Games you won't play

Doug McCrae

On the D&D <> superheroes issue:

High level D&D PCs are indistinguishable from superheroes in a fantasy setting. Old school Gygaxian PCs were amoral looters but otoh there was a period in comics, the Iron Age, when superheroes weren't nice people either.

The only potential difference is, how did they acquire their power? Darrin is right that there seems to be something distinctive about the way a D&D character has slowly clawed his way up from first level, battling for every magic item and xp point. By contrast, superheroes like Superman, Spider-Man, the Flash and the Fantastic Four gained their powers without effort (though not always without suffering, which appeases our sense of karmic balance). Superheroes certainly fight a lot but that's not where they get their powers, unless they're Sylar.

However there are many superheroes who had to train or work hard for their powers. Iron Man didn't come into existence suddenly, the suit had to be built, and prior to that Tony Stark had to study. Although the X-Men's mutant powers are natural, they are portrayed as having to constantly train in the danger room to master them. There are many superheroes who are just normal people who trained hard and have a few gadgets like Batman, Nightwing, Green Arrow, Hawkeye and Wildcat. Captain America is more than just supersoldier serum and shield, his experience and leadership skills are far more important. Then there are the wizards such as Dr. Strange and Zatanna who would fit right into a D&D universe.

A D&D PC hasn't necessarily had to struggle for his power either, it might be a Monty Haul game where vorpal swords are guarded by goblins or one with a lot of randomness where pulling magic levers or drawing from a Deck of Many Things can grant levels. Sure, most of the deck results are bad but the characters that lucked out are analogous to a 60s superhero, gaining superpowers from radiation, instead of dying from leukaemia. Many D&D games start at higher than level 1 so there isn't such a sense of having worked for one's power. There have always been non-human PCs with innate magic powers. In the early days of D&D, players ran each side wargame style, so there were balrog and vampire PCs. TSR had a supplement for playing a dragon, Council of Wyrms. In 3e it's straightforward to play an LA race such as a nymph or half-demon using the core rules, and there's also the Savage Species option, allowing characters with superhero-y powers such as permanent flight from first level. I played an air elemental who could do just that in a recent game, he felt quite like a superhero.

I get a strong X-Men vibe from the sorcerer, born with a gift, who then builds on it with training. Same with psionics. In fact one 3e XPH class, the soulknife, is a straight ripoff of the X-Man, Psylocke.

In conclusion, while many D&D PCs do have to struggle for their power, and most superheroes don't, there's a lot who are just the opposite, D&D characters who lucked out and superheroes who worked hard.
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First Post
The only game I'd positively, never ever play short of some really extreme circumstances:

Grey Ranks - A game where you play as child soldiers during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It's a system that basically models childhood innocence being destroyed by war. I find that obscene, and the fact some people gleefully jump into that sort of RP disturbing. (I'm Polish, so quite apart from that I find it somewhat offensive and exploitative in other ways)

Other games I'd "never" play (unless really bored, or my friends talked me into it, or the GM was really good, or someone bribed me with beer, etc.):

Iron Empires: The design is a complete straight-jacket designed to force you to play the game in one particular way. Down to what the over-arching story of every campaign is going to be and how many skill rolls you're allowed per session. It's meant to put role-playing and "collaborative storytelling" above everything, and yet I've never played an RPG in which I felt less free to act on what I wanted.

Traveller: Holds the dubious honor of having the worst-written rules of any RPG I've actually tried reading. Maybe that means I just don't get out enough, or something (though I am, for example, an experienced Shadowrun 3E player) but I gave up on it in disgust.

D&D 4E: While not terrible per se, playing would be a constant source of irritation because everything would be a reminder that I'd rather be playing 3E/3.5.

Call of Cthulu: I'm miserable and depressed enough as it is without dabbling in hopeless struggle for fun, thanks. :)

Wulf Ratbane

[Threadjack]Out of curiosity, would you feel that way about other wargames based on real conflicts? Is there a level of abstraction or time difference from the war you think you'd be comfortable with?

I was wondering because I don't believe I've ever heard anyone refer to a wargame as ghoulish. I think I can understand why.[/threadjack]

I think you probably understand why.

Yes, level of abstraction makes a difference; yes, temporal distance from the conflict makes a difference; and yes, the details of the conflict makes a difference.

All of that said, I really love wargames-- but I prefer them to keep a bit more distance from real world context. Risk is ok; Warhammer is ok.

I could not sit down to enjoy Axis and Allies if I were forced to play the Axis; nor would I particularly enjoy playing the game against anyone who wasn't similarly resistant to playing the Axis.

I just don't consider it light-hearted fare.

I'm sure if I thought about it long enough I'd find myself compromising those values from time to time-- but not in the specific case of Axis and Allies. It's top of mind and not something I would "accidentally" be drawn into.

EDIT: Part of it for me is that I enjoy putting myself forward as the protagonist when I play wargames-- even if I am nominally playing the "bad guys." I can happily sit behind my Tyranid or Ork army and ponder the extinction of an entire planetary system. It should be obvious how that differs from Axis & Allies.
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First Post
I was wondering because I don't believe I've ever heard anyone refer to a wargame as ghoulish.
It crops up as an issue every so often in the cardboard chit wargamer community. Particularly when someone makes a game based on a conflict that isn't actually over, like the current occupation of Iraq.


First Post
Is there a game, genre, setting, or character type that you will not play, at all? Is there a deal breaker game element (like the previously mentioned) that will make you consider walking away from the table if the DM was absolutely intent on playing it? (I am not talking about a DM/personal characteristic.)
Oh heavens - tons and tons and tons. I'd say 90%+ of what's out there I couldn't be bothered playing. If it's not 3.x, it's already on shaky ground.

I'd certainly never play 4e again, and probably not 2e or earlier, either. L5R, GURPS, anything Palladium, anything diceless, etc etc. And LARPing is right out. There are loads of genres and settings I'm totally not interested in either, including westerns, any supers, most modern/present day settings, and horror (which I don't believe can be sustained for any length of time; certainly not for a campaign). And the list goes on.


First Post
There's really not much I wouldn't be willing to try out with a good GM and group, other than games with incomprehensible rules or highly offensive settings.

That said, there are some games that I would generally try to avoid:
Anything Palladium (I played in one RIFTS campaign that was fun and a decent one shot, but that was despite the system, which is terrible)
GURPS (I've looked it over, love the fluff, not a fan of the rules system)
Pre-4E D&D other than for nostalgia (I like 4E more than the others, and see any of them as a step backward)
"Normal" Modern settings (I'm not a fan of playing modern games in general, and games with nothing special involved don't catch my interest)
"Normal" Post-Apocalyptic settings (I'm not a fan of the genre in general, but post-apocalyptic settings with something special added (magic, zombies, etc.) can be interesting)


Superheroes assumes a mundane world that exists alongside the heroic world where the only way to have powers is to be born to them (or get bit by a special radioactive gecko, or get accidentally bombarded by Doofus rays, or what have you). In other words, a normal person generally won't stand a chance of becoming one unless the GM is engaging in some necessary deux ex machina, or stand a chance against them. To me, this demeans the relevancy of ordinary humans.

Umm, Batman? Green Arrow? Bucky Barnes? Iron Man? Any guy in power armor? Several thousand Green Lanterns (normal folks with strong wills granted great power by celestial entities -- almost like clerics with rings as holy symbols)? Shang-Chi, master of kung fu? Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Elektra, White Tiger, Tarantula, Arsenal, Robin, Nightwing, The Question, Batgirl, Oracle, Batwoman, Spoiler, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Booster Gold (his power is in his gear, much like an 18th level fighter), Wildcat, Catwoman, Richard Dragon, Dr. Strange, Traci 13, Wiccan, Travis Morgan (the Warlord), Manhunter (Kate Spencer and Mark Shaw, at least), Bronze Tiger, Rick Flag, Katana, etc.

There's lots and lots of superheroes with no more "special powers" than a wizard, cleric, druid, rogue, or fighter. They're just men and women with talent, lots of training, and tons of will and dedication, much like Conan & the like. Oh, and they occasionally have special equipment -- like Elric, or any D&D character past low levels.


First Post
Never again.

Jürgen, I like this attitude -- not about the specific game, one way or another, but because it shows you didn't judge the system until you had played in it. :)

Now I am not overly fond of GURPS (the system never seems to get out of the way of the game), but I have played in one truly fine GURPS campaign. I am not excited about post-apocalyptic games (rocks fall, everyone dies), but I was in one at least acceptable version of Morrow Project. I am not fond of Western rpgs, but I was in one homebrew where it turned out well. I'm not wild about superhero games, but I was in a great Golden Heroes game.

What was it that made these games good? A wonderful GM and a great group of players.

So, I am still waiting to find a strongly-tactical game that brings me in (hasn't happened yet, but may yet); I cannot see myself playing a vampire, but a good GM might turn me around; I have a hard time with "all that and a bowl of grits" settings (modern arms and fantasy creatures and battle suits, and, and, and...), but with the right attitude and right group, even this might work well.

Above all, I am not wedded to any specific system -- I have little to no system loyalty. I want the system to match the setting, rather than forcing a setting to conform to the system.

So I am open to a lot of systems -- I'll wait to see what comes out next. :)

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