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I’m Running A Tabletop RPG!

That’s right. I’m going to be running a tabletop RPG. This is great news as it is one of my 2018 resolutions and it wasn’t something I could guarantee would happen as it’s not fully under my control. Tabletop role-playing games are a group activity so you need others to be interested and available.

But it’s happening and I’m really excited about it.

Channel Video

This is the channel video covering this same topic, no doubt with some variations!

Getting To This Point

It’s taken a while to get to this point. A journey of some eighteen years. Yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous, but I broke away from a long-term group of friends in 1996 and had four years of armchair gaming without playing or running anything.

Things just never seemed to work after that. It’s hard to describe why and the detail of it isn’t important.

I think some of the things were to do with me. High expectations. It seemed gaming ceased to be about just getting on with it and seeing what happened. Trying to conform to regular bi-weekly play when, if I was honest, I’d never done it in the past. I think some it was group dynamics that didn’t work for me in subtle ways. These things were true to different degrees at different points in time.

This changed in 2015 when I ran my first campaign that actually went past a session or two and I really liked it. We didn’t get to see it through to the end though. It was a good attempt at holding to the bi-weekly schedule which I was pleased with. Hell, I still think it was awesome it just suffered from being turned into something it wasn’t. I then did a day long one-shot of Fengshui which I also really enjoyed, which was an experiment of a different format.

Now things have changed. It all just seems a bit more relaxed and less pressured and Zen. So here we are.

Players And Format

The key challenge was securing players. I’ll admit to knowing who I wanted those players to be and if they weren’t available I’d have just dropped the idea. We have two gaming groups going on currently and the players are involved in both groups, have busy schedules, etc, so it was entirely possible the time wasn’t available.

They said yes, so we’re on. The time may still be a challenge moving forward but we’re going to give it a serious shot.

The format is linked to it actually happening as it plays into how I’d rather run things. Less often and for longer. Primarily because in the past it was just less often without the sessions being longer. It minimises the commitment as we’re likely to run only circa every six weeks at a guess, based on discussions suggesting monthly was likely difficult.

It’s really exciting giving this format of running games a go. As I suspect I’ve always ran games this far apart as I was never good at the regular ‘weekly’ game I’m just altering it by making it longer when they happen!

The Five Ideas

Initially, I had the idea of targeting five systems I wanted to run but I changed my mind and decided to disconnect my tabletop RPG goals from actual systems. The list is:-

  • The Fantasy Adventure One
  • The Spy Thriller One
  • The Science Fiction One
  • The Superhero One
  • The Contemporary Pulp One

So which one am I running?

The Fantasy Adventure One…

…that was the intention. I wanted to do the fantasy adventure one first. Primarily because that’s the one I’ve thought about the most. As campaign planning goes for a lot of people this is not planning at all, but at least I’d thought about it a bit. The setting. A bit of around the enemies I was wanting to include and their visuals.

I’ll also admit I’m inspired to run a fantasy adventure campaign every time I watch Critical Role. There is a whole Dungeons and Dragons Zeitgeist going on and I’d like to be in on it a bit either running or playing.

The trouble is a fantasy adventure campaign works better with more than three players and when the player count dropped to two it didn’t seem feasible. Possible, but not ideal.

So I decided to leave the fantasy adventure one for now. It’s also true that some of the others on the list are sort of uniquely my thing, while the fantasy one probably belongs to others.

The Spy Thriller One…

…was a good bet. It also works okay with a duo. The trouble with this option is I’m not sure about the system yet. I’m pretty sure this will be a Nights Black Agents campaign of some shape or form. I like the system, its goals and principles at a high level but I’m still not 100% convinced how well they will play out in actual play. I need to given them a bit more thought in terms of thinking through how it might actually operate.

That’s all perfectly solvable I’ve just not put much thought into it yet.

So I put that to one side but left it as a possible.

The Science Fiction One…

…was never on the cards.

The main reason is I’m just not anywhere near establishing any guidelines of what I want the science fiction one to be. It’s such a big genre with a 1001 and one different approaches that you really have to frame it well. I have no idea what I want that frame to be.

The second reason is the last campaign I ran of any length was a space fantasy one and it had an ignominious end. As a result, I’m not convinced about starting with the science fiction one is a good idea.

I can’t even begin to fathom what system the science fiction one would be.

The Contemporary Pulp One…

…is just perfection.

A pulp duo.

Just listen to how exciting that sounds: a pulp duo.

This is the one I’ve gone with because it makes perfect sense. It is the one that works best with just two players as two players operating at awesome pulp levels is a dynamic, a larger group just creates a ridiculous steamroller of awesome that just gets frustrating for everyone.

The system is Atomic Robo which is Fate so that pretty much works for everyone. I think we all have our minor issues with Fate, but they’re like wrinkles rather than problems.
The whole structure of scenes, issues and volumes fits perfectly with the delivery format as each get together will be a volume. Perfect.

There is literally no disadvantages with this option. In fact any disadvantages would be with not doing it now. Perfect storm.

The Superhero One…

…is probably already covered. In fact it lead to the decision to do the pulp one.

I thought of doing the superhero one, but as I started thinking about it being a superhero duo rather than a superhero team I naturally started thinking of pulp duos. This then got me thinking that the pulp one would probably cover about 80% of what I want to cover with the superhero one.

The superhero one isn’t shelved, but I do think a lot of my superhero buttons are going to be pushed with what I am running. I think if I come back to the superhero one the fact we’ve done the pulp one will define the shape of any superhero game.

There Is Only One System

If I’m running a contemporary pulp game there is only one option for me and that’s Atomic Robo. It’s Fate, which is a system I really like. It covers some ‘minor’ superhero stuff. It has a load of pulp flavour going on. We’re not literally going to play in the Atomic Robo setting but the campaign is going to follow the same principles of an Atomic Robo campaign, basically being action scientists solving crazy science conspiracies.

I guess I have some concerns with the system and these are primarily around challenging the characters. A rating of 5 in a skill is amazingly strong yet it seems possible to get higher than that with stunts which is absolutely crazy. I’m okay with the characters running around just being better than everyone else but they should eventually come up against someone who can given them a challenge but at those high skill levels it’s crazy.

We shall see. This is also one good reason a pulp campaign is good with a low number of players as two people being awesome is better than a group of 4-5 all being awesome. It would just be crazy.

And, Finally…

The session zero is scheduled. We’ll create characters, establish setting details and even get some prequel scenes in. We are discussing things on the Facebook group currently and it’s all exciting. It’s already produced things I’d have not have done myself if I’d just been thinking it up as an solo activity.

I’ll probably keep silent on what the game looks like until session zero is done, but I m really looking forward to it.

About Ian O'Rourke

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