RPGaDay, Day 6: Favourite RPG I Never Get to Play

A game I desperately want to play but never have is Fiasco. I love caper/heist/crime movies full of lovable losers, where things don’t go so well, but somehow they pull through. Or don’t, that’s part of the fun. But I’ve wanted to play this game since I first heard about it. That feeling intensified when Wil Wheaton played it over three amazing episodes of Tabletop (Setup) (Part 1) (Part 2). Watch them and you’ll get it. Also, Alison Haislip’s ‘dead eyes’ will haunt my dreams.

I don’t even have a real excuse for not playing it yet. My friend Scott is willing to run the game at the drop of a hat. He’s got every Fiasco setting book ever printed (or damn near), and I know we have friends to play with us because they’ve already run through it with him. There’s even a Fiasco scenario set at Gen Con! Everything and everyone is conspiring to make it clear I should play this game.

So it will happen. I’ll nail down a night in mine and Scott’s busy schedules, and we’ll get this played. After all, besides real life, when am I going to get a better chance to play the lovable loser?

What game haven’t you played, that you want to? Drop me a note in the comments.

RPGaDay, Day 5: Most Old School RPG Owned

I’ve culled a lot of my collection over the past few years, but I’ve kept a few things which mean a lot to me. One of those is a copy of Metamorphosis Alpha, an early TSR sci-fi game. If it came out now, it would certainly fall in the beer-and-pretzels category of role-playing games; light, easy to get in to, and packed with fun.

The premise was simple: You are all passengers on the colony ship Warden. The ship has been struck by radiation, mutating you and your fellow passengers into horrid creatures. Worse, you no longer remember how to use much of the technology around you. Now, survive!

Did it make for many long-term campaigns? No. But we lost many an evening playing out the misadventures of our irradiated colonists. Through the haze of time I can’t think of a single moment that stands out, other than the good times spent. But that’s okay, the good times were enough. And I still pull interesting ideas and hooks from the game, even now.  So that was $6 well spent.

What’s your oldest game? Share in the comments!

RPGaDay, Day 4: Most Recent RPG Purchase

I was going to show-off the D&D Starter Set again, but that was bought for me, not by me. No, my most recent game purchase was the updated rules for Kobolds Ate My Baby!, over at Drive-Thru RPG. I’ve owned and played the previous edition for years, but I wanted the latest edition so I could see what was new, look at all the wonderful John Kovalic art, and support 9th Level Games.

If you’ve never heard of KAMB!, I suggest picking up your own copy and taking it out for a spin. It really is one of the finest beer-and-pretzel games I’ve played, and a perfect fit for a silly-fun evening with friends around a gaming table. I mean really, what’s not to love about playing kobolds in search of delicious babies to satisfy the voracious appetite of King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!)? Just remember, if the table is quiet, you’re doing it wrong.

RPGaDay, Day 3: First RPG Purchase

In our current age of internet shopping where gaming material is just a click away, it’s easy to forget things were not always so. In Fort McMurray, where I lived, gaming material was not available anywhere until about two years after I started playing. And then it was whatever the local Cole’s Books felt like bringing in. The local library brought in The Dragon, so that helped scratch my hobby itch. I received the Dungeons & Dragons box set for Christmas the year I started playing only because my Mother mailed away for it. Yes, in 1980 we were savages.

No, in those first formative years, if I wanted to buy a gaming book I had to travel. And that meant hoping we’d get close to a book store when the family went to Edmonton, the nearest large city, about 500 km to the south. It was in one such store in the newly opened West Edmonton Mall that I found a copy of G1-2-3: Against the Giants. That shrink-wrapped little beauty immediately grabbed my attention, and I gladly parted with $12 of my hard-won allowance to take it home with me.

Thus began the season of slaughter. Of course I had no idea what Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was at the time. We just figured that if the module was for characters Level 8-12, we could balance that out by using three 3rd-4th level characters each. That would work, right? The Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain was littered with our miscalculations.

But hours upon hours of fun ensued. And on later trips to West Edmonton Mall I would find the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual, which expanded my gaming mind and our mayhem potential exponentially.

What was your first RPG purchase?

RPGaDay, Day 2: First RPG GMed

Since Dungeons & Dragons was my first game played, you might think it was the first game I game mastered. But that ‘honour’ goes to another TSR product, Gamma World. For those not in the know, Gamma World was set in a grim, post-apocalyptic world full of strange technology and irradiated mutant creatures. Some of those last included the player characters, who could be normal humans (rarely), mutants, or anthropomorphic animals and/or plants. You were explorers in a landscape that was familiar and horribly broken.

Now, I say it was grim, but I don’t remember any session being particularly serious. The only real context any of us had for the setting was what we saw in film and TV at the time, so our games were laden with every cliché we could find. One guy played nothing but variations on Mad Max. Another insisted on playing the post-apocalyptic version of Ewoks at every opportunity, making them way more cannibalistic than I remember from Return of the Jedi. We basically did everything that any campaign creation or game mastering resource will tell you not to do. Which was okay because, a) we were in junior high, and b) we had metric butt-loads of fun.

In fact, I sort of feel sorry for the current generation of young minds entering the hobby. There is such a wealth of well-meaning and sophisticated advice and instruction on how to game master and play RPGs, that I think many new young players miss out on the, in my opinion, crucial phase of gaming: the ‘As Long As You’re Having Fun You’re Doing It Right’ phase. It’s the phase where your Big Bad isn’t inspired by Ash, it is Ash down to his S-Mart boomstick. Where you unapologetically play a post-apocalyptic Wolverine, because hey, if anyone was going to survive a nuclear holocaust it would be him, right? I think we sometimes cut that phase of unrestricted play short, and we do young players and GMs a disservice.

What was the first game you GMed? Leave it in the comments!

For Those Just Tuning In…

After a break away from the blog I like to just jump back in. But that break was long enough I felt I should acknowledge it for at least a moment…and the moment’s past, let’s dive in!

I had a clever plan (and a buffer built up) where I was going to start back on Monday, August 4. But strolling around the internet I found this:

Click on the image to go to a larger version.

So everyone can go thank/blame Autocratik (you might know him better as David F. Chapman) for bringing me back three days earlier than I intended. Which I’m okay with, actually. I was going to ease back in, but a 31-day challenge seems like a much better way to get back on the horse.

Day 1: First RPG Played

I’ve mentioned before that Dungeons & Dragons was my first RPG ever. A stylized accounting of my first taste can be found here, but suffice to say said taste was enough to keep me coming back for more. With all the sophisticated, dare I say, complicated rules systems out there today, it’s hard to image a set of rules as simple as early D&D providing much entertainment. But at the same time it was setting me on a future course I could only imagine, this colourful box with its black & white line art and hard to read dice was providing me hours of fun and adventure with my friends.

My regular Thursday night gaming group, guys I’ve gamed with for 20140801_204112almost 8 years, got me the newest iteration of the ‘basic’ rules. And I have to admit, I felt that same little tingle as I opened up the new box and looked inside. While other games have become new favourites over the years, there will never be a time my shelf and gaming table won’t have room for Dungeons & Dragons. Say what you will, there is adventure in that box.

 

Campaign Creation: Messing with FATE

If you tune in regularly to the blog you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking all I play is Pathfinder. I’m the Venture-Captain for Edmonton, Golarion is my current favourite setting, and I am currently GMing three different Pathfinder campaigns. But despite that busy schedule, I do find time to cheat on Pathfinder play other role-playing games.

One of those games is FATE. I’m relatively new to the system, but everything I’ve read I’ve loved. So when my buddy Scott wanted to start a FATE campaign and invited me to play I jumped on-board. As we developed the ideas for the campaign we decided to set it in an alternate version of our own city of Edmonton. As part of that process, Scott asked each of us to come up with two Faces and two Places to populate our world. I thought I’d share what I created.

While the other players chose to create people and places from scratch, I used actual people and places here in my neighbourhood. I like making alternate versions of actual locations and people for games like this, and I did similar things when I ran both Shadowrun and D20 Modern games set in Edmonton. So if you’re local these might seem familiar; if you aren’t, here’s a little taste of my town.

*     *     *

Faces

Mike Perrino – Mike is the owner/proprietor of Whyte Knight Market. Mike seems to know what anything (or anyone) is worth; as a result he’s become the go-to guy for folks looking to buy and sell the weird, wonderful, and worrisome. You might not like the price he offers (or the price he charges) but Mike will buy and sell anything, from a bulk lot of lightly used 1920’s bed pans to a simian phrenology statue to that weird thing that’s hung on the Market’s wall forever. It’s also common knowledge a good story might help you get a price down or an offer up. Because it’s common knowledge, your story had better be pretty damn good.

Known Aspects: Size You Up with a Glance, Amuse Me

Sam the Hat – A fixture of Whyte Avenue’s bar scene, Sam the Hat is easily spotted by the stack of cheap cowboy hats he wears on his head at any given moment. A friendly Cree man of indeterminate age, Sam appears to make his living selling his hats for a Twonie a pop to drunk bar-flies along the Avenue. Always friendly, always with a joke or a bit of clowning…and always with a stack of hats. Sometimes dozens, sometimes as few as three or four, but never running out. Maybe he has them stashed all along Whyte Avenue. Maybe some unseen partner drops them off to him. Maybe he’s Wesakechak (that’s Whiskey Jack to you).

Known Aspects: Can’t Help But Smile, Fear the Clown

Places

Whyte Knight Market (Whyte Avenue) – Some might call it a curio shop, some might call it a junk store. But if you are looking for something truly weird or eclectic and can’t think of who in the world would sell it, chances are the Market has two of them. You might just be able to find anything on the shelves or hanging on a hook. And sometimes you find things you didn’t even know you needed until you saw them. For a price, of course.

Known Aspects: The Weirder the Better, You Might Just Find You Get What You Need

The Strathcona Hotel (Whyte Avenue) – The Strat, as she is affectionately known to locals, has stood on the corner of Whyte and 103 Street since before there was a Whyte and 103rd Street, or any street, really. They’ve prettied up the outside and slapped a nice historical plaque by the door, but everyone knows the Strat for what it is: a flophouse. If you need a cheap place to hang your hat undisturbed, the Strat has a room for you. In fact the Strat always seems to have a room, regardless of how many folks check in. At least no one will bother you.

Known Aspects: Bigger on the Inside, Can Not Disturb

Any FATE players out there? What Faces and Places have you created? Share in the comments if you are so inclined.

GM Resources: One Page Dungeon Contest

There is such a wealth of Game Master resources on-line, I often find something extremely useful and then lose track of it. The One Page Dungeon contest is one of those resources, and I’m indescribably happy to have found it again.

The contest idea makes it cool enough: design an interesting dungeon (including map) which fits on a single side of a standard sheet of paper. This limitation forces the entrants to strip away any extraneous elements and focus on the essentials of their dungeon design. You might think this would lead to a lot of 1 or 2 room , simple dungeon sites. And luckily you’d be wrong. Every year the contest draws page upon page of amazing and imaginative designs, both in the content of the dungeon and the design of the page layout. Many of the entries, while great encounters, are also stunning to look at; fitting the maximum amount of dungeon on a single page leads to some incredible examples of cunning art and design. If you’d like to challenge yourself as a designer, I highly recommend entering the contest. This year it ends on April 30 and complete rules can be found here.

Now it sounds fun and worth a look. But what makes this a particularly good resource for GMs is the contest has been running since 2009, and all entries in the contest must publish themselves under the Creative Commons license. These two things make this site a veritable toy box for the busy Game Master. There are literally hundreds of excellent dungeon sites available, all of them perfect to print and play. Many of the entries are system neutral, or are at least rules/setting light, so time spent adapting to your game will be minimal. I’ve already grabbed a few to use in one of my current Pathfinder campaigns, and my total time spent working them up was 10 minutes, including print time.

A great contest and a great resource. If you have time I highly recommend just scrolling through the gallery. For me the tour was worth it just to come across a one-page dungeon set inside a certain demon idol familiar to 1st Ed. D&D players. I’ll be running that one soon…

Leaving the Den

Those what know me know I suffer from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Long story short, lack of sunlight during winter triggers seasonal depression. I have several coping mechanisms to allow necessities (like work), but it does tend to leave me hibernating for much of the winter months, like a nerdy bear.

This year’s hibernation has come to its inevitable end, and I am wandering back into the wild. That means you’ll see much more activity around the blog as I get back to the work of play. If you waited patiently through the posting drought, thank-you; rain clouds are coming. If you didn’t, well, you’re likely not reading this anyway. But maybe you’ll find your way back.

To ease in, today’s post is just some gaming related personal news. I’m working on a buffer right now; I thought a lot about gaming (and played a fair amount, when people came to the “den”) , so I have some stuff to share in the next while. But for today, let me catch you up…

- My buddy Devin and I are hosting a regular monthly board game day, and I’m pretty excited about it. Devin wanted to play more board games and so did I, so he had the idea to just set a day and play with whomever shows up. I’m supplying the play space, we sent out an initial run of invites, and we’ll add to the invite list as we go. It’s a great opportunity for us to try new board games, as well as playing with different people since we won’t be sure about who will be there every month. So if you live in Edmonton and want to join us the last Sunday of every month, leave a comment.

- I am probably playing Hearthstone more than is good for me. But it scratches a CCG itch I didn’t know was still there. Blizzard has done a great job making the game fun and 98% douche-free, that last through the simple expedient of not having any sort of chat function between the players. The free-to-play but pay-to-play-better model does mean I run into the occasional “wallet deck”, but I’m used to that from my (ancient) Magic:TG days (Ice Age was the last expansion I played). As long as I keep having fun I’ll keep playing, so if you’re playing as well look me up. Username is Argentbear.

- While nothing will ever knock Pathfinder out of top spot, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is firmly in my second-favourite RPG spot at the moment. I’m playing in one campaign and about to start play in another, and I can’t get enough of this game. Smart mechanics and great setting development, both in service to creating good role-play, all in the Star Wars universe? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend you get on it. And don’t let the funny looking dice throw you, you’ll pick that up in no time.

That’s it for now. If I think of anything else I’ll pop back and add it in. Otherwise, look for regular posts to trickle in this week, with the return to regular flow starting next Monday. Soon the GM and Player advice will start flowing like it never went away.

D&D Release Dates Leaked

In a move which is either a “Whoops!” from on-line seller Barnes & Noble or a calculated testing of the waters by the Hasbro marketing team, the release dates and prices have been posted for the first new Dungeons & Dragons products in over a year (sorry, I don’t count reprints and trips back to the well). Looks like some sort of Starter Set will be available on July 15th for $19.99, with the Player’s Handbook following up about a month later for $49.95. No images, or in fact any useful information, are provided beyond book title, release date, and MSRP.

I have some thoughts about the newest Dungeons & Dragons iteration. Many thoughts, in fact, which this news has stirred up. So let me give you a few in no particular order:

* $49.95 for a Player’s Handbook!? In this age of game systems printing all-in-one core books, and even Pathfinder giving us a core book with player/GM info combined, I’m both surprised and dismayed at Wizards for hanging on to this publishing tactic. I get the D&D books have traditionally been broken down this way; I can see my 1st, 2nd, and 3.5ed books sitting comfortably on my shelf. But with all the talk of D&D Next (so glad they seemed to have dumped that moniker, by the way) being a new direction for the game, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to at least follow Pathfinder’s model and combine player and GM books together. Especially for a hefty half a C-note.

And assuming the other two books in the D&D triumvirate are priced the same, that’s a price tag of $150. $170, really, because as the release dates now stand there is no talk of a Dungeon Master’s Guide or Monster Manual, so if you want to play right away you’ll need to grab that Starter Kit. A prospect which, based on the quality of the 4e Red Box, underwhelms me. So $170 for the “core set”…Wizards, you are asking me to take a big leap of faith here.

* No confirmation yet, in either this  newly leaked info or in previous mentions from WotC, on whether digital downloads will be available at time of release. Or at all, actually. Again, not something you can really afford to skimp or skip these days. Given how WotC dropped the digital ball when 4e released, silence on this front could be good. But it’s debatable whether it’s worse to promise the moon and fail to deliver, or promise nothing and turn off potential pre-sales. But like many folks anxiously awaiting D&D’s return, I’m hoping they handle their digital offerings right this time.

* I am excited for a new D&D! Yeah, I know I started with a couple of negatives, but I am honestly excited to see new Dungeons & Dragons material on store shelves. D&D started me down the path of table-top gaming, lo those many decades ago. Like many first loves I’m always going to have an attraction to it, even if I’ve moved on in my heart. I want it to do well, I really do. It’s going to take something fairly extraordinary to make it my primary game again; Pathfinder has pretty well taken that spot. And with games like Numenera and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, it may even have a running battle as my second favourite.  But even with my misgivings, I know I’ll pick up the books at Gen Con and I know I’ll at least try to like the new game.

* While I hope it does well, I’m not of the same mind as a lot of folks who put a direct connection between the health of the table-top gaming industry and a new, healthy D&D. Yes, healthy gaming companies are good for the industry as a whole; if the new edition does well, WotC gets stronger, is in a position to employ freelancers, supplemental products can be produced, and so on. But I’d argue two things: 1) The gaming industry, for all intents and purposes, has lived without D&D for close to 2 years at this point. While I wouldn’t argue it’s at its strongest, it certainly isn’t weak. And, 2) When I hear most people talk about the new Age of Prosperity which will follow the newest D&D, they use the d20 release as an example. But much of what strengthened the gaming industry when 3rd/3.5 hit the market was the Open Gaming License (it could also be argued that it later weakened it, but that’s another article). So far there doesn’t seem to be any sign of anything similar coming with this edition, so I don’t think the effect will be as monumental as some hope.

Okay, those are some of my off-the-cuff thoughts about the new D&D. What do you think? Are you excited, meh, or somewhere in between? Drop a note in comments.

Musings of a Gaming Nerd

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