I've never played the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Game. How does it work? It is exclusively a board game or is it also a paper and pencil game? I watch the show (still) and I thought maybe I could get into it. Let me know. Thanks.
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One thing I know about the BtVS game by Eden is that it uses a variant of the Unisystem that was created for WitchCraft (I'm still looking for a group...).
The cold reality of the gaming hobby is such that if you want to play *anything* other than D&D you can't be passive. It is highly improbable that one will ever *find* a game that isn't D&D - or at least a wolf in D&D's clothing.
If you want to play Witchcraft or CoC or Traveller or The Burning Wheel or... well, you get the point... you will will have to do it yourself.
That would be a great topic for a thread... Gamer Networking 101. As everyone knows gamers are a crafty breed with a very long Flight Distance ;-).
*Insert Disclaimer Here* Before D&D fans start flaming me you should know I'm just jelous. If you want to find a D&D game... 1) walk outside and pick up a pebble... 2) throw the pebble as hard as you can in any direction... 3) walk to the pebble and speak loudly "does anyone here want to play D&D?"... 4) Start gaming... end of lesson.
Just to clarify: the board game and the RPG are two entirely different games.
I've played the RPG a lot, and quite enjoyed it. The system is relatively easy to grasp, character generation is medium-easy, and the frame of each play session being a television episode puts everyone on the same wavelength in terms of the flow of events and tension.
The Drama Point mechanic does some wonderful things when used to its full potential. It rewards the Cast for playing the game in an authentically Buffyesque heroic-horror-drama-comedy-Buffyspeak kind of way by giving them some of the authority over the fiction that would otherwise be exclusively in the Director's hands.
The system for character development works smoothly at first, then starts to break after extended play. Characters advance too quickly, so that after a couple of 22 episode seasons, we found ourselves looking for a different system that could better emulate the growth of their power and skill. So I recommend the game for anything from one-shot to medium-length campaign play.
A lot depends on where you live, and whether or not you play internet games. There are Witchcraft games out there (I should know I run some of them), they just aren't that common (surprising considering how good the setting is).
As for reducing power creep in the Buffy Game, you could give slightly less experience (or less drama points so they have to burn some experience on buying more drama points) if you wanted to extend the longevity of a campaign. Then again I'm running a high experience Witchcraft game at the moment online (roughly 10 XP per session, twice what the book recommends), and while they are advancing quickly, they are far from god-like entities (even after 45 sessions, meaning they are 220-260 point characters now). I still manage to challenge them every session.
I'm putting the game on hiatus in a few weeks, and then I'll be starting up another online Unisystem game on the same day, just haven't decided what kind yet. I'm tossing up Sci Fi (using some Sci Fi rules I put together), another albeit low-powered Witchcraft game or perhaps something else.
I've enjoyed Buffy as much as I've enjoyed Firefly, one of Joss Whedon's other masterpieces, and here's what I would say regarding any roleplaying game based on a Joss Whedon show like Buffy. You don't need the game world or a special mechanic...all you need is roleplaying.
The things that make Joss Whedon's two great shows aren't their settings, although the settings are great in and of themselves. The things that make them great are relationships and mundanity. The characters lives don't stop on account of adventure. The centerpiece of the Buffy world (and the Firefly world) is the relationship between the central characters...their humanity.
If you can't make the relationship between your heroes (and villains) complex and human, it won't matter how strong the Buffy game is. Even a perfect Buffy game would just seem like a die-rolling piece of fan fiction. You need to get to the spirit of the style of storytelling to produce the same sparks that attracted you to Buffy in the first place.
So, how do you do that?
Start by taking any game world and any system. It doesn't have to have to be anything in particular. Any genre will work, as Whedon has shown us by using a modern magical setting and a space western setting equally well.
Next, assemble a group of players and have them build their characters separately. Don't let them talk to each other about their characters or backgrounds, even for purposes of balancing the group. You can always scale threats to their abilities once the group is made.
Find out how old they want their characters to be at the time of the campaign. Now have them write backgrounds of their characters up to age 12 or so. Give them a small allotment of skill points to assign (depending on the mechanics of character building). Make them justify everything they add to their character. Give them a couple of quick scenarios and let their 12 year old characters play them out. If the game world has a particular history, you should know of any important events that are going on when they're children...the little differences are the most important. The quick scenarios should involve simple choices, but you can turn them into quick sessions if they look promising. These short sessions are a good point to introduce future allies, villains, contacts, or settings.
If, while looking at the characters your players already have as children, you want any of them to have a shared history, do a few short sessions with both of them together.
Next, advance them to age 16 and do the same thing.
Next, advance them to age 18 and do the same thing.
Continue until everyone is their proper age. If you have any that are VERY old, like Spike for example, increase the increment appropriately and do the same thing until they're the proper age (e.g., every five years or every ten years).
To begin your campaign, regardless of how many of them have shared history, put your players in a setting where people come together for the first time. Joss Whedon used a school and a spaceport, but any place like that would work. It could be a business, an agency, a military training camp or operational unit, a bar, a village, or anything you can think of. Their gathering could be the result of coincidence, e.g. the central characters in Dusk Till Dawn or Dawn of the Dead (who are all thrown together in a bad situation, some with more personal history than others). Alternatively, their gathering could be the result of something less random, like the hiring of the samurai in Seven Samurai, where they're all hired to travel to the peasants' village where the adventure takes place (again, some of them have shared history and others don't).
If you've done your setup work properly, you shouldn't have too hard a time with the adventure itself. All you have to do is make the relationships and mundane concerns of the characters just as important (if not MORE important) than the adventure itself. You need to be strict with the players about sharing their pasts...none of this "everyone read their backgrounds" crap. Also, don't let players slide by with long blocks of unaccounted for time. Occasionally (or better yet, frequently), make them roleplay it out. What do they do when they get bored? Award or dock them XP to get them to have in-character conversations.
You've really got to work this one hard. Make it second nature to them. If you have to, tell them you'll dock them experience if they don't have an in-character conversation about a topic of your designation before the end of a session. This can be something as simple as where to go for dinner or as complex as thoughts about a portentous event. The important thing is stressing that the conversations remain in character. You should end up with a lot of scenes like the scar competition on the boat in Jaws, or like the religion conversation between Conan and Subotai in Conan the Barbarian.
Also, task players with keeping secrets from each other. Make them keep parts of their background secret, and give them experience points for every adventure or session they go through without revealing their secret. You can even come up with secrets throughout the adventures and do the same thing. The important thing is to ensure that each character has a separate viewpoint and agenda from the group.
Don't be shy about taking time off from party adventures to let one or more characters run some individual sessions.
The last thing you need to do is ensure that there are non-combatants in your adventures. It should be a rare character that doesn't have a family or some sort of dependent (or even a guardian). These force characters to think and act differently, and reinforce the mundane and human elements that you need for this kind of game.
Everything beyond what I've told you so far is gravy. You should understand the key principles for running a Buffy style game now, and can transplant that storytelling style to any setting you wish. If you try this and have stories of successes or failures please post them.
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