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Showing posts from August, 2016

My "One and Done" RPG List: Fantasy Hero

When: 1991
GM: Andrew
Capsule: a horrific collision between the immovable GM preparation and the irresistible PC creation phase.

The Story: My college gaming group had been playing Champions out of the Big Blue Book like nobody's business, sometimes even two campaigns at once.  But fantasy had been dying off as the 2nd Edition of D&D was really beginning to show its age and so many new games were coming onto the market.  The fantasy genre still had its fans in our gaming group, and when Fantasy Hero came out Andrew saw a chance to take a popular game system and meld it to a fantasy book series he really enjoyed.  And for the life of me I can not remember the series, except that it was this high fantasy that takes place in historical Europe complete with the Christian Church and this family of people with magical/psychic powers and some such thing. Andrew went all out on the planning, compiling a huge three-ring binder of material detailing the culture and background of the ca…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 30: Ideal game room

Describe the ideal game room if the budget were unlimited.

Isn't it "was unlimited"?  Whatever, let's go big!

First, the Vizier table.

The company has a larger, more ornate table called the Sultan, but that's over the top.
Speaking of Sultans, though, for the "we don't need a table" RPG's, let's throw in a few Sultan bean bags.

From here's it's down to details: a smartboard, a minibar with sink, and plenty of wall-mounted shelving for books, miniatures, and terrain.  And decent AC/heating with airflow, because some times people have been messing around with skunks before coming to the gaming table (you know who you are...)

My "One and Done" RPG list, Part One

Blacksteel recently referenced MegaTraveller in a comment, which got me briefly reminiscing about the one time I played another Traveller offshoot, Traveller: the New Era.  Which got me thinking about games I've only played once, and why.  Which got my thinking about making a regular column about games I've only played once.  So, here we go...

RPG: Traveller the New Era

When: I'm guessing 1994 or thereabouts.

GM: Paul, a friend of mine

Capsule: As far as I can tell, the GM was angling for a gritty, noir-esque storyline featuring criminal underworld figures, helpless ingenues, etc.  I played a doctor (the medical type).

What happened: my PC decided the best way to get information from one of the aforementioned ingenues was to go full-on Rico Suave, backed up by some pretty impressive social skill rolls.  The GM was very uncomfortable roleplaying this, and even after some prolific hand-waving of the action never came back to this game.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 29: where would you game?

You can game anywhere on Earth, where would you choose?

Craigdarroch castle, located on Vancouver Island.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 28: Thing you'd be most surprised a friend had not seen or read

Thing you'd be most surprised a friend had not seen or read

This one is easy.  A member of my gaming group in her late 20's said recently that she had not seen either The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth.  I think you would need to be a hair older to have that be really shocking, but still....

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 27: Most unusual circumstance

Most unusual circumstance or location in which you've gamed

Wow, I must be pretty boring, because mostly I've gamed in college dorm common rooms or game stores or people's houses.

Wait, wait!  I once ran a quick pick-up game of Star Wars at my brother-in-law's bachelor party because the best man had really dropped the ball on planning something.  It was a bit of a thrown-together mess but WEG Star Wars is really good for that kind of thing.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 26: best hobby with RPG's?

What hobbies go well with RPG's?

Wargaming with miniatures is my easy answer, what with my having a whole other blog about that.

But drawing, creative writing, cooking...there's a lot of things that can go with RPG gaming.  That's one of the things that is so cool about it.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 24: most likely gift

What is the game you are most likely to give to others?

What's funny about this is that it made me realize that I can not recollect too many instances where I have given an RPG to another person.  I gave as a gift the Player's Handbook of the most recent iteration of D&D to someone I hope will play with me.  I gave a couple of Traveller sourcebooks I found on clearance to a friend that really loves that game.  I gave a copy of Teenagers from Outer Space to Adam because I happened to stumble across a copy.

So perhaps if I were to answer the question, "If you were to give out an RPG to others (say in your gaming group) what RPG would you give to people?"  I'd have to say Heroes Against Darkness, because I think the group would like that game as a Fantasy Heartbreaker.  It has a lot of the fun stuff from 4E that my group liked with a lot of excess trimmed off.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 23: worst luck stories

Share one of your "world luck" stories

Hard to say, mostly because I'm sort of perpetually snake-bitten when it comes to die rolling.  I've had major boss monsters completely fail to hit any of the players and come across as total pushovers. I've shot into melee combat and hit friends.

Probably the worst was on one of the few times I played Traveller and I completely blew the roll to land our free trader on a planet.  The GM even game me a second chance on the roll and I botched that one.  I ended up wrecking the ship and the GM had to end the session early because he had no contingency plans.

Friday night recap: Champions gets a second, longer look

Before I get into recapping the last gaming session at my house, I have to share the joy that is having one of your players custom order shirts for the entire gaming group featuring the logo of the brewery the PC's created as part of the last campaign I ran.  The brew in question is "Flask o' Tarrasque," a proud product of The Bad News Bears Inn, Tavern, and Brewery.  This "Legendary Fortified Brown Ale" does have the disclaimer that it may be habit-forming.

Anyways, I don't think I have ever had a campaign engender this much genuine fondness from my players in all my life.
Once most of the players had their new shirts on, we undertook the arduous task of learning how to play Champions Complete, which is a scaled-down version of Hero Games, Sixth Edition.  Originally I had only about four people scheduled to show up but it exploded at the last minute to eight.  Some asked if I was going to prevent latecomers from participating, but I wanted to "st…

RPGaDAY Day 22: Supposed random reoccurring events

Supposedly random game events that keep reoccurring?

Rolling a 1 when attempting a Daily Power in D&D Fourth Edition.  All the blasted time.

Bears continually attacking troublesome NPC's when no one is around?  That's just a coincidence (and you should click the link just to see the great illustrations my younger players drew for the D&D campaign)

RPGaDAY Day 21: Funniest misinterpretation of a rule

Funniest misinterpretation of a rule in your group?

Hunh.  I feel like there's one out there regarding one of my youth players misreading something, but I can't think of it.  One thing that came up recently was that in the D&D game I was running, we had a wizard who constantly cast the spell fireball while twin-linking it as a metamagic ability.  It was devastating, and basically one-hit-KO'ed the final boss in the last session of my part of the campaign.  After the new GM took over, the player tried to cast the double fireball again only to be told rather bluntly that you can't twin-link fireball because it doesn't have a to-hit roll, only a saving throw (all the while the GM is looking a little balefully at me).  The players all protested, saying hopefully sarcastically how much they liked me better as a GM...

RPGaDAY Day 20: most challenging system

Most challenging but rewarding system have you learned?

This question is funny for two reasons.  First, I had two games immediately leap to mind, interestingly enough both superhero RPG's.  Second, my rationales for those games being the answer are completely opposite one another.

My first thought was Champions, likely because I just ran the game for the first time in a very long time last Friday (blog post forthcoming).  Over a dozen Characteristics, lots of powers compounded by an exhaustive list of modifiers which don't add or subtract from the power but multiply it by fractions, the Speed chart, and in at least the most recent iteration a dropping of distances measured in inches (representing inches on a hex map) to real life meters only to be converted back into inches so we can continue to use the hex map--the list goes on and on.

But Champions is a great game, especially if you really want to build a unique character whose ins-and-outs are known to you.

The second thoug…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 19: best way to learn

Best way to learn a new game?

Download the pdf and then read lots of posts on  I'm kidding.  I don't like reading pdf's on my computer--my eye/brain relationship just doesn't flow that way.  I like getting the actual book, with pages and everything, and then just spending time reading it: first glancing through to get the layout and then reading it in depth.

Following that, I do read the odd review online, just to compare my own notes with what other people have seen.  Finally, I like to run a trial run of the game with a few people just to put it through its paces.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 18: needed innovations

What innovation could RPG groups benefit most from?

My own tendencies towards RPG experiences are so old school, to the point that I mention graph paper in the title of the blog, that innovations aren't something for which I really see a need.  And honestly, anything I imagine already exists: we have online gaming hangouts and message boards to find new players.  I thought about a cookbook for gamers for when they get together to eat, but one already exists.

So no real answer on this one.  Moving along...

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 17: fictional character in your group

What fictional character would best fit in your group?

Wade Watts, the protagonist from the book Ready Player One.  Nerdy pop culture fetishist teenager with a heroic streak in him?  That sounds like most of the people in my group.

If you haven't read the book, do so.  I'm glad it is being made into a movie by Spielberg, because it deserves the exposure.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 16: historical figure as player

Historical person you'd like in your group?  What game?

Another interesting question.  I'll go with Robin Williams, whose ability to improvise, play a wide variety of people, general intelligence, and (as far as I can tell) genial personality would make him a great gamer.  Doesn't hurt that he's Episcopalian, either.

What game?  Something with a little bit of a wacky factor would be fun, but I'd also be interested to see him play something with a more serious bent, because it would be a deviation from the clowny norm.

Anyways, there's my answer.

The Iron Age in 2016 (and a review of Cold Steel Wardens)

Just to get terminology straight, I'm talking about the Iron Age of comics, an era distinguished from the Gold, Silver, and whatever the current age is supposed to be called (I've heard "Modern," which is doomed to inaccuracy in a few years, and "Electrum" which might be an inside-baseball joke among nerds).

The Iron Age is roughly defined as beginning sometime in the early 1980's and ended around 1996 with the bankruptcy of Marvel Comics, although vestiges of its influence still kick around in the comic book universe today.  The high points of the era are often cited as works like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns or Alan Moore's Watchmen.  The low points are often associated with names like Rob Liefield.  Hand-in-hand with the Iron Age was the collectibility craze of comic books with speculators and comic book companies simultaneously engaging in a mutal delusion that comic books of that era had tremendous value apart from reading them th…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 15: best source of inspiration

Your best source for inspiration for RPG's?

In the past I would say television series, because of their episodic nature, but that's not really the case these days. Right now it is tumblr, or rather a couple of photoblogs of fantasy or sci-fi artwork.  I see a particularly evocative illustration and start building the backstory.  Take this example, of a dead giant king whose remains have become the foundation of some ruin...

There's loads of them out there in the Wild West of the Internet, aka Tumblr, but here's a good example of a fantasy blog: Meanwhile Back in the Dungeon (NSFW)
For science fiction, a good example is Sci-Fi Spaceships
And just for fun, here's one composed entirely of spaceships from Star Trek, some canon, some not: Star Trek Ships

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 14: the dream team

Your dream team of people you used to game with?

I'll take this literally as "used to" because I have a great gaming group now and I would hate to exclude them from any game I was running. So let's talk about former gamers.

From college: Jennifer, Andrew (mentioned on this blog before), and Chris
From post-college days: Daniel, Scott (also mentioned on this blog before), and Buffra

Why them?  Because they were really great players, loved gaming, and I just like being with them.

Although honestly, I'd game with just about anyone I ever gamed with in the past, even strangers I met at conventions.  Mostly because I like most people, I like gaming.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 12: next game played

What game is your group most likely to play next, and why?

God I wish I knew.

Right now, my gaming group is playing two games: Dungeons & Dragons (run by my friend Rob who isn't me) and Star Wars.  While the summer schedule wasn't fantastic, both campaigns are progressing along and wondering what will be played next seems kind of ghoulish.

But the thing is, at this moment there neither game includes the entire group.  Some people aren't playing D&D, others aren't playing Star Wars.  There's no one game everyone is playing together.  In addition, there's also other players who want to play with our group.  That feels like a gap in the landscape.

So which game?  Champions, Prowkers and Paragons, Heroes Against Darkness, and Traveller have all been kicked around as possibilities. We will see.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 13: a successful campaign

What makes a successful campaign?

First, I'm getting a little behind in this.  Time to catch up.

For me there's a moment in some campaigns when the group stops viewing the campaign as a series of adventures or challenges and actually lives in the world for a moment.  If it happened in the D&D campaign I recently ran it was when the group had the PC's sitting around the Inn of the Seven Winds talking about how they might turn around the failed economy of the city of Grimfest if/when they liberated it from the gangs who were at the time running the city.  In the Marvel Heroic Campaign it might have happened when the group began to converse with their live-in NPC Mrs. Robot about her post-transformation social life and ate cookies than she had made for them.

If you can transcend the challenge/achievement mindset that makes RPG's little different from board games and have them imagine themselves living in the world, even just for a moment, that's a successful campa…

RPGaDAY 2016, Day 11: most influential gamer

Which gamer has most influenced how you play?

Can I just say first, for a moment, how much better these questions have been than years past?

My answer is my friend Scott, who tended to immerse himself in a character without being a scenery-chewing hack, was totally comfortable letting other people have their moment, and cared about other players (he's the guy with the bronze d20 in an earlier answer).

He's also a great GM, although he's such an Old School relic that he calls himself a "judge."  I like that terminology because it implies that the role is one of objective reporting rather than controlling the game as a "master."  His sessions were always detailed with an emphasis not on setting up a big combat, but rather leading the group into making critical decisions about the outcome.  Much like his way of playing, Scott's methodology and philosophy could be described as someone who is a generous host, or guest, who sees their role at the party as…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 10: biggest surprise

Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

I feel like I've told this story before, and if so I apologize.  Back in college I was playing a game of Cyberpunk 2020.  I was a fixer (which suited by personality at the time well), and was in a typical "heist" group composed of two Solos, a Tech, a out-of-place Rockergirl, and myself.  The set-up was pretty typical: we can be hired by somebody to break into some corporate building and steal something (in case you wondered where Shadowrun came from, it was because a lot of people were playing Cyberpunk 2020 this way).

Right before the day of the big heist, I get a call from the GM telling me he wants to do a bit of in-person roleplaying on the side from the group, so I agree to have my PC meet some NPC contact of his.  That contact tells him that he's gotten word that a member of the group has sold the rest of us out and will turn on us during the heist.  I immediate go into meta-gaming mode and determine that it is P…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 9: an ideal session

Beyond the game, what's involved in an ideal session?

A meal.  My gaming group gets together on average about twice a month.  Those sessions typically last from 6:00 PM to about 10:30 or 11:00 PM, so not a long session by many people's standards.  But every session has the first hour being a meal that we eat together.  The meal is often a group effort, with different people bring various courses, desserts, and beverages.  It has always been part of our routine, and a critical part because it allows us the chance to catch up with each other's lives, share stories, give out the birthday t-shirts (another tradition I can outline if people are interested).

Pragmatically, this social time probably helps people focus during the gaming session but more importantly it reinforces the fact that we believe that gaming, at its core, is a social event.  This all starts to sound a little like "friendship is magic" but seriously it is the relationships that develop vis a vis th…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 8: Covers

Hardcover, softcover, digital?  What is your preference?

The question has the order right: I prefer hardcovers, mostly for durability, then softcovers, and then finally digital.  I have a few digital RPG's but I find them difficult to read.  I'm old enough that my brain reads books, by that I mean that it skips around looking for highlighted and critical parts before settling on the actual text.  That's harder to do when you're only seeing a fraction of a single page.

Plus I like the tangibility of a book that I can read in bed or in the bath or where ever.

I will say this: the rise of digital warehouses of RPG material like drivethrurpg or lulu has allowed a lot of games to see the light of day that wouldn't have twenty years ago.  I've partaken of drivethru's Print on Demand options on more than one occasion and often it is a very affordable way to get the tangible copy of an RPG.

RPGaDAY Day 7: most important impact

What aspect of RPG's has had the biggest effect on you?

That I never stopped daydreaming with friends.

As a child, my constant playmate was my sister, who was only a year younger than me.  We would play with either Star Wars action figures (supplemented by action figures from G.I.Joe, Flash Gordon, the Black Hole, and the Fisher Price Adventure People) and spin long yarns playing out stories for hours.

When we got older and started having a pretty stereotypical sibling-rivalry relationship, I still keep dreaming about heroes: superheroes and action heroes and the like.  I had discovered RPG's, but really hadn't found the friends with which to play them.  I would often just hang out by myself in the back yard, dreaming up stories.

Eventually I found a group, and kept working at finding people with whom I could share my ideas and we could make stories together.  Now it's a big way I relate to my children. It's not hard to imagine some parallel universe where I just l…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 5: stories about me

What stories does your gaming group tell about your character?

So, this post is two days late, and for good reason.  I went onto FB and asked the many friends from my college days for a good story about a character I played.  They didn't have any.  Many cited campaigns I led (missing the point of the question), but no PC activity.  When I joined that group, I was the youngest person, a novice player, but I quickly hopped to the GM position.  Honestly I was a little bummed out about the silence on that one.

My current gaming group mentioned the time my science teacher in the "FATE of the Dead" campaign poisoned an entire homicidal frat house and burned the place down.  So it is not a complete wash.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 6: most amazing thing done for their community

Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

It's not a gaming group per se, but rather the local gaming store.  Each year Hometown Games does a huge event for the Ballard Center, a community organization in Lawrence, Kansas.  There are special tournaments where the entry fee is a donation, special auctions, etc.  All told their raise quite a bit of money and other donations throughout that event.  One of many reasons why I patronize that store.

In my own gaming group, several of our adolescent members have discussed starting a gaming club at their school to introduce gaming to more people and perhaps find a welcoming venue for gamers who don't have one.  Last year one of the younger members hosted a one-off event as part of a wider school function and got eight students to show up and play.  The adult members have talked about how we can support them by providing miniatures, terrain, story ideas, etc.  I hope that all comes to fruition.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 4: most impressive thing another character did

Must like yesterday, this question strikes me in a weird way, mostly because every time we game I ask players to write down the coolest thing another player did.  And my players are the kind of people who relish the big action moment, the ton of damage, etc.  On occasion they cite a clever turn someone played, which is cool.

But I'm going to go about 15 degrees off course on this question by talking about the coolest thing I ever saw a player do.  Namely come back.  I'll explain.

A long time ago, I was running Castles & Crusades for two couples and another single adult and a couple of kids (all of whom belonged to one of us).  It was my first time running C&C, the Rosetta Stone of the Old School Renaissance and I really didn't know what I was doing.  I mean, the story was fine--a long campaign entitled "The Legacy of the Dragon" and was kind of a dungeon/hexcrawl mix.  What I didn't grasp was that in OSR games you reward experience for treasure.  Or …

50,000 Pageviews!

So, in the middle of the RPGaDAY blogathon, a milestone...

It crept on me, mostly due to some weird, likely robot-related activity.  I swear half my views are from non-entities thinking I'm a gambling website.  Hey, komradi, I'm not!  I'm a small blog about roleplaying games!

Anyways, thanks for all the real people reading this blog. I appreciate it your support, your input, and in many cases your friendship.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 3: most proud moment?

Character moment you are proudest of?  (Or, says the grammarian, the character moment of which you are the most proud.)

This is a tough one for two reasons: first, I rarely actually am a player.  The fact that I'm playing in not one but two RPG's right now is such a rarity that I can not remember the last time that happened.  Second, I tend to not be a "in the spotlight" player.  I get a lot of attention when I run games--I don't need it as a player.  In fact, I know how hard it is on GM's when they have to juggle lots of people who want their PC to have "their moment."

So my modus operandi is to play characterful support PC's, like Doug Spohler, high school science teacher in the "Fate of the Dead" campaign or Garaatha the Wookie sidekick/mentor to my daughter's bounty hunter in Star Wars.  Even in D&D 4E I played a Tiefling Warlord, mostly there to boost and heal the rest of the party.

When I was younger, I tended play the (h…

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 2: best session of the year?

Best game session since August 2015?

I had to check, because "Negative Crisis" was in June 2015 (has it been over a year)?  That multi-genre, multi-campaign session was a lot of fun.  But, it's outside the envelope so I'll go with the closing session of my massive D&D campaign.  It featured the entire gaming group and a second GM helping me run parallel sessions.  The ending was a little bit of a letdown, but it was nice to end a campaign on a neat and tidy note.

RPGaDAY 2016 Day 1: Dice?

Okay, let's see if I can manage this.  First question: Real dice, dice app, diceless?

I use real dice almost always.  I have a dice roller app, Dice Ex, that I use when I'm out and about and don't want to haul dice around, but that's rare.  And I haven't played a diceless RPG in over 20 years.

Easy start.  Looks like the questions get more detailed as it goes along.