RPGaDAY Thirty-One

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

On a personal note, I’m excited by the prospect of more and regular gaming. The groups I play with and DM for have become much better at scheduling, which means a regular gaming schedule overall, which means more games getting played every week. Currently I DM for two groups and play in two others, which averages out to three games every two weeks. I have two other groups for Pathfinder which I need to get back on track, though I might be switching at least one of those groups to another game system. That would get me up to two games a week with a nice balance between running and playing. That would leave me room to run the occasional one-shot game for systems I like and want to try out.

As for RPGs as a whole, I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry will continue to change in 2018. Live-streaming games continues to be popular, led by Critical Role and Maze Arcana, and that has had a huge impact on the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, and other games to a lesser extent. I’m curious to see if that popularity continues through another year, and what effect that will have on the industry. Paizo just released Starfinder, and the response has been strong so that seems poised to impact the industry. But sci-fi games have always been a harder sell than fantasy RPGs, so how big that impact will be depends on how well Paizo develops it going forward. And digital tools and supports continue to develop for tabletop gaming, so I look forward to watching how that affects my hobby in 2018.

In the meantime, I have the rest of 2017 to get through. This is the final post for RPG a Day 2017, so we return you to our regularly scheduled 2+ posts a week. So stay tuned!

RPGaDAY Thirty

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Let me start by saying what genres I’m tired of seeing mashed in RPGs: anything to do with zombies or cthulhu. Zombies are well over in my opinion. They’ve been done well once or twice, but now it’s time to move along. And I love cthulhu (Ia! Ia! Ftagn!) but if we need horror and dread there is plenty in our own world to use without dragging poor Cthulhu out of R’lyeh all the time. If you want cthulhian dread, play Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu.

It’s not really a genre as far as I’m aware, but I would love to see more social consciousness and awareness seep into gaming. Science fiction and fantasy, as genres, have always been at the forefront of challenging social norms and pushing boundaries in what we believe is possible. I’d love to see games which, instead of focusing the players on imaginary issues, directed them toward solving real issues we face now. Maybe that’s why I’m burnt out on Cthulhu in games; it’s something unknowable which man cannot possibly stand against in any meaningful way. But there are tonnes of things against which we can make a stand, and making games to demonstrate that may be one of the best ways to show folks that they can do something in their real lives.

Don’t worry, I don’t think that means that we leave off killing goblins, or zapping…space goblins (maybe I need to examine my anti-goblin attitudes). And I’m not advocating some sort of “educational game” like Social Consciousness RPG. But why not some games which deal with issues of race? Or poverty? And hey, maybe they’re out there and I just haven’t seen them yet. That would be amazing to look forward to, so please share any that you know.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Nine

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

One I’m currently in the throes of, the Reaper Bones 4 Kickstarter. Every time Reaper runs a Kickstarter for their new Bones line of miniatures, it is is like getting a birthday present that keeps getting cool stuff added to it. Okay, and you have to pay for, but still. Every campaign starts with a $30,000 goal which gets blown by in minutes; with a little less than a week to go, they are sitting at $1,820,275.

Their method is simple. To get the core set of miniatures, the buy-in is $100. That sounds like a lot, but wait, there’s more! The base set usually starts with about 25-30 miniatures, ranging in size from the standard character size minis to large minis like giants and such, to huge minis like a 13″ tall dragon. As the campaign goes along, Reaper alternates between adding minis to the base set and releasing add-ons which can be added to your order for the listed price. Currently, at $100 the base set gets you 125 miniatures, plus a package each of 1″ and 2″ round bases. And there is every chance another dozen or so miniatures will be added to the base set before the September 2 deadline, so even with shipping that works out to less than a dollar per miniature. On miniatures which would retail between $3 and $15 in stores. How can I not back this Kickstarter?

Definitely check it out, it’s a very impressive campaign and it draws me in every time they run it.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Eight

What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

Depends on the group. One group is packed with Old Gamers, so we tend to a lot of quotes from Eighties and Nineties sci-fi and fantasy movies (Ice Pirates, Ladyhawke, Time Bandits), with the standard stuff from the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises. Some of my younger groups, however, tend to quote from Harry Potter or the latest Doctor Who. And then I’m a big fan of new series like Killjoys and Dark Matter, so I’ll quote them when the opportunity presents.

I find every gaming group has their own list of favourite quotes, and that can tell me a lot about how I’m going to fit in that group. Not so much the quotes themselves, but how members of a group react if you don’t “get” the quote. Because it’s a form of shared communication within the group, how the group treats outsiders really comes through in how they treat you as you learn the special codes and phrases. I’ve sometimes pretended not to understand a movie reference, just to see their reaction. And I’ve left groups where this stuff was meant to be a gatekeeping device. I only have so much time to game in a week, so if a group thinks I need to pass some sort of quiz to play with them, I don’t need to be there.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven

What is the best way to thank your GM?

Be a good player. Show up on time, shut off the electronics at the table, and pay attention. In combat, be ready when your turn comes around so you aren’t slowing things down. Your GM puts in a bunch of work behind the scenes which you will never see. Thank them with your attention and good behavior.

But I’ll also accept an ice-cold Crabbie’s ginger beer or three.

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Pathfinder RPG, just by sheer volume of useful sourcebooks and gaming material. If I wanted to start another Pathfinder campaign, I’d be literally spoiled for choice because I’d have a sourcebook and probably an adventure path to support me where ever I set the campaign in Golarion. Heck, I could start the campaign on another planet in the solar system and be okay, because there’s a sourcebook for that. And that doesn’t include the very useful flip-mats, magnetic combat pad, miniatures (paper and plastic), and the many other support products they have available. You could start a Pathfinder campaign with very little advance preparation, and that can be a godsend for the busy GM.

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Having just said how much I love the many tools available from Paizo for gaming, I’m not going to back-track a bit and say: nothing. There is no piece of equipment, really, that I absolutely must have in order to run a game. Obviously, if I’m just playing then I need whatever the system requires me to have to play. But if I’m GMing, I can do that with nothing more than paper and a pencil (I don’t include those as tools, because I have them around all the time, even when I’m not gaming). I can ask a few questions to get an idea of what the players want to play, a few more to get an idea of the setting and tone they want, and we can go.

Flipping the question a bit, and assuming I’m already in a campaign for something, then my answer is also: player buy-in. I’m willing to tweak things to better fit my players and their characters, but I need my players to trust me and buy-in to the world I’m creating. If I don’t have that then the game isn’t going to be fun for any of us, and I’d rather just play a boardgame.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

It’s not one that I own, but please check out anything to do with Invisible Suns by Monte Cook Games. It Kickstarted as a deluxe gaming system, and it is a beautiful work of art before you even play the game. Add to that all the gorgeously-themed digital support for the game, and in my opinion the game is definitely worth the high price tag. I wouldn’t want every game to go this route, but I’m happy there are a few games releasing luxury versions.

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

All of them. I don’t think pay what you will should be an option. I think if you are selling stuff on DriveThru RPG or DMs Guild, or any other online venue, you should set your price and spit in their eye if they don’t like it. That doesn’t mean go overboard, but figure out your price and run with it. Personally, I am less likely to purchase something which is pay what you can. I realize that makes me different from most people, but seeing PWYC next to an item tells me that the author doesn’t have confidence in their work. And if they don’t why would I?

I should note, I don’t have an issue with free items, because to me that’s just a useful marketing tool. I’ve given away things here on the blog, after all. Having an item or two you give away so folks can decide if your style matches what they are looking for is just good business, especially in this hobby. But otherwise, set your price.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Two

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

My desire for crunch has shifted through my RPG carreer. I find myself less enthused about keeping track of myriad rules and ensuring players follow them. When I GM something like Pathfinder, I believe it’s up to the player to keep track of their character’s rules details. If they forget something at a crucial point, so sad, moving on! But that can create an antagonistic feeling at the gaming table and I try to avoid setting up a GM vs Player dynamic.

So these days I tend toward games which don’t have a lot of crunch. Kobolds Ate My Baby! is a good example. It has a very simple rules system which is intuitive and gets out of the way of the players and lets them get to the not-so-serious business of being kobolds. And I like that. Once everyone has the rules sorted we just play, and I can improvise the stories without having to parse rules all the time.

I think this contributes to my enjoyment of D&D 5E. The current version borrows so heavily from earlier editions, while incorporating more modern system design, that I can comfortably just play the game without worrying about keeping a bunch of fiddly rules straight. I’ve played this game for so long it’s almost a reflex at this point. Even if I don’t know a rule, I can usually make something up to get us through the moment, and I usually find I was accidentally pretty close to the actual rule.

RPGaDAY Nineteen, Twenty, and Twenty-One

Which RPG features the best writing?

This seems to be another way of asking which RPG do I enjoy reading the most, and there are a few which top the list. I have enjoyed reading Shadowrun RPG material over the years, because they use the conceit that what you are reading is a BBS/Forum post. So the books are peppered to a greater or lesser extent with comments from characters in the Shadowrun world, and was such a cool way to immerse the reader in the world.

Currently I enjoy reading material for The Laundry RPG. The layout and sidebars help reinforce the bureaucratic nature of the game setting, and the excerpts from Charles Stross’ The¬†Laundry Files helps set the tone very nicely. I’m also in the middle of my annual re-read of the original Volo’s Guides, which are still my favourite supplements for any game setting.

What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I’ve found Noble Knight Games to be my best bet for finding something out-of-print. I have a few other places I’ll check if they don’t have the thing, like Troll and Toad or Ebay, but generally if NK doesn’t have it it’s not available. Or at least not available at a price point or in a condition I want to buy.

That said, if all I want is the information, not the physical book itself, then DriveThruRPG is my go-to resource for finding a clean .pdf copy I can read. Yes, I know I could likely find a free .pdf to download with just a Google search. But I always check DriveThru RPG first, because if they have it it means the company is getting some of the money from it’s sale, and I like keeping my hobby healthy by supporting game companies. Only if I can’t find it there do I search for a scanned .pdf, as my assumption at that point is that the company has no interest in making money off the product.

And I think I may have suggested it before, but check out sales at your local library. My library has a book sale of donated items every couple of months or so, and I can pickup soft cover books for $1 and hard cover books for $2. The last time I made it out to one, I walked away with 38 sourcebooks for $38, which is a pretty sweet price however you measure it. I just grab whatever I can find, because a sourcebook has to be pretty bad that I can’t get at least $1 worth of material from it, regardless of the game it’s for.

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

There are a number of really great one-page RPGs which do a yeoman’s work, but my current fav is John Harper’s Lasers & Feelings. The mechanics are incredibly simple, and yet tell you everything you need to know about not just the character, but the setting. And the game is super friendly to GMs who are low on prep time, with a simple yet evocative adventure generator. If you’re caught short on game night and need something quick and easy to play, bring this up on your tablet or laptop and get playing.

RPGaDAY Eighteen

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

No question, Dungeons & Dragons takes the title. I started playing when I discovered the game at age ten (I even wrote about it once), and I don’t think more than a few months have gone by since then when I haven’t been playing some form of Dungeons & Dragons. Being my first roleplaying game is certainly a part of my long love affair with D&D. But it has been useful as my baseline as I explore other games, a handy comparative as I explore new games and whether I like them.

Saying that, it’s not that a game has to be like D&D for me to enjoy it. It’s more that I want a game to give me a similar feeling to when I discovered D&D. I want a roleplaying game to excite me, I want to need to play it. I want the act of making a character for the game to be engaging. I remember very well how I felt about all of this when I played D&D for the first time, and I compare my first exposure to every other game I’ve ever played to that feeling. How close it replicates that feeling for me determines how much I’ll enjoy a particular game.

RPGaDAY Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I’ve posted quite often about the fun I’m having developing my own world for my D&D 5E campaigns. Whether it was planned or not, I think it was smart for WotC to launch the new edition without a defined campaign setting, as it allowed DMs to decide for themselves where they wanted the game set. And while they did eventually release material set in the Forgotten Realms, that hasn’t been so obtrusive as to overshadow the game’s use in other settings.

I’ll get back to posting about my campaign setting, Cotterell, over the next few months. There have been changes and additions to the setting which have come through game play with my two campaign groups. As well, as I’ve had time to think more about the world, I’ve changed aspects of it which neither group has encountered yet, so the surprise will still be intact.

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

There is no RPG I’ve ever played or game-mastered that I haven’t modified in some way, so the honest answer is none. The Pathfinder RPG, however, comes as close as I get to playing/running a game without heavy modding or house-ruling. The Golarion setting is so rich and well-detailed, I rarely have to do anything beyond adjusting details to fit a particular group of characters. As well, there are just so many character options that I have rarely had to mod the rules to get a particular character build.

I’ll admit that Pathfinder isn’t for everyone, and I’ll also admit it sometimes deserves its nickname of “Mathfinder”. It is definitely a game which appeals to the players who loved D&D 3.5 (I was one) and want to keep that kind of game going. I still enjoy running and playing it; I have never succumbed to the need to decry a game once it fell out of heavy rotation for me. While the new D&D and several other indie games have caught me eye of late, I keep coming back to Pathfinder for the rich setting. And I’m excited to see what Starfinder holds in store.

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

There is no one RPG which can claim this title, as I collect RPG material new and old. So I have shelves of games I have picked up to read, but have never made it to the table. I used to have a low-level anxiety about that fact, but I’ve since sorted that out. Because I collect and somewhat study tabletop games, my purchasing drives and habits are different from most gamers, who tend to purchase only what they’ll immediately use. And the material I buy certainly sees use, even if I don’t play it all the time.

That said, when my local RPG convention rolls around I try to dust off some games I haven’t looked at in a while, and sign up to run those. So if you’re in Edmonton and coming to IntrigueCon (and you should), I’ll be running sessions for The Laundry RPG as well as an Indian-Jones inspired scenario for Kobolds Ate My Baby!. I might add a third session, but I’ll wait and see what everyone else is running first; I might find I want to play more than I want to GM for a third time.