Wednesday, August 20, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 20 - Will Still Play in 20 Years

What was I playing 20 years ago? D&D, Mechwarrior, Rifts, Champions, some kind of occasional GURPS thing ... that's a very different list from now.  I can make some guesses though:

  • Dungeons and Pathfinders will still be a thing and we will probably still be playing it even as we approach retirement. Tenth Edition? Could be.
  • Some kind of superhero game will still be an option. Champions has managed to cockroach through multiple potentially fatal challenges, and as long as Steve Kenson is around I assume we will have some kind of M&M or ICONS to look forward to. By then maybe we will have a good, stable, ongoing licensed game for Marvel or DC. 
  • Maybe I'll finally have run through some of the Savage Worlds stuff by then. Necessary Evil 3 might be on the way then and I'll be looking forward to it. 
Whatever it is I wonder if we'll still be using battlemats and minis or if we'll be using holographic pieces like the star wars chess game? As long as I'm here I'll be doing it one way or another.

PHB's I Have Known

Yep, that's all of them. Bottom right comes in about 1980-81 for me (and yes that's the same book I bought with my allowance back then) and that upper left showed up on my doorstep yesterday.

I've had a lot of fun with these over the years and I can tell stories that came from games played with all of the previous versions. Even though I am still running Pathfinder and 4th edition games I am sure we will get around to giving the new one a try and then I'll have some stories to go with it too.

There are memories around the time each of these came out too. The joy of discovery, when all of this was so new with the first; the college days playing in dorms and at night at the IHoP of second; the fun of putting a new group together with old and new faces and new versions of classic adventures with third; the annoyance and disappointment of fourth gradually turning into a rediscovery of the fun and putting together another mix of old and new - including a new wife and some new kids; with 5th, well, right now it's all kid milestones for the last month - a 12th birthday, a lot of summer band practice, driving to and from the first job, and moving into a college dorm. If 5th has a good enough run, they may ALL be in college by the time 6th comes out.

PDF's may be the future of a lot of smaller RPG's, but I hope the biggest games, or the kickstarters for smaller games, give us a chance to acquire them as books. I'm pretty comfortable using an iPad at the table but there's something about being able to pick up the same book I held way back when that helps refresh those memories too - it's more than visual, it's texture, smell, weight, and all of the little nicks and dings they pick up in use. I'd say the largest ingredient in some of my AD&D materials after paper, ink, and glue is probably Domino's Pizza and Dr. Pepper. I took pretty good care of my stuff but hey, accidents happen, and Domino's was new here back then. We spent a lot of summer time scraping up our dollars so we could order pizza and keep on playing, especially before we could drive.

Anyway, I suppose I've "completed the set" for the time being - now to read the thing, and start the next chapter of a 30+ year story.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RPGaDay - Day 19 - Favorite Published Adventure

So ... many ... choices ...

I have run a lot of published adventures over the years. In fact, if there is a published adventure for a game system that I have run, odds are I have run a published adventure for it. I know some people won;t even consider running one but I like them. I like the role they play in creating that shared experience between different groups, that ability to swap stories when you meet a new player and know exactly what they are talking about.


I've run this adventure is Basic, AD&D, AD&D 2E, 3E, and Next and I think I ran it in GURPS one time (don't judge, I was in college and it was an experimental time). It's just a nice package of base area, countryside, and concentrated lair of evil broken into small chunks. With newer systems you an add in more social encounters and skill challenges (heck, skill checks period) as needed. I've played through it a few times too.


I've played through it and run it and it's just a lot of fun. With this one some of the old save-or-die stuff felt like it truly fit the adventure. I'm hoping that new Iron Gods adventure path helps recapture some of that blaze of excitement when we first realized our D&D characters could encounter technological opposition.

What I probably should have chosen

I've played and run this set of adventures multiple times. 1st edition, 2nd edition, 3rd edition plus there's a conversion for 4th that I am sure will work nicely and I'd bet 5th can handle it just fine too. The prototype for a monster-specific lair type dungeon with some personality and interesting encounters. It's also the start of an epic series for more powerful characters.

Other games:

  • Shadowrun: Food Fight - it's how I always start my campaigns. It's small, but it gets things started nicely without a lot of setup.
  • Champions: Viper's Nest - the "Keep on the Borderlands" of the early Champions boxed sets. The fight in a construction yard is always a good one.
  • Savage Worlds: Neccessary Evil - OK it's a whole campaign but if you look at it as one big adventure it is epic and memorable
  • Mutants and Masterminds: Time of Crisis - I think it's the best published superhero adventure period. 
  • Gamma World: Legion of Gold - hands down. It's sort of Keep on the Borderlands-ish but it's even better in some ways in that the big lair of evil has to be tracked down and located first and is actively attacking settlements in the area.
  • Star Trek (FASA): Denial of Destiny - The first part especially feels like a very true-to-trek scenario, then the second part shifts focus a bit but is still true in a different kind of way. 
  • Traveller: Nomads of the World Ocean - It's not usually on a list of the "big" Traveller adventures but it felt more sci-fi to me than some of the others. It has nothing to do with Ancients or any military invasions but it has a solid focus on some different cultures and corporate stuff on a single planet.
  • Star Wars (d6): Tattooine Manhunt - a familiar location, an interesting turn of events, and I am probably giving it more weight because it was the first of the line, but having both played and run it I liked it a lot. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Message from the Plane of Amazon

Well, I guess I'll let you know how that looks in a few days.

RPGaDAY - Day 18 - Favorite Game System

Well this is a big one - how do you pick a favorite? Played the most? Run the most? Mechanic I like the best? Setting I like the best? There are people who play nothing but D&D. That hasn't been me for a very long time. It does say "system" so maybe I will focus more on the mechanical side. I think longevity has to come into play somewhere too as there are many games I like that I have only played a few times. 

This also leads to a new question: If some lesser-played game is my favorite, why don't I play it more? Every campaign is a consensus among the playing group. Maybe everyone has a different "favorite" so we settle on playing a game that is everyone's second favorite. Is that a good compromise? 

Enough questioning - favorite below:

Let's just call this one "d20". It kind of has to be this as I've run 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder more than anything else and it's been the "main game" for most of the past 14 years. It's a system so massively supported I could run nothing but published material for probably another 14 years and never run out of stuff. Think about how many campaign settings have been published for d20 since the core books launched in 2000. From the relaunched Dungeon magazine back at the start to the continuing series of Paizo Adventure Paths there is a mile-high pile of adventures to run. If I ever need some ideas on rules for underwater combat, mass combat, ocean or planar travel, hit locations, horror rules, or any other kind of mechanical adjustment or system, there are probably at least 3 books on it available out there somewhere. It's just a tremendous body of work that may never be equaled. True, it does make certain core assumptions as far as class and levels, but I'm OK with that, they work for me for quite a bit of what I like to do.

Plus, it gave us Mutants and Masterminds and a serious superhero RPG revival and that's another credit to the system. M&M also doesn't use class and level like traditional d20 does, which may point out just how truly flexible the system really is.

Also, it led us to 4E which is another system I enjoy running quite a bit.

Every game system conveys a certain feel or flavor in play and to me just reading the game is not enough to really get that flavor - you have to play it! Sometimes more than once. One example that I don't talk about a ton here is GURPS. Reading the GURPS rules can make it seem like a dry game but the system has always been a lot of fun whenever I've played. People who read HERO system get distracted with the numbers but in play it turns into chucking handfuls of dice and punching villains through walls. Based on that I have two more games to mention:

Honorable Mention:

I've discussed it quite a bit on the blog so I won't run on about it again but it's a great system and maybe the most flexible system while still keeping significant detail. If I was running it now, or had been running it recently, it would probably be #1

Perennial Contender

Another game that is a lot of fun to run regardless of genre. Cards for initiative, stones or chips for Bennies/Fate Chips, a simple fast system that plays exactly as advertised, and a ton of support material make for a damned fine game that is sometimes overshadowed by bigger marketing.

Notificational Monday - One Down, Three to Go

Well, Apprentice Red is officially a college student and living on campus as of yesterday. It's going to be a little weird around here for a while. until we settle into the new order of things. School officially starts for all of the kids next Monday and that's when the new routine will start sorting out. It's what he's supposed to be doing and where he's supposed to be but it's still an adjustment to not have one of them "underfoot" the way they have been. You just load up their stuff here, drive up and unload it there, walk around a little bit, then head back home and ... it's different.

Game-wise it's going to be a little thinner here. With Red away, Blaster here part-time, and Twilight not terribly interested, that pretty much leaves me and Who day to day so we'll have to see how that goes. The Pathfinder game will continue, Deadlands is just going to be slower, and we will figure something else out in between.

Regardless, I know he will do well, learn new things, and make new friends.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 17 - Funniest Game You've Played - Battle Born


I know there are tabletop games deliberately designed to be funny but I've always found those fall a little flat when you actually try to play them. They may be a lot of fun to read, but they never seem to play quite the same way. The ones that come to mind are Toon and Paranoia and I've seen people have fun with them but I wouldn't say they hit any higher than a good session with more traditional games. I will say that superhero games have a lot of potential for humor. From ridiculous concepts to the things players try to do during a game, the scope is wide open. That said I've seen whole groups paralyzed by funny just playing regular old D&D.

In the interests of putting the word out on a lesser-known game here's one I've run twice and had a lot of laughs both times:

Yes it came in a magazine and I think you can tell from the cover above just what the game is about. I can't explain the premise of the game any better than it does itself so here it is:

The central conceit is that each character is an armored trooper with a tough and extremely capable suit of powered armor but the documentation is almost non-existent and repairs are varying in quality. This means each character has somewhat different capabilities than the others in the party. Your skills are basically things you have figured out how to do consistently with your suit. Here's a character sheet:

That list of "EE Suit Functions" is pretty much your skill list but it is expandable. Everyone starts with 5 skills. Task resolution uses a simple table that's right there on the sheet. You can try to perform functions you don't have but the difficulty bumps up two levels.

The suit also functions as the equipment list as they can do pretty much anything. From the rules: "Most functions remain unlearned by most troopers and a suit will frequently surprise its user." Also "... humans are and will remain lazy - just learning enough to get by, or more importantly learning only what they consider interesting." Part of the fun of the game is figuring out new ways to use the suit to make things happen.

There are 4 races available that add some capabilities, mainly appearance, damage levels (see character sheet above) and different chances of getting one or more of the five "Traits". Since you're in an armored battlesuit there are no traditional stats like strength. Instead a character might be Durable, Fierce, Imperial, Inventive, or Spirited. This is determined randomly. One race is also Empathic and might have some Funky Powers available as well. Some skills are only available to characters with a particular trait.

There is a complete and fairly interesting character advancement system in here as well, complete with titles:

First, a character chooses to enter the game as one of the four beginning titles listed at the top of the page. Up on the character sheet you will see a list of nine categories of "deeds". A character has to achieve one of each of these to advance a level. When they do they can choose any same or higher level title that is connected to their current title. The "Ignobles" are purposefully left loose though there is a description of each and some examples of how they might be achieved. It's an interesting concept that I would like to use more.

All of this is contained in 40 pages of rules, setting, and examples. It's fairly dense text with sidebars and callouts that is a great example of how to distill a game down to its essence. There is also a 13 page adventure involving a mission to retrieve a universal translator. Its a real, complete adventure spread over several locations, with multiple scenes, complete with maps and diagrams.

OK, so where is the funny? Once players get into the spirit of the game and the loose/light nature of the rules, they start trying things, and those things are often pretty funny. Given the flexibility of the suit, and the likelihood they will not die from a single mistake or bad roll (the hero point mechanic here is "make-rolls" because spending one means you automatically made the roll) and they loosen up and start having fun. Trying to adapt their limited, yet broad capabilities like "hydraulic press" or "vacuum pump" into something useful leads to call kinds of interesting scenarios.

The included adventure helps too as it quickly turns into a Hitchiker's Guide-esque run of dealing with things like a ridiculous bureaucracy, a talking ships computer, used-spaceship salesmen, police robots, and some more traditional space stuff like hijackers, gas giants, and navigational difficulties. If the DM and the players are feeling it then the whole thing can be pretty funny. There were a few other adventures published in the magazine after this issue and I recall them being funny too but this one is a great example of what is possible.

I remember these as a couple of my funniest sessions so I'm calling it a funny game. If you want to talk funny sessions I have had quite a few in other games but this particular game seemed to bring it out pretty nicely. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 16 - Game you Wish You Owned (Reversed)

This is another strange one for me. I tend to hang on to games then interest me even marginally. If a new one comes out I pick it up. Not necessarily the day it comes out, but eventually. (Hey, it's good to have a job, right?) So there aren't really games that I want that I don't have or couldn't go get from Amazon/Ebay/DTRPG. I suppose there might be some rare printing of something that is pricey, but that's more about having a particular version of a game than the game itself.

Let's turn this around. How about games I used to have but don't own anymore?

  • Babylon 5 RPG (the d20 Mongoose Version) - I had all of the books, and it was a lot of books. No one ever wanted to play it. The system was kind of plain as well. I hung onto it for a while as a sort of connection to the setting, a nice encyclopedia style resource. A whole lot of the background info was made up by the game writers and was not a part of the show. Unlike some of the early Star Wars RPG material I don't believe this was ever accepted as canon of any kind. I eventually lost my taste for it and sold it off. No real regrets here.

  • Conan d20 RPG (also from Mongoose) - I love the Conan stories and anything that let's me consider playing a game in them is at least worth a look. I was not a huge fan of TSR's standalone game in the 80's but I did like GURPS take on it. Mongoose's version is a pretty set of books but the first printing was a disaster and damaged the line. I realized d20 was not something I was likely to use for running a Conan game and I bailed out pretty early on.

  •  Deadlands d20 and Hell on Earth d20 - I used to own every book for every version, but once Deadlands Reloaded came out I realized there was no way I would ever run the d20 version over either original recipe or  Savage Worlds. I kept the GURPS version because it was interesting but the d20 version went bye-bye several years back.
I think it's interesting that all of these are from the d20 glut era of the early 2000's. I'm sure there's someone out there that has run a completely satisfying multi-year campaign with them but they didn't work for me. 

The only other one like this that was not d20 was 7th Sea - I wanted to like it, I thought the mechanics had potential, but the setting ... the setting was supposed to be a strength but was the biggest weakness to me. It's a swashbuckling sailing 1700's - ish era but it's not Earth, so there are no historical ties. However, the Not-Earth setting was just not fantastic enough to make up for that loss. It felt as if the change was made only because they were worried about offending someone with real history (religion? slavery? who knows) but it was so mundane that there was nothing special about it. Maybe a supplement added something to it but after reading the main book I hung onto it for a while but decided against jumping on the supplement treadmill they were cranking out. Eventually I decided to bail out entirely.

A game I never owned but came close to picking up:

I was interested but never picked up Hollow Earth Expedition. It looks like a ton of fun, but I can't help thinking this should be a Savage Worlds or GURPS sourcebook and not a standalone system. I think of it as part of that failed wave of post-d20 glut non-d20 games, if that makes any sense. This, Secret of Zir'an, and a few others that came out with an interesting concept or setting and big plans for supplements but fizzled after a couple of books. I'd say it falls into the "if I ever found it for $5" category of nice-to-have games I will likely never play or run.

 A game I used to own that's been calling to me again:

 I owned a full set of Mekton Zeta at one point, after being fascinated by the earlier versions in the Dragon ads or flipping through them at the store. Zeta was the current version when I finally took the plunge ( and still is, apparently). The only kind of anime I can really get interested in tends to feature spaceships and robots and this is THE system for playing that kind of thing.

The problem is that no one else here is interested. Battletech dominates our big robot gaming history and apparently there's only room for one game in that space. A time came when I was moving and needed to shed a few shelves, and this was one of those games I knew I would never run, so away it went. Lately though it's come up a few times in conversation. I like it enough, and have enough shelves now, that I could spare a little space for this one. I probably will.

Friday, August 15, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 15 - Favorite Convention Game

Compared to yesterday this one is easy. Last year at Animefest I got to play through a Pathfinder adventure with one of my kids. On the same side of the table! For the first time! Details are here.

Animefest 2014 is this weekend and we're hoping to do the same thing this year too.

Runner up: A local con in the late 80's where we fought Godzilla with Battlemechs. It was a bigtime miniature battle and it was a lot of fun. This was very early in the Battletech game's life so the miniatures were all of the plastic model-kit type mini's, not the metal ones everyone knows today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 14 - Best Convention Purchase

I don't really have anything for this one as I don't buy much at cons. I don;t go to a ton of them anyway, and as a kid I didn't have a ton of cash and as an adult I just don't see it as a shopping trip so much.

One of the bigger ones was that I finally picked up the rules for General Quarters at a con around 2000 or so. I'd been looking for them for years, but they aren't RPG-related.

I bought a complete run of Devil Dinosaur (don;t be too impressed  - it only lasted 9 issues) at one con, but that's not RPG-related either:

Around 8 years ago at a local con there was a big star wars miniatures battle between clone troopers, Jedi, and battle droids, including a 40K Razorback used as a transport vehicle. As the con was closing down the guy who ran the fight was complaining about cleaning it all up so I offered to buy it and I did. That bulked up my Star Wars mini's considerably and the Razorback (repainted) is now a staple in Apprentice Blaster's Space Wolf army. We always use mini's when we play Star Wars so let's call that my best purchase.