If all goes according to plan 2013 will be my "year as a player", as I'm looking forward to participating in both Meredith's World Of Warcraft RPG and Clare's Space 1889 game - although I'm not sure what impact the news that Clare is now growing a younger sibling for my godson Alec in her belly and that Meredith has adopted a puppy will have on gamenight planning!
Not only am I excited by the prospect of getting to play in some fantasy games, but this gives me a year to seriously read-up on some RPGs and kick over ideas for my eventual return to the seat of Gamesmaster.
At the moment, the main factor in my thinking is a desire to use The Knight City background I was working on for our short-lived Villains & Vigilantes campaign. In one form or another Knight City has been with me since the inception of the HeroPress brand - it was originally called Royal Wells and located in southern England, and was the base for the original HeroPress play-by-post RPG.
The city has gone through several renamings - and one continent shift - over the years as I've continued to pick away at it, but the most recent iteration has been the closest to my original vision for the city and it seems a shame to let it go.
I'm kicking around a number of different roleplaying systems, but the overall idea (at present), is for either a straight superhero game (emulating Marvel/DC Comics) or an urban fantasy/low-level supers games (inspiration coming from Alphas, The 4400, Warehouse 13, The Dresden Files, Arrow etc).
Now, of course, anyone who has read my gaming posts will be well aware that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to gaming systems and campaign planning.
I love to tinker - and sometimes, when I have too much free time on my hands, I tinker too much. Just look at my last stab at running a Dungeons & Dragons-style game: it never even got off the ground and a large part of the problem was that I had houseruled the original rules (Crypts & Things) almost into oblivion.
I presented the players with a booklet of houserules (most, it must be said, connected to reshaping the character creation process) that effectively stripped everything out of the game except its magic system (which was what had sold the game to me in the first place).
In retrospect it would have been less messy for the players if I'd lifted the magic system from C&T into another D&D variant that better suited my vision of the particular world I was creating.
That said, one of the stronger ideas I'm toying with at present is restarting my Villains & Vigilantes campaign.
But if there is one thing that I hate in roleplaying games - and V&V is actually probably the worst offender I have encountered - it's combat tables.
Having to consult tables during combat just slows things down, and I know people have suggested work-arounds to me in the past, but there is no escaping the mindnumbing overcomplexity of a table where every offensive power has a different chance of hitting a different defensive power.
Combat tables are the last vestige of roleplaying games' roots in wargames and have really had their day. Even back in my early days of Dungeons & Dragons one of the first "houserules" cooked up by my gaming clique was to eliminate the need to keep referring to a chart to see if your blow had struck the orc.
I think the simple solution, that I would use if I actually ran V&V again, would be (as Steve and I used in our old V&V games back in the '80s) a straight "hit on 10+", on a d20, modified by circumstance, skills etc and level (add the attacker's level to the role, subtract the defender's level).
The only other aspect I would change, and this more reflects the nature of our games (once a month for two or three hours) and the fact that we can no longer game more regularly and for longer, is I would replace the V&V idea of levels (a direct riff from Dungeons & Dragons and not wholly suitable for superheroes) with 'power levels' - as borrowed from Mutants & Masterminds.
I would rule that all starting player-heroes would be Eighth Level and then every year of continuous game player they would advance one Power Level.
Superhero games shouldn't really be about experience point whoring anyway, as there are plenty of other ways (character development, short-term boosts etc) to reward success in such an environment.