Putting the RPG Back in Game Night

We’ve had a weekly game night going at our place for a decade now. It started when Nik and I were living in an apartment in the Madrona neighborhood of Seattle and has been at our house since we moved here in 2000. The three Ronins (Nicole, Evan, and I) have been constants and many other friends have cycled in and out. Those who leave inevitably do so because they move away for a new job. We have ex-members now living as far away as Shanghai.

When we started, it was specifically for RPG campaigns and that remained the case for a good 8 years. Keeping momentum going on a particular campaign got harder, as several members do a lot of business travel. Then Bruce Harlick moved back to California, earning the sobriquet “Bruce the Traitor.” Jess and Tim followed him about a year later. Since then it’s been the three Ronins plus Ray Winninger.

The four of us attempted to keep a campaign going but with me working two jobs and Ray flying all over the place for Microsoft, it just didn’t work. For almost two years now we’ve been playing board games instead. And some nights we don’t even do that. Nicole cooks and we drink and bitch about the world. I had a playtest game of Dragon Age going on the side, but that ended when I left Flying Lab.

This is why I find myself hankering to be part of a regular RPG campaign once again. I would like to play but the reality is that I’ll need to GM if it’s going to happen, so I’ve been pondering options. I need something I’m interested in and I can sell the group on. I’ve commented to Nicole several times that the Fables comic by Bill Willingham would make a great backdrop for a campaign. Last week when I mentioned again how I thought Fables was awesome, Nicole said, “You should run a Fables campaign on game night.”

The question, of course, is what game would be suitable for Fables? I asked this of my Facebook friends yesterday and got a variety of responses. I didn’t quantify what I was looking for, so let me do that now. Basically, I am looking for a more story oriented game. I’m not interested in anything rules heavy or featuring tactical combat. It should be able to handle a wide variety of character types easily, as Fables throws a very wide net. Creating NPCs should not be a bear.

Here’s what’s been suggested, as well as various games I’ve pulled from my collection for consideration.

Castle Falkenstein: I always admired this game but sadly never got to play it. The engine is looks workable but I think if I was going to run CF, I’d like to do it full on with the setting intact.

GURPS, Hero, M&M;: These sorts of point based systems are great for many types of campaign, but not this one.

New World of Darkness: The core book doesn’t feature vampires, werewolves, etc, but is more of a generic supernatural game. I have no play experience at all with NWoD, so it’d be interesting from that angle but it didn’t seem well suited to making fairytale characters come to life.

Over the Edge: I played this a lot in college and it could work. Possible but I’d rather try something newer.

Prince Valiant: This game was really ahead of its time and there’s a lot to admire about its design and approach. I’d need to mod it heavily for it to work for Fables though, as it really is designed for a medieval setting.

Savage Worlds: This is a game I want to try sometime anyway and I could probably make it do what I want, but the feel of the rules is not quite right. I’ll save it for Solomon Kane.

Seven Leagues, Primetime Adventures, and HeroQuest: Interesting suggestions but I have none of these. If not for the final entry, I might have sought out one or more of them.

Spirit of the Century: I played in a SotC campaign for about a year and it was fun. It is more crunchy than you’d think though and that’s not really what I’m looking for. I also found that in a longer campaign the whole aspect thing went from fun to humdrum, so I’d use SotC for one shots or short arcs but not a full on campaign.

True20, Faery’s Tale, M&M; again: I am always amused when people suggest games to me that Green Ronin publishes. I appreciate the sentiment, but game night is my time to be a hobbyist, so I try to play other people’s games.

The Zorcerer of Zo: I had this on the shelf but it took Sophie’s suggestion to remind me. After a re-read, I’d say this is the clear front runner. Character creation feels right for Fables and the rules seem substantial enough to be interesting but easy enough that I won’t have to sink a lot of time into prep work. I also have Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, another PDQ game which I could pull extra material from if needed.

If I can sell the group on the idea, the next step would be picking a time frame to set it. I think I might want to stay away from the modern day so the PCs can shine without being overshadowed by the plots of the comic. The early 60s might be a fun period to roll with. Rat Pack fables and Cold War spy stuff could be an interesting mix. We’ll see how it goes.

5 thoughts on “Putting the RPG Back in Game Night

  1. Chris, please take a look at The Shadow of Yesterday. By Clinton R Nixon – it's free online or you can buy from Lulu or IPR.
    It might be up your alley.
    Cheers
    @lunarempire

  2. I saw that you mentioned Savage Worlds, and while it may not be the end all/be all of roleplaying systems, I do hope you find a chance to play it. It's difficult to get an accurate feel for it or it's capabilities until you've played in it for a while. I honestly think it would server your purposes just fine, though New World of Darkness might actually work reasonably well.

    On a side note, whereabouts in Seattle do you live? I'm in Burien these days, and my players have gone traitor on me as well, so I'm in a constant search for people to run and play games with.

  3. "True20, Faery's Tale, M&M; again: I am always amused when people suggest games to me that Green Ronin publishes. I appreciate the sentiment, but game night is my time to be a hobbyist, so I try to play other people's games."

    While I can understand this on some level. It seems to me familiarity with any system helps it do its job. To get out of the way of the role playing.

    Maybe its because I'm not a professional game designer and only an amateur one that its hard for me not to consider one I wrote.

    ~HANZO~

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