Wednesday, May 22, 2013

That Game

I think we all have a game that is, for us, That Game.

It's the game we keep coming back to.

For me, That Game is Legend of the Five Rings.  I started buying this game when the 1e core book was released, and I have 100% of the first edition.  I've been running the game off-and-on for more than a decade.

When we first started playing, I'd dabbled in the card game - I was never going to be good at it, but I liked the "feel" it brought to the table.  And the RPG, for me, turned that up to eleven.

So how much do I love this game? And why?

This is the first game for which I ran a successful long-term campaign with a smallish group of players.  I'd run other failed campaigns before.  I'd also ran one weirdly-successful World of Darkness game with ... um ... too many players (somewhere around 35, but no more than 15 or so at a time).  But that game succeeded not because of me, but because of the players.  But L5R was the first game where I experienced that balance between player enthusiasm and staying on target.

This is the first game where I totally grokked the system.  Even twenty years later, I'm still not 100% clear on several aspects of AD&D. But I understand L5R.  Something about the system just clicked when I read it.  This means that my house rules (also a first - successful house rules!) were functional, as well.

And did I mention the group?  With a few exceptions, they weren't the brightest group I'd gamed with. But they more than made up for it with their enthusiasm.  As a group, we grabbed a couple of CDs of traditional Japanese music (including a few of Kodo's albums), and we went out for teriyaki before game started.  The first few weeks, we also watched the Lone Wolf & Cub movies (one per session).  We drank tea, and worked hard at setting the atmosphere and settling our minds into character. Sometimes, I'd read from the Tao Te Ching or The Art of War. I had a bunch of Tsai  Chih Chung's books, too.

Two of the players were 100% raw gamers who had never played anything before. They had no preconceived notions of being invincible warriors mowing down waves of foes like so much wheat.  They approached combat with their eyes open and their blades in hand.

Honor was impugned, blood spilled, and empires toppled in their neverending battles against taint.

We ignored the metaplot. Partly because I didn't know it that well and partly because we just didn't care.

I made some mistakes, too - I had a GMPC with the party, for example - but it was fun.  Some of the most fun I have ever had from behind the screen.

When the Second Edition dropped we were ... less-than-impressed.  At about this time, I moved and the game wound down.  I bought the 2E core books, and a few others.  For 3e, I bought the core book and the Burning Sands book.

A few weeks ago, my wife purchased for me a copy of the Fourth Edition core book.  And it's really really good.  Even if the metaplot is advanced enough that much of the setting is completely incomprehensible. I don't recognize this Rokugan.

But some day, I'll set another team of Imperial Magistrates loose there.

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