Which games to do like?

23 11 2009

As I was writing my appendix to my Mouse Guard review, it occurred to me that our opinions of games are often formed not by the mechanics or the out-of-the-book flavour, but by the GM (or to a lesser extent the players).

Think about that for a few seconds…

Imagine a GM offers to run a new game.  It’s a genre you’re OK with and you roll an OK character and you absolutely hate the experience.  Who do you blame?  Typically the games designer.

Yet even an experienced GM can falter with a new system and spoil what could have been year’s worth of enjoyment in a couple of hours.  Similarly, we are typically tolerant of flawed mechanics if the GM really sweeps us up into the game-world.  A so-so game can last years – as long as that GM continues to control it.

So what’s the point of this blog?  Well, if a few readers make the effort to try a game they previously disliked (by running it with a different GM) then I think it will have been a blog worth the effort.

Aside from my Mouse Guard experience (which still does not have a happy ending), I can relate my D&D 3.5 tale. 

D&D was a system I avoided like the plague because of one role-player in a game I was only observing casually (for more on the +3 dagger, you’ll have to trawl September 2009’s archives). 

When I wanted to game again, 3.5 was the only option available to me.  I played a session and – really didn’t like it.  The GM was fine, but the players and the dynamic were reminiscent of all the strange mechanics that put me off the game in the first place. 

Players saw the game as killing and looting.  Everything was a dungeon crawl – they fought to be the person to kill the kobolds and wanted to be first to loot the bodies.  During my second session, I asked why this style of play?  “Because that’s the only was to get xp,” I was told…. 

As luck would have it, the GM wanted a rest and as someone with previous experience, I was asked to start something.  I asked innocently if they would consider Pathfinder.

And so, a few months into Rise of the Runelords, we have a game that is essentially 3.5 but the players now don’t even bother to loot every corpse.  And if they’re injured, they hang back from the front line. 

They even help each other to outflank opponents!

The same game, a different experience altogether.  I now play in a couple of Pathfinder games and they are nothing like that 3.5 game I re-started by gaming interest in.  Had I taken that one experience, I would have given up on 3.5 and Pathfinder would have been lost to me.  

So, the next time you play a game and it doesn’t do it for you, politely consider using a different GM.  Not necessarily a better GM, just a different one.  You may find you like it after all.

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