Thursday, August 31, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 30 and 31

Final post in the series, so let's make it a good one!

Day 30:What RPG genre mash-up would you most like to see?

I had this idea a while ago for a mash-up of Fallout and Robotech; the Zentraedi and Invid Invasions happened, but a section of humanity survived by isolating themselves in Vault-Tec vaults. It was a quirky concept I could never get much mileage out of when I tried to actually flesh it out.

Beyond that, I'm still trying to get my Fantasy/Space Opera game up and running; Anomaly.
 It sounds like it will fall into a similar vein as Starfinder, but I'm obviously trying to make it unique and my own. I've got several worlds plotted out, several major events planned, I just have to decide how it all comes together.

Day 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

That's a pretty loaded and complex question to answer.

First, I'm expecting 2018 to be the year my two Renegades games come together. The two three-man parties will have played out their time, and hopefully decide to fight against the Empire in the Tantra Sector. Hopefully I can get that game going on a regular Bi-Monthly schedule.

I'm looking forward to getting more time in on my character in my buddy Tim's Star Wars game. I enjoy playing a PC, and want to get some more time at the table as a PC.

There are conventions that I want to go to; GamerNationCon 2018 is going to be a hoot, because it's going to be Harry Potter themed (or at least magic-themed). GM Chris and I are planning to write modules using FFG's Genesys system; his at Hogwarts, mine at Ilvermony. I almost have to bring a Fallout module down there too, but do I write a new one or create a third module? And do I bring down a Star Wars module to run as well?  At that point I might be diluting my time too much, and should probably stick with only 2 modules to run.

Then there's GenCon 51, where the organizers from FFG have already sent out the "we hope you can join us next year" email. We'll have to see about that one; I'd love to do it, and had a great time running games for them this past year. Mostly about time and airfare.

There's a gaming con or two in the area that I should probably reach out to and get a presence at. Total Confusion is coming up in February, at a convention center near where I work. Might be nice to start going to that and developing a larger Gamer Nation in the Northeast...

Now aside from all that, my big focus for 2018 is going to be freelancing. I've lived with too many regrets, and I'm going to do what I can to stop living that way. One of my bigger regrets is never really taking a chance and a risk at writing for games. I've formed a lot of contacts at various points in the industry, and have friends who are willing to critique my work in the hopes of making it better. I'm going to spend 2018 working on my own writing, my blog, and improving my writing style in hopes that someone is interested in my work.

2018 is a year I'm hoping for positive change, but it's not going to happen unless I put in the work for it.

And that's it, I suppose. This has been a fun, if disjointed exercise. These were a fun series of questions to answer, and really made me think back to some classic times in my gaming history.

Thanks for following along!

#RPGaDay: Day 28 and 29

Going to play catch up with these two brief questions.

Day 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

It would be foolish to say anything other than Star Wars; probably because I run a lot of Star Wars and the classic lines have a high re-use value.

"This deal is getting worse all the time."
"I have a bad feeling about this."
"Impressive! Most impressive..."
"May the Force be with you."
"But I was going to go to Toche Station to pick up some power converters!"


Day 29: What has been the best-run RPG kickstarter you've backed.

All of Chris West's Maps of Mastery kickstarters are very well done. I'm amazed at his ability to get a Kickstarter done in a week, have it almost completly fulfilled, and print off all the maps in a couple of days in time for GenCon. It's crazy.

Aside from that, the Rifts for Savage Worlds kickstarter was very well done, it's fulfillment schedule was spot on, and was handled very professionally. It also turned out to be a really fun game to boot. I couldn't back it anywhere near the level I would have liked to, but I was able to get some digital copies of the books, and they're wonderfully crafted.

Two more days, two more posts...

#RPGaDay: Day 27

With recent developments this week I find myself at home with some time on my hands. I've got 5 days of these things to do, so let's bang them out.

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

I've got three that immediately leap to mind.

First, minis. I love minis, and the way I run games (especially Combat) it's highly important to me and the players around my table where folks are at any given moment. I've used simple tokens in the past that had the Character's first initial on it (Which was a real pain when I had a bunch of "A's" in the party...), but as time went on and the variety of minis became more widespread the potential for truly unique and personal minis became possible. The wide variety of minis that came from the Star Wars Miniatures game from Wizards of the Coast gave me pretty much any figure I needed for a PC or major NPC, and if I couldn't get one exactly correct a suitable mini was only an Xacto knife and some Green Stuff away.

Hero Forge took it to the next level with their online design program, thousands of options for parts, and their ever improving line of materials to print 3D minis in. They're pricy if you go for the high detail plastic, but if you need a mini for one character and plan to use if for years, it's a solid investment.

Next to minis is maps. You've got these things, the next progression is to enhance the look of where the minis are arrayed on the field of battle, and what obstructions or opportunities there are lying around to exploit. I'm a huge fan of Chris West's Maps of Mastery line of maps. He's made a wide variety of excellent sci-fi maps over the years, along with some fantasy ones that can perform double duty too. In the last 10 years I have yet to run a session of any game where one of Chris's maps hasn't been used.

Finally, an initiative tracker. Roll20 has their online tracker that works just fine, but for table games I like my Alea Tools Initiative Board that they kickstarted a couple years back. It's really just a foot long metal plank that you can stick their magnetic tokens to, but it's elegant in it's simplicity and works wonderfully.

It's too bad these haven't been made available to the general public. The did a kickstarter for them a few years back, and haven't made them available on their website. Which is a shame, because folks have asked me where to get one anytime I run a game at a convention.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 26

I missed posting yesterday primarily because I was running an RPG. Good times.

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I'm going to take this to mean they're talking about game lines that had extra items that can be used in play. I'm going to have to go with the Star Wars RPG from Wizards of the Coast. WotC had this marvelous cross-support for Star Wars. The gaming books usually had a couple good maps in them, either as ground locations or as ship deckplans. Their Miniatures game provided hundreds of minis for a variety of PCs, NPCs, and opponents. Starship Battles gave gamers all the ship minis they could want to plot out dogfights or captial ship slugfests. And all lines gave us a variety of exceptional maps from Christoper West, who has turned it into a career over at Maps of Mastery.

FFG's Star Wars RPG Beginner Boxed Sets come in a close second, because each box provides useful counters, maps, and a set of dice. Get all four Boxed sets and you'll have plenty of dice to share and plenty of tokens and maps to play with. You can use Imperial Assault minis for characters, and X-Wing minis for space battles, but they're more expensive than WotC's models. For the price of one X-Wing miniature or one pair of Imperial Assault minis, you got 5-7 minis from WotC's packages.

I'll work on today's in a couple hours. It should still be fresh enough in my mind from yesterday's game to practically write itself.

Friday, August 25, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 25

We're in the home stretch, only one more week to go.

While this hasn't been as involved as my "30 Days of World Building" exercise from last October, this has been a fun daily task to undertake (even if I had to play catch up a couple times). If nothing else, it pads up the amount of content on the blog...

And now for a total self-serving answer!

What is the best way to thank your GM?

Oh, a question near and dear to my heart; probably because I GM a hell of a lot more than I play.

As a GM, I'm going to give you all some insight as to what I appreciate seeing or receiving when I run games.

  • Show Up to Play: Obviously there's the literal definition; if we schedule a game, I appreciate it if you actually show up to the session. But beyond that, show up ready to get into game and get into character. I love it when the story can inspire folks to really get into the feel of the game, and into the session. Immersion is a wonderful thing to achieve. Look, I know some times you just want to show up and roll dice, and that it's hard to completely disconnect from life some days, but as long as the effort is there I'll see it and appreciate your efforts to at least share in having a good time.
This also means helping to keep the game on-point. I get that we're playing with friends, and I'm as guilty of going on a tangent for the sake of a joke or a story, but the ability to bring it back to the game quickly can be a real savior.
  • Logistical Assistance: There's a lot of work and effort that goes into running games, or at least there's a lot that can go into running games. Some GMs are happy and content to sit down with a prepared module and adventure and simply run that. Other masochists, like myself, want to write a story from scratch, to weave in character backgrounds into the narrative. That takes time, but it also takes material to work with. I appreciate it when my players can create backstories I can work with, and that fit into the story.
I do a lot of my campaigns on Obsidian Portal, so everything is written into a wiki on the page. I reward my players who add to the game by writing up a summary of the adventure from their perspective. It helps me track what happened in which adventure, and what the story looks like from the player's perspectives. This is helpful because if the PCs missed something I intended them to see, I can take steps to correct it next session.
Finally, yes there's the monetary support. Obsidian Portal is cheap, coming to about $5 per month, but paired with Roll20 that means I'm effectively paying $15 per month to game. I'm on a fairly tight budget these days. Fortunately several of my players happily chip in so I have the tools necessary to run games. 

  • Thank you: This is a big one, appreciation for the work and effort I put into these games. Trying to herd a group of 6-12 PCs is sometimes like herding catnip-stoned feral cats. Writing and gathering the supplies to run the game isn't always easy. Transporting said supplies to a place where I can run a game for 6 people is sometimes a pain. Running the game means trying to juggle running the adventure, combat encounters, adjudicating die rolls creatively and in fun ways, and portraying a dozen unique characters (at least). Nothing makes me smile more than someone afterwards telling me they had a good time. Criticism of any sort is welcome; if something didn't work then I want to know for next time.
One of my favorite parts of GenCon was the fact that at every table, someone shook my hand afterwards and said they had a great time, that they thought I was a great GM, and/or that I made their convention. 
There are many ways to thank your GM, simple appreciation is perhaps the easiest one.

Oooo...tomorrow could be really tough. I'm going to have to think on it...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 24 - Alternate Question #1

The usual question for day 24 was Share a [Pay What You Want] publisher who should be charging more. This is a moot question for me because I honestly don't know any PWYW Publishers, and thought today was going to be a rather boring day. My brother pointed out that there are a list of alternate questions on the original blog for #RPGaDay, and I dove on over there to see what there was to choose from. After parusing the list, I settled on this one...

How far from human do you enjoy getting the chance to be in an RPG?

Brief Answer: Pretty far

Longer Answer: One of the reasons I got into RPGs was to be something I wasn't. I enjoy playing the alien races, the odd ball characters. Some of my favorite characters from fiction aren't human, and some of them are very non-human. I enjoy the challenge of trying to be something alien, something that people can't always relate to. I find it to be a welcome challenge. It goes back to wanting to be different, but in a special way.

One issue has been that I tend to be a gamemaster, not a player. Those rare times I did play?

  • A T'skrang from Earthdawn
  • A Kel Dor Jedi Knight as my RPGA Living Force character. 
  • An Ithroian Jedi in Star Wars Saga Edition. 
  • A Twi'lek in FFG's Star Wars RPG. 
  • A Dog Boy Glitter Boy Pilot in Savage Rifts.

I don't say I never play humans, but generally speaking give me a party of humans, and I'll likely be the one looking to play the most alien among them, mechanical stats be damned.

Looking at tomorrow's question, I foresee that my answer may be a little self serving. Still, it should be fun to write up.

See you then!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 23

Here we are at Day 23 (Hail Eris). It's a solid question today, one that I took in a direction you might not expect...

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Answer: Palladium Books. The whole line, at least up until the mid-2000s.

Those of you who have any of the old Palladium books books prior to 2005 will notice that the layout there in was a bit...odd. I could never put my finger on why it bothered me so much; the layout was incredibly simplistic, artwork was reprinted regularly and in a way that hinted the image was a copy of a copy. I didn't really now why until several years ago when I read a recount and criticism by Bill Coffin on Kevin Siembeda's design practices.  Bill's recount is rather colorful and laced with snark, but it did give me insight as to why I was bothered by it all.

Once Kevin's ready for layout, he prints out the whole mess and fires up his wax machine because he still puts these damned things together by hand. What's that? Desktop publishing software? Naw, he's faster without it! To his credit, he lays out the book in fairly decent time, but he also illustrates why all Palladium books have a simple two-column format. Kevin isn't going to cut columns to shape or deviate from formula because he might have to reflow a section of the book, and when he does, all those columns have to be standard or else none of it works. Where this really makes you want to bang your head against the tip of an artillery shell is when he lays out 80% of the book, discovers that he'd like to rename an alphabetically ordered item on page 5 and decides that it would be too much work to reflow the rest of the list. You know how every so often in a Palladium book you'll have a series of NPCs or OCCs or something and one of them is grossly out of alphabetical order? That's why. I used to think it was because Kevin couldn't read the alphabet. Now I know it's because he's truly, madly, deeply in love with putting books together in ways that even Monty Burns would decry as old-fashioned.
Now, admittedly a few years after this post hit, Bill issued a public apology to Kevin and they seemed to have buried the hatchet. But still, if that was what was going on with Palladium back in 2003, it certainly explains a lot of the issues I had with the layout of the various books from that company. This post always stuck with me, and every time I crack own a product from Palladium, even a modern one, I have to wonder if it was laid out by hand on a light table.

Tomorrow's question is going to be tough...probably because I don't think I've ever used a game from a Pay What You Want publisher.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#RPGaDay - Day 22

Now that we're caught back up, let's keep this train a rolling.

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Any RPG I'm incredibly familiar with that doesn't force me to reference a massive amount of charts to run. I really enjoy running FFG's Star Wars RPG because generally speaking I only have to look up Critical Injury results when someone scores a critical hit. Otherwise I generally don't have to look up most of the tables. I know by extensive practice what you can do with 3 Advantage, or 2 Threat. I know how much damage a blaster pistol does, or that a Vibro-Axe has the Vicious 3 quality. FFG even makes NPC management easier with their Adversary Deck. I've now got over a hundred adversaries on playing cards that I can dig through and slap onto the table as needed. The game system is so flexible that at a glance I can even add abilities and effects to the base card stats and my PCs are none the wiser.  I theoretically COULD just sit down at a table with no prep-time or pre-made adventure and ask my players "okay, what do you do?", and generally speaking I could make up the adventure on-the-fly.

The harder RPGs to run are those that require a lot of chart-reference. Earthdawn comes to mind, as that game as a "Step" system that determines how many dice you roll. I got a lot of practice with that, but it's a lot harder to remember what you roll for Step 16, or Step 21, or 32. If a lot of bookkeeping is needed to play, that's a lot harder to keep up with while trying to keep the game going. Critters with massive amounts of hit points with a novel-length list of abilities can be very daunting to try and keep track of while you're trying to keep the action dynamic and exciting. You can totally kill your momentum by having to pause for 30 seconds while you figure out what a dragon or a beholder is going to do next.

I have a hunch tomorrow's question is going to be fun to write, and not in the way many folks are expecting. I anticipate that two or three of my friends will read it and have reactions like "...they WHAT?!"

Stay tuned!

#RPGaDay: Day 19, 20, 21

Aright; one more trio and then I'm caught up to today...

19: Which RPG features the best writing?

Star Wars.

Signed by Bill Slavicsek, Sam
Stewart, Sterling Hershey,
and Pablo Hidalgo
Okay, before you all start rolling your eyes, I'm going to clarify that statement; West End Game's original D6 based Star Wars RPG. It had a lot going for it. First of all, as I learned again while watching the "30 Years of Star Wars RPGs" panel at GenCon this year, a lot of what the WEG Star Wars game did was fill in a lot of gaps in the movies from an information standpoint. Until the RPG came along, there were no twi'leks, rodians, or ithorians. No one knew Sienar Fleet Systems made the TIEs, or Koensayr the Y-Wings, or INCOM the X-Wings and Snowspeeders. The name "Kuat Drive Yards" meant nothing, and didn't immediately bring to mind giant 2 kilometer long, triangle shaped warships. The RPG team and the developers on it created terms and ideas that are now used in Star Wars writing today. The gaming books that were written were designed from the standpoint of "we're the only ones making anything Star Wars right now, let's make it good." Sourcebooks such as Cracken's Rebel Field Guide and the Imperial Sourcebook are resource goldmines for every game and camapign that came after it. Out of the WEG Star Wars line came original work by folks like Pablo Hidalgo, Timothy Zahn, and Michael Stackpole.

Suffice to say that the Star Wars we know today would not have been possible without the work of Bill Slavicsek and his writing team at West End Games. One of the highlights of my week at GenCon was listening in on his panel and hearing the stories about the early days of Star Wars gaming. Shaking his hand afterwards and giving him an enthusiastic "thank you!" was a bonus.

20: What is the best source for out of print RPGs.

If you don't mind them being PDF copies, I have to direct folks to DriveThru-RPG. They've got quite a few games that have given up the ghost and faded into almost-obscurity. I'm sorely tempted to pick up a pdf copy of Mekton Zeta and Mekton Zeta Plus, just to have them on my tablet.

Which reminds me that I should really get a new micro-usb for my tablet. My 32GB one is starting to reach capacity...

21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I'm going to have to go with Lasers and Feelings. You can't get better than a one-page RPG that basically does it all for playing a "Not Quite Star Trek" game.

Speaking from a traditional published-work perspective, I'll probably look to Savage Worlds and FATE Accelerated. These two books are tight, digest-sized RPGs that can handle just about any genre or game as-is. Sure, there are expansion books that flesh out a lot of the details and give players expanded rules, but you really don't need them if you want to play a steampunk game, or a sci-fi game, or a fantasy game. All the rules you need are in those books, and the rest you can build off of them.

And with that, we're caught up to today. Tune in later this afternoon, when I answer the Day 22 question "Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run"!

Monday, August 21, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 16, 17, 18

Still in the airport in Indianapolis, still trying to get caught up on this exercise. 

Day 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

No plan survives contact with the enemy, and there is extensive evidence to support that no RPG survives contact with the gaming public. Gamers across the internet are constantly posting changes they've made to make their well-loved games "better". I'm guilty of it too; I've made some self-determined "fixes" to my beloved Star Wars RPG. When recovering strain at the end of encounters, I allow 2 Advantage to heal 1 strain. In space combat, I allow pilots to take a "Snap Roll" reaction to reduce the damage from a successful hit by the pilot's Ranks in the Piloting skill plus the Handling of the vehicle. I had a bevy of house rules for previous editions of the game, and for most games I've run in the past 10 years.

But the one RPG that I didn't really make any changes to (at least that I can recall) may surprise some of you; Heroes Unlimited. Yup, a Palladium Books game with their broken system and all; I ran a campaign in that system relatively straight out of the rulebook. The rules in HU weren't as broken or over-the-top as RIFTS, so it didn't break down with excessive amounts of attacks and die rolls for combat. My players and I got a good 2 years out of that system and that campaign, and we did it without any changes to the rules presented as written.

Day 17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

You know, at first I thought this was going to be a tough question and then I remembered something I inherited from my grandmother when she passed away in 2004. My grandma, known in Sci-Fi circles as "Grandma Trek", would often receive books, magazines, and other periodicals from publishers. One item she received was the universally panned The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game. The game is just...awful; so awful that TSR's celebration of the license lapsing and their ability/obligation to burn every remaining copy led to the creation of the "Diana Jones award for excellence in gaming." 

Every other game I owned that have never thrown down on the table has been given away or sold, so by default the Indiana Jones RPG wins.

Day 18: Which RPG have you played the most of in your life?

That's a really tough call. It really comes down to what the limit is.

If we're sticking with one system and one edition, it's probably going to be Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition (and I'll include 3.5 Edition in that). I ran many a game and many a campaign for a solid 8-10 years using that system. I don't think I was able to run any specific edition of Star Wars for that long.

However, if you're opening up the definition to all editions of the game, then it's Star Wars hands down. I attended a panel on Saturday at GenCon that talked about the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars RPG license, and I've been gaming in that system since West End Game's 2nd edition of the rules. That's at least 25 years of gaming in the Star Wars galaxy.

No wonder I'm such a Star Wars nerd.

#RPGaDay: Day 12, 13, 14

Currently sitting in the Indianapolis airport, waiting to catch my flight home from GenCon. Since I've got two hours before my flight, I figure now is a good time to finish this off...

Day 12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Unsuprisingly, I'm going to go with the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. Their art design is par none, with each book in their line containing not only beautiful two-page chapter-headers and gorgeous career portraits, but also include a wide array of original art pieces that evoke stories. The young twi'lek girl who finds a holocron in an antique shop, the rebel soldier in a trench looking at the holo of her dead loved one, the aspiring Jedi fighting an Inquisitor on the exterior of a Star Destroyer in an asteroid field; these pieces capture the mystery, the conflict, and the excitement of gaming in the Star Wars galaxy.

Day 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

This is a tough one. Most of my current gaming style comes from decades of evolution in my Gamemastering style. It's rather difficult for me to look back over that time to try and remember one event that changed how I run games, but I can call back and find something that affected my gaming; conventions.

My first foray into convention games was at Origins back in 2005 (I think). My brothers and I were into Mechwarrior: Dark Age at from time to time we'd go to Origins to compete in the National Championships. Wizards of the Coast was in the final year of their Living Force campaign, and I wanted to finally get a chance to play in a Star Wars game instead of running them all the time. I remember my Kel Dor Jedi fondly, and I also remember the aggravation of having to deal with "convention gamers"; guys who's RP style was to dick around and act in manners that no actual person would (at least, not without being arrested). I was there to try and get a positive gaming experience from the other side of the GM screen, meanwhile Dicky the Wonder Smuggler from Central Who-gives-a-damn just wanted to be a wise ass for the sake of being a wise ass. Thankfully, the sessions weren't a total wash, and I did have fun in the end, but it definitely made me appreciate the players that I get to play with from my meticulously cultivated player-group at home. Additionally, it reminded me that not everyone in the world games like I do, and when I run convention modules I try and have the patience and composure to let the players enjoy the game in their own way, and to only interject when someone is monopolizing the game for their own enjoyment at the expense of someone else at the table.

Day 14: Which RPG do you prefer for an open ended campaign?

Any RPG that lacks a finite progression path.

There's something about a game with a set number of levels to character progression that puts a timer or a cap on a game. D20 system's traditional "20 Character Levels" is a great example. Especially in the sense of Star Wars Saga Edition, D20 characters tended to have their progression mapped out; most of my players would build their entire character paths out from the start of game.

"Okay, I know I want to take Jedi Knight at  7th level, and I want to have these powers by Level 9, so I need to take Feat X and Y at 6th Level, Talent Q at 5th and R at 8th, and Knowledge: How to be a Bad Ass Jedi when I increase my Intelligence at 8th level..."

That sort of character road-mapping really put a dampener on letting your character naturally grow and evolve. Life is full of events and crossroads where your intended career and lifepath deviates greatly from where you expected to go. I've come to really enjoy games where the system encourages that sort of freedom.

Additionally, the D20 system also starts to get bloated and a real challenge to run once characters get over level 11 or 12. The threats have to scale up, which usually meant more time spent on npc development as well as management of an excessive number of abilities in each character. More often than not, I'd forget to utilize those abilities simply because my mental bandwidth couldn't handle trying to remember and control six NPCs able to challenge a group of six Level 12 PCs. That encouraged me to end campaigns as they reached that level, before I really got bogged down, which tends to remove the Open-Ended option to those campaigns.

Three down, six more days to catch up on...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Edge of the Wasteland - A Fallout Hack for Edge of the Empire

So anyone who's been following this blog for any actual length of time, or anyone who's attended GamerNationCon these past two years, is familiar with my Fallout Hack for the FFG Star Wars Narrative Dice Setting. Backers to last year's GNC Kickstarter got access to these documents, and since it's been a year I figured it was time to share those documents with the masses.

This is the setting that started it all; Sam Stewart found the game "enlightening" when he got to play it (he got to play the Vault-Dweller, Artie Drake). Six months later, I'm getting an invite to playtest "Genesys", so it must have been really enlightening.

Anyway, since these documents were written, I've taken everything I've learned along with the Beta Rules for Genesys and re-written them. I've done a lot of cleaning up, reformatting, balancing, and rewriting to conform to what folks will see in the Genesys rulebook when it drops. So think of this as a "Prototype" for what Genesys could be, and take it with salt as to what to expect when the game launches later this year.

Edge of the Wasteland and Module 1: "A Better Man"

Feedback is always welcome, with the caveat that much of the information here is obsolete (power armor is pretty different now, for example).

#RPGaDay: Day 11

Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn?

I've been pondering this answer for the past 24 hours.

I think the one I'd like to see come back in some form or another is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. I loved that setting, and after the D&D Red Box was my first real dive into RPGs. The core book had rules for making all sorts of mutant animals. Each animal had a set amount of "mutations" you could take; you might have animal features or a look that could pass as an ugly or exotic human. You might walk upright or hunched over. You may have paws, partial manual dexterity, or full human-like hands. You might be able to talk, you might not. You could also develop psionic powers. Maybe you kept your claws, or keen senses, or armored shell, or spines (the poking kind, not the skeletal kind). Each animal had a set number of "points" to spend on mutations, so you couldn't have everything. You had to give up some things for the sake of human-like stature.

The supplemental books expanded on the core book, adding more animals and weird tech as seen in the TMNT comics; Triceratons, TCRI Aliens, space-faring adventures, even time- and dimensional-travel (along with mutant dinosaur heroes!). While the system was Palladium's core rules set, back then it wasn't as bloated as it got in later decades and was playable at that scale.

I'd love to see a revamp of that setting and a rules set that plays an homage to the original mutation rules, but obviously without the Palladium system. That could be a ton of fun. Someone should get on that.


*adds "TMNT" to the growing pile of Genesys Themes to write*

Adolescent Gene-spliced Martial Porcupines

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 10

As predicted, this day is going to be a short day...

Where do you go for your RPG Reviews?

Gonna be honest here; I don't. I've long sense grown out of the "Pokemon Phase" of gaming ("gotta play them all!") There was a time when a new game would come out and if it was a subject matter that interested me I'd pick up the core book, but I've got a mortgage and bills to pay now. And a house with a finite amount of space in it. Even taking into consideration e-published books, I simply don't have the time to play all the RPGs out there I might be interested in. So unless it's something I'm die-hard into, like Star Wars or Fallout or something like that, I typically don't go hunting for RPGs these days.

In those rare times I might be looking for something, like I was last year when I was hunting for a system to run my Anomaly setting in, I did some basic research online for games. There wasn't any one specific site I went to, so I suppose you could say my place I go for reviews was Google.

Although maybe that's not true; I have gone to the r/RPG section of Reddit a couple times to see what redditors say about some titles, or see what their opinions are for certain system. So I guess there's your answer; Reddit.

Tomorrow looks like fun; I'm going to have to put some thought into this one...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 9

Day 9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

...all of them?

Well, okay that's not really accurate. I'd be hard pressed to play a 10 session arc of Lasers and Feelings or Og. Those games tend to be short one-shots that you play in an afternoon or evening, then call it done. Most other traditional RPGs are designed for a typical campaign arc of multiple sessions.

But let's take this exercise to the next step and be literal, what RPG is good to play for 10 sessions. A session could be a couple hours or it could be 6-8, but I'll use the "industry standard expectation" of 4 hours. So a 40 hour game, essentially. If I'm running such a game, I want the game to be easy to run and easy to play. I don't want to spend time looking over or arguing about obscure rules. Combat should be quick enough that we're not spending hours on one fight (unless it's a climax) but also long enough to really feel like your tactical choices matter. Finally, character advancement needs to be meaningful, some games out there it takes a lot of effort to "level up".

I'm going to try and grade some of the systems I've played based on the above criteria. I'll use a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the "perfect game for 10 sessions".

Here's my breakdown...

Palladium: Rifts/Robotech
I really enjoyed playing the Robotech RPG when it came out, and collected as many books as I could. When Rifts came along using the same system, I was in love. Sadly, it was a love that would not last, as the object of my affections became more and more bloated, with each year adding more and more insanity to the mixture. Finally, I had enough, and couldn't handle the craziness of the system or the skyrocketing stats I had to deal with. Running the game was difficult, with powers and abilities spread out across a dozen books. The amount of damage creatures and vehicles could take got obscene, so combat turned into a slogfest of whittling down outrageous numbers of hit points. Prep time for Robotech wasn't bad, I could use basic, pre-printed stats for most opponents, but for Rifts it was worse than Heroes Unlimites. Advancement wasn't bad, but it did exasperate the problem of higher hit points making combat last longer.

Easy to Run: 3
Easy to Play: 6
Combat Time: 4
Advancement: 5
Final Rating: 4.5 - A fun setting, but the system prevents it from being a contender for a 10 session campaign

Palladium: Heroes Unlimited/TMNT And Other Strangeness
I've played the hell out of these games back in High School and into College. I even had a pretty regular "Century City" campaign going for a while that ran bi-weekly. These were pretty good systems for it. Combat wasn't too long once we got used to rolling initiative, and it certainly wasn't any length I'd consider "too quick". Character advancement felt meaningful with level-ups occurring every other session. It was a bit of a pain to prep for, as creating stat-blocks for mutant animals or super-villains got pretty cumbersome; I'd probably spend 1 hour prepping for every 2 hours of gameplay.

Easy to Run: 4
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 6
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 6 - A fun game with the right players, but there are probably better games out there for a 10 session arc.

D20 - Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 Edition, Star Wars Saga Edition)
This was the system of D&D I really got into. For the most part, it was pretty easy to run as long as I was using stat blocks right out of the Monster Manual. If I had to make an NPC with levels or added a template to a creature, it increased prep-time a little bit. Ease of play was average, most of the time things went swiftly but then there were moments where we had to dig into sourcebooks or try and figure out who certain checks worked (damn you, Grapple rules...) Combat time was decent until the game got into the level 10+ range, then opponents started to get significant hit point totals and slowed combat down. Character advancement was generally pretty good, with level ups occurring every session or every other session depending on several factors.

Easy to Run: 6
Easy to Play: 7
Combat Time: 7
Advancement: 8
Final Rating: 7 - The classic scores an above average score. A D20 system is a solid choice for a 10-session game.

FFG Narrative Dice System - Star Wars, Genesys
Boy howdy, do I love running this system. It shows too, I've pretty much been running this system exclusively since 2013. I've found that it fits perfectly into my lifestyle; the only regular games I can play are either bi-weekly for a few hours or once every couple of months for 5-7 hours. Once you learn the system, I find it a breeze to run. Prep time is fractional compared to other systems I've referenced, and in many cases I can go completely off-the-cuff and none are the wiser. Players may have some complex characters options, but those tend to be rare or limited to advanced Force users. Combat feels like a dream to me, with initiative rolled once and combat time usually being a sweet spot of "just enough but not too long". Advancement might be a little slow if players want to dive deep into specialization trees.

Easy to Run: 9
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 9
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 8 - A great system for a short game or a long game. Perfect for a 10-session arc.

That was a long answer for today's question. Which is good, because I'm not expecting tomorrow to be a lengthy one.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 8

All caught up, let's keep this train a rolling (mostly because I'm sure to fall off the wagon late next week...)

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

Definitely not Earthdawn...

There's a few I've played that could certainly fall into this category. The best games for short game sessions are, in my mind, ones that have basic rules and are easy to run, rather than something that takes a long time to run and adjudicate. Most of what leaps to mind are all these one-shot, one page indie RPGs that are out there; Everyone is John, Lasers and Feelings, and Fiasco. But, there are some larger, more robust RPGs that work in a two hour format too. If it's a narrative driven game, rather than a tactical rules-based one, you can get some decent game time in 2 hours. FATE, for all that I'm not enamored with the rules, tends to have quick play and conflict resolution. My go-to game lately, FFG's Star Wars (and soon to be Genesys) narrative dice system also does well in a shortened format. My bi-weekly Wednesday night game sometimes only actually plays for 2 hours, and we are usually able to move the story and plot along at a decent pace in that short time-frame.

I'm really enjoying this series. Looking forward to some of the answers coming up later in the month.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 5, 6, and 7

As expected I got behind in my posting for this over the weekend. But we're back today to make up for lost time.

Day 5- Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game.

Good question, there's a lot of games out there that have covers that really inspires the game within. In recent memory, the one that I feel captures the game the best is Pathfinder. I mean come on, look at that thing; it's got adventurers fighting a dragon amidst the ruins of some castle. The only other one that comes close to such evocative imagery is the cover for Eberron, and that was done by the same artist. The problem with Eberron was that the full artwork got condensed on the cover, so only if you saw the original piece would you appreciate it's full glory. Meanwhile, limiting it to a small piece of it was a disservice to the artist.

Moving right along...

Day Six: You can game every day for a week; describe what you would do.

Good lord, I'm reminded of my college days...

If I was running the game and had to run for a week straight, I'd have a ton of prep-work to do; I can tell you that. Actually, gaming every day for a week actually wouldn't be great if it was limited it to one game; it would be a lot of "game, pause for several hours to plan next phase, game, plan for several hours, repeat".

What would be better is to get six others and have each person ready to run a solid, long game sessions of their game. So seven campaigns in seven days; that sounds awesome. Now, if I could only  still survive that long on gamer food without dying from digestive distress, it would be better.

Day Seven: What was your most impactful RPG session.

Oooph. Yeah, I remember this one. It was a 3rd Edition D&D game back in...2002? An epic Twin Worlds game titled "The Four Aces". The scene was that the heroes were opening at a dimensional opening from the "other world" (long story). They were ground zero for a Yuan-Ti invasion. In my mind, the fight was supposed to be a "present PCs with overwhelming forces and make them run". So there's my group of 8 PCs (ah, the good old days...) and about 60 Yuan-Ti come flooding out of the gate, with more behind them. According to my plans, they turned and ran. This is when I made my first mistake (well, second one actually, my first one came in the pre-game statting for my NPCs, I'll explain in a moment); I had several Yuan Ti teleport in front of them. Not many, maybe a half dozen big ones (abominations?). In my post-game discussions, the mentality of my players turned from "he wants us to flee" to "okay, he wants us to fight; let's do this". So they pause in their escape to take out six abominations while the bulk of the Yuan Ti invasion force comes at them from behind. A grand melee starts, one that would prolong a one hour engagement into a three hour slogfest, and my second (or first) mistake happens.

While crafting up the stats for the lead Yuan Ti warriors, I gave their commander a magic scimitar. It was a Greater Displacing Scimitar, a nice threat for my brother who was playing the Aasimar Paladin. I mistakenly thought to myself "this would be fun if he got hit with it and was forced into another plane of existence", not actually thinking he'd fail the save throw necessary to keep that from happening.  I thought it would be a nice "you feel dislocated for a moment, but snap back to this reality" that would ramp up the threat and tension.

He got hit with the scimitar and proceeded to roll a "2" on his Saving Throw. So the big, bad tank got punted into a hell dimension. This was in round 3; remember how I said this turned into a 3 hour slogfest? My brother ended up going into his bedroom and poking his computer (justifiably) in an angry funk while listening to everyone else at least have the enjoyment of playing out the battle. At the end of the fight, they found a way to open a dimensional portal where they found him standing amidst the bodies of dozens of minor demons (I didn't want to gyp him out of XP). My brother was not happy, my players felt challenged to the point of frustration, and I learned a valuable lesson about tactical management, scene setting, and Murphy's Law.

Friday, August 4, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 4

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

This may come as a shock to you all, but it's the Star Wars Narrative Dice System by Fantasy Flight Games!


Since August of last year I've ended my Legacy-era Another Longshot campaign, continued my Rebellion-Era Relics campaign, joined my buddy Tim's Rebellion(?)-Era Hay in a Needlestack campaign, and started a Dawn Of Rebellion-era Renegades campaign.

Oh, and I ran a KotOR Era JLA/Star Wars game down at GamerNation Con that people seemed to enjoy.

I have played A LOT of Star Wars since finding the West End Games edition in High School. I've also purchased just about every book there was since the D20 OCR. My PCs have faced clones of Darth Maul and dead Jedi Knights from Geonosis, outsmarted hutts and bounty hunters, and even were the reason there wasn't an At-At at the bunker during the Battle of Endor. They've rubbed elbows with Luke, Han, and Leia, and even been some of them in Alternate Universes. 

You'd think that after...25 years?...of gaming in the Star Wars universe, I'd be tapped out. But I'm not.  I'll keep running and playing as long as the ideas keep coming.  

And I don't feel like I'll be running out of ideas anytime soon.

Hmm...I'll need to do some research for tomorrow's question...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 3

So, Day 3...

How do you find out about new RPGs.


Typically anything I need to know about new RPGs, or any game in general, I find out through Facebook or Reddit. I'm involved in a few communities that inevitably share around anything I might be interested in. New RPG books from FFG appear on my feed regularly, and anything that comes up like Star Trek Adventures or the Fallout Wasteland Wargame eventually get back to me. The D20 Radio group in particular is a good source for games that I'd be inclined to play.

That being said, I'm not really hunting for new RPGs right now. I've somewhat settled on a system I like and will probably stick with it for some time...

Tune in tomorrow for a completely unsurprising answer to "What RPG have you played the most since August 2016"!