A few weekends ago, being in the mood for some old-fashioned dungeon crawling, I had a marathon session. My newly constituted LotFP party, led by Manfred and Lycinia, sailed out to the island in the middle of lake Ild, on a mission bound for the ruins. The journey there was interesting, and the dungeon itself was a blast, but when it finally came time to write it all up for posting I just lost interest. The problem, once again, is that most of what the PCs' interactions with the world fell into one of two categories: hitting things in order to kill them, and making saving throws in order not to die. Fun to play, but I fear it will be a bit too repetitive to relate. I'm going to put it to one side for now. I will certainly come back to it at some point, because I always do; after 30 years B/X & AD&D still live on my shelf for a reason. And they were headed somewhere interesting at the bottom of the dungeon. I may truncate the narrative when I come back to it, I may not. But I didn't quite finish the dungeon yet so there's no good stopping point.
And in any case, I've been thinking about dungeon exploration and wanting to try a less-fighty approach. I made several false starts and gave up a few times. I thought about picking up with Runequest again, as there is some hex-crawling and underground exploration coming with that adventure, but I was having an impossible time setting the first scene. And it's not quite the dungeon-delving I had in mind.
Since the Time Was Not Yet Right, I put it aside, too, and played through some T&T solos as a palate-cleansing exercise, and followed that with some older MRQ ones. I don't want to write those up, though, as it would amount to a pile of spoilers for anyone who would want to play through themselves, and also substantially cut down on the replay value for me!
I was casting about for something indefinable, to which I could not rightly put a name -- nor can I yet. It has something to do with simulationism and interesting magic systems. The latter because I always play wizards, the former for a host of reasons.
Even when there are dragons flying in the sky in defiance of all known physical laws, I still want a degree of verisimilitude in the world and the characters actions therein. I'm sure I've mentioned my aversion to the cinematic in RPGs before. For the most part, I want something different out of an RPG than I do out of a novel or a film (my RQ adventure certainly goes against this, but that was a happy accident that took on a life of its own). I like my PCs to just have their lives, going from situation to situation without a need for an overarching plot which needs to develop according to any certain structure. Plots occur, and resolutions are sought, but in an organic way. Keep on the Borderlands is one of my favourite modules ever -- but it would make a shite film.
As a corollary, being a solo gamer, I find that interaction skills/rules are way more important than they are in a tabletop game. As a normal player, the DM can adjudicate my PC's attempts at schmoozing/threatening/lying etc. As a soloist, the rules need to be the DM. On the other hand, I don't need story-game type rules for adjudicating my PC's emotional life. After a few sessions I know how any of my characters will feel about any situation which crops up, and will play them accordingly. Since I know their Weltanschauung, I just need the rules to be die Welt.
But enough with the digressions.
The end result of all this is that I decided that I ought to try something that would be a little more varied than than D&D-esque dungeon crawling. Really what it boils down to is skills; the more a PC can do, the less repetitive the challenges should be. I've been cogitating over how to do this for a while.
The first step was to decide on a damn game already, a process which proved more agonising that it rightly should. I wanted something heavily simulationist. RQ6 has great magic rules, but the combat is just a bit too fiddly for my taste. And I've got a good thing going with it besides. I thought about older versions of RQ, or even just making a BRP variant of my own, but that sounded like too much work. In the end I settled on Magic World. It's familiar enough that I know the system, so won't spend all my time looking things up, but the magic is new to me so the spells will seem fresh. I'm going to try it as written, but I may switch to hit locations instead of the total HP / major wound system depending on how it goes. I will definitely be using the ship rules at some point, as I really love maritime adventures; the ship disaster tables alone may be worth the price of the game.
So, for the next little while, I'm going to be trying this new experiment. I'm not sure where it's headed, or for how long, but I only ever follow my inspiration with this stuff anyways. Stay tuned.