8 April 2010: RPG roundup, continued

Star FrontiersIn the past few months, I’ve blogged about developments in face-to-face role-playing games (RPGs) including “retro-clones” and “rules-lite” RPGs. After some reflection, I realized that although I described the “old-school” movement, I didn’t post many examples of rules-light tabletop RPGs, so here are a few more. I’ve looked at Risus, FUDGE (the basis of FATE), MicroLite 20, Mini-Six, BASH Ultimate Edition, and Chimera. Other systems that are arguably rules-light include True20, Savage Worlds, and the upcoming e20.

In the Pathfinder: “Holy Steel” teleconferencing team, Beruk A.’s Rogue “Milos” helped Byron V.O.’s Paladin “Ibrahim” defend himself in his trial for treason in the court of Pharaoh Ramses II. The heroes turned the tables on their accusers by proving that cultists of Set led by Prince Sethemwie had desecrated the tomb of Unas. After a year of “game time” and three years of real time, it was nice to reach the climax of that quest!

Although my current gaming group has had some scheduling disruptions because of travel, the Boston-area party’s post-Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition period of one-shots and miniseries has continued. Greg D.C. ran his Jenga-based Dread horror game, and after demonstrating FATE 3.0 for his “Spirit of the Caribbean!” pirate scenario, Brian W. successfully used it with his “Fierce Frontier” fantasy setting.

Josh C. expects to run a Werewolf: the Apocalypse supernatural scenario using White Wolf‘s Storyteller: World of Darkness rules, and Beruk A. is preparing a D20 version of
Rifts.” Josh also hopes to run an Exalted high-fantasy one-shot, and Paul J. has expressed interest in the mythic Scion, which uses a variant of the Storyteller system.

Also in the wake of the D&D4eVanished Lands: the Faith-Based Initiative” fantasy campaign, I’ve been looking into other genres and rules systems. In addition to my D20Gaslight Grimoire steampunk/fantasy and D20 Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed. (D20″M&M”2e) superhero scenarios, I plan to eventually return to my “Vortex
space opera.

However, there is some question about what rules set to use. After being inspired by games such as Star Frontiers, I created homebrew rules that I used from high school through grad school. In the mid-1990s, I successfully converted to Steve Jackson Games’ Generic Universal Role-Playing System (GURPS) 3rd Ed. Space, but since then, I’ve been favorably impressed by various D20 games, including one version of Traveller (“T20”) and Star Wars: Saga Edition.

However, Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast (WotC) unit, which also publishes D&D4e, recently announced that it was dropping its license for the Star Wars RPG. That’s too bad, but the books and online community for George Lucas’ franchise are sufficient for long-term campaigns.

WotC also said that it plans to release a new version of the Gamma World postapocalyptic setting using D&D4e, but I’ve been exploring other systems, such as Savage Worlds, Eclipse Phase, and FATE 3.0. Savage Worlds is a pulp RPG with a lot of support, and Eclipse Phase is a good example of the recent “transhumanist” strain in “hard” science fiction.

Starblazer Adventures (“SBA“) and Diaspora both use FATE, an up-and-coming system. SBA is based on 1980s British speculative fiction comics and is from Cubicle 7, which is also publishing Adventures in Time and Space and The One Ring, the latest Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings RPG adaptations, respectively.

Brian and Paul are proponents of FATE, which will also be the basis for the Dresden Files RPG and Icons, a superhero game and potential rival to D20″M&M”2e. Diaspora is a transhumanist RPG that’s a bit more portable than SBA, and after comparing them, we might combine the former‘s hard-SF concepts with the latter’s pulp style.

Ultimately, whatever rules are selected should serve the player group and my “Vortex” stories. Of course, if you ask eight role-players their opinions, you’ll get 10 responses. I’ll post more about the my plans and other genre entertainment soon.