Now I know that I keep coming back to my favorite RPG system being HackMaster and over the last couple of days I've been thinking that 1) my gaming friends have to be getting tired of hearing that and 2) while clearly I'm a fan, maybe I'm not being true to myself.
First off, I fully admit that I'm a big-time rules-lawyer as a player. I really try to not be a dick about it, but I'm sure there are times I am the biggest dick about it. As a rules-lawyer I'm going to gravitate to crunchier game systems. Now HackMaster 4th Edition was crunchy as fuck. Seriously, it was a nightmare at times and GMing the game could be a HUGE pain-in-the-ass. HUGE!
Not sure I've mentioned this at the Tavern before, but generally speaking whenever I play a new rules-system I make my first character an archer. Not a fighter, but specifically an archer. I'm sure this probably goes all the way back to my 1E days, but it gives me a basis of comparison.
Now in HackMaster 4E if your wanted to be a Longbow Archer you kind of sucked compared to ANY other missile weapon specialist, and if you wanted to fire into combat, the best way to do it went like this: You'd tell the GM that you wanted to specifically shoot your (melee) engaged party member's left pinkie toe. The GM would calculate the odds of you targeting your ally (who the arrow would hit if the attack was successful) and if successful, then all the penalties for trying to hit that left pinkie toe would come into play and odds are you'd never make the shot.....but if you did a crit and managed to actually land the shot.....bye-bye pinkie. If the GM determined you weren't going to hit your ally, then those penalties didn't apply.
Now I was able to re-write that bit of the rules as a successful submission to Hackjournal, but that's a different story.
After thinking a lot about not just HackMaster, but how I like to play I have come to the realization that I like the crunchy details, not necessarily the rules. HackMaster just happens to have hit my sweet spot, but I don't actually sit around in other games wishing I was playing HackMaster instead. My favorite game is pretty much whatever game I can get into. Sure, I have had issues with some systems....D&D 3.5 only bugged me with the book-of-the-month club and that I felt like I *had* to have my character's mid and higher levels already figured out before I picked my skills and feats or I'd be behind the power curve, as it was. Now my main D&D 3.5 GM was the real problem I had with that game, but again....another story (some of which I've shared already).
I've liked playing DCC, MCC, CoC, and a bunch of odd one-offs.....and I'm coming around to the idea that pretty much every game is some kind of "one-off", even if it runs into a multi-year campaign. Think about it, there seems to be about a million variations of B/X floating out there: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Old School Essentials, Pacesetter's BX RPG, etc.....I'm assuming that pretty much every GM runs their very own version of the game, especially when it comes to retro-clones, which is why there are so many versions out in the wild.
Outside of HackMaster I've yet run into a GM running a game 100% by the book. My current home game is a B/X game where the GM runs all kind of home-brew rules. I can't really comment one way or another on the quality of the home-brew, but I haven't really seen anything that I didn't think worked. To be honest, I don't always pay attention to the GM explaining his rules and even though I've read some of them I actively try to "forget" stuff that doesn't apply directly to my PC.
This game has really been a bit of a paradigm shift for me as a player. I'm used to knowing all of the rules and figuring out the best way of doing X, Y, or Z. That was fun for me, but there was no mystery, just an exercise in trying to be the smartest guy at the table (which doesn't happen much, but it's the attempt that's important) and trying to roll well, which can be important in a competitive tournament. I'm not playing in tournaments and don't plan on doing so in the future. I've had much more fun sitting back and figuring shit out in the moment and generally rolling with the game as it is presented. It helps that my GM runs a lot of custom monsters and tries out new rules on us before he commits them for publication.
Of course this particular style of playing is a lot more laid-back than I'm used to and despite my best efforts I'm sometimes jonesing for a bit more crunch. The thing is, and this has been an evolving concept, I don't necessarily need my GM to provide that crunch on a plate for me. In my game I'm playing a Magic User and the GM is happy enough knowing I have a spell book. According to my PC sheet my spellbook is a Guild Duodecimo: 4 5/8" x 7 1/2" in size and 9" thick. It has 92 parchment pages and a calfskin cover. The whole thing weighs 1.5 pounds (encumbrance is 45 coins). My spells are:
- Read/Write Magic (Pages 1-2)
- Read Languages (Page 3)
- Sleep (Pages 4-7)
- Magic Missile (Page 8)
- Hold Portal (Pages 9-12)
- Ventriloquism (Pages 13-15)
- Protection from Evil (Pages 16-19)
- Magic Mirror (Pages 20-21)
- Knock (Pages 22-25)
- Condone (Pages 26-28)
- Web (Pages 29-35)