Saturday, August 15, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 15- Longest Campaign Played

I've had a lot of multi-year campaigns over the past 30+ years so it's hard to pick out one. I've noticed that for the last 15 years or so that my campaigns (the ones I run anyway) tend to go one of two directions: Either they run six sessions or less, or they will run for more than a year and last 20+ sessions. Some of those short ones are deliberate one-shots or limited campaigns, and some of them , well, we just figure out it's not working for us right now and change things up.

Longest campaigns:

  • Once I settled in Texas our AD&D games were all played with the same group of characters over a period of about 8 years and could be considered one long, loose, campaign.
  • Our AD&D Second Edition games were mostly centered around one long Forgotten Realms campaign that ran on and off for another 8-10 years. There was even a "next generation" continuation of it during 3rd edition. 
  • I was part of a Twilight 2000 campaign that ran for about 3 years and covered the voyage from post-nuclear Poland back across Europe, the Atlantic, and back to the U.S. I'd love to try that for a new group of players today.
  • I also ran a Rifts campaign for over a year. It can be done!
  • I ran a 4th edition campaign that went about 30 sessions over a couple of years - Return to the Ruins of Adventure
  • I then ran another 4th edition campaign that went about the same distance - Savage Swords of Impiltur
  • Right now Wrath of the Righteous has been running for almost 2 years and about 30 sessions (with several significant breaks) and if we finish it I suspect it will be the longest game I've run in a long time.
So I've settled into a mix of short games in and around one long term campaign and that seems to work well for us. Hopefully that continues.

Friday, August 14, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 14- Favorite RPG Accessory

Lord knows there are a ton of cool things out there to use with RPG's. I could choose some giant miniature piece, some elaborate DM screen or dice tower, or even a computer aid like Combat Manager, but I'm going to go retro in a way here:

The battelmat - made of vinyl, often reversible, often neglected by leaving the markings on way longer than they should be, enabler of creative writings, drawings, and simple scribblings, this is a too-often overlooked piece of gear.

If treated well they last forever. I've been using them since the late 80's and I am still occasionally using one of my original mats, though it is a little marked up from the fire it survived 20 years ago.

One day it's a ruined dwarf fortress full of demons ...

The big two-sided versions are incredibly versatile - hexes for games like Champions and GURPS, squares for D&D and a bunch of other games, and when necessary you can completely ignore the grid and sketch out an abstract map or a quick picture of something or jot down some notes when needed!

...then it's a warehouse in Paragon City, waiting to be attacked by Supervillains

So although it's not really all that flashy any more with the option of virtual tabletops and playing ion top of a screen in some of those over the top gaming tables, the simple battlemat is one of my favorite pieces of gaming gear. One of the kids commented in our last session that I rolled it out on the table like a pirate sharing a treasure map and that's sort of how I feel - it's one of the tactile elements of our hobby, along with rolling dice and shuffling character sheets.

It may be replaced by _something_ down the road, but I've tried Paizo's flip-mats, those interlocking erasable tile things, and dungeon tiles, and none of them is as simple and versatile as the good old battlemat. I do occasionally use those gridded presentation tablets for areas I know we will be traversing repeatedly (so I don't have to redraw) and poster maps have become a thing over the last ten years or so, but those are really only useful for specific situations. Some kind of holographic table thing may be viable someday but that's the only real challenge I can foresee right now for playing around a table with friends. It's simple, relatively inexpensive, versatile, and damn near eternal: the humble battlemat.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 13- Favorite RPG Podcast

I do listen to podcasts, but I always have a backlog. Some of the ones I liked have faded away but there are always more.

Posthumous Podcast Awards

For 4th Edition D&D - Radio Free Hommett: This was one of the few for this edition and ran consistently for 2-3 years from the 4E launch to around the beginning of 2011. It was well produced, the topics were timely and relevant to those learning/playing/running the game, and the hosts were always enthusiastic about what they were doing. It focused on news, mechanics, and elements of putting a campaign together. It's gone from the d20 Radio site now but there are still some shows here.

Not strictly RPG but close enough - Podhammer: For years this was THE show for Warhammer players. Based in Australia it was unflinchingly honest about the state of the game, the state of the armies, and the state of the players. The show was always a blast to listen to. It faded out a couple of years ago and though it does appear there have been some restart tries the last entry is January of this year. Maybe one of these days it will rise again.

Current Favorite Podcast  

A superhero rpg, comic book, superhero show & movie podcast it is very casual and often recorded during the main hosts lunch break. BAMF is the one podcast I somehow find time for every week. It has a wide range of interesting guests from all over the U.S. to Canada to the U.K. from indie comic book writers and artists to game writers like Steve Kenson and Christopher McGlothlin. Game-wise it has mostly focused on M&M and ICONS but other games are welcomed too - Supers, Bulletproof Blues, and After Earth have all made appearances recently. The show is very laid back but manages to stay focused most of the time and typically runs around an hour per week. If you're at all interested in super-stuff it's worth a listen

Honorable Mention - Know Direction: It's THE Pathfinder podcast. It's a little bit of a mess as there are a bunch of sub-shows covering different topics and the hosts sometimes rotate between them but the main show is solid and they consistently have access to both Paizo and independent writers behind various Pathfinder books.

Semi-Relevant Bonus Podcast for Online RPGs - Massively OP Podcast: If you want a good survey of what's going on in online gaming this week, the Massively OP Podcast is my favorite stop. usually about an hour it is a news and discussion show hosted by the writers and editors of the Massively OP site. There are game-specific podcasts for many games out there but for the big picture this one is the best.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 12 - Favorite RPG Illustration

There have been many illustrations over the years that have had an impact on my interest, and that's probably my primary interest when looking at an illustration for a game: does it tell me something about the game and more importantly, does it make me want to play?

There have been a ton of them over the years - spectacular covers, amazing interior pieces, small character/monster portraits ... how to choose?

Old School: A Paladin in Hell

I could have said "cover of the AD&D Player's handbook" but that's almost too easy. Once you get inside that cover this one always made me stop and look again. It's one signature element of D&D showcased in a full page drawing. There's bound to be a story here - how did he get here? Is he alone? Who is he, and does it matter or is it enough to know he's a Paladin?

Bonus Old School: Emirkol the Chaotic

This one, near the back of the original DMG, was always another stopper too. Trampier's work was a lot more elaborate than Dave Sutherland's but I like both for different reasons. There's even more of an implied story here too - what started this? What happens next?

Additional Bonus Illustration for the Special Edition: Cover of Dragon magazine #62

I loved this picture the first day I saw it and I still love it today.  Who is that guy? Why is he here? Where is he going? What happens next?

Different Flavor of Old School: Gamma World 3rd Edition - the cover of "Delta Fragment"

 Some kind of power armor putting the hurt on a dinosaur while another beast closes in - yeah! This is an image that some of my players and I bring up from time to time. It could equally be a part of Rifts or some supers game but it has stuck with us for close to 30 years so it's worth a mention.

Newer School: Pathfinder Mythic Adventures "the one with the monk and the barbarian and the dinosaurs"

I never get tired of this picture as it too effectively conveys just what "mythic" means in Pathfinder. The weaponless monk making a flying leap on a T-Rex while the barbarian throws a dinosaur at a dinosaur is exactly the kind of ridiculousness that generates table stories that last for decades. Pathfinder has a lot of great illustrations - they are right up there with old school FASA when it comes to art quantities -  I just like this one a bunch.

As far as "image that best conveys what the game is about" I think nothing compares to this:

The illustration so strong they used it for two editions of the game! I think it perfectly shows what a typical Shadowrun campaign is all about. Again, there's a story here - who are those people? Who are they shooting at? Where is this? When is this? It's a great piece for a game book.  It's only rival is this ...

...I mean, that is pretty much AD&D right there on the front. More implied story here - I mean, we all know in general what's going on here but where is this? Who are these guys? What happens next?

I could do a post on this every week and never run out of material...and that's not a bad idea ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 11 - Favorite RPG Writer

In contrast to yesterday's post, I didn't think I would have a lot to say here but after writing it up I ... kind of did. I don't really get  wrapped up in the writer for most RPG products because A) A lot of modern RPG books are group efforts and it's difficult to identify who wrote a particular section and even then how it was edited has a big impact and B) I don't see a ton of consistency even when a single author is clearly identified. Different projects focus on different things - adventure/rules supplement/monster book - and someone may be strong for one project and weak for another.

Griping aside, here are a few names that have made a difference for me at one point or another:

From the old days: David Cook. He wrote Dwellers of the Forbidden City and  Isle of Dread for AD&D (among other works), Pool of Radiance, the Planescape setting, and was the lead for AD&D 2E which I thought at the time was a nicely done clean-up and revamp of 1E. Later in his non-tabletop career he worked on City of Villains.

After picking up his first few adventures with TSR I knew that when I saw his name on a cover I could be pretty sure it would be interesting but not completely alien to D&D as a game, and that's a sweet spot a lot of people fail to achieve with a lot of different systems.

From a few years back there is Monte Cook. His name is on multiple books from the Champions 4th Edition days and 3E D&D of course but I really liked a few things he put out after that, namely Ptolus and Arcana Evolved (Unearthed). Ptolus is an impressive city setting even today and I liked damn near everything about it. I also thought Arcana Evolved (the updated version of Unearthed) was a really cool take on a different version of the D&D 3E engine. It took something familiar and made it interesting in new ways. I don't think it ever got the attention it deserved, but it still has a special place for me. Clearly I am at least partially on a similar wavelength as Monte when it comes to my RPG tastes.

His latest stuff is not as interesting to me. Numenera is interesting but just doesn't "do it" for me. The system is just not there enough to really pull me in and the setting is specific and abstract in places that feel just slightly off from what I want. It's not bad, it's just not top tier for me. The Strange might be a better fit for me and my players but it's unlikely to displace any of the games we already play so it's not really pulling me in either.

Longer term than some, shorter than others: Shane Hensley gets a place on this list for Deadlands, Hell on Earth, and Savage Worlds, and for generally coming across as a guy who's trying to make games people actually play instead of just read. I suspect we have a lot of similar tastes here as well since he wrote the Army of Darkness game too. Also: he too worked on City of Villains! Anything Shane does I know is at least worth a look.

Finally: Steve Kenson - he's worked on Shadowrun and  Silver Age Sentinels in the past, then became big time with Mutants and Masterminds, Freedom City, and ICONS, all of which I have written about extensively on this blog.  When it comes to superheros in particular, and RPG's in general, I'll take a look at anything Steve does.

Monday, August 10, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 10 - Favorite RPG Publisher

What, only one?

At the top of my list based on quality, interaction with players, and outstanding level and volume of support, it has to be Paizo.

Paizo Top Nav Branding

They have multiple monthly releases supporting the Pathfinder RPG, most of which are decent to amazing. Rather than resting comfortably on their proven system they put out some kind of experimental type mechanics or adventure every year - examples include Unchained, Iron gods, and Mythic Adventures - that give players an option to change things up. They also support it with miniatures, map packs, cards, and a ton of interaction with the people who are playing their games and using this stuff, allowing us to shape the direction of the game as it goes along in a very real way. It's a big job and they've managed to stay on top of it better and for longer than any company I can recall.

First Runner Up: Pinnacle
Pinnacle Entertainment Group
They have a great system in Savage Worlds, interesting settings in Deadlands, Neccessary Evil, Hell on Earth, 50 Fathoms, etc. and they've been keeping them in print for 20 years now. They've been using Kickstarters quite a bit the last few years for big projects and they have delivered on every one. They are active on forums and mailing lists and do seem interested in what players want. The bottom line is that I like almost everything they release and that's rare.

Second Runner Up: Green Ronin

Green Ronin Publishing

They publish M&M and have done so for years. They published Freeport as well and I have spent some time running games in that setting too. Their releases are high quality and high utility as well in my experience. The only knock on them is that the last few years have expanded their focus to some games I do not play which has delayed some releases for the games I do. Beyond that, I like a whole lot of what they do and the way they do it.

Dark Horse Entry: Fainting Goat Games

These guys publish a whole line of superhero adventures and setting material. It's mainly for ICONs but they have branched out into other games as well. They put out interesting material, typically at a bargain price, and their whole approach just screams fun. Their DTRPG page pretty much covers it

These guys also run/show up on the BAMF podcast which is a favorite of mine and you can find it over there on the right.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 9 - Favorite Media You Wish Was an RPG

This one is easy - I wish we had a new version of a Star Trek RPG. There have been a few over the years but the last one was more than a decade ago and I'd like to see what a modern design team could do with a game in that universe.

Compare it with Star Wars and all the momentum of the new movie coming at the end of the year and look at everything from Battlefront to The Old Republic to FFG's strong line of RPG & boardgame tie-ins and Trek is damn near flatlined. No video games (other than Star Trek Online), no tabletop games other than Attack Wing, no TV shows, and the next movie still a ways off - it's at a low ebb for sure, maybe the lowest I can remember since the 70's. In the 80's and 90's and early oughts we had TV and movies and RPGs for a big chunk of that time. In the last ten years though we have two movies, no shows, and very few games. There's nothing wrong with doing it yourself or using an older system but it would still be nice to have a new game to build some buzz.

Runners up: I'd like to see another Marvel game. DC was built for M&M 3E and is great if getting a little harder to find new these days. Marvel Heroic was cool but killed off too early, and with all the movies rolling out you would think there would be enough interest to sustain a game line of some size. There have been some interesting takes in the past so why not hope for another one?

Final Total Honesty section: I'm not a huge fan of the current systems for Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Battletech, Warhammer Fantasy, or Warhammer 40,000 so if I'm named RPG Czar of the Universe I'm going to change those up too.