(My) 2015 (Space) Odyssey

I wanted to thank my readers for staying with me in this first year of blogging. It has a been a bit of a tough year, both personally (job hunting and sh*t) and gaming-wise. I have not managed to put a gaming group together. Next year I might try harder, perhaps via Hangout or something. This evening I am probably going to be able to watch The Force Awakens at last, so expect some post on Star Wars stuff in the next couple of weeks. Or maybe not: it depends on how strongly I (dis)like it, on how many RPG hooks I find etc. Anyway: thank you and have a happy new year.

My Problems with Superheroes

In the next future I plan to write about superhero games, so it is perhaps time to spell out my fundamental lack of interest in role-playing superheros. In my life I have read my good share of superhero comics (mostly Marvel, mostly mutants). And yet, as I mentioned before, I have never felt terribly attracted to superhero RPGs, even though two decades ago I gave it a shot with the then-only superhero game in town in my native country.

My problem, to avoid misunderstandings, is with super-heroes, not with super-powers. The idea of playing a scenario or a campaign with superpowered characters sounds pretty appealing, in fact. Only, I would not make them comic-book superheroes. Demigods in a fantasy setting? Yes. Cosmic entities with a psychedelic space opera feel? Sure. Super mercenaries in action movie adventures? Perhaps. But not superheroes, not crime-fighters with stylized names and costumes, who honestly think that knocking out (but not maiming or killing, God forbid!) a bunch of small fry criminals every week makes any difference in the grand scheme of things.

In all fairness I think that everything Alan Moore put in Watchmen (and Snyder heavily underplayed in the movie) applies to the very concept of a superhero in general. What kinds of people would plausibly choose to be comic-book style vigilantes? Childish types, violent brutes and people with sexual kinks.

In a way, I suffer from a moral dissonance which is the opposite of the one often lamented about D&D: there, the stereotypical adventuring style (“murder-hobos”)  clashes with the assumption that at least some PCs are “good” and law-abiding, many of them are devout to peaceful religious cults etc. With superheroes, I cannot help finding the righteous and impractical attitude required by the run-of-the-mill superhero scenarios ridiculous or otherwise unconvincing, and I would be tempted the make the characters less “heroic” but more interesting. So yeah, if I really had to, I would rather play a campaign of super-villains. At least, their motives make marginally sense.

Requiem for a Gentleman

[The frequence of my posts is pretty low these days. Hopefully I will make up for it with a good bunch of posts I have drafted.]

Today I would like to elaborate on my last point: Chaosium and Hero Games are de-genericizing their classic generic systems (Basic Role-Playing and Hero System, respectively), to focus on their best selling genre games (Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Champions). I am especially sorry for BRP, and here is why.

BRP is by far the most long-lived system still around. In thirty years it has brought to life many disparate, often memorable games. In my country, where Runequest was not translated in order to avoid the competition of D&D and MERP, BRP was especially known for Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer. A literate system for anti-heroic and desperate adventures. In what I might call the Classic Age of gaming in Italy (late 80s-mid 90s), while D&D was by far the most widely played RPG, it was a rarity that a gaming group only played D&D. The informal arrangement was that in a group people alternated to GM, and more often than not each member bought the core books for a different system. So almost every group that played D&D also played CoC, Cyberpunk 2020, MERP or Stormbringer.

Eventually, even the generic BRP booklet was translated in Italian and had some diffusion, but the Classic Age had come to an end by then. The move by Chaosium to publish the Big Golden Book in 2008 was the explicit recognition that the system itself had some popularity, and people would have loved to use it for other, less explored settings of their own choice. In the last ten years, the Big Golden Book, together with the licences to Cubicle 7, Alephtar Games and others, has generated a great number of sourcebooks, most of them historically inspired, of the highest quality. Books like Alephtar’s RomeCelestial Empire or Crusaders of the Amber Coast are among the very few that can rival the classic GURPS 3e historical titles. Because of the end of the BRP licenses, all these books have been put out of print all of a sudden, and forever. This is objectively a huge loss for the gaming community at large, especially if you consider that the books were very usable with other systems, and the second-hand prices for these books are already outrageously high. I am glad to have the PDFs of most of these titles, but I deeply regret not buying physical copies when I was still allowed to.

Now that it has been deprived of BRP, Alephtar Games is working on their own generic d100 system, which will be called Revolution D100. I have come too late to back them, but I am pretty surely buying the thing when it is out. BRP deserves a worthy heir.

 

EDIT 23 December 2016 – Rome has been expanded and redone as a Mythras supplement. It also seems that Revolution D100 is finally out. Hallelujah!