Last week I tackled a commenter question on how to introduce his wife to gaming. HoneyBear had a few potential systems in mind so I ran down my impressions of those systems, saving for this week a look at a few other systems that he or other gamers may find useful for introducing a spouse to the wide-world of gaming.
World of Darkness (old and new!)
This is Billy’s favorite system – he cut his gaming teeth on Old World of Darkness Vampire, and while I technically played a few sessions of D&D between high school and college, I consider it my first game as well. Coincidence that ten years later we’re married? Maybe, maybe not.
When not playing with a bunch of power-hungry college kids, Old World of Darkness Vampire has the potential for so many layers that it can appeal to multiple types of gamers. But I don’t necessarily recommend trying to make it all things to all players. It can definitely be a dark tale of how absolute power corrupts absolutely, but if someone in the group wants to explore a blood sucking power fantasy, someone’s going to be sitting at the table feeling disappointed. It would take a much more skillful GM than me to balance the social and action sides of OWoD.
New World of Darkness, however, especially post-God Machine, is great for exploring quieter games of horror, because the core book assumes you’re playing humans. Humans are weak and pathetic versus the monsters that haunt the World of Darkness, which makes it terrifying! Why is this good for new players? Because there’s one type of character here: human. No trying to figure out racial bonuses or what your super awesome magic powers can do. You’re a human, all of the terms on your character sheet make sense in plain English, eliminating half of the battles in getting a new person on board with the concept of role playing. And while some of the details changed between Old and New Worlds of Darkness, the basic system is still intuitive and easy to pick up: add the number of dots in your attribute to the number of dots in your skill. Roll that many dice. Tada! Rolling a big handful of dice is extremely satisfying and could easily prove addictive. Character creation can be done relatively quickly as well, meaning that even (especially?) if this ends up being a one-shot deal, no one will feel they’ve spent half of their gaming time on character creation.
Don’t want to play a human? Vampires not your favorite monster? Step right up to Monsterhearts then!
I mentioned last week, regarding Fate Accelerated, that playing a game based on a favorite media property can help ease new players into the world of gaming. Stories of angsty-monsters have never been more popular; Twilight, Teen Wolf, and Being Human are just a handful of TV shows/movies/books from the last five years proving this to be true. Monsterhearts emulates all of these stories, and more (Buffy always gets name dropped around here, but considering my Buffy is Kristy Swanson, I’m not eligible to comment).
One thing I really enjoy about Monsterhearts (and other Apocalypse World hacks) is character creation is multiple choice. Everything is laid out for you in your character workbook, and you mix and match physical descriptors, motivations, and skills to create the character you want to play. It removes the paralysis of choice that can come with an endlessly customizable game. And while Monsterhearts and Dungeon World tripped us up a little bit in the use of Moves, a brand new role player won’t have years of baggage about “how it’s done” to hold her back.
Of course, this is also the system with the infamous Sex Moves, a running joke on Fandible now. Different players will have different levels of comfort with the overt sexuality baked into the system, but the one and only time I played the game (recorded for posterity with Fandible, of course, and our amazing guest GMs) I managed to have fun and explore my character without using a sex move once.
A system rather than a single game, Cortex is the system that powers the games produced by Margaret Weis Productions, home of many of the contemporary licensed games out there, including Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica, and, using the new Cortex Plus version, Firefly (releasing today!). I saw Cortex in action for a brand new role player in its Supernatural guise at Origins several years ago. It was one of the most epicly great gaming experiences ever, a combination of a great GM and players of all experience levels (experts with the system, experienced gamers like Billy and I who didn’t know the system and only had a passing familiarity with the show at that point, superfans of the show, and a brand new person who was at the con because her friends dragged her along and she had an empty spot in her schedule and this game sounded cool). The genres covered by games using the system is proof of how flexible it can be, from normal human hunters up against Demons to the last of humanity struggling for survival against robot overlords. Character creation can take a little longer than, for example, World of Darkness, because there are more options for skills (and then skill specialties on top of that), but game play moves along smoothly with a mechanic similar to WoD, except instead of a massive pool of dice, attributes and skills are measured by types of dice. So your attributes are measured by a d4, a d8, and so on, as are your skills. Roll those two dice (and the occasional third, thanks to the use of plot points! Speaking of firsts, Supernatural was also the first game I played using my now-favorite gaming mechanic) and you have your results. Not as satisfying as a handful of 10+ dice, but very simple.
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In the meantime, I turn this question over to the experts in the audience. What game would you recommend to get a spouse involved in your hobby? And what was your first game?
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