Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 9

Day 9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

...all of them?

Well, okay that's not really accurate. I'd be hard pressed to play a 10 session arc of Lasers and Feelings or Og. Those games tend to be short one-shots that you play in an afternoon or evening, then call it done. Most other traditional RPGs are designed for a typical campaign arc of multiple sessions.

But let's take this exercise to the next step and be literal, what RPG is good to play for 10 sessions. A session could be a couple hours or it could be 6-8, but I'll use the "industry standard expectation" of 4 hours. So a 40 hour game, essentially. If I'm running such a game, I want the game to be easy to run and easy to play. I don't want to spend time looking over or arguing about obscure rules. Combat should be quick enough that we're not spending hours on one fight (unless it's a climax) but also long enough to really feel like your tactical choices matter. Finally, character advancement needs to be meaningful, some games out there it takes a lot of effort to "level up".

I'm going to try and grade some of the systems I've played based on the above criteria. I'll use a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the "perfect game for 10 sessions".

Here's my breakdown...

Palladium: Rifts/Robotech
I really enjoyed playing the Robotech RPG when it came out, and collected as many books as I could. When Rifts came along using the same system, I was in love. Sadly, it was a love that would not last, as the object of my affections became more and more bloated, with each year adding more and more insanity to the mixture. Finally, I had enough, and couldn't handle the craziness of the system or the skyrocketing stats I had to deal with. Running the game was difficult, with powers and abilities spread out across a dozen books. The amount of damage creatures and vehicles could take got obscene, so combat turned into a slogfest of whittling down outrageous numbers of hit points. Prep time for Robotech wasn't bad, I could use basic, pre-printed stats for most opponents, but for Rifts it was worse than Heroes Unlimites. Advancement wasn't bad, but it did exasperate the problem of higher hit points making combat last longer.

Easy to Run: 3
Easy to Play: 6
Combat Time: 4
Advancement: 5
Final Rating: 4.5 - A fun setting, but the system prevents it from being a contender for a 10 session campaign

Palladium: Heroes Unlimited/TMNT And Other Strangeness
I've played the hell out of these games back in High School and into College. I even had a pretty regular "Century City" campaign going for a while that ran bi-weekly. These were pretty good systems for it. Combat wasn't too long once we got used to rolling initiative, and it certainly wasn't any length I'd consider "too quick". Character advancement felt meaningful with level-ups occurring every other session. It was a bit of a pain to prep for, as creating stat-blocks for mutant animals or super-villains got pretty cumbersome; I'd probably spend 1 hour prepping for every 2 hours of gameplay.

Easy to Run: 4
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 6
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 6 - A fun game with the right players, but there are probably better games out there for a 10 session arc.

D20 - Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 Edition, Star Wars Saga Edition)
This was the system of D&D I really got into. For the most part, it was pretty easy to run as long as I was using stat blocks right out of the Monster Manual. If I had to make an NPC with levels or added a template to a creature, it increased prep-time a little bit. Ease of play was average, most of the time things went swiftly but then there were moments where we had to dig into sourcebooks or try and figure out who certain checks worked (damn you, Grapple rules...) Combat time was decent until the game got into the level 10+ range, then opponents started to get significant hit point totals and slowed combat down. Character advancement was generally pretty good, with level ups occurring every session or every other session depending on several factors.

Easy to Run: 6
Easy to Play: 7
Combat Time: 7
Advancement: 8
Final Rating: 7 - The classic scores an above average score. A D20 system is a solid choice for a 10-session game.

FFG Narrative Dice System - Star Wars, Genesys
Boy howdy, do I love running this system. It shows too, I've pretty much been running this system exclusively since 2013. I've found that it fits perfectly into my lifestyle; the only regular games I can play are either bi-weekly for a few hours or once every couple of months for 5-7 hours. Once you learn the system, I find it a breeze to run. Prep time is fractional compared to other systems I've referenced, and in many cases I can go completely off-the-cuff and none are the wiser. Players may have some complex characters options, but those tend to be rare or limited to advanced Force users. Combat feels like a dream to me, with initiative rolled once and combat time usually being a sweet spot of "just enough but not too long". Advancement might be a little slow if players want to dive deep into specialization trees.

Easy to Run: 9
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 9
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 8 - A great system for a short game or a long game. Perfect for a 10-session arc.

That was a long answer for today's question. Which is good, because I'm not expecting tomorrow to be a lengthy one.

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