Thursday, August 8, 2013
An evil spell has been cast upon me. It is the only explanation.
I am in the mood for Fantasy.
And let me tell you...that sucks.
In my 36 years of gaming, I have rarely found any great Fantasy RPGs. I am completely serious.
With a few exceptions, I think Fantasy RPGs are among my least favorite games, not just because I'm not much of a fan of the 'traditional' approach to the genre but because, IMHO, practically all the Fantasy Role Playing Games I have encountered take an approach to the mechanics and theme that I find counter to what Fantasy is about.
Most Fantasy RPGs, especially those that are trying to simulate a quasi-medieval European default setting, pay way too much attention to details that have little to no bearing on the fantastic or heroic.
It's amazing to me how technical Fantasy RPGs get. Aside from the Original and Basic versions of Dungeons and Dragons, which have their fair share of technical elements of course, the first, second and even third generation Fantasy RPGs were akin to treatises on medieval warfare.
While few games gave much attention to the more mundane elements of life in a medieval town (something a young Barking Alien could have really used as I had no clue what a 12th century English city was like), pages and pages would be spent on weapon speeds, types of weapons, armor, wounds and wound effects and the like.
The magic system of these old games were no different, sometimes being quite cumbersome and complex, while at the same time completely taking the magic out of the arcane. The names of the spells didn't help - Magic Missile, Dimension Door, Pyrotechnics, Displacement - are these spells for a game of wizardry and magic or terms for a physics exam?
I found this unintentionally funny from the Wiki entry on Rolemaster:
"Rolemaster is sometimes derisively called 'Chartmaster' or 'Rulemonster' for depending upon numerous tables and charts for character generation and resolving game actions, and for its perceived vast array of rules covering every possible situation. Supporters of the game argue that many of these rules and charts are entirely optional."
While detractors mock it for being too chart heavy, supporters stand by it by saying the charts are optional. They don't stand behind it by saying they're necessary.
It just seems about three times the work went into determining how hard it is to make a shot with your bow and arrow if you are not facing and are behind a wall with two-thirds cover than went into making magic, creatures and other elements of the game mysterious, interesting and most of all, things that serve a purpose outside killing and stealing.
Now granted, I am no fool, I know why this is. The earliest RPGs came from D&D and D&D came from wargaming. At the same time, the oft pointed to source materials of the much vaunted Appendix N (cue lightning and thunder effects) don't display nearly the level of 'realistic' detail that many Fantasy RPGs attempt to simulate.
Unless for dramatic effect, neither Fritz Lieber nor Michael Moorcock worried a damn about weapon speed factors or their size damage. Tolkien was not especially interested in naming the 'spells' Gandalf cast, if they even were spells and not mystic powers from on high. There is actually very little 'realism' of the manner many Fantasy RPG have tried to emulate to be found in the classics of Fantasy fiction. Why then do we get a Discover Channel 'Ancient Warriors' mini-series when we open up the rulebooks of many Fantasy Games?
I'm looking at you Metal, Magic and Lore.
Anyway, my quest to explore this new desire to run something in a Fantasy vein may be greatly effected by not only finding the right system but finding the time. Work, personal life (such as it is) and other projects are making it difficult to focus on this, which is unfortunate as focusing is exact what I would need to do. An answer to my 'What Fantasy Game Works For Me?' dilemma hasn't simply popped into my head. It will require a good deal of digging and research but again, time is a factor.
(Posting may be a bit wonky the rest of the month although I hope that's not the case. Finances and other things are turning out to require more of my attention than I expected. Just FYI.)
A few acknowledgements:
Rest In Peace Michael Ansara, who, among other great roles, playing Klingon Commander Kang on Star Trek.
Margaret Pellegrini, one of the three surviving Munchkin actors from the 1939 Wizard of Oz films passed yesterday at the age of 89.
On a happier note:
The Muppets Most Wanted, sequel to The Muppets now has a teaser trailer.