Monday, November 14, 2016

Was I Smarter In My Youth?

Kinga Rajzak, Photograph By Tim Walker
British Vogue - 2009

The title of this post was uttered by my friend Ray yesterday as he, myself, and the rest of the Barking Alien Gaming Group, discussed our next potential campaign.

The phrase came in response to my explaining my desire to run a Space Opera style Science Fiction campaign very much like the ones I used to run in the 'days of gaming yore'. As I've mentioned many times of late, in honor of my 40th anniversary in the hobby I want to both get back to my roots, and aim for my Ultimate Game.

Most of those campaigns were run with either FASA's Star Trek, or FGU's Space Opera

While the first of those makes perfect sense (one might even say it's Logical. Heh.), the latter one does not. 

How in the heck did we play Space Opera?!? Seriously, how did anyone? I look at it now, and it's like looking at a foreign language, translated into a code, read backwards in a mirror. Incorrectly I might add! Its rule mechanics are preposterously convoluted. Its organization cryptic at best. 

What were we thinking? No really. What were we thinking...

We somehow made it work. We not only made it work, we played it fairly often. I know I ran at least three campaigns of it myself, 'Cosmic Rhapsody', 'A War in G-Minor', and a Space Opera/Superhero kitbash that was set in the same original (-ish) universe as the other two. I played in at least one full campaign, as well as a number of shorter ones. 

How did we accomplish this? Was I more patient with rules back then? Probably. Did it make sense to my young, teen brain in a way it just doesn't now?

As Ray said...Was I smarter in my youth?

How about you? Any games you used to play that made perfect sense then, but are gibberish to you today?

Gotta figure this out.

Barking Alien


  1. I played a lot of second edition Shadowrun as a teenager and while I know we skipped some of the more complicated crunchy bits, we did use most of it. Every now and then I dig the book out and I am baffled by its complexity; I would have no chance making sense of it nowadays.

  2. I too played Space Opera as a teen back in the day (At the time I was morbidly obsessed with the Vietnam War, so my short-lived, debatably tasteless campaign was basically a SF 'Nam set on a jungle world). I too am baffled by just how I did it... I think a lot of 70's-80's RPGs wouldn't pass muster as complete systems by today's standards -they were almost more "Kits" or even "Notes"- but at the time that's what we were used to, and we were kids with lots of free time and energy, so we rolled up our sleeves, popped the hood, and just made them work.

    1. I completely agree, but it makes me wonder, "How do we do that? How did we get them to work?"

      Basically, I'm not sure if I am looking to run my next big SF game using FGU's Space Opera, but I'd sure as heck LOVE to run it using the game we made from Space Opera.

  3. ICE system. But looking back, as kids we didn't sweat every rule. I think as we get older we want it all to make sense.

  4. My theory would not be that we were smarter in our youth, but rather either more motivated or less jaded. In days of yore the hobby was still new to us. It was fresh and exciting and when something new crossed our path, especially if it was in a genre that excited us. That excitement both motivated us to make it work, and to overlook whatever warts it may have had.

    As time went on and we were exposed to better games, we became less motivated to make badly written games "work" and less willing to overlook warts. So I think you arever at least as smart now as you ever were.

    1. "As time went on and we were exposed to better games, we became less motivated to make badly written games "work" and less willing to overlook warts."

      This is a very astute observation. Well put Keith.

    2. I think it's a combination of this and what Fuzzy mentions below:

      1) There just were not as many games then and there far fewer things influencing what we thought about rules and overall design back then. We have 30 years of experience and of examples to show us other ways to do things. I don't have to tinker with the rules of games as much these days because if it looks like I need to change too much I can just go play a different game.

      2) I had a lot of time back then. I have a lot less now. Simpler is better in general because it means less time looking things up. Efficiency in design is a big deal here too: Champions and 4E D&D put everything you need on the character sheet, they don't refer you to charts in a book for details of a power. I've been running and playing Pathfinder for a good 4 years now and we still have to look up something every single session - that's not a plus!

  5. Four that I remember: Ysgarth and To Challenge Tomorrow were obscure and incredibly complicated RPGs. I played Powers & Perils and even tackled Swords & Chivalry. I wouldn't tackle any of those unless serious, hard cash was offered now.

  6. I'll mirror what has been said here. For one thing, watching my own teenagers play their own games, they "wing it" a lot, practically to the point of it just being improv theater. I also wonder if it isn't like Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat" books that, when I read them as a teenager, were the coolest thing ever; but now that I'm an adult, actually aren't that good.

  7. I first started roleplaying in earnest with the Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box (yeah, I know), so I just figured that that level of complexity was necessary to run the game. It helped that I had a lot of experience with Morrowind (a crunchy CRPG if ever there was one), so some granularity was to be expected. And even the Beginner Box has a lot of moving parts for someone new to the hobby.

    Now, having spent a great deal of time with both B/X D&D and AD&D 2nd Edition, my patience for heavy rules crunch has worn thin. I have no doubt that we would have had some fun even if presented with Rolemaster or something similarly granular in high school, but my days of putting up with the required minutiae and fiddly number-crunching of the d20 System are behind me as a Referee. (As a player, I'm still willing to give it a shot, but not very often.)

  8. I guess the other part for me is as I've got older my time to devote to anything has diminished. So I would rather be gaming than dealing with rule minutiae. When I was a teen spending a day reading rpg rule book, another day coming with game ideas, and another day playing was feasible. Now not feasible.