There’s an idea that every game, every module, every edge-case, maybe it’s only kinda game related piece of media might contain that perfect campaign seed. They all could have that germ of an idea that brings Tuesday Night’s Game from event to Event, headlining geek social calendars the world over. It’s not an incorrect idea, but it is wrongheaded. In its worst form, it leads to looking at every external stimulus as only gaming fodder. At best, it leads to Game Hoarding. You know, when you buy systems with the plan of “Maybe I will run this”; or “I love this setting, but I need to convert it to Rifts first…”; or “It’s a great deal, I’ll make some time to go through these 25 PDFs later…”, and none of that actually happens. Dusty games on the shelf, unopened PDFs abandoned in a Dropbox folder.
Of course, knowing this and being immune to its effects are two very different things. There’s no shame in my games; here are the 3 systems I own the most material for but have never used in play, either for ideas or actually running the system.
3 – Jovian Chronicles
Heavy Gear was the second Stompy Robot game I played, and I was taken in by the detail of the world building, the fast-based action, the dynamic art style, and how easy it was to play and GM with the Second Edtion Silhouette system. This is before the switch to the unified SilCore book came out, so maybe 2002? I’ll cover that in a Personal RPG History at some point.
Through Heavy Gear, I was exposed to the other Dream Pod 9 properties, namely Jovian Chronicles, which was originally written for the Mekton Zeta system from R Talsorian. The premise is “Gundam, only more so”. Mecha combat in space with a hardish SF feel? Right up my alley. Of course, I didn’t get around to playing Jovian Chronicles, but back then it was still on a someday/maybe list.
Fast Forward to a few months ago, and Bundle of Holding (oh, you’ll see that name come up a lot in this article) is offering a massive collection. Why wouldn’t I buy that? I was currently on a harder scifi kick, what with the Expanse firing my imagination and all, and I thought Jovian Chronicles would be perfect for that! It wasn’t until after I purchased the two collections that I realized a few things:
- I just finished a Traveller campaign, and was going to take a break from scifi games for a bit;
- I was also taking a break from GMing;
- My group wasn’t interested in near-future, Solar System only settings;
- Not only was in using SilCore, which was just different enough from what I remembered of the Silhouette rules, but I had grossly misremembered just how complex Silhouette could get in ground combat. JC was space combat, with Newtonian mechanics and little greebles I love to think about but not actually use.
I did page through the Art Books, because they are gorgeous. But using those awesome bits elsewhere require having nearly the same setting themes and technological background. There’s no artifical gravity or hyperdrives, and thrust is under 1g in most cases. It takes a long time to get somewhere. It’s not set up for the usual Tramp Freighter campaign. Since I’m not going to play Mobile Suit Gundam: Azure Götzen-Dämmerung any time soon, it sits in a folder.
2 – Traveller: The New Era
OK, this was a Bundle of Holding impulse purchase, as Traveller is by far my favorite science fiction RPG of all time. And I’m saying Traveller in there as I play multiple editions; I have a copy of the Traveller Book that I’ve used, the LBB version of the game from 1977, and both Mongoose editions. Hell, I’ve even got some Cepheus Engine material that I’ve used in the last campaign I ran. It’s a combination of the old-school, “Imperial Scifi” feel of the game and the rich depth of the Third Imperium and Spinward Marches that keep bringing back to the game. So this should have been a no-brainer, at least use the material for a different edition slam dunk, right?
Well, first of all, the files and file names were a complete mess. Due to the quality of the scans I was getting notifications throughout the week that new files were available for me, making it hard to keep track of which of the 18 files I needed to update or if the quality somehow had gotten worse in the update. Second, the actual layout of the books made it unpleasant to start idea-harvesting. I mean, Vampire Fleets sounds amazing! I just wish I could get any enthusiasm into opening the file.
Apparently the New Era wasn’t super popular with Traveller players at the time of its release, both for fragmenting the Third Imperium and changing the rule system so drastically. In my case, I wasn’t interested in the time jump or the “new normal” of the Reformation Coalition, and the rules I was going to skip anyway. The part of the system that gets rave reviews, Fire, Fusion and Steel, the design book, wasn’t part of the bundle, and I usually don’t tinker with designs in Traveller. Another bust.
1 – 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
I know, right? I thought for sure it would be Dragon Age (I love Fantasy AGE, but you know, Bundle of Holding and all…), but in counting I have more PDF (3rd party such as Adventures in Middle-Earth) and hard copy (all but Yawning Portal and Tome of Foes) 5th Edition that any other RPG in my collection. Not just “more than any other unused game” just flat out “more than any other game“. It’s impressively sad.
I started collecting 5E when it first came out, hoping to switch my then-current group from Pathfinder. As it turns out, it’s easier to flip a group if you are either the current Game Master, have a killer idea for a campaign, or both. Thus, I kept adding 5E books to my collection, picking a few bundles up via Humble Bundle (at least it’s different!), and someday/maybe dreaming.
But! All isn’t a sad story. I’m actually in a new 5E campaign. I don’t think I’ll work in any Jovian Chronicles or Traveller TNE, but it’ll feel good to bump one game off this list of sadness.
Do you have a system that’s a percentage of your collection that just hasn’t seen any play or fertile idea mining? Let me know in the comments below!