February 08, 2012

What Good Are Games When There's No One To Play With?

A little over a year ago I tried running an adventure from the Dark Heresy role-playing game. If memory serves me right, we played four sessions. We were using one of the introductory adventures and some of the pre-generated characters. I had spent a fair amount of time prepping the materials for the game and getting familiar enough with the rules to actually run things with some feeling of competency. The players pieced together the clues a little more slowly than I'd intended, but that was more my fault as a first-time game master than their actual detective abilities. Unfortunately, the session in which they would have encountered the final villain of the story never came to pass.

As a brief aside: I love the theme for Dark Heresy, which is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The game system seemed pretty good, but it was a little tough to handle for me and the players so that could certainly have contributed to our incomplete adventure.

It seems that arranging gaming sessions with any kind of regularity, or regular attendees is a bit of a problem these days. Now I'm not certain that this is a problem I'm alone in experiencing, or if it's something that other gamers also struggle with. Since almost no one comments on the articles that I post, I may never know the answers to my question. Of course, it being a little after 4am I'm not exactly expecting an answer anyway.

Generally speaking, I have spent far more time with card and board games than I've ever done with role-playing games. That's not to say that I don't like them. I remember the first time I ever played one sometime back in high school. I can't remember the name of the game we played but it was a contemporary horror setting. The adventure was run by a friend of mine and it was a lot of fun. Similarly, we planned another session but never actually played again.

I recall an almost parallel experience while I was living in Japan. One of my friends there was an avid collector of role-playing source books. Of course, living in Japan it was difficult to find English speaking players! We played some sort of cyberpunk adventure with another fellow, which was a little slow on the action, but fun nonetheless. Once again, a follow-up session was planned but never materialized.

So perhaps my four-session experience with Dark Heresy was actually somewhat of an anomaly in that it went beyond session #1? I somehow doubt that's the case, as I've heard rumors, rumblings and whispers in the darkness, all saying that there are regular gaming groups out there somewhere. Some of them play card games. Some of them play board games. Some of them play poker, lose all their money and go home to lie to their wives about it. Maybe even those weird "furries", people that get turned on by other folks in animal costumes, have regular gaming groups, although I am not sure that I want to know about the games they play.

At some point in time I ended up with a hardcover copy of Deadlands Reloaded. This revised version of the game uses an engine called Savage Worlds. So having this sourcebook for a setting, I needed the core rulebook for the engine. Turns out the rulebook for Savage Worlds cost me a grand total of $12, and was the shortest RPG rulebook I'd ever seen. In fact, it was actually something I was able to read, make sense of, and still have time to do something useful before bedtime. (Which as you can tell...I didn't do, nor have I gone to bed.)
In addition to the clarity and brevity of the rulebook...turns out there are (quite literally) hundreds of settings like Deadlands Reloaded available for the engine. Want to play high or dark fantasy with elves, dragons, dwarves, wizards and necromancers? Check. Want to play a swashbuckling pirate adventure? Check. Need to fit someone with cement shoes for betraying the big boss? Check. The latest cult of the great Cthulhu needs infiltrating? Check. Want to save the world from aliens as a super-powered ex-villain. Check. I could go on, but I won't because I think you get my point. Any kind of adventure, ability or character I could ever hope to wish for, Savage Worlds either has, or has the tools for me to create.

Even though I seem to have no one to play with, I still seem to spend a lot of time reading about, researching, or thinking about games. Even role-playing games, which in my middle-length life, I've almost never played. Maybe some day.


magicmint said...

It's tough to get people to play board games. With my friends, we just play whenever we get the chance. We play a couple gaems like Pandemic, Indonesia, Cosmic Encounters, Porto Rico, Dominion, etc... Every now and then we introduce another game. But anyways, Life always intervenes with schedules.

Obsidian3D said...

The only one of those I've played is Dominion. I've got the base game, Intrigue, Seaside and Alchemy. I think it's a great game, but stopped buying expansions after Alchemy. The number of cards I have is high enough that I don't think we'll ever use them all. I'm considering collapsing all of them into a single box, but haven't put a lot of thought into how I would keep things from becoming a huge jumbled mess.

Cosmic Encounter is on my wishlist. I've looked at the box probably a dozen times over the last year and a half. The FFG edition looks fabulous with the new artwork, and I've never heard anything bad about the game. And of course, it just sounds like fun!