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Products That Overwhelmed You

Retreater

Legend
Recently I got Chaosium's "Horror on the Orient Express" two volume campaign adventure for Call of Cthulhu. Paging through these two massive hardcovers totaling 700 pages, I am looking at NPCs, background history, plot intricacies, etc. I think "maybe I'm not smart enough to run this."

This got me thinking about other products I've purchased, including the original edition of Ptolus (seeing that the 5e revision Kickstarter recently funded.) It was so involved, so difficult to run, that I've been hesitant to run another urban campaign for the past 15 years or so.

In general, I have yet to encounter a campaign setting that doesn't completely overwhelm me - the one that was the closest to manageable was the Ravenloft Campaign Setting, because each location was presented in an unrelated, demiplane.

For campaigns, I'd say "Orient Express" is probably the most overwhelming I've seen - more than Masks of Nyarlahotep or any of the 5e campaign adventures. (Taken as a whole, maybe the Pathfinder Adventure Paths would be as overwhelming, but since they're published individually, they don't seem as daunting.)

What do you think? Have you ever been overwhelmed like this?
 

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Dragon Mountain for 2nd edition. It was the first "mega" adventure I bought (I had been playing since early 1st using homebrew and the various 32 page adventures). I got it and looked at all the maps and tried to read the adventure. I remember being disappointed because I just didn't know what to do with it all.

So, yes, I have been overwhelmed like that. Because while that was the first time, it was not the last.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Phoenix Command.

Then I was like, hey, maybe let's give it another shot. I know this game is based on Phoenix Command, but boy, that graphic on the box looks really cool!

Living Steel, contrary to my hopes, was not "really cool." Or I should say that it hid the coolness behind a realistic combat system that I lacked the time and the inclination to run.
 



Dragon Mountain for 2nd edition. It was the first "mega" adventure I bought (I had been playing since early 1st using homebrew and the various 32 page adventures). I got it and looked at all the maps and tried to read the adventure. I remember being disappointed because I just didn't know what to do with it all.

So, yes, I have been overwhelmed like that. Because while that was the first time, it was not the last.
Interesting, Dragon Mountain whelmed me just about the right amount when I got it, but I had been running D&D for like 5-6 years by then. It was about exactly what I was looking for.

AD&D 2E was technically the first that overwhelmed me. I was 10 when I got it, and had only heard about RPGs and D&D from other people. Luckily, as if summoned, a never-seen-before 20-something second-cousin of mine suddenly appeared in my house, and she proceeded to meticulously explain D&D and how to write adventures and be a good DM to me, ran a cool adventure for us, and then left, leaving some amazing notes how to do stuff. She also explained that we needed the Monstrous Compendium, which we hadn't managed to work out!

Ignoring that, Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth would be the first that overwhelmed me after my introduction to RPGs, if anyone remembers that system. It was a ridiculous 500+ game where you generated by the mythology of the world, and characters, but also at the same time, Aria Worlds, which was technically a supplement (and another 304 pages) came out, which let you create the world that the mythology and characters existed in. I got both, and good freaking god, I was completely out-of-my-depth, despite trying to understand it all and get it all working. Even looking at some of the paragraphs now, it's like "What the hell is this?!

Like:

"If a persona is within the range of a particular reputation, the persona might be recognized. If he is recognized any interaction or reactions will be colored by the persona's Renown. When in an area where such recognition is possible, a Recognition Trial may be required when the persona interacts with strangers. This Trial is slightly different from most Trials; its Base is Half of the observer's Intelligence, and its Rank is equal to the Renown Value of the Trial's object. The Mythguide should apply any additional difficulty modifiers that he deems appropriate."

And that's one of the clearer bits. There's paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of this sort of thing. Can you work it out? Sure. Is it worth working out? Absolutely not. There are zillions of traits and systems and so on. And that's the game. Creating a world and myth was absolutely no joke either. Or a huge joke depending on how you look at it. Certainly it could take you a staggering amount of time.

Today I can really see how much of a disaster of RPG design the RPG bit of it was, but at the time I sort of wondered if I was just dumb.
 

Undrave

Hero
Not as a GM (though trying to wrap up my Cartoon Action Hour game with only 1 player who seemed to even care about was a pain in the butt) but as a player... the equipment tables in Shadowrun. WHY isn't there some standard packages available?! Buying drones was annoying as all heck!

AD&D 2E was technically the first that overwhelmed me. I was 10 when I got it, and had only heard about RPGs and D&D from other people. Luckily, as if summoned, a never-seen-before 20-something second-cousin of mine suddenly appeared in my house, and she proceeded to meticulously explain D&D and how to write adventures and be a good DM to me, ran a cool adventure for us, and then left, leaving some amazing notes how to do stuff. She also explained that we needed the Monstrous Compendium, which we hadn't managed to work out!
You were visited by the D&D Fairy! :O
 

Voadam

Legend
Horror on the Orient Express was a big one where I thought, "That looks really cool! Its on sale! Woah now that I own it, it is a lot, maybe I will put it aside for now."

I played and DM'd a ton of Pathfinder 1e, the Occult book's new magic classes look cool thematically, but I have not done more than skim over the intro descriptions, despite them being free in the PDFSRD.

A lot of NWoD core books fall into this for me too. I've played a ton of Vampire the Masquerade and enjoyed Werewolf the Apocalypse and Mage the Ascension, these new ones seem neat without the metaplot. Wow they are high page count PDFs. Maybe I will get motivated to dive into specifics later.

Funny enough Ptolus was no problem. Probably because I had started off with the free Player's Guide and later used the big book to supplement.
 



Retreater

Legend
The latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy RPG. It was just too much. I thought about having to know the game well enough to run it, well enough to teach other people how to play it, and didn't even finish reading the book. Shame, as it's a gorgeous-looking one.
Yeah. That's a head scratcher for me too. On top of it, trying to get the Enemy Within Campaign to run well. Like I'm trying to present a mystery, full of intricate and complex motivated NPCs, across a lived-in campaign world, and I also have to understand all of these rules?

Again, maybe I'm not smart enough. I've been gaming for 40 years, run several games weekly, but I just can't do it? Maybe the problem is that I'm trying to do too much? Like if the only game I was trying to run was Warhammer Fantasy, with the single campaign of Enemy Within, putting all of my hobby time into doing it - I think "maybe" I could do it justice.

Same thing with Orient Express. But at least the rules of Call of Cthulhu aren't actively working against me.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
You're describing the exact issue I have with most adventures, notably the official 5E adventures. It's massive book with tons of NPCs and places. Most of the content is pretty flavourless and there's just too much of it. There's very little place to improvise without taking what's already there, replacing or removing it, and then adding your own.

For me, it's always more work to play an official adventure.
 



darjr

I crit!
GURPS 4th edition. I kept feeling like I needed to know it better and read the core books, as one can, but I never could make it through them. Also I was at a VERY busy time in my life and there were really no adventures I could just run and the prospect of creating GURPS content or printing other content was also competing for that dwindling free time. Eventually I just gave up.
 

payn

Hero
I saw the Anima RPG books for clearance discount at FFG. I picked them up thinking maybe some day. Pretty complex looking mechanics that im sure go easy once you grok it, but man it looked like a lot to grok.
 

MGibster

Legend
Enforcers was a superhero game set in the future that was released in 1987. I swear I can remember something on the back of the book proclaiming that it was mathematically easy but you had to use various formulas to create your character. I remember having to calculate status by coming up with square roots before I just decided to hell with it and tossed the game aside. There were instructions for how to create your character using a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

Blue Planet 2nd edition isn't overwhelming because of the setting or the rules. It's overwhelming because the authors' didn't give the GM or players good suggestions for what kind of campaign they could run. And there's so many good ideas for campaigns that it was difficult trying to figure out what to do. The only campaign I ever planned for Blue Planet fell part because of an obstinate player.
 

R_J_K75

Hero
Empires of the Shining Sea from 1998 was pretty unusable just for the simple fact that the culture and caste was so different from anywhere else in the Realms. The Calimshan portion of the book was well written and extremely detailed but trying to convey that to the players as a DM seemed an exercise in futility. Theres no way to explain all nuances of its society to a player wanted to play a character from the area and any outsider were pretty much doomed from the start. I ran one adventure in Calimshan and it lasted maybe 30 minutes before the players were executed. To a lesser degree Amn was somewhat the same as the culture was although different and interesting just didnt lend itself to running a campaign in the area.
 

I've seldom been overwhelmed by mechanics. I've oft been overwhelmed by settings.
The games the mechanics left me going "Huh?" were
  • Chivalry & Sorcery 1E (too many pages of way too small optically typeset rules. And they were pretty rigid and table driven.)
  • Rolemaster and Spacemaster. Not overwhelming due to complexity, but due to WAY too many optional rules in the core. A 3 page checklist, 2 col. Core mechanics simple and flexible. Understanding how the various options will affect the game is problematic.
  • Space Opera. Simply put, I never understood why Phil and Ed would make this bastard hybrid of trek, Traveller, and a variety of other sci-fi sources so annoyingly complex. I've run a couple one-shots. Ship combat feels like Trek. Everything else feels like CT on PCP.
  • Skyrealms of Jorune. Just too bleeding odd.
  • Mechanical Dream: the edition I have has a totally lousy English translation; I found it hinting at something cool, but just out of my ability to extract the original ideas from the English version of the Quebecois original. And while I know one French-Canadian Ex-pat, she's not a gamer...
More common is the "I don't think this is fun" reaction... usually I can see why some would like it... but not always.
 

Arilyn

Hero
Yes, the tiny tiny print of C&S. That was fun to try and read! C&S was actually the first game I ran, but the second edition boxed set.

Tried Jorune, but yes, it was odd. Still have it kicking around, but haven't looked at in years!
 

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