22 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #22

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

This seems an odd question, I suspect it's asking if I prefer to run crunchy games, or if I prefer rules-lite systems. Maybe it's asking of I'm an OSR grognard or a hippy story-gamer.

Honestly, it doesn't matter much to me. There are types of games I don't particularly like to run... I don't particularly like railroading games that weave a specific narrative every time, which is probably why I never really got into many of the early Indie games. My GMing style tends toward giving the players a long leash, or maybe giving them plenty of rope to hang themselves by. Weaving logical ramifications to the actions undertaken by players through their characters.

If a game is "hard to run", I just ignore the hard parts, get stuck into the setting, focus on a few of the signature elements of the game, and in most cases, most players don't know the difference. They have a good time (or a gut-wrenching emotional time), and that's what's important to me in a game session.

21 August, 2017

RPGaday2017 #21

What RPG does the most with the least words?

Visit the Pocketmod Games community on G+, there are some great designers doing some phenomenal stuff within that format. I've probably seen more innovation there than in most other
parts of the RPG community, and I'm not just saying that because I moderate that particular community.


Otherwise, I'd be pointing back at the muse of a game GHOST/ECHO which has informed a lot of my design work since it's release. Many people have referred to John Harper's other minimalist game, Lady Blackbird, but for sheer minimalism of text and impact-per-word I have to sat GHOST/ECHO is far higher on the scoreboard.

Indexing

I've finally gotten around to indexing the "Game Mechani(sm) of the Week" series. That means the tab at the top of the blog page is actually useful now. I've indexed half of the original series (which was done 8 years ago...back in 09), and will hopefully cover the later attempts to restart the series as well. Hopefully it won't take another decade to finish.

Link

20 August, 2017

Images from the Sprawl (Part 3)

During this series of images, I reached the point where I needed to actually start creating the pictures necessary to address certain elements of the game rules. This gives us motorcycle chases, equipment depictions, a distinctive gang, and a conspiracy pin-board. Many of these images have already been added into the Dispatch Guide.    
  












RPGaDay2017 #20

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

As a lot of people have pointed out, the various POD and PDF websites which currently exist mean that there really aren't many RPGs that are truly "out-of-print" any more.

I dig through all sorts of sources when looking for out-of-print stuff...but mostly it comes down to opportunity, and since I'm not doing a lot of tabletop playing at the moment, I can wait. That means "Bundles of Holding" might be an option, but in a lot of cases I've actually got the games within. Second hand bookstores can be pretty hit or miss, and when looking for a specific book it's pretty useless.

I used to have a friend who ran a second hand bookstore, and I could ask her for almost anything, and within a few weeks she'd have tracked it down as long as it had an ISBN, and even managed a few cases knew I more than simply a name and an author. She'd do runs into elusive warehouses on the outskirts of the inner city, or attend auctions of deceased estates (often bringing home trailer loads of various books, and onselling them to a mysterious grey market of second hand booksellers). Alas, she had to get out of the business when family issues started getting complicated for her. If she was still conducting dealings in that world, she'd have instantly been my answer to this question.

For now, I just have to say "the internet"... pdfs, print-on-demand, and/or the fact I've got a good printer and bookbinding equipment at home.

19 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #19

Which RPG features the best writing? 

In certain circles, I'm hearing Blades in the Dark for this...but it's the new hotness, so that's to be expected. A couple of years ago, I'm sure everyone would have said Apocalypse World because it was oh so edgy with its over-use of expletives.

In other circles, I'm hearing Blue Medusa, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or anything by that edgy crowd of OSR personalities who values shock factor over elegance of writing or game mechanisms...and who apparently scream down anyone who compares their work to the Emperor's New Clothes.

These are certainly all games that speak to a specific audience, often an audience of fanatical gamer cultists on one side or the other of the mysterious tribalist division between story-games and the OSR.

In my mind, the best RG writing goes back to the work that first exposed me to Jeremy Keller, Chronica Feudalis


This game is written in the form of an artefact, dug up from the archives of 12th Century monks. It's the kind of technique I first remember seeing in Castle Falkenstein, and while I believe that game did it well, Chronica Feudalis takes it to the next level.  

Dispatch Guide

I've almost finished the Dispatch Guide, which is basically a book of ideas and hints for the player who takes on the GM/Arbiter/Referee role in a session of The Law.


The poll I put forward to Google Plus seemed to agree the idea of a mysterious overlord in the shadows might be a good idea for the cover image...so here's where my current thoughts lie.

Hopefully I'll be releasing this shortly...another couple of editing passes and we'll be done.

18 August, 2017

Images from the Sprawl (part 2)

Here's the second batch of images. They spread a bit more in subject matter and experimental style...but generally maintain the vibe.

It's going to be tough finding stock imagery of characters in the Agency armour if I'm planning to do more in this style, and that's probably why this type of imagery is going to be used more for the generic elements of the setting. Maybe I'm just going to have to construct some cosplay armour and take some of my own stock photos.













RPGaDay2017 #18

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

I've probably sent more time LARPing than anything else, and for this the most hours of preparation, telephone call back-room dealings and politics, engagement on a regular basis, all point to White Wolf's Minds Eye Theatre.

Including the five years I portrayed a Russian Silver Fang Ragabash, as the Sydney Sept Alpha of thirty or forty regular werewolf players. The girl who was to become my wife played the Beta of the Sept.


Close behind this was my time in the Sabbat, where global connections led me to portraying a member of the Sabbat Inquisition, a Salubri Antitribu.

When it comes to tabletop gaming, I hate to say it but it's probably Rifts. Those formative years at the end of high school back in the mid 90s have a lot to answer for.


17 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #17


Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

Even if I haven't played a specific game, I think I've mined almost everything on my shelves for soe kind of inspiration at least once...

...but I'm sure I'm probably missing something.
 
Hmm...hang on a sec. Let me go over to my shelves and take a look.

[A few minutes pass]


Let's see... there's a first edition Wraith (dated 1994), with a second edition beside it and a bunch of sourcebooks that I never got around to playing, but they were certainly mined for ideas in other campaigns I've run, even if those ideas only saw influence in minor parts of a fantasy campaign or as crossover elements in a Vampire-Sabbat/Werewolf/Mage chronicle.


There's an original AD&D book (1978), but I think I actually picked that up more recently when a housemate moved away and left the book behind. And I have both played a version of D&D, and played an OSR-styled game, so I can't in good conscience say that I haven't played this.

Oh...there's a winner.


I got this in high school back in 92-93, thinking I'd play it because myself and a few friends had played a couple of games of Iron Crown Enterprises' MERP, and one of those friends had decided to buy Rolemaster as a more advanced game. We talked about doing something sci-fi, so we chipped in together and bought a copy of Space Master. Then we actually played two or three games of Rolemaster and figured it was cool in some ways but really unwieldy. Ever since then, Spacemaster has sat on the shelf knowing full well that I'll probably never find the right group to run it.

It mostly sits on the shelf for nostalgia value.

Images from the Sprawl

I've been on a bit of a roll with my illustration over the last few days...not sure how much longer it will last, and I've got some assignments to do (which usually kill my momentum).

If you're connected to me via other forms of social media, you've probably seen a few of these, but here's the first dozen...some of which were shared earlier. I'll try to post a dozen images each day, while this spurt of creativity lasts.













16 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #16

What RPG do you enjoy using as it is?

The last RPG I used as is, in a campaign setting, was Pathfinder...I didn't enjoy it.


The last RPG I used as is, in a one-shot, was Dungeon World...despite being driven by the Apocalypse engine, I did enjoy it.

But as I said in the last entry, I don't enjoy using many RPGs as they stand. I'll always try them at least once to see how they're "meant to work", but inevitably I feel the need to start tinkering.

RPGaDay2017 #15

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I have trouble playing anything straight (which is basically going to screw up my answer for #16 as well). When it comes to adapting games, I usually streamline things when I play them, forgetting a lot of rules unless they are really necessary to the specific situation being resolved...and even then I might just tweak the rules a bit to make things more story focused than mechanically focused.

I like the idea of using a central mechanism of play (which is why I liked the videos mentioned in my last post), and if I think one of the offshoot mechanisms of a game is just too unwieldy, I just shift everything back to that central concept.

I guess I enjoy adapting the various incarnations of D&D, because there is so much to adapt in them...so many mechanisms to strip out, so many fiddly bits to ignore. White Wolf's World of Darkness stuff is similar in this regard.

Other than that, I love adapting and modifying my own game systems. Running them a couple of times in a convention format with a few completely different groups of players, then tweaking them before going through the cycle again with a completely different group of players. The cycle iterates, and I never quite get it perfect, because my ideas of perfection continually evolve, but it's a fun journey.

So currently, I have the most enjoyment adapting The Law.


Core Mechanics

+Paul Stefko has started producing a series of podcasts/vlogs called "Core Mechanics".


The episodes are quick, simple, and provide a basic overview of fundamental systems in a range of games. At the time of writing, he's got five of these episodes available and I can't wait to see where he goes next.

It's similar to what I tried a few years ago here on the blog with my "Game Mechani(sm) of the Week" series, so it is i teresting to see someone else's take on the subject matter.

I suspect future episodes will focus on "Fate" and the "Powered by the Apocalypse" engine, but in that latter case it will be interesting to see whether he assumes the core mechanic as the dialogue of alternating MC-move/player-move in a narrative framework (kind of like the way he describes investigation in the Gumshoe games as a non-dice oriented phenomenon, as compared to the rolling of dice associated with other skills...which is considered a non-core idea)...or if he'll focus on the "roll 2d6, add modifiers, compare to chart of 6-or-below/7-9/10-or-above" which ends up heading in all sorts of directions depending on the specific move taken.

Anyway, go over and have a look. Subscribe. I want to see him do more of these... He might even get around to doing one of my games once the big games have been dealt with.

14 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #14

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

Another question that excludes a few examples while leaving a massive assortment of other options to choose from.

A lot of games designed as one-shots, or games that tell a single story repetitively aren't really good answers here, but it would be interesting to see systems like this challenged beyond their intended confines. I do prefer a well structured but robust system that can handle a variety of situations without breaking for this style of play.

Perhaps a better way to answer this might be to consider the games that I have successfully used for this style of play. The problem is that when I run long term games, I tend to throw away most of the system, only using the bits I need when I need them...that might be a magic system I like, or the inevitable combat mechanisms when things escalate to the point where they can't be avoided any longer. If a game can let things simmer nicely, then step up to the challenge when we need to do something funky, then that works for me.

One of the longest campaigns I've ever run was a globetrotting Werewolf the Apocalypse game...lasting through weekly sessions for almost two years... more than 20 years ago. I'd do it again, but maybe with a variety of shifter types.


Actually, now that I think about it further, I don't think the rule systems are the mediating factor for what makes a good long term play experience, I think it's more about the richness of setting. That doesn't necessarily mean high word count, but good touchstones that can prompt coherent story. The whole coherent bit is where I rule out Rifts, even if it does have a metric-buttload of sourcebooks. 

I've done long form Legend of the Five Rings, and would similarly do it again because I love the depth of the setting.


I'd love to play a long term Castle Falkenstein campaign...


...actually it's been so long since I've done a long term campaign of anything, that I'd probably be willing to play almost anything in that format.