August 23, 2017

RPGaDAY #23 - Best RPG layout

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout? 

I'm going to go with the 5E Monster Manual. There are so many to choose from that I have to go with one of the ones I have seen most recently. I actually like the way they integrate the monster pictures with the layout where they are not always in neat little boxes and instead overflow into other boxes/areas of the page without being obtrusive. They also did a nice job adding sub-boxes of interesting tidbit information on the monsters for some of them that enhance the monster description while making the point unique. You can also tell they purposefully tried to keep descriptions and stats on one page per monster, thus making it easier to read and follow. They did an excellent job. Would I call it jaw-dropping? No, but their attention to detail is excellent with this product and one of the best.

August 22, 2017

RPGaDAY #22 - Easiest to run RPG

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run? 

The ones where everyone at the table already know the rules. I prefer to focus on the story going on and I've at various times defaulted to the players for a rule. I make them look up a rule as I keep the game moving forward. I am actually okay with letting a player know the rules better than myself. 

That said, I prefer the "lighter" rule systems that don't have a rule, or subsystem, for every type of action. I am okay with a system that is crunch heavy or math-intensive at character generation as long as once play starts things can move fast without the heavy crunch or rules.

Right now, that means 5E D&D. Most of my players know the rules at some level, even if it is just knowing previous editions. It is a fast system (at least at 8th level). The Advantage/Disadvantage system is beautiful for making fast judgements on bonuses to a die roll ("that awesome speech earned you advantage on persuading the guard to let you pass") because it comes down a simple 'did your action gain you an advantage on the task at hand? Yes or no.'. No more is there the question of 'does that action give a +2 or +3 or +5 bonus?'. Between al those points, right now, it the easiest for me to run.

August 21, 2017

RPGaDAY #21 - Most succinct RPG

What RPG does the most with the least words? 

There does seem to be a trend in game design to use the most words possible. This is usually done to either sound intelligent or to pad the word count for a higher paycheck. Some do it well and others are painfully obvious. So who has the most succinct rpg? To be honest I am not sure. Each rpg seems to fall into some sort of verbosity either by explaining the same rule in multiple locations or wanting to add flavor text. There are of course various rpgs out there are specifically designed to be short and limited to as few pages as humanly possible (the result of various online contests) but these tend to be fringe or one-off niche rpgs. I personally am looking at rpgs meant to appeal to a broader market.
If I have to give an answer right now without looking at my stack of games, I'd go with Savage Worlds. The rules are fairly trim and to the point. This seems to actually extend to supplements/settings written even by third parties. Overall Savage Worlds keeps on target and endeavors to provide only as much written material as needed.

August 20, 2017

RPGaDAY #20 - Out-of-print RPGs

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

If I am looking for a particular hard-copy of a game  I usually go to eBay first. The pricing tends to be fair and they usually have what I am looking for. Amazon sometimes has them but not as often and not always at a good price, mostly because the sellers charge a lot. I also find myself buying from Noble Knight Games on occasion but they do not always have everything in stock that I came looking for; though their sales are pretty darn good.
As for pdfs of out-of-print games the first I check is Drivethrurpg. A lot of companies have started putting out pdfs of their old games and more seem to be doing it of late. They seem to be slowly coming to the realization there is a market for them.

August 19, 2017

RPGaDAY #19 - Best writing

Which RPG features the best writing? 

This is a tough one. There can be many forms of "best" for "writing". Do you mean flavor text? Do you mean that the rules are clear with good examples? Do you mean the writing is evocative and makes you wants to play the game. Do you mean the writing is inspiring and makes you want to run the game? Do you mean the writing is lean and to the point? Do you mean the writing comes across as written by and for an adult? Do you mean the writing is not dry and boring? For the sake of this post I am going to assume all of these points are relevant.

White Wolf. Vampire and others.
I have always felt that White Wolf paid close attention to how they wrote. They seemed to approach their books as entertainment themselves. It wasn't just enough to give you rules and a setting so you could play a game. Some rpg books are nothing but tools for the gamers so they could make an interesting night of entertainment themselves. White Wolf instead seemed to want to have the writing itself entertain and be engaging. Sometimes they would get a little heavy with the prose, almost to the point of obscuring the game, but overall they were the best at presenting an rpg as something more than just rules.

August 18, 2017

RPGaDAY #18 - Most played RPG

Which RPG have you played the most in your life? 

Dungeons & Dragons.
This is the game I started with. Sometimes I will either grow tired of it or want to try something new, but I always end up wanting to run a game with it eventually. Curiously I always end up playing the latest edition - maybe my desire for a new games is what keeps me moving editions.

Why D&D? I'm not sure. 
Maybe there is a certain comfort level there. 
Maybe the rules are similar enough that I can pick up the newest edition without a large amount of  rule induction.
Maybe fantasy offers the greatest area to explore and keep things interesting.
Maybe because the players I game with also know the system.
Maybe because I like the fantasy genre the most and is what I read the most.
Not 100% sure why but I always end up going back.

August 17, 2017

RPGaDAY #17 - Longest unplayed RPG

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played? 

Bushido by FGU.
I got the game soon after it was released by FGU. It was actually out before then but it didn't come onto my radar until FGU published it. Technically, I had some early Traveller books which came out before Bushido but I actually picked them up after I got Bushido. 

Bushido was a fascinating game for me. I guess I just loved the concepts of samurai, ninja and wujen. I wrote up a couple of adventures and did some maps but never actually got to play. (I posted some of them on this blog and you can find them here). Since then I have played Legends of the Five Rings which I feel is a superior game, even if it isn't a true Japanese setting game. I will likely never play Bushido for that reason but I still have it and its supplements.

August 16, 2017

RPFaDAY #16 - Best RAW RPG

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is? 

RAW (run as written).
There have been many times when I prefer to run a game as written without any homebrew. Often I will be looking to run a certain type of game and I then go looking for which system I think will best do what I am looking for. 

For example, I was looking for a galaxy spanning science-fiction system that was gritty and dangerous. After some contemplation I decided that Shatterzone (the Masterbook sci-fi game) was what I wanted (though Spacemaster was a close second). I also decided to run it as written without changing anything so as to not "upset the balance". Sometimes adding things changes the system into something else and it just doesn't work then. Sometimes you have to trust the designers that they did the math and play-testing and worked on making the best game as possible within that system. If you tweak too much you can "break" things.

So, to answer the all depends on the game/campaign/setting I want to run. It also comes down to which game I think it the most "fragile". I am more apt to run a game RAW if I think it is inflexible. 

If I have to give one answer I will go with Rolemaster. It is a math-intensive (at least at the start) with specialized and dependent tables. It is not a system I want to homebrew as it can easily break. However, it is a system with great detail and lots of choices. I can easily build a world and campaign with it. It is large enough that I can create almost anything without needing to homebrew.

August 15, 2017

RPGaDAY #15 - Most adaptable RPG

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most? 

I have actually been adapting, or as we like to call it homebrewing, for decades now (wow, did I really just say decades?). Obviously D&D and its various editions have been adapted. Also I've done work with... 
1E Gamma World (new monsters and mutations)
Masterbook (A superhero game)
Gumshoe (a fantasy version)
Numenera/Cypher System (superheroes)
Savage Worlds (Necessary Evil campaign with new powers, psionic campaign, fantasy world/campaign)

For awhile Savage Worlds was my go-to system for homebrewing. It is light and flexible with a solid foundation to build from. However, currently 5E D&D is my rpg of choice for adapting/homebrew. It is a system known by a large number of people. It is also light and flexible. I've adapted it for a modern version of Gamma World (kickstarter plug) and a science-fiction space-faring game. Both have been easy to do and people have said they are a lot of fun to play.

August 14, 2017

I have a kickstarter!

As some of you have noticed I have been remiss with this blog (though I am having some fun doing the latest RPGaDAY event - part of the reason I joined in was to do some writing here). What have I been doing with the time I haven't been writing here? I went and made a game...and now I have a kickstarter for it. Here is the official blurb...

After The Crash is a 5E Post-Apocalyptic Science Fantasy RPG launched as a Kickstarter. This is a collaborative endeavor between me and my wife, as we translated her Gamma World campaign into the 5E ruleset. The Kickstarter is for a full 250+ page book that presents a plethora of new material consisting of 4 races, 9 classes (6 reworks of existing classes and 3 new ones), 27 archetypes, 20 backgrounds, 160+ mutations, 60+ artifacts, and 40+ monsters. Included will be a completely new setting and a starter adventure. Stretch goals will have more monsters and adventures if we hit them.

We are excited about this Kickstarter and hope you can check it out and pledge your support.

RPGaDAY #14 - Favorite system for campaigns

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

I feel that the majority of RPG systems lend themselves to open-ended campaign play (Toon and Paranoia come to mind as systems/settings that would prove difficult for a sustained campaign). However, generic systems or those decoupled from a setting tend to allow for such campaigns fairly easily. So, to be honest, almost any rpg system will work.

That said, I believe that systems that are more widely known tend to be the best for such campaigns. It then becomes a case where the system takes a backseat to the campaign. People spend less time worrying about the rules and more time interacting with the setting. Right now that would mean 5E D&D.

5E is still young enough that there are not a lot of supplemental rules and additions (such as classes, races etc). That means a campaign is not trying to play catch-up with the rules. 3E and Pathfinder rules are well known by a majority of players, but they have so much supplemental information/rules that to create an open-ended campaign would be daunting if you were trying to include everything available (or more to the point, all the things the players want to have included). Sure, you can include or not include what you want, but even pruning such a campaign would be time-consuming.

5E is a nice place where a large number of people know the rules but there is not so much bloat that a campaign feels weighted down.

August 13, 2017

RPGaDAY #13 - Things that changed how I play

Describe a game experience that changed the way you play.

I am playing a druid named Brie Wildways. His highest stat was a 12 (Wisdom), but the highlight was his Intelligence of 6 (bad die rolling). It was at a college game with about 12 other people (they had a lot of people there). It was an ongoing campaign where the rules were played loosely, especially during character generation (lots of unofficial material was allowed). We had a vampire and a githyanki in the party if that tells you anything.

For some unknown reason the githyanki didn't like my character. As the campaign progressed he became more belligerent to me. He started attacking trees and other aspects of nature knowing that I would have to try and stop him...which with my pathetic stats was not going to be possible. So I tried and got beaten down and was going to be killed if some of the other characters (who he also had antagonized) hadn't come to my rescue. To this day I still don't know why he was so belligerent to me and the others. It seemed like some sort of power-play on the player's part. It soured my game play experience as there was no real need for him to be a jerk other than to do it.

Since then I have tried to live up to the mantra...
"An RPG game is a shared experience. Your fun doesn't trump the fun of anyone else at the table."

August 12, 2017

RPGaDAY #12 - Interior art

Which game has the most inspiring interior art? 

I'm going to turn this into a question of...which artist did I like the best as interior art. Allen Nunis. I am most familiar with him from the work he did for West End Games, particularly TORG. (So I guess to answer the original question Torg/The Land Below, though I loved everything he did for the game line.) He could showcase a setting elegantly in just a picture while still giving an action shot. Things were happening in his pictures. This then led directly to wanting to make those scenes come alive in the game.

Here is a picture he did for the Star Wars game...

August 11, 2017

RPGaDAY #11 - Which game needs a new edition

Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn? 

Flashing Blades.
This is a Three Musketeers style game that came out in 1984 from Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU). It was well written and even had some excellent supplements for it. The rules had an excellent background/career system for characters and a solid combat system that was engaging and diverse. If it were to be made over with a fresher system it could really shine.

Honorable Mention:
The Fantasy Trip (yes, I know GURPS is the evolution of TFT, but THT was lighter than GURPS).
Lords of Creation.
Lace and Steel.

August 10, 2017

RPGaDAY #10 - RPG reviews

Where do you go for RPG reviews? 

I do a general internet Google search. However, most of the links all point to at some point. I have found that they tend to have more than one review for a game and are rather comprehensive in their analysis. They usually outline the different parts of the RPG and then give examples/reasons for what they like and don't like. I find that as I read them I will agree or disagree with their assessment as dictated by my personal biases. So while a reviewer may give a reason for liking or disliking part of a RPG they still provide enough information that I can then agree or disagree as to what I personally like in a game. Overall they do an excellent job with reviews.

August 9, 2017

RPGaDAY #9 - The 10 session campaign

What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions? 

I tend to prefer long, multiyear long campaigns. I do not tend to run finite campaigns but rather let the players decide where to go and what to do. If one of my campaigns ends around 10 sessions it means something went wrong (like a TPK). I have only ever run one "plot-point" style game and that was Necessary Evil (which was an excellent campaign).
As for a good RPG for such a campaign I would say...anything would work. I know its a cop-out answer but I feel that any system/setting can be run to completion in 10 sessions. All it takes is laying it out ahead of time. It is fairly easy to decide ahead of time what the PCs will encounter and when.

August 8, 2017

RPGaDAY #8 - Good and short RPGs

What is a good RPG to play for sessions 2hrs or less? 

Right now I'm going to go with 5E D&D. Combat moves much faster while still retaining good choices and resource management. Because the combats flow faster it means you can pack in more non-combat scenes as well. I usual run games for 3 hours or so (sometimes 2 if we end up chatting about non-game things that night) and I've found that in the game night there is enough opportunities for everyone to shine at some point. If a player is rolling badly in one fight the luck evens out for them in the next. If they prefer role-play over combat there is enough time for that in the night as well. For my group, the speed of 5E allows for more to happen in a shorter period of time which in turn allows everyone to do something cool in the session.

I find heavy die rolling games or those with lots of sub-systems to bog down the game. Also games with greater complexity or too many options as well. Once a game slows down if also slows down opportunities for players/characters to shine.

August 7, 2017

RPGaDAY #7 - Impactful RPG session

What was your most impactful RPG session? 

My first interpretation of "impactful" is one wherein there was a session with great immersion or that altered by perceptions of RPGs in general. However, I have to say that no such thing has happened at my tables (though I have seen it at a LARP). When I play I always try to keep in mind that this is just a game, mostly so I can try and make it fun for everyone. Too often I have seen people ruin a good night for someone else because they are "in character". So, I try to remember the other players as we game which precludes getting too immersed.

However, there was one session where I was running a mono-language NPC in a Feng Shui game. Hugo was his name and that was the only word he spoke (long before Hodor and similar characters made it "popular"). I was able to convey multiple emotions and statements with that one word by use of inflection, tone and body language. He also became an NPC that the PCs actually cared about and went out of their way to help.

August 6, 2017

RPGaDAY #6 - A week of gaming

You can game everyday for a week. Describe what you'd do!

Day One - Run Legion of Stars, my 5E science fiction setting.
Day Two - Run Legion of Stars, my 5E science fiction setting.
Day Three - Run Torg Eternity.
Day Four - Play in my wife's 7th Sea game using the 1E rules.
Day Five - Play in a 3E Shadowrun game.
Day Six - Play in a 3E Shadowrun game.
Day Seven - Play in a Middle Earth Rolemaster game.

August 5, 2017

RPGaDAY #5 - Best evocative cover

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

I have seen many different covers through the years, with the majority of them actually doing a good job evoking the game inside. For me this question come down to one of nostalgia. Which cover make me want to play RPGs overall, want to explore what the game offered. While the cover to the Blue Box Basic D&D was good, it was the cover of the AD&D Player's Handbook that really caught my eye and attention.

In it you had party all doing their own "class" thing. It showed how you could play anything. You had the warriors who just finished hack-n-slashing, the mage, the fighter type planning the next move and the thieves doing thiefly things. It showed that a lot can happen in the game. Plus, you just know something is going to go wrong as they pry out the gems...the mystery of the idol is evocative and makes me wonder what would happen if my character was there.

The picture also reminds me of all the adventures I did have back in the game with that game. So nostalgia plays a big part in "best evocative cover".

August 4, 2017

RPGaDAY #4 - Most played RPG for the past year

Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

5E D&D - Homebrew setting. This was actually a close one, I had been running a 3E Shadowrun campaign for the last couple of years but that wrapped up earlier this year. The 5E D&D game started about a year ago, so overall while it has not been running as long as the Shadowrun game it is the one I ran the most this past year.

August 3, 2017

RPGaDAY #3 - Source for RPG info

How do you find out about new RPGs?

Online. EN World is usually good for info about new RPGs, especially since they've started a new regular column that showcases new releases. They also do a run-down of kickstarters which is where is seems a lot of new RPGs first appear.

August 2, 2017

RPGaDAY #2 - The RPG that needs to get published

What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Other than my personal projects (such as the After the Fall kickstarter going on right now - wow, what a shameless plug!) I have always wanted to see an RPG for the Narnia series.

I absolutely loved the books and have always felt like it would make for an excellent setting. There are actually a couple of attempts to make one, but they are usually lackluster or incomplete. However, I can see a few problems with such an RPG...
-It plays heavily into morality and intangible human qualities. I do think that it can be done properly though but would require more work to integrate the two (morality/virtues and the typical fantasy setting).
-Finding players for such a setting might be difficult. Most players (mine included) usually prefer hack-n-slash. Forcing morality into play is something they would find either foreign or distasteful.
-From all I've heard, the people who run the estate of CS Lewis are disinclined to allow a Narnia RPG.

I guess I'll just have to make my own.

August 1, 2017

RPGaDAY #1 - The RPG I wish I was playing

What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now? 

I am going under the assumption the question means "playing" as opposed to being the DM (as I usually DM). So with that caveat...Torg Eternity. 

I loved the game when it first came out in 1990. My official favorite game system is Masterbook. I bought into the Kickstarter for Torg:Eternity and have thus been able to read the rules in pdf that just came out. It looks like a solid system that definitely captures the setting while retaining much of the rule set I liked. Fortunately, there is a game being started up this Saturday so I will be able to try it out as a player!

That being said I would actually like to be playing my Legion of Stars homebrew which is not published yet, but at least I get to run it every other week.

July 20, 2017

Torg Eternity - Perks By Cosm

When making a character for Torg I tend to select a Cosm first as that tends to define for me the way I'll play (pulpy, cyberpunky, etc). I felt it would be good to know what each Cosm offered for Perks since Perks are really the special powers and abilities of the characters. So here they are... 

-Leadership (Bolster, Followers, Natural Leader, Rally)
-Prowess (Bodyguard, Brawler, Brute, Double Tap, Endurance, Hard To Kill, Indomitable, Mastery, Relentless, Situational Awareness, Sniper, Survivor, Strong-Willed, Trademark Weapon, Vengeful, Whirlwind)
-Social (Helper, Linguist, Wealthy)

-Darkness (Critical Strike, Frightening Aspect, Shadow Step, Smiling Deceiver)
-Dwarf (Bearded/Braided, Dragon Warrior, Forsaken)
-Elf (Elven Archer, Elven Sorcerer, Warden, White Wolf)
-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Light (Detect Darkness, Radiant, Rejuvenate, Raise the Dead, Righteousness)
-Outsider (Berserk, Magic Resistance)
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Psionics (Iron Will, Multi-Tasker, Overcharge, Psionic)
-Reality (Adaptable, Axiom Increase, Grant Possibilities, Negation, Prodigy, Realm Runner, Storm Caller, Storyteller, Tenacious)
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

-Cyberware (Cyberware Implants)
-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

-Edeinos (Chameleon Skin, Death Claw, Star Eyes, Stone Skin, Whip Tail)
-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Savagery (Beast Rider, Animal Companion)

-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Pulp Power (Electro-Ray, Flight, Force Field, Mind Control, Super Attribute, Super Skill)  
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

-Faith (Conviction, Miracles, Lay On Hands, Protected, Spirit Bane)
-Occult (Alchemy, Bulletsmith, Demoniacal Frenzy, Diabolist, Medals, Occultist)
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

-Electric Samurai (Ion Gusoku, Speed Demon, Unflinching)
-Ki Powers (Block Strike, Focused Strike, Ki Strike)
-Psionics (Iron Will, Multi-Tasker, Overcharge, Psionic)

-Occultech (Occultech Implants)
-Psionics (Iron Will, Multi-Tasker, Overcharge, Psionic)
-Spellcraft (Magister, Resilient, Spellcaster)

Some interesting things I see from the list. Some Cosms (Core Earth, Cyberpapacy, Nile Empire, Orrorsh, Tharkold) have only 1 unique Perk to them. Aysle has 5 unique perks and the most overall at 7 (not counting ANY). Core Earth comes in at 4 and the rest all only have 3 Perks allowed (other than ANY). I can only assume when the Realms supplements come out each Cosm will get more.

July 19, 2017

Torg Eternity Cheat Sheet

I'm liking the new Torg Eternity so far. Someone local is doing a play-test of an adventure they want to run at a nearby convention this week. For prep I quickly put together a Torg Eternity Cheat Sheet. All you really need is Page 1 (for the PCs) and 8 (for the GM); the rest just give details on items and cosms.

1- Basic info a PC might need
2- Melee Weapons
3- Firearms
4- Ammo/Missile Weapons
5- Armor/Shields
6- Torg Value Chart (good for impromptu scaling)
7- GM Cosm rules
8- GM rules

You can get it here.