Truck Turner were your neighbors?
  • Loot Box A-Go-Go: A rip off of Borderlands in board game format. Honestly the  loot generation is so unwieldy I don't know where to go with it.
I would shelve all of that if I could capture lightning in the bottle again and write something we would play at the table, and on the regular. 

Is this lack of investment in these projects my knowing they are flash in the plans one and done inventions, or is that a function of where we are in our lives? We are all older, more responsible (stop laughing) have longer hours, busier days. Getting together in the flesh is getting more and more rare. I've had a good run with Table top RPG's having the honor and privilege to play with  a setting and a group that I can trace tangentially (in one case directly) all the way back to  Jr high school. Is it time to be honest with myself let that run go? 

Should I simply be happy to play what ever is available this week on Roll20 and be done with it? there are good reasons to do so there are a ton of great games out there right now. The only way we will ever get to try even a fraction of them is by playing on line during the week in small two hour bites.
Does it matter that I find  it  difficult to run a campaign that way?
I think what I am asking is should I be working on  "Aleria the Game" ? **

Thanks for reading this ambling post.
I honestly should apologize, but in the end this is why I have a blog.
Leave and questions or comments in the hollowed out skull of a scarecrow in your nearest snow dusted cornfield.
Mark.


* Hell that's how  FATE already reads to me like someone wrote, "Do anything with this and house rule it until it works for you." on a napkin.
** Aleria being the  name of my long standing campaign which is currently  in suspended animation, while I sort out my own  head space BS.