Time for another #RPGaDAY post! It’s time to talk around five more interesting questions, and explore the hobby in five more ways using this lovely list of questions put together by RPGBrigade. As per usual, the last bout of questions can be found here.
Also, as a little peek behind the curtain, I wrote all of these far in advance of the actual dates. When this goes up, I’ll have been in Japan for about a week and a half (I should be comfortably in Osaka on the day this goes up). I’ll definitely have some stuff to say about that, so stay tuned, but in the meanwhile, expect the #RPGaDAY content to keep a’flowin’ through August. Anyways, here we go!
August 21st: Which RPG does the most with the least words?
I wrote a lot about Grant Howitt’s work last week, so instead I’m going to give some credit to another small game: Fiasco.
Fiasco is a story game with no implicit setting (in fact, you can find countless playbooks to run the game in anything from a suburban neighborhood to a space station), but rather a character theme: in Fiasco, you play characters with lofty goals who are all but destined to fail miserably, in a manner usually reserved for Shakespeare plays and Coen brothers movies.
Fiasco is a pretty simple game, in a pretty svelte book (in fact, most of the pages are reserved for playbooks, which essentially boil down to random tables). However, the way that the game perfectly captures the feeling of watching something like a Burn After Reading, where you’re just sitting there screaming “YOU UNBELIEVABLE FUCKWITS” while these characters just pursue their goals to oblivion, is a delight.
While this is well and good and all, Fiasco also gets credit for using it’s terse word count to create a pretty fantastic intro game to the hobby in general. The rules are short and intuitive, and while it might not be indicative of the mechanical process of playing an RPG, it is positively fantastic for getting people used to dealing in the limited possibility spaces of video games to spread their wings and enjoy true role-playing.
August 22nd: Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?
The structure of this question makes me feel like I can name a category, rather than a specific list, of games, which is exactly what I’m going to do because I’m a cheating pile of garbage.
The games I find easiest to run are those games that require less prep than average and a high amount of improvisation. I like to think I’m fairly good at thinking on my feet, and as a result games where I can build a lot of the session on the fly tend to run well at my table. Interpreting dice results in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars falls in this category, as do most Powered By The Apocalypse games. In fact, the first time I ran a PBTA game (Dungeon World) I expected to be fairly inept at the paradigm, but it ended up a natural fit.
By contrast, I have a harder time running very crunchy, prep-heavy games. My current Shadowrun campaign, for example, is proving to be a bit of a challenge for me, just because there are so many rules and systems that improvising material is a bit of a challenge.
That, I think, contains the reasoning behind all of this. The way I run games tends to be pretty improvisational, not because I don’t prep (quite the opposite, I usually do 2-3 hours of prep per game, which a lot of GMs probably just balked at) but rather because I like to leave things pretty open ended. My GM prep is conceptually similar to me just setting up a playground, waiting for my players to come in and start to play. Maybe they’ll swing on the swingset. Maybe they’ll go down the slide. Maybe they’ll eat dirt and just stand there punching each other. Who knows?
I like to set up some stuff to do, but in the end let the players pursue whatever they find interesting. As a result, I set up a lot of interesting places for things to start, but very few ways for them to end. Thus, I end up improvising a lot of the actual minutia of a given adventure, and thus, games that make that improvisation easier tend to be easier for me to run.
August 23rd: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
Time for another obscure pick, Nathanael Cole’s Motobushido.
Motobushido is, to be less than academic, kickass. It revolves around playing a roving gang of samurai motorcycle riders, all basically burning the candle at both ends and waiting to die. It’s equal parts Yojimbo, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Sons of Anarchy, and is just dripping with this unique style. The layout on the rules pages is pretty standard fare, but the part I love is where entire pages are taken up by these fantastic full-page pieces of art, like the piece above and this one below:
This game’s dedication to style is what makes its layout pop so much. It’s historical with a modern twist, and every aspect of the book has this tone mixing the macho American biker culture with this very Eastern fatalism, and it’s beautiful. I highly recommend people check it out, you can buy it on DriveThruRPG
August 24th: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
I’m going to pick a publisher with a single product out, because that product is so damn good: Geist Hack Games, publisher of Augmented Reality.
Paul Gallagher’s book of random setting generation for cyberpunk settings is, quite frankly, a must have for anyone running any sort of cyberpunk game, from The Veil to Shadowrun. And it’s pay what you want! Recommended price of two dollars, are you kidding me? I’d buy a physical copy of this book for, no exaggeration, thirty dollars, it is so good.
What bit of setting do you need randomly generated? A street gang for your players to fight? A corporate conspiracy? A character’s online social media history? Garbage in a vending machine? How about what’s one one of the six trillion big screens that litter every stereotypical cyberpunk city? All that and more, in a beautifully designed package (that I’m 90% sure uses the font from SUPERHOT, not that that’s a knock against it) is what you get in Augmented Reality. This book is a prize, and you can get it for free (but you should spend more!) right here.
August 25th: What is the best way to thank your GM?
Be an active participant in your games.
GMs, depending on their style, can invest hours of time into building an interesting game for their players. This goes for everything from building settings from scratch to writing characters to drawing maps to preparing Fronts to reading character sheets to decide what challenges will be interesting to setting up miniature terrain (God help y’all who do this) to building stat blocks to god knows that else. And that’s just to prep the game itself, to say nothing of reading and memorizing rules, making design tweaks, and answering all of your dumb questions (kidding!).
If you really want to thank your GM in the most rewarding way, then prove to them that all of that work was worth something by really meaningfully interacting with all that content. Take a bit of time to remember character names and sketch maps, even if they’re crappy sketches. Interact with the less exciting parts of the world, just to give your GM the chance to show off how they spent three hours at home alone on a Friday naming all the drinks for sale in a tavern. The reverse of that holds, too: if your GM clearly spent some time building some part of the setting, take a chance to appreciate that, be it by using the dumb made up words they invented, by adopting the cultural norms of their fictional civilization in your roleplay, or just, I dunno, remembering what team in the fictional sports league your character roots for.
As a GM, the parts of roleplaying that I find the most rewarding aren’t the big battles or the dramatic character reveals, they’re the little moments where characters take the stuff I’ve written, the toys I’ve built them, and really run with them. Moments where the paladin gives a fanatical speech for the deity of your setting, or they take the time to explore the culture of the cities you built, or they banter casually with an NPC you spent time fleshing out, that sort of little stuff is what makes it worth it.