The tabletop roleplaying scene has been undergoing something of a renaissance over the past few years. The theory and experimental games fashioned over at the The Forge community have slowly started to surface into the mainstream.
One of the main points the scene has come to realize is that we should play together more. The classic setup of gamers as an audience for the gamemaster has come under fire, and rightly so. The GM has to do all of the work and with the gamer generation now in their early 30s, we just don’t have time for that kind of play anymore. I can barely make time for one night of gaming, let alone several nights of planning the game. Ten hours of work to five hours of fun doesn’t sound very smart to me!
Many of the these new wave games are focused on the idea of shared effort: everybody works and everybody has fun. Ideally, no preparation work is necessary. I’ve tried a couple of these games, to a very good success, I think.
I’m currently reviewing Burning Empires for a magazine. Last Saturday we went through the first session, which is basically making the world together. It was not only fun, but the world turned out excellent – much better than what I could’ve come up on my own. Everyone could immediately tell that this was a good thing: there is zero unnecessary detail, no lecturing and everybody identifies with the world. Since the game’s focus is saving a world from an alien invasion, it’s crucial that the players care about the world.
An even better experience was creating the central cast together. Burning Empires makes the group think up the central cast (protagonists and antagonists) together and the roles are dealt to the players only after that. I can’t emphasize enough how much I like this. I think it’s a huge problem with many games that the players don’t identify with their antagonists, but this way absolutely everyone knows what the big picture is and what’s motivating everyone. All of the characters turned out multidimensional: several of them actually switched sides as we thought who of them would be the “good guys” and who the “bad guys”. I believe this bodes well for the game.
We have yet to see how the game actually plays out – there is no pre-planned story, the mechanics should force the game to a satisfying narrative. Expect an update next week on that!