29 March 2014

Game Update

I've been playing a bunch of Torchbearer with the Monday crew, which has been great fun. After a second session total party kill, they've got a second party adventuring to some success. We'll soon have someone at level three!

So far they've dealt with the introductory dungeon in the book, a bandit lair in a ruined dwarven hall, and looted an ancient magical library for one character's enemy (long story). Next up is a lead on a sealed tomb, which I am sure will go just fine.

What makes the game work is a very finely tuned approach to old school D&D. In particular, the rules for light, encumbrance, time, and deteriorating conditions manage to evoke the tension of exploring unknown caverns full of danger in the hope of loot. However, unlike the original, these are fun. It's some combination of the abstractions they use (and thus simplicity) and the fact that the whole system is well tuned, so these constraints matter quite a lot.

I also got in a game of Life on Mars when there were some absences. This is meditative, thoughtful game. It reminds me a lot of The Quiet Year, although many details differ. Life on Mars covers the first expedition to Mars, and we got to know our crew very well along the way. It manages to convey the close quarters with your crewmates, the loneliness and distance from Earth, and also the day to day operations and potential disasters of the mission as you go. I was pleased that our mission returned home safely, and that we in fact discovered life on mars in the last months there (which was my crew member's obsession). Great fun, recommended. Probably not that much replayability, although I expect that playing with a different group of people would be very different. The mission parameters and allowed actions remain the same (although there's some randomness in there too).

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