Monday, April 30, 2007

Another Lost Love

My senior year in college I rediscovered something that I came to love for many years -- Roleplaying Games. While Dungeons and Dragons is easily the best known, it is not the only RPG system nor is it the best. In fact experiences with the original rules for DnD (as it was called then) soured me on roleplaying for many years. The rules were contradictory, incomplete and left a lot of room for interpretive thinking.

Then a friend introduced me to Metagaming's The Fantasy Trip which was a simpler system but the rules were so clear that arguments were rare and I quickly fell in love. Later I learned that AD&D had corrected a lot of its problems and I gave it a try. While I favored TFT over AD&D I cam to enjoy them both. With the collapse of Metagaming and the disappearance of TFT, along with the much improved 2nd Edition of AD&D I went pretty much solely with it until a number of years ago when my interest started to wane and then the 3rd edition completely melted my interest away.

Of course I played other systems too. I loved Games Workshop's Talisman (kind of a fantasy version of Monopoly). Sadly it was poorly playtested and there were ways to sustain the game forever just to be nuisance.

At one time I was a pretty good starship captain as I usually won in Task Force Games Star Fleet Battles, though there were a couple of guys who could beat me every time. I have not played the game in at least 20 years and have not kept up with the rules and new stuff though at one time I had everything they printed.

A very different RPG that I played several times and really enjoyed was Steve Jackson Games Toon where you literally played a cartoon character. It was supposed to be a "beer and pretzels" game but none of us drank, but we still had a good time. It seemed all the well developed characters that showed originality were foxes, weasels, and ferrets. Sadly most players just copied old Saturday Morning Cartoon Characters.

A couple of games sounded good but really weren't all that fun. Chaosium produced The Call of Cthulhu based on HP Lovecraft's work and it was an interesting concept, but between insanity and death, character mortality per adventure was between 60 and 80% which made playing very difficult, and not killing characters detracted from the atmosphere of the game.

A similar problem existed with Paranoia where you played an elite agent working to serve a crazy computer. It was hard to tell which was more dangerous, your colleagues, your enemies, or the computer. Your motto was Trust no one, Stay alert, and Keep your laser handy. It was sort of combination of Catch 22, 1984, and Logan's Run. Again a high player mortality rate ruined the game for most players (as most of the adventures were deadly fool's errands) and though there was a lot of humor, but often only the Game Master was aware of it.

I don't play RPGs at all any more, due to lack of interest, though I still have several thousand painted miniatures for several games that are now collecting dust. I still like to look at them and remember. . . and I smile as I do so.


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