Monday, August 21, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #21 Which RPG does the most with the least words?

There are RPGs of all sizes out there. From the massive tomes of D&D all the way down to one-page gems like Lasers & Feelings and even 200-word RPGs.

In my collection, I've got a few fairly small volumes. The two that pack the most punch for me are Fate Accelerated Edition and Warriors of the Red Planet.

Fate Accelerated is a digest sized book with only 32 pages, but it's a complete game. A lot of other games have put out "quickstart guides" or introductory versions that are a stripped down version of the full game, but FAE really feels like it can stand alone. While it doesn't have an adventure or a setting to it, it demonstrates its flexibility in its sample characters, filing serial numbers off of kids favorites like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter, with a side of steampunk and Treasure Planet.

For something that does have a setting, my vote goes to Warriors of the Red Planet. It's a pulp-inspired sword and planet game using Old School mechanics. It's still digest sized, but with 126 pages. The setting is not conveyed with maps and locations, but a wonderfully weird bestiary and a collection of random encounter tables. I feel like I can run any sort of adventure in a sword & planet mode with this book.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #20 What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I love checking out used games from the bargain rack at the friendly local gaming store (when I have one) at the Buyer's Bazaar at DunDraCon. While browsing the extensive, curated collection at Noble Knight Games can be fun, there's nothing quite like digging through a pile of old books yourself. It's sort of like the gap between visiting a museum and doing your own archeology and making your own discoveries.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #19 Which RPG features the best writing?

RPGs writing is a tricky beast to evaluate, because it's actually two kinds of writing. To use terms every gamer is familiar with, "Fluff" writing and "crunch" writing. Sometimes, a game book can be full of fun and evocative text, but the rules are poorly written and poorly explained. Other times, a book can have on-point technical explanations of the rules, but any setting or campaign material is dry and boring. Most games are between these two points.

For a game that strikes that balance, I would have to nominate Bubblegumshoe by Kenneth Hite. Not only is it written to emulate the teen detective genre, it's written to appeal to fans of the teen detective genre. The rules are well explained, and they're explained in very casual language. Not quite slangy, but also not dry.

Friday, August 18, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #18 Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

Somewhere between D&D and GURPS.

On top of the 4-5 year OSR D&D campaign I've mentioned several times, there was also a 3.5 megadungeon campaign run by my friend Kris. On top of several other small campaigns and false starts shortly after Third Edition came out and all my friends were saying "Let's play D&D!"

If I've got a little less GURPS under my belt, it's due to the lack of "pick up and play" that GURPS has. For the most part, I've had to write my own adventures when I've run GURPS.

There's also the fact that I've gotten a few more than these two systems under my belt. I even found time in my gaming career to run a playtest campaign for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #17 Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

That would probably be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness from Palladium Books. I bought it from a game store in Burbank in the summer of 1999, when I was working at a Renaissance Fair. It was one of several books that I bought there, but one of the few non-GURPS books that I bought at that time. While I may have never played GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse or GURPS Riverworld, I have played a good amount of GURPS, so I'm not going to really count those.

This game was actually based on the original TMNT comics, even having a few pages of those comics in the book, rather than the later cartoons or movies. You could make characters based on a broad variety of animals, not just turtles, and customize them with BIO-E points. There was even a chance that significant mental trauma would turn you gay (though if you were already gay, this result on the insanity tables would mean that you are now straight).

Although it's now one of several Palladium games on my shelf, I have yet to play any of it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #16 Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

As I said yesterday, all of them.

So instead, I'm going to talk about the time that running a game as is actually opened up some doors to me.

Old School D&D, at least as conveyed to me by OSRIC, included a couple of rules regarding mandatory downtime. That is, time that characters must spend away from adventuring in order to take care of other things. In those rules, these included training times for when a character goes up in level and medical recovery when they are dropped below 0 hit points, but not actually killed. I'm sure most tables would ignore this sort of rule. The guys over at the System Mastery podcast have complained plenty when this sort of rule is included in a game they review.

But I wanted to get that First Edition, early-days-of-gaming feel, so I left it in. Another thing I knew that happened in Ye Olden Dayes was players having multiple characters, suitable for multiple levels of adventuring. So I encouraged my players to build multiple characters in case one of them became unavailable to play for whatever reason.

In the early days of this, what mostly happened was that players would wait for all characters to be recovered before venturing into the dungeon. Even if that meant days or weeks of waiting. If I was on top of my game, I would have put pressure on them by highlighting the expenses of staying in town and also taken the time to repopulate the dungeon, but I was new to the whole process myself.

But once there were enough characters and enough players involved, deciding which character to play became part of the strategy of the session. "We're going down to the tomb level. Who's got a cleric to turn all the undead?" "I do, but they're in training right now. Do we want to wait on the tombs and clear out the gnolls on the fourth level instead? My fighter's looking for some action!"

It was a unique and fun experience that I wouldn't have had if I had ignored those downtime rules.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #15 Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

To be honest, I'm not much of a system hacker. I don't fold, spindle or mutilate rules from an existing game to create the sort of game I want. I'm more interested in trying to divine and support the designers intent for that game. Gaming can create so many diverse experiences and focus play on a variety of specific types of stories or characters that if I want a specific experience, I'm more likely to aim myself at a game that does provide it than trying to hack an existing game. Though I did design my own game to emulate a story style that hadn't been taken on by other designers.

But I will point out one system that I have used for multiple diverse games over the years. I have run it more or less as is for several campaigns. And that would be GURPS. I did science fiction adventure with GURPS Prime Directive. Traditional fantasy in GURPS Banestorm and  modern fantasy with GURPS Technomancer. People with super powers in the world of GURPS Wild Cards.
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