Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bittersweet Rebirth

I've ignored this blog for a while, but I've been wanting to start writing my thoughts about games, gaming, and other forms of geekery. It just so happens that two big things came to my attention today about two franchises very dear to me: Star Wars and Gamma World.

First off, Wizards of the Coast announced today that they are going to cancel the Star Wars miniatures and RPG lines. There are still one more minis set and another book coming out in April, but they're done after that. This, well, sucks. The Star Wars minis have been getting better with each set as far as the variety of figures and species covered (the quality of the paint jobs and the sculpts have dropped off for both the SW and D&D minis of late, however). The Star Wars Saga Edition was simply the finest Star Wars RPG I've ever had the pleasure of playing (and I've played them all). It wasn't just a good Star Wars game, but the best derivative D20 system I've played. It's what D&D 4th Edition should have been. It's a damn shame to see the lines die.

I do want to send out a heartfelt thanks to the folks at WotC for their excellent work on SAGA. Thanks to Owen KC Stephens, Rodney Thompson, Christopher Perkins, and everyone else that helped bring the Star Wars universe to life in RPG form in the best way possible. I look forward to getting my hands on The Unknown Regions as soon as it comes out.

The second bit of news that got me excited and then got just as quickly destroyed was the announcement that Gamma World would be returning. For those that don't know, Gamma World came about back when D&D was owned by TSR. It was a wild and wacky game dealing with mutants and survivors in a post-apocalyptic setting. I first got into GW with the 3rd edition of the game back in college when I rolled up a mutant cactus gunslinger by the name of "Prickly Bill." GW was part Mad Max, part Island of Doctor Moreau, and part Thundarr the Barbarian. You had mutant raiders, survivors delving into ruins looking for lost technology on par with stuff seen in Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and so on. It was a lot of fun.

Anyway, it was discovered on Amazon that a new edition of GW (which was being called the 5th edition, but 5th edition of GW was the one made for the Alternity system, but I digress) was coming out in October. Great! Even if it's just GW draped over the D&D 4th Edition system, it could still work. I'd at least give it a look. Surely it couldn't be worse than the abortion of the D20 edition of GW that was put out by Sword and Sorcery Studios (6th Edition).

Yes. It can.

Info came out today stating that (in a Tweet by Dave Chalker of "Gamma World. Uses D&D rules. Complete game experience in box. 160 rulebook included. Rooted in d&d. Chargen, how to GM, monsters. 10 encounters, poster map, tokens. New card mechanics. Character will be mutant. "part cockroach, part yeti" In GW starter box, item cards and mutation cards that come up randomly. Some powerful, some silly. GW will have booster cards for players. GW booster packs will be random, only found in hobby stores (not bookstore) Will also have game day."

They are turning Gamma World into a damn collectible card game. What the hell? Why? I know there's overlap in the RPG and CCG markets, but the two arenas only shared themes and customers, not system components. That just took the elation of having new Gamma World to read and play and shot it in the head. I'm not even going to touch on the "Character will be mutant." or the cockroach/yeti stuff. This sounds like a product aimed not at both the old guard of GW fans and possible new players, but solely at the damn Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh crowd.

I understand that WotC wants to get a product out there that will keep people coming back to buy more and more and not just once a month, like usually happens with D&D, but at any time. I get that, I really do. After the 5th and 6th editions of GW that didn't even attempt to get what GW was all about, they go into uncharted water into an arena sure as hellfire to piss off the RPG crowd: collectible RPG's. Sure, we bought into the damn plastic crack that is the minis lines, but those weren't necessary game components (unless you played the actual minis games, that is). I could just as easily play without the minis as I could with them. This sounds like if you want the really cool mutations, and that's all that GW was about: mutants (that was sarcasm, BTW), then you need to buy packs of power cards until you get that super uber L33T chromium Duality card! Bullshit.

I've avoided most of the collectible gaming hobby. I got into the minis because I wanted cheap (relatively) figures that I didn't have to spend a lot of time on assembling, priming, and painting when all I want to do is play. I wasn't after every rare or very rare figure, just something that accurately and adequately portrayed the characters and monsters that I fielded on the game table. I never got sucked into Magic: The Gathering or World of Warcraft (the care game at least) or Pokemon, or any of the other myriad of CCG's on the market, and I'm sure as shit am not getting sucked into it to play GW. I'll stick to the excellent Mutant Future rules instead.

To top it off I fear this is the kind of thing they wanted to do with D&D 4E. Now they're digging up the corpse of Gamma World and creating a monster to test the water. I don't wish any of the designers as WotC any ill will, and I hope this hybrid of RPG and CCG does well for them, but I'm not getting in. My interest level is in the negative on this one. Count me the hell out.

There you have it. Other than the occasional pack of minis, WotC has in the span of literally hours ensured that they won't be getting anymore of my money. While I still kinda like 4E, I'm burned out on it (more on that later), and haven't picked up anything since the Eberron Player's Guide. Star Wars and the odd minis pack was what was keeping me a WotC customer, but no more Star Wars, minis that aren't nearly as good as they were a couple years ago, and now this news about a Gamma World that once again doesn't even try to get it are forcing me out.

Adios, Wizards, at least you're saving me money.


Brutorz Bill said...

I tried 4E, but it just didn't "feel" like D&D to me. I've fully embraced MF and other OSR games and am having a ball.

Giles said...

I'm still batting around some ideas for randomizing 4E because it is a fun game, just not one I can see playing anything more than an occasional pick-up dungeon in.

Mutant Future has hooked me big time. While I like what I see from Labyrinth Lord, it's still a clone of D&D which includes all the stuff I disliked mechanically about pre-3E D&D. Dungeonslayers get me down to an easy to play game like older editions, but with rules that don't annoy me as much. I'm also going to give Microlite a try as well.

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