Favorite … something — #RPGaDay2015, Day 13
Man, I started out with all manner of fire and fury, intent on catching myself up in short order. And here I am, two days missed out of the previous five, three odd days behind my intended schedule and landing on the topic I most dreaded finding myself at.
I gotta be honest here. I don’t listen to podcasts. I know that they’re a huge part of the industry and that designers I know and otherwise respect give them heed, but they’re largely a waste of bandwidth and time for my money. I suppose, if I wanted to listen to someone blather into a microphone with semi-professional sound production while I was doing something else, that might be one thing, but ever since I came back from South Korea, I’ve let my MP3 players rust. I’d originally bought them to occupy myself on public transit, and without those long hours that needed some sort of noise to fill them, I’m not inclined to carry a music player with me anywhere. I guess I could bring them along to listen to in the car, but I don’t even listen to talk radio. Why would I go to the trouble of importing something I’m not inclined to listen to anyway?
I guess it stems from my grating dislike of most of the people that think themselves qualified to comment on an industry that I think is already overcrowded with so-called experts. Listening to some fat guy with a microphone and bandwidth as he holds forth on something that I define as personally generated isn’t anything I’m going to seek out. (It doesn’t help that I don’t agree with most people on most subjects anyway. I’m the type of person that keeps a Facebook account for the sole purpose of picking fights with people that are prone to posting ignorant, low information opinions. It’s my second hobby.)
So, now that I’ve established my bona fides on why offering commentary on podcasts is beyond my threshold, let’s range into something else.
Favorite Dead Game Line
There are a lot of games that have come and gone over the years, several of them unremarkable and obvious in their lack of publishing longevity. Others have stuck around well past their freshness date, for reasons both inexplicable and weird. Games like Ars Magica, Fading Suns, Earthdawn and Pendragon have spilled past multiple publishers, kept on the hobby’s version of life support for the sake of a handful of players that seem to exist mainly in whispered conversation and shadowy corners of mall, local gaming conventions. I have literally never met a person that has played Ars Magica in any form, but the game has persisted through five separate editions, the last of which died off about a decade back. (For those playing at home, it was published by Lion Rampant, White Wolf (which grew out of Lion Rampant), Wizards of the Coast, and finally Altas Games.) With that much history, it would have made sense to have eventually encountered a some sort of dedicated group of it in my travels, but this is not the case. I have, in contrast, met people that have played Earthdawn and Pendragon, but those were confined to a single group with each. Outside of these very limited circles, I’ve seen nothing. And I know precisely one person that has ever talked about Fading Suns, and he’s two states away. There was one other person, but he wanted me to convert it to D6 to run in Star Wars.
Of the four game lines mentioned above, I think Ars Magica is the only one that’s not currently back in production in one form or another.
My library contains a lot of weird esoterica to draw from for this line of thought. What’s interesting is how few of those lines remain dead in a playable form. There were games (Wizards, based off the Ralph Bakshi movie and published by the generally hated Whitman Games) that could be played, as it had a number of supplements, but were severely limited in their scope. Similarly, there was Children of the Sun, which only had one supplement as I recall, and Spookshow, which had a similarly short line.
Torg has been dead for over twenty years, but since it’s coming back, I can’t qualify it to talk about. And technically, Bloodshadows is still in print (sort of a gaming life support, since there isn’t anything new coming out for the game), so that’s off the table.
Which leaves me with the weirdly unlikely and largely unplayable Tribe 8 RPG. (Which, as I have found in my Googling, apparently also refers to a “dyke punk” band out of San Francisco. I do sincerely hope they didn’t take inspiration from the relatively obscure RPG, as that would be a tich too weird for me.)
Tribe 8 was a post-apocalyptic RPG setting based in Quebec. Since this wasn’t already weird enough, the source of the apocalypse was the stuff of nightmares. And I mean that in the most wholly literal manner I can come up with. Demons conjured from the realm of dreams poured forth to devastate the world and leave it in twisted wreckage, the entirety of society reduced to savage tribal levels. The game is meta-plot heavy, meaning that the published adventures are requisite to the overall setting, and most of the 1st edition supplements were written from the point of view of characters in the setting itself, which makes it relatively hard to decipher from a GM standpoint. The second edition cleared up some of the mysteries of the game line, but it was a fascinatingly weird setting to consider. For my part, I would have loved to have seen a campaign of this run.
So, the logical question crops up: Why is a game I’ve never played and that seems too weird to actually play come in as my Favorite Dead Game Line? Because the safe and predictable games have been done to death. This game is challenging, weird and hard as hell to make sense of. For me, that means that actually doing something with it would take time and dedication, and the end result would be that much more amazing for the effort. It doesn’t take any work to sit down and put together a Star Wars game, since everyone knows how the universe works and what is actually expected of their characters. Want to run a pirates game? Easy. Everyone knows how to play Pathfinder (and there’s plenty of material in Skull & Shackles), and everyone has seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Most of the work has already been done. The only thing left is to fill in the blanks and throw some dice.
But Tribe 8, man. There’s some work.