Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Gaean Reach

Robin Laws, talented games designer though he may be, is the Doctor Frankenstein of game design. Stitching elements of traditional gaming and story games together into a resulting rules system that seems to please enough people to make it worthwhile continuing to produce them but not enough to have people praise them.

The Gaean Reach is on the surface is a game I could love: classic sci-fi pulp with a story of revenge; a motley crew of the wronged lining up against a powerful interstellar villain, the head of a powerful criminal organisation. It's basically Guardians of the Galaxy.

However it is also a revivification of Laws early games Dying Earth and Gumshoe; incredibly retaining some of the worst parts of both systems in a worst of both worlds combination.

It has Gumshoe's split-skill system and the dual-mode of game operation, it has Dying Earth's random taglines and character package generation. It has you-go, i-go combat and it has a GM who creates scenarios that have fixed plots that the party traverse.

If this game has appeared a few years earlier I would perhaps of been more willing to forgive its weird foibles and tried to make it work. But we live in a post-Vast and Starlit (and even Rogue Trader) world now and we don't have to put up with poorly thought through implementations of the sci-fi revenge story and thirty-plus pages of rules.

The Gaean Reach has inspired me to perhaps try one of Vance's books in the series but not to play the game.

The Gaean Reach has many rules but fails to encode the fiction it is trying to create into its rules system and therefore fails as a story games. As a conventional RPG I think that the current Gumshoe system is just too broken to be fun any more. I would have been more interested in drafting in the Dying Earth resolution mechanism here, or perhaps just fully committing to Gumshoe's pool-management system completely.