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.

RPGaDAY Thirteen and Fourteen

Describe a game experience that changed how you play?

What comes to mind is the first time I played the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Up to that point I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons, and other TSR games and their ilk. Games where we were very much the heroes, and as long as we didn’t get stupid we were going to win through to glory and treasure.

While we were heroes in Call of Cthulhu, almost none of the rest of what I knew up to that point applied. First, this was a realistic modernish setting, so the usual “murder-hobo” instincts were useless. Second, investigation trumped brute force. Sure, sometimes you needed to rough somebody up or engage in gun play. But just as often your characters were in libraries and museums, or searching weird locations for clues. And last, success was not only not guaranteed, but it was entirely possible you had failed well before the final encounter, you just didn’t know it yet. And none of that includes the possibility of debilitating madness.

So it was quite the mind shift for a young gamer. But once I understood how it worked, I loved it! When I eventually went back to playing D&D I brought some aspects of CoC with me, and that became my first experience with blending game systems as well.

Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Currently I’m enjoying D&D 5th Ed as my open-ended RPG of choice. The system is comfortable to me, combining enough aspects of the various editions of the game that I have no problem taking my games in whatever direction I need to with little fuss. And as long as a player is familiar with some version of D&D it’s easy to get that person in to the game. We’ll be touching on it in a later post, but the game also allows me to stretch my creative wings again; I’ve done more world building this year than I have in the previous 3-5.

That said, if I need a more modern setting, then I turn to FATE. Very intuitive and player friendly, and a great way to build a modern campaign.

RPGaDAY Twelve

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Not an RPG, but I have always found the old Dragon Magazine cover art to be inspiring, both as a young gamer seeing it as it was published, and now as a collector finding copies of the older magazines. And I enjoy it in a way I don’t enjoy much of the cover art I see these days, with some notable exceptions. From a layout perspective, I loved that the magazine tried hard for so long to keep as little clutter off the cover as possible. For a good long while it was just the title in one corner, the number of the issue in the other, and then the almost unobstructed art.

And I may be alone in this, but it seems like the pieces were much more interesting because they weren’t necessarily being done as cover art. The artist had created something beautiful, and then it was used as a cover. Not to say that work-to-order can’t also be beautiful; there is very little of Wayne Reynold’s work, for instance, which doesn’t inspire me. But so much RPG art these days is “meh”, and so obviously put in because it fit the space and sort of fit the theme…

Look, I’m not an artist, so obviously I don’t know much about the whole process of creating a piece or getting it our to a publisher for use, or anything about that whole process. I do have experience with layout work, and so I certainly understand how important it can be to get things just the right size and fit for the page. But I do wish there were more artists stepping up with a bit more character to their work. I can tell at a glance if a piece is by Larry Elmore or Jim Holloway, for instance, but with only a few exceptions I can’t tell you who the artists are in most of my games.

RPGaDAY Eleven

Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

This was a harder question to answer than I thought, because so many of the games I used to play which are now out of print are either, a) coming back into print thanks to crowdfunding, or b) such a product of their time, I’m not sure how popular they’d be today. In Nomine¬†RPG is a good example of the latter. It was so much a product of the ’90s Christian Occult B-movie craze (think The Prophecy) that I don’t know how well it would fare today. Though with the popularity of Supernatural and Lucifer, maybe it would be okay.

But my answer has to be Sky Realms of Jorune. It was the first of the ‘science fantasy’ settings I ever played/GMed, and it had such a unique take on the concept of “adventuring”, something I hadn’t seen before or since. In Sky Realms, one of the main goals of your character was to be of as great a service to society as possible, and have that service recorded by others. That last bit was important, because the person in question, if they wanted to record your service officially, had to either travel to a central location and have your name and service inscribed for all to see, or they had to go through quite a bit of trouble to send word through a third-party. And it wasn’t enough just to save the day, you had to do so in such a way that you didn’t appear to be doing it just for the notoriety. So a lot more thought went in to what you did, why you did it, and what exactly motivated you as a hero. Compare that to the all-too-common “murder hobo” tendencies of many gaming groups, and it was no wonder players at the time found it challenging. But I think it could make a successful comeback in the current gaming market, with the continued rise of indie games.

RPGaDay Ten

Where do you go for RPG reviews?

I spend very little time hunting down reviews for role-playing games. Part of that is because I curate the feeds on things like Facebook and other social media to bring gamine news to me, so I rarely have to hunt. But if I’m honest, I’m not interested in reviews beyond a small circle sources. The only reviews I tend to pay attention to, outside of that circle, are the product reviews left by folks who have bought the game in question. I’m a gaming nerd, and I’m very interested in hearing what my fellow gaming nerds think about the games that have caught my eye.

And yes, if you’re a gaming company and you don’t have a way for customers to post their opinion of your game in your online spaces, I do judge you for that. Allowing customers a chance to give immediate feedback is probably the best way to show me the company has confidence in their material. Of course, as I say that I acknowledge that I am terrible for getting back around to write customer reviews for products I’ve purchased. It’s something I am determined to improve at, especially if I can do it on Amazon or some other place where it will positively impact the product’s sales/exposure.

RPGaDAY Nine

What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Assuming we’re playing every week, 10 sessions works out to 2-1/2 months, which I would consider a short campaign. For short campaigns I tend to steer away from D&D or Pathfinder, and I look at some of my underplayed RPGs. Shadowrun or In Nomine are good choices for me, because I find it easy to develop shorter story lines for these games. I also find that, since my groups are very much in to fantasy role-playing, these make for nice change-of-pace games; my players will enjoy them for the short campaign, but be ready to come back to their D&D campaign once it’s over.

And that’s really the main use for a shorter campaign for me, as a palette cleanser between chapters in my long-term campaigns. So that being said, the one that will work for you will largely depend on what you play regularly. If you’re in a long running modern or sci-fi game, a short dip into fantasy might be your best bet, for instance.