26 January 2016

Best systems for a convention

Running a game at a convention has the problem of time, usually a four hour block. You want to get to the adventure but some (or all) of the players may not know the system, you have to teach them, but you do not want to take an hour to teach it and the players want to play, not be lectured.

To help this I have selected a few systems that I find easy to teach and run.

1: Savage Worlds

Shane Hensley's very playable system is easy to teach the basics in about ten minutes. It also has the advantage of running fast and having a quick combat system with little paperwork. Players also love the card initiative system and the way the dice work, GM's love the way it can play a wide variety of genres, and both love the cinematic feel of it. It also has a lot of support and settings from the publisher (Pinnacle) and third party developers.

2:  WARP

Once upon a time there was an awesome, Philip K. Dick meets William S. Burroughs game called Over the Edge, set in a surreal island where multiple dimensions interact, strangers migrate from all over the world, and intrigue, violence, and weirdness meet. The game engine was ahead of its time, being a very rules light game all the way back 1992, years before such games became a popular thing, emphasizing story over mechanics. Recently, Atlas released the rules under the open gaming license and have it for download FREE! It's called WARP (Wanton Role-Playing System) and it's only 28 pages including fringe powers. Also, there are WARP adventures available for sale. It won't handle everything, but what it does handle (conspiracy, thrills, fear, and weirdness) it does well.

3: Rolemaster

No, just kidding. Not Rolemaster. Not ever.

4: Tales of Blades and Heroes

This game is simple to learn and play. It captures sword and sorcery gaming perfectly. It also has one of the smallest character sheets around, and the magical system, which is improvisational, lets a creative player have a really good time.

Here is a typical character from the book:

Alika the Mighty (50 pts)
Q 4+
Hero Points: 1
Special rules: Bow 3, Fearless, Knife 2, Magic Resistance,
Strong 2, Two-handed Sword 4, Vengeful, Lethal versus
Kobolds, Light Armor
Equipment: bearskin armor, bow, quiver with 20 arrows,
greatsword, dagger, rope, 24 silver pieces

It fits on a business card!


If you want old school D&D without the complexity, basic/expert is the way to go. It has the feel of OSR (because it is) without the weird complexity of AD&D based games. You do not have to go to ebay for an old copy (though scoring a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is always nice) as there are a few OSR retro-clones of basic/expert rules to choose from that present the rules cleanly and include some modernization to improve play including Dark Dungeons (sharing the name of a famous anti-D&D Chick tract), and the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, which adds a few changes like ascending AC and separating races and class making it more modern but easy. Both are free to download and have print on demand options, and both work with adventures for basic/expert D&D.

IMHO, do not run low level adventures because the person playing the magic-user will not have fun. Also, the stats are meant to be rolled 3d6 down the line, and are anything from 3-18, with 10 in the center, so do not give stats all above 10 the way you do in modern D&D. It will throw off the encounters in the adventures. Players of newer games will think it low, but assure them it is not.

6: N/A

Who is number six?


I hesitated to include this because some people have a real hard time grokking the system of tagging (because it is unlike most other games out there), but the play is so good, fast, and interactive it has to be here. FATE Accelerated is a simplified version of FATE Core, and is a strong narrative game that gives players a lot of say in the adventure, and the character sheets are small and easy to understand. Price is right: pay what you want for the PDF (give them at least $2.50 please), or you can get the printed book and PDF for a mere five bucks.

There you go. Check out these games and whatever you run at a convention, thank you for making fun for players. Without you there would be no RPG cons.

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