August 20, 2017

RPGaDay Question #20

Question #20: What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

In this day of PDFs and digital copies, my go-to would probably be DriveThruRPG, since it's often far easier and cheaper to track down an electronic copy of an out-of-print RPG than a dead tree version would be.  Plus, having a PDF means that it's not taking up space on my bookshelves, and my apartment only has so much space, and they already has to share with an extensive collection of Star Wars LEGOs and Transformers figures.

Of course, that doesn't help if the RPG is for a licensed property or if the publisher didn't ever create a legal PDF version of said RPG before they closed their doors.  In that case, I've had pretty good luck with Noble Knight Games in the past.  I've heard good things about Miniatures Market, but I've never used them for out-of-print books myself.

If all else fails, I suppose there's eBay and Amazon, but at that point you're pretty much at the mercy of the sellers, some of whom are quite eager to gouge potential buyers by jacking the prices up to ridiculous amounts.  Then again, you can on occasion find some pretty good deals, such as my snagging a copy of White Wolf's old Street Fighter RPG core rulebook for half off the original cover price and the book itself being in excellent condition.  The thing is you have to go hunting for those bargains on top of needing to be very patient.

Now, while I don't subscribe to the practice of pirated PDFs (or "Yar!" copies as a friend of mine calls them), I suppose if you really must have a copy of that out-of-print RPG and there's no viable legal means available to you, then it is an option.  Again, not one that I subscribe to, though that's more of a moral choice on my part.

Alright, so that's that question in the bag.  Come back tomorrow for the next question.

August 19, 2017

RPGaDay Question #19

Question #19: Which RPG features the best writing?

Okay, that's a tough one.  I've played a lot of RPGs that have solid writing, both in terms of explaining the rules but also giving a feel for the setting.

But after some lengthy pondering, the one RPG I keep coming back to is Deadlands Classic.  The text throughout the line was heavily seasoned with Old/Wild West flavor, be it in explaining the rules to given examples of hombres doing various things, such as the quite popular Harrowed gunslinger hero Ronan Lynch and his various misadventures.  It really got the reader into the mindset of the genre, especially the instances of gallows humor when discussing some of the creepier aspects of the setting, in particular the horrors that served as antagonists to the posse.

A close runner-up would be WEG's Star Wars d6 Revised and Expanded core rulebook, with them making use of in-setting characters such as smuggler Platt O'Keefe, bounty hunter Tirog, and Imperial Customs officer Jex Lerrian, amidst others to explain the rules, with a number of little sidebars done in-character to explain something in further detail, including a few instances of some of the characters bickering with each other.

Alright, that's #19 in the books.  Come back tomorrow for my answer to #20 as RPGaDay 2017 continues.

August 18, 2017

RPGaDay Question #18

Question #18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

The answer to this one actually has a bit of humorous timing, in that the one RPG that I've played the longest is West End Game's Star Wars d6 system, having started playing it in 1993 while in college (yes, I'm old), and played in some form or another almost continuously until shortly into 2000, at which point my group of the time decided to retire our current campaign and try out WotC's new d20 system.

Now why is this humorous?  Because just a couple days ago, Fantasy Flight Games announced they were doing a 30th Anniversary edition of the Star Wars: The Role Playing Game corebook and the very useful Star Wars Sourcebook supplement, with updated art, paper quality, and sold in a slipcase cover.  If you've not already seen the announcement, you can read about here.

If you discount specific editions of D&D, then that one would also be a contender, though most of the campaigns I was in only lasted a few months at best before whatever story the GM wanted to tell was accomplished or the PCs were wiped out.  Of the editions, I've probably played 2nd edition and 4th edition the most.  Now I've played a bunch of different RPGs that used the 3.X/OGL ruleset, but those weren't D&D and instead were based around other properties, such as Babylon 5, Conan, Mutants and Masterminds (all three editions) and even the occasional oddball such as Mechamorphosis (seriously FFG, this needs to come back as a Genesys splat!)

And of course there was Deadlands (which nowadays would fall under the "Classic" label), of which I managed to run a campaign that lasted just over 2 years before finally running out of juice, and I payed off and on in various campaigns (both short and long) for another couple years.  I had a lot of fun with that system back in the day, playing a few different characters that were quite fun, such as a youngish Templar from the Hell on Earth branch by the name of Christopher Devlin (who in retrospect had a lot of similarities to Michael Carpenter of the Dresden Files with the exceptions of age, family, and wisdom born of age/experience); while not a total paladin (as is often the case with Templars in Hell on Earth) he played it pretty close, which is even more amusing if you know the significance of his particular surname (sadly, the campaign ended before anything ever came of that).  Another fun character was a Chinese martial artist that somehow wound up being called Mike (in spite of his name, which I don't recall, not sounding anything even remotely close to that) by the other characters.  At least it had a funny pay off when my character busted out the Fu powers to leapfrog up the sides of a box canyon to unload a flurry of fists upon a black hatted bandit that'd been harassing the local townfolk, after which a player (his character being a young, good-hearted, and frankly naive farmhand) said with a straight face, "I want to be like Mike."  Given this was during Michael Jordan's basketball hey-day, the phrase made the rest of us crack up laughing and netted the player a blue Fate chip from the GM for not only the timing of the line but being able to keep a straight face for several seconds after saying it.

Hopefully, I'll have opportunities a plenty to add Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition to the list of long-runners, as well as 7th Sea 2nd edition.  I've had a lot of fun playing Spider-Man in my friend Eric's Emerald City Knights campaign that he runs for mutual friends over Skype, and would very much love to keep playing that character for as long as he's willing to run the campaign.

That's all for today.  Check back tomorrow for the answer to #19 on the list.

August 17, 2017

RPGaDay Question #17

Question #17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I suppose I can count myself lucky in that many of the RPGs that I've got the books for (especially the physical ones), I've managed to get onto the table at least once, be it as a player or a GM.

The one major exception that I've had the longest is probably the original Blue Rose RPG by Green Ronin, published under their True20 system way back in the day.  I always liked the setting, but at the time I just could never get a group together to play a high fantasy game that didn't revolve primarily around slaying monsters and looting dungeons.  I did pick up the AGE version courtesy of the Kickstarter, but that was more to support the idea of the game (which I fully support) than with any notion that I'd ever get it on the table.

Another RPG, one that exists in PDF format only, that I've had for a while and never played was Katanas & Trenchcoats, which initially started as more of a tongue-in-cheek joke about 90's style overly dramatic role-playing (World of Over-Bearing Angst, anyone?) using Highlander-style Immortals as the PCs.

There's also Mouseguard, with a co-worker gave me the core rulebook to as he was never going to get a chance to play it, and I'd expressed an interest in the game.  I then promptly forgot all about it, though I'm sure said corebook is still floating around my home somewhere (likely packed into a storage bin with other RPG books that I've not used in several years).

But yeah, the winner for "longest owned but never played" would have to be Blue Rose.

August 16, 2017

RPGaDay Question #16

Question #16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

In spite of my penchant for being a tinker-monkey, there's actually quite a few RPGs that I enjoy playing or running "as is."

One of the more recent ones is 7th Sea 2nd edition.  There's so much freedom for the GM to run things with the rules that one doesn't really need to "tinker" with it.  Heck, I could probably run a lengthy and successful campaign using just material from the core rulebook, and never run out of options for players, either in things to do or ways to advance their characters.  Granted, the system takes a little getting used to, especially wrapping one's head around the "roll then move" approach that it takes versus the "move then roll" approach that is the industry standard.

Another RPG that I can easily run or play as-is would be FFG's Star Wars RPG.  With the exception of one minor rule in the combat section, I really don't have any glaring issues with how the system works.  While I agree that starship combat is its issues, notably the propensity for "rocket tag" if the PCs are in starfighters, over all it's pretty solid, and at thus far has yet to fall prey to the "Force users are overpowered!" issue that's plagued pretty much every other Star Wars RPG, be it official or a system hack of some type.

A third RPG that I've mostly enjoyed playing as written is The One Ring by Cubicle 7.  I pretty much grew up with Tolkien's works, and this RPG does a pretty solid job of delivering the Middle Earth experience as the Professor described in his writings.  I did get to play a fairly short-lived campaign, taking up the role of a Barding Warden with our company mostly playing through The Marsh Bell and a bit of the Tales from the Wilderland before ending abruptly due to over half the group forgotten this wasn't D&D and that getting into fights could be extremely dangerous.

And lastly, there's Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition.  Frankly, that game is so flexible in terms of what a character can be built to do that there's really no need to introduce a plethora of house rules.  The fact I'm in a group that is currently comprised of a Golden Age Superman, a pastiche of Spider-Man, a quasi-ninja with shadow powers, and a flying version of Frozen's Elsa, and each of us is capable of pitching in during just about any sort of encounter just goes to how versatile the system is in the hands of a skilled GM.  And luckily, we've got a very skilled GM in the form of Eric running out MnM3e campaign.  As much as I'm enjoying Curse of Strahd, I can't want to get back to our Emerald City campaign.

That pretty much wraps it up for today's answer, so check in tomorrow for the answer to #17.

August 15, 2017

RPGaDay Question #15

Question #15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I think it's safe to say that I've tinkered with or "adapted" just about every RPG I've played in some form or another.

As a self-professed "tinker monkey" when it comes to RPGs, I like mucking around with the system in various ways, introducing various house rule ideas to see what works, what doesn't, and perhaps most importantly why it does or doesn't work.

In terms of sheer volume of system tinkering that I've done, I'd probably say that WotC's various d20 Star Wars games take the cake.  For its flaws, the d20 engine does permit for a whole lot of customization, tweaking a whole mess of things to deliver whatever sort of game experience the GM and players enjoy.  I think the enduring popularity of Pathfinder is a testament to that, as they're still riding the 3.X gravy train long after WotC moved on to other iterations of d20.

I've also enjoyed playing around with ideas and concepts for FFG's Star Wars RPG, although the amount of "new material" I've created has been substantially less.  I think one of the biggest contributions that I made was the tandem effort between myself and Ben "Cyril" Erickson with the Unofficial Species Menagerie, which we first created way back in the days of the Edge of the Empire Beta, mostly as a way to give players viable options for species outside of the eight introduced in the EotE Beta rulebook.  In hindsight, we probably could have gotten a lot more daring than we did, but it was a new system and both of us were still in the learning curve of what was balanced and what went too far.  It's been interesting to see how FFG has approached a number of these species, and seeing where they diverge from what we did.

One fairly recent bit of system adapting I tried my hand was for 7th Sea, that being the conversion of a slew of 1e Swordsman Schools into 2e Duelist Styles.  I probably spent more time that I really needed to on that one, mostly out of an effort to avoid falling into the ever-present trap of creating home-brew material that was vastly more powerful than the official stuff.  Granted, I started this project even before the 7th Sea core rulebook was officially released (perks of being a Kickstarter back), mostly as a way to broaden the number of options available for characters.  I didn't wind up trying to adapt all of the 1e Swordsman Schools, as some of them were so unusual or out of place as a "dueling" style that it didn't seem applicable.

As for the idea of shoehorning an existing system to make it work for another setting, I'd have to say I'm generally not a fan of such an approach.  I know there are folks that love using FATE Core for pretty much everything, and I've lost track of the numerous different attempts people have made to run Star Wars in their preferred system de jour, but for me a lot of them just fell flat.  That being said, I have to give kudos to Green Ronin for in their efforts to make Mutants and Masterminds be able to replicate the sort of antics we see in various comic books, they wound up creating an RPG that can indeed be adapted to just about any sort of genre and still work as intended.  Back during the 2e days, I used MnM2e to create a bunch of characters from the Danny Phantom cartoon series (it was really good, but sadly got shafted by Nickelodeon, especially its third season), with Danny himself turning out to be a serious powerhouse for a PL9 hero.  I also used MnM2e to do character builds of characters from the Final Fantasy series (specially 7, 8, and 10) and Kingdom Hearts (dear lord Sora was a beast for being PL10/150 points), as well as the named characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender as of the conclusion of the second season.  For a while, the Atomic Think Tank (Green Ronin's official Mutants & Masterminds forum) was chock full of folks using the system to create heroes and villains of numerous genres, and none of them really felt out of place in a game about superheroes.   Sadly, Green Ronin's forums have turned into a cesspit full of bile and resentment, with a lot of posters suffering from entitlement about how they're not getting the products they feel they deserve (this was especially true with Dragon Age and the third box set, an issue that was completely out of Green Ronin's hands due to the approvals being held up on BioWare's end).

Come back tomorrow to see which RPG I actually enjoy using "as is" without tinkering around with it.

August 14, 2017

RPGaDay Question #14

Question #14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Huh, this is a bit of a tough one, as I generally don't do a lot of "open-ended" campaign play these days.  As a GM, I'm not that great at running truly "open-ended" campaigns as I prefer my campaigns to have a definite starting and ending point.  That's not to say I'd be adverse to returning to a previously ended campaign, but that would be a new and separate story arc as opposed to an ever-continuing one.

Back in the day, I had what I guess you could call an open-ended campaign in the form of a long-running WEG Star Wars campaign that went across generations, starting out in the early days of the Galactic Civil War, then after a while skipping ahead a generation with the players taking the roles of the children of their previous characters, and then after a bunch of sessions jumping ahead another generation to take up playing the grandkids.  It ran for quite a while before the group in general kind of got tired of it and we at last put the campaign to bed.  It was fun, and I wound up coming up with a lot of stuff that in hindsight makes me cringe, but it wasn't as out there as some of the stuff that authors came up with for the New Jedi Order or other Legacy series, but like I said it was a lot of fun.

Now a days, I'd probably go with Green Ronin's Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition for an open-ended campaign as the way it operates you can very easily have a PC whose Power Level never really increases beyond their starting point but still be effective, with their experience being spent not to boost their main abilities but instead to broaden their capabilities.  Which is not unlike how the main heroes in most comic books tend to operate, especially Marvel.  Tony Stark might constantly tweak and upgrade his Iron Man suits, but they generally have the same set of powers, often with broader range of effects, and Spider-Man is pretty much the same wise-cracking webslinger in terms of his powers.

Another viable choice would probably be FFG's Star Wars RPG, since there's almost always something for your character to spend their XP on, especially if you're a Force user.  And with the way specializations and talent trees operate, you can have characters with hundreds if not thousands of XP that aren't grossly overpowered, but instead becoming broadly competent in a breadth of different areas.

Yet another possible choice would be John Wick Presents' 7th Sea 2nd edition.  With a character's advancement tied to Stories, be it personal or GM-based, there's not really any such thing as forgettable XP awards, as each Story a Hero completes allows them to grow and develop.  As long as the GM and the players can keep coming up with fun and interesting Stories, I could see a campaign of 7th Sea going for years.

Tomorrow's question should be an interesting one to answer, given how much of a self-avowed tinker-monkey I am when it comes to RPGs.  Tune in tomorrow for what's likely to be a long and rambling answer.

August 13, 2017

RPGaDay Question #13

Question #13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

Well, this is probably what I get for not reading the questions ahead of time, as I've largely answered this back at Question #7 with my recounting my Vampire: The Masquerade experience where my Mortal returned from the dead as a Crow-style revenant.  If you've not seen interviews with the late Brandon Lee (taken way before his time) in regards to the change of perspective that comes with entering the role of a person whose life is behind them, I suggest doing so.  It's heady stuff, and the line that Eric delivers of how the little things always matter is one that a great many people need to hear.

So yeah, that game experience, of playing a character that has lived and died, returned to set the wrong things right, did have a rather profound experience.  While not all my characters are of the type to focus on the little things, I think that the more heroic-minded characters that I play do tend to focus on those little things, those small acts of charity and kindness that in the grand scheme of things probably don't amount to much, but still serve to make the immediate world around my character just that little bit brighter.

A game experience of a similar theme was one of my earliest sessions playing West End Games's Star Wars d6 RPG during my sophomore year of college, where in I played a Minor Jedi whose name I honestly don't remember.  The campaign was set in the midst of the Galactic Civil War, with the players being a band of newly-recruited Rebels that were fighting against the local Imperial presence on some Outer Rim planet whose name I also don't recall.  It was probably the fourth or fifth session, and the Old Senatorial was trying to rally locals to our cause, but sadly wasn't have as much success as he'd hoped for.  Now it's worth mentioning that before embarking on this campaign, a lot of my prior RPG experience was of the D&D mold, namely the "enter dungeons in search of loot and things to squash."

So when the big moment came to launch a raid on the Imperial regent's manor to liberate members of the local aristocracy, needless to say we were in a bind; to quote Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations, we were largely out of everything except the enemy, and thus were neck deep in the combat zone.

For my Minor Jedi, I had taken the advice of the GM and a couple players experienced with the system to put some of my starting skill points into my two Force skills, Control and Sense, so that he'd have some degree of competency with the Force as well as access to the lightsaber combat power, as well as some points in the Lightsaber skill itself.  In terms of that campaign, none of the other characters knew my character was a Jedi, only that I had some unusual abilities and hunches, coming across more as an oddity than anything else.  Deciding that the time for hiding had ended, and that if he was about to become one with the Force he'd do so in a manner befitting a Jedi Knight, my character drew and ignited his lightsaber, successfully activating lightsaber combat and adopting a combat-ready stance.  This of course drew the attention of the stormtroopers in the immediate area, with a group of them opening fire on this new threat.  The dice were certainly in what my friend Linda would refer to as "movie hero mode" and I managed to parry the attack and then reflect the blaster bolt into the lead trooper, dropping him with a single hit.  The presence of a Jedi on the field, especially one that was standing against the Empire, served as rallying point, one that the Old Senatorial didn't hesitate to exploit, and turned out to be the turning point of the skirmish, allowing us to win the day and free the prisoners.  Not a bad day's work for a half-trained Jedi apprentice.

My big take away from that was that it was indeed possible to play characters that weren't simply obsessed with purely tangible rewards, and that playing a truly heroic character, one that stood up when necessary to do what was right, was itself a rewarding experience, one that truly made playing RPGs worth it.  The other take away was that playing a Jedi was actually a lot of fun, something that's stuck with me through years of Star Wars gaming, be it WEG, WotC's various d20 iterations, and now FFG's system.

Come back tomorrow to see what I've got to say about Question #14 on the list.

August 12, 2017

RPGaDay Question #12

(so it seems that I will be sticking with including the above image on each of these posts after all)

Question #12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

This one's quite easy for me, as the answer is Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG.  While she's since moved on to other things, Zoe Robinson did an outstanding job as Art Director for the product line in hiring artists and getting art that not only felt at place within the galaxy far, far away, but many of them were evocative of characters or events, many of which could and very likely have inspirited GMs to create plots using one of those images as the launching point for an adventure.

I still remember the last GenCon I was able to attend, where I got a chance to meet and chat a bit with Zoe, and the shared chuckle over how the character image for the Performer specialization in the Far Horizons supplement for the Edge of the Empire line was a barely dressed Twi'lek male rather than the scantily-clad female that a number of folks had been half-expecting and half-dreading. so well played to Zoe for that one.

Runner-up for me in terms of inspiring interior art would probably be CthulhuTech, which while not always bright and cheery certainly did help paint a vibrant picture of what the world was like during the Strange Aeon in which the game was set, even if the images of the Nazzadi got a little heavy on the fanservice at times.  A particular favorite of mine where the images of the Tagers, the setting's Guyver-inspired character types, with the illustrations showing just how powerful yet monstrous a character became when they shifted into their combat form.

August 11, 2017

Well, it is somebody's birthday... drinks all around!

But it's not mine.  Or at least, it's not mine yet, savvy?

However, since I'm due to be rather busy on the 12th, I figured I'd post this one.  And while a person's birthday is a time for them to receive presents from others, I thought I'd switch it up a little and provide a present for others.

Some time ago, I posted a very short introductory style of adventure for the 7th Sea 2nd edition RPG, under the punny name of "An Idol Pursuit."  Well, in the time since I posted that little tidbit, I've since expanded upon it, adding what I guess one might call an introductory prologue, focusing upon the exploits the Heroes undertake to obtain the Syrenth idol that my initial adventure centers around. I initially ran this as an unrelated one-shot for my regular Skype group, and the group had quite a bit of fun with it.

It was while working on coming up with a good 7th Sea adventure to run at GamerNationCon earlier this year that I got the bright idea of just combining the two small adventures (each of which can be run in less than 2 hours) into a single larger adventure that could fill up most of a four hour time slot.  Now carrying the still punny name of "An Idol Venture," this is a fun little romp designed to introduce players to the world and general feel of 7th Sea.  It's not all that difficult of a module, as it's meant to encourage enjoyment of the setting and the system, not grind the players into the dirt.  Thus, the Risks entailed aren't too daunting, and in a couple of cases the module itself encourages the GM to let the players get really creative with their descriptions in how they overcome the Risks presented.  It's a little rough around the edges, and by intentional design doesn't make use of Dramatic Risks (mostly out of fear of dragging the adventure out, a big no-no for con modules), but it's still fun and good for a night's diversion from a group's usual RPG fare, or as a means to give 7th Sea 2nd edition a whirl.

An Idol Venture, An Introductory Adventure for 7th Sea 2e

Also included in the zip file are the five Heroes that I created specifically for this module, though if you have access to the Heroes & Villains supplement, you could certainly select some of the Heroes from there if you'd like.  I've not yet found a character sheet that I'd truly liked or covered enough information to suit my tastes, so the characters here are presented in a pretty straight-forward style, with enough information given to play them without having to book-dive to see which of their abilities does what.

RPGaDay Question #11

Question #11: Which 'dead game' would you like to see reborn?

So I've got two answers for this question.

First off, one setting I'd really like to see get revived is Babylon 5.  I very much enjoyed the d20 version produced by Mongoose Publishing, especially the second edition, even though it did share some of the issues inherent with the 3.X D&D version of the d20 engine.  I only got to play in a couple of very short campaigns, with the first one only being called a "campaign" out of charity as it only lasted two sessions, while the other lasted a bit longer at five sessions but collapsed due to conflicting schedules and half the players wanting something a bit more action-packed than the mystery/investigative plot the GM was using.

I did get to play a Ranger in the second one (was set a very short time after the original series ended but largely ignored the Crusade series), which was fun, and had some pretty interesting characters such as a Centauri version of Deep Space Nine's Garak and a Human Telepath (former PsiCorp) that had gotten her powers boosted via some ancient alien artifact of unknown origins.  The campaign was centered on a lesser EarthForce operated space station, though pretty sure none of the PCs were actually part of EarthForce; mine was perhaps the closest due to being part of the InterStellar Alliance, but was operating on an extended covert mission.  Sadly things were just starting to get good when the game folded.  Ah well.

Though if Babylon 5 does make a comeback in RPG form, I'd prefer it to not use a d20-based system but perhaps instead using something like Fantasy Flight Games' Genesys, Modiphus Entertainment's 2d20 (especially the Star Trek Adventures version), or even FATE Core.  Just give me a chance to play as one of the Anlashok and I'm content.

The second 'dead' game I'd like to see make a return would be CthulhuTech by Wildfire LLC.  It's quite an unusual setting, being a mash-up the Cthulhu Mythos and various anime series, most notably Robotech, Neon Genesis Evangalion, and Guyver.  It was fairly bleak, but there were still elements of hope for mankind, though the question of how far would humanity go to survive and would it still be recognizable as humanity often lingered in the background.  The art was certainly evocative, and the future setting did some elements that were unsettling.  But it also had stuff that was pretty damn cool, such as the Eva-inspired Engels, gigantic monstrous organisms sheathed in armor and perhaps humanity's most powerful weapon against the Migou invaders or monstrous hordes in service to the Old Ones, with my personal favorite setting element being the Tagers, humans that choose to bond with entities from outside our reality to become something more and yet intrinsically less than human, fighting a Shadow War against the corrupt Chrysalis Corporation and their thoroughly inhuman Dhohanoid, monsters that can wear the shape of man but have forsaken their humanity for power.  Yes, it's based very heavily on the Guyver series of anime, though the PCs are nowhere near that level of power.  I'd had hopes more than once of running a Tager-centric CthuluTech game, but those plans never came to fruition.

Sadly, it was a game hindered by a dice system that was far clunkier than it really should have been.  Another problem that plagued the game was the distribution issues Wildfire was having, as they bounced from Mongoose Publishing to Catalyst Game Labs, who from what I can understand really screwed over the folks behind CthuhluTech.  I think with a more streamlined dice system this game could do really well if brought back.  I know there'd been efforts by Wildfire to create a second edition (I even grabbed the playtest docs), but I've not heard much of anything else on the matter.

So yeah, those are the two main settings/games that had RPGs that I would love to see make a return from the land of dead games.  While not without their faults, there was a lot to like about the settings themselves, and for the most part what little gaming I did with those settings, I remember with a sense of fondness.

Come back tomorrow for my answer to question #12, which will probably not surprise anyone that knows my gaming habits of recent years.

Until then... we live for the One, we die for the One.

August 10, 2017

RPGaDay Question #10

(You know, after ten of these posts, I'm wondering if I still need to keep including that image with the list of questions...)

So, Question #10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

In this day and age, my first place is the internet.  I follow a number of different RPG publishing companies and game sites on Facebook, so if I see something pop up on my feed that draws my interest, I'll click the link and check it out.  I don't have any one site in particular that I go to, as I think they've all got their merits.

I also tend to use Google to do searches for fan-operated blogs to see what folks that aren't directly affiliated with an RPG have to say about it.  Often times, I can get a decent feel for if a particular RPG is for me or not simply by seeing what other folks have to say about it on a site that's not subject to needing hits/traffic or keeping in the good graces of a parent company.

Well, that was a fairly quick answer.  Tune in tomorrow for #11 and see which ghosts of gaming past I'd like to see make a return.

August 9, 2017

RPGaDay Question #9

Question #9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Honestly, there's quite a few of them that work, provided you as the player aren't too hung up on character advancement.  So in that vein, my answers are going to focus on RPGs where the characters start out highly competent and really don't have to fret too much about failing tasks that are within the character's niche unless it's something well and truly difficult.

To go back to the olden days of RPGs, WEG's D6 Star Wars was one such game, and according to Bill Slavicsek the game was very much intended for what these days are referred to as "mini-campaigns" that often only last for a dozen sessions at most.  And unless you're playing a Force user, there's not really a point where your character feels less than competent within their area of expertise.

Of more recent fair, I'd have to say that 7th Sea 2nd edition is a solid choice.  As I noted in an early blog post, Heroes in this game start out quite capable, and with the way character advancement works it's entirely possible for a Hero to accomplish a major personal goal by the time the mini-campaign wraps up.

I could also see various FATE Core and FATE Accelerated games being good for mini-campaigns.  Depending on how you set up your skills/approaches, it could well be that your character only occasionally needs to invoke an aspect to be able to succeed at tasks, which is good because depending on how the GM handles the milestone system, you may not be seeing a whole lot of growth in terms of your skill ranks.

Now one RPG worth mentioning with regards to this question is Shadow of the Demon Lord.  While the overall mechanics fell much too clunky for my liking and the characters generally start out as 0th level scrubs, the game itself is very much geared towards the mini-campaign model, with the notion that each successfully completed adventure (i.e. session) gives the characters a level advancement, and with it capping out at 10th level, once that last session is in the books, it's pretty much time to retire the characters and embark on a new mini-campaign.

Another contender is FFG's Star Wars RPG.  While it might seem that you need loads of XP in order to really make your character capable, the introduction of Knight Level play in the Force and Destiny core rulebook allows a group to make characters that are a good deal more capable than your typical starting character, including the option for much better gear than what most starting characters can afford.  And such, if you only play for 10 or so sessions, you're not as worried about your character's advancement since you already start off with about 10 session's worth of XP under your belt.  In fact, I'd posit that the main characters from A New Hope and The Force Awakens all started out as Knight Level characters, with Luke and Rey not spending all their XP right off the bat so that they could later spend them on Force-related abilities as they came to learn more about the Force.

Alright, so that's my answer to #9.  Tune in tomorrow for Question #10, and where this gamer goes to get the skinny on new entries into the market.

August 8, 2017

RPGaDay Question #8

Question #8: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

Honestly, this was tougher for me to answer than you'd think.

To be honest, it's only rarely that I play sessions that fall under 2 hours, and those have usually been sessions that were part of a larger campaign that had to be cut short for various real life concerns, most notably the Skype group I'm in, often due to players being stuck at work or having to bow out early due to illness, allergies, or work-related exhaustion.  To be fair, I've been guilty of all three, so I'm not judging the other players, not by any stretch.

Still, if I knew that I only had a couple hours to play, I think I'd most likely lean towards FATE Accelerated, as building a character is very quick and game play is equally fast.  I generally stick to meatier RPGs, though I'm sure Chris "GM Chris" Witt of the Order 66 podcast has a number of fast-play RPGs that would fit the bill.

Yeah, a short post, but compared to the behemoth that was yesterday's answer, it's a fits the day's question that this one is over so quickly.

I will have a suitably meatier answer for tomorrow's question though.

August 7, 2017

RPGaDay Question #7

Question #7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

My answer to this one lies oddly enough in a short campaign of Vampire: The Masquerade, one that took place while I was in college and thus in my early 20's.

In terms of RPGs, it was a heady time for me, with my getting to learn about and experience a great many different systems.  Now those that know me also know that I don't have a very positive point of view towards White Wolf's World of Darkness, or as I've taken to calling it, the World of Over-Bearing Angst.  But, there was a time, very early on in the setting's life cycle, where the angst level hadn't gotten overwhelming and the dark broodiness of the setting hadn't begun choking the fun out playing the RPG.

Admittedly, I was more a fan of Werewolf: the Apocalypse than the other settings for their World of Darkness, mostly as playing one of the Garou was a more visceral experience, where your character had the opportunity chance and the power to directly attack the ills of the world; yes, I'm aware that the system tends to catch a lot of derision for pretty much being superheroes for furries, but a lot of those same folks have a tendency to overlook the many problems that their beloved Vampire: the Masquerade had, where the players often ignored the struggle against their inner monster and instead embraced the inhumanity of being a vampire and used it as an excuse to do some pretty horrid things.

That said, I did agree to play in what one of my friends would be a semester-long mini-campaign of V:tM, and that one of the goals would be to explore the loss of one's humanity in the wake of becoming a monster.  The characters were varied and with one exception (a Caitiff combat monster) rather intriguing individuals from a variety of clans, with an added wrinkle of two of the PCs, myself and one other, being ordinary Mortals, with the understanding that at some point, our characters would be Embraced (presumably by one or more of the vampire PCs).  Another element of the campaign proposed was the dangers of power, of how it could corrupt and to what degree should one submit to authority?

Sounds pretty interesting, right?  Yeah, it didn't quite work out that way.  Of the seven players (five vamps, two mortals), four of the vampires decided they liked working for the local Prince, a truly Machiavellian creature that ruled the city with an iron fist; pretty much nothing happened in the city without his tacit approval.  The fifth Vampire, a Ventrue that had been a crusading attorney prior to her Embrace, was the only one to seek to circumvent the Prince, but she was too useful to the Prince (plus he had an unhealthy fixation on her, even for a vampire), and so the other vampire PCs were instructed to "make an example" of the Ventrue's daughter, who was one of the two Mortal PCs.  The other Mortal was my PC, a twenty-something aspiring rocker named Michael Cross from the wrong side the tracks (prime material to be vamp'd by either the Brujah or the Toreador), and who in the course of the campaign to that point had managed to convince the Ventrue's daughter that he wasn't a total lost cause, leading them to become friends before developing into romantic partners.

I think the GM's idea was that the four vamp PCs would reject this as a brutality too much, and turn against their inhumane master.  Well, you know the saying about GM plans and what happens when they meet the players.  Suffice to say, they went over the top with the ensuing carnage, with the four players reveling in their ability to be unabashed monsters.  At the end of the session, my PC was left to bleed out after being horrifically beaten, the Ventrue's daughter was left barely alive but catatonic from the trauma both physical and mental, and the Ventrue herself was so horrified she nearly considered ending her undead existence in a final act of defiance.  It was some scary stuff, with a couple players being uncomfortable afterwards with what their characters had wrought in the throes of their Frenzy.

So that's the set-up for what lead into what is my most impactful RPG session, which to be fair was something of a two-parter, occurring on consecutive nights.  Pretty bleak, right?

Now, a couple weeks before the atrocity described above occurred, one that was bad enough for the GM to almost consider giving up gaming in general, I'd stumbled across a set of fan-created rules for a particular character type, one associated with what is probably one of my all-time favorite films.  I'd handed them over as I'd found the fan supplement to be fairly amusing, and figured nothing more would come of it.

A couple nights after that session, the GM stops by my apartment and asks if we can talk. I agree, figuring at the very least he wanted a sounding board if he should continue or not, which made since as I was pretty much out of campaign.  So imagine my surprise when he told me that he wanted me to rebuild my Mortal, only no longer was he Mortal, and to make use of a slightly-tweaked version of that fan supplement I'd stumbled across.

In short, Michael was coming back from the grave, but not in a way anybody would expect...

Now, this session in which Michael returned as a mime from Hell took place before Wraith: the Oblivion did their supplement for characters coming back from the dead, so there were no official rules for playing a Crow-style character.  The returned version of Michael was truly monster in terms of game mechanics, and seeing an opportunity to play a character type from a film I still enjoy do this day, I through myself into the role of an artistic soul that's been driven to savagery by the evil done, not only to him but to those he cared for and for the countless innocents whom nobody mourned.

So come that next Saturday, with the GM having told the group that he would continue the campaign for at least one more session, though sans the Mortals given what had happened; after all, one of them was dead and the other was catatonic, states that aren't exactly conducive to a fun role-playing experience.  I won't bore you the reader with the full grisly details (this post is getting pretty long already), but to say that it was a transformative experience for me on what it meant to truly get into character is an understatement.  Michael didn't show up right away, but when he did, I stepped into the room having gone all in, dressed in black with a long coat and my face done up in the variation of the Comedy mask that Eric used in the film.  In the end, the four vamps were dead, most of which by fairly creative and symbolically cruel ways, with only one of them truly repenting for her sins before receiving the Final Death, and the Prince of the city learned the hard way that vengeance cannot be forever denied.  In it's own way, that two-part session was incredibly powerful, with one of the players even writing her term paper for her alt-psych class about my performance; she was one of the few students to get an A from a professor who was notoriously demanding.

So yeah, that experience was highly impactful in terms of my playing characters.  Before then, I generally saw the characters I made as numbers, and will admit that while not a munchkin, I was something of a power-gamer and frequently sought out how to squeeze the most benefit out of the mechanics without much consideration for the character itself.  Of course, I find this to be a bit amusing, since Crow!Michael was as power-gamed a character as it was possible to build, but being able to fully and completely step into that role, gave me the insight to fully understand and embrace the role-playing aspect of role-playing games.  I may not get quite as in-depth with my character portrayals these days, but that short stint of playing Crow!Michael is one that still sticks with me, it still impacts how I approach role-playing, and it probably will stay with me for the rest of my life.

After all, it can't rain all the time.

August 6, 2017

RPGaDay Question #6

Question #6: You can game every day for a week.  Describe what you'd do!

Well this is kind of an interesting one.

Gaming wise, it'd probably be playing RPGs, as that's my preferred form of gaming these days.  Though I might sneak in some time with a Zelda title, probably Link to the Past, Link Between Worlds, or Twilight Princess.

As for which RPGs I'd play, I wouldn't want to necessarily play the same one all week.  So here's the run down in general order of preference.

Top of the list would be Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG, as I've yet to truly have a bad session with that system.

Runner-up would be John Wick Productions' 7th Seas 2nd edition, as I very much enjoy the swashbuckling feel of the system and how it empowers the players to have their Heroes be larger than life.  Even when they're fresh out of the gate, a Hero in 7th Sea 2e can accomplish some pretty cool things, a feat that a lot of other RPGs tend to struggle with when it comes to newly created characters.  I had an absolute blast while playing Estevan Santiago de Montoya del Castillo during a friend's adaptation of the Erebus Cross adventure series, getting into a number of fun sword fights and charming a number of ladies, even managing to win the heart of an otherwise standoffish Vodacce strega after not only defending her honor but giving her the space to make her own decisions (something that she wasn't used to given how Vodacce society places a lot of controls on those noble women with the gift/curse of Sorte).

There is of course Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition, which I have also very much enjoyed, especially when playing the Extraordinary Spider-Man, a PC that is a shameless homage to the well-known Marvel hero but with enough twists in his origin story (for instance, both his aunt and uncle are alive!) to make him not a complete carbon-copy of the original wise-cracking webhead.  Even if my propensity for rolling absurdly well on rolls tends to leave our poor GM Eric on the verge of tears.

Also, there's two FATE related games I'd like to try out, especially as a player, those being Dresden Files Accelerated and Tianxia.  I've been a fan of the Dresden Files series pretty much since I listened to the audiobook version of Storm Front, and while I've had a few chances to play around in that setting courtesy of Evil Hat's original Dresden Files RPG, I think the FATE Accelerated version would run a lot smoother and without nearly as many little hiccups as the original DFRPG had.

As for Tianxia, it's wuxia-themed martial arts that can be as light-hearted and silly or as dour and serious as the group desires, though the default setting does tend to lend itself a bit more to the former given the fantastical nature of the kung fu techniques.

Finally, I would at least like to try out Star Trek Adventures by Modiphus Entertainment.  Now to be honest, I've not had a chance to actually play this, but it looks like it could be a lot of fun.  I find it kind of cool that the game actually lends itself to an episodic style of play, which makes sense as the primary source material was itself episodic in nature.

So, that'd be my week of solid gaming, if the option presented itself.

Tomorrow's question isn't going to take me nearly as much thought as it might for others, since the answer to that one may have occurred years ago, but it still stays with me to this day, for reasons I'll describe in my next entry.

August 5, 2017

RPGaDay - Question #5

Question #5 - Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

I had to think about this quite a bit, given the wide breadth of RPGs that I've played over the years.

But the final decision had to come down to a classic, that being the image of the undead badass gunslinger Stone from the original Deadlands core rulebook.

The image tells you right out that this won't be your typical Wild West RPG with the cover by artist Gerald Brom being quite evocative that this is not an hombre you want to tussle with.

The runner-up for me would probably the original cover for Shadowrun, which showed a team of runners fending off a corp security team against a dark cityscape background.  Sums up the basics of what Shadowrun is pretty well, eh chummer?

Question #6 should be pretty interesting.  See you tomorrow for the answer to that one.

August 4, 2017

RPGaDay - Question #4

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

So I sat down and thought about it, and the answer to my initial surprise was WotC's Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

Largely, my Skype group has been playing our way through a modified/abbreviated version of the Curse of Strahd module, something I had suggested as one of our usual players would be out of the country on a religious missionary trip, with said player generally not being a fan of horror-themed settings.

Now, to be honest, while there have been some very creepy elements, I think this campaign has just reinforced my view that doing true horror in D&D borders on being a Herculean task, as the PCs very quickly become superheroes, especially if the bulk of your group is comprised of spellcasters of some type or another, especially if half of them have easy access to radiant damage, such as a Paladin or a Cleric.  And if you're playing over Skype, it's even more difficult as the players are probably going to be in a comfy chair in the solace of their home, with the lights on and tasty snacks on hand.

Still, it's been a fun campaign thus far, and there's definitely some twists that our GM Eric has included so that even for veterans of the earlier Ravenloft modules (such as myself, having played the 2e and most of the 3e versions) makes the adventure feel fresh and original.  Seriously, the guy doesn't give himself enough credit for the work he's done with Curse of Strahd.

As for Question #5, that's a bit of a tough one...

August 3, 2017

Catching Up on RPGaDay For 2017

So I'd seen this on the Facebook feeds of a few of my friends, and had meant to hope in on Day One.  But that obviously didn't happen for assorted reasons.

Well, time to play catch up, and maybe even stay current with it.

#1) What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?
This was a bit of a tough one, but 7th Sea 2nd edition wins out over Mutants & Masterminds.  I really like what John Wick and his team did with the new edition of 7th Sea, and I'd love to play more of it.

#2) What is an RPG you would like to see published?
Honestly not sure I really have an answer, as most of the properties I have an interest in gaming in already have pretty solid RPGs.  Maybe a Marvel RPG that centers on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and isn't quite as subject to the whims of the staff at Marvel Comics?

#3) How do you find out about new RPGs?
These days, it's mostly Facebook.  I'm sure there's a number of small-press/indy RPGs that I don't hear about, but to be honest I'm already staring down the bullet of the "too many RPGs, not enough time" barrel, so don't really need to add more RPGs to an already long list.

As for tomorrow, the answer to #4 may well surprise a number of folks.  It certainly surprised me once I sat down and thought about it.