roleplaying games

All the Fantasy, ever

So now I’m running a D&D game, and it’s going pretty well. Four sessions in, level 3, the sandbox has been laid out before the players. All good stuff. Also a strange place to find myself, considering what my gaming history has looked like.

I started my first gaming group in high school running Third Edition D&D. The game went a healthy number of sessions, but eventually we switched to Cyberpunk 2020, which we played for the majority of the time the group was together. After playing in a 3.5 game in college, I began running GURPS and definitively turned my back on the fantasy genre altogether. It was much to the chagrin of at least one of my players, who wanted to play a magical character more than anything, but I was interested in building worlds that were grounded in “reality”.

I was eventually disabused of this notion, partially as my continuing forays into GURPS became more divorced from reality as my players learned how to game the system, partially as I started learning more of what I wanted from my games on a meta level, and partially as I reintegrated into a world of fantasy gaming through a game of Fourth Edition D&D. When Fifth Edition came out, I was ready to give D&D another shot.

Now, I’m running a 5e game which is designed to lean on the design elements of D&D which work and are cohesive: exploration, powerful monsters, dungeons, and a strongly integrated progression treadmill where increasing power is the de facto narrative direction of the game. It is a game which I felt completely trapped by when I first started learning D&D in high school, but when appreciated on its own merits it creates a compelling structure. When I’m done with this campaign, though, I’m going to put D&D away for a while and run something else. I own a fair number of fantasy games, and there’s more than several I want to put through their paces.

Zweihander: As I’ve written elsewhere, I wanted to run my current game in Zweihander, but relented because my players didn’t want random character generation. Of course, once I switched systems and gave my players all the control they wanted, several of them (including the most vocal critic of my Zweihander choice) couldn’t come up with what they wanted to play. I have a great group, but this made me want to strangle them. Next time I want to do a sandbox exploration game, I’m doing it in Zweihander. The dark flavor, dangerous magic and unforgiving mechanics will be perfect for the atmosphere I want.

Torchbearer: Torchbearer would be an amazing game to run, with immense danger and a lot of micromanagement. It deserves a full campaign, though I’d like to have the ability to play out until level 10 (not that any of the characters will necessarily survive that long).

Spellbound Kingdoms: Spellbound Kingdoms is an incredibly neat game that didn’t fit my dark/low fantasy ideas at all. However, it would make for a fascinating Renaissance intrigue game. My current idea is to build up a big 15th century city, and then use Spellbound Kingdoms for all the nonsense that would come out of it. In my ideal world it would be a Musketpunk free-for-all with duels to the death, deception, and derringdo.

GURPS: Even though it would take a ton of work, GURPS is perfectly suited for another one of my ideas where magic is lost to the world and the PCs find themselves trying to find it. With that core concept the actual setting could be a huge range of things, but the narrative arc of trying to find cosmic power is very compelling.

The problem I continually have with all these ideas is that, with one group to play them with, we’re talking years worth of gaming. Now, I’ve already decided my next game with my online group after D&D will be The Veil, and nothing’s going to change that. After that, though, I’d probably pick up another fantasy campaign. Out of these, I’d go either Spellbound Kingdoms or GURPS, since the Zweihander idea is more of a reskin of the campaign I’m already running, and Torchbearer would also be built on similar flavor. Spellbound Kingdoms would be something new, but GURPS is something very ambitious. I clearly have plenty of time with which to think and write, and for both Spellbound Kingdoms and Zweihander there are supplements on the horizon which may change the breadth of options within the game.

It’s refreshing to be interested in more options out in the gaming world, especially as fantasy makes up the bulk of the hobby thanks to D&D and Pathfinder. For now, though, more gaming ideas just mean that I have too many games and not enough time.


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