Wednesday, July 6, 2011
My Trouble With Sci-Fi Games...Picking One
I am having a bit of difficulty deciding which Sci-Fi game to run for my group. All I know is I want to create alien worlds, populate them with strange and wondrous life forms, enjoy epic space battles and explore the human condition (or its extraterrestrial equivalent in the case of alien PCs).
What game does that? Well in reality, all of them.
So how do I decide what's best for us? Honestly I am really not sure and could sure use some suggestions. But first...
I've ruled out Star Trek* because I kind of want something a bit more free-wheeling. I don't want to the PCs to have to work for Starfleet or any particular organization at the start of the game. I want them to do what they want to do and go where they want to go.
"But Adam, you can let them play smugglers, pirates and other non-Starfleet people in the Star Trek universe!"
Yes. Yes I could. I could also hammer in a nail with a shoe. It might work but its not the best tool for the job or the best use of my time. Also, the first time you play Star Wars, you want to be a Jedi or have the Force. Otherwise you want to be a Bounty Hunter or a Smuggler. Why? Because these are special features of the Star Wars setting. You'd want to be a Jedi because you can't be one in other Sci-Fi games which don't have Jedi.
To me, you play Star Trek so you can be part of Starfleet, operate Starfleet ships, use Starfleet equipment, etc. If you're going to not do these things, play Traveller or some other RPG where Starfleet isn't what's special.
Now, back to the issue at hand...system and to a much lesser extent, setting.
I just reread Stars Without Number and while there is a lot I like about it, I'm looking to play a different system, something a tad less old school. I want either a more innovative mechanic or just one that doesn't feel like D&D meets Traveller. Why? I'm odd in that I don't want to play the same system all the time. I want different games/campaigns to feel differently and even though it seems superficial on the surface, I've noticed that rolling the bones in a different manner then they're used to actually changes my players mind sets a bit. It's like, "Oh, in Champions you roll 3D6 and need to get under the target number? Wow, this isn't Mutants & Masterminds that's for sure." As I've said I'm big into atmosphere, style and feel and every little bit helps.
I am curious to see the new X-Plorers but I feel the same issue will be had there. It's too D&D like. I am running a vaguely D&D game with the kids at the Learning Center Sunday. I think my take is different enough but still, I want to avoid consuming the same taste too often less I get bored of it.
Traveller. It seems to be the 800 pound Altairian Gorilla in the room. I talk about running it, I reread it periodically, I look at articles and blog posts about it online but I haven't run it in forever. Why? Similar reasons to the above? Not quite. While very old school it's different enough from what we've been playing of late to seem new, especially to many of my current players who are unfamiliar with Traveller. It's a definite possibility. So why haven't I simply decided to go with it?
Well, part of it is that my last foray into running Traveller didn't go over well. I was out of practice and my group was...well I was running for a group I didn't know and who didn't know me and I don't think we quite managed to merge our styles into something cohesive. Pity. Nice bunch of guys. Still talk to one of them regularly, Doug, as he's a member of NerdNYC and just a hell of a nice fellow. Another used to visit here off and on. If you read this I hope all is well with you.
In the end, I know what's coming or at least I do now that I've written this (blogging can be very helpful that way). I'm very likely to go with Traveller, a bit houseruled to allow it to move a bit faster and smoother.
Suggestions are of course welcome. Let you know what I decide as soon as I figure it out.
*To say I've ruled out running Star Trek is to say...OK, I haven't ruled out running Star Trek. I'd love to get back to Star Trek. I was hoping to try a more open ended, sandboxy thing first.
Traveller vs. Star Trek. Tonight, live on pay-per-view. :)
Also: Thanks to a comment by Luis M. Rebollar, I can identify the artist of the image above as Luca Oleastri. I highly recommend checking out his work. Awesome stuff.