August’s over and RPG a Day with it. Here are my entries for the second half of the month. The RPG a Day challenge has been an interesting look at the RPGs people have played and their experiences with them.
17 – Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?
I think the one I’ve owned the longest and not played has to be either Changeling: The Dreaming or Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade. I loved World of Darkness and read these games, but never got round to them. Then the nWoD came out and I never bothered to look at any games older than Orpheus.
They’re both sold now, as I’ve had to have some massive culls, which have meant a lot of games I’ve not played/am not likely to play have been casualties.
The one currently in my collection and not played is Pendragon. It’s the kind of game which looks great, I’ve skimmed the Great Pendragon Campaign but I feel like I’d need a whole other lifetime just to be able to run a game of it.
18 – Which RPG have you played the most in your life?
I’m going to break this down into two:
The RPG system I’ve played the most is a tricky one to pin down In recent years I’ve flitted from system to system, enjoying a bunch of classics and a ton of new hotnesses. I think Legend of the Five Rings might be the one I’ve played the most, with three big seasons, a couple of botched reboots and a few short campaigns run by different GMs, I think this one’s it.
Close contenders are World of Darkness (failing just because there are so many different games and I wasn’t counting them under one umbrella), Dungeons and Dragons (initially played a ton, then completely dropping off for years before 5E).
The RPG I’ve played the most if Fallen Kingdoms, a home campaign which has been played over multiple groups and several systems.
It started as a cobbling together of any second hand AD&D book I could find in the 90’s, eventually becoming its’ own world with simply Ravenloft-ish places and Al-Qadim-ish places. The group were a mess, as you’d expect overly powerful heroes played by chaotic teenagers to be. The world ended as second edition came to a close.
We did a ‘Next Generation’ set in that world using D&D Third Edition, followed by a troupe game which shifted systems from D&D 3E to All Flesh Must Be Eaten and WFRP. With WFRP as the preferred system we went back to our main continuity.
After a while, that ended and we did a ‘gritty BSG-style reboot’ of that world, using D&D 4E, Fantasy Craft, World of Darkness and Fate. One player’s moved across the world and Fate wasn’t seen by all as a great game to use, so we’ll find a new system to finish that version of it one day.
19 – Which RPG features the best writing?
Monsterhearts. Totally Monsterhearts
I was going to mention flavourful RPG writing for games like Buffy, which are done in character and they’re mainly good. Still, the conciseness of Monsterhearts is fantastic. In less text than a lot of the games, Avery manages to express the themes, the tone, the mechanics and their relationship to each other. It’s aspirational in its’ style.
If you want to learn how to write PbtA then go here, if you want to handle heavy subjects in play and around the table, same here. Monsterhearts is a clean, clear book which gets everything across.
20 – What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?
The charity bring & buy at Dragonmeet and UK Games Expo. That’s where I’ve picked up old books, also where I’ve got rid of a ton of my old books. There have been some stalls like House Atredes, which is pretty expensive but has been the last resort for some friends who have been desperate to complete book collections.
I have a couple of collections to finish off, however as my life and storage situations have been in flux for the last 18 months, I’ve not been able to list what I need or really think about whether I’ll be keeping what I have.
21 – Which RPG does the most with the least words?
The 200 Word RPGs, right? It’s been a fascinating thing to see and to take part in. Despite the extreme limitation, there are a lot of great ideas which have been collected in the official PDFs or featured in Josh Jordan’s Imposters, in the Codex magazine and I’m sure several other places.
If I’m expanding out to actual products, Cthulhu Dark and Vast & Starlit are great uses of a small about of space to provide a game. Cthulhu Dark is playable using something a little longer than a bookmark and Vast & Starlit is business card size. I want to find a good way of printing them onto objects that size so I can have them in my RPG travel kit.
22 – Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?
I think it’s a combination of system ease of use and available resources. Dropbox is pretty much where my RPGs reside, so a lot of them can be done as soon as people need them (Cheat Your Own Adventure, Erika Chappell’s games, Cthulhu Dark). Some need accoutrements such as Quiet Year, Dungeon World, Fiasco and Monsterhearts, so I have kits for all of them. With those resources I just need people and an excuse to run any of them.
If we’re talking more than just practically what’s easiest to run and including what’s easiest for me to get in the mindset of and have an idea from the get-go, I’d stick with Quiet Year, Dungeon World and Monsterhearts, but also add Masks to the mix. Give me a minute for a pun-named villain like Bear Arms or Edgelord and I’m good to go.
23 – Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
I admit I’m a sucker for pretty art. Most recently Josh Jordan’s Imposters has really wowed me. I’ve grown to like a game anthology and it mixes images indicative of weird conspiracies and the games they’re representing. Then there are little notes, like scrawled coded messages throughout the book.
Some slightly older and very pretty games which I’ve yet to play but love the look of are Daniel Cruz-Chan’s RPGs. God-King’s sumptuous colours and simple system make it look like something I want to get a printed copy of some day. The same goes for Haunt Me and The Legerdemain Betrayers.
24 – Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
I’ve actually had an interesting chat on Twitter with Erika Chappell and Paco Garcia Jean earlier today about this. I assume Paco saw this question and was asking about PWYW as it seems like not too viable a business model unless you want people to take your book for free. I asked Erika who was informative about the model.
Erika was the best person I could think of to recommend outside of big folks like Evil Hat who don’t really need me to help promote them. I recommend her RPG books at http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/4945/Newstand-Press, especially her Arnold Schwarzenegger games or the Lasers & Feelings Rose Buddies hack.
Also back her Patreon, which is here https://www.patreon.com/opensketch/
25 – What is the best way to thank your GM?
Just thanks. It’s simple, it’s probably a bit trite, but it’s the best thing.
I mean, coffee’s good. I had someone bring me a beer mid-way through a convention game of Spycraft when we had to stop due to a power cut. Those were pretty nice.
Still, a verbal thanks is genuinely a good thing. I wasn’t entirely sure about how my first session of Masks would go as I’d not tried it at all. I’m also a huge superhero fan and was totally worried about fucking it up. When I finished the first session and we were meandering out of Dice Saloon, there was a genuine, unprompted thanks from the players and all my worries about how I’d done were gone.
Sometimes sessions can end abruptly if they go a bit long, so it can feel like a lot of work’s done and then the players are gone and I’m left to pack up, so some kind of acknowledgement like a ‘thanks’ can go a long way.
Support is something which goes on both sides of the table, of course. Encouraging players during and after sessions helps get them pumped about the game. A lot of modern games even weaponise this sort of support with ‘fan mail’ mechanics, Team Pool, bonuses for spending Hero Points on other players. Basically this kind of positivity all round is good.
26 – Which RPG provides the most useful resources?
Spycraft, specifically Spycraft 2.0.
The later edition of Spycraft was a book large enough to kill a bear with a single strike, filled with enough rules to warn you not to dare read it front to back like a normal textbook. As such, the resources were a godsend.
The gear tables had a separate PDF to print out, there were character sheets, dynamic initiative sheets and regular missions which could be downloaded for free from their site (three of which were written by me, admittedly).
It’s a game which is pretty huge and clunky by today’s standards, but I loved the support it received. It helped me run multiple campaigns across the two editions, as well as tons of convention games.
If we’re looking at ‘live’ games, then there’s Dungeon World, which has a wealth of resources in the DW Tavern. Enough for me to make a massive kit.
27 – What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Index cards. Admittedly post-its will do in a pinch, but index cards. They’re great for:
Sessions – Just sketching down scenes which need to be hit
NPCs & Monsters – Stat blocks, interesting details
Maps – I love being able to make maps with index cards and move them around. That’s why Inventory Quest uses them, why my Mario Kart RPG will and my Assassin’s Chores one will use cards roughly the size of them
Random stuff – Aspects in Fate, table tents for names, items to hand out
The X Card – Having one index card in the middle of a table and even the act of drawing it while describing it gets attention when you’re starting a game with newbies.
I may have an index card problem. Just a bit. You can’t tell, can you?
28 – What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?
A long time ago it used to be Monty Python. I used John Wick’s white/black token jar idea just to curb that as it would get done to distraction.
These days I don’t know if there is anything like this. Dark Heresy had a lot of, “take off and nuke the place from orbit,” which is what actually happened to a vast amount of worlds.
In the past there’s been a lot of Aliens, Lord of the Rings, Firefly and so on. You know, indicators of geeks of a certain age and influence-base. I guess as tastes have grown and diversified, as players are much older and younger, it’s less easy to pinpoint uniting factors like this.
29 – What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?
There are a few contenders here, maybe because I’ve backed way too many projects.
Blades in the Dark had a beta document which regularly updated, clear updates about what was happening.
Monsterhearts 2 was radio silent for a lot of its’ journey which is good and bad. The radio silence made me question what was happening. Still, the updates were great when they hit. Avery did a lot of research into what to do and presented information, kept frank about certain issues and delivered really promptly.
Bluebeard’s Bride was evocative with each post having fictional snippets in each update which were so good.
Cthulhu Dark only closed recently, but content has been landing fairly regularly. The Cthulhu Dark 0 book was a good start to see the project and even though video games have me wary of ‘season pass’ content, the material here has been great.
Fate was possibly one of the best value for money Kickstarter campaigns, with so many books launched out of it, some of which I’ve received earlier this year, having thought everything was already released. 7th Sea is proving to be pretty similar to Fate for sheer value of content and support during and after the campaign.
I think there’s an amount of balance needed in what’s done:
* Updates which are regular enough to remind you of the project but not so frequent they’re off-putting
* A beta or demo document really early on, to give people a test of your rules
* Coverage on podcasts – Spire, Bluebeard’s Bride and Damn the Man were featured on multiple podcasts during their campaign and that helped entice me into backing them
* Written support online – Here’s where I’m a dick for not finishing my Spire preview before the campaign ended, but Brie Sheldon’s normally on this way better than I am. Her ‘five questions’ have turned me into a backer before, as have SUSD’s previews in their news section.
* Fluff – Being pretty and/or flavourful in the campaign helps. They’re not essential, but sell the style of the game. This doesn’t even need to be a video, although the presence of them shows you’re putting the effort in.
* G+ – A lot of Kickstarters I’ve been on have had G+ communities which are great at providing hype, direct interaction with designers, hacks and updates outside of the official ones on the KS site. Spire has a Discord, which has covered this sort of role in a slightly different way.
30 – What is an RPG genre-mashup you would like to see the most?
Oh, I am so well-served by the RPG scene these days. Drow revolutionaries getting sloshed and fighting? Teen superheroes getting into scrapes? Hacks of games like Noirlandia allowing (similar but legally distinct) Mushroom Kingdom film noir mean existing games have a ton of scope to be playing with.
My main genre things are: Teens, Superheroes, Swashbuckling, Trash Supernatural, Spies and Feels.
So maybe add dinosaurs to one of those. Like dinosaur superheroes or pirates, or spies. There we go, Dinospies. Give me that, world, and it will be glorious.
31 – What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
I would like to get one of my microgames finished and published somehow. I want to run more one-shots for randoms at Dice Saloon and for my group. My home group’s changed a lot in the last few months and I hope it keeps going through 2018.
In the RPG world:
This year saw the adoration of PbtA evolve into versions further and further away from its’ original form or use separate systems as a counter to that. More of that evolution and change in the landscape would be cool.
Kickstarter will still be big. A lot of companies and designers have really honed their methods of making RPG Kickstarters. It seems like it’s been a good business model for a lot of games. There will always be some people jumping the gun with their project or coming up with something unwieldy, but that’s how it goes.
We had Misspent Youth and Spire as tales of resistance in a world where it’s becoming more of a necessity. I reckon we’ll see a few more attempts to examine our current global climate. Most will be well-intentioned and hopefully a few of them will be good.
I worry that this is a tiny industry with little scope for gaining new players, so something I would like to see is more outreach to folks. I admit with Who Dares Rolls part of my aim is to point board game people at RPGs in ways which show how fun and not at all daunting they are. The same with Free RPG Day, where I was able to run games for first time players, which was a wonderful experience. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop having a couple of RPG episodes was good too, but how do we grow out of just being board gaming’s weird little sibling?
I hope that we’ll see a lot more inclusion in gaming. While White Wolf’s new incarnation seemed to be filled with horrendous edgelordisms and hatred of the people taking part, Wizards of the Coast really made an effort to show that these games are for everyone. That’s good, so more of that, please.