Monthly Archives: August 2015

#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite RPG Setting

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Is it a cop-out to say the Star Wars universe because there’s a galaxy of possibilities? It feels like a cop-out. I can’t even name my own setting (The World of Calliome) because there are decisions I made when writing the first novel set there that I wouldn’t make now. I don’t want to ret-con these decisions because the books I wrote then were the best work I was capable of producing at the time and it feels cheap to change stuff from back then just because I have a better idea now.

Yeah, the Star Wars universe. If I want all out Sith vs. Jedi, I can just play in the Old Republic, some 3000 years before the films. If I want scum & villainy smugglers, I can play in the Rebellion era Corporate Sector. If I want conventional war with space wizards, I can play in the Clone Wars. It can handle exploration if you play in the Unknown Regions or the Rishi Maze. Go to the Core Worlds for political intrigue. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Of course, not all settings are appropriate for all type of games. You COULD do horror in Star Wars, but I think it works better in Victorian-era Earth or even the first half of the 20th century (somehow, at lot of the tropes of horror games start to break down once you get cell phones and the Internet). Espionage works better (for me) during the Cold War on Earth (though there was a Cold War during the Old Republic, as seen in the first 2/3rds of The Old Republic MMORPG). D&D’s various settings, especially Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms seem more suited to dungeon crawling adventures than an Arthurian-era Earth setting would be.

Really the answer is: it depends on the game.

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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite Horror RPG

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There can be only one: Call of Cthulhu.

Of course, I haven’t played any others. But, I do own Call of Cthulhu and I’ve played it several times. I ran a pseudo-CoC game using Savage Worlds/Realms of Cthulhu one Halloween and modified the classic adventure “The Haunting” for use in an Old West setting. Last March, I played in a proper Call of Cthulhu game at Gary Con. It was based on the Destination America show “Mountain Monsters.” Basically, the show is a team of hillbillies tracking and attempting to capture cryptids in the Appalachians. They take it so seriously, it’s actually kind of endearing. The scientific method or modern methods of investigation are nowhere in the neighborhood of these guys as they investigate the Grassman of Ohio or the various bigfoot tribes of the Appalachians. Which, of course, makes them the perfect models for Call of Cthulhu PCs.

I’ve been wanting to run an Achtung! Cthulhu game for some time now. Basically, it’s WWII meets Call of Cthulhu, or the first 15 minutes of the first Hellboy movie (or any of the Wolfenstein games once they start bringing in the occult). Trail of Cthulhu also looks like a good alternative for groups that want to really focus on the roleplaying investigation portion of the game (which is where the Gumshoe system shines).

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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite Supers RPG

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I don’t really have a favorite supers RPG. I played a bit of the TSR Marvel Superheroes RPG back in the day, but it never really grabbed me, nor did its contemporary DC counterpart. I tried Mutants & Masterminds (2nd edition), too during the height of the d20 System years. I found it to be supremely flexible, but difficult to grok; I literally needed a spreadsheet for character creation. Plus, I always had trouble with the age old dilemma of “Are the characters secondary to the ‘famous’ supers of the universe or are they brand new supers no one has heard of.”

I also find it hard to come up with character ideas that aren’t just expies of established comic book characters. Even my longest running City of Heroes (an MMORPG) character was basically a version of Iron Man (Atom Man! A scientist shrunk by atomic rays and used dark energy to power his supersuit… or something like that; it’s been YEARS, so I can’t remember the backstory I had for him). Basically, I was playing Iron Man years before Robert Downey, Jr. was. I’m the ORIGINAL HIPSTER IRON MAN. Well, Iron Man crossed with Ant Man. Without the ant-controlling powers. And the alcoholism. And the domestic violence.

You know what? Atom Man was BETTER than Iron Man and Ant Man combined!

I had pretty good luck with using Fate Accelerated to run a Saturday Morning Superheroes game. Granted, the “heroes” I used were characters like Captain Caveman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Yogi Bear, Hong Kong Phooey, Grape Ape, and The Smurfs (all of them as a gestalt character).

On the horizon, is the Sentinels Universe supers roleplaying game. I’ve played Sentinels of the Multiverse exactly once (and once on my Kindle Fire, but I got my ass kicked by the computer), but I liked it a lot. So, I’m looking forward to what they do with it.

The first full-length novel I ever wrote was a near-future supers novel. I ought to revise that someday and publish it. I need a snappier name than The neXt Generation, though (and a new ending).


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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite SF RPG

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This question can get a little wonky because some people don’t consider Star Wars to be proper sci-fi. I can see how one might argue it’s really fantasy in space. I also can’t really decided between Fantasy Flight Games’s new Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force & Destiny system (does it have a proper name? Star Wars Funky Dice System?) or the classic West End Games D6 system (which is one of my great RPG loves and one of only two games I’ve ever felt like I really mastered; the other is AD&D 2nd Edition). So, I’m going to go with my pick for Favorite Free RPG: Star Frontiers!

I like Star Frontiers so much, I used some of the aliens as inspiration in my Zack Jackson YA sci-fi fiction series. It was the first non-fantasy RPG that really captured my imagination, despite only having played it once in more than twenty years. The system is a pretty basic d% system and some of the skills aren’t quite a relevant now as they were in the 80s, but it still plays pretty well.

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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite Fantasy RPG

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I have to go with Dungeons & Dragons. It was my first RPG and the fantasy RPG to which I always return. There are plenty of other fine fantasy RPGs out there (Dungeon Crawl Classics, HackMaster, Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE, any retroclone), but none have that special place in my gamer heart like D&D. Just don’t ask “Which edition?” because that’s an entirely different question.

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#RPGaDay2015 – Longest Game Session Played

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I think 12 hours is about the longest I’ve played at once. We had bathroom and food-run breaks, but the game officially started at noon and broke about midnight (or later if we were in the middle of a combat). It was a once-a-month game and I drove about 40 minutes one-way to get there. I didn’t last long. I think I stuck with it for 3-4 sessions before driving home in the middle of the night after 12 hours gaming was just too difficult. It was more difficult than those all-nighter games in college (those usually didn’t start until 10pm, so even if they broke at 5am, that’s only 7 hours).

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#RPGaDay2015 – Longest Campaign Played

RPG a day 2015 - TwitterProbably the longest campaign I ever played lasted just over a year-and-a-half. It was a D&D 3.X (we transitioned in the middle of the campaign between 3rd edition and 3.5) taking place in the World’s Largest Dungeon. When you play a published adventure for such a long time, you become acutely aware of editing mistakes and inconsistencies in the text. You also find very quickly where the limitations in the source material lie. For example, WLD was written in the early days of 3rd edition. By the time we started, several “splat-books” had been released, greatly expanding the options available to characters and my policy for this campaign of “anything goes” (that’s the last time I ever did that!) resulted in characters which were way above the power level the designers expected. As a result, many encounters, particularly in the early parts of the dungeon, were way too easy for the PCs. Some of my players at the time were hardcore min-maxing power gamers, as well. Still, we stuck with it and by the end of the campaign, several players had develop some very bad habits, like kill first-never talk. It took YEARS to break some of them of that.

I haven’t been able to stay interested in a campaign that long since. I think it broke me.


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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite RPG Accessory

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There are a lot of great accessories, but the ones I have are often pretty game specific. I debated between Campaign Coins (I use the Fate Tokens and the D20 Crits or Fails coins for Inspiration in my D&D 5E game) and Dwarven Forge. For pure geekery, I’m going to go with Dwarven Forge. They’re like building blocks (or Lego bricks) for GMs. If you use miniatures, they add another dimension that really makes an encounter or location memorable.

Of course, if you don’t have a table with a central inset surface, they can cause visibility issues. They’re also expensive. But, they’re awesome accessories. Most accessories are luxury items by nature. Back in the day, we didn’t use miniature, battlemaps, or heck, even character sheets!

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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite RPG Podcast

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Oooh, here’s another one that’s just asking for it. If I pick a favorite, will someone say the ENnie Awards is showing bias if they happen to win in the future? Possibly. I don’t actually listen to many RPG podcasts because I find if I’m not actually playing the game they’re talking about, then the podcast doesn’t hold much interest for me. Which is why I tend to favor podcasts that have a general topic (like RPG news or generalized gaming advice). Also, I know several of the podcasters personally, and picking one doesn’t seem right. So, what I listen to, in alphabetical order:

Atomic Array (which hasn’t actually updated in well over a year, but I still have a subscription)
Fear the Boot (I’ve been publishing in their speculative fiction anthologies, too!)
Flagons & Dragons (it has gone away; they put out the ONLY Actual Play podcast I could listen to for any length of time)
Haste (the official Obsidian Portal Podcast, which I believe is going away, but I still have a subscription)
Underdiscussion, the Undergopher Podcast (they’re huge supporters of my novels)

The rest of the podcast I listen to actually have nothing to do with RPGs or tabletop gaming.

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#RPGaDay2015 – Favorite RPG Illustration

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Man, oh man. This is a tough one. I’ve seen hundreds of pieces of fantastic and evocative art from Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Erol Otus, and others that formed the basis of what I think of when I think of fantasy. Later came the art for sci-fi RPGs and cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and other genres. I can’t really pick just one as my favorite illustration (what I like in art is greatly affected by my current mood, as well).

I like art that puts so much detail in, you can always find something you didn’t notice the first dozen times you look at a picture. Like this red dragon by the late, great Keith Parkinson (whom I was privileged to meet at the last Gen Con he attended). I had this as a poster in my room as a teen and didn’t notice the ship in the background for months.

great red dragon2

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