One of the great benefits of community, both online and in person, is they provide you with information about new games and opportunity to actually play them. By expanding my circle online I’m hearing about more projects than just word-of-mouth, and by diving deep into the one-off world I discussed last time my friends and I keep trying games. This weekend saw us trying out two new ones, one of which is Bully Pulpit’s The Climb (which I’ll get to next time) and Sidney Icarus’s Rider’s Last Rites.more “Rider’s Last Rites”
If you have been taking a look at the sorts of games I run or attend at conventions, or have taken a look at the Adventures page here on the site, then you know I enjoy telling contained stories. (If you haven’t been doing those things, then hi, welcome to Nerdhaus Games. Most posts in the Convention category have that in common) The appeal of one shots for me is twofold: scheduling and variety. Somewhere between those two points are significant benefits to you as a player and your existing game group, if you have one.
Genre considerations in a tabletop game are tricky. On the one hand, playing to expectations and including elements from the wider genre is necessary (to an extent) for it to qualify as an example of the “thing.” On the other, playing too close to type can make the game boring or predictable. Where do you draw the line between staying faithful and being original?
Roleplaying games are distributed in book format (until someone invents an all podcast-and-YouTube-video distribution method), and has as its reference points prominent literary progenitors: Lord of the Rings, Dune, Neuromancer, Starship Troopers. But just as common, we talk about games in terms of film tropes and our games draw from film and television: the Matrix, Firefly, Star Wars, and Star Trek. A lot of jokes and memes have been written lately about “what if X was an rpg campaign?” What if the reverse was true?
We all want to play. That has different meanings for all of us, but the joy of settling in and letting the game wash over us as a PC is a different experience than building the session and guiding everyone into the thick of it. Some players end up trapped in the perma-GM role, and they (and let’s be clear, I also mean I) sometimes wish it weren’t that way. To help combat that, and spread the weight of running the game around, a group I played with had a novel solution: we would all run the game.more “Co-GMing in a Shared World”
I go way back with Dungeons and Dragons. I started on the black box, DMed 2nd Edition AD&D long ago, have dreamt of running Ravenloft for nearly as long, upgraded to 3rd edition in high school, joined some friends in college for D20 Modern (hey, it was the Aughts. A game is a game, right?), and ended up in a 3.5 game for a while after college. I skipped 4th, and played 5 or 6 levels of a 5th Edition campaign on Roll20 a couple years ago (a great campaign and a character I miss). I have played or run most versions of D&D in the last 25ish years, and it all comes down to this: I’m not very good at it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the optimization community and their efforts to tweak, fix, or break the various editions of the game. I love the technical twists and turns of an inventive build as much as the next guy (honestly, probably a lot more than the next guy), and deeply appreciate the far end of it: the PunPuns and Peasant Railguns and Elven artificers who use a feedback loop of suffering to understand all things. It’s inventive and crazy and I am not the guy for it. I don’t play that way, and never played with a group that deemed it important enough for us all to rise to the occasion. As a result, the one player who rides that train does so alone and stands head and shoulders past the rest of us scrub rookies. I went down a different path a while ago. more “A Gaming Hippie Heads Back to the Dungeon”
This game was the biggest surprise of the convention for me. It’s one of those titles that I kept hearing about and my friends kept saying “You need to play Protocol.” I signed up for it as my last session of the con and a friend of mine who has backed the Kickstarters brought her collection to choose from.
Each scenario is packaged as a separate “game”, sharing common rules and materials. Character creation is very free-form, with some suggested roles in the module to get you started. You draw from a deck of cards to establish motivation and relationships to other characters (and for the scenario we ran, our relationship to the primary NPC). Once you’ve settled some setting assumptions, you’re ready to play. Setup takes 15 to 20 minutes, which is great for a zero-prep improv thing. more “Midwest GameFest, Pt. 8 (Protocol)”
It’s become a tradition at local gaming conventions that my friend Matt runs his Dread game in the Sunday morning slot. It’s traditionally kind of dead the morning of the last day, what with everyone having been up so late the previous couple days. I got lucky this time and Daylight Saving came through just after our Soth game and blessed us with another hour of sleep.
The twist this year was Matt adapted a Dark Heresy adventure he ran a long time ago for Dread, building an atmosphere of danger and inevitability to our exploring a derelict warship and following on the heels of a dangerous daemon. It was a blended team of Inquisitors racing against the clock to retrieve an Imperial artifact and save this ship in On a Collision Course with Destiny. more “Midwest GameFest, Pt. 7 (Dread)”
Who doesn’t love a good cult ritual? There’s something comforting about knowing right where to stand, what to wear, who to stab and when. This game blends the steadfast surety of a Lovecraftian doomsday cult with the madcap shenanigans of a Coen Brothers film. It’s Call of Cthulhu meets Fiasco in Soth, a game by Steve Hickey.
Our party was up for a wild time. By this point in the convention, each of us had played together a time or two, so the “getting to know you” phase of con friendship was well underway. I like to think that contributed to just how absurd most of this ended up… more “Midwest GameFest 2018, P. 6 (Soth)”
This is an exciting one for me. I haven’t gone much beyond re-skinning a thing or working within someone else’s framework, be it Savage Worlds, Fate, or some horror one-shot, in some time. And while yet another Apocalypse World hack may feel like a re-skin, my goal for Untamed Suburbia is to design a game that does something new for me: take a core idea from conception to fruition intact. I’ve pondered a number of projects over the years (one about school kids as an Encyclopedia Brown meets Bruce Colville supernatural adventure series, or something that scales out a bit like Reign as has you playing both PCs at ground level and the major players in the setting working behind the scenes at the same time), but none of them quite landed. There are notes, but few of them got the nudge they needed.
When I started talking about Untamed Suburbia, folks were interested. The opportunity to play animals, not anthropomorphic or magical or talking animals, but animals: four feet, eat off the ground, sleep in a nest animals as PCs resonated with folks. I have wanted to do a card-based selection for character creation for a little while and this seemed like a good time to put it together. So notes became a short rulebook became cards became a session at Midwest Gamefest!