Monday, August 31, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #31 Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGing

This is probably the topic I've spent the most time just thinking about. Because a lot of things have gone into the RPG hobby, but not a lot has really exited the gravitational well of the hobby.

Typically, the things that do escape carry the D&D brand. D&D video and computer games. D&D novels. D&D board games. The list goes on.

The D&D movies were interesting. I was in a position to see the first film in its theatrical release. It was a fun movie. Not amazing, but a fine way to kill 2 hours. I saw the first sequel a number of years later, and thought it was actually better. A more modest budget, certainly, but I think it had better dungeoneering than the first one, on top of better writing. I have not seen the third film and am not sure I want to. There's talk of trying again and "doing it right" in the near future. We'll see.

But to answer the topic, I think my favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs is the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon show from the 80's. It was interesting in that, as much as it used D&D classes and monsters, the rules of children's TV at the time pushed it into becoming its own thing. They couldn't kill monsters with their magical weapons due to rules on violence and the need to keep each episode self-contained meant that the characters couldn't "level up" in any significant way. And that's really what makes it stand out in my book.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #30 Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity.

It's so hard to choose a favorite. Not because they're all so good, but because of my nigh impossible standards. My feeling about tired fantasy tropes kind of colors my view of the entire gaming hobby. So reading about this or that celebrity that "plays D&D" doesn't mean as much to me as the celebrity who's willing to talk about their broader gaming passion. I want to read about the celebrity who played Star Frontiers or Boot Hill back in the day. Who practiced their method acting skills in a Vampire game. That sort of thing.

And the only celebrity who really touches on that is Wil Wheaton. His Tabletop show has featured a couple of different RPGs, like Dread and Fiasco and his current Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana show uses a non-D&D system in a setting that uses fantasy tropes without necessarily being beholden to them.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #29 Favorite RPG Website or Blog

The site I most typically visit when I want to see what's going on with RPGs as a whole is I think that's mostly because what's actually at is not relevant to the gaming hobby. Maybe when I get bored, I'll check out or (Wouldn't that be a hoot?) Which means, yes, I did find the site by putting "RPG" in front of standard internet suffixes until I got something relevant.

Everything else, I tend to check out rather intermittently. I follow a few blogs on blogspot, reading them as they interest me. I've got a Tumblr and check through the gaming relevant hashtags. Maybe one day, I'll kick the blahs I've got and become a creative social media machine. But that's a maybe.

Friday, August 28, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #28 Favorite Game You No Longer Play

This one is actually a little painful to write. You see, I used to run different campaigns using different systems all the time. They weren't always very good campaigns, but I had a lot of enthusiasm.

But the last 3-4 years have been something of a doldrums for me. While I have been gaming continuously through this period, I have not been as imaginative or enthusiastic as I have been in the past. I have been grateful for The Castle of the Mad Archmage, not just as an opportunity to learn about old school gaming, but also for having enough content that I didn't have to do very much to have a game ready to go every week.

My primary breaks from this routine have been DunDraCon, playing games that interest me there and running Adventures in Oz demos. But even those AiO demos use the Jaded City scenario from the core book. Another canned, low effort production.

So Favorite Game That I No Longer Play? Pretty much all of them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #27 Favorite Idea For Merging Two Games Into One

This is a very interesting question and I'm not 100% sure I have an answer for it.

I once ran a couple of campaigns that were technically set in the same setting, but each one used a different generic system. The first one started in WEG D6 but finished using Cartoon Action Hour, the second used Savage Worlds, and the third used GURPS. It got especially fun when one player insisted on using the same character in each campaign, and so had to recreate him in each system. And not all generic RPGs are created equal, especially when it comes to magic using characters, so exactly what his magic could do varied the most.

The guy who ran the megadungeon game that I played in (that gave us the stories of Ted and Kyle), would sometimes mix things up in that campaign. One time, he broke out The Adventures of Baron Muchausen (a game of competitive storytelling) and told us that for this session, we would be the townspeople of the party's home base sharing rumors and tales we had heard about those dungeon-delving adventurers. At another point, some effect of the dungeon/the Outer Planes made things quite surreal, so we very quickly statted out our characters in Wushu (He didn't tell us it was Wushu. He just said "Describe your character in such and such a way" that I recognized as being the way Wushu does things) and played out the scene/confrontation under those rules.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #26 Favorite Inspiration For Your Game

I'm sure lots of people will tell you how much they plumb their vast collection of novels, TV shows, movies, or conspiracy theory paperbacks for gaming inspiration. My process is a little different. I tend to lean on the games themselves to inform my campaign building.

At least partly because an awesome game is one where the designer successfully communicates what is awesome about their game. So if I'm reading an awesome game, I'm already cooking up ideas of how I want to see it in action. And outside of licensed or historical settings, most of what is true about a setting is between the pages of the book itself.

One of my favorite sorts of inspiration is the No-Prize. I don't know if Marvel still awards No-Prizes, but for a while they gave out No-Prizes to fans who not only pointed continuity flaws in their comics, but also proposed explanations for how it wasn't really a continuity flaw after all. Is that character's energy blast the wrong color? Rather than blame it on the colorist, maybe it's a new application of that character's power and it makes sense for it to be that color.

So I look in my games for interesting questions that the setting proposes, but doesn't really answer.

One of my favorite adventures that I've come up with was for the GURPS Technomancer setting. The main idea of that setting is that magic replaces the atom as the force that changes the latter half of the 20th Century. In the book, they describe the effects of Ambulatory Necrotic Plague (aka zombie-ism), which is spread by an undead bacterium. It explains that zombie brains continually degrade, but that this can be forestalled by eating brains from other people.

But what if someone with a high IQ stat gets turned into a zombie? If their IQ was high enough, they might have several days before they even dropped below average intelligence. They might even be able to plan ahead and ensure a steady brain supply so that their intelligence will last longer.

I decided that this was going to be my villain. He was a doctor researching ANP who became infected and turned into a zombie. He began a program of abducting people both to keep his brain supply up and as test subjects to hopefully cure himself of the condition.

And that's when our heroes step in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #25 Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

Meta-point bribery.

All those little story/drama/whatever points that bribe players into buying into your setting or genre. If the genre or theme you're trying to support with them is clear, they are a great addition. I use them myself to support the theme of friendship in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Sometimes, I'll award them as "Make the GM Laugh Points." Especially if they're not there for a specific genre or theme, but as a form of "cinematic cushion" to give larger than life heroes an extra leg up.

Monday, August 24, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #24 Favorite House Rule

I'm not much of a house ruler. I like to at least see what the designer wanted me to get out of the game before I adjust anything. And every designer has an agenda. Even Gary Gygax. If I were to tweak and hack games into shape before trying them out, I think I'd miss half the fun of the games I want to try.

One thing that I will do is award my players a little bonus XP when they give me something to eat. There was a period I did not, because my players were 2 or 3 people who regularly brought food to share during game and 1 guy who was down on his luck. The guy who was down on his luck point out how unfair this could get. I realized the wisdom of it and stopped. Now that I'm not gaming with him, I've handed out a few XP for a cookie here or there.

Not sure if this counts, but one thing I've been doing with my games is keeping a calendar. It started with my old school megadungeon game with notes on graph paper. I've since upgraded to a computerized method which allows me a bit more room for notetaking than those little squares. This is the program I use. While it would be nice to have something that can deal with custom calendars like so many fantasy worlds have, adding notes for month transitions and other details on a numerical timeline is fairly easy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #23 Perfect Game For You

I'm sure there are people who will be surprised and disappointed that I'm not going to say GURPS here. It has seen me through many fun campaigns and there might be even more GURPS fun in the future.

But I also don't really believe that there is a perfect game that will fill all my desires for every campaign ever. There might be a perfect game for a given genre, tone, setting, or any other category. But even that can be subject to debate.

I like to think that I've designed the perfect Oz RPG. At very least, I think it's safe to call it the best Oz RPG currently on the market. It was definitely the first.

I'm tempted to say that some version of Fate might edge into a fairly high place in my list of go-to games for a variety of settings. I like an awful lot of stuff written for Fate, but haven't really had the ability to give it a serious try. Once I do, we'll see how it shakes out.

In the meantime, I've got lots of games on my shelf that have yet to see some use. My ultimate goal is to play them all!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #22 Perfect Gaming Environment

I can't say that I've ever encountered my perfect gaming environment. There have been a few very neat setups, sure. But perfect?

At DunDraCon, each scheduled game takes place in a semi-private room with a nice large round table. It's up to individual GMs to provide props, such as maps and minis. That's pretty sweet.

The gaming store I go to is also nice, with a room off to the side of the main gaming area with a large table and a very large battlemat. But I haven't used it since they decided to charge for the space.

To get better than that is going to require personal attention. Like the First Edition DM that I know who collects miniatures. Mostly the cheap plastic prepainted kind, but he's got a ton of them. If you ever need a monster, he's very likely got it. If not, it's something close.

As I'm actually learning to accept technology, it's being incorporated into my gaming. So my ideal gaming setup should include at least power, and maybe wi-fi for my laptop. While some people may swear by wi-fi, I am willing to admit that it's as much a distraction to me as anything else. Unless I start adopting that whole "cloud" idea. We'll see.

Though I do also enjoy physical books, so my perfect game space would necessarily include bookshelves. Books are also easier to share with players during game if they need to lookup rules for any reason. This also means that I can limit the books that players can reference at my table without limiting myself (Keeping PDFs of bestiaries and setting notes on my laptop).

Dice towers and projectors aimed at my table are totally optional, but might be fun to have.

Friday, August 21, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #21 Favorite RPG Setting

One thing that irks me about the modern RPG publishing industry is how often they say "setting," but actually mean "campaign."

To clarify, a "setting" is a place for adventures to happen. A "campaign" is the answer to the question: "Who are the characters and what do they do?" The Discworld novels are a great example of this. The Discworld as a whole is a setting. But the series has not one, but several story threads running through it. Each with a unique set of characters who live in different places in the world and do different things. So even though all the stories take place in the same setting, Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, and Moist von Lipwig are all effectively playing in separate campaigns.

I don't know how long this trend has been going on, but I started noticing it a few years ago. The first time I spotted it was the FantasyCraft Adventure Companion. It promised 3 settings, but all it really offered was campaigns. Sure each campaign took place in its own setting, but the opening paragraphs of each section were from some sort of in-setting mentor figure giving you the Big Speech about how you're going off into the big bad world to do X. While the X was usually pretty broad, and in one case was simply the wandering adventurer as respected social role, the rest of the material was presented in such a way as to support that specific campaign.

But what if I don't want to be a wandering adventurer? What if I want to be a merchant? Or establish a homestead out of the frontier of the world? If I want to use this so-called setting as an actual setting, I'm going to have to do at least half the work that buying a packaged setting was supposed to save.

Fate Worlds has this sort of problem as well. It promises settings, but delivers campaigns. And the majority of those campaigns are simply hacks. Rather than offering anything resembling a setting, we get mechanics to support a given campaign style. So rather than telling us a little story about Jack and Diane, we are instead given different rules to detail how Jack and Diane (for any given value of Jack or Diane), can interact or relate to one another.

Please note that I am not calling these products out as flawed designs or bad products. I simply feel that they are mistakenly marketed. If something calls itself a setting, I am presuming that it will be well-written enough to support multiple campaign types. If all you are offering is a campaign, please do not call it a setting.

I think it also sets a bad precedent. A while back on Facebook, I saw an established publisher of third-party Pathfinder material post in a Pathfinder group "Help! I'm writing a setting, but my playtesters have just figured out that it's really just a campaign!" I am paraphrasing, but that's pretty much what he said. Needless to say, that guy's not getting my money.

Maybe I'm just spoiled on the way GURPS does their setting books. They have a reputation for being bland, but thorough. And I think that a portion of this is that they do not assume a campaign. There are suggestions and ideas for different campaigns and adventures throughout the book, but it doesn't assume you'll follow any of them. (Considering my Discworld example above, it makes remarkable sense that GURPS Discworld is a thing.)

(I do have lots of cool settings on my shelf, as well as a few campaigns. But this rant has been brewing for some time and I thought I'd take the opportunity to get it out.)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

RPGaDay #20 Favorite Horror RPG

Unfortunately, I am not a horror gamer. It's not an experience I particularly enjoy.

The Mythos Trek scenarios that I've played in at DunDraCon the last couple of years are inspired by the Chthulhu Mythos (hence the name) and sometimes other horror films. But they've generally been great fun. I might be the one derailing the horror experience with my humor and nerd references, but the guy who runs them has never complained about having me there. He's also a fan of AiO, which might give me some slack.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #19 Favorite Supers RPG

I've got a number of superhero RPGs on my shelf. Marvel-licensed games. DC-licensed games. Games set in their own universes of superheroic action.

I'll say that I like a lot about the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game. I'll also admit that it's one of many games that I have only read and not played.

But the main things that interest me in the supers genre are not the superheroics, but the "people with powers" stories. One of the reasons that Spider-Man is my favorite superhero is how relate-able he is. He has a very complex life as Peter Parker and his role as Spider-Man often winds up complicating things further.

Some of my favorite TV shows feature characters who have superpowers, but never put on a costume. I loved the first season of Heroes, though I think it went downhill after that. For vintage TV fans, who remembers Misfits of Science? A short-lived show in the 80's featuring one of the girls from Friends and the guy who wore the Predator suit in the first movie. More recently, the British show Misfits traveled this same sort of territory, with darkly comic results (mature viewers only, please!).

The Wild Cards setting (based on mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin, and part of the story of how I met my wife) explores this idea as well. And since I own the GURPS adaptation of this setting (Though there's been a more recent version for the Mutants & Masterminds rules), it's been my go-to system for this concept.

The current Fourth Edition of GURPS handles super abilities much better than previous editions. The last time I ran a game in the Wild Cards setting, I was able to do so with only the Basic Set for rules. While they have put more support out for higher powered heroics, I don't know if I'd use them for this style of play.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #18 Favorite SF RPG

While I do have a number of sci-fi RPGs on my shelf, my heart will likely always belong to Star Trek. I have collected all of the Star Trek RPGs I can. I've got the FASA game from the 80's that used percentile dice. I've got the class and level based game from Decipher. I even have Prime Directive, the RPG spinoff of the Starfleet Battles starship combat game.

But I think my favorite overall Star Trek RPG is the one produced by Last Unicorn Games. While other other games did one thing or another really well, LUG provided a Star Trek RPG that did everything competently. It actually provided 3, with core rulebooks covering the Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine.

Of the three, since we insist on narrowing things down, I find I prefer the Original Series corebook. Not just because I'm planning a campaign in that era. Maybe it's just the fact that it was the second corebook released, but I feel like it has a lot more polish that the TNG game. Or maybe they did TNG as an "all encompassing" game and once they did the other core books, they allowed themselves to be more focused. It just feels like everything from the way the rules are explained to the GM advice is much more finely tuned.

Monday, August 17, 2015

RPGaDay #17 Favorite Fantasy RPG

“There's something terribly weird about the standard fantasy setting--not least of which the fact the phrase "standard fantasy setting" can be uttered without irony.”
Yahtzee Croshaw

 I think Yahtzee really nails my feelings on fantasy RPGs as a whole. Fantasy, at least as it applies to gaming, is fairly standardized. Elves and orcs and magic swords. And every new take or reinvention of those tropes just feels like more of the same. My favorite fantasy RPGs are the ones that actually do something different, something outside of this box.

Talislanta is one of my wife's favorite games, and definitely worthy of mention. Famously promising "No Elves", the Talislanta setting owes more to Jack Vance than J.R.R. Tolkien. It is exotic, diverse and magical. (Pro tip: Click the link. You can get everything about Talislanta free and legal on that site. It's awesome.)

Exalted is another fun fantasy game that breaks from the classic mold. Inspired by epic fantasy, and illustrated with an exciting anime/manga style, it's a game about human characters granted immense power. As one of the Exalted, your character is imbued with vast power to change the world from Day 1. I've run a few campaigns with this game, but never long enough to really run into the problems with the rules that everyone seems to crow about on the internet.

And of course, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. (If you thought I wasn't going to mention it pretty much every time it's vaguely applicable, you're on the wrong blog). It's a game where a little girl is a totally valid character choice, because it's not about how big your guns are, but how big your heart is.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #16 Longest Game Session Played

While my megadungeon campaign went on for a long while in calendar time, each session was actually fairly short. Between 4-5 hours once things got started. Every now and again, someone gets the idea to do a "gaming til dawn" sort of thing, but I've never seen it actually come to fruition.

The longest gaming sessions I believe that I have personally participated in were at DunDraCon. When I run Jaded City of Oz, I will only reserve a 4 hour slot. But in 2014, I ran an 8-10 hour session of Castle of the Mad Archmage for the DDC Teen Room. The guy who runs the very awesome Mythos Trek games typically reserves 10-12 hours for his sessions.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #15 Longest Campaign Played

Well, long-time readers will probably know this one. For a little over 4 years, off and on, I ran an old school campaign using Castle of the Mad Archmage from BRW Games. Who knows? I might even come back to it, but I think it's really dead this time.

That campaign has taught me a number of this, both about the old school of gaming, but also about managing long term campaigns. For one thing, long campaigns require lots of content. Prior to starting my megadungeon, my campaigns were very seat-of-the-pants affairs. I'd start with a basic idea, but then place just enough scenery around to keep the players busy for a session or so. Sometimes less. If the players managed to get out of that prepared zone, I would have to improvise madly to keep up with them (and I have learned that I am a terrible improviser).

Moving forward, my primary intention is to level up my content creation for the campaigns I run. I've been building notes for a Star Trek campaign concept for about a year now, as time and energy allow. It's not quite ready for players, but when it is, it should be capable of running for quite some time.

Any other campaign I create will receive similar attention.

Friday, August 14, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #14 Favourite RPG Accessory

While big heavy books are one of the things commonly associated with gaming, the other thing is all the fun little toys we play with. The funny dice, the little figurines, and all that business.

The thing is, I've always been a gamer on a budget. When Wizards of the Coast put out prepainted plastic minis to compete with WizaKids, I was all over them. It didn't matter if they were randomized packs. As long as we understood that this was Steve's character, this was Carla's character, and that over there was the monster they were fighting, everything worked out.

While I talked up the Noteboard a couple of months ago, I admit that I haven't really used it. I absolutely love the idea, and the price point. But it's actually competing with something that I've had for quite some time.

Back in the day, this was an actual physical product. It came with 6 two-sided sheets, blank save for a grid, square on one side, hex on the other. Over time, I've gotten all 6 sheets laminated so I can mark them up with my wet-erase pens.

I actually have a "proper" battlemap, but the Great Salt Flats sheets have the advantage of being lighter and offering a higher overall surface area, with a side bonus of that surface area being reconfigurable.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #13 Favorite RPG Podcast

Up until a couple months ago, I would not have been able to answer this question. Maybe I'm just old and having a hard time integrating fancy new technology into my life. I've had MP3 players, but I've typically used them to listen to music. It wasn't until my MP3 player decided to play only on one earpiece that I was prompted to change. I refuse to listen to stereo music unless it's in stereo.

My first podcast was Welcome to Night Vale (awesome, by the way). Not really a gaming podcast, but the story isn't over yet. You see, although there are a goodly number of episodes on that podcast, and it's not topical, dated content, having even that much content on repeat was getting a little tedious. (Don't let that put you off if you haven't listened to it yet.)

So I went looking for another podcast. And I figured that it should be a gaming podcast, with me being a gamer and all. I knew that Ken Hite, being the awesome guy that he is, had a podcast with fellow awesome game designer Robin D. Laws, but I hadn't really given it much thought. But now looked like the perfect time.

And it is indeed glorious.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #12 Favorite RPG Illustration

This is gonna be a fun one. Considering the previous topics of this blogfest, I wonder if he really meant to say "illustrator," for which I don't have a strong answer. But my single favorite RPG illustration is something I do have an answer for.

L. Sprague de Camp wrote the Planet Krishna novels as an attempt to redeem the "sword and planet" genre (John Carter of Mars and its imitators) in the face of increasingly "harder" science fiction. And one of the features of such stories was casual nudity.

So when Steve Jackson Games got the license to do GURPS Planet Krishna, the illustrations featured a surprising number of exposed breasts. I know the World of Darkness books like to maintain their edgy appearance by sneaking in exactly one nipple per book, but this book had nipples all over the place. Maybe they got a pass because they're all alien boobs rather than human boobs.

Those of you who might be expecting this book to be some sort of gamer Playboy are likely to be disappointed. The nudity in the books illustrations is treated as a very mundane part of all sorts of activities, rather than titillating boudoir scenes (or mundane activities that are somehow also titillating boudoir scenes). One illustration features a Krishnan woman wearing a very loose fitting robe with one breast exposed, but the reason the robe is in disarray is because she has been shot by an arrow which can be seen poking out of her body directly beneath the exposed breast.

My favorite example of this nudity without defaulting to sexiness (and my favorite gaming illustration and therefore the topic of this post) is on page 76 of this book. It is a Krishnan warrior woman wearing sandals, loose pants tied just below the knee and held up by a broad belt, and a sort of open halter top that leaves her modest breasts exposed. She is also carrying a slightly curved sword. Her pose is one of confidence. Not "My boobs are made of confidence" confidence, but "I could kill you if I wanted to. And I'm considering it" confidence.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #11 Favorite RPG Writer

Now I could cheat and talk about the same person I did yesterday (me!) but where's the fun in that? Besides, there's someone else out there that deserves some kudos.

I would have to say that my favorite RPG writer, who I find a joy to read, is Ken Hite. He is a master of alternate histories, horror and any combination of those elements. As well as being a genius, he is also remarkably prolific. He's written multiple GURPS books (this is where I first encountered his work), worked with Last Unicorn Games and Decipher on their Star Trek RPG lines, wrote a few small features for Dragon magazine, a couple of things for White Wolf (though my collection of that material is not terribly deep, I have seen his name there) and a wonderful list of things that I (amazingly) do not have on my game shelf.

He is also a joy to listen to. As long as I've been attending DunDraCon, he has been there as a guest and given many wonderful seminars on a variety of topics. He also does a really nifty podcast with another cool game designer, Robin D. Laws, called Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #10 Favorite RPG Publisher

I like myself. It's important to like yourself. So my favorite RPG publisher is myself.

Though I wish I did more RPG publishing. I haven't put out a new product recently. I wish I had more product support for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. I wish I were able to bring any of the other ideas I have to fruition.

Hopefully, this writing burst will turn into some actual productivity. Time will tell.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #9 Favorite Media You Wish Was An RPG

This one's a toughy. There are so many media properties that have received the RPG treatment. If I wanted to, I could stake vampires with Buffy, Harry Dresden, or the Winchesters. I could fight supervillains with Superman or Spider-Man. I could dogfight in space with Luke Skywalker or Starbuck. I could explore strange new worlds with Captain Kirk, Captain Picard or the crew of the Red Dwarf. I could wander the wastes of the Dying Earth or the steaming jungles of Planet Krishna. I could fly in the TARDIS with 8 incarnations of the Doctor and their companions. Heck, I could even follow the Yellow Brick Road along with Dorothy and her friends.

And that's just with books on my shelf. Nearly every media tie-in RPG I want is already there.

Except one.

When I was a kid, I was a big science fiction reader and my favorite author was Isaac Asimov. He was a very smart guy and wrote some very intelligent stuff. He could lean towards the zap gun-type stuff if he wanted to, but even that showed thought and effort that not every writer put out.

If there was one universe I would want that has not yet received the RPG treatment, it would be the universe of Isaac Asimov's writings. I don't know if there's a formal name to that universe, where most of his major work seems to belong. Certain sections of his body of work have collective names, like his robot stories, or the Foundation novels, but I don't know if there's a word that means the whole connected future history that he created. Whatever that word is, I want to see it on a gaming book full of well-though out science fiction goodness.

My wife's vote is for the world shown in the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. That would be cool too.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #8 Favorite Appearance of RPGs in the Media

I've never been a fan of the media portrayals of RPGs. First off, you had the "Satanic Panic" of the 80's, where RPGs were the ultimate evil. The TV movie Mazes & Monsters was the high (and low) point of this phenomena.

While most of that has worn off (though it's still around in some circles), gaming is still considered a weird geeky hobby. While this sort of portrayal is arguably better, it's still not actually good. Having the gang on Big Bang Theory play D&D just reinforces their nerd cred and demonstrates their outsider status.

I would like to see a show where the game is more normalized. The players aren't ubergeeks, but regular people. People with jobs, spouses, kids, drama, comedy, and all that. Like the people I game with. Like, what if everyone on Seinfeld played D&D? What if they had a weekly game night on Friends? That sort of thing.

Until that show appears, there is Titanfall: Ashes of Volkana. It's a very well produced show that is really quite watchable. The people are very normal-looking. Attractive, even. Half of the players are female (and I think one of the male players has a female character) and nobody bats an eye. The game is run very rules light, with helpful graphics so the audience can follow what's going on. The players are all clearly having a blast.

That's the kind of gaming media I think we need.

Friday, August 7, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #7 Favorite Free RPG

Free is such a funny word.

Some games are freely available for the downloading. Just find the right link and go. I'm not trying to condone piracy here. Only pointing out that there are games that the designers released into the wild for no charge. My favorite here would probably be Lasers and Feelings. It looks light and fun, as well as being inspired by a really fun song by the Doubleclicks.

Then there are the SRDs. When the Open Gaming License became a thing, it meant that system designers had to take the first step and release some of their content so third-party publishers had something to work with. Thus was born the SRD, or System Reference Document. For Wizards of the Coast, the SRD was a different beast than their actual rulebooks. Their intent was to release enough information that 3ppublishers could use, but not so much that they lost their ability to make money from their own content. So their SRD did not contain rules for character generation or advancement for players, and a couple of the more iconic D&D monsters from the first Monster Manual were left out.

Later publishers have been less strict about what they include in an SRD. For example, the Diaspora SRD pretty much gives you the entire game. But the most open Open Gaming Content would have to be Paizo's Pathfinder PRD. Every time they put out one of their hardcover rulebooks, the content winds up on their website a few months later.

The final category would have to be Pay What You Want. Evil Hat started this trend with their Fate Core project, but a lot of other people have jumped on the bandwagon (including me!). And $0.00 is a valid price, so they could be said to be free. In fact, both Fate Accelerated and Aether Sea (from my Day 3 post) are PWYW in PDF, so you can pick up that Complete Gaming Package I was talking about for a song (or less).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

RPGaDay #6 Most Recent RPG Played

Well, the most recent session I participated in would be a session of the Pathfinder version of the Castle of the Mad Archmage. But I'm the GM, not the player, so you might not count that.

As a player, I most recently played 1st Edition D&D in a friend's campaign. That was actually a few weeks ago. My character died after being stomped by an immense giant (Last words: "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny!"), though I've been told that it was all some sort of magical holodeck and that my character is actually fine.

I've also gotten around to playing Fiasco a few times. That's GM-less, so I got to be a player even though I'm the one who owns that game and said "Hey guys! Let's try this!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #5 Most Recent RPG Purchase

My overall game buying has slowed down, but on my wife's insistence I do maintain a subscription with Paizo for their hardcover rulebooks. So a week or so ago, I received their latest book, Occult Adventures.

Occult Adventures looks like Paizo's official take on psionics. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I have never been impressed with the way Wizards of the Coast handled psionics for D&D 3.x. It never felt like psychic powers from any other media.

Paizo nailed it. They lean a bit closer to horror movie tropes than my preferred science-fiction approach, but it finally feels like someone actually looked at how psychic powers work in media before writing a big expensive book of psionics rules.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #4 Most Surprising Game

It's kind of hard to think of a game as surprising. I mean, sure, somewhere in all of that D&D merchandising back in the 80's there must have been a pop-up book with monsters that jump out at you. But a regular old game book?

Well, maybe a few things have surprised me.

I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Monsterhearts. While I don't know that I could really go for the PVP/teen drama style of play, I liked how it encouraged thinking about supernatural powers as a metaphor for puberty, queerness, or both. Being the awkward kid who didn't fit in at school when I was younger, that resonated with me.

Diaspora was another game that surprised me. It's a small book that is mostly rules, but nearly everything about it is brilliant. The overall setting is very broad, with relatively few hard facts. Because of how the FTL drive of the setting works, civilization is divided into clusters, groups of solar systems that are connected by hyperspace links. The play group is assumed to create their own cluster, randomly rolling the stats for each system and deciding exactly what that collection of stats looks like.

It offers spaceship combat and tactical squad combat that work in the FATE milieu and are playable as separate minigames if you want to. But the real kicker is the social combat system. Most other social combat systems I've seen are not very different from the game's physical combat system. But Diaspora's social combat is more about positioning and maneuvering. The result feels much more like a system where you're trying to change someone's mind rather than just whacking away at their resistance to doing what you want.

Monday, August 3, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #3 Favorite New Game Of The Last 12 Months

Games I have purchased in the last year is a fairly small set. Games I have purchased that were released in the last year is an even smaller set.

Picking a favorite, I would have to say Aether Sea, a space fantasy setting for Fate Accelerated that I purchased at DunDraCon. Not only is it written for Accelerated, it's also a slim, inexpensive volume itself. The pair of books come to a total of $15 in print (both are Pay What You Want PDFs), making them a handy Complete Gaming Package. Proper Fate Dice do add some to this total, but it's still a pretty darn good deal.

It's nearly as good a deal as my own game, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Though AiO has a better sample adventure, IMHO.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #2 Kickstarted Game You're Most Pleased You Backed

Unfortunately, this one doesn't really apply to me. Among the things that have been dragging me down has been a slowing down of the cash flow, so I haven't been able to throw any money at all of the things that strike my fancy.

There are, however, a small number of items that have made it onto my shelf that have benefited from being Kickstarted.

The one I have gotten the most mileage out of has been Adventures Dark & Deep. I had been running Joe Bloch's original version of Castle of the Mad Archmage for some time, so he already had a reputation for quality work in my book when he announced the Kickstarter for Adventures Dark & Deep. While I didn't have money to throw his way during the Kickstarter period, I did put it on my wishlist to pick up when money did present itself. So about 2 years ago, that three volume set became my birthday present to myself.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #1 Forthcoming Game You Are Most Looking Forward To.

Now to see if I can get any kind of groove going on with this. I've been in too much of a rut for too long and I want to try to kick it.

To address the first topic of the blogfest, the forthcoming game that I am most looking forward to would have to be GURPS Discworld, Second Edition.

I have been a fan of the novels for quite some time, owning most of them. It's one of the only fantasy series I will pick up on my own. I also own the prior edition of the game, as well as the supplement, GURPS Discworld Also.

Considering the reputation for boring realism that GURPS has, it might seem surprising that such a system would be used for a comedy setting. But I think it fits. The one character who has appeared in every novel in the series is Death. Now, we all know that Death's not a bad sort of fellow at all, but if you're going to have a setting where he pops up with any regularity, a "slapstick" system that denies his presence seems like the wrong way to go.
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