Hello sports fans!
I know it’s been a while . . . Real life has been kicking my butt in the form of my 6 month old’s first cold, and training him to soothe himself to sleep . . . the entire family was running a fever simultaneously last week! IRL can be more perilous than the game world sometimes . . .
Anyway, I know I was supposed to do a character biography next, but I’ve switched to primarily writing this blog on a chrome book, which has been awesome so far, but I’m not 100% sure how to create the editable sheet I was working with on my iPad to make a character that you can just print and play, so until I figure that out, the bio’s will have to be on hold.
Instead, what I would like to talk about this week is a common plight of the GM, namely that we never get to play in the games that we hold closest to our hearts. A friend recently started running a game in the new Star Wars system I’m calling, affectionately? D-sh***y, mostly because I hate games that make me buy stuff above and beyond the already pricey book . . . Ugh, I digress. Anyway, he loves Star Wars in the same way you might say a new parent loves sleep, and what’s more, he loves this new system. It involves a set of dice with faces that range from “Triumph” to “Despair” with varying gradations of success and failure in between, designed to encourage role playing from the PC’s and GM, as apposed to the simple, “I rolled a 15,” “You hit it,” mechanic in more conventional games. While I was skeptical at first, and while I still loathe the dice themselves, I have come to really enjoy the abstract and story-telling-heavy sense of play that I get from this game.
“What’s the problem?” you ask, sitting in your ivory tower, judging me for not getting to the point . . .
Well, like all GM’s, we like to keep our eyes open for new experiences, rule sets that change up the state of play, and when we find something we like, we usually dive into it, headfirst, with all the excitement of drug addict finding an 8-ball in his coat pocket from last winter. Of course, this is what my friend did, to the tune of three books, a starter set, two decks of cards, several boxes of minis and two sets of dice. None of this would be a problem, except he fell into the classic conundrum of the Game Master: I love this game, I want to run it for you in the hopes that you will, one day, run it for me.
Of all the members of the Borderlanders, only he and I truly have the kind of love for Star Wars that allows me to tell you, in all seriousness, that the crew compliment ranging from about 30 to over 150, depending on how many systems are slave-rigged, and what kind of modifications have been made. My point is, no one else in our group would even consider running a Star Wars campaign, because they don’t have the raw nerd knowledge to know the difference between a R2 and an R5, and what if it comes up?!
He recently told the group that he wanted to play a character, and since he knew that I would never run this new system, he felt like he should just roll up a character for his own game and play it as a background, almost NPC to fill in our gaps as a party. @#$%^&* . . . I suddenly felt a great disturbance in the force, as though a thousand GM’s heavy-sighed in frustration, and were suddenly silenced . . . Ok, so not a thousand, but I know a few of you groaned!
Basically, what I’m trying to get at in my long winded post, is how to make running a system you’re not crazy about fun for your PC’s.
I was listening to the System Mastery podcast today, in which two guys review garbage, out of print systems for their merits and flaws, and this particular episode mentioned a mechanic in which each character picked a “Best Friend” and a “Rival” out of the other PC’s, and every time they crit, the best friend decides how the bonus comes into play. Every time they botch, it’s the rival’s job to tell how the egg ends up on their face. While the game that this mechanic came from sounds absolutely awful, (It’s called Panty Explosion, which I think is enough said on the matter) the mechanic has excellent applications in a game like the Fantasy Flight Star Wars, which is heavy with “Advantages” and “Threats” that you spend every time you roll to your character’s boon or bane, respectively. Therefore, I am going to run this system for my friend, so that he can experience his favorite setting in his favorite system. Ostensibly. Really, I’m going to run a mad experiment to see if this mechanic is a viable way to keep all the player engaged in a system where, often, character are specialized to the point of having literally nothing to do in about a third of the situations that crop up.
Let me know what you think, and tell me your stories! What have you tried, house-rules-wise, in order to make an undesirable system more tolerable? I’m all ears! And as always, roll enough advantages so that you don’t fall for the old Kobold Pit Trap!