On crunch, fluff, and system necromancy

We're starting playing RPGs again this week - and I for one can't wait! It seems I've been handed the reins, although Dave has FantasyCraft ready to roll "whenever," but I've been struck by a thought:

My group likes crunch. We love rules, and stats, and rolling on tables. This may well be why the rules-light games (PDQ# etc) we've played have tailed off. I think this could also be why people don't seem too keen on Savage Worlds...

I also love crunch - I can't help it. I thoroughly enjoyed the crunchiness of 4e DnD, the character twinking and the tactical combat. And I'm planning on running Mouse/Realm Guard tomorrow, which is not crunchy - it's not meant to be offensive, but Guard is definitely a fluffy game. I know people aren't going to like it. But sod it.

I want to run something to get back into the swing - to get the ball rolling again. Guard's low prep, and I want to see how the mechanics work out. We can play for a few sessions and then dive into FantasyCraft, or whatever, and then play something else. Something nice and crunchy. I like the idea of everyone running their own game for a few sessions, a four week (or whatever) mini adventure path - one of the things that broke the DnD experience for me was that we changed DMs but kept the characters and narrative running, in hindsight that was a pretty bad idea...

So: We'll play Guard for a couple of weeks - Dave's not here next week, so no point in starting FantasyCraft now - and then when I get rotated back in to DM, we can switch to one of:

+ Savage Worlds, in the Deadlands setting - the one I've been running previously. I like the setting, I just need to enforce more structure. Pump the PCs up a tier and throw some more stuff at them... it could be good.

+ Burning Wheel, possibly using the Harn world for geography to let me build the society more easily. Not sure about this one, I'll look into the system more.

+ 4e DnD, in the upcoming Dark Sun setting. The more I think about it, the more I think we should give it another go. Dark Sun is a great post-apocalyptic setting - but post-apocalyptic fantasy - and I love the grittiness, worship of the elements over gods, and the fact that magic use has consequences. I unknowingly played in the world, over telnet (!), on Armageddon before I even got into MMORPGS and tabletop games - and I really liked it. I miss the tactical combat options from 4e, positioning and power coordination don't seem to apply in other games we've played, and I think I've learned enough to try to skim over its (many) faults. We just need players to play their roles, which I think my current group will.

Controversial? Maybe. I'll run the idea past people while I'm blasting their fleets to dust tonight...



  1. Good luck. Picking games to play can be a pain. I think that a GM's excitement and dedication to a specific game can sometimes trickle over to the players.

  2. Thanks Tourq.

    Mouse Guard turned out... OK. We found the conflict/combat system to be unsatisfying and really... these games are all about conflict. General consensus was that the character generation system was good, making players think of family ties, a friend and an enemy etc. but to be honest my players don't need a reward carrot dangling in front of them to do that kind of thing. I'll be bringing bits in to future games, but the system was disappointing.

    Nathan's not keen on the "roll x dice and get y successes" mechanic, which rules out BW... We did get to talk about what we actually wanted to play though, and I ended up breaking out the old beta Pathfinder rules I'd downloaded ages ago - and it looks great, with fresh eyes.

    I'm starting running Pathfinder tomorrow, and will alternate between it and Deadlands to keep things fresh. Awesome.


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