RPG A Day 2017 August 13

RPG A Day, 2017

August Thirteenth (Incredibly Belated)

Prompt: Describe A Game Experience That Changed How You Play

I hate questions like this, because they always make me realize how shallow I am. I am not a being of great epiphanies and world-changing moments. I am never going to write a 5,000 word article for Atlantic or Salon entitled “How Playing a Half-orc Made Me Confront My White Privilege”, or, for that matter, an article for Breitbart entitled “How Can I Be A Racist When I Once Played A Black Character?”

I’ve mostly had decent groups, as decent as one can expect from a hobby that disproportionately attracts social misfits and demands they participate in a social activity. Most of my gaming groups for the past 30 odd (and boy, have they been) years have been of mixed genders, ethnicity, and orientations, so I don’t have a good “When We Added A Woman To Our Group Everything Changed” story. (Esp. since, in my experience, women are every bit as bloodthirsty as men when it comes to gaming… the “women want to roleplay, men want to kill” stereotype is bullshit. But I digress.) Nor do I have any “After The Unfortunate Incident With The Halfling And The Potato Peeler, I Do Not Allow Evil Parties” stories.

The best I can offer is a number of incidents which helped cement my personal preference (which is mine, subjective and wholly based on my tastes and interests, not a law of the universe or an objective measure of superiority) for robust, well-defined systems over free-form, “rules light” ones. (A game can have simple but still complete rules; BESM 2e and D6 are both simple systems that do not have huge gaps where genre-appropriate actions have no mechanical support.) Spending 4-6 hours in a game with no game – just a constant migraine of trying to second-guess what the GM is going to let you do at any moment, with or without some basically arbitrary die rolling – is not any fun for me. The flip side – trying to run a game for players who think the way to proceed is to constantly avoid the rules – is even worse. (I have termed this Zork Syndrome: The belief that you advance in the adventure by picking up the ham sandwich in room one, then giving it to the walrus in room three, which causes him to roll over happily, showing you the brass candlestick he was sitting on, which you then use to hold the candle from room seven, which you light by giving the dragon in room twelve the sneezing powder you found in room six, which you give to the kobold so he’ll stop blocking the door… as opposed to, you know, hitting the damn kobold with your sword because that’s why you’ve got a sword and why the kobold has hit points and an armor class, dammit!)

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RPG A Day 2017 August 12

RPG A Day, 2017

August Twelfth (On time… how did that happen?)

Prompt: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

So, once more, spoiled for choice. Seriously, do the people writing these questions have any idea how many freakin’ RPGs there are? That I own?

A few options:

Pathfinder: People can give Paizo grief for a lot of things (cough grappling rules cough) but the art is consistently top-notch, evocative, and tells you a lot about the game expectations. Everyone is covered with stuff, doo-dads, and decorations, and the level of detail is astounding. Nothing seems like it’s generic stock art, and the characters all radiate distinct personalities through their clothing, body language, and expressions.

Spycraft 2e: A game I’d love to play in, but is just a smidgen too complex for me to feel comfortable running. (See? I have limits!) The art tone, which is more “comic book” than “John le Carre”, speaks of high action, technothrillers, and a global scope, evoking a setting that is just one step beyond the bleeding edge of realism, dancing with mysticism, ancient conspiracies, and the technology of the day just after tomorrow.

The original Arduin Trilogy, as I have gone on about at great length.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 11

RPG A Day, 2017

August Eleventh (Belated)

Prompt: Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

That is not dead which can eternal lie…

So, again, way too many choices…

Arduin: In 2010, Emperor’s Choice finally published Arduin Eternal, a massive hardcover tome that contains what seems, from reading, to be a very comprehensive and playable system with tons of room for character customization and a crunchy but not insane combat system. Since then… very little. I think there was maybe a monster book? But it needed to be supported with a steady line of cool stuff, and it wasn’t, and trust me, the EmpCho guys won’t be OGLing it soon, which is a shame.

STAR ROVERS!!!! Nuff said.

Toon! The market is more likely to embrace an ultra-light, ultra-generic system for cartoon simulation now than it was when Toon was first published, and, at the time, Toon produced several big, fat supplements full of the lightest crunch imaginable. It was like… popcorn. Kind of crunchy, a little, but mostly light and fluffy, which worked for the genre.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 10

RPG A Day, 2017

August Tenth (Belated)

Prompt: Where do you go for RPG reviews?


I don’t.

I used to go to RPG.net, but I’ve pretty much forgotten it was there to check. Since my current buying habits for RPGs are…

  • 361 days of the year: I pick up any new Pathfinder hardcovers that are filled with Crunchy Bitz and little to no setting material, and that’s it. (Oh, and occasionally back a kickstarter if it manages to grab my attention, then, forget about it until a link to DriveThruRPG shows up in my inbox a year later.)
  • 4 days of the year: I go to GenCon and buy anything that’s not nailed down in an orgy of consumerist frenzy, without really caring what it is, as long as it’s not on my database of games I already have.

…it’s not like reviews do me any good.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 9

RPG A Day, 2017

August Ninth (On time as I start writing)

Prompt: What is a good RPG to play for about ten sessions?

Hmm. To some extent, the answer is “any”, in that the session length isn’t specified and you can do a lot in a 10 session campaign. Narrowing it down, I’d say “One that is not driven by the ‘zero to hero’ paradigm common to a lot of games, so you can experience a lot of the potential of the game in a single long adventure.”

If I have to pick one good example, it would be Call of Cthulhu. While you can hypothetically play a series of adventures, and characters certainly can improve in skills as they go slowly insane, it doesn’t rely on the dangling carrot of gaining more/better k3wl p0w3rz as you progress. (Lest anyone think I’m only discussing D&D-inspired class/level games, let me gesture melodramatically to a huge stack of White Wolf products, where one of the first things you notice is that the core books are full of awesome 5-dot abilities and you’re usually lucky to have a single two-dot power when you start out.)

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RPG A Day 2017 August 8

RPG A Day, 2017

August Eighth(Belated)

Prompt: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of two hours or less?

“None I’d probably like” is the first answer that comes to mind, as my disdain for the hyperfocused “indie” games that are designed to begin and end in a single highly-scripted session is well known. But failing that, something with very light rules and no expectation of a continuing campaign and a rich background… or at least, with a sufficiently well designed “assumed background” that a quick scenario is possible. Again, for me, this goes back to humor games like Teenagers From Outer Space or Toon. Toon is probably better because TFAS relies on implicit genre assumptions that a relatively small subset of players will know well, while Toon’s assumptions have a much broader base.

I’d have a hard time with a serious or semi-serious RPG that was designed to run in two hours. (I’m not considering longer scenarios where you can only play two hours at a stretch; the answer to that is ‘any game, really’. I’m assuming, from the question, that they mean ‘a complete scenario in two hours’.)

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RPG A Day 2017 August 7

RPG A Day, 2017

August Seventh (On time! Well, Belated Now)

Prompt: What was your most impactful gaming session?

According to spell check, “impactful” isn’t a word. Bite me, spell check.

The reason this is late is… I have no clue. I am have been RPGing regularly since 1978. That’s thousands of sessions over the years. There are campaigns I remember well (and some I’d like to forget), but individual sessions blur together a lot.

So, I’ll take the easy out: “My first one, of course!” On to the next day…

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RPG A Day 2017 August 6

RPG A Day, 2017

August Sixth (Belated)

Prompt: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do.

I’m not sure if this means “for the rest of your life” or “for one week”. Let’s assume the latter.

Split things up. For three or four days, play through, or GM, something epic… a long adventure in a single system/setting, where there’s a real sense of progress and watching a story unfold and reach a conclusion, though ideally not a preordained or railroaded one.

For the remaining days, play several games that don’t work well as ongoing campaigns — mostly humorous ones, as the mono-focused indie games — where you’re all sea anemones on a reef that is being exposed to the sun as the tide goes out and you all die at the end and your only stats are ‘tenacity’ and ‘salinity’ and the resolution mechanic involves numbered Mexican jumping beans — don’t really appeal to me. Toon, Teenagers From Outer Space, Diana: Warrior Princess, Paranoia, Kobolds Ate My Baby… some set of those or the like.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 5

RPG A Day, 2017

August Fifth

(Not Belated — woot!)

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

The frak?

Dude/Dudette, whoever wrote this question… I’ve got over 2500 games. I’m not gonna go through all or most of ’em to figure out “which captures the spirit of the game”.

I guess I’ll just have to pick a few at random.

Hackmaster, Fourth Edition: The game is intended to be homage, parody, and extension of AD&D 1e and 2e… and the covers of the PHB and GMG follow this, based on the classic art of 1st edition AD&D hardcovers, and “turned up to 11” with more action and gore.

The back cover of Hero System Fourth Edition: A row of characters ranging from a cartoon animal to a giant mecha, with cowboys, wizards, and superheroes. It neatly conveyed that the game was capable of generating damn near any concept you could imagine.

Big Eyes, Small Mouth, Second Edition: Similar to the above… a wizard, a guy with a big gun, a giant robot, someone on a weird riding beast… once more, the idea of a broadly generic system was instantly communicated.

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RPG A Day 2017 August 4

RPG A Day, 2017

August Fourth (Belated)

Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

Oh, that’s easy! Blue! I mean, yellow! I mean… augh!

I mean Pathfinder.

Pathfinder’s been my go-to game for a while, in part due to a kind of network externality… my group knows the rules well, we’ve internalized all the quirks, oddities, subsystems, and complexities. The sheer volume of material, official and otherwise, means there’s always a new aspect to explore, be it a class, setting, theme, or environment. (Now, if only there was a set of official “modern day” rules… StarFinder, from what I’ve seen so far, is science-fantasy, close to the earliest incarnation of WH40K, which is perfectly fine, but not a basis for X-Files/Supernatural/Mission Impossible/Cthulhu/Pulp/Etc stuff. I’ve seen some third-party “ModernFinder” variants, but none impressed me much… pro tip: If your editing and grammar is poor, it makes me leery of your mechanics, as both require the same attention to detail.)

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