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Hack For More

WEEK 19: 07/21/04

by Edward McEneely
Aug 03,2004


Hack For More

WEEK 19: 07/21/04

Erich, Laura and I met up for a sort of interim session a day early; as a result, Seth couldn't make it. Basically, we all agreed on one thing: it was time for a change. I was tapped out on HackMaster, and tapped out bad. I missed the more freeform experience of running a game with a more "modern" system, one that would let me goof off a bit more as GM. Also, to be honest, I felt like I was sort of the idiot stepchild of columns; I was nothing more than a talentless recidivist hack.

While this is true, I don't necessarily like to be reminded of this fact. I sent an e-mail out to the PCs, offering a number of different ideas for filler campaigns while I got my strength up again for HackMaster, which is, after, to a large extent, what the whole damn column is about.

I suggested, in descending order of preference: a GURPS Unknown Armies game (I felt like I had one or two good ideas for some adventures, and I wanted to see how I could handle GMing a horror game); a Rifts game (recidivism of a different stripe), a D6 or D20 Star Wars game (I have the whole DarkStryder campaign, which I've always wanted to use), or whatever else the players were interested in, as long as I wouldn't have to buy anything new.

I curse the late-nineties gaming ethos of the players telling the GM what they want out of a game. (Actually, to be fair, I think it's a very necessary and essentialy ubiquitous aspect of gaming, because the GM is, in the end, but a servant of the players.) The group read my suggestions, conferred amongst themselves, and requested Fading Suns.

Bastards. Like the burned-out cop who lost a partner called out of retirement, I sighed, and accquiesced in my best gravelly voice. Fading Suns is a game I like on general principles; it's an innovative, science-fantasy setting with strong gothic overtones, but not in a bad Warhammer 40,000 sort of way. More in a good, Dune-before-Frank Herbert-went-apeshit kind of way. (Incidentally, if anyone has the Dune RPG, I'll trade my Aria books for it.) I even like the system. (I may be the only one on this, but I found it simple to use and easy to work with. Lots of others, though, including Derek Guder, one of my favorite reviewers, feel that task resolution is way too hard. So don't take my word for it on this one.)

So, theoretically, I should be thrilled to run Fading Suns. But I know, I know I can't do it well. The game has a sort of Dune-meets-The Name of the Rose atmosphere that I suck at. It always ends up becoming more a sort of lame Mad Max game then anything I'm pleased with.

But Erich had been in my last game, and as Laura commented, laconically, "it's been long enough now that all he remembers is that he had a really cool character". This is true. Erich routinely comes up with fun character concepts, and I too had fond but dim memories of his Inquisitor. I also had much clearer and more painful memories of the really shitty NPCs that I'd populated the world with, including a suit of sentient powered armor that gradually took over the game and required me to pull the plug, a leering NPC based off of SNL's Ladies Man, who I cringe to think about, even now, and a scad of unmemorable lesser failures.

But Erich had convinced Seth that it would be a fun idea, and Laura had no marked preference, so who was I to argue?

At any rate, we've run into the first major hiccup, the difficulty of meeting to create characters, which is amplified because I'm the only one who owns a rulesbook (for now---to their credit, both Erich and Seth are considering buying the rules, a gesture I really appreciate). I actually like taking a session to create characters as a group; it makes things a little more sane.

Who knows? Maybe next week, the column will be about something. Oooooh!

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