roleplaying games

Reign of confusion

I was so very close. I thought I had my future campaign pinned down, I was going to prep out The Sprawl, and everyone would be happy. Then I remembered that I owned Reign.

As far as my game collection goes, Reign suffered a severe blow to its standing in my priority queue by the fact that I bought it when I was on a fantasy kick, the same fantasy kick which resulted in my buying Burning Wheel. I read Burning Wheel, Reign kind of faded into the background, and then I ran neither of them.

While they have some similarities, including dice pools, lifepath character generation, and simultaneous combat resolution, they are systems with very different goals. Burning Wheel is about characters, and the stories of who characters become as they face hardship. Like in Apocalypse World, the GM is responsible for helping the players make their characters come to life, and as a result they are encouraged to write somewhere between the skeleton of an epic world and conflict (as in Burning Wheel) and absolutely no setting specifics at all without the input of the players (as in Apocalypse World).

Reign, on the other hand, is designed to be a system of intrigue. While the One-Roll Engine serves as a solid enough base for a fantasy game, what makes Reign unique in a mechanical sense is the company rules. There are detailed rules for how organizations work and work against each other, as well as supporting mechanics around treasure and wealth which actually allow PCs and organizations to scale with each other neatly (something D&D has never been great at, as a comparison).

So at first, thinking about Reign made me consider the fact that it would be a lot easier to run than Burning Wheel. This is mostly for the simple reason that Reign is not nearly as crunchy a system as Burning Wheel, and would be easier to run without needing intensive bookkeeping or significant investments of player time in learning the system and subsystems. There’s another thing, though. My players, who keep coming back to my Cyberpunk games, have already demonstrated their enthusiasm for intrigue. Admittedly Apocalypse World has been going great, so it’s not to say they haven’t shown an interest in character-driven games…but Reign would definitely produce a type of game my players enjoy. The same cannot necessarily be said about D&D, with its focus on high fantasy, adversary-driven combat, and simplified morality.

I’m not jumping whole-hog onto a completely different campaign idea…yet. I’m going to go into Reign by writing some magical assumptions that balance my desired rarity, potency and danger of magic with the fact that sorcery is a not-unlikely starting skill in Reign that should still be useful. Once I do that to some degree of my satisfaction, I’ll run a one-shot. Have my players do the one-roll character generation and play a little scenario that shows off the meat of the system as well as the company rules. If they get into it, I’ll look into writing a campaign. If they don’t, I still think this would be a good use of all the prep time I won’t need if my campaign ends up using The Sprawl.


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