The #RPGaDAY writing prompt for day number four is Most Surprising Game.

There’s a few ways to take that, but I’m going with the game that really made me realize that something else was going on, something that was so eye-opening it changed how I run games from that moment on.

EDN6010That game is Eden Studio’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Before I get to the what in the game that really shook up how I approach games, I’d like to take an aside and mention how Buffy is the shining perfection of what licensed role-playing games aspire to be, because it is. The voice used in the book fits perfectly with the IP the game is based on, and I’m saying this as someone who worked on the Firefly RPG. ((With all of the -ing words dropping the g’s, Firefly is almost perfect, but Buffy was there first and really nails it across the book and all supplements.)) The tone, the graphics, the ads in the back of the book for non-RPG yet Buffy-related things? It is the finest marriage of license to product I’ve seen in role-playing games.

But to what really got me about Buffy was how the system worked for the GM. In Buffy, the GM doesn’t need to roll dice at all.

Wait, wait. That’s not it.

Shadowrun_Fourth_Edition_000001Here: I was coming over to it from Shadowrun, which is a huge mess of a game system. Just look at the fourth edition character sheets from the FanPro edition. Here, here, see? The attributes: there’s eight over here, broken up into four physical and four mental, some special attributes that you might have three or four of, and some other things that they just shoved in there to have a nice little four by four grid. Creating an NPC is awful: do those first eight attributes, adjust for race, derive some other attributes which would change by how much cyberwear one has and if they’re magically awakened or technologically awakened, then derive some more stuff and then oh god the skill list. Oh god.

This is only page one of four that the players at the table are filling out.

So here I am, like a chump, creating NPCs with the same skills and attributes that the player characters have and I’m reading Buffy. And Buffy’s white hat protagonists have two dozen skills and a handful of stats and a few signature moves and all this detail, detail, detail that characters in role-playing games have.

And the NPCs only have three stats.

I’m looking at an abbreviated statblock, I think. No. That’s it. There’s a handful of stats, but there’s only three in Buffy that you use: Muscle, Combat, and Brains. That’s it? That’s it.

And that’s when I realized something. Something nobody ever told me.

I didn’t have to be playing the same game the players were.

Back to Shadowrun with the 13, 14, 15 attributes. Back to the list of skills and specializions. Back to the gear and race modifiers. The players can have that. All I need for the NPCs were Muscle, Move, Brains, and Cool. That Troll ganger? Muscle of 9 dice. Is he doing something he should know how to do? +3 dice more. They’re playing Shadowrun. Me? I’m playing Ghostbusters.


Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: one of the key games that changed my gaming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.