RPGaDay 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in the next year?

Right now, Masks. Probably two different games, ultimately, given I'll be running it for the kids as well as the online game. (It's getting easier and easier to pull this off as they get a bit older.)

I'm sure a touch of No Thank You, Evil, maybe with Kaylee running the game.

I'll be playing more 5e DnD Adventurer's League, because playing is nice. Also running that for the kids, since I picked up some miniatures and everything.

And past that, I have no idea. There will be more than that, I think, but I'm really not sure what. Maybe some Palace Job -esque Blades in the Dark? Maybe some Urban Shadows? I really have no idea.

But if the real question is focused on what has most of my anticipation, and not 'what are your predictions', then it's definitely Masks right now; that game is firing on cylinders I didn't even know we had.

RPGaDay 30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Mash-ups don't get me very far these days.

See, I play with my kids a lot, and they don't know the baseline genres well enough to appreciate mash-ups of those genres.

Which is to say, they just don't get the joke, yet.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'm going to dive into this a bit more.

One of the… I'm going to say "dependencies for enjoyment" in many – I might even say "most" RPGs I've run (or run into) in the last few years is a deep knowledge of the associated genre — not just the genre for the setting, but the RPG genre of the game in question.

So… like this: once upon a time, all you really needed to know when starting to play D&D was "there's magic, no guns, and weird monsters." Same was true, basically, for Traveller or whatever. The premise was simple and straightforward.

Still true for 5e versions of those games, probably.

But there are a WHOLE BUNCH of games/settings out there now that lose a tremendous amount of signal when trying to reach a new player, because that player doesn't have the decades of previous gaming exposure that informs the game designer's decisions for a game.

Steampunk Planetary Romance isn't inherently cool or interesting as a concept if the person you're sharing it with isn't familiar with the "pure" components of that salad, you know? It's just weird sci-fi with wood ships and a lot of brass and goggles. Now, that might still work for the player, but it won't work for the intended/expected reasons.

Masters of Umdaar is… not especially compelling if you didn't grow up on the right cartoons, you know?

I run into this constantly when playing with my kids – stuff I find interesting/entertaining… until I realize that for all intents and purposes, my kids just don't get the joke.

So first, I'd need to run the original games everyone's ironically riffing off of, then we can get to the mashups. Otherwise, it's not a nuanced re-envisioning for them. It's just… weird and kind of confusing.

When I run a game that doesn't have that problem, it's almost always something only trying to be itself.

RPGaDay 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Aliens, but… I mean, it could be a hundred different shows.

This was, however, more true back when I was playing face to face.

These days, a lot of the 'quote banter' that used to suffuse our table talk has been replaced with posting relevant image memes in the Roll20 chat window. I love it, personally; nothing like having the nascent force user fighting the temptation of the dark side… and see a fellow player post a photoshopped Gollum clutching a jedi holocron to their chest. That's good stuff.

RPGaDay 27: What are your essential ingredients for good gaming?

Flippant answers aside for once.

Attention. Respect. Engagement.

And a small group people with whom you could easily see sharing a 3 to 4 hour car trip, enjoyably.

Everything else is a bonus.

—–

Now if I was going to go back to the original question and talk about essential TOOLS, I'd talk about Roll20 (which I use even during some offline game sessions), Dropbox, et cetera.

RPGaDay 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

Players creating stuff or in similar ways demonstrating their interest and enthusiasm for the game. I love that stuff. It just makes my day.

Also feedback, good or bad.

But in either case, just engaging above and beyond "shows up on time every week," you know?

I've been blessed by this level of engagement both in the past and present. Player diaries and session journals (a specialty of +Dave Hill's). Players collecting funny quotes from the game. Art or other visual artifacts based on the game, like +Bill Garrett's fake live-tweets from our first session of Masks, or +Michael Williams great character drawings for Dungeon World.

Heck, I love how my players are nigh-constantly posting relevant image memes in the Roll20 chat while we play, or using the drawing tool to put labels and relevant graffiti on the map. It's just great to see the players really engaged.

RPGaDay 22: Which RPGs are the easiest most enjoyable for you to run?

Switched up the question a bit, so I could answer "Probably PBTA stuff. Probably."

For me it's a VERY GOOD mix of the kind of game approach that favors the GMing style I developed primarily with Amber DRPG, but built on a system and mechanics that regularly inject unexpected elements into the game, which was one of the things lying at the heart of my problem(s) with Amber. (And, more recently, Fate.)

Easiest would be something super-simple like World of Dungeons or Risus or FAE.

And to be fair, I'm comfortable and enjoy running pretty much anything at the table. But something like DnD or DCC requires a degree of nuts and bolts prep that I either don't have bandwidth for [^1], or don't enjoy (CR-balanced DnD encounters, frex) – with those sorts of games, I''m going to run a module or something, so I don't have to do that prep, and in those cases I don't end up bringing as much of my own stuff to the game.

So. PbtA. That's my sweet spot when it comes to all aspects of GMing.

—-

[^1]: The joke about not having enough bandwidth to do prep is, of course, that I did literally hours and hours of prep for only the first session of our Masks game. World maps. NPCs. Encounters… At least an hour just watching awkward celebrity interviews, to get ideas.

So I guess it's more "I don't have time for prep I don't really, really enjoy."

RPGaDay 18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

Dungeons and Dragons, easily. I've been flailing at it since I was ten. Full-steam ahead all through high school. Several games in college, though it was rarely the 'main' game. A four and half year game that bridged 3rd edition into 3.5, plus a pile of Living Campaign play at that same time, all of which kind of burned me out for awhile. A bit of 4e, and now online Adventurer's League with 5e, and some games with the kids.

At a guess, probably four or five hundred sessions of DnD, over the years. It may not be my all-time favorite game, but… I mean, numbers don't lie.

RPGaDay 15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I don't really like adapting games much. I'm not a system designer by either preference or practice – I like running and playing, and I really enjoy when the rules as written just… work. There's a joy in that.

I have, in the past, done a success-counting hack of Risus that I liked, an Approach-less version of Fate Accelerated where the Aspects have ratings you add to rolls, and I've done a couple genre re-skins for various apocalypse-engine games, including one for the kids where the whole system and character sheet fits on an index card. So… those. I guess. Fate's the easiest to hack, but I usually only run that for the kids, anymore.

Now, if you're talking 'adapting' like "use Monsterhearts, RAW, for a sort of Star Trekkie sci-fi game"… I'm slightly more down for that kind of mash-up fun. I've done adaptations of many, many games to the Amber setting, for example – some of them even worked.

(Either Urban Shadows or Masks would make fun Amber adaptations, for example, for different reasons.)

RPGaDay 11: Which 'dead game' would you like to see reborn?

Haven, the Free City by Gamelords, Ltd. It was an urban setting for a DnD clone where everyone basically played different flavors of thieves. Since you were thieves, the game focused on personal interactions, intrigue, and political and social plotting in a way that was decades ahead of its time.

Tragically, the team behind Gamelords lost their main artist and a central content creator to a car accident in the early eighties, and the IP has languished in the basement of an acquisitive dilettante since 1986.

 

RPGaDay 9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

I'd say most PBTA games (and in a lot of cases most games that share that design-space in the industry). You need more than a couple sessions to really get them going, but characters tend to resolve arcs after about ten sessions and lapse into a bit of thumb twiddling after that until they get pointed in a new direction – it creates a good point to wrap up and move to something else.

(Note, for 2 hour long Roll20 sessions with five players, triple all sessions-required estimates.)

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