August 31, 2017

RPGaDay Question #31

Question #31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

First thing that immediately sprang to mind is GamerNation Con 2018, or what I choose to think of the "The Best Four Days of Actual Gaming."

While weather caused me to miss the inaugural GamerNation Con, I've been able to make it to all the subsequent cons, and Yoda willing I'll be making it to the 2018 edition as well. It's a small gaming-centric convention, and the small size really helps as you get a much better sense of camaraderie with the folks in attendance.  Plus, the Guests of Honor have been pretty cool individuals, and I even got to help induct Rodney Thompson (he of Star Wars Saga Edition fame) into the Rebel Legion as an Honorary Member, as well as play in games run by Sam Stewart (just the tip) and Katrina Ostrander/Lee, which were both a lot of fun.  I've got a couple of modules in mind to bring to run for next year, and am eager to see what other folks bring.  I suspect there will be a lot of Genesys games using assorted homebrew settings, which while cool will take away some of the charm that GM Phil's "Edge of the Wasteland" Fallout conversion has.  Though at least Phil can always claims "First!" in terms of his Fallout conversion being a "proof of concept" for FFG, which I'm sure is something that Phil will never get tired of reflecting upon.

Other things I'm looking forward to for 2018 is the resuming of Eric Brender's Mutants and Masterminds 3e Emerald City campaign.  Even if it does wind up being the swan song of Spider-Man and the Stormbreakers, it's been a blast to of a campaign to play, with a pretty cool set of characters, though my favorite of the PCs is probably Mayfield, a Golden Age style Superman that never lost his Idaho country farmboy roots.

I don't know for certain if it's going to start up this year or not, but I am looking forward to the Kickstarter for 7th Sea: The East, the sister game line to 7th Sea 2nd edition.  I've checked out the quickstart document for 7th Sea: The East, and on first brush it looks pretty neat, with a few system tweaks that I wouldn't mind seeing make it over to the main game.  I've generally enjoyed the 7th Sea 2nd edition product line, even if I've not gotten to play it nearly as much as I would have liked.

I'd be remiss if I were to omit the previously mentioned Genesys RPG, Fantasy Flight Game's translation of the Star Wars narrative dice system into a setting-agnostic game.  While I'd so love to see Mechamorphosis make a return as an official sourcebook for Genesys, I'm not holding my breath.  Depending on time and interest, I might kitbash my own conversion of the Not!Transformers d20 game that FFG published back during the days of the d20 boom.  I don't know how much actual usage I'll get out of Genesys as my regular gaming group is pretty happy with Star Wars, but we'll see.

Well, that about wraps up not only this post, but also RPGaDay 2017.  I'm not sure that I'll do this again next year, but it was a fun experience.  Now admittedly, I did cheat a little and take advantage of posting these to my blog to write a bunch of my answers in advance (usually no more than a few days), which worked out as there were some days where after coming home from work my brain felt like a lump of clay.

At any rate, I hope at least a few folks found my answers at the very least amusing if not interesting.  Thanks for playing along, and see you on the flip side.  Or maybe better yet, see you at GamerNation Con 2018!

August 30, 2017

RPGaDay Question #30

Wow, almost forgot to post this one.
Question #30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Honestly, most of the genre-mashups I'd like to see have already hit publication.

For instance, Horror+Western is covered by Deadlands, while Horror+Noir is covered by Deadlands: Noir, and Horror+Post-Apoc is addressed by Deadlands: Hell on Earth, so Pinnacle's got my back there.

Lovecraft-themed supernatural horror and anime is addressed by the sadly underrated CthulhuTech.

Then there's just the simple fact that Star Wars, as the embodiment of the space opera genre, is itself a mashup of genres that it covers a lot of bases.  Heroic knights with laser swords and quasi-psychic powers squaring off against faceless minions of a cruel tyrant with quick-drawing smartass scoundrels, sassy nobles that can handle themselves in a fight, and non-human mascots at their side goes a long ways.

7th Sea might have a Renaissance-era Pirates and Swashbucklers feel to it, but it can easily be adapted to cover themes of horror and/or exploration, especially in 2nd edition where the Syrenth are far more of an unknown and the mystical elements of the world have much more of a sinister cant to them.

Welp, one final day to go in RPGaDay for 2017.  I have to say this has been interesting, and certainly gave this ol' blog of mine a lot more activity in the span of a month than it usually sees over the course of a year.  But as for what the future holds?  Well, guess we'll just have to see, won't we?

August 29, 2017

RPGaDay Question #29

Question #29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Far and away that has been the FATE Core Kickstarter by Evil Hat Productions.  Quite honestly, Fred Hicks could teach a class on how to properly run a professional Kickstarter campaign.  Not only is he transparent about where things are, he's been savvy enough to avoid over-extending Evil Hat's ability to fulfill the various goals.

A close runner-up are the various Maps of Mastery campaigns run by cartographer Christopher West.  While I may not use maps quite as much as I used to these days, I still back every single one of his Kickstarters, and he's got the process more or less down to a science.  He doesn't go crazy with stretch goals, though a part of that may be due the fairly short length of some of his more recent Kickstarters, as he's only got so many days to reach the intended goal.  And since he's created the maps ahead of time, there's generally not a huge delay on getting the maps either, which is always a plus.

While it's had some hiccups and delays, the Kickstarter run by John Wick for the 7th Sea 2nd edition was handled pretty well.  I figured from the get-go that their proposed production schedule was very aggressive and required that nothing go wrong to cause delays, something that veteran gamers know almost never happens as something hiccup or another occurs that causes delays and products to be rescheduled.  Still, they've been very good about producing the supplements in roughly the order proposed, with the only switch-up being they released Heroes & Villains prior to Pirate Nations.

Now to be fair, I don't tend to back a lot of Kickstarters, mostly as I've become adverse to pledging money for RPGs that I may very well never get to play.  Thus far, I've only gotten burned twice, one was due to the backer suffering some catastrophic real life issues regarding his mental health that were beyond his control, and I don't begrudge the man for not being able to follow through given that by the time he was able to resume working on it, all interest on both the part of him and the backers had passed.  Which is a shame, as it looked like it had a lot of potential.

The other "burn" thus far has been the Mekton Zero Kickstarter by R. Talsorian.  Honestly, I really should have known better for a company that's become increasingly infamous for not being able to follow through on a timely manner.  There's still periodic updates, but the last few that I've seen have been more about their woes with the minis line, which I frankly don't really care about as I'm more keen on the RPG.  Hopefully they'll get things sorted out and have an actual rulebook put together, but I've kind of given up on having it anytime in the near future.  Which is a shame as the few times I was able to play Mekton Zeta, it was quite fun even if the rules could be horribly abused by savvy players that knew what they were doing.

Only two more days in this marathon of questions, so check up here tomorrow for what won't quite be my final answer.

August 28, 2017

RPGaDay Question #28

Question #28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

To start with, Monty Python and the Holy Grail isn't very commonly referenced in our Skype group, which is currently the most enduring gaming group I've had over the past several years.  I think the main reason for that is enough of us have been gaming long enough that quotes from said movie are more annoying than amusing at this point.

Frankly, there are times it feels like I'm the one that makes the most movie quotes, and I tend to draw on a number of different cinematic sources, though I do have a few that consistently draw from.

Of course, it's hard to go wrong with The Princess Bride, as just so much of that movie is quotable in and of itself, even more so if playing a swashbuckling-themed game such as 7th Sea.  During the running of Erebus Cross with a short-lived group, my Castillian Duelist dropped many a line from the film, including switching up the "You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you / You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die" exchange, with Estevan saying the second part when about to face off with an honorable Vodacce swordsman in the employ of an unscrupulous merchant.  Playing a character that was a romantic idealist and a bit of smartass (that last part covers an unsurprisingly large number of my characters over the years) gave me plenty of chances to quote either Inigo or Westley at various points of the adventure.

I suppose that if I ever wind up running a pirate-themed 7th Sea game, then I can expect the various Pirates of the Caribbean flicks to be mined for quotes.  But it's not happened yet.

I also favor the sayings of Doctor Peter Venkman, another smartass character (sensing a theme yet?), especially the "nice thinking Ray" when a fellow PC does something foolish or unwise.  And there's always Egon's "Sorry Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought" for situations that get really hairy and other PCs are turning to my character for suggestions on what to do.

Star Wars comes up a fair bit, given one of our more recurring RPGs is Star Wars, especially the wit and witticisms of Obi-Wan Kenobi as well as the nigh-obligatory "I've got a bad feeling about this!"  Han Solo lines also get some love, but not nearly as much.

But frankly, I think our group tends to draw more from pop culture, with various memes being dropped, such as "Morrigan Approves +10" when my Human Paladin in Eric's D&D 5e Curse of Strahd campaign pretty much entered into a pact with the essence of a corrupted mad archangel housed in an amulet.  Or one of our players, Rick, dropping a YouTube link to an audio clip of "dark side points gained' from KOTORII whenever a PC does something dark/evil in the game.  It also depends on what movie has come out recently that at least a few of us have seen, especially the Marvel movies if we're in the midst of playing Mutants and Masterminds.

I think for us it also depends on the setting and characters, as we tend to skew more heavily towards playing our roles and not making quite so many fourth-wall breaking comments like quoting media that don't exist in the setting.  Of course, I'm also the guy that played a character that was Harry Dresden Lite in a Dresden Files RPG that spouted pop culture references like they were going out of style, much the mixed enjoyment and chagrin of the players and their characters; I believe there were a few times the padre thought my far younger White Council wizard's brain had been utterly fried given some of the pop-culture nonsense I was spouting off.

That's all for today, so check back tomorrow for another answer in the RPGaDay question series.

August 27, 2017

RPGaDay Question #27

Question #27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Good friends that you enjoy laughing and telling shared stories with?

Too simple?  Probably, but gaming is only as good as the group of folks that you're playing with.  As GM Chris of the Order 66 podcast has often said, "no gaming is better than bad gaming," so if you've got a crappy group of players or a crappy GM that's more interested in indulging in an ego-fueled power trip than in the group having fun, then you're not going to have a good gaming session.

I've been in this hobby for the majority of my adult life, having cut my teeth on D&D as a great many of us did before moving on to other systems and settings as the years progressed.  I've played RPGs that frankly are not so great, but had a lot of fun because the players and GM were a fun crew to roll with, and I've played sessions of Star Wars (my fave RPG by a country mile!) that were teeth-pullingly horrible because of players that were more interested in running roughshod over the rest of the group than in actually completing the adventure; con games have an unfortunately deserved reputation for this, which is a shame as con games can also be a great chance to roll dice with folks outside of your usual gaming circle.

So yeah, while you might have piles of dice, reams of notebook paper or a high-end tablet/laptop, and cunningly crafted characters, none of that matters if you don't have a table of players who are both invested in the adventure the GM is presenting and are willing to indulge in at least some attempts to roleplay their character as opposed to just rolling the dice when necessary.

For example, to call back to that Vampire: The Masquerade session where my murdered Mortal returned as a Crow for a rousing roaring rampage of revenge, once the Caitfiff combat-god player was gacked (carrying a bunch of white phosphorous grenades as an anti-vampire weapon when you're a vampire yourself is a good way to get burned, to say nothing of being thrown into an oncoming semi while already on fire), the other players soon grasped that this wasn't going to be a typical session, and very quickly got into things, with the guilty characters trying to find in-character ways to escape retribution at the hands of a creature that made the Terminator look like it was phoning it in.  But if the remaining players had railed against their characters being set up for inevitable execution at the hands of a fellow player, then that session wouldn't have happened, and I would have gotten all dressed up for nothing.

Also helpful for good gaming is for the players and the GM to having a willingness to not stress about how exactly the rules work, especially when the game has reached a tense situation or climactic moment.  As a GM, I'm okay with a player asking if something is working the way I'm running the game, but I'm a firm believer that once the GM gives their answer, the question is to be tabled until after the session.  Nothing pisses me off more as either player or GM than when a rules-lawyer starts a full-on argument with the GM about how the rules are "supposed" to operate, especially when that rules-lawyer is trying to skew things to their benefit.

Now I will admit that I have been guilty of questioning a GM's interpretation of the rules during the course of a session, mostly out of curiosity of their reasoning for making the decision they have, but I also shut my yap once the GM gives their answer and let them get on with running the game.  Granted, there have been times I've piped up to remind a GM of something rules-wise that works in their favor (sometimes to the groans of my fellow players), but I'm a firm believer in fairness on both sides of the screen, even if it puts my character at a disadvantage.

The only exception to my behavior on that front is that if I feel the GM's call is unduly screwing over another player, doubly so if the player is new to the RPG, and triply so if the newbie is new to gaming in general.  Nothing can ruin gaming for a new player than a GM that is being a flaming doucheasaurus, and I've been around long enough to hear plenty of horror stories of bad GMs turning people off from RPGs in general.  Though as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that asshole GMs are going to keep being assholes, and that the best thing to do is to provide the other players an alternative by my offering to run something for them and promising them that they won't have to deal with a flaming asshat GM like the one they're currently dealing with.  I did have one memorable moment where the GM of a Star Wars d6 session at a local small-time convention was being such a roaring jackass that when he got called on his BS by not only myself but most of the other players for being needlessly cruel in how he interpreted the rules with regards to the players, he stormed off and I quickly slipped into the GM's chair to make up an adventure completely on the fly.  I know I botched some of the rules, but the players had fun facing the challenges and being able to actually get into playing their characters, which is the important thing.

So yeah, in my book a sold group of players and a GM that's working to ensure everybody at the table has fun, those are the tools that are essential to good gaming.  Check in tomorrow to see what media is almost essential viewing for most of the folks that I game with these days.

August 26, 2017

RPGaDay Question #26

Question #26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Okay, though I'm aware that there is the choice to "opt out" of a question and answer an alternate question, I'm going to stick with the base questions, difficult or as unusual as the answers might be.

For this one, I guess it comes down to what you consider a "useful resource?"  For instance, D&D has had a plethora of resources available through both WotC's own publishing efforts as well as countless third party publishers, but I wouldn't really count any of them as being "useful" since a lot of it boils down to character options, the balance of which can be hotly debated (especially the third party small publisher stuff).

For me, what really counts as a "useful resource" is anything that helps expand on the setting of an RPG.  And pound for pound, that's been the plethora of sourcebooks that West End Games published for their version of Star Wars Roleplaying Game.  Even after the big canon reboot that Disney executed back in April 2014 that made most of that material Legends, I've found those books to be wonderful not only to mine for adventure ideas, but just helping to paint a broader picture of what the galaxy far, far away outside of the films is like, with my two favorite supplements being Galaxy Guide 5: Tramp Freighters and Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim.  GG9 is especially great because it does provide so much minor fluff elements about the Star Wars universe, introducing things such as beverages for your salty spacer to sample, notions of what types of music one might listen to during those long hyperspace jumps, and a number of different faces your character might encounter.  It also introduced the notion of Inquisitors as the Empire's top hunters of renegade Jedi such as the PCs, in addition to various training exercises that a Force user could attempt as a means of improving their Force abilities, from a series of increasingly complex lightsaber cadences to telekinetic regimens.

WotC and FFG have both kept this going, as I often find myself going back to their Star Wars sourcebooks to look up some bit of info that got mentioned, either as part of writing up an adventure to run or to build on backstory for a character, be they ally or adversary to the party.  And there is of course Wookieepedia, which is a huge boon and precarious time sink to a GM that wants to look up some obscure element of the setting.

Another RPG that for me has plenty of useful resources is 7th Sea, in particular the 1st edition run of books.  Each of the Nation and Secret Society books gave the reader a whole lot more information about the nation or society in question, presented a collection of NPCs that could be used as-is or more frequently as inspiration for the players to make their own Heroes or the GMs to craft their own Villains and Henchmen.  Granted, some of the books were less beneficial to a GM's game than others (Sophia's Daughters is a major culprit on this front), but they all had something to contribute in terms of helping flesh out Theah.  Now while the 2nd edition of 7th Sea has gotten rolling, I've found the sourcebooks for that edition to be more of a mixed blessing, though a part of that may just well be how much I enjoyed the 1st edition version of setting, and how 2e seems to be changing things up just for the sake of changing things up, and then not giving nearly as much useful info, with the one notable exception (for me at least) being the Pirate Nations sourcebook, which provides a GM enough detail to run entire campaigns set in the Atabean Sea, especially if they're looking to emulate the general feel of the "golden age of piracy" that has inspired many a pirate-themed film.

Also helpful for players and GMs of 7th Sea 2nd edition is the Explorer's Society, which offers up adventures and supplemental material for use in your games.  I'll admit that some what's on offer is a mixed bag, ranging from being only marginally useful in certain settings to being an almost indispensable aid.  My recommendations are to at least snag The Wine List and the Hearts and Harlots, maybe the Dark Journal series if you're running an Eisen-centric campaign, Sharper Than Any Blade if you want heavy social combat in your games, and just avoid At Sword's Point like the plague.

A third choice is Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds RPG, especially for 3rd edition*.  Thanks to the various "bad guy" files that they've produced as part of either the Threat Report or Rogues Gallery series as well as Power Profiles and Gadget Guides, there's plenty of options for players and GMs to work with.  Power Profiles is great in that it presents ways to emulate certain power themes without creating a whole mess of brand new powers, simply by showing how the proper applications of labels to a power effect can give the player the desired result, and even provide some unusual suggestions for power stunts that still fit within the theme of the character's powers.  Also a huge boon for MnM3e GMs would have to be the Emerald City sourcebook, which moves the action out of 2e's signature Freedom City and to the eponymous Emerald City, set on the US West Coast.  The book not only provides a lot of detail on the location itself, but also includes a ready-to-run campaign that enables the players to have their characters become the city's premiere superhero team.  Now I've not played the adventure itself, but my friend Eric is running an Emerald City campaign that I've very much enjoyed, as our team of heroes (called the Stormbreakers by the initial troupe of players, of whom only one remains) have in little ways helped shape things in the city, making it less of a place setting for our adventures and more of an actual character in the campaign.  I understand that they're working on a 3rd edition version of the classic Freedom City setting, moving the timeline up to make the setting more current, but alas with their publishing timelines being glacially slow at times, I've no idea when that's actually going to be released (supposedly we should be seeing the PDF in the near future), but if it's even half as useful as Emerald City was, then it should be a pretty awesome resource.

Hopefully this answer has itself proven to be a useful resource about RPGs with useful resources.

*See what I did there ;)

August 25, 2017

RPGaDay Question #25

Question #25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

Honestly, both as a player and a GM myself, the best way to thank a GM for being your GM is to literally say words to the effect of "Thank you for running this game, I had a lot of fun, and look forward to the next time I get to play in another of your games soon!"

While some GMs may be able to make it look effortless, in a great many cases being the person in charge of running an RPG session, of acting as the mostly-impartial* referee with regards to how the rules operate, devising and presenting a story for the players to engage with, and running various adversaries for the player-characters to overcome is really hard work.  And sadly, there are players that just take all that hard work for granted.  I've been the GM where I poured hours into crafting an engaging story, coming up with challenging foes for the characters to defeat and interesting NPCs for them to interact with, only to have the players barely acknowledge the time and effort it took for me to do all that work, and a few points it was enough to put me off GM'ing and to bring campaigns to an accelerated close (I don't do "rocks fall, everyone dies" TPKs as that to me is the ultimate expression of a lazy GM) just so that I could let someone else deal with those ingrates or in some cases simply leave that group entirely.

Admittedly, there have been sessions I've played in that have less than thrilling, but I still make it a point to verbally thank the GM for taking the time and energy to put that session together and to run it for us.  For someone that's new to the role of a GM, getting that bit of positive reinforcement, of knowing that their efforts were not a total waste of time can be a huge deal, and might make the difference between that person working to improve their craft as a GM or just giving up entirely.

Now that's not to say appreciation in the form of covering the GM's part of the food bill for the night isn't unacceptable, but with online gaming via Skype or even play-by-posts where the players all live in different parts of the world, offering appreciation by way of free food isn't always easy to accomplish.  That and it might come across more as an attempt at bribery to earn the GM's favor, especially if done prior to or during a session rather than an act of appreciation.

Well, thanks to you the reader for sticking along with these posts.  Hopefully you'll come back tomorrow to see what answers lay in wait for tomorrow's question.