Monday, November 28, 2011

Preparing To Play A New Game Takes Me A Loooong Time

Time is limited for everyone these days so picking the 'right' game is everything.

For me, preparing to play a new RPG takes me a long time. Once we start playing, however, prep-time shrinks to almost nothing but prior to that first session, I spend months looking over the rules, understanding the rules, contemplating campaign scenarios, debating rule-sets for genre, etc. The main reason is that I want everything during that first session to go smoothly, I want the players to have a great time and I, as GM, want to have a great time as well and not be hung-up on rule mechanics.

When I began our Swords & Wizardry campaign back in October of 2009 I went through quite a long process before that first session. Not in game session prep but in research. At that time I've been out of gaming since the early 80's so I was starting fresh.

After a big reminiscence session with a friend of mine about D&D (he pulled out the LBBs) and soon after Gary's passing, I began being drawn back into the excitement of that FRPG. It was then that I discovered DragonsFoot and from there I found the beginnings of the soon to be called OSR. I found out that many folks kept playing the original rules, that there were plenty Holmes fans out there and that people were publishing 'new' rule books based on the old games.

Those new rules are what really opened things up for me and began the journey to find what rule system to use. I thought about just going back to Holmes (my starter) but I worried about getting other folks interested. I thought that these new rules, however similar to the origins, would be a great way to get folks interested into something new yet old.

I picked up Basic Fantasy RPG and loved what I saw there. I thought this was great! A 'modern' take on the FRPG that I loved so much back in the day. However, though it was so close to what I wanted to run it wasn't quite there. I then found Labyrinth Lord. Ah, now this was much closer to what I was looking for. At first I felt it was closer to my Holmes edition but upon deeper exploration I saw it was closer to Moldvay's. A slight difference to some but a big difference to me.

When I discovered Swords & Wizardry I had found my rule-set (January 2009). Perfect. Loose, open-ended and 'new'. Perfect for getting folks involved and rules-lite for my limited time commitments.

Now that I had my rule-set I began to re-learn the game; combat, monsters, armor class, saving throws, all of that once second nature to me back in junior high and high school but lost to my modern brain.

I took months to understand the rules and the rule potentials which is not surprising as many of you still debate rules from the early versions of the game.

Then came deciding what type of campaign it would be. But with much research with the blogs popping up with the same questions and curiosities that I had, much was answered. With interesting charts found and additional classes I finally put together my first session nine months later. Yes, nine months.

So if you've been following this blog recently, you may have noticed that I've had some interest in running a Heroes game. I've picked up a copy of the 1st edition of Champions, V&V and began playing in an online Mystery Men! game, comparing everything I want in a heroes games. I've had my eyes on ICONS and have been studying the rules for a couple of months now. I think this is the game rules that I plan on going with. They're very lite, and after a few mechanics tests it proved to have some staying power.

Believe me, it took me a loooong time to make that final decision. I've worked up a pretty decent campaign idea which I'll share shortly but it looks like we'll be hitting some ICONS actions shortly after the holidays.


  1. Wow, it's reassuring to read this. After a long hiatus, I'm playing again. However I'm also thinking about GMing once more, and I'm going through a very lengthy process similar to what you've described above. It's a relief to know I'm not the only one. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I just started GMing a tabletop group again after a few years of only PbP gaming.

    I decided to run through a bunch of different games as a "One-Shot Festival". I've found that learning a new system and doing the GM prep for even a simple session takes a lot more time than I thought it would.

    The hardest part (for me) is shifting mental gears into a different genre after years of almost exclusively fantasy gaming. I've played a few other genres but only ever run fantasy. I started prep for Traveller and it's taken a couple of weeks to sort out the rules and decide on a scenario for a one-shot game.

    I'll have to put the rules I pick up over the coming weeks to use for more than a single game once i've learned them, just to get the full value for the time put into the process.

  3. Well look at what's happening here - ICONS pulls in another old-schooler! I'm not sure how, but there's something about it that just clicks for me and apparently for others too. I still like the more complicated systems too but for running a more casual game it just works. When you do get it going, post 'em up!