Thursday, January 21, 2010

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

I constantly struggle with the idea that if I personally don't like something, I feel compelled to explain why and offer my opinion about it. I have lambasted d20, the new WFRP and much else. But, in the interests of being a more positive person, let me talk about something I DO like - Savage Worlds. Quite frankly, it's the best RPG I have ever played. Period. I have been playing it since it came out, off-and-on, and while I love 2e WFRP and BESM (which I've never even played with a group) and lots of other systems, I just think Savage Worlds got it right.

True, if you don't like using miniatures, you'll find a lot of the edges are somewhat worthless. Our group has started using a magnet board and magnets in lieu of a tabletop and this seems to work really well. But that's a small matter.

What I like about Savage Worlds is this: It does everything every other system I've ever encountered does, and it does it quickly and more efficiently without the need for excessive bookkeeping on my part. And while our regular gaming group is not all that interested in miniatures, my son and I have collected many and we regularly stage miniature games at home with my nephews. Savage Worlds works perfectly as a miniatures game and an RPG, with no need to change systems. Smooth, efficient, everything in its place, nothing in excess. It's perfect.

I had a very bad experience playing Rogue Trader last night. My players - none of whom are actually willing to buy the book - kept interrupting me to "make sure I had that rule right" or whatever. It was a pain in the ass. I think we played for a total of about 20 minutes of a two and a half hour session. It's not that Rogue Trader is a bad system or that I'm a bad Game Master, or that at least two players were gleefully unwilling to go along with the "GM is always right...for now" rule. I was not only embarassed and annoyed when I didn't know a rule (embarassed because I felt like I should know it, and annoyed that no one seemed to mind GM fiat when it was beneficial to them personally) but I was frustrated when I couldn't find something quickly in 400+ pages of text. I really like Rogue Trader, but it's just a little much for me. I'm not saying it's too complex - I'm saying it's too complex for me. There is too much for me to keep track of and I spend all my time doing research into the rules, rather than coming up with good stories.

Of course, that has always been Savage Worlds' big selling point - that it's easy for GMs to handle, while still giving players the "system-heavy" bits they generally seem to need in terms of "depth" in characters... (Let me digress to voice two opinions I think might be somewhat unpopular in the RPG community: "character depth" is a myth; what that means is "stats that define something you could have just roleplayed out anyway w/out requiring a special edge or feat or whatever" - and two, "plot" is overrated in RPGs. See S. John Ross for rationale.)

I think the Rogue Trader universe is so cool, and I'd love to "savage" it, but I have one player who will instantly quit if that happens. So I won't. I love the ship combat system and I think it has great potential. But I have been spoiled, or perhaps "dumbed down," if you want to put a negative spin on it, by Savage Worlds. It's just so simple and intuitive to me now that anything else seems too complicated. And not only too complicated - but too unecessarily complicated. Find one thing that Rogue Trader does that Savage Worlds can't do. Go ahead. I'll wait...

I'm going to finish this campaign and learn to make the best of it but playing Rogue Trader just reminded me once again of how much I love rules-lite systems like Savage Worlds: it has all the possibilities and none of the complexity. Again, I'm perfectly willing to admit that the shortcoming is mine when it comes to why complex systems don't work for me. But it is what it is, and I needed to say it to myself, if to no one else.

P.S. I love the folks I play with, but damn, a few were not ready to accept anything other than me stopping the game and proving my rules-interpretations last be fair, this is pretty rare for them. But anyway.