Monday, March 5, 2012

Tale of Two Games

It has been a busy week.

So busy that I have not had the chance to game (and next weekend is not looking good for that either).  I had a lot of things planned to talk about, to do.  Just none of those happened.

But one thing I do want to talk about, two games I just picked up. And really they could not be more different.

Adventurer Conqueror King System and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying


Let me talk about why they are similar first.
Both are highly praised games that have been well received by players and designers.
Both owe something of their popular due to the legacy of games produced by TSR in the 80s.
Both, now during the GMs sale, are under $10.   So for a Hamilton, you can get a new game.
I was eagerly waiting for both. Was slightly disappointed when I finally got them (expected more from one,

But there the similarities end.

Designwise, Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) has defined beginning, middle and end.  Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR) is open ended. In deed things on character sheet (Milestone) change as the game goes on. In the case of milestones, something that gave you experience last year, might not this year.

Greg, my friend and GM for myself and one of the games my kids play in described MHR as the "Antithesis" of the OSR, whereas ACKS is a synthesis of all the OSR embraces.

Character design in ACKS is straight-forward, roll your dice assign (in order) your scores.  Then see what you are going to be?  Rolled high in Strength? Congrats you are a fighter!  But don't worry about much else, in fact roll up four more characters, you might need them.

Character design in MHR starts with a concept, and a fairly well articulated concept at that.  Who is your hero, what does he do? How does he work in teams or with a partner? What are his goals, his issues?  Once you have that THEN you assign values to them, but in truth these values can be about anything.  It doesn't matter to MHR that the Hulk and Thor are both strong, we don't even need numbers for that.  If the hulk wants to pick up a tank and hit you with it, he does.  What matters instead is what motivates the Hulk to do that.  How does he perform in a group.  What are the things that are important to his story.

Character design then are two very different things in both games.  Given that overlap one could stat up the Howard version of Conan (from the books) and the Marvel Comics version of Conan, but come at it from completely different mindsets.   In ACKS we would be interested in his level (depending on when we read the tale), his strength and prowess with a blade.  When the Player's Companion comes out we might even be better able to mimic him.  In MHR we are interested in his ability to work in a team, partnership or solo.  We would also be interested in who his enemies are, what his goals are.   How close is he to regaining his throne? His loves?

On a personal note. It took Greg and I a couple of hours to detail Justice and Zatanna in MHR.  Earlier in the day he, my son and 4 other 12 year olds rolled up 5 characters each for ACKS.

ACKS is a D&D clone that attempts to mimic the great stories of the pulp age.  Conan rose to power from humble beginnings. As did John Carter and the Grey Mouser.

MHR is social game that attempts to mimic comic books, not supers games.  Comic book writers don't keep track of such things as how much can the Hulk or Spidey can bench press, only that they are as strong as they need to be for a particular scene.  MHR is the same way.  Can Spidey lift 1 Ton?  No idea, can he lift enough to save Mary Jane?  That is a more important question.

ACKS will run like any number of D&D games, but maybe a little grittier, a little more deadly.
MHR will run like any number of supers games, but while you might not ever die in this game, you can loose everything important to you.  Which is sometimes worse.

I guess there is one other area where the games are the same.
Both are great fun.

It took me a bit to see the value of each game.
After all I have tons of D&D clones and Supers games.  In the end it is not about what these games do that is the same as their "cousins", but rather what they do that is different.

ACKS is about the Short Game, or rather the game that is like a story with a beginning, middle and end.
MHR is about your hero and their story, their struggles and stress.  What makes them get up and keep fighting.  To me it is no wonder that the unofficial mascot of MHR is Captain America.  In fact I think I "get " Cap a little bit better now thanks to this game.

I normally would put a "Which Game Should I Buy" section here, but I won't.   I think you know already which one is right for you.  I say that you take the time to look at the other game too.

Please expect more detail on each game in the next week.

1 comment:

Tavis said...

We must be in some kind of post-OSR period of synthesis, because the design brief for ACKS was basically "try to do everything we've been reading and posting about at The Mule Abides" but we're all also tentatively but enthusiastically excited about Marvel. Posts about Marvel have gotten as much buzz as polemics like "the OSR has won, now what?" which are normally the most-read. I love the Next goal to unite the editions, but could be they waited too long and are too focused on Paizo; if the story-games crowd and the OSR unite instead that could be a really interesting three-way race.