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Archive for Gaming

#RPGaDay 19: Which RPG features the best writing?

Can I plead the 5th on this one? Truth is, I am not great at evaluating general writing, as a fiction writer.  I can evaluate the fiction parts in RPG source books and almost none of it is very good, in my opinion.  No offense.  It’s usually too short to actually accomplish more than adding some setting flavor, so I can’t fault it for that at all. And for what it aims to do, it’s usually great.  The ones I remember best are from the World of Darkness titles.

I think there are two RPGs that come to mind where I noticed the overall writing specifically:  5th edition Dungeons & Dragons and Monte Cook’s Numenera.  Numenera is written in a great, easy to read style and doesn’t get as dry as some games can.  5th edition D&D made a really interesting, inclusiveness attempt that I think modernizes the rulebooks.  Not only in the writing, but the artwork as well.  It makes D&D feel like a game for something other than teenaged male nerds, which makes me immensely happy.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

I’m trying really hard to figure out how I can spin the answer “Dungeons & Dragons” out into an entire blog post here.  The answer to this one came easy, but then I interrogated it. An entire decade went by without me touching D&D.  Until 3rd edition came out, I was entirely content to never play D&D again. College for me was an era of experimentation in different games, and I was happy to play World of Darkness, Earthdawn, Shadowrun, and so on until I turned old and gray.

But D&D’s revitalization has meant that post-college, it’s easily the most played game, which puts it back on top.  It’s just easier to get people together around a table for something like D&D, which has rooted itself so thoroughly in the mainstream that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t give you at least a half-correct summary of what D&D is.  You can’t do the same thing with other RPGs. It’s the great grandaddy of them all.  And since I’ve lost my dedicated gaming groups since moving away from Colorado, what’s easiest to get going matters more to me than what I enjoy most.  A bad day playing D&D is better than a good day playing nothing at all!

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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

That reward would go to Fiasco, which I have owned for around five years now, but have never even read or attempted to get to the table. If we were including games that we used to own but never played, it would include some really weird stuff from my childhood that I bought used, such as Albedo  and the Doctor Who game from the 80s.  Yes, I once bought a furry RPG.  I was young and didn’t know what I was doing and the artwork seemed cool.  I’m not sure that the Doctor Who game was ever designed to be actually playable.  That’s a setting where the character is too central, and half the fun of an RPG is making your own character.  You’d just be setting up pale imitations of the Doctor.

Fiasco, I actually do want to play though.  From my understanding, I think it would be a really solid game to introduce core role-playing concepts to new players with.  Everybody understands how a heist movie plays out.  There’s some of the core game play of Shadowrun in that, of watching a good plan go to shit, and enjoying the experience along the way.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

I don’t tend to tinker with the mechanics and rules much of any of the games I play.  I’m just one person, and I usually expect that the designer has done considerable play-testing to balance things to their desires.  And anyway, I don’t actually care very much about “balance.”  These games are not competitive.  Hell, some of the most fun I had growing up was playing RIFTS, which was notorious for having power creep that was absurd.  We started out fighting fascist robots and power armor guys and you end up killing transdimensional slug gods.  But you know what?  If it makes for a good story, then I don’t care one way or another.

In the previous entry, I talked about how I’ll create my own settings because I find personal ownership makes it easier for me to work within them.  That said, some games, the setting is so inextricably linked to the game design itself that you can’t really take the “game” out of it.  For me, the best example of this has to be Shadowrun.  Now, I know that the game has evolved and put out a million source books for playing all over the globe, but for me, peak Shadowrun is set in 2051 in Seattle.  It has Stuffer Shacks and arcologies and all the fun Pacific Northwest rain that is so iconic.  I know some people prefer other cities such as Chicago or Denver or Berlin, but I’ve never really felt like those cities worked the same way Seattle did for me.  Personal preference.

I could try to run Shadowrun in my own setting, but I just don’t think it would work.   That game, I’ll always end up playing in-setting as is.

It seems I’m starting to recycle through the same games over and over again. I’m a little worried that makes these entries boring.  Sorry for that if so!

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I have no idea what this question really means.  I’m starting to question whether there was a lot of thought put into some of these.  I guess, maybe, this is asking which RPG do I enjoy tinkering with the rules of, or changing things about?

In D&D and other fantasy setting games, I almost never run anything in a set, establishing setting.  I’m perfectly capable of doing it, but I find reading up on an existing setting like Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk to feel a little bit like homework (Although I am tempted to try something Ravenloft-ish).  I struggle to keep the different pantheons clear and all the geographic information.  After I’ve been playing for so long, a lot of that stuff blends together.  What I find is, if I create my own settings from the ground up, it cements itself better, and I can weave some of the world building details into my narrative story elements.  Thematic resonance in the world building in the character arcs can be a really powerful tool.  If you have a world where the gods are dead or departed, for instance, that can have profound impacts on the culture, society, and the characters themselves.  Everything should grapple with those questions.

So for just about any non real world setting game, I like to adapt my own.  Even in real world setting games like the World of Darkness stuff, I like to tweak things. I don’t tend to run games set in big cities that almost none of us have visited, for instance.  Almost all of my World of Darkness games were set in Lawrence and Kansas City growing up.  Having actual real world geographic knowledge helps ground things so much more.  And if you don’t have that, then make up your own places, so you can fake it.  That’s how I roll.  How about you?

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ending campaign play?

Dungeons & Dragons is my favorite setting for long term play.  There’s tons of options and progression there.  Most everything else, I find, lends itself to shorter arcs.

A close runner up for me would be Shadowrun.  I like the meta-arc of a good Shadowrun campaign and how things play out over time, the characters getting more seasoned and hardened by their experiences.  The rise and fall of neuyen, etc.

Short one today!

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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

I’ve been role-playing for a very long time, and it’s hard to pinpoint a single particular experience that really changed how I played.  I’m sure my play style has changed many, many times over the decades through many many lessons.  A couple do come to mind with some thought.  In college, I learned that, by selecting players who generate their own content amongst one another through role-playing well-designed characters, I could offload a lot of the work of being a game master. Ever since the epic Earthdawn campaign, I’ve tried to be a little more selective about who I play with because of that.  Great role-players contribute so much more to the game. Sometimes being a serial GM can feel like a slog. You cand spend part-time job hours preparing for sessions.  I rarely had to do that with the Earthdawn folks.  I only had to give them a small seed and off they went.

A favorite memory from my early days of learning to DM was the time my players decided to teach me a lesson.  I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11.  For whatever reason, we were playing at my house and we had some foam bricks laying around, leftovers from someone’s crafting project.  In those days, my adventures weren’t particularly elaborate.  They mostly involved me selecting monsters out of the Monster Manual and springing it on the unsuspecting players over and over again.

I had a tendency to over-use the word “suddenly.”  “Suddenly, a dragon strolls out of the woods!”  “Suddenly, you fall into a pit!” After an hour of this, the players had enough, and they declared that they would pelt me with foam bricks every time I said “suddenly.”  A couple hours of that, and they mostly broke me of the habit. To this day, I try to avoid using that word while gaming.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 12 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Rifts.  For me, it’s got to be the artwork for Rifts and its umpteen-million source books (which I seemed, at one point, to own every single one of.  Had to spend my hard earned fast food job money somehow, I guess.)

The first game system I discovered after D&D was Palladium’s ruleset, first in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.  This would have been around 1985 or so, and I discovered the floppy covered beauty of a main rule book tucked in the back corner of a B. Dalton Books.   This game was a thing before the turtles became major pop icons, and it was far better than it had any right to be.  I made probably hundreds of mutant characters on my own up in my room, filling reams of paper with character sheets generated from their mutant generation rules, which had a weird points buy system to evolve an animal from its natural form towards humans.  Buy hands, and you might not be able to grow bigger.   If I recall correctly, the interior art there was almost entirely original comics art, at least in the main rulebook.

Speaking of the Ninja Turtles, allow me a brief aside for what may have been the first moment in my life where I felt some sense of real public shame: after the release of the TMNT movie, I was obsessed with the theme song from the movie, and I would call our local Topeka radio station a couple of times a day begging them to play it.  One day, the disc jockey asked me to say some of the lines from the movie, which I gleefully recited in my best surfer dude turtle voice.  Little did I know he was recording our call, and while they did play the song, he also played my stupid little impressions.  Hearing them played back before the song was not worth it; I was embarassed as hell to hear myself coming out of the radio.  And that, ladies and gentleman, was the day I became an adult.

So, back to the artwork discussion.  By the time Palladium got around to publishing their batshit crazy Rifts game, the artwork for most of their books was primarily being done by Kevin Long. Now, I know the names of maybe two or three RPG artists, but I learned Kevin Long’s name in junior high because his art was so crucial to establishing the Rifts world. I’d argue that Rifts would not have succeeded or gone nearly anywhere without Long’s artwork.  Apparently, he left Palladium in 1995, and now works in video games, according to Wikipedia. Honestly, if anyone ever wanted to surprise me with a piece of original art that would be like gazing into a well full of concentrated nostalgia, the artist would have to be Long.

Honorable mention would have to go to the early editions of Shadowrun and Earthdawn, which heavily featured work by Jeff Laubenstein and Tim Bradstreet.  I think I once had the opportunity to buy some Bradstreet art but I was broke at the time.  One day…

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 11: Which “dead game” would you like to see reborn?

There’s one game that has long fascinated me.  I bought a used copy when I was in high school or junior high.  I don’t think we ever really played it. I’m not even sure if we tried, or if it was a playable system at all.  What I remember most was the highly unusual world building and artwork associated with it.

The game was called Skyrealms of Jorune.  Gord had some thoughts on Jorune that you can read here.  I’m not sure I can safely describe the game via distant memories, as I haven’t seen a copy in person in 25 years, so I’ll leave you to read around online.  But basically, it was a far future SF setting, it involved floating islands, very strange “magic” systems, unique alien races, and more.

I suspect it would best be served by an adaptation to an existing game system, such as FATE or Savage Worlds or Cypher, which from some cursory googling, a few people have attempted.  One of the things I love about RPGs is that they allow us to play in some pretty distinct and weird settings.  It doesn’t get much more unique than Jorune.  Of all the odd box set games I picked up as a teen, this one has stuck in my memories for decades.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

This is best represented as a bullet list, today:

That’s pretty much it, and it’s not often that I read RPG reviews.  Until recently, I haven’t been keeping up on the “scene” of RPG publishing much.  I love role-playing games, but I’m not involved in their publishing and I don’t really have a dependable group to play them with, so that makes sense.  Most of the reviews I see are accidental, tangential to other things.  I read SU&SD for the board game reviews primarily, and io9 for general genre news.  And Gord Sellar’s blog because he’s an awesome guy and a good friend.

Where are you reading reviews?  Any great sites I’m missing?  Leave me a note in the comments.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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