A few Fridays ago marked the first time I’ve put a group together to play Tracy Hickman’s XD20 system. Without going into too much detail about the game’s mechanics (or basic lack thereof), imagine a brilliantly simplified D20 Role Playing Game that focuses on story.
If you’r unfamiliar with RPGs, imagine a sort of storytelling improv game where your character decides what to do and then roll 20s sided dice to see if he or she is successful.
I was the DM (Storyteller) and our setting was adventure on the high seas in the 1600s. I planned much of the setting and adventure out beforehand and created four roles for the characters, each with a secret agenda. Depending on the choices the other players made, they would end up helping or hindering one another while they survived a shipwreck on an uncharted island.
We got together, laughed, ate snacks, told terrible jokes, and roleplayed our hearts out. The night was a success, in that we all had fun, but a few elements of the adventure fell pretty flat.
My first and greatest mistake was over- planning the adventure. The players had so much fun, and took so long, with the survival aspect of the adventure that by the end of the night, almost no one had come close to fulfilling their secret agendas or bothering to find out what the other player’s missions were. I was trying to mix intrigue with survival, but the survival won out because it was so much more fun.
Next up, I have plans for an X-files themed adventure set near Medicine Wheel, Wyoming.
The main premise is simple and enjoyable: portals to other worlds start opening up around the city, spewing forth nightmarish monsters, and it’s up to a motley band of the town’s more interesting denizens to save the day. If they can’t close the portals fast enough a horrible creature of immense power will eventually climb out for a final showdown.
I decided that I wanted my first experience of the game to be as genuine as possible so I insisted that we go full random on characters and the Ancient One we would fight (or, hopefully, not fight). I tried not to demand a redraw when my character ended up being the most middling character in the game: a twenty-something, female, college student.
Instead, I dove into the monster filled streets with gusto. I soon felt like I could personally identify with my character. We were both intensely curious about the strange goings on in Arkham, to the point of recklessness, and we were both quickly in over our heads; me with learning the myriad, fast-flying rules and her fighting a Shoggoth with her bare hands. Nevertheless, and against steep odds, we both prevailed.
Our group did a great job of sweeping nasty critters off the street, but we bungled enough gate closings that we eventually let the Ancient One through. With some luck and teamwork, we managed to prevail with the only casualty being…my own dear college student.
Fast-paced (especially once you get the rules down), dangerous, and a pleasantly eerie, Arkham Horror is a well-designed, fun-to-play game with friends. There’s enough characters to play and horrors to face, that you could play many, many games before catching even a hit of repetition. Here’s hoping I get a chance to play again soon.
This blog post in memory of my dearly
departed devoured college student, Amanda Sharpe, marksman without a gun.