Myth, The Shield Age: A dramatic synopsis of the tabletop RPG campaign I'm currently leading my friends through. It's a variation on GURPS, built up from and inspired by the excellent computer game Myth. In it, the player characters begin as a selection of relatively ordinary folk in an unremarkable town. Their adventures grow, the dangers swarm, and the PCs? They pretty much just have to deal with it without serious power progression. It's gritty, it's deadly, it's fantasy with a political and social edge and an emotional timbre: it's Myth: The Shield Age.
I've recently been watching a
number of videos on YouTube depicting other people's role-playing game
sessions, and it's really gotten my Game-Master juices flowing, so to
speak. Wil Wheaton's Tabletop has chronicled two very fun RPG sessions
in the past: the Dragon Age RPG was a fun and more traditional hack-and-slash adventure that got me to nerd-out to Sam Witwer's gaming style; Fiasco was
a sublimely dramatic RPG without so much mechanics and direct violence,
building a tableau of tragedy and drama and then setting it all on
fire. Both are a lot of fun, and could merit detailed posts on their own
(or more, if you know me). I've also been watching a series of
recordings of a group that livestreams games using
Skype and Roll20 to play an RPG set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Called "Rollplay: Dark Heresy",
that group's fun antics almost lured me back into the grimdark dumb
setting before a horrific boondoggle scared me right the heck off of the
Games Workshop website (filmatleven on that).
But as much as these games have inspired me, they also leave me cold as a role-player and GM. Dark Heresy is based on the Inquisitor system
which was my first love in the role-playing genre, but they add a rigid
class system to it that makes me want to vomit in terror. The Rollplay
group is fun, but also irreverent and obtuse towards the story in that
power-gamey self-conscious way. I'm a thespy, snobby GM I guess, because
as fun as it is to watch I know I would hate that in a campaign I was
leading. Similarly, the Dragon Age episodes of Tabletop were a
really entertaining watch, but the contrived elements of the class
system is a turn-off to my gaming tastes. Fiasco is dramatically
around my sweet-spot in terms of harrowing player characters without
violence or fakey game progression being necessary, but it doesn't touch
upon combat or traditional adventuring the way I would like.
What does? GURPS Myth, baby. Or at least the way I play GURPS Myth,
it does. I'm actually in the process of returning to this campaign
after more than a year off--I think we've played one game of it since my
family and I moved to our current place. This synopsis is going to be
focused on a fast summary of the story rather than highlighting the
GURPS mechanics in action, though if any questions about the
nitty-gritty come up, I'd be happy to answer them either in comments or
future posts as appropriate.
Note that I'll be pretty careful to track dates, seasons, and holidays in my campaign. The passage of time is an important element of the game. Not only do I use time spent training in lieu of traditional game experience, but I try to keep world events on an independent timeline from player action--whether they dawdle or hasten towards their goals is up to them, but the forces of evil act out their own plans at the same time.
Also please keep in mind that I tend to run more R-rated or at least hard PG-13 games. You won't get too much bad language--at least not much bad contemporary language--but there is some more mature subject matter in the run of the plot. And I tend to cut loose with my descriptions of violence.
Cliffhanger, that's right! If you guys enjoy this, I'll post more. This
first entry roughly summarizes the action of our first night's gaming
session, but since this one involved so much exposition too I think
future Shield Age articles will cover more than one session at a time.