More of jamesbarrett's D&D game tonight. I suspect that we shall see fighting and killing of the swamp nasties by the PCs in general. Theran is thiiiiis close to fifth level. If we were doing realtime exp., all it would take is one blind kobold to push him over the top. Dang!
I miss the HERO System; I really do like it so much better for just about everything. But it is a big, complex, and intricate machine with a steep learning curve. I know it very well -- or at least, as of 4th Edition (the big blue Champions hardcover). I gather there have been variations since then, and something or other called Fuzion, but I haven't seen them personally, nor have I heard much good about them, so I'm not in a rush to.
Point me to any game system, a mechanic, or just a cool bit in another system, and I could come up with a HERO System combination of abilities that will deliver an analogous effect, probably in a matter of minutes. But the problem with the HERO System is also its main strength: The HERO System is a toolkit and nothing more. In the right hands it can do anything, but there's not that much that's ready to go straight off the shelf (and, with all due respect to the people who wrote for it, what is ready to go straight off the shelf, is often nothing to write home about). Those of us who don't have much free time to do pre-game prep any more (*sigh*), find the fact that D&D has a TON of premade adventures to be a compelling argument in its favor ... and those who don't share my enthusiasm for HERO System tinkering find it frustrating and unwieldy.
Frisk once expressed his problem with the HERO System in these terms: "I don't want to have to think up every little ability my character has. I like classes and levels. I like being given things to choose from, instead of having to think it all up myself. When I make HERO characters, they all feel the same, to me." He likes to be presented with a list of what's available, and pick from those options. I like to decide what I want to have, and use the rules to build that. It's one of the fundamental differences between his gaming style and mine.
FRISK: "I want to play a fighter. Hmm, let's give him an axe. And here's a cool feat from the list: Cleave! I'll name him Dragor; he's a big burly guy who was raised by dwarves. He lives for the challenge!"
ME: "Theodore Stormhaven has spent the past ten years training as a fencer, specializing in the use of two sabres; although a loyal king's guard, he has something of a shady past. Now, to build him properly, I'll need two levels of fighter, a level of rogue, and the Ambidexterity, Off-Hand, and Two-Weapon feats. Gah! At first level, he's not even close to what I had in mind!"
D&D is imminently suited to Frisk's style of play: he wants to take a quick snapshot and get started. He creates very different characters each time, although certain motifs do show up repeatedly, as they will with anybody; but when he's creating characters, he always does so thinking of how they're going to develop in the future.
I, on the other hand, tend to think of characters who have a certain level of experience already. Where Frisk thinks of where his characters are going, I think of where mine have been -- and then I get frustrated by the fact that D&D defaults to "Young would-be heroes just starting out." I can only think of a few characters of mine that shouldn't start out as at least 3rd level (and at least two classes) to have been played they way I envisioned them.
This makes the HERO System imminently suited to my preferred style of play. A Fantasy HERO starting character is probably about on par with a 4th level D&D character. But on the other hand, the average FH character would never get more powerful than something like a 10th level D&D character over the course of the whole campaign.
I ran a FH campaign in Richmond that lasted something like three years, and the characters didn't get all that much more powerful. 13- skills got up as high as 15- ... OCV 4 gradually inched its way up to OCV 6 or 7 with a favored attack. But what the characters did do, for the most part, was to expand their capabilities. Starting with roughly the equivalent of two rogues, a fighter, and a ranger, the group ended up with one rogue who was an excellent marksman, one rogue who went from being shy and timid to being tough and confident, a fighter who could double as a rogue, and a ranger with terrific people skills.
In terms of combat, the foes went from being thugs, to professional soldiers, to professional soldiers led by sorcerers, to veteran soldiers led by sorcerers. A progression, yes ... but not as dramatic a progression as going from pesty goblins to humongous dragons.
Over the course of the whole campaign, there was one magic item. It was a sword, gained right at the beginning, and a major subplot of the game was to get it to a place on the other side of the game map where it could be unforged, releasing a ghost who was trapped in it. In D&D terms, it would be something akin to a +2 keen longsword -- cool, but not earth-shattering by any means.
It was not a high powered game by any stretch of the imagination ... a 5th level D&D wizard probably could have flattened the party with one well-placed fireball ... but it still had plenty of heroism, plenty of coolness, and by the end, a suitably epic plot -- the climax of the campaign was that the heroes foiled an insurgency by a noble of the realm and the invading army he'd brought along with him. That's just the type of thing I enjoy, and exactly the type of thing that D&D is not.
But, having said that, any gaming is better than none, and Frisk's D&D game is still a lot of fun. Set in the World of Greyhawk, it is currently taking place just south of Geoff ... and I expect us to go giant-hunting in that ravaged land quite soon. We've gone up against orcs, goblins, harpies, members of the Scarlet Brotherhood ... in the current adventure, we're more than likely to encounter lizardfolk and a young black dragon as we go poking around a lost Suel (I'm guessing) temple somewhere in the swamps, which may or may not hold the first piece of a seven-piece campaign artifact that we've started looking for by default just to keep it out of the nefarious hands of a villain we've encountered -- and he's sending bounty hunters after us!
Ever fought a sorcerer with haste, blur, and expeditious retreat? It's annoying. ;) But we managed to take 'im!
So anyway, that's what's up tonight ... we're off into the swamp. I think Theran will be memorizing sleep and mage armor today...
-The Gneech, 5th level writer / 3rd level cartoonist / 10th level neurotic