It’s true to say I’ve been in a gaming funk due to a combination of factors. I’ve not felt fully engaged with a campaign as a player since the Promethean Institute campaign ended back August 2012. I was enjoying running Fate Fading Suns but that got cancelled back in May 2013. The games after that have been interesting and fun, but in a casual sort of way. It also didn’t help I’m not the biggest fan of either the Dungeon World or Shadowrun systems.
I’d begun to think I was entering some sort of permanent gaming twilight.
I still think there is something in the gaming twilight thing, or a new model I’ve not discovered yet, but at least one thing has been resolved: I’m really looking forward to and fully engaged in playing again! We’ve recently started our 13th Age Arabian campaign, for want of a better name at this point, and I’m really excited about it.
There are a number of reasons for this, I think.
I really like the system we’re using. 13th Age is very clever. The beauty of 13th Age is it seems to provide the positives of 3E (player options and universal systems) and 4E (balance and fun to play) while ditching the negatives, adding some great narrative elements and keeping it slick and lighter in weight.
I could write a whole post on what I like but it basically comes down to the right level of complexity against cool and just the right sprinkle of narrative flexibility without turning into a set of vacuous rules that don’t really add anything to the game (it is a game, so you want the rules to add something). It’s a mixture of things like the One Unique Thing, Backgrounds as flavoursome skills (a bit like elements of Fate, Primetime Adventures, Over the Edge, etc) as well how the classes, feats and abilities work which manage to be interesting and exciting without weighting the game down in rules or procrastination at the table.
It’s a very fresh and clever approach to things.
As for the campaign itself, we’ve done some discussion on the forums, had a group character creation session and played a sort of mini, session 0.5 last week. It’s all working out great. The setting is fleshed out enough to provide enough shared framing to move forward but, in truth, most of it is a blank slate other than what’s required to be ‘just in front’ of the characters or what they’ve defined behind them in their punchy, full of potential capsules. It’s evocative, different and mysterious and exciting which is all great as I really didn’t want to play another class-based, potentially too close to generic fantasy game again (and this doesn’t feel like that at all).
The main reason comes down to being engaged with my character’s story potential, which has probably been the main missing element and contributed significantly to the gaming twilight feel from the playing perspective. In both the post-Fate Fading Suns games I had a character, but I never felt the game was wrapped around their story potential. It’s a weird experience and has multiple facets but it felt like skimming the surface rather than the main point of playing. The focus of play was…elsewhere. The result of this was it became more of a casual experience rather than one I was fully engaged with.
I love my 13th Age character. I like the functional stuff like the class abilities I’ve got to play with and how they’ll expand as I level. I am fully engaged with the visuals of the character and the relationships that surround her (and interesting ones with the other player characters are already developing, I think). Finally, I love the whole set-up of what her story is about. I don’t know what shape it will take. I don’t know how it will end, but I do know what the intent is and it’s fantastic. The future story of Aryal, exiled exalted Princess, scion of the Great Djinn (half air Djinn) and protégé of the Old Man of the Mountain (think a Ra’s al Ghul sort of figure mixed in with the historical middle eastern assassins) as a sort of princess, spy, thief and swashbuckling vagabond is awesome, multi-layered and how she will decide the fate of the Exalted Sultan of the Empire (her one unique thing she is prophesised to do, though I don’t think that prophecy has been spoken or discovered yet) is one I want to see out.
Exciting times. I am really looking forward to the next session. I have to say, it has felt like a long time since I’ve been this engaged as a player…and the feeling is good.