Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On playing S&W and GURPS

So Doug posted about his experience playing an avowed OSR system. It's my fault, really, because I encouraged Doug to join the game.

To be honest, I dragged Doug into Erik's S&W game purely because he and I never get to play together and I knew he might be able to make the game sessions. I have very limited free time when people normally run games (I work nights and weekends, and run my game on the free weekends I have), as well, but this monthly game fit perfectly. It wasn't an attempt to turn him on to OSR gaming so much as "Erik is a good GM and the guys are cool and the game is fun." I suggested to another person to join, too, for the same reason - if you get in, I'm in and we can play games together just like we normally can't.

I play both S&W and GURPS, which would seem like an "old school" versus "new school" divide. Player skill vs. character abilities. "I check for poison needles" vs. "I roll Per-based Traps." You know, the great divide between Good and Evil, to hear some tell it.

I'll tell you it's not all of that. Or any of that.

Swords & Wizardry

Part of what I like about Swords & Wizardry is just that I'm getting to play. The game I played in before this was GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game that ran a couple of sessions. I enjoyed playing in Vlaclav Tofl's GURPS Gladiators game, too, although I only managed to play once. I like to play, and I'm much less picky about systems that I play even if I am very picky about games I run.

It helps immensely that the S&W game has a great group of players and an excellent GM. Erik Tenkar has his finger on exactly what the game needs to be fast and fun. The other players are all guys I've been immediately comfortable playing with. It's really fun and I've made new friends out of it, too.

It's not the ruleset I enjoy, although a rules-light ruleset makes it possible for me to play without investing a lot of time. Pathfinder seems extremely cool, but I'd have to learn a lot and read a lot to play in it, and I don't have that kind of time, not if I intend to keep working, training, blogging, studying, etc. at the pace I'm doing now and spending time with my family, too. But it's not the rules. If Erik ran Basic D&D, White Box D&D, Holmes D&D, Basic Fantasy, AD&D, whatever - it would be fine. I'd be in.

I do like the rules, though, and they're easy to follow and seem self-consistent (especially with a good GM.)

I turn off the part of my brain that wants to argue that even 3 pound swords in GURPS is a bit of a heavy weapon, nevermind 10 pounds in S&W. Or that 1 minute rounds are really long (my first and second MMA matches combined went about 2 minutes, and we both got in a lot of attacks). Or that whole thing with armor making me hard to hit not harder to injure. Because none of that matters because they don't get in the way of the fun parts of the session.

But then I turn around and run GURPS.

GURPS

A couple days after my last S&W session I ran my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game. For my group, it's a very light game, with a lot of fudging of stuff that doesn't directly involve whacking things and a lot of stuff that does. Unlike the S&W game, exactly where you are standing matters. Turn to turn decisions can change the battlefield. Armor sucks up damage and skill prevents hits. Death spiral mechanics ensure getting hurt is bad, bad, bad.

And it's also fun. We had five of our eight players and I'd have loved to have more of the guys make the session. We fret over details like the weapons you have out, the spacing in the movement order, and the exact range of light sources.

It's the same theme of the game (kill the monsters, take the stuff) with different dice and very different dial settings when it comes to detail. Even a fairly light version of GURPS, with my group, is pretty damn detailed compared to the S&W game.

But I deeply enjoy both. I may not ever run S&W (it's doubtful, I love to run GURPS) but I'll cheerfully play in it.

To me it's the classic steak-or-sushi thing. I don't bemoan my steak for not being sushi, or my sushi for not being steak. They're both enjoyable for what they are. I don't worry if your GURPS or your S&W is different than mine, either.

There are games I have little interest in playing, as well, but there are foods I don't like, either. I try to stay out of those games (it's easy) or discussing them (generally easy) because my criticisms aren't relevant. I play the games that interest me, and I enjoy each of them for what they are.

10 comments:

  1. I have no problem jumping from S&W to GURPS. Both a great systems. But I always say doesn't matter to me what the system is, its being able to have a good laugh with the folks you game with.

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    1. Yeah. As long as the system doesn't impede the fun (say, by annoying everyone in some fashion), or enhances the fun, it's the right system.

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  2. The weight thing always bothers me. But with regard to the combat-think of S&W/D&D being a not a "To Hit" roll but as a Combat Effectiveness roll. You're hitting your opponent several times, but are you doing so effectively? So the AC rating is making you harder to injure; it's just using a different die roll than you are used to from GURPS.

    Think of a S&W round as being several combat turns in GURPS. For example, you attack eight times, miss three times, are parried twice, blocked once and you hit twice, but your damage roll is too low on one of those damage rolls, but the eighth you do some damage.

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    1. I can rationalize it as an abstraction, but it's still a rationalized abstraction that I don't particularly like. It's not an obstacle to my fun, it's just something that I'd argue with as a game design decision yet don't when I play because it's not important enough.

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  3. Like Tim and I, you and Dave are now official dual wielders of S&W on one hand and GURPS on the other.

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    1. Which gives us, what, two attacks at -4/-4 plus offhand penalties, -1 to opponent's Active Defenses in GURPS, and +1 to hit and use the better weapon's damage in S&W?

      I can live with that. :)

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  4. Just chiming in for my unsurprising support of this position. Though for me it goes the other way around - I'd jump at the chance to play your DF game, but I don't think I want to run one. NOt for a while yet, anyhow.

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    1. I'd love to have you play my DF game online. I keep saying that, I know, but my work hours on weeknights and Saturdays keeps creeping up. That's good for my income, but it makes it tough to see when I'd be able to run a regular game. I really want to.

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  5. Seeing S&W mentioned by Peter again I decided to grab the OSRIC material for AD&D. Looks like my students are going to be rolling some dice.

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    1. S&W Complete is available free - I highly recommend it.

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