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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #14 Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

There's a very strong temptation to go with the system I used to run the longest campaign I've ever done; My megadungeon campaign that started in OSRIC and eventually got some Adventures Dark & Deep mixed in, especially behind the screen.

The funny thing is, D&D is a game that's very limited in terms of growth. Old school versions had level limits that some characters could hit fairly early. More recent versions create a top end that applies to all characters, at which point the characters have reached the top in nearly every conceivable way.

One of the things that helped that campaign last as long as it did was the sheer amount of content. Whether or not characters had a top end, the dungeon didn't really seem to. And as a dungeon, it was fairly easy to run. While I could have made things complicated and political, it was just as easy to let the players kick down the door and fight whatever monster was in the room.

I won't say that the OSR rules systems are best for open-ended campaigns, but that the megadungeon and its pile of ready to run content is my best experience with long term play.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #12 Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

As I've said before, Castle Falkenstein's entire presentation is a visual treat. Every page is in glossy color and it uses that at every opportunity.
Since I've already discussed that enough a few years ago, I'm going to tackle an alternate question.

Campaigns: do you prefer set-length or open-ended play?

 As much as I've wanted open-ended campaigns that last for years, most of my gaming life has been with set length, or at least short run, campaigns. I get one or two good ideas, see them to fruition, then move on. For a long time, I saw this as a flaw. I kept hoping that this campaign was going to be the one that grew legs. This one would last past its first story arc and becomes something awesome.

Never happened.

Then I did have a successful long-term campaign. Which died and came back a few times. But ultimately died as the players found other things to do.

And that's really the thing. No matter how much we want to keep everything going forever, life conspires against us. People change. People move. Campaigns die on the vine.

I think the best thing to do is to plan for it. What I really want to do next is an episodic campaign. Run something with a clear end, but that can also be picked up later. So if the group falls apart, there's a satisfying ending, but if things go well, there's something more to do.

Friday, August 11, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #11 Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

This is a tough one, but for the best reason. So many of the older games on my shelf do have newer editions, either on the way, out there now, or even on my shelf.

Talislanta is getting a new version thanks to a Kickstarter. Arduin has begat Arduin Eternal. There's a new Star Trek RPG that's only a month or two old. The OSR keeps churning out new material and ideas for the oldest RPG in existence.

If I had to pick, I'm tempted to say Big Eyes Small Mouth, the generic anime game. Mostly to see what it would look like if it were designed today, with modern storygame sensibilities rather than a 90's era simulation-style game.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #10 Where do you go for RPG reviews?

To be honest, I don't look at reviews that much. Most of my gaming purchases are in two categories: Stuff I was going to buy anyway and impulse buys.

I've been a long time fan of GURPS, so every time there's a new print release, it goes on my shopping list. My wife has us subscribed to Paizo's Pathfinder rulebooks, so those come to us automatically as they are released. The new Star Trek RPG from Modiphius Games is one I will definitely pick up to satisfy my Trekkie soul if nothing else.

Which brings us to the impulse buys. These mostly occur at DunDraCon, when I have budgeted myself to be fairly flush with cash. It's also the closest I come to listening to reviews, as that's when I go to Ken Hite's annual "What's Cool" seminar and build a little bit of a shopping list.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #9 What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Most of them.

For a decent-sized chunk of my gaming career, this is what I did. Pick a game, run it for 10 sessions or so. Maybe up to 20, but nothing past it. Repeat with another game.

On the one hand, it did mean that I never played Exalted to the point that characters got to be too powerful to be managed at all. On the other hand, it meant that my D&D games never got to the point where the really iconic D&D monsters, like mindflayers, beholders and displacer beasts became reasonable enemies for the party.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #8 What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

I'm going to go ahead and say Fiasco. While other games are cropping up in the one-shot/short form space, Fiasco is the one that I've read and actually played. Though most of my experiences put a typical Fiasco session at about 3 hours or so.

Though I am struck by the idea of a "Perils of Pauline"-style campaign of short sessions, with a brief recap, a little bit of action ending in a cliffhanger to be resolved next session.

Monday, August 7, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #7 What was your most impactful RPG session?

It's funny that for all the time I've spent gaming, I've had very few sessions that I would call "impactful." There's been so much time spent in that "just having fun" mode that deep, emotional roleplaying moments just haven't been in the cards for me.

But I have had a couple.

In the Fate Star Wars game I played in at DunDraCon a few years back, each player was given a backstory that they got to fill in pieces of themselves. On my character, I was told that I made a fateful action in my past that set me on my path. As play progressed, one of the NPCs pointed out my fateful action and suggested that it may have been the wrong course of action for me to take. It was quite a shock to go into this scenario thinking of my character as a Big Damn Hero in her own way, only to find out that it might not be true. It actually got some real, non-roleplayed emotions out of me.

The Fiasco Fallout game that I played last year had a different, very interesting impact on me. In that session, I wound up with significant leverage over one of the other characters, which I then used to destroy their relationship with the other character in the group. That's something that I had never done as a player or GM. In a traditional, longer game, you don't really want to do that because then the group has to live with the consequences of that action. Also, the sort of casual adventure gaming that we'd been doing didn't really allow for stuff to build up to the point that it was interesting or useful to smash them down like that.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #6 You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

If it was me running it, I would probably dig out the Castle of the Mad Archmage and see how far the players can get at the end of the week.

I might also try a Fiasco campaign. While Fiasco is technically geared to one shot play, it is possible to run a set of linked one-shots. You can use a single playset multiple times, with each session building into the "canon" of the campaign, even though they may approach it from different angles. There are also some "historical" playsets available, some of which can be strung together to create linked stories over time. 5-7 sessions should be enough room to explore either concept, or maybe even both.

If a GM was offering to run a game for me, I'd be open to just about anything.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #5 Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

This is a tough one, because I find most covers illustrative rather than evocative. "Look that that character doing their thing. Your character can do that thing, too." Licensed games often less so, because they're trying to remind you of the show and therefore just have the characters from the show on the cover.

World of Darkness core books generally avoid anything simply representational. The most striking example of this would be the old Werewolf: The Apocalypse book with its claw marks slashed across the cover. The new World of Darkness core rulebook was another good one, with the image of an empty street with a shadowy, incomplete figure in the center.

Though I think I have to give the award to Golden Sky Stories. The cover depicts 3 children with animal ears enjoying a sunset on a hillside. Most of the image is given over to the warm red sky than transitions to yellow just below the middle of the cover, where we see the children. The overall mood of the piece is warm and relaxing, which is much what the game inside the book promises.

Friday, August 4, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #4 Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

My Pathfinder megadungeon campaign fell apart around July, so I started this period without an active campaign, either playing or running.

Since then, I've managed one session of Vampire: The Masquerade, 2 sessions of Fiasco, and 4 sessions of GURPS. The amazing thing is that I was not the GM for any of these games. The Vampire game was run by Kris Newton of the Gameable Podcast. He was playtesting a scenario that he was submitting for a contest. I played a character in Fiasco because that game doesn't have a GM, though I wound up guiding the process since I was the one most familiar with the game.

One of these days I'll dust myself off and run a game myself, but I want to make sure I do proper planning beforehand. My days of running by the seat of my pants are over.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #3 How do you find out about new RPGs?

Mostly from Ken Hite. He's at DunDraCon every year like I am, and every year he does a "What's Cool" seminar. Since that also happens to be when I am fairly flush with cash, I am generally able to act on his recommendations. Also, I am a regular listener of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, so I get regular updates on anything that Ken or Robin are working on.

The One Shot podcast is another source of updates. It also comes with the added bonus that I can see the rules in action. Though just as often, they'll play a game that I already own and their performance makes me want to play it for myself (which doesn't happen as often as I'd like).

Other than that, I check in on RPG.net, various Facebook groups and Tumblr to get a sense of what people are buzzing about.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

RPGaDay #2 What is an RPG you would like to see published?

I would love to see a solid space/techno-fantasy game, where magic and technology are both well-integrated into the system and the setting.

For a long time it felt like magic and technology were the oil and water of RPGs. Even when they were allowed to interact, the interaction was often antagonistic. The more advanced your tech, the less effective magic is against it, and vice versa.

I think Mage: the Ascension and GURPS Technomancer are the best games in terms of modern magic. The setting for Mage does have antagonism between magic and science, but it's a conflict that is as much about people and ideas as it is about natural forces. Whichever version of reality you believe in is the one that is true for you, so getting more people to believe in magic makes magic more effective.

Also the Sons of Ether and the Virtual Adepts were able to do magical things with technology. The Sons of Ether believed in ether science, which had been "disproven" by the Technocracy, the big bad of the setting. So even though they believed that what they were doing was science, it was technically magic. The Virtual Adepts were so "bleeding edge" that they pushed technology to do magical things. You know, like all the stuff hat movies and TV tell us that computers can do, even though people who know how computers work know that they can't.

GURPS Technomancer posited modern world where magic was a known and public force, replacing atomic energy as the driving force of the latter half of the 20th century. It did some pretty solid world building, looking at how modern people would use and view magic.

But something like either of them taken to the stars is what I would really like to see. Magic and technology working together to explore space. I've got some ideas that I may or may not develop, and the upcoming Starfinder RPG looks like it might scratch my itch, but we'll see.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

RPGaDay 2017 #1 What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

As a player, I would love to play in a Fate game. Of the published Fate settings, I would probably like to play the Dresden Files. I know there's the new Dresden Accelerated out now, but I haven't picked that up.

I would like to try something Powered By The Apocalypse. I've got several games on my shelf, but haven't had the chance to give it a go. Monsterhearts seems like the most compelling one to play, though Masks also looks very interesting.

As a GM, my goals are a bit different. I would be interested in running Fate, though I'm perhaps more interested in something like Diaspora, with its random setting generation and social combat. I'm also more likely to pick stuff that other GMs might not have or run often. I have some nostalgia for D20 Modern that is rising back up now that I've reconnected with one of my old players.
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