Tuesday, August 1, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 full list.

What is RPGaDay2017?
I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. Here are my answers…

Question #1 What Published Rpg do I wish I were playing right now?

X-Crawl. I’ve discussed my love of X-Crawl here so I won’t go into it right now in detail. I will say that It’s one of the games I’ve always enjoy coming back to. I love the story lines, the adventures, and the effect it has on players. One of the classes of player is often described as murder hobo. All they want to do is travel from place to place and kill everything in their path. They don’t role-play, care about NPCs, or worry about story. They would be happy to enter a dungeon, go to the bottom, kill all the monsters, get the treasure, and repeat. There is nothing wrong with that, hell, there are days that describes me. I’ve watched murder hobos start a game of X-Crawl and suddenly, half way through, they care what the crowd thought of their character, they start describing their actions, and taking the time to have their character do things that weren’t “optimal” because they wanted to do something “cool”.
X-Crawl is a simple premise, modern day dungeon crawling as an extreme sport. You don’t need a complicated background, your character is here because of the same reasons that most athlete’s play sports: money, fame, love of the game, or a means to escape their neighborhood/town/family. The rooms don’t have to fit into an ecology; anything can appear in the next room, sword and board orcs in the last room, dinosaurs in this one, and techno dance ogres in the next; makes perfect sense. Monsters with awesome weapons you can’t have guarding amazing treasure that you can, seems legit.
Yet, with all of that, with the basic formula, one part D&D, one part professional wrestling, one part the Running man, and one part game show, you get something amazing. You get someone who made a character to be the best, most broken character they could create look at you and say, “I could hit those six guys and lock them down or I could pop a can of my sponsors energy drink, run across the room, draw six attacks of opportunity, leap over the moat, charging the warlord, and scream out my battle cry, before smashing him with my hammer in an over hand swing like I’m playing an angry game of Whak-a-Mole. I guess it’s time to yell, BY THE POWER OF DIVINE BURST ENERGY DRINK I SHALL SMITE YOU!!!”

That’s why I love X-Crawl.

Question #2 What is an RPG you’d like to see published?

I have two answers for this, one specific and one general. The specific one first since it will be the faster of the two. I want to play an RPG of Overwatch. I want the slightly futuristic, wild powers and abilities, heroic figures facing off in exotic locations. I love the idea of making my own agent and going into that world to battle the forces of Talon and deal with the politics of Omnic’s and people, the crime that’s over taken the world, and the idea that Overwatch isn’t a welcome return. People hate them for what Reaper and the Blackwatch did. The idea of being a group that shows up to help and the people we’re trying to help may be resistant and outright hostile to us appeals to me.
The general category I’d like is a straight spy game. I’d like it somewhere between Bond and Mission Impossible, TV series not movies. Actually, now that I think about it, the MI movies are half way between the TV series and the Bond films. I want modern day spies, gadgets, over the top villains, and wild plots to take over the world, manipulate the stock market, or topple governments. There have been attempts at this, Spy Craft from AEG was a lot of fun but suffered from a class of spy, the Driver, which felt totally unnecessary it till it was absolutely required. The Driver only functioned in a car or other vehicle. They could do some espionage work outside of a vehicle but most theirs skills were vehicle specific. Driver’s never felt like they were being useful. The reverse problem, vehicle combat and chases, required a driver and the different tricks and talents only they got. If you didn’t have one, the team felt like they weren’t accomplishing anything.
I want a spy game that may have a class system, but allows every class and player to feel like they’re always helping. I know that there’s a bit of a problem there because someone might want to play the guy at the keyboard with the wall of monitors who talks into the other player’s ears. How do you make it so they always feel like they’re contributing if they’re not there?
I know there are other spy games out there right now. Every one I’ve found is a spies with a twist, it’s the X-Files, Men in Black, there are Illuminates, mystic organizations, Lovecraftian death cults, or vampires. It’s never some mad man with a cat who wants to control the UN.

Anyway, that’s what I want to play. If you know any way I can, please leave a comment either below or on my Facebook.

Question #3: How do I find out about new RPG’s?

For the most part, the internet. More specifically, various YouTube channels are great for this. Itmejp has a wonderful play series called One Shot where they play different games, I’ve learned about Maid, Through the Loop, Apocalypse World, and World Wide Wrestling through them. I enjoy Geek & Sundry for different things posted on Table Top, or many of the articles they’ve written that have pointed out things to me, like Misspent Youth, Dread, and Star Trek Adventures. Beyond that Kickstarter has some wonderful RPG’s that I enjoy checking out, I backed The Land of Yeld through them. Outside of the internet, I talk to my friends and people at the game store. Never underestimate the useful tool that is other human beings.
I haven’t done it in a long time, but playing in smaller games at conventions is always useful. I found Brendan LeSalle and Panda Head Publishing at their first Origins and played in the premier Buckeye Crawl. I still talk about ziplinning into a room a room with orcs ziplinning in from the opposite direction. I played Weapons of the Gods for the first time at GenCon. I tried out Spy Craft at a convention, I think it was GenCon. I played a really interesting mafia game at a local convention at Wright State. Never be afraid to wander a convention’s vendor hall and find the little booths off to one side and ask what they’ve got and if they’re running it somewhere, they will be thrilled to have you and you may have just found your new favorite game.
Finally, I look to FreeRPG Day every year. It is so worth going to your local store and taking part in the day. I want to be clear on this, take part in the day. So often people show up in the first fifteen minutes, grab every free thing they can get, and leave. Stay and play things. I always volunteer to run two tables and usually only get one. I played Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time at FreeRPG Day, I own the book now. I’ve played Saga, Lamentations of a Flame Princess (which was tricky in a family friendly public space), a weird X-Files like spy game. Every year there’s something I haven’t heard of at FreeRpg Day, I don’t always get to play it, but it’s always something new.

That’s my list. Let me know where you look in the comments or on Facebook. I’m always looking for new places.

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

I had to edit this before I posted it because there seems to be people are answering it in 2 different ways. I look at running a game as playing it but a lot of answers I’ve seen aren’t focusing it that way. I now two answers to this question because of that.
My original answer was, I’ve been playing a lot of Through the Breach (TTB). I haven’t played in a few months because of RL reasons as happens. But I have run it a bit. I like TTB, the tarot reading system they use for character generation and how each characters fate is resolved gives the campaign a five act structure that ends. The story ends. I love that we are working towards something. I also love that you can get some really great character moments. In one of my games from a while ago, we had a moment where players could see their characters ending up on different sides of a problem. At the end of the session everyone was real quiet and one of the players said, “I can very easily see this campaign ending with a bunch of people in a room pointing guns at one another, and I’m not sure if there are going to be anyone but our characters in there.” He meant it as a good thing. I also love that it took two more sessions before they figured out a way for them to all be on the same side in the end. I love that I ran a game where this happened.
The game I’m now adding is Sword and Wizardry (S&W). A friend of mine is running it.  S&W is a throwback to old school D&D. It’s cleaner than 1st edition but not quite 2nd. I guess it’s more of a D&D 1.5 which is fine. We’re running through a modified Rappan Athuk, the Dungeon of Graves. Right now it’s a lot of hallways. I’m still having fun, I’m looking forward to leveling up and getting to do some cooler stuff. I’m a 2nd level rogue right now so a lot of what I’m doing is detecting traps by setting them off and stabbing guys for minimal damage with a dagger.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at, what are you folks playing? I’ve been following along and reading a lot of different answers on twitter with the Hashtags #RPGaDay and #RPGaDay2017 head over there, check out the conversation. I’m learning about a lot of new games.

Question #6: You can game every day of the week. Describe what you’d do.

The only way I can imagine this happening is at a convention. This may not be how anyone else answers the question, but I’m going to assume a con. I’ll even be specific and assume GenCon.
I would try and play in Brendan LaSalle’s X-Crawl, hopefully twice. He usually runs once at the Ram with Kentucky Fried Gaming and then has a Crawl he runs over the course of the con. I’d also try and add at least one session of Through the Breach in there somewhere. I’d do a day or two of a living campaign. I think they’re amazing and love the hell out of them. I would try to sign up for a few new things that I’ve gotten interested in for at least one day, I’m really into the new Star Trek Adventures, Dread, and Misspent Youth. I would spend one day playing in a Malifaux tournament, it’s not an RPG, but it’s what I’d play. I would spend a day playing board games. Some of this would change on when I would be able to spend time playing with friends.
I am going to throw out what would happen if not at a con. Mostly because that last line is the one that matters. I would have to have friends available. I think it would look very similar. Some board games, some Malifaux, and some RPG’s most likely X-Crawl and Through the Breach if I’m running and probably Sword & Wizardry and Age of Rebellion when I’m not.

Ultimately, if I get to play for an entire week, I just hope I get to spend a lot of it with my friends.

Question #7: What was your most impactful RPG session?
Back in 2010 I was incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to write and then run a D&D adventure that was part of The Level Eater a multi-media gallery exhibit based on Dungeons & Dragons. I wrote an adventure, took it to Chicago, and spent the weekend running it for people I’d never met. The entire weekend was amazing, but a moment in the second dungeon was a stand out for me. The players had managed to track the evil cult down and make their way to a ritual to open a gateway that would summon Loth. We had the fight, the party barely won, and they saved all of the sacrifices. There were two moments that stood out. The first, a cultist got ripped through a portal to a hell dimension the size of a baseball then came back as a spider like creature where it was clear something had put him back together they just weren’t familiar with how humans worked. The players, people I did not know, were visibly shaken by the description of the death and return. The second, the cult leader escaped and when he did one of the players loudly exclaimed, “I hate this fucking guy.” Everyone at the table agreed with him.
I’d written things all of my life. My own adventures, stories, poems, and what have you. Being a writer professionally had always been an interesting theory. It was never a thing I really thought I could do. It was something I mused about, but it was a fantasy job, that other people had. After that weekend, it was the only thing I could imagine being.
That weekend, that session, was the reason I went back to school, a thing I despised. I got fired from a job shortly after that weekend and it didn’t faze me. I was actually happy to leave. For the first time, not having a job wasn’t scary. I was worried about how I’d pay my bills, but I didn’t care that I was unemployed.

Something I wrote evoked emotional response in people I didn’t know, who sat right in front of me. I do not have the words for how amazing that is. I literally changed my life.

Question #8: What is a good RPG to play for session of two hours or less?
For my money, Fiasco is the best at this and that time includes character creation. It’s a quick, fun storytelling game that encourages roleplay. You’re basically playing out a Cohen Brothers movie. Everyone has plans, no one gets along, and bad things happen to everyone. You have dice but with the exception of character creation, where they are just used to define motivations and relationships, they are only used for tracking outcomes. The only thing that holds some people back is that nobody wins Fiasco. It’s not a game about winning or succeeding. It’s a game about bad things happening to small people. People who have dared to dream too big and for the wrong reasons. You can have incredibly funny moments or things that reach out and touch you. In my first game, we reached a point where my one legged civil war survivor was laying in the street as his best friend beat him with his own crutch and had no idea why it was happening. It was vicious, sad, and so well deserved.
It’s a game that will give you moments to remember.
Things that you will still talk about years later.

If you’re interested there are a couple of nice videos online. Tabletop has a great one that ends dramatically and Easy Allies have several that go a funnier route.

Question #9: What is a good RPG to play for about ten sessions?

I’m oddly caught in a middle ground on this one. There are a lot of games I can think of that play over long campaigns. Similarly, I can think of a lot of games that work great for one evening. I would say Through the Breach, which has the built in timeline of five session per player. However, I used it already and wanted to try and talk about new stuff where possible. I think what you want for a ten session game is a one that encourages a strong narrative but has the feel of reaching a conclusion. After thinking about it for a while I came up with Spirit of 77.
77 is a wonderful game where you’re basically living through all the best shows of the 1970’s and 80’s. Your characters are flashy, over the top, and bizarre. They fill the world with their egos and personalities. You want to be a trucker with a monkey? We can do that. Want to play cousins with a fast car? We got you. Want to play a rock and roll alien who’s come to Earth to solve crime? Welcome to the table.

The game lends itself to an episodic feel with a slight thread that combines all of the adventures, much like a season of television. At the end you learn that everything was connected and the mastermind behind it was really the local corrupt mayor and his sheriff stooge. Once you’ve beaten him it feels done. It feels like you’ve finished your story and can go on hiatus until next season. When a group of oil barons are working behind the scenes to disrupt your small town in order to drill for the riches located beneath the youth center.

Question #10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?
Some of the answer for this question is found back in question #3, where I learn about new RPG’s. I go to Geek & Sundry and Red Dice Diaries for the same reasons I learn about new games there. I also go to Drive Thru RPG for user reviews.
Mostly, I go to YouTube. I like to type in the name of an RPG I’m interested in and watch play sessions. Watching other people play the game gives me a good idea of how the game works and whether or not it will be a good fit for you and your friends.

I like watching play-throughs because it gives me a better idea of how the game works and what I’ll be looking for.

Question #11: Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?
This was an easy one for me. I know that several people will disagree with it but my first choice was Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. I miss how heroic my characters felt at level one. You had so many options, powers, ideas, and actions you could do. I loved the way combat worked, the monsters felt dynamic, and the heroes felt like heroes.
I know that a lot of people felt it was D&D Warcraft. I don’t think that’s true, but I can understand the reasoning behind the belief. Still, I enjoyed it more than any other version of D&D I’ve ever played. Most of my D&D stories come from 4th edition. Everything from the time my elf barbarian with a sledge hammer leapt off a ship traveling through a bridge in space to charge an abolith to the time my hafling cleric of the god of trickery convinced a gathered crowd to turn on the Zentharim soldiers who were claiming responsibility for ‘saving’ the town from gnolls.
To further this school of thought there were two specific settings in D&D I loved and would love to see return. Planescape and Spell Jammer. Planescape had such wonderful factions, politics, and the mechanic of doors opening to anywhere, any setting or time that made it so much fun to run with. Your first level character could find themselves on the bottom level of the Abyss because he walked through the wrong door holding a copper ring. Admitidly, that’s an extreme example but still. It was a world where everyone belonged to factions, worked towards hidden goals, and went up against dark cults. It was a more espionage based D&D where players had the universe to play in. It gave us tieflings.

Spelljammer had a wonderful bravado that D&D misses most times. You’re space pirates, sailing ships, fighting mindflayers, and pulling off these crazy maneuvers. There was a mechanic in the game for throwing yourself off one side of the boat and using the gravity plane to slingshot yourself around the bottom and up onto the other side. That was a thing you could do. Spelljammer is the reason a gnome saying opps is scary.

Question #12: Which RPG has the most inspiring art?
I don’t normally remember the art in games. I’ve been in this hobby since the ‘70s and I don’t remember a lot of the art used over the years. I will admit that in recent years the interior art has started standing out to me. I think to some degree this is due to the number of Kickstarter games vying for our attention. One of the ones that really stood out to me was Tales from the Loop.
I believe all of the art in Tales is done by Simon Stalenhag. The pieces are amazing. They all completely bring into focus the world of the game while at the same time just being beautiful. They all show a stark world where the technology has gotten a little too advanced a little too quickly.  Most of it mirrors the game by featuring children alone with some sort of monstrosity. There are rarely adults or authority figures in the pieces except for the occasional police officer of patrol car, which in themselves are not always reassuring, especially if you’ve seen a lot of old ‘80s movies.
I love the art in this book and it so perfectly captures a time that never happened anywhere but in the minds of millions of children who grew up in the 1980’s. Children like me.

Though the campaign is gone, you can see a lot of the art from the game here and I recommend going and taking a look.

Question #13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.
For a brief second I almost considered writing about my gallery show. I realized though that my experience, while life changing, had no effect on how I run or play games. To answer this question, I had to sort of figure out how I used to play, which was a psychotic murder hobo as a player and a confrontational douchebag as a DM. I’m not proud of that, but I understand where I came from. Now, I’m far more concerned with story and character. I love watching the players succeed, I love hearing their stories, and giving the players a ridiculous amount of choices. I designed a D&D game that was essentially a West Marches campaign for a single group without knowing what those were. I had to take both of those places and go back and forth until I narrowed it down to a game where I changed and then figure out what occurred that impacted me.
I came up with 2002ish and the Buckeye Crawl, aka my first game of X-Crawl at origins. Part of what affected me, was the game. I love X-Crawl and I enjoy playing it and singing its praises. It’s over the top, harder than hell, and deadly as all get out in all the best ways. However, as I thought about it the thing that showed me how to game better was not the setting but the GM.
Brendan LaSalle, who wrote the book and created the setting, ran the session I played in. The way he ran the game causes me to tell people that if you are at a convention where he is running X-Crawl, you need to play in it. In fact, in a few days from my writing this, he’ll be at Gencon, if you’re going and he’s running X-Crawl, get in that game. Everything about that experience was a new way of seeing things for me.
Before the game even started, he encouraged us to think of our characters, were we faces (good guys) or heels (bad guys). The game we were playing simulated a televised dungeon crawl, we were basically professional wrestlers with swords. Once we’d picked our characters, he asked us to pick our actors. He said, “If they make X-Crawl the movie, who’s playing your character and money, time, or availability don’t matter. If they’re dead, we’ll resurrect them and put them in the show.” I think I was a dwarf Sean Connery, I even did a bad accent. I’d never done that before. Until then, my characters had all been a version of me. They we’re dwarves, elves, wizards, rangers, or street samurai, but deep down, they were all me. They could physically do things I couldn’t, but they made the same decisions I would, said what I would say, and reacted the way I felt I would.
When the game started, Brendan stood up. He stood for the entire game. He was excited, vibrant, constantly moving, I’d never seen that before. Until then, I’d played in basements and at dinner tables with my friends, or at a convention where the DM was on their third or fourth day of running the same module. It’s a little thing and I get that, but the energy he brought to the table set the tone.
He also spent time describing our actions, and the monsters actions. He was genuinely happy when we did something good, laughed when we were amazing, and described the crowd cheering when we did something epic. When we won a fight, succeeded at a room, or got past a puzzle he congratulated us. He wanted us to be the stars of the show because that’s how TV works, but also it’s how a really fun session or campaign should work too.
I have tried to keep most of the things with me from that day. Whenever I run for new players, be it X-Crawl at my local game store or D&D at an established game day, I ask them to pick an actor to play their character. I don’t stand at the table, I’m not in that kind of shape, but I use my hands, change my voice, I try to make myself a presence at the table. I celebrate with the players. I’m going to say that again, I celebrate with the players. There are DM’s that don’t and I feel like they start to resent the players after a while; I know I used to.

I don’t think I’ve played me since then. Certainly, my characters have some of my character traits, I’m sarcastic as hell and it’s hard to get rid of that. Still, I’m very much a different player now. RPG’s used to be a puzzle to solve and now it’s an evening with my friends to tell stories.

Question #14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?
I two answers for this, one I love to run and one I love to play. I love running an open ended Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I like creating a setting and giving the group a couple of options and landmarks and letting them chose where to go next. I usually send out an email that tells them about major events like festivals or royal visits, local rumors, and new non player characters who have arrived. Occasionally, I will send a player a private email about something specific to their character. For example I once sent a character emails about a series of dreams they had over the course of a few sessions that eventually led to them figuring out where a lost tomb was. I always ask the players a bit ahead of time to tell me what they want to explore or follow up on and then prep that adventure. Though I usually have an idea of what I’m going to do with each one before they decide.
The one I love to play in was my friend Scot’s Shadowrun campaign. Early on Scot gave us a job and we did it. As the campaign went on he started telling us rumors about people looking for work or having multiple people reach out to us with jobs. We got to research the people looking for us or the jobs we’d heard about to find out about the people hiring us, how they’d worked in the past, what they typically paid, and how up front and honest they were with previous teams they’d hired.

Those are the things I’ve loved in the past.

Question #15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?
While I’ve never adapted anything, I did look at some different systems last year during my year of gaming challenges and experiments. At one point I had decided to try and write my own rules set or adapt an existing one. I learned very quickly that creating your own rules system is a skill set I do not have. However, when it came to adapting an existing rules set to play my setting I came down to two different games that looked like they would suit my purposes.
The first was the Apocalypse World system. AW is a quick, character driven system that is built around the idea of being adapted to suit the purposes of the game. In fact there are a ton of different games available that use the Powered by Apocalypse system. It really struck a chord with me that made me want to look into it more. Unfortunately, my timing is awful. They had just started their Kickstarter for second edition and had discontinued the sale of first because of it. At the time I write this, it’s my understanding that second edition is still not out yet. Once it is I want to get a copy and look into it with a more critical eye. For right now, it has a promising light that shines on my project.
The second, was FATE Core. FATE is another fast, character driven game. It allows for the group, both players and game master, to sit and create a setting and system in a single session. You get your characters, ideas, and guide lines in place. Using this system I would have had to do significantly less work to create my own setting but much like AW I’ve never played it. This one I do own, and I’m trying to carve out time to play it with a couple of friends and see how it functions. But much like AW it also shines a promising light, just one of a different color. All I need to do now is decide between green and blue.

I realize that this isn’t a particularly satisfying answer. I have watched videos of both systems in action I just haven’t played either. I hope to fix that. I hope to attempt to get back to that unfinished project from last year.

Question alternate#16: What do you look for in an RPG review?
I’m using one of the alternate questions from the list today because I think my answer from yesterday also answers today’s question which was, “What RPG do you enjoy using as is?” Since that happened, I decide to go with one of the other questions today.
I think I’ve kind of answered this already but feel I can expand on it. I look for mechanics, I want to know how easy the system is to learn, I hate having to sit at the table and spend lots of time looking something up to make sure we’re doing it right or simply avoiding it all together, I’m looking at you D&D 3.5 grappling rules. At the same time I don’t want a system that’s so devoid of rules that it feels like nothing is going on. I admit there are exceptions to both of these, I love Shadowrun and Fiasco.
Knowing something about the world and the setting are always a nice thing. A good setting can make the difference between me wanting to try a game or not. If the world is interesting, something I’ve never considered, or a twist on an old favorite. The YouTuber Dodger has a RPG world she’s developed for Dungeon World that revolves around gourmet dungeon crawls and fashion based wilderness hunts that’s pretty fun sounding. The twist on the old setting was what attracted me to X-Crawl.
Finally, if I can see some gameplay I feel I can get a much better view of the game itself. I love decent play sessions that give a little focus on the mechanics. I don’t want them to stop every ten minutes to explain why they’re rolling the dice, but I do like being given enough information to figure out what’s going on. I saw a video of Star Trek Adventures recently where the DM, was texting the players the things they discovered and descriptions of their locations, so I wasn’t hearing them. They used roll 20 but weren’t showing the dice rolls only announcing success or failure. I found that frustrating. Without seeing those things it felt hard to follow and was a poor representation of the game. While I know that gameplay isn’t exactly a review, I think it’s a factor in how people view the game.
Anyway, that’s what I look for.

Question #17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but haven’t played?
The answer to this one is easy, Grimm from Fantasy Flight games. I’ve never played Grimm, I never expected to get to play Grimm. None of my friends were interested in it and I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to play it at all. I bought this book strictly to read about the world and the setting.
Grimm is a dark fairy tale game set in the world of the Grimm brothers where things have gone terribly wrong. After Humpty Dumpty fell from the wall he cracked and the spoiled, rotted from the inside. As the king of the land, his rot spread to his kingdom and subjects. Horrible things have happened and many of the old favorite characters have twisted and warped under these new rules. Cinderella forces her step sisters, bound in collars and kept on leashes, to crawl in front of her scrubbing the ground as punishment for how she was treated. The players take on the role of children trapped in this world.
This is part of where we as a group faltered. We thought it would be hard and in some ways frustrating to play children. That we would have to remember that kids are afraid of things like large barking dogs when adults know how to handle these situations. We didn’t like the idea of having to react in a way that relied on inexperience. We also felt it would be difficult to approach challenges and riddles without relying on our own experiences to solve them. It felt like it would be frustrating to know the solution to something but not be able to act on it because our characters wouldn’t.
That said, I found a large amount of the book and its contents fun to read. One of the classes that still stands out to me is the every kid. You aren’t the hero, you’re the every kid, the background child that no one remembers. The upside was that you could go places unnoticed that the other players couldn’t. The downside was that every time a random child was chosen for something bad to happen, it happens to you because the every kids are the ones that die before the story starts. I loved the concept of this. If the bad guys are specifically looking for your group they won’t notice you, but fire one shot at random into a crowd and you’re the target.

I’ve seen other games that have focused on playing children, like the Land of Yeld, but those are all designed to be played with children; kids are players at the table. Grimm was in no way for children. I think that’s the important difference. If I play a RPG with kids, I tend to throw out suggestions but I let them come up with the plans and ideas. I don’t try and solve the puzzles, I let them do it. It’s easier to play a child character in that way because while I may have solved the riddle or puzzle already, I like to let the kids at the table have the chance to succeed. 

Question #18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?
This award goes to the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons. You know I’m old-school, I used an ampersand. On my tenth or eleventh birthday my mom got me a copy of the boxed set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I played with my brother and some friends a couple of times. When I got to high-school I met some friends and we played there too. The first game I played at a gaming convention was D&D. I’ve gone away and returned multiple times. I organized and ran an adventure league at my local games store back when they called it Encounters.
D&D has always been one of those games I’ll always go back too. I have fond memories of games with friends, moments at conventions, and characters I’ve created. I’ve run published works and original adventures. I can’t remember a time when sitting and playing with friends wasn’t the best time. I still have friends who play D&D, though I have not played with them since the launch of fifth edition, or 5E. I miss sitting with my friends and going questing for monsters.
The reasons I don’t play 5E are wrapped in a long story that’s completely unfair to D&D and I may one day recount here on my blog. Today however, I look wistfully at the people having fun and I want to go back, but I fear I may have to wait until sixth edition. Still, I know that no matter how long it takes, they will welcome me back as if I had never left. Til then, I can only hope they role/roll well and wish them good fortune and safe journeys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotten something in my eye.

Question #19: Which RPG has the best writing?
This one is tricky because there are two ways to look at it. Are we looking for clarity or entertainment?
On the one hand since RPG’s are essentially rules manuals it could mean clarity. It’s nice to have a well written rulebook that leaves you with no questions. I think we can all agree that there are some rulebooks that are complete train wrecks. (I’m looking at you D&D 3.5 grappling rules.) It’s nice to finish reading a rulebook and have few to no questions on how to play a game. I can’t honestly remember a game where I had no questions after finishing the rules. When we played Shadowrun my friends and I thought we were rolling too many dice until we learned we weren’t rolling enough. I was really solid at Through the Breach but only because I’d been playing Malifaux for years. I’ve never finished a D&D ruleset and not had questions. If I have to pick, I think the least number of questions I’ve ever had, then I have to give it to 4th edition D&D. I walked away from that game knowing how to run and play it fairly easily. I knew how powers worked, skills functioned, and classes melded together. I had a couple of questions but nothing that could stop a game.
For entertainment value it gets a little trickier. Since rulebooks are basically technical manuals some of them become so focused on the rules they become dry insomnia curing tomes. Some get so focused on history and back story that it takes days to find the rules you’re looking for amidst everything else. Some are just a jumbled mess of turn to page X to find the answer to the process found in section Y while using the chart on table z. When I have to look at six pages simultaneously to figure out how to do one thing in your game, you needed an editor, I’m cheap and available, call me. Beyond that, I find that one-shot humor based games are the best for these. I enjoyed reading Tales from the Floating Vagabond, Teenagers from Outer Space, and laughed out loud reading Maid. Paranoia is always a hoot, if you’re going to DM since the players have never read the rules, *wink* that would be treason. However, for the best writing, I love Legend of the Five Rings for the stories of the various clans. I love the conflicting histories in the different books. I love how every Clan book says, “There’s no such thing as ninjas,” except the Scorpion Clan which says, “If anyone asks, those guys over there don’t exist.” I’ve read through the Clan books multiple times just for the backgrounds. Which, as a note, are often found in sidebars next to the rules, making them easily identifiable as which is which.
Those are my answers. What are yours? I’m always looking for something new to read.

Question Alternate#20: Campaigns: Do you prefer set length or open ended?
I have to do another alternate question, mostly because todays, “What is the best source of out of print RPG’s?” doesn’t apply to me. I simply have never looked for out of print games. I don’t have an answer.
This is an answer that has changed since I have gotten older. When I was in high school I loved open ended campaigns because honestly, I never thought we would stop playing. There was this optimistic illusion of youth that these things would last forever. This idea that the point of the game was to play every week and get more and more powerful.
Now that I’ve been at this for a while I prefer a set length. I know that we’re not going to have forever, that the group is going to grow and change. People will have to leave because of all the things that happen in life. I want to play a game to completion. If we can set out to tell a specific story and then tell it well, I’ll be happy. I love Through the Breach because it has a built in time limit. I like to play things that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Too much has happened, too many game groups have folded for whatever reason, for me to think I’ll ever be able to play in a long running campaign.

That isn’t to say that someday I won’t return to that style of play. I marvel at the people who do and can. I just don’t think I’m in a place where I’ll be able to. One day I may go on a quest with no end in sight, but today, I’ll meet the villain, track his plan, defeat him after a few setbacks, and retire to the village I grew up in. For now.

Question #21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?
I’m going with Fiasco on this one. The rules are blissfully simple and short. Most of the main book is filled with stories and examples of what type of game you’re playing. The actual mechanics are found over a handful of pages filled with examples. It’s a story telling game but it’s one that let’s itself get crunchy in the drama and depth of the characters. It’s allows for the players to tell deep serious stories with meaning or ridiculous action romps with Cthulhu. To expand the game you only need a new playset that is usually eight pages long, nine if you count the intro and examples of films and books that you can check out for examples.
I haven’t played Fiasco as much as I would like to; the game is wonderful. The character creation gives you the freedom to be as colorful as you want while still giving you tough choices to adhere too. The first time I ever played I expected it to follow the path of the different podcasts I listened to where people joked and got silly with their stories. My story, our story, went in a much different direction. It revolved around a photo in a locket. It didn’t matter who got that photo, it was going to go badly. The story started so well. There was the hope of romance for two people who had been alone for too long, redemption for a fallen man who’d walked away from horrible acts committed during the war, and the chance to heal for a man who had lost his son. Then it went to the left of center and I ended up dead in the desert. It was dark, and gritty, and serious. It was also beautiful, tense, and perfect.

I try to get more people to play Fiasco. I think the game has the potential to tell deep moving stories more than any other RPG on the market and it does it in roughly nine pages.

 Question #22: Which RPG’s are the easiest for you to run?
There are a lot of games I can run without looking at the book, going over my notes, or even trying to remember how certain things work; most of those require a ton of prep work. If I’m looking for easy, I want a game that I can run on they fly. That’s got to be Paranoia.
Paranoia is a fast paced game that takes place in the semi-dystopian future. The new edition of which streamlines a lot of features. Character creation takes a fifteen minutes and requires the group. There are decks of cards for mutant abilities, secret societies, and mandatory bonus duties. The game gives the player five extra lives in the form of backup clones so you can “accidently” go super dangerous. The players are all out to get one another so you don’t have to “accidently” go super dangerous because they’ll kill one another without your help. It’s probably the only game where I feel I can make up an adventure as we go and not worry about how I’m doing.
I can write an adventure right now. It is 12:37 for reference. Report for briefing. Take kegs of beer to Vulture Squadron at forward base in sector HawtAF, failure is treason. Report to R&D, five random items and rocket boots, because rocket boots are the best. Requisitions/steal a transport to carry thirty five kegs of beer. Sector HawtAF is a war zone. Vulture Squad is dead. Attack occurs and destroys truck. Update mission that they need to return empty kegs for recycling. Debriefing followed by commendations and executions sometimes to the same person. It is 12:41.
I have seen amazing things in Paranoia. A group of players lost half their clones brushing their teeth, a party fighting over a laser pen, a black out murder spree committed by a rabbit, and a Lovecraftian terror cult reduced to cinders by My Little Pocket Nuclear Warhead, a troubleshooters best friend. The thing that gets amazing about Paranoia, is that as confrontational as the game is, people don’t mind. You know you’re going to get shot by your best friend, or spouse, in the back. It’s a given. Even character creation has you screwing over other members of your party in spectacular fashion. There’s no min-maxing this game, you’re going to be good at as many things as you’re bad at. Still, if you can ignore all of that, and you should, you will spend most of your night laughing. You will have stories to tell for years to come. If you ever meet my friend Keith, ask him about finding all of his clones, still alive, in a bathroom stall.

Question #23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
I’m going to pick a new one for this. I recently bought the new Star Trek Adventures. The rule book has a very Star Trek feel. The entire book is set up using the graphics and fonts from the view screens in Next Generation. The entire book balances the style of display with art featuring various scenes from around the Federation, pieces showing off the various crews, and technical layouts of ships. There are occasional maps, star charts, and blueprints. The book does and amazing job of not only giving you the universe of Star Trek but also the feel of Star Trek. As you read it, it’s Star Trek. There’s no way it could be anything else or any anything else could have represented the world this perfectly.
The layout also includes a wonderful use of color to emphasize examples and sidebars, something I appreciate. The sections and chapters are well defined and broken up. Everything in the book has a focus on keeping you in the world you’re playing in. The only ding I would give it is that they front load the book with the history of the Federation leaving you several pages before you get to the rules. I would prefer that history and background be placed at the end of the book, especially for something like Star Trek where the history is so well known for most of the people playing. At least, I think it would be. I would be hard pressed to believe anyone who plays this doesn’t have at least some idea of how the Federation functions.

Still, I love the layout for this book and am looking forward to spending more time with it.

Question #24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
Instead of answering the question how it’s worded I’m going to talk about how I use Pay What You Want purchases. I recently purchased the rules for World Wide Wrestling, it’s a powered by apocalypse game about professional wrestling. A portion of the materials for the game are a series of PWYW gimmick, think classes, sheets on Drive Thru RPG. Like most PWYW games and supplements I bought one and paid nothing to see what it was and whether I wanted to invest time and money into these pieces. After getting the first one, I decided I liked these and went back and paid for the others, pitching in double what I felt they were worth for the second one to make up for the first free download.
To me, this is what PWYW is for. It’s that offer to check something out and see how it works, whether it functions, or fits into your needs. Then you can go back and pitch in for other rules or supplements. If they only have the one, you can always repurchase it paying the second time. I understand that not everyone goes back and purchases a second time, I haven’t always gone back for various reasons, from quality of the product to it just not fitting into what I needed or wanted. I get that there are people who look at how I do this and feel it’s unfair to those who have had products I didn’t go back and sponsor but for me this is how I use PWYW.

If there’s anything out there I’m missing, or you have an answer for a publisher or author who needs to be featured, let me know in the comments.

Question #25: What is the best way to thank your GM?
Pizza, cash, strippers, and scotch or whiskey depending on taste. The odd cigar would not be amiss, either.

Okay seriously now. As a GM, the thing I like hearing is thank you. Tell me when the game is working and when you’re having fun. Let me know if there is something you’d like to see or have happen. When I run, the thing I worry most about is that my players are having fun. Let me know when you are. I love it when my players engage with me about what’s going on. Don’t lie to me, if there is something that bothers you let me know and we’ll hash it out and see if we can come up with a fix. You have to tell me what you want.
The best feeling to me is when my friends and I are sitting around and talking about old games. If we’re talking to one another or people who weren’t there and they start to tell stories about games I wrote and ran for them. They talk about the things they loved and what was the most fun in those games. When they remember a small character I wrote as a throwaway, and they tell stories I had forgotten about them.

That’s the best thank you I can get. Engage with me. 

Question #26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?
Has to be Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. They had a reference program you could download as part of the Insider program that was amazing. It had everything you needed to roll up characters using any of the optional methods. You could then print out a magnificent character sheet that worked anywhere. It was such a good program that if you were taking part in their living campaign and had your character printed from there they just accepted it was right.
They had a second program that was for Dungeon Masters. It had every magic item ever. The system was set with multiple was to look things up, how many hands it takes, what classes can use it, specific bonuses, and special effects. They had a monster generator that would pull up any monster and let you alter its level, add character class levels, edit names, and give it bonus abilities from other monsters. You could take a level twenty storm giant, make him second level, give him four levels of druid, and a dragons fire breath.
It also told you were everything originated. The first module, adventure, expansion, or Dragon Magazine article it appeared in. If you wanted to go and find that specific adventure that introduced the Holy Avenger Sword, you could. At least, you knew what t look for.

I have been told, that the program is still active and you can download it and use it now. That it will still give you everything you need to run and manipulate a 4th edition game. In case you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Question #27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Notes, lots of notes. If I’m running something I want to make sure I have a lot of notes for things that may be coming up. I may not use most of them, but I like to have them. I also like to make notes when the players say something that they think is a throwaway line about their character. I love bringing those back.
As a player, notes, lots of good dice. You can never have too many good dice. I also like themed dice. I play miniatures games and I had a set of vomit colored dice I used with my Nurgle 40k army. I enjoy having things like that.
For conventions, I have blood sugar issues, I need trail mix. It helps me keep focused and able to pay attention, prevents me from passing out. I’ve lived with the condition for a long time and I’ve gotten a handle on how to deal with it but I still have moments, especially at conventions where I don’t have access to regualr exercise and healthy food. I’m also a big guy, and thus my con bag includes deodorant. If you are also a big person and your con bag doesn’t include deodorant, it really should. Hell, if you sweat a lot, get some.

Beyond that, it depends on the game. I like Alea tools for games with minis and status effects. I like transparent card sleeves for games where I need to write notes on things of appropriate sizes. That’s pretty much it.

Question #28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?
This is easy, Star Wars. We quote the hell out of Star Wars. We quote the prequel trilogy. We’re all fans of Star Wars to varying degrees, with two of us being stand outs for huge Star Wars fans. They’re more than that actually, they’re gear head Star Wars fans. They know the ships, the histories behind them, and so much beyond that. We cue up Star Wars music on our phones for other games. In a D&D campaign in Dark Sun we we’re captured by the cannibal halflings and as they celebrated the upcoming feast, we pulled up the yub yub song.
Beyond that we hit the regular places Princess Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Thundarr the Barbarian, Top Gear, and I personally use a lot of Leverage.

What about you?

Question #29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?
I’ve been a part of a couple of RPG’s on Kickstarter, the best one was X-Crawl run by Goodman Games. There are a lot of mistakes that get made by RPG’s on KS. X-Crawl avoided them all. The books came out close to on time, the promised PDF’s were quickly available, and the team communicated with the backers on a regular basis. The avoided the biggest mistake I see KS’s make and that was X-Crawl’s stretch goals that provided extra content were all new books beyond the core rule book. The only things they did to the core rule book were cosmetic; full color art, hard cover, and those sort of things. The core rules were promised on a set day, everything else was released and sent in a second wave.

The biggest mistake I see, the one X-Crawl avoided, was a lot of RPG’s make stretch goals that add pages and content to the main book. They don’t think about how much of a delay this is going to cause. They have to write the new content, edit, play test, go through layout, and add art. This invariably pushes the publishing back and causes huge delays. The ones that work the best, X-Crawl and a couple of others all sent out the core rules in wave one near when they said they’d go out and then sent everything else as supplemental material. It’s gotten to the point that when I see a KS for a new RPG if they’re delivering everything at once I try and figure out how late they’ll be.

Question #30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?
This is a really hard one. I’m pretty sure most every genre mashup already exists and with systems like FATE you can make anything you want. What’s left? I’ve had this idea bubbling in the back of my mind for a few years now. What if you had a medieval, not fantasy, setting with superheroes and villains. I don’t know if it would work, but then I didn’t think post-apocalyptic fantasy would work and yet, Adventure Time is a thing.
Anyway, I think the basic idea would be to have characters with minor superpowers, not on a Superman level, but possibly Heroes for Hire or other street level heroes set in and around the crusades. We sort of have the basic DNA for this with Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers, just do that but amp it up a bit with some flight, eye beams, steampunk, magic, and maybe even an occasional extra-terrestrial. Throw in some psychotic villains bent on European domination.
I think the biggest challenge for something like this would be to create a world that people could roll into and get behind. I’d want to avoid people just making standard fantasy heroes or Batman in plate mail. I’d love to see someone like, Templar, a noble visage of righteousness. Stout, powerful, and nigh invulnerable, arrows bounce off of him. He wears all white leather with a ten foot cape that never touches the ground because it’s always billowing slightly in the wind. Granted his powers by the divine form of Joan De’Arc.

I think masks and secret identities would be important because many people at that time would just assume witchcraft and being in league with the devil putting our heroes and their loved ones at risk. This is where the game/setting gets tricky. You want to show the superstition of the times but you don’t want to just religion bash either. This may be why it’s a hard sell. Or maybe, no one else is crazy enough to come up with this.

Question #31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
We have reached the end; the final question. And my, what a question it is. For 2018 I have a very specific hope. I recently applied to a posting for writers at an RPG publisher. They have asked me for writing samples in a follow up email. I’ll be honest it’s been a while and I’m starting to give up the hope that this will come to pass, but something has occurred recently to give me a bit more hope, at least for a little while. I know that the odds are long and I’m unlikely to get the position at this point, but in my quiet moments I can’t help but hope. After all, isn’t that the dream for all of us?
Beyond that, I want to play more. I’d like to get the chance to run a regular campaign. I’d like to try streaming a RPG on my YouTube channel. I think that could be fun. Get some friends together and stream an RPG. Heck there are some people who have moved away and I don’t get to see anymore so maybe just running a Skype RPG is just the thing we need to try. I’ve considered Roll20.net for this sort of thing, but haven’t ever used it. I’m not sure if there are any other places you can go for that sort of thing.
I’d also like to go to a convention again. Of course that will require a bit of a job and some money. If I get the second things I do want to do the first. I’m not sure which convention I’d go to. I’ve found a love of smaller cons in the last year or so, however, I do miss GenCon.

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. I hope these posts were fun for you, and I want to thank everyone who joined me along the way. Hope to see you at a con sometime. 

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