#RPGaDAY 2017: Days 11-15

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Another five days have passed, another five prompts to answer! Let’s do it, nerds! For the fourth year in a row, RPGBrigade brings us a month’s worth of prompts to discuss and, in the process, think about and celebrate this great hobby! So, let’s get to it. If you wanna check out the last batch of answers, they’re right here.

August 11th: Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see return?

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Started as a weird 4chan project to make a Neon Genesis Evangelion tabletop RPG, the original creators have abandoned this game after the release of the third edition, which is a damn shame. Evangelion is a fantastic franchise, and I think one that is positively perfect for tabletop play. There’s a heavy emphasis on inter-party conflict, as well as on character growth and development. There’s exciting action, but action that varies from encounter to encounter. Maybe you’ll be diving into a volcano one week, and the next you’ll be performing a synchronized dance with your allies, or trying to bust your way out of a giant dimension sphere. It’s great!

Alas, Adeptus Evangelion is currently on ice, and they finally broke free from the Dark Heresy rules and started to build their own system, and I really want to see what a well-designed system built from the ground up to run Eva looks like.

August 12th: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

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How about an RPG I literally just bought because the interior art inspired me?

Farflung is a Powered by the Apocalypse game that aims to explore science fiction at the fringes, where anything is possible. It’s the end of time, and characters can be, well, it seems like anything. From space-faring gods to emperors to simple explorers, it certainly seems like if you want sci-fi, and the kind where all of the science is explained away with “it’s the future, fuck it”, Farflung seems like your jam.

And, man, the art works for that.

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The very vibrant art is filled with character, with emotion and character, and with style. It emphasizes a very specific kind of sci-fi, the kind where you go on the grandest of adventures and meet kings and gods and decide the fate of planets and discover ancient secrets. It reminds me of Space Dandy and Hitchhiker’s Guide and a bunch of other sci-fi I love.

August 13th: Describe a game experience that changed how you play

Reading Dungeon World.

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I think that, even if you don’t intend to play any Powered by the Apocalypse games, owning one of the ones that’s really full of good GM insight, namely either the eponymous Apocalypse World or Dungeon World is absolutely mandatory. (Before I start any fights, I feel similarly about OSR games).

Dungeon World has a lot of astonishingly good GMing advice, and general good game design concepts, bound together. And, sure, a lot of it is just retreading the road paved by Apocalypse World, but Dungeon World was my first experience with the subgenre, and it was eye-opening.

Fronts. The idea of leaving the questions of your plot open-ended and discovering through play. Establishing Bonds between members of the party. Letting the fiction lead you forward. Dungeon World is an excellent guide on how to GM any game with any semblance of story, any concept of world.

August 14th: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

My answer is going to be a bit skewed, since I’ve never actually been able to run a sandbox game, even though I direly wish I could. So, here’s a bit of a weird pick.

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Yes, dread Pathfinder! The great tangled mass of the 3.X D&D rules, an unholy abomination of sourcebooks upon sourcebooks. How, pray tell, could I pick this game?

Well, Pathfinder‘s glut of rules content also, in my eyes, makes it a prime candidate for sandbox play! Your players can construct any manner of character that they want, given that the game has, like, 40 classes, each of which can be specified using any number of archetypes.

This goes both ways, too. As a GM, it’s easy to construct enemies from scratch using this robust class system to create distinct, thematic enemies. Sprinkle in enemies from the game’s seven or eight Bestiaries, pull from the massive amount of modules and adventures written for 3.X, and add in optional rules from the numerous sourcebooks available and, viola, you have a library of components you can use to assemble each and every asset of a fantasy world.

August 15th: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

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Monsters and Other Childish Things is, in fact, the only game I’ve ever properly worked to adapt, not counting whole rules schemas (like Powered by the Apocalypse). Normally, my designers’ mindset has me just whipping up new rules sets for game ideas not easily handled by existing games.

However, as I wrote an entire blog post aboutMonsters is a fantastic game for use to run a game of my favorite anime, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and so I immediately began adaptation once I had the idea.

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#RPGaDAY 2017: Days 6-10

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We’re continuing my runthrough of the #RPGaDAY challenge, hoping to get some interesting discussion going about the prompts set forth in this fourth annual challenge, to celebrate this awesome hobby! I posted my last batch of answers on the 5th, so let’s get to it today, August 10th.

August 6th: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

Well, I have seven days of gaming to fill. I already game two days a week, so we’ll fill in Sunday with the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG game I’m running, and Wednesday with the Shadowrun game I’m running for a different group. Since, as I mentioned last week, that Star Wars group also has a Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition game running concurrently, let’s schedule that for Monday.

Now I have four more days of gaming to fill in! I think Tuesday I’m going to run a one-shot, specifically the Westworld one-shot idea I had, where players won’t know who’s a person and who’s a Host until someone decides to get into their guts and find out.

Now, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are free, and while the temptation to run three more one-shots is strong, I’m instead going to run a…three-shot, I guess. A three-day game, or more accurately, a trilogy of games. Specifically, I want to run a system that I would hypothetically have finished designing at this point, a game called Camp Glacier Peak. It’s a horror game, designed to evoke the “group of teens versus murderous evil” vibe of Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Each day would feature a different group of teens at a different time versus the same ancient evil, with one session’s lone survivor potentially becoming next session’s veteran savior of the teens, or crazy old crackpot who turned out to be right. I think it’d be dope.

August 7th: What was your most impactful RPG session?

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I was, god, probably like 13? The system was Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.

I had this great campaign hook set up for my friends. They’d discover this hermit in the woods was methodically hunting down members of a royal family they’d be contracted by. With some investigation, they’d discover that the hermit is in fact a lost son of the family, and the family had been cast down from nobility after a majority of its members turned into vampires. With this, lost brothers would reunite and try to reestablish themselves in the capital city, bringing the party along as their lead executors. This would lead to a variety of amazing adventures spanning the globe, leading to the resurrection and destruction of an ancient god.

When my party was breaking in to the hermit’s cabin, he spotted them, and asked what they were doing. The party ranger shot an arrow at him, critted, and instantly murdered him.

Remember, your players have as much say in your story as you, and you should never expect them to follow the story you expect. Instead, write your games open-ended, and figure out where things go through play. Or else your vampire hunter prince might take an arrow to the eye.

August 8th: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

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hollowpoint is like if Fiasco was written by Quentin Tarantino. A quick story game, hollowpoint is about, by its own description, “bad people killing bad people for bad reasons”. It’s a game designed to quickly emulate massive amounts of violence as your characters become whirling dervishes of death, performing their dark deeds for a nefarious purpose before they probably get cut down in a hail of gunfire or something.

hollowpoint is goddamn ridiculous, reminding me in equal parts of the Crazy 88 fight in Kill Bill: Volume One, the environmental kills in Sleeping Dogs, and, weirdly, this extremely bullshit scene for the criminally underrated Nicholas Cage hit Drive Angry in which Cage’s character smokes a cigar, pulls from a bottle of Jack Daniels, has sex with a bar waitress, and murders a bunch of dudes at the same time. It’s very good.

August 9th: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?
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I don’t necessarily think Mutant: Year Zero plays best at 10 sessions, but I can easily imagine having a good campaign in ten sessions’ time in this game. Mutant: Year Zero is a story about a group of mutants trying to keep their ramshackle town alive after a nuclear apocalypse, exploring the wasteland and trying to find some sort of mythical utopia called the Ark.

Character advancement doesn’t really strike me as one of Mutant‘s focuses, making it easier to do a small campaign without feeling like your character never reached their full potential. The presence of a built in end goal (finding the Ark) easily allows me to envision a 10 session campaign running sort of like a season of a Mutant: Year Zero TV series.

Session one, introduce the world, the town, and the characters. Sessions two through eight, deal with episodic problems that your colony faces (public insurrection, mutants, other colonies, nuclear weather, whatever), and slowly sprinkle in hints to the location of the Ark. Sessions nine and ten, your characters go out and find the Ark, exploring it. Maybe it is great, but maybe it leads to a greater mystery. Complete the campaign having accomplished your goal, but maybe leaving it open ended for a sequel. Who knows?

August 10th: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

Uhhh, I don’t usually read straight-up reviews, instead opting to watch Actual Plays to see how the game runs, and try and get a feel for how the game works at the table. Sort of the same way I’ve eschewed reading most game reviews in favor of watching people like TotalBiscuit and Giant Bomb just play the game.

When I do watch reviews (because I usually watch them, not read them), I’ll go to one of two people: Questing Beast or Runeslinger. Questing Beast is definitely neck-deep in the OSR scene, a scene I’m not super familiar with, but I trust his opinions and the stuff he finds is really cool (he got me in to Dungeon Crawl Classics), while Runeslinger has a bit more of a varied palette, but his extensive history with the hobby means I trust his opinions to be rooted in precedent and in experience.

#RPGaDAY 2017: Days 1-5

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#RPGaDAY is a fun social media challenge that’s been running for four years now, inviting members of the online tabletop RPG community to answer a prompt a day every day of August, thus getting people to just write about why they love the hobby, inciting conversations, making friends, and just to get everyone thinking about the hobby.

I’m kinda cheating, because instead of flooding my Twitter feed and everyone’s RSS feeds every day (and also writing every day), it works far better for my schedule to respond in clumps of five, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do, starting today, August 5th, with the first five prompts!

August 1st: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

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Actually, a lot, but to pick just one, for the moment, I’m going to pick Gumshoe, because it’s the one most unlike anything else I’m playing or designing right now. Gumshoe is a mystery game designed under a key observation: finding clues is very rarely the interesting part of mystery games, and it’s almost never interesting to not find a clue. Instead, Gumshoe guarantees investigators to be able to find clues, so long as you know what skills you need to be looking with. Find a body? Use your medical knowledge and immediately find out cause of death. Find some mysterious plant particles? The group’s botanist can immediately rattle off what it is.

While this sounds like a gimme, the crucial observation Robin Laws made was that the interesting part of a Sherlock Holmes story isn’t him rummaging over a crime scene going “I dunno, something’s gotta be here”; it’s him, playing with all the clues in his head, piecing them together logically to solve the mystery. My keeping the pace of the game going by guaranteeing clues, Gumshoe lets players keep going and get to the interesting part: solving the case.

I have 2 Gumshoe games I want to run, each very different, and I can’t wait to get this game to table. Plus, the SRD is free, so anyone interested can take a look!

August 2nd: What is an RPG you’d like to see published?

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The super sentai genre has always had a very solid place in my heart since watching Power Rangers religiously as a child, then discovering Kamen Rider later into my adolescence. The basic genre structure, a group of cool teens gain the power to transform into suited superheroes to fight villains in a monster-of-the-week format, helped to inform a good deal of my storytelling and aesthetic tastes in the superhero genre that not even the best Marvel movies could ever shake.

The problem is that it’s hard to adapt super sentai to a tabletop RPG. The structure is, generally speaking, pretty repetitive: teens have teen problem, monster shows up, teens beat monster, (optional monster grows section for Power Rangers), teens solve teen problem. Despite plenty of fistfights and explosions, the main characters are never really at risk, and there’s a ton of filler fights with garbage enemies that would be super boring.

But at the same time, the genre is so open outside of the codified tropes that super sentai can apply to anything. Power Rangers have been cops, ninjas, samurai, and wizards, and Kamen Riders have been vampires, time travelers, ghost hunters, and my personal favorite, two people sharing a single body.

There’d definitely be some work to do to get the feel just right, and to keep the game interesting, but there are dozens of genres and stories that would be so interesting to experience through the lens of super sentai that I’d love to see this made.

August 3rd: How do you find out about new RPGs?

I’d say I find out about new RPGs two ways. The first is when I just happen across them, which usually happens while I browse either Twitter or /r/rpg. Someone will mention a game in a thread I’ve never heard of, and I’ll go look it up, think it looks cool, and either add it to a wish list or buy it outright. I’ll also discover stuff because it gets put on Bundle of Holding, an excellent PWYW bundle service for RPGs. It’s also just a fantastic way to build up a usable PDF library of games you find interesting.

The other way I find out about RPGs is when I seek them out, usually because I have a campaign or game idea, but don’t know any systems that would run it well. In this case, I’ll post Reddit threads, scour RPGGeek, and also see recommendations for running franchises or ideas similar to my idea, until I come across a new game that fits what I’m looking for. My two most recent RPG purchases came this way: In Dark Alleys, a horror game modelling a character’s spiral into corruption as they discover the unknowable evils lurking in the shadows, and GURPS, because I couldn’t find anything that did what I wanted well, and I went “Fuck it, GURPS it is.”

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

It’s close, but because I don’t feel like counting days, I’m gonna call it a tie. My main gaming group alternates between two campaigns on a weekly basis, one I run, and one run by another GM.

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The game I run is Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG. It’s an amalgamation of all three games in the line, and a campaign I started as I was learning the rules. It’s a bit of a mess rules-wise, as some really neat subsystems ended up falling to the wayside (the Obligation/Duty/Morality system, notably, but also some of the cooler things like the item rarity rules) and some other modifications I made more knowingly (a combination of the group’s newness to RPGs and my hate of tactical combat led to an abstraction of the combat rules), but boy we’re having fun with this. I’ve written all about why I like this game, but this is maybe one of my favorite campaigns I’ve ever run.

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The game which I’ve been playing in is good ol’ Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, specifically the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure path. I’m, I dunno, a bit more lukewarm about this? I like the group, and I like the DM a lot (his ability to really play the individual characters I’m pretty jealous of, and is a goal I’m working towards), but I think Princes of the Apocalypse might just be really boring? The plot is kinda boring and very tropey, but I think I’m having the most friction with 5E’s character creation? I just feel very funneled into specific archetypes, and my attempts to worm my way out of those just make me feel like I’m being punished by becoming “suboptimal”. Oh well, I like the group and love the DM, so I’ll press on with a new character.

August 5th: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

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I was between this and third edition Shadowrun, but I had to pick World Wide Wrestling. The complete ridiculousness of every wrestler in frame, the action, the impact you feel from that folding chari, plus the silhouette of the woman in the crowd. “Look, Greg, Johnny Atomic is choking out the Human Flame! And Iron Maiden just hit Boy Stardust in the face with an electric chair! The ref looks pissed! This is awesome!” Considering the focus World Wide Wrestling puts on wrestling as a performance, rather than an actual battle, this works perfect.

Bonus round! What game cover worst captures the spirit of the game?

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Oh my god, look how serious everyone is! There are skulls and spikes and brain-cables everywhere, and you look like some sort of British admiral/space king? What a serious game!

That’s funny, because every story I’ve ever heard about Rogue Trader makes it sound like Dipshits In Space, as the extremely grimdark setting eventually goes up its own ass in every campaign until the whole group is just wielding absolute authority in the dumbest possible ways. Allow me to treat you to a selection from this /r/gametales story told by /u/Draz825:

“After visiting an Imperial pleasure world, he [the captain] ordered corridors converted into canals throughout the ship, in order to better use his speedboat for water skiing. This actually came in handy when a rival ship attempted to board us and suddenly found themselves drowning.”