Episode 90: The Best Sort Of Disease

This month, Roger and Mike look back on Man to Man and consider disease when applied to other people.

We mentioned Designers and Dragons at the Bundle of Holding until 15 June, Steve Jackson’s Designer’s Notes for Man to Man, Torg, Reign, Apocalypse World, Harnmaster, Cyberpunk 2020, The Laundry Files RPG, Disadvantage of the Week threads, The Kraken Wakes, Survivors, and Left 4 Dead.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.


I’ve not read those designer’s notes for a few years (although I do still have that issue of Space Gamer - and Man to Man as well). Loved articles like that, explaining the thinking behind the design choices. And all that Denis Loubet and Kyle Miller art!

He’s still right about hex maps :grin:

I’d not read them before, and was interested to do so now. One design decision in particular struck me as fateful:

Character creation in GURPS has become so daunting that I am not alone in considering it a considerable obstacle to the use of the game. This was a desideratum!

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I’d love to know how people’s expected campaign length (and indeed expected character lifetime) have changed over time. I don’t mind spending an hour working on a character for a long game, but I don’t really want to do it for just two sessions.

Stack with that a general trend towards lower numerical complexity in RPGs (though as I recently said elsewhere I don’t think it’s lower complexity in general, it’s just that the complexity has moved away from modelling measurable things in the real world so you can’t check it).

Stack with that a huge mass of options that the novice GM doesn’t necessarily know how to cut down (which is why I say that the best introduction to GURPS is one of the genre-specific series like Action or Dungeon Fantasy).

Whenever I generate a character, unless it’s explicitly for a one-shot, I want them to be capable of being played indefinitely. I suspect I am violently atypical in this respect.

In practice, campaigns end because the story has reached its end, because players and/or GM have had enough, or because we lose a vital player, but none of those events can be precisely anticipated.

This idea is certainly one of the things that makes me more tolerant of the work that GURPS character generation takes.

When I was first playing in the early 1980s, the general feeling was that there would be “Roger’s game”, in which player characters and indeed players would come and go, but the campaign itself would be expected to last more or less forever. (Not necessarily with any kind of overarching plot.)

I have found that I enjoy setting up campaigns more than I enjoy running them, which pushes me towards shorter ones.

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How long as your WWII game lasted? I assume it’s the outlier, but how long do your “short” campaigns last?

In my experience, campaigns tend to end either organically by reaching point where the story has a natural stopping point or inorganically where factors related to the players themselves.(scheduling, personal, burnout, …) brings the game to a close.

Whartson Hall often plays just one adventure, then someone else runs something, and eventually we come back to it. (We’re all GMs in that group, which I think helps.)

I find I typically start burning out on a setting after about 10-12 sessions. The more of it I have to invent from scratch, rather than being able to build off something pre-existing, the harder work it is.

That seems like a good length for a campaign.

To make a parallel with television series, sometimes it is better to have a shorter, contained British-style series than a long, “milk it 'till it’s dead” American-style series.

If I’ve taken a rest, even if it’s running other things, I’m often happy to revisit a setting/campaign. Though the form I keep saying I want to try borrowing is the telenovela, which is explicitly a single self-contained story with a set length (and indeed may be completely filmed before a single episode is broadcast) rather than being indefinitely extensible the way most US and UK series are.