Author Archives: hccummings

About hccummings

Here you will find out about Hans's writing and other projects. Feel free to leave comments. As time goes by, this site will become more sophisticated and hopefully, be able to provide you with all the information you need about his novels, short stories, and fantasy & sci-fi worlds.

#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

The vast majority of RPGs I use as-is, especially when they’re new to me. Creating new rules isn’t my forte, so I avoid it whenever possible. As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Sure, I house-ruled AD&D 2nd edition, but I chose from provided options, so it was more like a salad bar.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

Short Answer: None.

Long Answer: First, I don’t like tinkering with rules enough to make an adaptation. I just want to play the game. Second, in my experience, most adaptations don’t work as well as a game purpose-designed to emulate a certain style of play/genre/licensed property. There are exceptions, of course. Going back to the Star Wars RPG, I never felt like the d20 adaptation fit the feel as well as WEG’s or FFG’s versions; it always felt like D&D playing at Star Wars. D&D in SPAAAAAACE, as it were, but without the gonzo fun of Spelljammer’s scro, giff, or miniature giant space hamsters. I don’t really consider using options in generic rules to fit a certain type of game “adapting;” it’s kind of what those games are designed for, although if you start writing your own rules to cram a square Savage Worlds into a jagged oblong Fallout hole, then that would be adapting.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Two games immediately come to mind when I start prepping for an open-ended campaign: D&D and Star Wars. I currently run 5th edition D&D, so that would be my go-to choice, but I would run a campaign using B/X, BECMI, or Rules Cyclopedia D&D if my players wanted me to. I’d probably even be willing to run a campaign of house-ruled 2nd edition AD&D (in fact, I was planning on it before I played 5th edition). I would not go back to 4th edition or 3.X/Pathfinder for a long-term campaign and would be reluctant to run either one of them even as a one-shot.

Now, for Star Wars, the last time I ran an open-ended campaign was for West End Game’s d6 Star Wars, and I would do so again. I would also run an open-ended campaign for Fantasy Flight Games’s version, though the last campaign I ran using that system was NOT open-ended (it was intended for a short, 6-8 session campaign).

There are other games I’m interested in trying in an open-ended campaign, but as yet, have not done so: Hollow Earth Expedition, Pulp Cthulhu, something post-apocalyptic, something superheroic… maybe some day.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

I run games more than I play them, so this is a difficult question to answer (it’s also not really a question). There was a time when I felt if the game wasn’t “new,” then it wasn’t worth playing. A new game HAD to be better than an old game, right?

New = Better?

Then I went to my first Gary Con, Gary Con II and I played AD&D again. I played Star Frontiers again. I realized that just because a game was old and/or out-of-print (i.e. “Dead”), didn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Playing those games again re-opened a world of play I thought closed. Now, the age of a game doesn’t factor into my decision whether or not I think it’ll be fun.

I can’t go into details on about the playing experience itself. It’s been too long and I’ve played too many games since to have specific memories about the experiences themselves.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

When I think of an RPG with inspiring interior art, I have to go back to the ’80s and AD&D 2nd Edition. It wasn’t as picture packed as a modern RPG and color was use sparingly, but to my young, teenaged imagination, just starting to explore worlds of imagination, nothing inspired me more than those full-page color plates by Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Keith Parkinson, and all the other talented artists TSR employed. More than the writing, it was the art in those books that inspired me.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which “dead game” would you like to see reborn?

Honestly, I’m not sure any exist. Paranoia has a new edition. Ghostbusters was so rules-light and is easy to do with Fate Accelerated, anything else would needlessly complicate it. Top Secret has a new edition forthcoming. Star Frontiers is freely and legally available online and the old system works well enough for my taste. Old editions of D&D are either available in scanned form from D&D Classics or Retro-Clone form from various publishers (plus many of the core books were printed in such vast quantities they’re readily available from second-hand retailers). Metamorphosis Alpha has been reprinted. In fact, with digital scanning technology and PDF distribution, I can only think of one “dead game” I would play or run that isn’t available fairly easily: Buck Rogers XXVc. As I currently own a copy, I can run it anytime I like. If I didn’t own a copy, Rocket Age does a damn good job of capturing the same feel; creating a Buck Rogers conversion would be fairly trivial.

By and large, I’m not convinced every game needs to be updated with modern rules. Some games run just fine the way they are. I have never enjoyed a modern version of Paranoia as much as 2nd edition, for example. The rules are already simple, so a lot of changes feel, to me, like they’re change for the sake of change and they over-complicate something that just doesn’t need those rules (the players aren’t technically allowed to know the rules anyway, so what’s the point?). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Where do you go for RPG reviews?

I don’t often read RPG reviews, but when I do, I go to RPG.net’s reviews section or ENWorld’s reviews. I just don’t find them all that helpful. Maybe I just haven’t found a review who thinks about RPGs the exact way I do. Or maybe I don’t even know what that is. I’ve just seen too many review pick apart a game for something that I think is no big deal.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

This is a lot more difficult than yesterday’s question. I find humor-oriented games, like Ghostbusters and Paranoia to be excellent for one-shots, convention games, and the like, but less suitable for games that presumably include some measure of character growth and advancement. You could play these games in campaign mode, but it requires a bit more work and some buy-in from the players.

I’m not going to give a specific answer to this question, because the answer depends on so many variables. What kind of game do you want to play? Genre? I would say the answer depends even more on the type of story you want to tell. If you want to tell an epic, open-world story of discovery, then 10 sessions probably isn’t going to cut it for you. Sure, you could do it, but going into a game with a 10-session goal in mind suggests there’s an end game.

The last time I planned a game for a limited number of sessions, I used Fantasy Flight Game’s Star Wars RPG. I had a campaign plot sketched out from beginning to end. I knew the climax of the campaign would see the PCs in a massive space battle against their Imperial antagonist and merely needed to move all the pieces around, as it were, to set up the conflict and build towards that resolution. If the players WANTED to go off the rails and become smugglers, they certainly could have done that (and it would’ve have transformed the 6-8 sessions campaign I’d planned into a more open-ended game), but their characters weren’t built for that kind of game in mind. It worked out well, and I think we only went about 2 sessions longer than I planned.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What is a good RPG to play for session of 2hrs or less?

Ghostbusters

150px-Paranoia2nd

If I know I have a short session, I would grab one of two old games: either Ghostbusters or Paranoia. Published by West End Games in the ’80s, character creation is quick and easy, the rules are minimal (but enough to allow a GM to adjudicate just about any situation), and they’re just fun games.

 

I can practically run either of these games off the top of my head. They require minimum prep and minimum props. I’ve run Paranoia games where the players got so into it, they session essentially ran itself and I did nothing except make a few rulings for two-plus hours.

Of course, they’re both a little difficult to find these days, so if you don’t have access to my games library, I would recommend grabbing a copy of the excellent $5 RPG: Fate Accelerated. It’s not as easy for players used to a more GM-control-centric type of game (FAE is much more narrative based and if players aren’t comfortable having a level of narrative control, it can be an awkward game), but it’s quick to come up with a character and a small, $5 book and some dice is all you need. You don’t even need Fate Dice; you can use D6s, you just have to keep in mind conversions (1-2 = -, 3-4 = blank, 5-6 = +). In fact, there’s no reason you couldn’t run a rockin’ Ghostbusters or Paranoia game using FAE.

 

 

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What was your most impactful RPG session?

That’s a tough one. I’ve never had a profoundly emotional, gut-wrenching or eye-opening experience while playing an RPG. Still, I can think of two sessions where I either thought afterwards “That was awesome.” or remember that it must’ve been awesome.

It Must Have Been Awesome
My very first D&D game. Moldvay Basic Set and Keep on the Borderlands. After that first game, I had to have a copy for myself. I ended up only being able to find the Mentzer Expert Set, but my library had the Moldvay Basic Set (we didn’t understand the Moldvay/Mentzer revision difference at the time, and we didn’t care). Between me and my friends, we probably had that Basic Set checked out for the greater part of a year. I ended up with a Mentzer Basic Set and still didn’t care that it wasn’t the same “edition” as the Moldvay I’d fallen in love with. It was all the same game to me. We were all a little confused why there seemed to be two different versions and throwing AD&D into the mix added to that confusion. So, we just mix and matched to our hearts content and no game was broken, no RPG police came to confiscate our stuff (parents and Church leaders were another matter, however).

It was awesome
Ever played a Call of Cthulhu game run by a professional performer? I have. It. Was. Awesome.

What made it even more awesome is the game was an adaptation of a reality TV show called Mountain Monsters (airing on Destination America) about a group of Appalachian hunters and trappers intent on discovering the truth about cryptid sightings in Appalachia. It also happened to be the first time I’d ever played Call of Cthulhu. The following two years the same GM has run a follow-up game to that first session building on the events and it was an awesome trilogy of hillbilly horror.

Now that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.

 

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