A thread on TheRPGSite about “Games You Really Wanted To Like But Couldn’t” struck a chord with me. Here’s some of the games I really, really wanted to like but was sadly crushed by. Chime in with yours!
Rune. After Feng Shui, which I loved with an intense love, I was really looking forward to Robin Laws’ next game, and Vikings are cool, so it seemed like a shoo-in. Then when I got it, it was a weird budget-driven thing that I couldn’t even begin to attempt to run. You can’t put in a trap, you have to take the trap out of the budget for opposing elements… Spreadsheet time! To create a Rune adventure you’d have to do days of prep and math, there is no “winging it.” A warning shot of what has mostly gone wrong with RPGs since in many ways. Recently I saw the 2e clone Myth & Magic trying to put in an “XP budget” thing in their scenario building and it gave me post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks to Rune, I said “Rip that out POST HASTE boys!”
Savage Worlds. With Savage Worlds there isn’t enough meat there unless the GM is willing to be off-the-cuffing stuff, and ours wasn’t. “I’m sorry, that seems like a valid Strength trick but the game only defines Smarts and Agility tricks.” “Oh well then this system is boring as all get out as written.” Also probably the GM’s style is to blame, he’d just suddenly take 15 minutes to build a big HeroClix battle mat and put the exact same generic goblin and dwarf minis down on it (we never fought dwarves or goblins, they were just stand-ins) and look at us and say “What do you want to do?” “To what? Where are we? What do those goblins represent? Are they attacking us or something?” But we gave it two campaigns. Once the final one ended with us getting killed by the traditional SW “guy you can’t hit ever except on super lucky dice explosions” we boycotted.
With FATE, I’ve tried Spirit of the Century and Dresden Files. Spirit of the Century was just too big. 411 pages for a “pick-up” RPG? There was no way to bootstrap a group into playing it. With Dresden Files, it wasn’t really the core mechanics that got us. Well, maybe it was. I just remember the wizard continually outshining other people in their specialty, and then us taking an egregiously long time to cast some detection spell. “Do we have enough juju to make it work? No? OK, we put in… Some grass, because he was on grass when he was abducted! Still not enough? We put in… A phone book with his name in it! How about now?” We stole Aspects and just added them to our Pathfinder characters in some campaigns, that works well enough. Might give FATE a try in another circumstance, but it’s operating at “two strikes.”
D&D 4e, because I actually liked D&D in Basic, 1e, 2e, and 3e; then 4e took a big steaming dump on everything the game stood for.
M&M 2e and Spycraft 2e. I loved 1e of both, and I was fine with upgrading and bought the books for both new editions sight unseen. And with both, they took a fine RPG and ladled on big levels of complexity and made it read like an encyclopedia full of definitions and not a game. They were completely un-charming and in both cases after reading some, even with my previous understanding from the earlier edition, I didn’t really want to power through reading the rest of the weighty tome. There’s a game design philosophy that sometimes comes into vogue that says “Make it read like a big ol’ dictionary, and they can just piece it together from all the individual definitions!” And that’s about as easy as learning a foreign language from a dictionary. Game designers, stop being lazy. Write a game.
I think it’s at this point I decided giant complex games were not for me any more and started eyeballing lighter approaches (though sadly Savage Worlds was supposed to be the lead candidate there).
Those are the games that I really, really wanted to like, that many people told me I should like, but that in the end I like so little that if our group was like “Let’s play X” I, who generally go along with whatever game system without comment, would have to say “Uh… I don’t know if I’d really enjoy that.”