Sunday, August 31, 2014

RPGaDay #31 Favourite RPG Of All Time

Dammit! You're making me choose! Again! And again, I'm not gonna!

I have a large degree of respect for D&D. Without it, the RPG hobby and industry would not exist. I've played a good amount of it, both 3.x and Old School versions.

I very much like GURPS. As I've mentioned, it's been a big part of my life for a long time. If a campaign presented itself, I would gladly run it again.

I am quite proud of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It was my first publication and has been astoundingly well-received by gamers and Oz fans alike. I hope it will not be my last.

I love all the silly little indie games that find one thing to focus on and do that one thing well.

The game I love the most is the one I play with good friends.

That is all.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

RPGaDay #30 Rarest RPG Owned

This would have to be my first printing of the AD&D sourcebook Deities and Demigods. You know, the one with the Cthulhu and Melnibonean pantheons? It turns out that those were still under copyright at the time, so the books had to be recalled and reprinted without the unlicensed material.

You could probably also call Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
pretty rare. Less than 200 copies are currently in print. Less than 500 total sales. Those numbers can certainly grow (and I hope they do), but they're certainly not a sign of taking the RPG industry by storm.

Friday, August 29, 2014

RPGaDay #29 Most Memorable Encounter

This would have to be Tina.

This was the megadungeon game responsible for both Ted and Kyle. Our halfling rogue got zapped with amnesia out of nowhere and in bursts this pixie who claims to be his wife and mother of his children insisting that he defend her from these intruders (presumably, the rest of the party). If it weren't for some clever roleplay, he might have sneak attacked the lot of us.

Tina eventually became one of our points of contact in the dungeon. If we needed info on anything going on in there, we turned to her. It wasn't until a while later that the DM revealed that Tina had started out as a randomly rolled encounter.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

RPGaDay #28 Scariest Game You've Played

I've already told my Ravenloft story, and that's as scary as I get. I've never played a deliberate horror game. I don't own Call of Cthulhu, though I do have a good selection of World of Darkness material. Never played it though.

I tried to run a NWOD mortals game, but it didn't go too well. There was a supernatural element to the game, but it never achieved anything like horror.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

RPGaDay #27 Game You'd Like To See A New/Improved Edition Of

Not many of those at the moment. Most games on my shelf are either actively supported, or niche enough that they work well enough for their niche and don't need much revising.

A couple of exceptions do exist however.

Star Trek. I would love to see an actively supported Star Trek RPG. I don't know that I'll get it though. The current film franchise is likely to be the dominant paradigm, and that has me somewhat less enthused.

Palladium. Back in the early 80's Palladium Books was an innovator in RPG design. But then the 90's came along and Palladium developed a mega-hit in their Rifts game. The problem with that is they've been milking that mega-hit pretty much ever since. Their other game lines got revised editions simply to make them more compatible with Rifts.

While the mechanics may have been awesome in the 80's and acceptable in the 90's, they're pretty atrocious by modern standards. While they may have beaten D&D to the punch with ascending Armor Class, there are other AD&D tropes that they have stubbornly adhered to. Like different experience tables for each class, and strict skill progressions. And lets not get into comparisons with non-D&D-based systems.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

RPGaDay #26 Coolest Character Sheet

The best character sheet, in my opinion, isn't just one that holds all the information I need about my character. It's one that helps me play the game.

Savage Worlds did something really clever with their character sheet. They put the wound level chart and spell point tracker along the edge of the paper. So instead of marking and erasing stuff that's going to change regularly over the session, you can mark your status by sliding a paperclip down the page.

Monday, August 25, 2014

RPGaDay #25 Favorite RPG That No One Wants To Play

All of them, really.

Because D&D is at the top of nearly everyone's mind when it comes to RPGs, it's the game that nearly everyone plays. It's usually fairly easy to get a D&D game started. But finding people who want to try out some other game is usually tougher.

So let's take a look at some of the games on my shelf that might be a tougher sell than the others.

IronClaw. The main turn-off here is that it's a "furry" RPG. By which I mean that your character options are anthropomorphic animals. But people love making unwarranted assumptions and poo-poo the game on the basis of that one word.

Having actually run the game, I really liked it. It was easy to run, fairly easy to play, and the setting was a very interesting take on pseudo-Europe. And nobody had sex.

I haven't had the opportunity to pick up the latest "Squaring the Circle" edition, but it's on my list.

Tibet. One of the more interesting games from Vajra Enterprises, a company that specializes in interesting subject matter. The setting is Tibet during the 1950's, when the Chinese takeover of the country occurred. But alongside this oppressive reality also exists the supernatural world as the Tibetans believe it to be. Karma is a real thing and can be used to power magical effects.

Between the exoticism of the setting and the brutal reality of the time period, I am not confident in my ability to find a group that can do this game proper justice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

RPGaDay #24 Most Complicated RPG Owned

This is another one where you're probably expecting me to say GURPS, isn't it? Well, I'm not. And I have a couple of reasons why.

First of all, I think complexity in an RPG is subjective, at least to a degree. No one playing a game needs to know every rule. So no matter how thick an RPG book is nobody needs to know more than a few pages of rules at a time. Some games differ in where they put their complexity. For example, building a first level character in D&D is relatively simple. But as play progresses and the character gets new weapons, spells, powers and abilities, that character becomes more complicated. Since each new rule is introduced one at a time, the player feels that the game remains simple.

GURPS front loads its complexity, requiring you to juggle points and priorities as you build your character. But once the character enters play, the game is actually quite simple. Even if you get into GURPS Vehicles (which is not easy by a long shot), once you've done the cube roots and other obscure math to build a sailboat, you know everything you need to know about that sailboat and never need to do any of that math again.

Secondly, there are a couple games on my shelf that have it beat. I've mentioned Burning Wheel once or twice. That is a game you've really got to play to comprehend. I had to actually build a character to understand how the process worked. And there are functionally 3 different combat systems, as well as an involved social combat system, each with their own intricacies.

Another one worthy of mention is Arduin Eternal, a revival of the classic Arduin RPG. The mechanics are fairly simple. It's moved to percentile roll high, much like Rolemaster (which I do not include because I do not have it in my collection currently). But also like Rolemaster, character creation is a bear. Lots of lists and page flipping.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

RPGaDay #23 Coolest Looking RPG

This one's actually pretty easy. Castle Falkenstein.

While art and layout in RPG books have been continuing to improve over the years, it reached its peak in Castle Falkenstein. The original rulebook is a visual treat. The majority of the book is given over to the story of Tom Olam, who is something of an artist, that includes many drawings and painting supposedly done by him drawing from "life" in a fantastical realm. Every page, even those that are mostly text are clearly mean to be viewed as well as simply read.

While illustrations in modern gaming books are always improving, their inclusion is still just to break up the text. I can't think of any other game that has incorporated the illustrations so well and made them integral to the setting.

Friday, August 22, 2014

RPGaDay #22 Best Secondhand RPG Purchase

Secondhand games. The best friend of the gamer on a budget.

I already spent a post writing about my convention purchasing, which winds up including at least some secondhand vintage games every year. But there are some other things I could mention. Stuff I might not have gotten at a con that still felt like a score.

One item that we picked up in a local used bookstore was The Chronicles of Talislanta. Not strictly an RPG book, it's a travelogue describing the exotic lands of the continent of Talislanta. Although it would later get a full RPG treatment, and a reputation as the "Rasputin of RPGs" this book was the first description of the Talislanta setting. It is also what launched my wife's quest for all things Talislanta. There are a few things we still need, but the gap is closing every year. (Yes, I know I can get everything in PDF from, but I'm a big believer in physical books and the joy of having a thing.)

We also bought the Compleat Arduin at that same book store. While based on David Hargrave's original material, it was revised and compiled by Mark Schynert some time after Hargrave's death. It wasn't until this last year that I realized that Mark Schynert was the same guy who did a lot of the organizing for DunDraCon and I had met him and corresponded with him via email in that capacity. He even ran an Arduin game at DDC this year, but my wife wound up missing out because of her newly discovered allergies.

There are times when I consider the Dream Park RPG to really be my first insight into gaming. Probably about the time I was shopping for the copy of GURPS Horror for the girl who became my wife (I told that story earlier this month), I also found a copy of the Dream Park RPG on the used shelf at the game store. Flipping through it, I wound up reading my first "What is an RPG?" section. And my mind kind of rebelled against the idea that an RPG could be such a simple thing at its core. I didn't buy it that day, but that memory stuck in my brain until I was finally able to find another copy at another used book store. It's been a part of my collection ever since.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

RPGaDay #21 Favorite Licensed RPG

I've got a number of these on my shelf right now. I've got Star Wars and Star Trek. Superhero games licensed by Marvel and DC. Licensed games based on TV shows, like Red Dwarf, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Games based on book series, like the Dresden Files, GURPS Discworld, and Dream Park. I've even got RPGs that are licensed from other RPGs, with GURPS conversions of the old World of Darkness line, Castle Falkenstein, Deadlands and Blue Planet.

Although not technically licensed, I've even written my own RPG based on the Oz novels of L. Frank Baum. Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. The only Oz RPG mature enough to not feel the need to be so grown up.


I've been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, so I've got nearly every Star Trek RPG (I've got all the major ones, but I hear there was an obscure one from the 70's that's probably impossible to find these days). My favorite Star Trek RPG would probably be the one from Last Unicorn Games published in the late 90's. The other games do specific parts of the setting better (The FASA RPG does bridge crew well, Prime Directive did "planet stories" in a way that made sense, and the Decipher game had strong starship combat mechanics), but I felt the LUG game line was most competent overall. Nothing really outstanding, but there was no point that I felt they dropped the ball.

Among the non-Star Trek games, my vote has to go to the Dresden Files RPG. I've been a big fan of the book series for some time, and it really shows that this game was created by fans as well. I've read some complaints about the in-character footnotes in the book, but I thought they were a clever way to let Harry Dresden's character come through in the book without making the book specifically about him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

RPGaDay #20 Will Still Play in 20 Years Time

This one's a toughie.

It's always hard to make 20-year predictions. or even 5- or 10-year predictions. I'm going to start by assuming that my interest in gaming will not have diminished over the next 20 years. I will also assume that my financial situation will have improved so that I can buy more of the games I want and I can go to more cons. Maybe have kids that I can introduce to gaming, but that depends on having the financial ability to support them and convincing my wife.

My overall hope for my gaming career is to branch out and try new things. So what games will I be playing in 20 years? With any luck, games that are less than 20 years old.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RPGaDay#19 Favorite Published Adventure

Overall, I have little use for published adventures. When I was just starting out, I really leaned on them. The fact that I had purchased adventures was what originally positioned me as DM for whatever friends wanted to play D&D. When I started running other games, one of my first criteria was that it be something that I had adventures for.

The first time I tried writing my own script was for Exalted. Technically, there was a book of adventures for Exalted, but it was really very loosely written and hard to use. Especially when compared to the more detailed adventures that had been written for other games. So even though it was my reason for putting Exalted on my list of games to run, I wound up not using it at all. The amazing thing, at least to my mind, is that my players had a good time using the material that I had written.

I still use published adventures for D&D games. Plots and such come fairly easy to me and D&D, with its rules for encounter balancing and treasure placement, feels like more baggage and work than any other system requires of me when writing an adventure. Combined with the ready availability of adventures for that system in its various incarnations, it is far easier to use a published adventure than to write my own.

But in terms of picking a favorite, I think long-time readers know my picks.

The Castle of the Mad Archmage from BRW Games. Not a single adventure, but an entire campaign worth of things to do.

The Jaded City of Oz, the sample adventure in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It doesn't create a sets of hoops to jump through, but instead provides an amusing set of scenarios to explore.

Monday, August 18, 2014

RPGaDay #18 Favorite Game System

You guys probably think I'm going to say GURPS here, don't you?

And it's a fair assessment. GURPS is where I got my start. I've run a lot of GURPS over the years, and the GURPS section of my gaming shelf is second only to my d20/D&D collection (my wife's preferred system).

But is it my favorite system? Yes and no.

One of the things I've learned about myself over the course of my gaming career is that I am a system nut. Even though I have not played every system on my shelf, I have given all of them a thorough read through until I understood the basics of each one. How the game meshed system and setting, how it managed genre emulation, or even how poorly it managed these things.

So there are things I will do in GURPS. There are also things for which GURPS is a terrible fit. And I have enough other systems that are a great fit for those concepts. Though maybe one or two more wouldn't hurt...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

RPGaDay #17 Funniest Game You've Ever Played

There are very few comedy games on my shelf at the moment. A quick survey shows 3: Stuperpowers, Red Dwarf, and Pandemonium: Adventures in Tabloid World. Of the 3, I have only played 1. I recall quite some time ago running a quick one-shot with the sample adventures in the book. It was amusing, but very little sticks in my brain. Other than the fact that someone actually found a use for the power to turn 1 city block into Amish country.

A few years ago at DunDraCon, I got to play in a Spaceballs game, where I got to play Mel Brooks' Yoda-like character of Yogurt. The plot revolved around the fact that Pizza the Hut led a secret life as a stripper at a place called Gals, Guys and Otherwise. His death as described in the original film left not only a leadership gap in his crime ring, but also left certain elements of his (er, her) stripper obligations unresolved.

The system they used felt a little clunky, but workable. It was the GM who really sold the scenario. She really knew her stuff and was able to improvise quite well. A day you can hit a bad guy upside the head with Spaceballs: The Frying Pan is a good day indeed.

The most amusing scenario I've ever run of my own creation would have to be during my Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road playtest. I placed a hidden ninja village in the Munchkin Country. The characters were initially attacked by a group of Kawasaki ninjas, but then got tied up in the conflict between the Foot Clan and the Hand Ninjas. (For the true nerds out there, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were intended as a parody of Frank Miller's excessive grittiness. The Turtle's origin was tied in to Daredevil's, so the Turtle's enemy the Foot Clan were a mirror to the Hand Ninjas that plagued Daredevil.)

One of my favorite jokes of the scenario was the fact that ninjas were not necessarily masters of stealth. Instead, the people of the village were trained to ignore anyone in ninja pajamas as if they weren't there.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

RPGaDay #16: Game You Wish You Owned

Another big list here. Even though I have the biggest collection of game among all my friends, I still want more.

I'd love to have a copy of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. I have the old Time Lord RPG which covers the classic series, but I would like to have something that covers the new show as well.

There are those who would say I should turn in my nerd card for not having any edition of Call of Cthulhu.

I'd love a mecha RPG with a decent, approachable mech construction system. Any recommendations?

I'm sure there's a lot slipping my mind right now. If you gave me the run of a game store or convention dealer's room with an unlimited budget, I'm sure I would come back with mighty stacks. Probably not everything. I don't think I could break my choosiness habits. But it would be a mighty stack, I'm sure.

Friday, August 15, 2014

RPGaDay #15 Favourite Convention Game

I try to play in at least one game every time I go to DunDraCon. It can be hard to find one, since I am rather choosy. Coupled with the fact that my schedule also gets taken up with running my own game, trying to sit on a few seminars, and having time to cruise the Dealers Room and the Buyer's Bazaar, one is usually all I get.

I generally avoid the D&D games. I generally prefer non-fantasy games and supporting systems that don't get a lot of play or that I haven't tried before. There is one GM who regularly runs GURPS games, so I've tried to get into his games when I can.

Though I must say that my favorite convention game was actually one that I played this year. It was the Mythos Trek game. Although the system was ostensibly Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system, the GM ran the game very loosely. Good, cool, or funny ideas typically had a very good chance of success. Coupled with the GM awarding "Cool Points" good for free rerolls if you could make him laugh, there wasn't a lot of tension regarding whether or not we would succeed at anything we were assigned to do. So most of the game was about exactly how we were going to accomplish our missions. And with all of the sci-fi nerds that signed up for this, we had a lot of fun coming up with ways to reconfigure the deflector array to augment the spin of the graviton matrix and other such silliness.

There was a lot of humor and lots of opportunities to strut my Star Trek geek stuff. Best convention game ever.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RPGaDay #14 Best Convention Purchase

This one's a toughie. As I've mentioned, I do most of my game shopping at conventions these days.

I could talk about the joys of discovering old GURPS sourcebooks, like the licensed GURPS Conan and GURPS The Prisoner.

Or the times I was able to pick up some bit of new hotness, like Spirit of the Century, Diaspora, or Monsterhearts.

Or the random and vintage, like the original Castle Falkenstein. I've had the GURPS adaptation for years (by the end of this month, you'll probably be sick and tired of me talking about GURPS), but the original rulebook with its card-based rules, and a couple of supplements, were finds in the Buyer's Bazaar.

Along with most of my vintage Talislanta collection. My wife insisted on buying the Fourth edition when it was new (she lovingly calls it "The Big Blue Brick"), but it wasn't until we started shopping at DunDraCon that we found books for the older editions. We even bought the only Tal4 supplement, Midnight Realm, at DDC.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RPGaDay #13 Most Memorable Character Death

With my own limited opportunities to run a character rather than a campaign, and the issues that cause all campaigns to run shorter than intended, I have only experienced one character death.

He was named Kyle, a Human Cleric of Pelor. This was the first character I played in the megadungeon campaign that led to Ted, Avenger of Kord (I told his story a few days ago). Since it was a megadungeon, I decided I was going to play my character "Old School" style. He got no characterization or backstory at the beginning, but would grow in depth as play progressed and we learned things and made decisions. Also, even though we were playing D&D 3.5, I would put no ranks in the Search or Spot skills, relying on description to make my "search checks."

This last bit turned out to be Kyle's undoing. The player who usually played the party rogue was out, so there was no one to play it safe, rolling dice for searching for traps and picking locks. So Kyle readily volunteered for scouting duty.

We encountered a large double door. Our first step was to check whether or not it was locked. Since I had no Search skill, the DM asked me ho I was going to check the door. I said, "I'm going to rattle the knob and see if it opens." The door was unlocked, but it was also the only thing between Kyle and a half-white-dragon cryohydra (one of the things we learned fairly quickly about this dungeon was that there was a white dragon somewhere that really liked to get busy with nearly any other creature it could find), which had manage to hear Kyle rattling his doorknob. So when we opened the door, Kyle took a face full of ice breath. I don't recall if he made his saving through, but it was enough damage to do him in, in any case.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RPGaDay #12 Old RPG You Still Play/Read

I'm probably going to disappoint a number of people with this one. Since I didn't really start collecting game books with any seriousness until the 21st century, the majority of my collection is from the 90's and 00's.

While running the original Castle of the Mad Archmage, I used OSRIC for my ruleset, but the monster section didn't have all the monsters that were used in the dungeon. Thankfully, I had copies of the original AD&D Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio to help round things out. Now that Joe has Adventures Dark & Deep out and a version of CotMA that uses it, I don't I'll have to look past the AD&D Bestiary for my dungeoneering needs.

In terms of recreational reading, I've been reading in the 90's. I mentioned a little bit ago that I have been contemplating a Star Trek campaign, so I dug out my Last Unicorn Games Star Trek RPG which came out in the very late 90's. To bone up on NPCs, I took a look at GURPS Supporting Cast (I mentioned I had a lot of GURPS books), which is copyright 1993.

Though I did see my wife peeking through the Compleat Arduin the other day, which is also 1993.

Monday, August 11, 2014

RPGaDay #11 Weirdest RPG Owned

I've got a couple of weird ones. It's hard to say exactly which one is the weirdest.

I've mentioned Talislanta before. It's a very non-traditional setting, frequently promoting itself with the tagline "No Elves."

GURPS Fantasy II: The Mad Lands is another one that throws off much of traditional fantasy in favor of weirdness. But in this case, it's a pretty scary weirdness rather than the exotic weirdness of Talislanta. Including Elder Gods based off of Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Both Rifts and Gamma World scratch any "post apocalyptic gonzo" itch I might have. I've got one of the books from the Second Edition Gamma World, the rulebook for Fourth Edition, as well as the Fifth Edition (Alternity) rulebook. I even have the Omega World issue of Polyhedron.

And then there are the game concepts that are totally out of left field. Like Pandemonium: Adventures in Tabloid World. You play tabloid reporters in a world where you are the only ones willing to tell the truth. The random scenario generator is probably the best bit of the whole thing.

Castle Falkenstein has a number of interesting features, aside from being one of the first Steampunk RPGs. The setting is presented largely via lovingly illustrated game fiction about Tom Olam, a man from the real world who got pulled into a world of magic and pageantry. It's even suggested that the game itself was designed by Olam and played in the setting. Cards are used instead of dice because dice are for gambling, and therefore inappropriate in the setting's high society.

GURPS Illuminati University is a comedy setting featuring a university where anything goes. Sort of a slightly more mature Teenagers From Outer Space. But only slightly. All of GURPS setting and genre books are encouraged for mashing together in truly comedic fashion. There are setting in-jokes for everyone, from Tolkien geeks to Doctor Who fans.

The Ghost Dog Roleplaying Game and Resource Book is probably the oddest thing I've ever come across. Published by Guardians of Order, it naturally uses their Tri-Stat system. Amusingly enough, this is the same system used by all of their anime sourcebooks, like their Sailor Moon RPG (which is also on my shelf).

I've seen the movie that this game is based on, and enjoyed it, but it didn't scream RPG to me. There are no dangling plot threads, or deep, rich setting. The film is heavy on symbolism and metaphor, which are very difficult things to implement in an RPG. And with most of the characters dead at the end of the film, it felt like there were very few places to go with it.

It's not deliberately funny or weird. Just a real odd duck.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

RPGaDay #10 Favorite Tie-in Novel/Game Fiction

I've never really been attracted to the idea of game fiction. Part of the problem is that I'm not a big fantasy reader, and most game fiction is published in that genre. I know there are some sci-fi games out there that might have accompanying game fiction, and I might look those up at some point.

The other problem is the fear that the novel is actually the write-up of someone's home campaign. Between meticulously detailed descriptions that make you hear the dice clattering in your mind, and stuff that worked great at the table, but is boring or anti-climactic when it becomes prose.

I tried to read the Avatar Trilogy (a trilogy of Forgotten Realms tie-in novels), and couldn't make it a third of the way through the first book.

I did find myself enjoying The Worldwound Gambit by Robin Laws. I knew his reputation as a game designer and game writer, but I wasn't sure how he's do at fiction. It turns out he actually did pretty good. I never heard the dice roll, though I was able to identify other game-related elements, like figuring out the classes of each character.

I also made a point of tracking down a novel called Curse of the Shadow Beast by Christine Morgan. It first came to my attention as a bit of GURPS game fiction. It was a novelization of the author's GURPS fantasy campaign. As she was writing, she was afraid that too many GURPS-isms were peaking through, so she sent it to Steve Jackson Games for approval. Steve Jackson was apparently impressed enough that he wrote a foreword to the book praising it. It does not use any GURPS logos or trade dress, probably because it does not use the default GURPS Fantasy setting, Yrth.

And while it was a transcript of a campaign, it avoided most of the fatal flaws of such things. The battle scenes did not receive excessive detail. It also seemed written from the perspective of one of the PCs rather than the GM. The main flaw of the book is that it seems divided into two sections. One is the gaming transcript, which includes a modestly sized adventuring party. The other half focuses on two of the characters and reads like a romance novel.

This first outing apparently resulted in a trilogy. And then another trilogy. The first book made me interested to read the rest, though mostly out of curiosity regarding how she developed as a writer after this.

But other than this, if I read a book that has a game associated with it, it is a book that inspired the game. Even if I pick up the game first.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

RPGaDay #9 Favorite Die/Dice Set

This is my favorite dice set. It's the dice set I've managed to keep together the longest. I actually bought it back at DunDraCon back in 2009. Most of the time, I never expect my dice sets to stay together. Eventually, you drop one somewhere and never get it back. There are always other dice, but now the set is incomplete. Not this one. It's held together for over 5 years now.

I call it my "Emerald City" set. It's got green marbled coloring with gold numbers, so Emerald City seemed like a good name for it. And just in case I needed a backup, I've looked in the Chessex booth at DDC every year, but they never seem to have the right kind of marbling. Green and gold, yes. But just not quite right.

They're currently held, and displayed, in a dice vault which was given to me by my brother this last Christmas. He also got one for my wife. My family is awesome.

I also have a d30 hiding around somewhere that I seem to recall as the first gaming die I ever bought. I had just discovered The Last Grenadier game store in Burbank. Even though I had less than a dollar to my name at the time, I wanted to buy something to compensate for all the time I had spent in there that day. So I glanced over the loose dice and saw a really cool-looking one with 30 sides. I didn't know what it was used for. To be honest, I didn't know what any of them were used for. But it looked cool and it as less than a dollar, so I bought it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

RPGaDay #8: Favorite Character

I'm guessing that this one is asking about my favorite character to have created and played, rather than setting NPCs and background characters.

With all the time I've spent as a GM over the years, the number of characters I've played is rather small. The ones I've been able to play for any length of time is an even smaller list.

Let's start with Konrad. He was the first D&D character I played, back when Third Edition came out. He was a barbarian. The fact that he came out with the name "Konrad the Barbarian" was completely unintentional.

The DM let every character start with a minor magic item, randomly determined. Konrad got a +1 undead bane warhammer. I decided this was a family heirloom and his barbarian tribe was totally into smashing zombies and such.

Then the DM decided to run us through the classic module Ravenloft. One of the features of this module was a fortune telling scene in the beginning that had a number of effects on the events to come. One of these was predicting that one of the party members had the Sunsword needed to kill the powerful vampire lord at the heart of Castle Ravenloft. It turns out that this was Konrad. But since Konrad didn't have a sword, it turns out his warhammer was able to become the prophesied weapon. Just pull this flange and turn that knob and suddenly it's a blazing sword!

Konrad's response to this? "Stupid broken hammer! You made it not hammer anymore!"

And then there was Ted. A friend of mine wanted to try out this megadungeon that he had written, so we got a group together. After my first character in that campaign had died (whose story I will recount later this month), I made Ted, Avenger of Kord.

My initial threat was that my replacement character was going to be a paladin with the Vow of Poverty feat from the Book of Exalted Deeds. Some of the other players are more into optimizing than I am, so there was some discussion about how overpowered the feat was. It actually is pretty powerful, mostly because it requires you to give up on ever getting magic armor and weapons that are pretty much essential for survival at higher levels. But it was suggested that a paladin would be able to get away with it, because paladins, like most fighter classes, are more dependent upon weapons and armor than other classes. So that's when I made my decision.

Though when it finally happened and it was time to roll him up, the rest of the players were unsure if they wanted lawful goodness in the party. So I turned to my back issues of Dragon Magazine and found a variant paladin called an Avenger that was required to be chaotic good rather than lawful good.

I decided on the patron deity of Kord because my previous character, who was a cleric of another deity, had made fun of a small temple of Kord we had discovered in the dungeon. Kord was technically a god of strength and athleticism, but my previous character instead decided that Kord was the god of carnival games. And I chose the name Ted for the character because of the superhero Blue Beetle, who's real name was Ted Kord. I knew the DM was a comic book nerd, and figured I'd try to score some points while I was at it.

Since paladins need a lot of scores high (Strength for hitting, Wisdom for spell-casting, Charisma for healing and turning. Consitution for hit points), I actually had to make some tough calls. One of them was dump-statting Strength. Even though I just said it was pretty core, something had to give. And since the Vow of Poverty feat gave stat bumps among the many other abilities, I figured that would be a kind of cool "character arc." Watching the weakling turn buff as he progressed along the path of Kord.

The funny thing is, even with that terrible Strength score (I don't think he had gotten it above 10 by the time the campaign fell apart), he was an athletic powerhouse. Whenever I had to roll for him to do something physical, it nearly always succeeded.

At one point, we had encountered a spiked floor trap in the dungeon. If you stepped on the wrong tile, spikes would come out of the floor to impale you. But it turned out that the wrong tiles were pretty easy to avoid. So Ted decided that he was going to jump over the entire trapped section of floor in one go. He had no Jump skill, and a Strength penalty. With the distance that needed to be jumped and the distance of any possible running start, I needed to roll a 20 on the 20-sided die. Guess what I rolled?

Another time, Ted was called upon to compete in a triathlon in order to prove the power of his faith and his god. Again, no Strength and no skill, but the dice came to my aid and he won the entire triathlon, gaining a number of converts to his faith.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

RPGaDay #7 Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned

This would probably be my GURPS collection. From the math intensive GURPS Vehicles to the thoroughly researched historical sourcebooks, GURPS is probably one of the most intellectual RPGs out there. I've got over 100 GURPS books on my shelf, both 3e and 4e.

One of the big strengths of GURPS sourcebooks is that they make up as little as possible. Rather than presenting a quasi-historical setting or a mostly historical setting (with added awesome) Steve Jackson Games spends most of the book giving you the straight history in an accessible and game-able way. Only once you've got the facts of the situation do they introduce tweaks to make it more fantastical or pulpy or whatever genre you like.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RPGaDay #6 Favorite RPG I Never Get To Play

Watch out, because this is a pretty long list. I've got a lot of games on my shelf and most of them have not been played. And since I am pretty much a career GM, I'm not going to complain about not being able to actually play in any of them.

Fate is probably my big one right now. I bought the Dresden Files RPG since I was a fan of the novels. Diaspora is a cool sci-fi implementation of Fate that feels detailed while still keeping things approachable. I picked up the Fate Core rulebook and the System Toolkit at DunDraCon as well as enough Fate dice to make sure my friends had some if they ever wanted to play.

Burning Wheel has been on my list for a long time, but I still haven't been able to give it a try. The rules feel very heavy and dense and flavorful and I want to see how they actually work one of these days.

Spaceship Zero also looks like it would be lots of fun. It's a pulp sci-fi setting with lots of Cthulhu and Mythos references. I'm not as big of a Mythos fan as some people, but I know some people who would probably get a kick out of it. Even without knowing all of that stuff, it's got a great 50's era B-movie feel that I like.

And those are just the games that I've never played. There are a number of games that I have played that I haven't played in far too long and that I recall being quite fun.

D20 Modern was fun. The only problem was that advancement was quite slow. Rather than dungeon crawls with monsters in every room, fights (the primary way to advance in d20) were more sparse and had to be worked into the plot. I think I only had one player make it to level 2, even though I ran that game for a couple of months.

I ran a number of Exalted games back in First edition. I have all but one of the books for that edition. I do have a copy of the Second edition, but I haven't given it a go. There is apparently a Third edition in the works. We'll see if I'm able to pick up on this again.

Another great first edition that seems to have moved on was Cartoon Action Hour. I ran a campaign of first edition using a homebrewed setting that was a lot of fun, as well as my "Transformers: Attack of the Retcons" convention adventure. I even did writeups of the Transformers characters that converted the stats from the back of the toy package into CAH stats. They did a CAH: Season 2, and now I believe they're up to Season 3 now. I'm getting behind on so much stuff!

Maybe I'll dust off my New World of Darkness books and give them a go one more time. Or give the Palladium system the old college try (even though I've never been to college).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

RPGaDay #5: Most Old School RPG owned

I didn't start gaming until the 21st Century, so I don't have a lot of Old School material. There are some AD&D books on the shelf, but mostly Planescape and monster books. I believe they are my wife's contribution to the collection. She's also the one who wanted to pick up The Compleat Arduin two-volume set and every Talislanta book we can find. So we've got the 1st through 4th editions of that game, as well as a number of supplements.

Also from Bard Games, I've got the Arcanum fantasy roleplaying rules as well as the Bestiary. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the third book in that set, which is a setting book detailing the island of Atlantis. A friend of mine does have that book, but not the others. I think we are now waiting for the other to die or stop gaming so we can pick up the items we're missing to complete the set.

From the OSR, I've got a copy of OSRIC, as well as the Adventures Dark & Deep ruleset. I also have the Castle of the Mad Archmage megadungeon, which led to a nice 3-year-long campaign.

Monday, August 4, 2014

RPGaDay #4 Most Recent RPG Purchase

Unfortunately, my money situation usually means that I do very little game buying over the year. Which is why I make a point of having a sizable "souvenir" budget every year at DunDraCon. So my most recent purchases have already been posted here.

Though my wife is a big Pathfinder fan and insisted that we subscribe to the hardcover rulebooks. She's probably prefer if we took every subscription they offered and got their entire output as it was released, but money is an issue. So we've got the Advanced Class Guide coming in the mail sometime this month.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

#RPGaDay #1-3

The last few months have been kind of a doldrums for me, which is why I haven't been posting regularly. But hopefully, getting back to posting will help me get back to my old self and get some other things moving. So I decided to participate in the RPGaDay blogfest

I'm doing the first 3 posts as 1 today for a couple of reasons. First of all, I'm starting late. Secondly, events did not take place in an orderly fashion, so I think I'd rather present them in chronological order rather than blogfest order.

#3 First RPG purchased

The first RPG book I ever purchased would be GURPS Horror, First edition (Stapled binding, Brom art on the cover) back in 1998. A pretty girl (who later became my wife) had shown me her copy of GURPS Wild Cards and I wanted to get her something nice. When I saw a used copy of GURPS Horror at the local game shop for a price I could afford (3-4 dollars, I want to say), I thought it would make a good gift. They were both GURPS, right?

It wasn't until I presented her with the gift that she explained that she had the Wild Cards book because she was a fan of the novel series. The game book was a good reference to the series and she had no real idea or interest in the precise meaning of the game stats presented for the novel characters. (She did wind up loaning me some of the novels to read. Good stuff.)

I was kind of hooked, though. I had to solve the mystery of exactly what a Strength score was and exactly how this sort of game was played. Over the next year, with whatever I could save up, I wound up getting the GURPS Basic Set (so if this was supposed to be about my first core rulebook or basic set, there you go) and a few other books.

Which leads me to...

#1 First RPG played

Amusingly enough, it was Rolemaster. Looking up GURPS resources on the internet I found a website done by a guy who ran a GURPS game not far from where my girl and I were living back in 1999. He listed an email address, so I dropped him a note. It turns out he had just finished up a GURPS campaign and his players decided they wanted to give Rolemaster a try.

With no real knowledge, but a healthy dose of enthusiasm, I asked if I could join the campaign. He consented, but since I had no clue about the system, he wanted to generate my character before I got there. Apparently, the process of Rolemaster character creation is complex enough that a spreadsheet was used to streamline the process.

The GM decided to do a Rolemaster conversion of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

I seem to recall only a few sessions of that game coming to pass. I think I wound up dropping out because of transportation reasons. I either had to leave early to catch the bus or pay through the nose for a cab after each session.

And now...

#2 First RPG Gamemastered

Since the last 2 covered the years of 1998 and 1999, we now come to the year 2000. The first RPG I ever ran was D&D 3rd edition, which was new out that year.

I bought the books because they were well designed and well priced. I had been in the habit of picking up a $20 GURPS softcover supplement on my pay days, so $20 for a lovely hardcover book was a brilliant deal.

My first long-term campaign as a player was D&D 3e at about this time. But not all of my D&D-interested friends were playing in that campaign, and some people who were playing were also interested in doing another campaign. But since every campaign needs a DM, that had to be somebody. I think I had started picking up Dungeon Magazine by this time, so I figured I had the resources to DM if nobody else had a brilliant campaign idea.

It was clumsy and awkward and a learning experience for all involved. I've gotten better, but I don't think I'm up with the Greats yet.
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