RPG A Day 2017 August 26

August Twenty Sixth

(What’s That, Five Days Belated?)

Prompt: Which RPG Provides The Most Useful Resources?

Hm. There’s a lot of good answers here, depending on how you define “resources”.

Pathfinder probably has the largest bulk of both official and third party material. (There’s a lot of high-quality stuff in the latter category, and a lot of low quality. See Sturgeon’s Law.)

GURPS Third Edition has a well-deserved reputation for mountains of excruciatingly well-written and well-researched sourcebooks that contain tons of ideas and information applicable to other gaming system. GURPS Fourth Edition has less material per se, but the majority of the 3E stuff is usable for the non-rules content and the rules content is easy to convert.

I am extremely impressed with the “Doctor” sourcebooks for the Doctor Who RPG. Each volume covers an individual Doctor’s tenure, with stats for anything that needs it and plot hooks for each episode summarized.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 25

August Twenty Fifth

(Six Days Belated)

Prompt: What Is The Best Way To Thank Your GM?

Oh, another easy one, at least if the GM is me: Chinese Food. Or pizza, if it’s got meat on it (mushroom are honorary meat), and no weird hippie California toppings like artichoke hearts or broccoli or tofu cheese on a GMO free, gluten-free crust with locally sourced ingredients picked on a cooperatively owned farm and that’s why we’re charging $45.00 for a small pie.

But I digress.

Beyond that, the obvious: Show up on time. Pay attention to the massive lore infodumps — they spent six hours writing the backstory for the tiny hamlet you pass through and has statted out every NPC and their chickens, the least you could do is pretend to listen. Let them know you appreciate it when they spend two hours designing a battlefield in Campaign Cartographer that will only be in play for five minutes because you one-shot the boss monster they spent another two hours statting out in HeroLab. Not that I have any particular incidents in mind, of course.,

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RPG A Day 2017 August 24

August Twenty Fourth

(Getting Worse As I Somehow Got Nothing Done Yesterday)

Prompt: Share A PWYW Publisher You Think Should Be Charging More

Well, this is an easy one. I don’t know of any PWYW publishers. I primarily buy print products or Kickstarter things or stuff on DriveThru that has a fixed price (often when it’s on sale, as I’m a cheap bastich.) So, moving on.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 23

August Twenty Third

(Five Days Belated)

Prompt: Which RPG Has The Most Jaw-Dropping Layout?

Hm.

This isn’t something I pay a lot of attention to, overall. Layout needs to be just pretty enough to be evocative, and not a pile of self-indulgent artsy-fartsy stuff with light green text on light grey background in type that wraps around images across a two page spread… I’m looking at you, White Wolf. When thinking about “diversity” and “inclusiveness”, consider that a lot of gamers have some form of partial color blindness. (In my case, a “moderate red-green deficiency”.)

That rant out of the way, there’s a lot of games with very nice layout — I’m quite fond of the original 3e books, with their pseudo-DaVinci illustrations and parchmenty-background. (To be fair, I must acknowledge that while that particular palette worked fine for my vision, it quite possibly didn’t for someone with a different color deficiency.)

At the moment, though, the winner goes to Hackmaster Fifth Edition Hacklopedia of Beasts. I’m not talking about the Fourth Edition volumes that were full of amazing ideas but which were deliberately designed to look like AD&D 1e/2e books. I’m talking the new one, which is published very slowly but each volume, when released, is a tome of true magnificence.

Here, check this out.

Everything In The Book Is This Purty

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RPG A Day 2017 August 22

August Twenty Second

(I Keep Hovering About Six Days Behind)

Prompt: Which RPG Is The Easiest For You To Run?

Those I’ve run extensively before. 🙂

At this point, Pathfinder and similar D20 derivatives are in the lead, followed by Hero System… even though it’s been a while since I’ve ran it, I’ve done it so much that it’s fairly instinctive. (Caveat: Haven’t run 6e yet.)

Two things help tremendously:

  • Well-done digital tools for character creation and worldbuilding, especially if they’re good for creating things other than individual PCs. I like custom NPCs and unique monsters, and I like systems which define things in considerable detail. This can mean, in the absence of such tools, being forced to take shortcuts or make approximations in the name of time, which undermines the point of using a high-crunch system in the first place.
  • Players who know the rules. When you’ve got quite literally a half-dozen thick rulebooks filled with character options, it is not possible for the GM to know them all, or their interactions, or their caveats. I should not have to know how your half-dragon paladin/fencer can combine his smite evil, his breath weapon, and his panache abilities in an iterative attack against an evil outsider. You have to know that and be honest about how it works.
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RPG A Day 2017 August 21

August Twenty First

(Five Days Belated)

Prompt: Which RPG Does The Most With The Least Words?

FEWEST words! #Stannis

As my personal preferences run towards massive tomes, this is an odd question. But I have two answers.

First, Og… because it’s all about using very few words.

Second… BESM First Edition. While I consider Second Edition to be one of the best rules-light generic games, I still fell in love with the very slim First Edition, because it was easy to see how, despite the overall paucity of pages, you really could model a large range of characters using it. The creators distilled broad concepts down to their essence and made it clear which options should be considered as “categorical”… “Owns A Big Robot” in 1E could easily be “Owns A Spaceship”, for example.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 20

August Twentieth

(Only Six Days Late!)

Prompt: What Is The Best Source For Out Of Print RPGs?

I do very well at Half Price Books. They usually have a decent selection at reasonable prices. Amazon has darn near anything you can imagine, but the pricing is often crazed. Several years ago, I was in a Vampire: Dark Ages game. I wanted the hardcover splats (High Clans and Low Clans, I think). A seller on Amazon wanted over 100 bucks for each! I found them at Half Price (after the campaign ended, of course), for about 20 each.

Noble Knight Games also has a huge assortment at decent prices. I tend to prefer HPB because I am more of a serendipitous collector — I rarely know what I want/need, so it’s more fun to discover something I didn’t know existed.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 19

August Nineteenth

(Slouching Towards Current)

Prompt: Which RPG Has The Best Writing?

Oy.

I often get the feeling these questions are aimed at people who don’t need to have their wife maintain a database of their games. If you own a half-dozen or so games, it’s not too hard to pick “the best”. When you own well over 2000 (and that’s RPGs and splats for them, that’s not counting Dragon and Space Gamer and so on), it’s harder. Especially when a lot of the game systems I like include many contributors, some better than others.

What does ‘best’ mean in this context? RPGs are a fascinating beast in the world of writing, as they are both a kind of technical manual (meaning, precision and clarity trump ‘fun’; they are reference works, not novels), and they must inspire imagination and creativity (meaning, they must be anything but dry and technical; each page should sing of limitless possibilities and endless adventures beyond untold horizons).

Depending on how one wishes to weight the multiple factors that go into what makes a good RPG book, I could produce a hundred different “best” books from my collection. So I’m going to weasel a little bit and answer with what I consider one of the true “evergreen” books of roleplaying: The AD&D 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide.

This tome is a thing of beauty and legend. It is a kind of distillation of everything that drew me to the hobby and kept me in it, even though I moved past AD&D pretty early in my gaming career and didn’t rejoin the world of Armor Class and Hit Dice until 3rd edition (and since then, I’ve rarely left it, if you count variants like Pathfinder, D20Modern, or FantasyCraft, and I do).

I majored in English Writing and Programming, back when Programming was not something everyone took and when there were actually few jobs for programmers outside of cranking out COBOL or FOCUS. I have always been drawn to hobbies and activities that required both creativity and logic. RPGs… especially those tipped more towards robust mechanics… gave me the perfect hobby, where half my brain conjures forth wondrous visions and the other half turns them into charts and modifiers.

And the Dungeon Master’s Guide veers madly, page after page, between art and science, between rhyme and reason. Here is a list of modifiers for brawling that includes if someone is, or is not, wearing a nasal helmet, and here is a description of the colored pools of light on the astral plane; here is a chart to tell you how much faster a hobgoblin can dig through rock (in three levels of hardness) than an orc; here are the Eye and Hand of Vecna. The depth and scope of the DMG has rarely been equaled, and the writing style — Gygax at his peak, flaunting his vocabulary and his disdain for “lesser” games and “foolish” house rules — has also never been equaled.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 18

August Eighteenth

(Really Not Catching Up Much)

(But This Is Really Short, So, I Can Get Another One In Today)

Prompt: Which RPG Have You Played The Most In Your Life?

Well, that’s easy: D&D and it’s variants, particularly 3.x and Pathfinder. Second place would be Hero System, third place (played, not ran) would be assorted World of Darkness titles.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 17

August Seventeenth

(Still About As Belated)

Prompt: Which RPG Have You Owned The Longest And Not Played?

Oy. I’ve been collecting RPGs since the late 1970s. At this point, even if I had a team of gamers at my beck and call, I doubt I could play everything I own before I die. One reason I do my walkthroughs is to partially justify my collection.

But the oldest? Back when I started, I was usually able to run things at least once or twice, because I was a kid with very little money and a lot more free time. My rate of game acquisition was much slower. Also, my exact memory of those early years is a bit fuzzy… did I buy Game X before or after Game Y?

I’m going to go with Space Opera. I bought it at GenCon East (there was only one), and while I rolled up a lot of characters and designed a lot of spaceships, I never managed to get together an actual game of it. (But I did get an article out of it!)

By the way, here’s what my purchase looked like. I currently own the boxed set with the new cover. I have no idea how/when I lost the original.

Art by “This Guy I Know”, who was responsible for a lot of late-70s game art.

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