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Eric: It's also sad, though understandable, that Mage is considered a Role Playing *Supplement* now.

We seem to do this every year. It's almost unfair to bring it up again. After all, if we've given up the ghost on them, why trot them back out and say each and every year that they've failed on every conceivable level.

But, they keep putting them out. So, we keep bemoaning them.

What are they?

Simple.

The Origin Awards nominations have been announced.

For those who came in late, the Origin Awards (the "calliopes") were once the preeminent awards in tabletop gaming, be we discussing wargames, RPGs, collectible card games, miniatures, or what have you. However, with each passing year they become less and less relevant to the best in the industry. The nominations are selected by "juries" of experts in Role Playing, and then voted on by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. (An Academy I am a member of, for the record.) Last year, the list was a frightening display of "here's stuff we've heard of, from companies we don't want to offend.

Well. On the plus side, there isn't that sense in this year's list. However, what there is....

Well, let me list them for you:

Nominees for Role-Playing Game of the Year: (Role-Playing College)
Army of Darkness by Eden Studios
Artesia by Archaia Studios Press
Deryni Adventure Game by Grey Ghost Press Inc.
Serenity by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.
World of Warcraft by White Wolf Publishing

So. The five best Role Playing Games of this year... the best role playing games, showing the most creativity, innovation, and sheer downright skill this year... according to the Role Playing College Jury... are a game based on a popular series of Sam Raimi movies using the well established Unisystem, a game based on a licensed comic book series using the (long standing) Fuzion RPG engine, a game based on a long standing series of novels using the FUDGE engine, a game based on a popular Joss Whedon television series and movie using... wait, it's using a house game engine? A whole new system? Holy crap! Anyway, we also have a computer RPG licensed setting using the OGL -- which is to say it's d20 but they've put in experience tables so they can't call it d20.

I'll admit, I haven't kept as abreast of the field as I have in previous years. One company who I've done work for (who's on that list of nominees) hasn't shown hide or hair of actually publishing the game I did work for, much less my part of the supplement. However, I can't help but notice that all five nominees listed are for licensed properties this year. Not one is for a homegrown setting. And four out of five are using borrowed engines. (Though I have to admit, seeing a game that uses FUDGE up for an Origins Award makes my heart a little glad.)

Now, I'm not as abreast of the field as I have been. But Kenneth Hite is abreast of the field. He is one of the brightest men in RPGs, and a reviewer I have absolute faith in. If Hite says it, it's at least 87.6% I'm going to agree with him. And looking at his "best of 2005" column of Out of the Box, we find...

...well, we find that Artesia RPG had an honorable mention the "best licensed thing" of 2005 according to Hite. None of the other games made his list. (He bemoaned Serenity's lack of decent distribution and mentioned that he was going to review Deryni later on, admittedly. But neither one of those got honorable mentions for being... you know. Good.) He made strong mention of some excellent products, including several he found competitive for game of the year: The Farm, Truth and Justice, Blue Rose, A Game of Thrones, Weapon of the Gods, Mutants and Masterminds Second, Spycraft Second, Shadowrun Fourth and the like. It was in his words a sparse year, but there was still meat to be found if you worked at it. You'll notice some of those on the list are also licensed products, but still. There was apparently lots of goodness in them.

It's just, the Jury apparently didn't. They're going for pure licenses. I'm sure the reason they decided to do that had less to do with relative merits as it did a desire to have games that would have some recognition factor outside of RPG gamers on the list, in hopes of generating press. At least, that's the only reason I can think of.

As for me? I have some experience with Blue Rose, and I think it's an astoundingly good game with astounding good settings. I am still blown away by Truth and Justice, which has to be one of the first really good expansions of the RPG Superhero form in years -- it's still the first and only superhero RPG that rewards players coming up with inventive new ways of using their powers on the fly, without tons of redefinition. I'm going to have to buy Weapon of the Gods because Rebecca Borgstrom wrote it, and somehow I haven't yet heard of it. I will pay cash money for anything that has Rebecca Borgstrom's name on it, so that will go on my bookshelf.

As for the Origins?

Well, seriously. Who cares, Dale? After the last few years, it was really up to the Academy to rally -- to find some way of bringing legitimacy back to the awards. Failing to do so just meant that they solidly come in as "nothing that interesting." Not compared to either the ENnies or the Indy Game Awards, both of which are far more exciting awards with far better selection and consideration. When those nominations are announced, I'll be far more excited to devour them.

But I can't help feeling wistful. There was a day when seeing a game I liked get a nomination for a Calliope would be exciting. There was also a day that seeing a nomination meant this was a game that absolutely needed to be looked at, if not purchased. These days, the award just evokes cynicism and wistfulness in me.

I will, naturally, do my duty to the Academy and vote. I need to review all five games before I'll vote, which I'll do assuming I can find them. Right now, my pre-review bias has me looking to Serenity and Deryni, since one actually has unique mechanics and the other uses FUDGE -- no offense to Unisystem or d20, but neither gets me excited. And Fuzion has never made me happy -- and I played both Cyberpunk and Hero before it came out.

This is not a golden age for RPGs. As far as the Origin Awards go, the age is downright Dark.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 16, 2006 2:42 PM

Comments

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 2:49 PM

They made a roleplaying game out of a Game of Thrones? Wait, I've figured out the rulesystem:

1. Name your character.

2. Come up with a complicated, engaging storyline that makes your character truly compelling.

3. Hand the character over to the DM.

4. The DM tells you how your character dies.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:20 PM

Blech. I've been soured on gaming for a few years, and this only makes me more attached to my status as a stick in the mud. The flurry of blows that was third ed White Wolf, third ed D&D/D20, and now the total rewrite of the White Wolf systems to take out the parts of the game that were good ideas has just left me...

Well... clinging to my Changeling books and going "I DO NOT NEED ANY OF YOU" to the roleplaying community at large.

Man, I wish White Wolf would OGL their real D10 system (As opposed to this shitty 8-10=success system they've created) so that some proper games could be created.

(Disclaimer: I'm the sort of person who runs Kult games with unsuspecting new gamers. Or, better yet, Wraith. Set in the Holocaust. With newbies. So I'm definitely my own flavor of completely crazy gamer, and listening to me on any gaming issues is probably a mistake)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:29 PM

Of all things White Wolf got right, game mechanics was never one of them. Then again, all their good points were abandoned as soon as they realized people thought they were hip.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:30 PM

Maybe you should just give up. Seriously, the Origin awards have been goofy for quite a while. I remember looking them over 5 years ago and thinking, "What IS this stuff? Where is the actual good stuff."

The Ennies have been good but I'm sure how they're going to fare expanding beyond D20. The ENWorld crowd (who votes on judges, are the judges, and votes on selections) are not just mainly D20 players, they're mainly D&D players which colors their perspective.

None of the other awards that that good either. Most of them suffer from being known only to a limited audience, so it's easy to pack votes if someone really gets their core group into the voting. But they're all just awards, which are never that important anyway in any industry.

Personally, I really like Blue Rose/True20 this year. The rules are of medium complexity and are pretty smooth. Steve Kenson is possibly the best designer on the planet.

PDQ doesn't rub me quite the right way but T&J is a very nice product.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:37 PM

At the risk of a thread derail, I actually truly love the original D10 system. Is it balanced? Yes. Well. Mostly. It's certainly easy to balance. Is it easy to pick up, and easy to make run relatively cinematic and efficient games? Yes. Should you avoid D10 combat at all costs? Yes, but I'm totally OK with avoiding combat in my games. If you want a balanced combat system, first ed D&D lies that way. But if you want a pick-up-and-play system that tends towards the character-based, I think you can't beat White Wolf.''

Then again, I've always adamantly avoided the "White Wolf r Hip" crowd. As I said, Changeling player. We're the uncool White Wolf players. :)

Comment from: John Fiala [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:47 PM

Actually, Serenity isn't using a new system. I understand it's a reworking of the original system they created for Standing Stones. However, I haven't seen either of the games, so I'm just going off of what I've heard on the interweb.

I'll also note that although Artesia may be licensed, as I understand it it's licensed to itself - the artist/writer wrote a lot of it.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:57 PM

I thought that they already had a system for Serenity. It's called Traveller.

Seriously, when I first saw the show, it looked like a good representation of a far trader campaign with TL at 10 to 12.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 3:59 PM

See, now I'm jonesing to play Traveller.

(There's a reason why my mostly-hard SF background feels like Traveller, even though there's nothing directly Travelleresque in it. And I've written at least one short story in it about a free/far trader dichotomy...)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:04 PM

Well, I can think of a reason to keep complaining - if there are enough complaints from enough prominent sources, then maybe they'll start changing things. Not holding my breath here, but I'm a fool who continues to hope in many things.

Though to be honest, I've heard mixed things about Blue Rose, including some people who said that it basically forces politics down the throats of its players. While I might agree with them, I don't like such an approach.

Personally, it's all about Truth & Justice to me. Among other things, I can't think of a game where it's just that much fun to even make characters.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:11 PM

"I've heard mixed things about Blue Rose, including some people who said that it basically forces politics down the throats of its players."

The setting is romantic fantasy, which may not be your thing; it's certainly not mine. The setting assumes a certain world outlook in the characters. Like very many people, I don't care for the setting but love the mechanics. They've actually spun off the mechanics - True20 - into its own product.

Now I'm Jonesing to read some of Eric's Travelleresque SF.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:21 PM

They've actually spun off the mechanics - True20 - into its own product.

Why yes. Yes they have.

Isn't that very interesting, too.

Very, very, very interesting.

Very.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:30 PM

I wonder if anyone around here is involved with any of the new licensed True20 settings.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:56 PM

Pffft. What's the chance of that happening?

;)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:58 PM

Actually, I just got permission to crow.

One of the winning entries of the recent True20 contest Green Ronin had was a project called Borrowed Time. I and several extremely cool people have been brought on board by Electric Mulch to develop the setting.

So yes. I'm quite familiar with True20 at this point. ;)

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 4:59 PM

My brother showed me his copy of Spycraft Second when I was over there lately. It's easily the size of Hero 4th, if not 5th. And he dotes on it. :)

I find myself wondering if these awards will ever be relevant again. It seems like the pen-and-paper RPG industry is past its prime, and rapidly dwindling away into niche-marketdom as its target audience is attracted by games that have bright colors and flashing lights and interact with them. When you have such a small total audience, your sample is always going to be too small to be accurate.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 5:16 PM

All I have to say is if the Axis and Allies collectible miniature game does not win Most Innovative Game Product, I will not pay attention to anything the GAMA lists for "best of" ever again.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 5:16 PM

Does anybody know DSA or "Das Schwarze Auge", Germany's own homebrewed fantasy rpg? That's what I play. It's fun, esp. the third edition.

My little elf just helped defending a city from an army of orks, fun, fun, fun! (And dragged a perfect blonde human adonis through the sheets in the night before the huge battle.)

I dunno about the Awards - the game most fun is the one for which you have a good group. :)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 5:25 PM

I hope Rocketmen wins for most innovative. Axis & Allies, while nice, is basically the original board game with collectible pieces (at least, according to the A&A grognards around here who play both and like both). And while Rocketmen takes a lot from Pirates, it breaks more ground than A&A Collectible.

Sadly, support for Rocketmen seems to be waning, so it might be another of those games to get an award on the way to the grave.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 5:58 PM

"I thought that they already had a system for Serenity. It's called Traveller.

Seriously, when I first saw the show, it looked like a good representation of a far trader campaign with TL at 10 to 12."

Whedon played Traveller during the original version of the game, and admits that he used that experience to develope the feel for the show. It would have been nice if they had released a new version of Traveller, and then set up Serenity as a suplimental "ftl free alternate universe" expansion. That would have made it 2 books, though. I bet the highly pro-whedon/only mildly pro RPG crowd would have balked.

There really needs to be a new Traveller. The GURPS version just doesn't have the same feel. T20 was okay, but they didn't have all the kinks worked out of d20 at that point and it kind of bombed.

Comment from: Lunatic Muse [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:01 PM

For those not in the know, Das Schwarze Auge was used in the Realms of Arkania series of PC games.

Less informatively, it's gratifying to see other people who liked Changeling, though I don't think I could bring myself to try playing it again. My tolerance for existential angst dropped into the negatives some years ago and still hasn't fully recovered.

Comment from: Copper Hamster [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:02 PM

Another version of traveller? That would make like what, 5? 6?

Comment from: jpcardier [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:11 PM

From Snowspinner:

At the risk of a thread derail, I actually truly love the original D10 system. Is it balanced? Yes. Well. Mostly. It's certainly easy to balance. Is it easy to pick up, and easy to make run relatively cinematic and efficient games? Yes. Should you avoid D10 combat at all costs? Yes, but I'm totally OK with avoiding combat in my games. If you want a balanced combat system, first ed D&D lies that way. But if you want a pick-up-and-play system that tends towards the character-based, I think you can't beat White Wolf.''

First Ed. Vampire mechanics left me behind when I had player with with *23* dice fumble an autofire roll. Yep, that happened. Statisical

I own loads of WW products, including the every supplement published for the first two years of Exalted. But really, the mechanics tend to be great nuggets of crunchiness floating in a sea of suck, for the most part. Story is always the reason to pick up a WW system, in my opinion....

Comment from: jpcardier [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:15 PM

*Statistical takeaway: at diff 10, you are equally likely under WW 1st edition rules to fumble as to succeed, regardless of die pool....

Comment from: Sempiternity [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:17 PM

I *was* going to come on here and say something like "It was a great year for gaming - look at all the wonderful indie games out this year!", but now that i actually look, it seems that most of them were actually published in 2004...

Judging by Ken Hite's GenCon '05 review, which may or may not include games from late 2004, we do still have *some* majorly influential titles for 2005: Polaris, The Moutain Witch and Breaking the Ice are biggest in my eyes.

Although, all the great games of the previous couple years - Dogs in the Vineyard (2004), Primetime Adventures(2004), My Life with Master(2003), Capes(?), Nine Worlds (2004), The Story of Yesterday (2004), Burning Wheel (2003), etc - have been pushing the envelope for the new games being produced by the community.

I'm really looking forward to games such as The Shab al-Hiri Roach and Shock: Social Science Fiction which were just published.

Things are really moving, even if Origins may not be paying the closest attention to it! >_>

(Plus ditto on Borgstrom's stuff!)

Comment from: elvedril [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:29 PM

I dunno, White Wolf always kept me away with the angst. I think it was Tycho who claimed that all WW games are basically roleplaying adolescence.

I thought that Exalted was a great chance for them to do something different, but even that has a strong feel of "whaa! I'm a being of immense power and could do so much good, but nobody understands me and older people try to hold me back with their stilted ways". You're writing for an audience of teenagers, I get it. But they already have the World of Darkness, how about making your fantasy game work for adults?

(Though in fairness this is just based on the main book, theoretically it could be different for books about the Fae Court or whatever the Mech guys are called).

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:58 PM

White Wolf's Vampire started out very interesting. It had what I thought was a very unique backstory of vamprism, and a lot of unique lore...

... which it then completely negated with its Vampires of East supplement...

... which in turn was completely negated with the NEXT supplement...

... and so forth, and so on.

"Negated how?" you ask. Well I'll tell you! In effort to be too fucking clever for their own good, each supplement had a different origin story of "how it REALLY is!" Because it's "more realistic that way!"

So you have all vampires coming from Cain, maybe, except for the ones who don't, or maybe none of them, and you have the Sabbat, but they're not really the Sabbat, because the Black Hand are the TRUE Sabbat, but then there's the REAL Black Hand, see, oh, and the progenitors of each clan, see, they're REALLY SCARY... unless we decide to kill one off with a... wait for it... a SPIRIT NUKE.

That's right. A fucking GHOST of a NUCLEAR WEAPON.

Oh, and werewolves teh 1337. They're the fucking Lilim of the World of Darkness, only hairy.

But it's OK, see, because it's all there so you can tell a good story, right? It's all a rich tapestry that you can pull from as you wish in order to tell one of the best stories ever... which White Wolf proved by writing THIRTEEN OF THE MOST RETARDED VAMPIRE BOOKS I'VE EVER READ.

Yes. I read them. Why? Because at one point in time I was trying to figure out how to get that gig. I got decidedly less interested after I realized the way to get that gig was, apparently, to give yourself a frontal lobotomy.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 6:59 PM

Ahem. Sorry. White Wolf tends to... set me off.

Comment from: Vanderath [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 7:48 PM

When a freind of mine managed to get hold of Serenity, our gaming group gathered round the table to ooh and ahh at the pretty-book, one of about two which has been seen in our town.
A game of serenity was promised, and we had each spent some time in anticipation.
After a look at the rules, out came Gurps Space.
Pretty book though.

By my reckoning a new traveller would be, including GURPS and T20, the 7th incarnation.

I was a long time white wolf fan sufferer customer, with a near-complete collection until the "3rd edition" stuff came out.

But before that, I even wrote a small game tool of sorts myself - the White Wolf Random Supplement Generator. Time and memory, and a HD crash have erased it, but one of the most common results on the table was "contradict D10 other supplements"

Comment from: Vanderath [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 7:52 PM

oops. no strike out tags? they were intended for "fan" and "sufferer"

Comment from: benlehman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 8:05 PM

The basic problem is that most of the successful innovation in games has been largely concentrated in the small press. Unlike larger companies, who over-print, we can't afford to give away ten copies. Polaris, my game which came out this year, has gotten critically lauded, but it costs $6/copy to print at the scale I operate on. I sell great, but I can't really afford to pay $60 to apply for their award.

yrs--
--Ben

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 8:13 PM

Vanderath -- it should work. I'll have a look at the allowed HTML.

Ben -- I've heard really good things about Polaris, but I haven't read it yet. But of course you're right. Especially when some of the small press companies (I'm thinking Atomic Sock Monkey, here) do comp copy, only to not get nominations. It's a mug's game, and quite honestly it's not worth it. Not when the Indy Game Awards have a better street cred.

Comment from: Marikir [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 9:23 PM

Okay, I've been reading this blog for a long time. I'm also a friend of Greg Holkan, who actually knew his girlfriend for a long time. I've resisted the urge to join these boards simply cause I've never felt that I had anything to contribute.

And I still don't. At least, not much.

But, I wanted to just say this.

Eric,

Try Weapons of the Gods. Kung-Fu goodness extreme. VERY fun. Very enjoyable. And the writing is very good.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 9:41 PM

I dunno, I always appreciated White Wolf. It always made my adolescence feel less awkward - because by comparison, almost everything is.

My personal favorite were the True Brujah. Unemotional time-travelling vampires who are the puppermasters behind the puppetmasters purely for petty revenge. Closely followed by modern-day Salubri, who were supposed to be uber-rare except that everyone ran into them, or made one that was somehow missed by everyone before then, until White Wolf finally gave up and said they came back before the master WoD reset.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 10:24 PM

I've had strikeout tags fail me here. Since then I've seen Eric employ them, but that was previous to the most recent site trauma.

Comment from: BadJeebus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 16, 2006 11:23 PM

I used to be a huge fan of Mage - my favorite of the origianal WoD 5 games prior to Mage 2.0... It just seemed like there were great open vistas of creative gameplaying there...

The notion of freeform magic with "suggested" levels of control over the various disciplines was great (at least for the group I played with) - when you're a player deeply into theoretical physics and play a time mage it makes for all sorts of "creative" gameplaying and I honestly have not had as much fun in any RPG as I did in that very first campaign.

And yeah - my Mage character made "guest appearances" in Werewolf and Changeling games as well... whenever one of my GM friends wanted a short term Live Played NPC-type thrown into the mix.

God, I loved that game... but what is it considered a supplement to? Vampire?

Just saying.

Bleaugh.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:15 AM

Yeah, I've been playing with a house rule that 10s can't be cancelled out in White Wolf for years.

As for the rest... although one of my favorite sports is taking truly stupid White Wolf ideas and building games around them where they work, I'll admit that I'm also very fond of ignoring large swaths of stuff. Or replacing it so that players unexpectedly discover that the Shadow Court wasn't at all what they thought.

I also do think Vampire is a basically unrunnable system. It amounts to playing a small part in the decision whether to be eaten by Yog-Soggoth or Cthulhu. Except they're called Antediluvians instead of Elder Gods, and have different names.

Comment from: Doug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:54 AM

...White Wolf proved by writing THIRTEEN OF THE MOST RETARDED VAMPIRE BOOKS I'VE EVER READ. Yes. I read them. Why? Because at one point in time I was trying to figure out how to get that gig. I got decidedly less interested after I realized the way to get that gig was, apparently, to give yourself a frontal lobotomy.

"Dude! Didja hear? The new White Wolf supplment is introducing zombies! and -- get this -- leprechauns! Vampiric leprechauns!"

"No way! NO WAY! Oh, man! I gotta get it just to see how badly it sucks!"

Somewhere in the depths of White Wolf's marketing department, the sound of diabolical laughter rings out.

Personally, I never trust a tabletop RPG that doesn't have an ampersand somewhere in its name.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:08 AM

"Unemotional time-travelling vampires who are the puppermasters behind the puppetmasters purely for petty revenge."

I think that's one of the things people dislike. Each new suppliment writer had to have their own "the ACTUAL badasses who run things". Each book and each system had to be more too-cool-for-school than the last one.

Another major complaint is that any storyline you make for your characters can be summed up as: you're a bit player amongst a society of supernatural creatures hunted by humanity. There are a bunch of more powerful supernaturals out there that would gladly rip you to shreds. By the way, your entire society is unequivocably doomed, as they are in a losing battle versus the elders/corrupted werewolf spirits/techno mages/Oblivion/ennui. The most you can do is survive until tomorrow and gain a few points to increase your "survive until tomorrow" skill from 3 dots to 4. Now, can't you create a wonderful storyline from that?

"By my reckoning a new traveller would be, including GURPS and T20, the 7th incarnation."

Really? I remember the original books, some unimpressive thing in the mid 80s, T20, and GURPS. Must have missed a few.

Traveller is like Tekumel for me. I have great affection for it, but no clear idea why. The original rules are exactly what you expect for a 70s RP system that has a 2d6 roll for skill success: not enough granularity to make a good system.
The idea of having a pre-career for your character was really cool. Sometimes rolling up character histories was more fun than playing the game. The universe was a mix of good and bad. Having everything be too far away for centralized control made it decidedly un Star Trek/Wars.
The technology wasn't nearly as "hard science" as they always claimed, however (you have reactionless thrusters and anti-nuke fields, but have to farm hydrogen from gas giants to form a hyperspace bubble? uh-huh).
Either way, I remember it fondly, and wish they could make a system with the same feel, but a playable mechanics (an perhaps one that actually catches on).

Comment from: Sahsha [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:10 AM

I haven't bought a WW product in years, for various, previously stated (by others in this thread) reasons.

However

Freak Legion = Best supplement ever!

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:18 AM

So how many Traveller versions?

There was 1.0, which was the version that came in all the tiny paperbacks -- which was, I have to say, one of the coolest versions EVER.

There was 2.0, which was 1.0 bound in a single big paperback.

There was Traveller 2300, which I'm not sure counts, though it was a pretty cool system in its own right. It was a lot closer to the Twilight 2000 game system, rules-wise, than the Traveller system. I think they just took the name because they owned it at the time.

There was MegaTraveller, which I still have -- I thought it was a pretty cool campaign world, actually.

After that... I'm not familiar with the system any more. Were there versions in between that I missed?

All that aside, Traveller was an excellent game system. I was also fond of Space Opera, though.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:32 AM

I'm not a Traveller version expert but I'll give it a go.

Traveller, in the pamphlets

MegaTraveller, full sized books, a few mechanics made nicer and more explicit. Most of my stuff is from this line.

Traveller, The New Era. Living computer virus wipes out the an empire already torn apart by civil war, also some new mechanics. Many people don't like this story line and ignore to return to a pre-civil war era.

GURPS Traveller. I believe the setting material was 1.0 and MegaTraveller with Gurps mechanics.

Traveller D20, or T20. Not a bad conversion but didn't last long.

Marc Miller's Traveller. I haven't looked at these so I'm not sure if this would count as a new version. I think their reprints of 1.0 material, I'm not sure how much is changed.


I don't think Traveller 2300 counts as a version - it was it's own game. The rules were a bit too crunchy and clunky for me but I loved the setting, with some of the most original aliens in SF.

Comment from: DariusSolluman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:34 AM

First, I cannot recommend Weapons of the Gods enough. It has, arguably, the best idea for a resource management combat system in existance, the first really innovative method I've seen for campaign creation in years (probally since Nobilis- and I'd argue WotG is actually superior, not simply different), and the single best inspiration for social/intrigue stuff that I can recall.

However! Be aware that the writting is somewhat muddled. While the nice folks that frequent Eos Press' forum are always eager to help, and Brad Elliot (the lead writer) is often found both there and on RPG.net, there are non-trivial clarity issues. The basic ideas are easy- but there's little supprot for the copious special cases that crop up in a typical session, and some basic mechanics ideas are left to be intuited rather than spelled out.

I'd still recommend it. :)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 10:57 AM

Okay. Traveller. In a nutshell:

1. The Original Black Books. Pamphlet style. Three books, also available in a box. Plus the expansion books like High Guard. (Originally three of those, then they added a few more.) Then the Robots book. Plus about a billion other pamphlets with adventures and characters and subsectors and the like.

1.5 There were also wargames that could be integrated with Traveller, like Mayday and Snapshot and Ahazti High Lightning, which I just misspelled.

2. The Traveller Book. Some revisions, but mostly the taking of six to eight of those pamphlets and making them one big hardcover book a la the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons hardcovers. Many supplements based on this as well.

3. Megatraveller. Essentially a new version of classic Traveller and the Traveller engine, redone into a box set with 8.5" x 11" softcover books. Heavy revisions to the setting, done as a forward evolution, plunging the Imperium into a monumental civil war. Pretty well supported, all told.

4. Traveller: 2300. Traveller in Name Only. Abandoned all setting elements, used a completely different engine and mechanics. A side note, but it has the name so we include it here.

5. Traveller: The New Era. Connected by continuity to Megatraveller, only a magical computer virus made everything Teh Suxx0rs in space. Heavy mechanics changes (essentially moving to the GDW house system in use for Twilight 2000 and other games). Ended up being unpopular. Deadended the original era.

6. Marc Millar's Traveller: A 90's attempt to relaunch the classic Traveller, with updated mechanics for the original. The intent was to build a coherent engine with a core setting identical to the original, followed by sourcebooks for Megatraveller era shattered Imperium stuff and New Era Virus Laden Imperium stuff. Slightly ahead of its time, but not too different from what White Wolf did with the World of Darkness relaunch. Sadly, didn't succeed.

7. Traveller from Far Future: A company called Far Future began publishing reprints of the original Traveller, only instead of pamphlets they did oversized softcover books which essentially have two pamphlet pages per page. An ambitious and apparently successful project. They even reprinted the stuff like Azhanti High Lightning, which I still misspelled. As far as I know, Far Future still hold the license to all versions of Traveller, and are the ones who license Traveller to Steve Jackson Games, along with others. They also produce a CD-ROM with all the Megatraveller books and supplements as E-Books. To my knowledge, they do not do new Traveller development at this time, but they keep the original game solidly alive. They also publish a CD-ROM of 2300AD, which is a rebranded Traveller: 2300. And, for that matter, Twilight 2000.

8. GURPS Traveller. Mechanics wise, it's GURPS. Continuity wise, an alternate universe from the original, right at the point where the Megatraveller Civil War happened -- however, in this version the Civil War did not happen. In active development, including "Traveller's Aid Society" transmissions from the pen of Loren Wiseman, who was one of the core Traveller people through all of the above. In effect, the only Traveller in current development, and well supported across the line.

9. Traveller T20. A pretty good d20 version of Traveller licensed by Far Future Enterprises. Not commercially successful, and not currently available.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard... and there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:01 AM

Oh! A group called "Qwiklinks" seems to still be producing T20, as well as supplements with both T20 and Classic Traveller statistics.

So! My apologies. T20 is still alive.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:03 AM

Give yourself extra points for the Tom Lehrer nod.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:04 AM

... but now do the list in base 8. ;)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:04 AM

And I really ought to mention places like BITS (British Isles Traveller Support). There have been solid third party Traveller releases throughout its life, the way Judge's Guild used to release for AD&D back in the days before d20 made such things unnecessary.

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:10 AM

Ok, my memory was confusing #6 and #7. Before this Traveller love in ends, I just gotta say two things.

1. The Traveller News Service - those bulletins from the Travellers' Aid Society really made the world come alive. It was one of the coolest ideas ever in gaming. I'm glad they're still around.

2. I have copies of Snapshot and Azhanti High Lightning and need to track down copies of Invasion Earth and Fifth Frontier War - they're very cool old style war games.

Comment from: Vanderath [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:26 AM

I was mostly basing my reckoning on Mark Miller's Traveller being AKA T-4, then ignoring reprints and 2300.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:42 AM

"I think that's one of the things people dislike. Each new suppliment writer had to have their own "the ACTUAL badasses who run things". Each book and each system had to be more too-cool-for-school than the last one."

You're completely right, WD. Moreover, it's a perfectly legit reason to not like WW's line of products and at one time I agreed with it myself.

Thing is, though, it's just too funny to me. It almost reminds me of a well-told version of The Aristocrats - it gets so ludicrous and screwed-up by the end, I want to laugh no matter how offensive it should seem to me.

And yes, I did just compare White Wolf's writing to the vilest joke ever told. If anyone else can find a better comparison, I'm listening.

"Another major complaint is that any storyline you make for your characters can be summed up as: you're a bit player amongst a society of supernatural creatures hunted by humanity. There are a bunch of more powerful supernaturals out there that would gladly rip you to shreds. By the way, your entire society is unequivocably doomed, as they are in a losing battle versus the elders/corrupted werewolf spirits/techno mages/Oblivion/ennui. The most you can do is survive until tomorrow and gain a few points to increase your "survive until tomorrow" skill from 3 dots to 4. Now, can't you create a wonderful storyline from that?"

I think WW always did that on purpose to deliberately market towards angsty teens. Basically, create characters that obviously have it so much worse than you, and feel better about your soul-deadening job at a fast-food place that you have so you can afford to buy more spiky clothing from Hot Topic. While the story potential for that is extremely limited, it does function as a good pressure release.

Comment from: Darrin_Bright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 1:01 PM

In an effort to "integrate" their different product lines, White Wolf relaunched all of its settings by putting all of the system rules into a hardback "World of Darkness" rulebook. So you buy that one book for the rules.

Then you pick which ultra-cool badass you want to be, be it Vampires, Werewolves, Mages, Leprechauns, or whatever, and you buy that hardback for the "setting" material. Thus, "Mage: the Awakening" is supposedly not an RPG itself (since it doesn't have the complete rules), it's a supplement with the rules, powers, backstory, and crunchy bits for that particular setting. You could say that Army of Darkness, Artesia, Deryni and WoW are all essentially the same thing: supplements for Unisystem, Fuzion, Fudge, and D20 respectively.

The reasoning behind this is supposedly you shouldn't have to buy the same whatever-odd chapters that describe the system over and over again whenever you buy a different rulebook. Astute folks might also notice this forces the average WW player to buy two hardbacks (although I guess it's not too different from loading all the ubermunch cool bits into the hardback "Player's Guide" and "Storyteller's Guide". I expect we'll see those again soon.) The real crime against trees was the _hardback_ Storyteller Screen... no GM aids, no throw-away intro scenario, just a hardback screen... what I want to know is, what were Storytellers doing with screens beforehand that suddenly necessitated the extra thickness?

The new rules system has been "streamlined" because it was apparently "confusing people", to which I have to say... WTF? It's not like anybody was trying to do cube roots of reflected concussion waves, like some games I could mention.

From what I recall (haven't read any of the books yet), the new system goes something like: 8-10 is always a success. To which I say... uh, why are you using d10s then? If you want a flat 30% success rate, 5-6 on a d6 is pretty close to that, and no fiddling with those wacky non-platonic solids with those pretensious little ankhs on 'em.

Bonuses and penalties add or subtract from your dice pool. Which means picking up a chainsaw makes you better at hitting, and if your opponent wears armor (like, say, wrapping himself in unsold storyteller screens), it makes you worse at hitting.

New botch mechanic is something like, if your pool is reduced to 1 die, and you roll a 1 on that single die, you botched.

All in all, it says to me that they didn't understand or had outright contempt for what made the previous system cool and unique.

Never really got into Mage myself. I could never wrap my head around the horribly mangled cosmology of all the different kinds of spheres. So our reality is a sphere, and each planet has its own sphere, and each of those spheres has a shadow sphere, and then dream spheres and paradox spheres are all completely different... UGH!

Changeling I wanted to like but it was tragically flawed by, again, horribly unexplained cosmology (they never explained how the fairy realm interacted with the Umbra, or whatever the Wraith otherworld was called, or the Mage spheres), too-rigid archetypes, and extremely poor product support (worse than Wraith, actually).

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:18 PM

Well... yeah... White Wolf always had bad cosmologies. And stupid supplements.

But come on. D&D gave stats for Cthulhu once. 50% of running a good game is ignoring what's officially true, and the other 50% is making stuff up that's not officially true. And White Wolf was always among the loudest companies in saying "Don't like a rule? Ignore it. Don't like a plot point? Skip over it."

Yes, the True Brujah were idiotic. And so were the Weaver creatures from Book of the Weaver, the entire Wraith supplement about a train, everything written about Fomorians in Changeling, the aquatic Gangrel, the pirate Lasombra, Werewolf: The Wild West, much of what was spelled out about the Technocracy, Quippothic Entropy, spirit nukes, Kindred of the East, the entirety of Hunter: The Reckoning, Mummy: The Resurrection, the older Mummy book from before that (Which was even WORSE), Demon: The Fallen... did I miss anything? I'm sure I did.

And?

Ignore them. Rewrite them to make sense. Run a game that focuses on one of the many parts of the game systems that aren't the part you don't like.

The job title is storyteller, not bookchecker. As I told one of my favorite storytellers when he didn't have an idea for a game and we wanted to play, "Dude, you have an ass. Pull something out of it."

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:56 PM

Sounds like the only thing missing from Travelers is a Doctor Who supplement. And knowing how my former gaming group would have done it I'd be going, "1984! I told you we wanted to go back to 1984, not 1894! Now we'll never help Walter Mondale! We'll be lucky if we can help Taft out of his bathtub!"

Now if you'll excuse me, my male halfling rogue has to figure out away to escape a smitten female efreeti.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:02 PM

Miyaa, you don't need an escape route. You need a Ring of Heat Resistance and a non-flammable lubricant. Trust me.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:35 PM

"The job title is storyteller, not bookchecker. As I told one of my favorite storytellers when he didn't have an idea for a game and we wanted to play, "Dude, you have an ass. Pull something out of it.""

That's of course true. That doesn't change the fact that the books had some awful stuff in them, and we're talking about game books that have come out. I can run a very interesting game using stuff I gleaned from WW books, but that doesn't make every incarnation of the games a mix of good&bad with a large helping of bad. (besides, complaining is fun :-P).

"Changeling I wanted to like but it was tragically flawed by, again, horribly unexplained cosmology (they never explained how the fairy realm interacted with the Umbra, or whatever the Wraith otherworld was called, or the Mage spheres), too-rigid archetypes, and extremely poor product support (worse than Wraith, actually)."

Both of those games clearly didn't sell, and so petered out. They both were good ideas, but ended up being bogged down in the world created for them. Rage against the dying of the light (either the end of passion or the end of imagination) stories are good RP concepts, but the books kept changelings locked in this role of dodging imperious sidhe and figuring out how to avoid overly banal store clerks because their presence was too toxic. Likewise, for every story where a wraith character could resolve some aspect of their former lives, they had four stories where they had to avoid wandering "spectres" (and was there anything in that game that didn't do aggrivated damage?), not be seen using their illegal powers, travel despite lethal windstorms, or negotiate a BeetleJuice-like beauraucracy, and try not to get arrested and turned into an ashtray (no I'm not kidding). Both of the games had rules that required you to explore your characters passions, but then had worlds where they spent all their time avoiding hazards.

Comment from: dormouse77 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 7:39 PM

Actually, the World of Warcraft RPG is pretty cool.

Comment from: bartles69 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 8:14 PM

As I told one of my favorite storytellers when he didn't have an idea for a game and we wanted to play, "Dude, you have an ass. Pull something out of it."
That's the sort of situation that often leads to the best gaming experiences, if the ST is up to the task. Of course, dragging the ST off their intended path is fun too. "The Players... They're doing things."
RE: Rules
Ignore them. Rewrite them to make sense. Run a game that focuses on one of the many parts of the game systems that aren't the part you don't like.
The rules should be there to serve and balance the gameplay, not to interfere with it. (If celerity makes you go faster, why does it slow everything down?) GURPS Vampire seemed the best of the WW versions in terms of the rules systems, but I'm a long-time GURPS fan.
When a freind of mine managed to get hold of Serenity, our gaming group gathered round the table to ooh and ahh at the pretty-book, one of about two which has been seen in our town.
A game of serenity was promised, and we had each spent some time in anticipation.
After a look at the rules, out came Gurps Space.
Pretty book though.
I was a beta-tester last year for the Serenity RPG. Fun world (assuming you liked the TV Show/Big Damn Movie), bad rules (I need a d-what?), worse feedback from the writing staff. Only saving grace was our wonderful ST. If you're really interested in a good Serenity role-playing experience, have GURPS Space or Traveller handy for when the rules frustration sets in.

Comment from: bartles69 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 8:15 PM

As I told one of my favorite storytellers when he didn't have an idea for a game and we wanted to play, "Dude, you have an ass. Pull something out of it."
That's the sort of situation that often leads to the best gaming experiences, if the ST is up to the task. Of course, dragging the ST off their intended path is fun too. "The Players... They're doing things."
RE: Rules
Ignore them. Rewrite them to make sense. Run a game that focuses on one of the many parts of the game systems that aren't the part you don't like.
The rules should be there to serve and balance the gameplay, not to interfere with it. (If celerity makes you go faster, why does it slow everything down?) GURPS Vampire seemed the best of the WW versions in terms of the rules systems, but I'm a long-time GURPS fan.
When a freind of mine managed to get hold of Serenity, our gaming group gathered round the table to ooh and ahh at the pretty-book, one of about two which has been seen in our town.
A game of serenity was promised, and we had each spent some time in anticipation.
After a look at the rules, out came Gurps Space.
Pretty book though.
I was a beta-tester last year for the Serenity RPG. Fun world (assuming you liked the TV Show/Big Damn Movie), bad rules (I need a d-what?), worse feedback from the writing staff. Only saving grace was our wonderful ST. If you're really interested in a good Serenity role-playing experience, have GURPS Space or Traveller handy for when the rules frustration sets in.

Comment from: Polychrome [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 8:17 PM

Wow, is somebody still making Fuzion products? I thought that misbegotten system died when HERO broke up with R. Talsorian.

Comment from: Doug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 4:03 AM

As I told one of my favorite storytellers when he didn't have an idea for a game and we wanted to play, "Dude, you have an ass. Pull something out of it."

I once played under a DM like that. The bad part was that the something was the dice.

The good part was that it was D&D, so you barely noticed.

(Sorry. Overtime syndrome)

Comment from: PlaidRab [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 6:52 PM

A couple of comments on the awards. The biggest problem I see with the awards, having been an academy member at one time in the recent past is the nomination process. It's the reason the final ballots look like they do and why they often look like they are are rigged and why some companies seem to never make the ballots despite well established sales successes.

When the big ballot comes out, you are asked to vote on a remarkably long list of things in almost every category. Think how many new 2005 products you *saw* in just RPG core books this past year. If you'd had to, could you have read them all? Now add in the ones you didn't see, which should easily double that unless you work in Diamond's warehouse. And then it's *mostly* a matter of what you purchased. I know I received *very* few samples for evaluation the years I participated.

The fact is it's just not a process that *can* work well if you have to assume everything gets evaluated equally fairly. Folks will have looked at and read what would have interested them and what they had time to find. It's not entirely surprising the results most years.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 2:49 AM

I always liked the old World Of Darkness system. I thought Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand was pretty cool (the backstory actually made sense!). The revelations of backstory for Vampire all pretty much worked. You have to remember that it's a game about groups that all think they're the ultimate puppetmasters of everything, but may not be.

The system was functional, considering what it was intended for. And the rules were easy to remember. Yes, combat didn't really work that well, but considering that it was originally designed for Vampire, where combat isn't the point (and rarely accomplishes anything, since the characters are basically immortal), it makes sense (Werewolf is a little less defensible in this regard, since combat played a pretty big part in the premise).

I always thought that Vampires would've made more sense as Weaver-creatures than Wyrm-creatures. The Wyrm is all about death, destruction, decay, and entropy, whereas Vampires are immortal and do not age or decay.

The "of the East" supplements pretty much sucked. And I think 3rd edition Vampire was a mistake. As far as I'm concerned, those don't exist in "my" World Of Darkness.

Snowspinner: I don't know how "eventually the world will end" makes it unplayable. I mean, that's like avoiding Cyberpunk because of the eventual heat death of the universe. Sure, it'll happen, but it's unlikely to happen in the run. It's a vague future threat.

Of course, the system I've been developing involves rolling handfuls of d20s, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I may not be entirely rational.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 2:42 PM

The thing about the end of the world in White Wolf is that ALL of the plot threads were always about that. Most so in Werewolf and Changeling, where you can't avoid the looming apocalypse. Less so in Wraith and Mage. Middle-so in Vampire, since no matter what you are stuck with the Jyhad plotline. I mean, at least to my mind, the games are built to work towards various ends of the world. That's the big plot the games offer.

That said, I think I tend towards epic storytelling more than some GMs.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 4:54 PM

I see what you're saying. I never really encountered that though. Sure, there's always Certain Doom looming over everything, but any given Werewolf arc is more specifically about clearing out some Black Spirals or a source of Fomori, and any given Vampire run is about power struggles. Mage's Certain Doom wasn't that doomy at all—in the end, only one group's worldview gets to be right, but which one is the question. Changeling and Wraith I never really played.

The problem I had with WW was that each new game made the types of characters more and more strict. Vampire's clans were vague categories for kinds of characters but had a lot of room for variation. Werewolf's tribes were similar, but the auspices were a set of predetermined roles within those. Mage's groups were all about conforming to stereotypes. And in Changeling, your faerie-kind and court determined pretty much everything about how your character was supposed to act. It just got too rigid.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 5:15 AM

I saw a brand new book called Artesia, yes after that comic book series by the same author. And he based his game off of the Fuzion system. With a dash of Traveller.

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