Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

I think this question has come up before and my answer is always the same: Shadowrun. That single scene covers almost everything you do in Shadowrun and shows what makes it different: guy plugging in to computer, girl with a gun and some kind of magic effect, and then indian-painted guy with dual sub-machine guns, all in a dirty part fo town with a backdrop of skyscrapers and opposition - Yeah, that covers a lot of ground.

It's so perfect for the game that second edition kept the same cover - how often do you see that?

Later edition still have nice art but 3rd kind of lost it's purpose and became "generic action scene", 4th goes back to something similar to these covers (a step in the right direction), then 5th is so busy I can't tell what's going on.

My runner-up hasn't changed in a long time either:

Gamma World has had some incredibly evocative covers and this one really pushed my buttons as a kid when it was current - armed men going into a ruined, overgrown city - please tell me more! That is a whole bunch of what the game is about. Plus the whole style is pure 60's-70's sci-fi art and it really sets the tone.

Then with second edition we get this:

This is another winner with Giant Deadly Robot acting out against a human with a stone axe and some kind of mutant with an energy weapon - yep, that's pretty much Gamma World. The cover of the rulebook inside the box was pretty solid too:

Mutant with pistol and shield and another with a fusion gun against blaster guy on a horse? Yep, that's the game!

Honorable Mention:

It's not a rulebook but it is the origin of the legendary Stop Sign Shield! This picture, again, is totally in line with what a Gamma World adventure looks like.

In contrast ...

There are lots of good covers out there, and even more bad ones - static posed hero, static posed monster, symbol of something relevant to game + title of game = boring and non-evocative. They may be pretty at times but they are often just too plain. The covers for 5th edition D&D and for FFG Star Wars are usually pretty and well done technically but they don't tell me much about the game itself. Most Pathfinder rulebook covers have some kind of action happening and so in my mind are a step above. Look at Numenera or The Strange too - what do they tell you, visually, about the game or the setting? Even the new Trek game, for example, on the collector's edition has a cover picture that is a close up shot of a starship hull.

WHY? It's incredibly boring and tell you nothing about the game! At least the standard version has some characters doing something! It's a great example of "pretty but uninformative". People get excited about Star Trek ships, sure - but not hull textures. Not really.

It's an interesting question today and I ended up writing quite a bit more about it than I expected.

More tomorrow!

Friday, August 4, 2017

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

Warhammer 40,000!

OK maybe that doesn't count.

How about "Star Trek Online"?


I'm in a weird place here compared to my usual routine. I've run 3-4 sessions of a bunch of games over the last year - D&D, Pathfinder, Mutants and Masterminds, Deadlands, and Star Wars. In some ways this makes me happy as it means we're broadening our experiences and playing a lot of games. That said, we're not being very consistent. Hopefully the continuing focus on my Beyond the Rim campaign will give us some stability here, so I'll go with "Star Wars" as my final answer.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Day 3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

This is a pretty straightforward question so this will be one of the shorter entries this month:

  • EN World - it's mainly focused on D&D type games but it ends up being the biggest tabletop RPG site and a lot of things are announced/noted/promoted there.
  • Kickstarter - once you've done a few you tend to get notified of related projects, one version of the Network Effect.
  • Other Blogs - I have a regular rotation of blogs I read and a lot of time they have news of a new game that I may not have seen elsewhere. If I like the blog enough to keep coming back and they think a new game looks interesting then there's a good chance I will feel the same way.
  • Podcasts - similar to blogs above but also really good for things related to the game the podcast covers. Alternate rules, adventures, or a new game by the same writer or from the same company.
  • Company Websites: Pinnacle, Green Ronin, Paizo, and FFG are all places I visit regularly.  
That's about it!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day 2: An RPG You Would Like to See Published

This is a tougher question than it would have been a year ago:

  • There's a new Star Trek game. It's not my favorite set of rules but it's in print and appears to be well on the way to being well-supported. This would have been my #1 answer.
  • I'm learning to at least like the new Star Wars game (new = published 5 years ago apparently) so I don't feel the need to call for a new version of that.
  • Cubicle 7 is going to publish a new version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, one based on the 1st and 2nd editions of the game. Those are the two I like best so I'm pretty happy with this news. When FFG a) went with a funky-dice system for 3rd edition and b) then stopped publishing the game altogether I was disappointed. I haven't run a ton of WFRP compared to say D&D but I do like having it around.  
  • There's a mechanically decent version of Rifts available.
  • Classic Runequest is available again.
  • Mutant Crawl Classics will be out soon and is effectively a modern version of Gamma World
  • Heck, we just had a Kickstarter for a new version of Top Secret!
So getting something "old" so to speak out has been handled in a big way over the last few years. That's usually where I feel the need - when an exiting game or setting goes out of print. Let's start there:

The obvious choice: a Warhammer 40,000 RPG. We had several, they all went out of print when FFG's license ended, and was never all that thrilled with them anyway. What makes for a wonderfully grim and gritty system at the Warhammer fantasy level gets pretty bulky and feels very different when you try to use it in a setting with power armor, missile launchers, and tanks. So I would like to see a new 40K RPG - completely new, not a reprint. There are Rifts-level power differences between what you might think of as typical characters in a 40K RPG so it's an interesting challenge for sure. 

Bonus Wishlist Item: Marvel Heroic. We have Cortex Plus books, we have 60 years of Marvel and even more of DC, but I would be ecstatic if somehow someway someone started publishing (or re-publishing) a licensed superhero game that used it. That was way too interesting a system that was cut down way too early.

But if we were looking for something completely new what would it be?
  • Semi-original premise #1: "Fantasy Roman Empire" - the setting is the early  Roman Empire but with all of the trappings of a typical D&D world. Instead of just barbarians on the borders, how about orcs, elves, dwarves, etc. There have been various attempts at this over the years but none of them have ever taken off. I'd like to see some decent designers and writers backed by an experienced company try to make this work. There are enough interesting twists to make this stand out in my opinion. Then of course you get the "Mythic Greece" sourcebook or alternate campaign for it and we're rolling in the classics + dragons.
  • Semi-original premise #2: "The New World" - The game assumes a Renaissance Europe type background and that you are part of a group heading out to settle the "new world" only recently discovered. This could go somewhat old-school with some resource management aspects but characters would lean more towards the lighter end of things. The GM side though ... his fun is in picking out and setting up exactly what is waiting for the players across the sea. Is it simply native tribes at a severe technological disadvantage? Maybe it's a far more fantastic threat - orcs and dragons? Maybe it's technological - the "new" world is actually the older world, one ruined by warfare or technological collapse centuries ago so you get flintlock-wielding colonists threatened by mutants and robots. Maybe it's a continent controlled by intelligent apes. I think an RPG with a set starting point for the players that caters to multiple scenarios for discovery detailed by the GM would be a lot of fun to play. 

Slightly more original premise:

  • "Super Rock Band: The RPG" - Select your character's musical specialty, their talent level, their skill level, their personal charisma, and various physical traits. Maybe a "signature move" or item. Keep the rules fairly light - somewhere between FFG Star Wars, d6 Star Wars, or ICONS. I don't know that the purely mundane rocker world is enough to sustain a campaign so you can also select their "other" job:
    • Maybe they solve mysteries as they travel around the world (+Scooby Doo or Josie and the Pussycats)
    • Maybe they secretly fight crime as costumed heroes (+Teen Titans or The Impossibles)
    • Maybe they protect the world against supernatural evil (+Supernatural or Hellboy)
    • Maybe they protect the world against alien invasion (+ Dark Conspiracy or The X-Files)

      The focus would be on running single-session "episodes" where the band travels to a new city, uncovers some kind of problem, solves it, then plays their gig as the finale, getting bonuses or penalties for what they did during the session. Good performances increase their fame/power/money, while bad ones damage it in some way. This would be a sort of live XP system.

      System-wise I'd start with the d6 system, add a new stat or replace one of the old ones with "Musical" and have a separate skill for each instrument and singing style. Default is stat + skill so a really talented musician could fill in for a mind-wiped bass player even if they had no real skill in "bass guitar" Work in something like FFG's Obligation system from Edge of the Empire to give the group some other pressing issues to deal with and I think you could have a ton of fun with the right group. I think it would be a great one-shot or con type game too.
That's enough words for now - more tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

RPG-A-Day 2017

Hell, why not? I see it on EN World and on Barking Alien's place and I've not been posting as regularly so why not take this as an opportunity to pay a little more attention to the RPG side of things here?

So Day 1 is "What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?"`

Is that literally right now? Because it's a Tuesday morning and I'm in between work duties, so that would be awkward. I suppose I could try to finally finish Baldur's Gate, or fire up Star Trek Online but I don't think that's what they mean.

Recently I've been running D&D 5th edition and Star Wars Edge of the Empire. I'm pretty happy with those. I've also been digging in to some other games for research/prep:

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics - they had a kickstarter for scratch-off zero level character sheets which has me wanting to finish our first foray into this game.
  • Mutant Crawl Classics - the kickstarter PDF recently went to backers and it looks like a lot of fun.
  • Twilight 2000 - I have an almost complete set of published books for this game and at least two interested players. I'm working on completing the collection and contemplating how or when I would run a campaign.
  • Shadowrun - the Apprentices have never actually played and it feels like I should fix that
  • Savage Worlds Rifts - still haven't run a game. It's been discussed, it just hasn't happened yet. 
Lots of older school stuff there. I'd be happy running any of those if it didn't interfere with what I'm already doing.

The question specifically mentioned "playing" though. I don't know that they meant it to be that specific but let me take it as "playing" and not "running". I run a lot more than I play so this is a more interesting version of the question.

I'd say supers - M&M, Champions, ICONS, BASH, Marvel, whatever. It's been forever since I've played in an ongoing superhero game. My decision to make this year the one I catch up on Astro City is probably contributing here too.

Runner up: "Star Trek" - I'd like to play in a Trek campaign for a good while run by someone who knows and loves the material. Again, the rules are not the issue so much here as the genre or setting. 

So there's my answer to the question.