RPGaDay 8: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

That may not be useful to a lot of other people as a recommendation, but No Thank You, Evil! and Hero Kids are both designed with shorter scenarios and challenges in mind, due to their target audience. I don't think I've ever run NTYE! for more than an hour at a time. Outside specific games, I'd probably focus on lean games with simpler character sheets, like Risus or Fate Accelerated. FAE + It's Not My Fault would work well.

But… I mean… Almost all my weekly Roll20 gaming is comprised of 2 to 2.5 hour sessions, so… pretty much any system, I guess, if you're talking about being able to play multiple short sessions.

ALSO, any game where everyone playing is on the hook to come up with a lot of stuff out of their head, all the time, is probably best confined to shorter sessions. I find people lose their inventive steam after a few hours, so if you want to keep things popping in games where the players have to invent a lot of stuff on the fly, I'd recommend shorter sessions.

RPGaDay 7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

Who needs therapy if you've got "impactful" RPGs, right?

Impactful is such a weird word. I've had lots of memorable sessions. Impactful seems like "something that changed you outside the game" and I'm not convinced that's why I play RPGs, so…

Man, I dunno.

Okay, here's one, maybe.

Dogs in the Vineyard. Our second serious fight. We'd already had one smaller altercation earlier in the game, so the players had seen how the conflicts worked, and more to the point they saw how FALLOUT worked.

Second conflict, things started getting heated, and someone pulled out a gun.

And the players – some experienced, pretty seen-it-all gamers – kind of pulled back from the table and were like "Whoa. Shit. Hang on a sec."

That game made guns fucking scary. They made them as goddamn dangerous as they are, you know?

(Best of all, the way fallout worked, you got fights where you didn't really know how fucked you were until the shooting stopped.)

Dogs remains the only game in which the players (and, by extension, the characters) reacted to someone pulling out a gun the way real people would, and I (obviously) remember that, to this day.

RPGaDay 6: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!

* Monday: Pirate 101 with Sean and Kaylee. (Alternately, family game of Masks.)
* Tuesday: Normal Tuesday Roll20 group, playing whatever we're currently playing.
* Wednesday: Overwatch with Kate and Kaylee. (Alternately, family game of Masks.)
* Thursday: Dungeon Crawl Classics, GMed by Tim.
* Friday: Playing DnD 5e Adventurer's League, via Roll20/Discord.
* Saturday: Luxurious full-length afternoon of DnD 5e or Masks with Sean, Kate, and Kaylee
* Sunday: The X-wing combat game with the kids.

RPGaDay 5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

This one's a bit easy for me: Tales from the Loop.

It's entirely possible this answer is chicken-egg cheating, since Tales from the Loop started life as an art book before it was an RPG, but regardless, the cover's a perfect match for what the game's about.

As an added bonus, it's a solid game that'd I'd really like to get to the table. (I heard it's the same system as Mutant Year Zero, but I haven't read that – the basic mechanics are very close to Blades in the Dark, and it leans hard in the direction of pbta-style conflict resolution.)

https://www.modiphius.net/collections/tales-from-the-loop

Tales from the Loop

RPGaDay 2017: What RPG have you played most since August 2016?

One of the nice things about recording all our online game sessions is it makes it pretty easy to simply look this kind of thing up. (I knew the answer, though I was curious about the specific numbers.)

The 'winner' in this case is a apocalypse engine hack I built for our Star Wars game (a campaign that went through three rules systems over the course of 30+ sessions). My hack (here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fwnq7ok585thk1c/SWW%20Rebel%20Ops.pdf?dl=0) is a rebel-era adaptation of Star Wars World, which in turn owes DNA to Urban Shadows, I think (understandable, since SWW was written by Andrew Medeiros). Since August, I ran the game eighteen times. That game wrapped up at the end of April.

Aside from that:

– Ran a six-session Dungeon World adaptation of Deathfrost Doom, plus a couple asynchronous DW adventures with Kaylee, via Google+ polls (http://randomaverage.com/index.php/2016/08/dungeon-world-with-kaylee-via-google-polls/), so call that eight sessions.

– Ran a couple sessions of Lady Blackbird (someday I'll run a game that makes it further than escaping the Hand of Sorrow).

– Ran four short sessions of a World of Dungeons: Breakers/The Secret World mashup, just recently.

– Played (actually played) in a couple sessions of DnD 5e (Adventurer's League), and ran a couple sessions for my family. Solid game.

– Played (actually played) in a Dungeon Crawl Classic 0-level "funnel" game. (You can't spell funnel without FUN.)

– Ran at least one or two games of No Thank You, Evil! with the kids.

So: That's ~36 game sessions since last August, with 50% going to the Star Wars Rebel Ops pbta-hack. Not too shabby, really.

SWW Rebel Ops.pdf
Shared with Dropbox

RPGaDay 2 – What is an RPG you would like to see published?

+Matt Wilson??'s Galactic. Looking back, it wasn't the dice mechanic that grabbed our group, it was the wonderful idea of everyone playing a ship's captain, and then ALSO having crew members on the other player's ships (using micro character sheets that were essentially specialized help/hinder dice for that Captain, sort of like Risus shieldmates). That, as a core play concept, had and has strong and compelling legs.

#RPGaDay Infographics
Autocratik‘s #RPGaDay returns in 2017 for a fourth run celebrating the roleplaying game hobby starting on Tuesday, August 1 and ending on Thursday, August 31. This has been an impressive year for r…

RPGaDay, Day 1 – What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

I'm actually going to be running Dungeon World in about 90 minutes, and I'm absolutely excited about that, as we may or may not be wrapping up our trek to the peak and under-peak of Deathfrost Mountain [^1].

With that said, any other day this week I'd probably answer Masks, as I had time to dig in and digest the system during our vacation, and I suspect the game has some legs.

[^1]: The DW group has, thus far, fared extremely well; consequences of early 'fiddling with stuff' scared them into extreme caution, and the group's thief shared his tried and true Rule When Stealing From Temples – "Don't touch anything that's part of a religious ceremony of any kind." It's a surprisingly good survival tactic.

#RPGaDay Infographics
Autocratik‘s #RPGaDay returns in 2017 for a fourth run celebrating the roleplaying game hobby starting on Tuesday, August 1 and ending on Thursday, August 31. This has been an impressive year for r…

On Fate and GMing

So I kind of gave up on about halfway through August because the questions weren't that interesting for the second half. That's on me.

Anyway, it's a fun exercise in concept. Inspired (I guess?) by that list, someone came up with an extremely tongue in cheek (I hope) list of questions for September.

Which I also pretty much ignored, because they're mostly joke questions that would require me reliving moments of severe personal head-up-assedness, circa 2009.

However, today's question prompted some pretty thoughtful and useful posts from folks I see on Google+, so I thought I'd take a break from filling up their comment threads and post my own tangential navel-gazing, since it's something I've been meaning to write about for awhile.

The question:

How many friendships have you terminated because they confessed they kind of like to play Fate games sometimes? It’s okay. Fate players have to hear the truth.

Obviously the serious answer to the silly question is "none." Let's have that said.

With that out of the way, I want to post a different-but-related question, phrased (tellingly) as a PtbA-style Hard Move:

"You've spent several hundred dollars on the Fate kickstarters and Fate-powered settings and scenarios, run several fairly long Fate or FAE-powered campaigns, hacked and rehacked the system, designed custom Roll20 FAE character sheets and submitted them through github, and currently run a (theoretically) weekly FAE game, which your players enjoy… but you've come to the realization that you don't actually like running Fate very much. What do you do?"

Yeah. What do you do?

+Eloy Cintron got me thinking about this today, when he wrote "I don't like how it feels in play."

Yup.

I like expressing stuff in Fate terms, but the further I go (and I have run three or four fairly long Fate and/or FAE things since Core came out, including hours and hours of play with my daughter), the less satisfying I find it in play.

Most of it boils down to: No surprises from the conflict system.

Let me break that down.

There's a conflict, dice hit the table… but really, there's not much point, because the results are almost entirely in the hands of the players. That's what I mean when I say no surprises.

Between capitalizing on Created Advantages, invoking preexisting aspects with fate points, and bringing applicable stunts in, almost any individual roll can be turned into a success. And just given compels as a means to refresh Fate Points (I actually do a Fate Point refresh every … five or six sessions, if that), Fate points are almost never a problem, especially since there's reasonably good odds on any specific roll that you won't need to invoke an aspect to get a success.

But don't read that and think I have a problem with player success. That's not it.

It's that Failure, Success, or (that Rarest of Rare birds) success at cost, are all just decisions the player makes, not a result they get and have to adapt to.

See, I'm a big, BIG fan of creativity within constraints, and for me one of the richest veins for that kind of thing comes in a conflict system that you can't strongly influence to 'force' the result you expect.

(See PtbA stuff, basically. That's my sweet spot. You can get it in lots of games, but I especially like PtbA for the largely unmined vein of Mixed Success it sets up in its dice mechanic.)

Put another way, I like getting results that make us introduce something new. I love "Yes, but…" results, because everything after that is something we weren't expecting.

I've got a great group of players in my current game, and they know my love of Mixed Success, but it's Fate, so… even if they blow the roll and I say "don't worry about invoking aspects yet, what about we go with a mixed success?" Even with great players, the inevitable (and fair! given the game system) question is: "Okay maybe… but what's the 'mixed' part going to be?" And we talk through it.

So… yeah. That. No surprises in the conflicts. Lots of resource use and/or negotiation to get to a known result.

Now, I know I can make Fate harder, to give the players less of that control. I know that. I've played a lot of Fate – I've hacked it down to the bone and built new flesh on the skeleton, more than once. I get how the pieces go together.

And I'll freely admit I don't push as hard as I can by using GM Fate points (which +Bill Garrett has called me on). But I know why I'm bad it: it feels adversarial in an unfun way (I'm FINE with adversarial in fun ways).

Boardgame Example: I like challenging games (I'm playing a Pandemic Legacy campaign right now, we're in September and seriously FUCK the C0DA virus); I don't mind losing because something is challenging, but I have less fun if I'm playing a game where the dial for "challenge" is controlled by "how much I (or someone else) voluntarily chooses to directly fuck with the other players at the table by making their stuff harder" – I'm looking at you, Settlers of Catan.

You pulled the short straw and have to be the Bad Guy in Betrayal at the House on the Hill or whatever? That's cool. You're cock-blocking someone's attempt to get Longest Road, just because? Much less fun. That's kind of what "pouring on GM Fate points" or "start everyone with no fate points and 0 refresh" feels like.

I mean, there's a point at which you've tweaked that dial so much you need to warn people they won't really be playing the game system they signed up for, exactly.

Does that mean Fate's a bad game? Nope.

Does it mean I wouldn't play it? No.

Does it mean I won't GM it? No, although I think I'm going to do some sunset planning for the system, in IT-speak.

Does it mean it's a game that doesn't especially suit my GMing style? Yeah, pretty much.

And that sucks a little, because as I mentioned I've got a LOT of Fate stuff on my shelves, and like… 25 sets of dice… and players who really like the game – some of whom I'm pretty sure would not especially enjoy 7-9 "it's a mixed success and you just need to deal with it" results in Powered by the Apocalypse games (which may be my favorite game thing ever).

Anyway. Something I've been turning over for awhile; glad to have it out of my head.

RPGaDay – August 18: What innovation could RPG groups gain the most benefit from?

This is already happening, but the tech behind online meetings and collaboration is probably the future of 'tabletop' gaming.

If you want me to get slightly futuristic and not-already-extant, let's go with the tech behind smart-device enabled Augmented Reality ("AR": like Pokemon Go); not to be confused with Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). Give me a library of stock animated critters and a way to hook them to GPS coordinates, so I could GM a group through a virtual wilderness adventure along the bike paths of the nearest green belt park? Yes please: I would love doing something like that with my kids.