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Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Jones’

Speaking of Indiana Jones…

I had just said that I’m always on the look-out for games and techniques that can re-create the fast-paced action and wonder of the old adventure serials, as exemplified (and resurrected) by the Indiana Jones movies.  Well, I found a game that sets out to do just that.  And if the term “award-winning” has any merit, then this game does it very well.

Spirit Of The Century RPG, by Evil Hat Productions.  Yes, one of the very Fate-powered games that sired the Fate Core System book which I’m currently reading and assessing for its Indiana-Jones-ness.  How ironic.

I would love to play this game.  But then, I say that about every game I read.  I put down SotC momentarily to read an article it references, “THE PULP AVENGERS: Game Mastering Pulp Adventures in the 1930s and 1940s,” by Brian Misiaszek, 1994.  The article characterizes pulp adventures this way: “Some features of the pulp genre include its simple morality of good versus evil, masked and cloaked heroes and heroines, devious villains and their schemes, gun-wielding desperados, cliffhanger endings, weird science, and a world still lush with unexplored places and lost races.”

I can think of two people who would have a problem with the “simple morality of good vs evil” part.  One of them is me.  I prefer games (and stories) that explore the meanings of “good” and “evil,” not treat them as absolutes.  We live in a reality in which the the greatest villains seize power, amass fortunes and subjugate millions without ever breaking a law; and meanwhile, common people have to fight the police just to protect their homes and defend their rights.  Fiction with clear-cut good-guys and bad-guys is too much of an escape for my tastes.  I like some meat with my potatoes.

But nothing says that complex moral questions are incompatible with fearless protagonists, zeppelin chases, crazy gadgets, exotic locations and cliffhanger scene cuts.  I think we could take what we want from the pulp-era adventures, and play our kind of game.

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P.S.: If I do get to play  Spirit of the Century, we will probably use the mechanics from the later-published Fate Core System.  Although they’re both Fate games, the latter benefits from years of playing the former, and includes some system improvements.  For example, SotC instructs players to come up with ten Aspects for their characters.  In Fate Core, the author recommends five, explaining that ten proved too onerous and unnecessarily complicating.

Caveat: at this writing, I’m only halfway through reading Fate Core, and about 10% into Spirit of the Century.

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Even when I’m not the designated GM (and so have no prep to do between game nights), I still spend a lot of my free time on gaming stuff: sometimes writing down and working out ideas, but mostly just reading: reading gaming blogs and forums, reading gaming news and articles, and reading games.

Right now I’m reading Fate Core, which is simply the FATE rules abstracted from any setting and published as a stand-alone system.  Next I plan to read Savage Worlds (finally).

Probably my favourite movies of all time are the Indiana Jones films.  How could I best create such high-flying adventures at the table, and what system would I use?  That’s the question that’s always at the back of my mind as I’m reading new game systems.  I know it will take more than just the right system; probably the prep, the players’ approach to the game, and the GMing techniques, will be just as important as system.  I read games as much for the GMing advice as anything else.

Other questions on my mind as I read games:

  • Who authors the story: the players, the GM, or does everybody play to find out what happens?
  • How does this game make failure interesting?
  • How does this game help us to create surprising and intricate scenes, people, and plot twists?
    • Somewhere between “memorize this encyclopedia about this fictional world” and “make up the setting yourself!” is the sweet spot in which the game provides plenty of provocative setting elements, and inspires the players to mould their own game-world out of it.  Does this game lunge for the sweet spot?  Does it strike a bullseye?

 

Random tangent:

  • It would be instructive to play Microscope a few times in a row, and generate a bunch of very different game worlds.

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