RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.

One game came to mind immediately: Blades in the Dark. When I needed to put my Tomb of Annihilation game on hold while I finalized preparations to move (i.e. when I disassembled my gaming table and packed up all my stuff), two fellows in my gaming group stepped up to run games for us. One, Starfinder, I was already familiar with. I liked the setting, but ultimately, Pathfinder-style games aren’t my thing (although I maintain I would play the HELL out of the Starfinder setting in D&D 5E). The other game, was one I think I’d heard of, but that’s all: I’d just heard the name. I knew nothing about it.

So, we made a crew of Bravos and played. The setting is a sort of fantasy gothic steampunk Victorian-era world, a world where the sun has gone dark, and you and your companions are the criminal element in this city of canals, corruptions, and vengeful spirits. We called ourselves the Barbican Bastards, and now, after having played it three or four times, we’re still very low on the totem pole and would be comically inept if we didn’t come close to dying so often (or as close to dying as the game allows; generally, your character is only going to die if you really want them to for dramatic purpose. You can, however, be incapacitated for enough game sessions that it’s useful to have a backup character). To me, if feels a lot like a Victorian-era Shadowrun, albeit with a game system that is much easier to grasp.

There’s a sci-fi version now, too: Scum & Villainy. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re burning out on classic fantasy RPGs, but still want to play less-than-moral characters, shall we say.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: WHICH… RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?

Most of my gaming has revolved around fairly “mainstream” RPGs: Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, now Blades in the Dark. I’ve played so many, every time I think of a title I’ve really enjoyed, I can think of people who are big fans or companies that are trying to revive the brand. Others have said we’re enjoying an RPG Renaissance right now, and I wouldn’t argue that. Of course, doing the work I do for the ENnie Awards means I’m exposed to a heck of a lot more RPGs than most people, so I think I’m too close to the question to be able to give a good answer.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: WHICH… game do you hope to play again?

I’ve played so many great games, it’s hard to pick just one that I would play again if I could. Actually, it’s not that difficult, since I like pulp and dinosaurs, there’s only one option: Hollow Earth Expedition.

It uses a dice pool system, but to determine success or failure, you only need to count how many dice come up with an even number. It’s a very fast playing system, and while the default setting is the Hollow Earth, the world beneath our world, there are sourcebooks to explore mysteries on the surface world, as well as on Mars. Plus, since it’s pulp and takes place in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the most socially acceptable targets are always there for a good punching, shooting, or dinosaur stampede: Nazis. You can never go wrong fighting Nazis.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: WHICH… non-dice system appeals to you?

This is a tough one for me. When I think of non-dice systems, the only one I can think of is Amber Diceless and I have never played it, so I don’t know if I like it or not.

I like plenty of games that don’t use dice, but none of them are role-playing games.

It gets trickier if the question isn’t using “system” in the sense of “rules system” but rather in the sense of a mechanic (though since yesterday’s question was about dice mechanics, maybe it’s not… who knows? Crunchy stuff like systems and mechanics are things I dig deeply into; I’m more of a fluff guy). I like Hero Point systems (whether they’re called Bennies, Hero Points, Inspiration, etc.) because I enjoy mechanics that let players do cool things that may not otherwise be allowed by the rules. Anything that allows the players to think “Wow, that was awesome!” is something that helps make the game session better for everyone.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: WHICH… dice mechanic appeals to you?

I like Dice Pools. I like throwing more and more dice the more proficient my character gets. I also like the idea of adding opposed dice based on difficulty. Fantasy Flight Game’s narrative dice system, such as they use in their Star Wars RPGs and in Genesys clicked with me pretty quickly. I like how you can fail but still gain an advantage, or you can succeed but still create complications, or how you can succeed overwhelmingly or fail utterly. I like how you not only can use more dice as you become more skilled, but you can also improve the die type (thus giving you better chance to receive ideal results).

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Four: WHICH… game mechanic inspires your play the most?

Short answer: none.

Long answer: I don’t analyze or develop game mechanics enough to feel inspired by them. I prefer when game mechanics get out of the way and facilitate fun play. If I have to spend half of my play/prep time thinking about mechanics (ESPECIALLY during character creation), then that is not the game for me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to prefer games with fewer, less specific mechanics.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Three: What music enhances your game?

Obviously, it depends on the kind of game. If I was running an espionage game, I would use Jazzy, James Bond-style music. When I run Star Wars, I pull the music from the film soundtracks. I would likewise go to the source for a Star Trek game. When I run a fantasy game, like D&D, however, I have multiple resources. I’m a big fan of Tabletop Audio. I can queue up several appropriate ambient tracks and have them repeat in the background. When a fight occurs, I have a custom playlist in iTunes with battle music from The Witcher 3 and Elder Scrolls Online. I have another custom playlist with music appropriate for taverns. Rarely do I play it loud enough to drown out talking; it’s there for background ambience and should never take center stage over the players unless music is the point of the scene.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Three: What art inspires your game?

In a general sense, I let the art included with a particular game inspire me. But when I think of inspiring RPG art, the artists to whom I was first exposed as a gamer are the ones that most inspire me: Erol Otus, Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, and Jeff Easley. I could probably fill several posts with examples of my favorite pieces from each of them, but I’ll leave you with one, from the first product I ever owned:

What I liked about this piece in particular is that the wizard is scrying on the scene depicted in the Basic Set. It was a really cool way of tying the two products together.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Three: DESCRIBE… the best compliment you’ve had while gaming.

My games tend to not be particularly theatrical, so the compliments I get are probably a little more low-key than you get watching some of the more popular live-play videos. Plus, as long as everyone is laughing and engaged, I don’t need specific compliments to know I’m doing well, so just a “good game” or a fist bump after a particularly cool encounter is enough for me.

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RPG-a-Day 2018 – Week Three: DESCRIBE… your plans for your next game.

You want me to give everything away? Some of my players read these blogs!

There’s two ways to answer this: my “next game” being the next time we get together to play and the “next game” being the next adventure campaign I’m going to run.

The next time we get together to play, the plan was to continue our Tomb of Annihilation campaign. We’re only about eight sessions in, so there’s still a lot to discover and no one has died yet, despite it’s meat-grindery reputation (some of which could be attributed to differences in play style; I don’t particularly enjoy adversarial games). However, due to a player absence, the plan has changed, and we’ll once again play the Barbican Bastards in our Blades in the Dark game.

If you want to know about the next campaign I’m going to run, well, that’s too far off for me to have anything set in stone. I’ll probably take a break after Tomb of Annihilation so we can all play some Blades in the Dark (so I can actually play instead of GM). I might be in the mood to run sci-fi after that (maybe Star Wars D6) or a series of short, one – two session games using some of the new RPGs I’ve acquired. Heck, maybe by then Western RPG will be out and we’ll get some cattle rustling action going. Maybe Pulp Cthuhlu or Masks of Nyarlathotep (unlikely since most of my group is not enthused about Call of Cthulhu).

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