The more I think about it I’ve come to the conclusion the older I get the lazier I get, at least when it comes to the type of games I like to play these days. See, when I first got into tabletop gaming I would often devour anything I could get my grubby little mitts on, which meant if a particular game or roleplaying system looked interesting I’d shill out the cash, take it home, and eagerly read through the pages like a man possessed. It didn’t matter one bit to me if it was something that caught my eye, whether it be akin to a phonebook like brick or a slender volume, I was damn sure going to get my money’s worth. But the more I’ve been playing the more things have changed, and I’ve realized that when it comes to what I appreciate now that less is definitely more.
Looking back, when I first ventured into the world of roleplaying, I loved me a big ass book, and my shelves are still stacked full of the ones I haven’t quite been able to part with yet and continue to hold near and dear. In my young impressionable mind, more was always the way to go, no matter how much fluff or overwhelming crunch seemed to be packed into a system. I wanted big, and if it wasn’t the biggest, I tended to leave it laying and move on to something else. But as I continued to play and especially move into running games of my own, my tastes started to evolve, and I quickly found there was more than one way to present and enjoy a product. By and large, three methods really jump out to me, and each one carries with it its own merits and flaws. I know what I like and what I look for now compared to what I thought I wanted then, so let’s see how the present day me stacks up against my younger self in terms of RPG preferences, and if you might feel the same.
The Kitchen Sink
In general, this is how the younger me liked to go, with one big hefty tome that contained all I would ever need and tacked on more extra bits than I could ever keep track of. My reasoning was that I’d never have to buy another book or supplement to go with it ever again, being able to get what I wanted out of the product indefinitely and just make up what little I couldn’t. It seemed really sound in theory back then, but books that are setup like this are pretty much an immediate turn off for me these days. As comprehensive as they are, I often find games like this to be far more cumbersome than they’re worth, being packed to the bindings with shiny bits and enough add-ons and options to make my head spin. There’s in depth character creation, the archetypes, the rules, the combat rules, the optional combat rules, the magic, the expanded magic, the background, the monsters, and good god, you get my point. By the time it’s all said and done you could be looking at four, five, or even six hundred pages or more, and I just don’t have that kind of time or patience to devote to a book. I’m not saying that something that tries to do everything is a bad thing when it comes to RPGs, but when the game is bulky enough that I could possibly beat someone into a concussion with it, it’s going to be a pass from me. And sometimes that’s a shame, because there’s some really cool stuff out there.
Ah, the buffet design, something that I absolutely loathed when I was younger but have since gained a begrudging respect for. What I mean here is a game system that spreads its content out over several volumes, typically one for the gamemaster, one for the players, and one that contains a collection of foes and scenarios. There can always be more than these three, of course, especially when you work in the idea of setting and background, equipment lists, and optional add-ons of all sorts, but generally the trifecta is standard. In the past, I always thought it was a cheap play to force players to buy at least three books in order to just get one game, not to mention baiting you in with supplements that continue to drain your wallet. But as someone who tends to want to run more games than actually play in them now, there are definite advantages to having things broken up into separate chunks.
For, one I can have the core rules laid out directly in front of me at all times, which means I have them on hand as an easy reference while still being able to flip through the monster or scenario books without having to lose my place or rearrange everything. Separate volumes can also make it a heck of a lot easier to find things sometimes, as each book is usually a manageable size and the information specific to what you’re looking for. Instead of having to search through several hundred pages I can go straight to the foe’s guide to find that orc I’m looking for, and keep it out and readily accessible without disturbing the other parts of my setup. Multiple books still isn’t my preferred method of madness when it comes to gaming by any stretch, as I still don’t like to pay out any more cash than I have to. But in terms of easy reference over a mountain of pages to skim through, it’s my second choice, so I make due when I have to.
The Trim and Slim
Yes, the trim and slim, without a doubt my favorite way to go when I look at my games these days. Some might say that these types of books lack depth, with not enough detail, options, or background information to get by on. I have to confess, I use to agree with that and be right there myself, but now when I look at these little beauties, I see something totally different. What I appreciate from these games most is that they often have a very concise design, with an efficient lay out and a freedom from unnecessary wordiness and rules crunch that tend to bog other games down. This allows me to concentrate less on the rules and more on the roleplaying, which gives me a looser and more free flowing game for my players to enjoy.
Not only are these little troves economically written and a breeze to reference, but they’re often usually very affordable, too, with about twenty bucks getting you somewhere in the neighborhood of two-hundred pages of quality system, and cheaper than that if you know where to look. Another big advantage is that you can be ready to play one these guys in no time at all if you want, as their rules light nature often makes character creation a cinch and prep a minimal endeavor. For my money and time, this style of RPG has become my new bread and butter, and my shelves are quickly becoming packed full of them, cause why the heck not.
There you have it, gang, a little preference change for yours truly since the days that I started gaming compared to now. I think most of it really had more to do with convivence and ease of use rather than anything else, but I have to say, money and affordability definitely have their role to play, too. To that end, I thought I’d continue on a bit with this discussion next week, taking a look at and recommending a few titles that will all go easy on your cash flow and be great additions to anyone’s gaming library. They all fit the trim and slim model that I discussed above, so they’re not only cheap but they’re also quick reads that I found to be very enjoyable and are easy to get going. If that sounds like your bag then be sure to check me out then, because I’ve never mentioned these before and they aren’t to be missed. Later, and happy gaming, guys.