Thursday, February 1, 2024

Shelf Shuffle: Early 2024

I moved Dungeon Crawl Classics from my most-played shelf to a storage shelf, as I was getting less use out of the game than I thought I would. I love DCC, but I get the feeling it relies too much on random charts as fun. Shadowdark also has this issue; the game's core is simple, and 80% of the book is random charts. I have books I got from Amazon with thousands of random charts, and they are disposable, low-content idea generators. The charts in DCC are a step above since they contain rules, but I feel I am losing interest in the "big rando" games of the early 2020s.

Shadowdark pushed me over the tipping point on this one. It's a great game, but I want a "lite" edition without the bloated charts. Or the rules in one book and the charts in another.

Random charts are filler.

They are not a game.

I still love DCC and the entire feeling and vibe; I am tired of random charts and I feel overloaded by them all. Go away for a while, I want a game that gives me depth and rewards creativity. I want something I can pour my imagination into, not page after page of roulette wheels.

Cypher System replaced DCC in its spot. This game is still a classic, and the ever-dwindling pool of player resources ramps the tension up as the session continues. The player-driven narrative using XP as currency is genius. This game does it all, and it feels like GURPS did back in the day.

Castles & Crusades is on a storage shelf. Another fantastic game with classic characters and incredible compatibility. The characters are 3x5 card simple, but I am just not into it now. Open 5E has replaced this since the developments in this area are hot right now, and I don't want to take time for the testing and games I will run for my big two Open 5E games.

C&C is a game I will never sell, but it is sidelined for a while as I sort out and sell off my Wizards of the Coast books and track Open 5E developments. I have this strange feeling in the back of my neck that no matter how much I love Level Up Advanced 5E, Tales of the Valiant will be amazing and save room on my plate for this game.

Dungeon Fantasy and GURPS are back on my most-played shelf. I can't replace this game. The character builds using the GURPS Character Sheet are just too fantastic. For a single-hero, solo-player game - there is no beating GURPS. Yes, your character is insanely deep and complex, but I don't know another game where you control entirely everything, and every character point matters. For optimizers, this game is like crack. Exploration and social abilities are purchased with the same points you use for combat, forcing you into hard choices. Disadvantages create conflict and roleplay.

I can support a fantasy game using this and another using Open 5E since, while the genre is the same, what the games do is the opposite. GURPS is more of a "character design system" with a roleplaying game attached. Open 5E is a role-playing game with preset level paths for each archetype. In GURPS, you build your character for the story you are telling - if you need a science character for a story, that is where you focus your improvement. If combat is a part of this story, you balance that with the necessary science skills. The fun is budgeting your character points to best fit the situations.

In Open 5E, the work is done for you, and you focus more on the story. For the times when I don't want a deep dive into budgeting and design, this fills the need. Otherwise, I love sculpting a character from nothing into something unique and paying attention to every detail and spot in the creation. When a master sculptor creates a life-sized statue, they spend time everywhere on the figure, and you can walk around it and be amazed at every part - like how every hair is chiseled out, the lines in the irises look real, the lips have creases in the skin, and even the fingernails are perfect.

That, to me, is GURPS. If I create one character, it will be the best design I can imagine and craft.

The Fantasy Trip joins my 2024 lineup. The game components can be directly used for GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy, strengthening all three games. Why did I buy into this game? The characters are far less complicated than GURPS, so the fantastic depth is missing. The characters are still point-buy, so the customization is there. There are two character types, melee and wizard, but those get customized through talents.

What use is a faster, simpler version of GURPS combat as a dungeon skirmish game?

The answer is simple, this looks like a fantastic solo-play dungeon party simulator. Where Dungeon Fantasy is more of a single-character game, I can manage 5-8 characters in TFT and run the whole party by myself. Since the characters are less complex, the "party" becomes the "character," and the collection of character cards and how I manage and level them up becomes like a "sports team."

TFT is the Dungeon Fantasy for party management.

I don't have a game like this, and the dungeon skirmish genre died when D&D 4E died, and I miss that game style. Compared to GURPS, combat is quick and easy. Character management is GURPS-like but heavily simplified. I can take a group of heroes through adventures, improve them point by point, and make sure the party's abilities and composition grow to meet the needs of each skirmish.

Dungeon Fantasy is my fantasy game for more sweeping stories with 1-3 characters, where character flaws matter and how a character is geared makes a huge difference. I can go for any genre or story type. This is the deeper, more story-oriented game where you optimize a character for an experience.

TFT is my "guild manager," where I can run a 6-person (or more) dungeon skirmish party efficiently, possibly multiple parties. People have done 300-figure battles with this game, so it scales linearly in complexity. The party is my character. TFT is my 4E replacement, and not like MCDM RPG, where the designer can say they loved 4E and want to replicate the experience from the bottom-up, but TFT does this from the top-down by creating the game I am looking for - the dungeon skirmish, party as player, game that we loved.

Other shelf changes? Cepheus Deluxe is back on my shelf as my sci-fi game of choice. It is a battle between this and the equally excellent White Star, but Cepheus is harder sci-fi without much goofy stuff in White Star. White Star is incredible, but Cepheus has the lower-level grit and economics I want in sci-fi. If I want to hex-crawl and explore worlds while taking cargo, fighting space pirates, and paying for ship repairs - that is classic sci-fi gaming.

Cepheus Deluxe has had a lot of development and play, and this version is highly refined. The random cargo merchant gameplay loop is solid here, and the ship combat is simple. Starfinder is MIA regarding economics and the merchant cargo game, and White Star is weak in this area. Cepheus Deluxe knows its fans and the gameplay loops they love, and it shows.

I moved D100 Dungeon from my storage shelf to my most played to give this game a chance.

Another one I moved to a most-played shelf, Shadow of the Demon Lord, another I want to revisit.

The ones I am waiting for? ACKS2 (my B/X replacement) and Tales of the Valiant (my other Open 5E game) are coming soon.

The "I Want it All" box for TFT will be here tomorrow.

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