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Author Topic: Why I Like Unknown Armies  (Read 1428 times)

RPGPundit

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« on: September 19, 2006, 02:51:32 PM »
I really dig Unknown Armies. This might seem strange since the game does border on pretentiousness and has some natural appeal to the Swine, but to me it doesn't actually go over the top into pretentiousness, and has something that most of the Swine games lack: substance.  To me the whole basis of UA is that magic is possible but only through obsession and a total disconnection from social and psychological normality. So just as in Call of Cthulhu (another great game of similar vein) the PCs have to constantly choose how much of their sanity they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of truth; in UA the choice is how much of your humanity and ability to function in society you are willing to sacrifice for the sake of power.  I'm also a real sucker for a well done conspiracy game, and UA is a conspiracy game with the twist that most of the so-called occultists are really just total poseurs and losers, while the real power players are groups that on the surface look nothing like what we in the normal world associate with the "occult".

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Mr. Analytical

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2006, 03:54:42 PM »
Here Here.  I adore Unknown Armies, if only because it's the only modern horror game out there.

One of the things I've noticed about the RPG scene is that genres generally don't progress.  For example, nobody seems to have told Talsorian that actually... the whole arcology and PVC boots style of cyberpunk imploded about 20 years ago.  In the mean time there have been dozens of great books written within the cyberpunk vignette but they are utterly ignored by most game publishers.

Similarly, the only modern sci-fi game out there is Transhuman Space.  Everything else is mired in the 70's.

Unknown Armies is modern horror and modern fantasy... it's Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman.


I think this is because most gamers are fueled by the same drives that makes people buy all of those dreadful fat fantasy novels... they really aren't interested in anything new.  They want the safe, they want the familiar and they want the bland.

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2006, 05:31:39 PM »
Quote from: Mr. Analytical
Here Here.  I adore Unknown Armies, if only because it's the only modern horror game out there.


Yar, matey, methinks ye have forgotten a few games there: not least of which be ye Call of Cthulhu, that game of ye squid-headed scourge of the briny deep; which can be played modern, in its regular format or as Delta Green.  There be quite a few others as well, by thunder!

Quote

One of the things I've noticed about the RPG scene is that genres generally don't progress.  For example, nobody seems to have told Talsorian that actually...


Yar, but that be because Mike Pondsmith be more daft rum mad than Missis Miggin's Husband!

Quote

Similarly, the only modern sci-fi game out there is Transhuman Space.  Everything else is mired in the 70's.


Yarrr, me thinks that be subjective as well. It depends on if ye view Transhumanism as a truely new phenomenon... and let me tell ye this, me bucko, Old Cap'n Pundit wages that in five or ten year Transhuman Space will seem as right silly as "sci fi" as how we view ye old books which predicted we'd all be riding in rocket-cars by now! Yar har!

Quote

I think this is because most gamers are fueled by the same drives that makes people buy all of those dreadful fat fantasy novels... they really aren't interested in anything new.  They want the safe, they want the familiar and they want the bland.


Avast, me laddie, I'll wager that be because ye Familiar be safe and tend to at least be mediocre; whereas ye so-called "cutting edge" often be nothing but bilge. Ye "cutting edge" only be good if it be done very well, which bless Neptune, Unknown Armies truely be, says I!

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Vellorian

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2006, 12:53:26 PM »
I wanted to start up a UA game at one point, bought the book, had a couple of character generation sessions, introduced players one-by-one to the way the game works and had some very interesting characters developed....

...and then one of our "key players" decided he couldn't handle UA.  Because he was a "key player", most of the others kowtowed to his choice.

And the reason he didn't want to play?

It was "too close" to the way he thought the world "really works" and he was uncomfortable "letting something loose" through our game play.
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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2006, 03:00:05 PM »
I can tell you one thing, I've never seen a game that so adequately represented how "real" magicians are.

That is to say, not in any metaphysical sense, but in the sense that the more you try to gain "power" from the occult/mysticism, the more divorced you have to be from your normal humanity and the more incapable you become of functioning in everyday society.

The idea of tying obsession with magic was brilliant.

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Geekkake

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2006, 03:15:19 PM »
I certainly hope you did the splits and punched him in the dong, Vellorian.
 

beejazz

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2006, 03:21:13 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
I can tell you one thing, I've never seen a game that so adequately represented how "real" magicians are.

That is to say, not in any metaphysical sense, but in the sense that the more you try to gain "power" from the occult/mysticism, the more divorced you have to be from your normal humanity and the more incapable you become of functioning in everyday society.

The idea of tying obsession with magic was brilliant.

RPGPundit


I speak from experience when I say that obsession with *anything* (be it "magic poweres" or something as mundane as "anime" or "otaku") will do that to you.

rcsample

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2006, 03:32:18 PM »
I liked the "hardness" meters (for violence, et. al ).  That was a really cool spin/extension of the Sanity system in CoC.

I didn't like the really wonky (from what I remember) skill system.  I remember being really bad at everything.  While this may be realistic (my normal PC probably wouldn't be real good with a gun), it wasn't very fun missing (shooting/searching/etc) all the time...
 

Yamo

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2006, 11:21:39 PM »
I had a couple problems with it.

First of all, "postmodern magic" to the exclusion of anything else felt extremely gimmicky and hard to justify to me. You expect me to believe in a world where obsessively watching reruns of Three's Company will give you magic power, but a dude who happens to be obsessed with, say, voodoo rituals or Catholic dogma is just out of luck because the latter two aren't wacky and hip and "postmodern" enough? Why?

Second, adepts and avatars don't mesh very well. Conceptually, cosmologically or in terms of playability (incentive to associate and work together). They seem like constructs from two different occult conspiracy games that were rather clumsily combined. One or the other would have been better.

Finally, what the hell do you DO? A good RPG needs a reason for whole groups of PCs to form and persist. D&D adventuring parties, Traveller freighter crews, Shadowrunning teams, etc. There is very little real reason that a group of adepts from varied traditions would associate in the long term, and there's many reasons why ones of the same tradition wouldn't associate much at all (competition for charges and strongly-clashing views on the nature of their mutual obsession, primarily).

Finally, it's way too little cleverness spread-out over way too many pages. Shit like Pop Rocks as spell components is novel the first time, but the hundredth time? Not so much.

Anyway, that's my spiel. Peace out. :D
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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2006, 01:47:04 AM »
Well, in my campaign, the "what to do" question is resolved through a murder mystery and the fact that the PCs are menaced at all sides by these groups of Dukes and their orgs, none of which are to be trusted.

Of course, this only works because its basically a short-term campaign, but that said, "The Piria Code" is going very, very well.  We just played the third adventure (of 6 or 7, probably), and everyone is having a blast.

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LION & DRAGON: Medieval-Authentic OSR Roleplaying is available now! You only THINK you've played 'medieval fantasy' until you play L&D.


My Blog:  http://therpgpundit.blogspot.com/
The most famous uruguayan gaming blog on the planet!

NEW!
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Dark Albion: The Rose War! The OSR fantasy setting of the history that inspired Shakespeare and Martin alike.
Also available in Variant Cover form!
Also, now with the CULTS OF CHAOS cult-generation sourcebook

ARROWS OF INDRA
Arrows of Indra: The Old-School Epic Indian RPG!
NOW AVAILABLE: AoI in print form

LORDS OF OLYMPUS
The new Diceless RPG of multiversal power, adventure and intrigue, now available.

Vellorian

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Why I Like Unknown Armies
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2006, 03:31:57 PM »
Quote from: Geekkake
I certainly hope you did the splits and punched him in the dong, Vellorian.


There are times in my life when I regret my decision to be a pacifist.

This was one of them.  :D
Ian Vellore
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry