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Showing posts from August, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 31

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

The continued integration and acceptance of women and people of colour and other under-represented voices in the hobby. Watching people who are silenced become strong and vital voices in the community is very exciting and interesting to me, and I'd love to see more of that in the next year (and beyond!). In addition, I'm really excited to see the "professional-ization" of this industry from "dudes printing shit in their basement" to "professionally written and edited properly constructed product distributed on a reasonable timeline where all the people involved get paid a living wage". I know we're not there yet. And so, so many people have been driven out of the RPG industry/community because of toxicity and unprofessional behaviour and the inevitable gatekeeping and racism and sexism and grossness. But I can't help but think that maybe, in the coming year, things will get better. I've b…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 30

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

I'm not sure there's a genre mashup that hasn't already been done, either via the setting-specific games (like RIFTS or Shadowrun) or by settings for the more general systems (think basically every GURPS setting book, or the Fate Worlds books). The only thing I think that's really missing a good treatment is humour. Other than maybe Ghostbusters and Toon, I'm not sure there's any RPG books or settings that explicitly deal with humour or humourous play available. I'd love to see a game that took on something like Scooby Doo or Danger and Eggs or that sort of thing, where being funny is part and parcel of the experience itself.

The other one I'd love to see is some sort of squad or cell-based game, something based on XCOM or some sort of intelligence-asset-management game. I'd love to see some sort of game based on the idea of Mech Commander; that would be brilliant; where instead of players runn…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 29

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Fate, hands down. Followed quite closely by Apocalypse World 2nd Edition. While I've backed other games that I have enjoyed as much, and I've gotten more swag from, and I've gotten good deals around, these two were definitely the best-run. They delivered the product with no surprises exactly as expected and as close to on-time as possible. Evil Hat and Lumpley Games are both straight-up professionally-run outfits, and you can trust them with their future endeavours.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 28

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

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks.

I will admit, my table may be somewhat atypical, in being almost entirely queer and almost evenly split between men and women.

Of course, we're also playing a game that is explicitly designed to be a Social Justice game, where the characters are actively working to make the world a better place by lifting up the disadvantaged.

I'd love it if my table wasn't actually that atypical. Perhaps others will take my example to heart?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 27

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Trust, consistency, and consent. If the people at the table trust you, and you trust the people at your table, then the stories you tell and the directions you can take your stories are going to be many and varied and extremely interesting in all sorts of ways. If you are consistent in how you resolve things, then your table will trust you and know that you are keeping their wellbeing in mind (and yes, wellbeing is an important part of 'fun', which is why we all do this RPG thing anyway). And if you have the consent of your players, and they know that you won't do something they don't want to do without asking, then they know your consistent message is one of trust and common good. With those three things, you can tell any story, in any setting, and have a good time doing it.

Oh, wait, did you mean stuff like dice and shit? Oh. Well, I have some poker chips I use as x-cards, and 3x5 index cards for basically anything that …

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 26

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I'm not sure there are any better general-case resources that are RPG-specific (as opposed to history books or the like) than GURPS books. GURPS has an entire line of books that are nothing but general-case resources for various backgrounds, settings, histories, and the like. There are some books that are specific to GURPS particularly, but even when ignoring those portions, I'm not sure there are any books that are better written or better sourced than the GURPS back catalog.

I mean seriously: look at this.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 25

What is the best way to thank your GM?

My personal take on this: find out what they want to play, and then run it for them. Most GMs like GMing or they wouldn't do it, but there are those of us who would appreciate the chance to play now and again. Plus, it's a great way to try it out, if you've never GM'd before. You have an audience that is invested in your success and a clear goal to press towards, as well as a ready resource if you have questions about how to do something or what to do next.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 24

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

So, mostly I don't mess around with PWYW, because I mostly think that artists who value their work charge for it, and as a patron who values art made by artists I pay for the art I buy (let's save the argument about the definition of art for some other day, OK?). So PWYW isn't a model I'm a huge fan of, because mostly I find that if you say "you can have this for free" then the majority of the RPG community will just take it for free, because the majority of the RPG community needs a real smack upside the head sometimes.

So instead of PWYW, I'd like to encourage you to take some time and find a creator, preferably a woman or a Person of Colour or both, and give them some money for their work.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 23

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Oh, see, this one is easy. Eclipse Phase. In my experience, the EP books were the first game books ever to really take advantage of the PDF format, and the idea that these books would likely be looked at on tablets/phones/mobile devices. Not only is the story and the ruleset well laid-out and well-integrated, but the books themselves are carefully and copiously hyperlinked, so that any particular term can be touched/clicked on to take you to that page/definition/example, and then back again to continue on your way.

EP is brilliantly future-minded, especially for a game so immersed in the technofuture of the setting itself. It's immersive just by existing as a fully-indexed and fully-interactive set of documents. I imagine it was a gigantic pain in the ass to build (and rebuild) these books, but to me it's totally worthwhile and I've never appreciated the structure and care of a PDF more than when I peruse the EP books. Posthuman …

DevOps as a critical investigation of our fucked up business culture

I was having dinner with a friend the other night, and we were talking about a bunch of things, including the state of the current culture of the Technology Industry, which is where we all work... me, my friend, my spouse, most of my social circle, etc. And we were talking about definitions and the corporate tendency to take interesting philosophies and turn them into undifferentiated pablum designed to keep labour fighting amongst themselves. Take, for instance, "Agile". It started, I understand, as a philosophy to help developers work together better as teams instead of a mass of individuals, as the modern codebase has for the most part moved beyond the idea of the artisanal coder, carefully banging away at his (almost always his) codeforge to craft the perfect piece of individual bespoke software for the discerning, carefully chosen consumer-slash-patron. As software development turned into a team sport, and the experience of coding became an assembly line function, the q…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 22

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

At this point, I can run FAE in my sleep. I can run a Savage Worlds game with 10 minutes' warning. I could probably run a 4E game with an hour or so to spare. The question isn't what I can run, it's what my players can and want to play; I'll run anything if I can find a table of players who want me to run it. Well, not anything, but pretty much whatever fits my idea (and my players' idea) of fun.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 21

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I don't do a lot of poking around with the one-page or 200-word games, but How We Find Our Way in the Dark is just about the most amazing game I've ever read. That and The Quiet Year are basically my favourite short games.

That's what I've got.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 20

What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

If I'm looking for something that's not currently in-print physically, and there isn't a direct-from-the-creator way to get it, then I generally will try to find it in PDF form via someplace like DriveThruRPG. Failing that, then I've had relatively good luck with my FLGS, which here in Portland, OR is Guardian Games, and sometimes I get lucky with Powell's Book Store here in PDX.

These days, I own more digital versions of gaming books than I do physical copies, for convenience and storage reasons more than anything else. Where do you like to find your games?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 19

Which RPG features the best writing?

This is the third or fourth time I've been tempted to scream "define your terms" at this list; "best" is such a subjective term anyway, but then we get into the "what do you mean, do you mean 'conveys the system' or 'sticks to the tone' or 'reflects the game's priorities' or what?" part, and everything gets really wobbly.

So I'll give you a few, and my take on them.

For sheer readability and enjoyability, CJ Carella's Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes out ahead; it was the first (and one of the few) RPG core rulebooks that I sat down and read from end to end, like a novel. The prose takes the tone of the show perfectly, and the layout and setup of the game parts are very well done. Other RPG rulebooks that are enjoyable to read: The Quiet Year, FVLMINATA, and Flatpack: Fix the Future.

For evocative tone and setting relatability, you can't miss with Maschine Zeit, Dogs in the Vin…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 18

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

If you count all the editions of D&D as one RPG, then the answer is D&D. I never was serious about 1st or 2nd Ed., but I was part of a 3E playtest group, and I started a 4E campaign basically as soon as I could.

If you don't count all of the D&D editions as one, then the answer is HERO system, specifically Champions 4th Ed, the Big Blue Book. I was part of a group that played with the BBB for quite a while, through two multi-year campaigns. I have to admit, there is something rather satisfying about chucking great fistfuls of d6s across the battlemat and being able to figure out the body damage basically instantly.

After that, I think it's GURPS, and then after that would be Pathfinder, and then 4E. I've dabbled so much with so many systems that the long-term campaigns basically swamp everything else.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 17

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

Depends on what you mean by "played"; does just the character creation process count? Or does it have to be actually playing in a campaign. This would have been a much more difficult question six months ago, before I cleared out my collection and pared it down to just the bare bones. So now the answer, if we assume character creation doesn't count, is Exalted. I've created several characters, but never managed to be at a table and playing for any length of time.

If character creation counts as playing, then Nobilis is the answer. I didn't own it until a couple of years ago, but I've never played it or even created a character in it.

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 16

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

I actually am less interested in house-ruling stuff these days; I want games that work "out-of-the-box" because I don't feel like doing a lot of work these days. So these days I mostly just stick to using RPGs as-is with generally everything. But my favourites (right now; this may change tomorrow) are Fate, Savage Worlds, and Cortex. Fast, simple, narratively-driven, involving lots of player buy-in and participation, and not a lot of work for the GM.

What about you?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 15

What RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

The most flexible and adaptable RPG that I know of at this point, and my go-to solution for any game where I like the world but don't like the mechanics, is Fate Accelerated Edition. It's fast, simple, narratively-driven, fun to play, engaging for both the players and the GM, and clever in it's use of both dice and "Fate Points" as methods of control.

That's my answer. What about you?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 14

Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Huh. This is actually kind of a tough one, since nowadays nearly all of my games are set pieces: six-episode miniseries designed to allow players to sit in (or sit out) as they want or need to, without feeling like they're being eliminated from the table. This has the side-effect of letting me try out a bunch of different systems to see what feels good to both myself and to my players.

That said, if you said to me today "OK, you're gonna run a 2-year campaign, what system will you use," my knee-jerk response would be Savage Worlds. Despite the problematic name, SW is a good, solid, abstracted system that fills nearly all of my needs. It's light without being too light for my players, it's got some crunch so folk can dig into the mechanics, it has a good character advancement system, it's got plenty of bells and whistles and levers for both creation and advancement, as well as getting the players involv…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 13

(I don't know what you're talking about, of course I posted this on the 13th, it says so right there in the timestamp...)

Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

I was running a 4th Edition game for a group of friends. It was supposed to be a lightweight, no-pressure hack-and-slash campaign; we're all pretty heavy roleplayers, so this was supposed to be a chance for us to kick back, not take anything too seriously, and do some old-fashioned murder-hobo-style gaming for a change. Of course, with my group, we couldn't just do that; this was the group where I ended up having portraits of all the characters commissioned because we all got pretty attached to the characters in question, and at one point a player convinced the rest of the team that clearing out the kobolds would be unfair and cruel to the kobolds, so they just scared them into returning the stolen items, instead.

Anyway, we were in the middle of a somewhat-drawn-out combat, and one of the players…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 12

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

This is another one of those 'define your term' questions, because inspiring to whom? Inspiring to what? Are we talking about me wanting to build a cool-looking character? Then I'm not sure anyone can beat Paizo's Pathfinder work, or the 4E core rulebook art. Inspiring to really get into the tone of the game itself? Then the particular aesthetic of the powered-by-the-Apocalypse games (notably No Rest For The Wicked, Dungeon World, and the core Apocalypse World book) are on-point for that, as is the incredible Flat Pack and Maschine Zeit. Inspiring to me as a player about the experience of playing RPGs? Then Fate's core rulebook, with the gamers of colour and the disabled gamers is really inspiring to my heart about the hobby, as well as Breakfast Cult.

What about you? What are you inspired by?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 11

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

My 'joking-but-not-really-joking' answer to this question is always: D&D 4th Edition. I'd love to see it released as a general system, especially to be able to roll up a Superhero-style game which I think 4E is basically perfect for (they damn near proved it with the Gamma World re-release, honestly).  But everyone supposedly hated 4E, so I may be the only one.

Instead, now that we've seen RIFTS Savage Worlds, and it was successful (and fun to play, in a particularly RIFTS way that meshes strangely but well with the Savage Worlds system), I'd absolutely LOVE to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness get a reboot. Especially the mutant creation process would be fun in the SW system, I'm sure (especially if you get someone clever to write it, like maybe Rob Donoghue ) it has enough fans that it'd do pretty well in Kickstarter-land.

What would you like to see?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 10

Where do you go for RPG reviews?

Almost all of my information about new RPGs comes from word-of-mouth or personal recommendations, either at my home table or via Google Plus (yes, G+, again; I really need to write that screed down soon). Between Moe T, Sean's Picks, Brie's Five (or so) Questions, and my circles' recommendations and testimonials, I get pretty much everything I need to know. That being said, it's important to understand that I'm not really a big purchaser of new things, especially now that I'm "between jobs"; my interest in learning a new system has only gone down as I get older. But I do what I can to support new, different, and upcoming voices that I see as valuable both in the general culture and in gaming culture specifically, so I try to lean towards woman/queer/PoC creators when I do spend my money.

One place I don't go: Big Purple. It used to be my default destination for...nearly everything, every day. But it's moved on,…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 9

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

As someone who has switched from multi-year campaigns to a dedicated limited-series model (all games limited to 6-8 episodes, quick turnover, many choices), I can't actually recommend anything for 10 sessions -- that's outside my experience and outside my wheelhouse. That said, I have a pretty good feeling that anything around Apocalypse World, Cortex, Monsterhearts, or Fate would work GREAT for a "mid-season replacement show" sort of game. Enough time for growth, but not enough time to become gods; careful management of time and resources without the "let's spend a session at the table shopping at the magic bazaar" problem of longer, more complicated games.

I can also tell you what systems probably don't work well for a 10-session cap: any flavour of D&D, GURPS, Hero System, Mutants and Masterminds... these systems are all, to my mind, "long-haul" systems -- games you sink a lot of up-f…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 8

What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hrs or less?

That's... actually a really good question; I don't know that I've ever had an RPG session that was under 2 hrs. The shortest game I've ever run (that wasn't interrupted) was a 6-hour one-shot, and most of my games these days run 4 hours or so for six or so sessions.

I bet, with the right group, you could do a good session of TOON in 2 hours.


#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 7

What was your most impactful RPG session?

This is actually pretty tough for me, because there are several issues around this question. Including the definition of "impactful", which I imagine is on purpose, to get the biggest response. The thing is, my table has always been a place for interesting things to happen to the player, rather than the characters. Sometimes interesting things happen to the characters, but that's not the point of playing -- the point is to make sure that the players are having a good time. So 'impactful', in my book, means moments when the players all sit up and gasp/cheer/react in some way.


So I don't know about the "most", but I can tell you about the "latest": when one of my players, a normally-quiet and careful player, decided that his character would take center stage, make a speech, and pull everyone into talking out of trouble, instead of fighting. Which, given we're playing RIFTS, was a pretty awesome a…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 6

You've got a week of gaming, what do you do?

For ComeCon, I'd be really interested in doing stuff that I wouldn't do normally, and have people come and visit so they can be present and hang out and play as well. So that's my little fantasy in this, so bear with me.

Monday: My Love's a Blue, Blue Rose -- A short campaign where I can play with the new AGE mechanics in a familiar setting (which I love nearly-unreservedly). Rather than a standard swords and sworcery thing, I'd want something more palace-intrigue-y, with mourning coats and lace cuffs and rapier wits and duels at dawn.

Tuesday: Board Game Day -- The Horror! Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Arkham Horror, Elder Signs, Fearsome Floors -- a day to play those multi-person coop horror games that otherwise don't get pulled out of the library much.

Wednesday: Star Wars: The Edge of the Empire -- A chance to test out the new Fantasy Flight Games dice mechanic while playing a droid bounty hunter.

Thursday:…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 5

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Dogs in the Vineyard. I'm not sure there's a better cover out there, though Apocalypse World comes close, as does Monsterhearts. As much as I loved, loved LOVED the hardcover editions of the Player's Handbook, DM's Guide, and Monster Manual of D&D 3/3.5 (and they were beautiful and evocative, for sure) I don't think they conveyed anything of the game itself. And FVLMINATA  wasn't about the cover, it was about the dice mechanics (which are brilliant and if you get a chance to play, you most certainly should).

Although now that I've typed a bunch of stuff out and done Google Image Searches for a bunch of things, I'm actually inclined to say that The Quiet Year also has a fantastic cover.

So, tie: The Quiet Year and Dogs in the Vineyard.

What do you think?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 4

What RPG have you played the most in the past year?

I'm GMing a Savage World game set in the RIFTS universe, so that's mostly what I'm doing this year. Savage Worlds has found the balance point at my table between my love of loosey-goosey narrative-before-everything rulesets and the desire of my players to be able to crunch down on some rules and roll a bunch of polyhedrals. And the RIFTS setting does add a bunch of random dicerolls and crunch to the SW system, which I've found is actually pretty damn simple and fast-flowing once you get into it at the table.

Before that I was running a Star Trek game using Fate Accelerated Edition for (mostly) the same group, which everyone enjoyed, but the major feedback was they wanted something "more concrete" which I suppose means I wasn't doing a great job selling FAE.

What have you been playing?

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 3

Where do you find out about new RPGs?

I don't really have a "home" Friendly Local Game Store, since most of my purchases come from either Amazon, the publisher website, or Kickstarter; game stores have become less and less a part of my life as I've become more and more a homebody. Mostly, I find out about new stuff via Google+ (Yes, Google Plus -- it's my Social Media Channel Of Choice, for reasons I can rant about later); I have a number of "industry insiders" in my circles, as well as a bunch of independent creators, and also a social circle that keeps up on The New for me, and updates as necessary.

That having been said: as I get older, I get less and less interested in learning new systems, so mostly my interest is in either updates to systems I already know, or setting information for systems I already know. Especially now that Fate and Cortex Prime exist, two of my favourite generic narrative-driven systems that hit all or nearly all of my gaming n…

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 2

What RPG would you like to see published?

I would absolutely LOVE to see No Rest For The Wicked get some official love from 2K Games -- it's a note-perfect build for a videogame-to-tabletop translation. And I'm not just saying that because I helped to playtest the game.

I'd love to see a Fallout-branded game of some sort; I think Apocalypse World is great but I feel it's probably too dark and serious for Fallout. The Fallout series needs both a humourous, gonzoish twist and a willingness to buy into the alternate history of the universe that AW doesn't have right out of the box. That said, AW 2nd Edition is AMAZING and you should buy it now.

I'd be brilliantly happy if someone wanted to help me work up some rulesets to fit around my "Secret History of the Intelligence Services" idea that I tried to flesh out a couple of years ago, I would be really interested in that -- I'm terrible at mechanics but I collaborate well -- but I would fall over my own …

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 1

What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

This is an interesting question for me, because I'm almost always GMing these days. Most of my players are fantastic, but they're also dedicated players. I could probably get into a different game if I looked around, but at this point I'm really, really not interested in games with flat-curve dice mechanics, which rules out almost all of the "regular" sword-and-sworcery games available.

That having been said: I'd love to be part of a Phoenix: Dawn Command game as a player. I backed the game when it kickstarted and I've had a hankering to try it out for a while, but I'm basically the only person I know who liked it enough to pay money for it. Which is a shame: it's an interesting conceit and a clever retake on the fantasy games out there. Alternately, if we're looking at mainstream games, then I'd love to try out the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire system, with all the funky dice.

So th…