The last few days have been a whirl of game prep. My Tuesday night group has been going through a rough patch, with a lot of life changes happening for the majority of the group at the same time. This includes, but is not limited to, the GM of the One Ring game being transferred to Denver temporarily and two of my four Mage players taking a new baby break. We instituted some stopgap measures to buy some time for the group to settle back down into a familiar rhythm. The One Ring game became an Edge of the Empire game, and my group played Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game.
This week however, all of our stopgap measures ran their course, and it came to my attention that most of the group lamented the fact that we were not gaming a large group anymore. They missed the social interaction that came with everyone being in the same group. The fact that we were in two groups made sure that you bonded with your group, but saw very little of the other. That coupled with the fact that the Edge group varied from 2 to 5 people on a week to week basis, making it difficult for the other GM to plan, caused me to reach out first to the Edge GM and then to the group as a whole. After talking with everyone, it became clear that for the health of the group something had to change.
This week, instead of writing up blog posts I wrote emails and texts to my group, getting feedback from everyone. We reached the decision that the best course was joining the groups back into one large group. People could gather and get the social interaction that had been missing, and hopefully the game could continue despite the number of people that showed up.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you might remember the “never again” post I made here. I knew even as I realized that this was best for the group, I needed a better game for a large group than 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons or I would risk burnout again. I established some basic criteria for this new game. It needed to be a simple game, so that if people missed sessions the mechanics were still easy to pick up and use. It needed to be rules light so that adjudicating the game took far less time and effort than it did in DnD. And finally, it need to be able to quickly bring players who missed up to speed mechanically: i.e. leveling.
Briefly I considered Pathfinder, as I want to get back into my personal world of Ta’nar. But as I looked at my criteria, Pathfinder violated all three rules. I needed something simpler, although running a Ta’nar game would be easiest story wise. I took a long look at my game shelf and narrowed it down to two games: Adventurer, Conqueror, King and Numenera. Both are very rules light, with simple mechanics, and players could update their characters very quickly even if they missed a couple of weeks. Most people did not care which game we played, but my wife came down firmly on the “I don’t enjoy ACKS” side of things. She enjoyed the story of the last game I ran in ACKS, but she did not like the gritty feel of the game. She said she did not enjoy the impotent feeling of level 1 characters, compared to other games, nor the dread of “who would die this week.” Although many well-reasoned responses, discussions on the nature of OSR games and explanations on how only 3 people died in the last game lay within my reach, I wisely said nothing and chose to run Numenera.
Instead of prepping more Outlands, which doesn’t start till January, I re-read the rules of Numenera. I prepped cheat sheets for character creation and for game play, which helped remind me of the rules. And I read the first adventure in the back of the core book: The Beale of Boregal. Wednesdays, as they are my one day without scheduled play by post posts, will probably turn into a recap of the previous night’s adventures and my thoughts on the game and on Numenera. I am looking forward to playing this game, and although I must put my beloved Mage back on the shelf, I am excited to get to play Numenera sooner rather than later.
On the Burning Wheel front, I finished my reading of the Spokes, wrapping up the Artha chapter yesterday. Artha might be my favorite part of the BWG system. Handed out for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, they work like fate points or hero points in other systems, but also combine mechanical manipulation with a type of advancement. The more artha you spend on a skill or stat, the closer you come to a shade shift, which increases the chance that each die in your pool comes up a hit. It complements the advancement system quite well, also rewarding the players where they use the system.
The turning of the BWG mechanics revolves around (and I might be paraphrasing to the point of plagiarizing. If I do, my apologized to Luke Crane) the interaction between a characters Beliefs, Instincts and Traits (BITs) as the players expression what he or she wants from the game, and the GM’s rewards of Artha in response to the use of those BITs to drive the story.
The BITs of the characters enable the GM to enjoy a unique level of narrative freedom in the story. The players tell you what is important to them and they want to have happen to them over the course of the story through their Beliefs, Instincts and Traits. This lets you challenge them in those areas, and the story practically drives itself forward. Although you might never know where the game will go, you never need to worry about it going somewhere. And if momentum starts to fail, just light a fire under your players BITs.
In addition to reading through BWG, I am also going to be reading the Adventure Burner. It contains a series of commentaries that the Authors wrote about the theory behind the rules as written. I will continue to post my distilled thoughts from the Adventure Burner as well as NWG, in hopes that together I gain a deep insight into the system.