Last week, I had the treat of sharing an rpg table with my college roommate for the first time. We have games together in other formats (our dining room table was never used for meals but permanently set for Necromunda), but this was the first time we played together. Normally I introduce first-time roleplayers with something straightforward (like Dread) or ridiculous (like Crash Pandas). I opted for straightforward and planned to run something out of the Harrop Collection but there’s the issue of how to do social distance right now within arm’s reach of a Jenga tower…
There are lots of options for running a game online. You have Discord servers, various video chat options, digital tables, and play-by-post. You could even dust off your typewriter and get started on a De Profundis campaign, but I’ve never had one make it more than two letters in, despite our best efforts [link]. But none of those do Jenga, and networked BoomBlox as a resolution mechanic feels cumbersome. Enter Grin.
more “Grin RPG (or How Do I Play Jenga Online)”
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to complete a run of Will Hindmarch’s Almost/Never/Now, a cyberpunk take on Lady Blackbird. It was inspired by revisiting a long-running cyberpunk campaign he had been a part of, and wrote the adventures that would become A/N/N as a sort of love letter/dramatic finale to the world and characters he and his friends had created and inhabited a decade prior.
The sessions themselves blend story, action, and character in a flexible form that encourages big storytelling: cinematic action, dramatic blow-outs with your peers, and always pushing what the mechanics allow. This is a collaborative story situation, writ large over international espionage and dystopian intrigue with cyberware and technology and highly specialized weaponry all coming to bear in a system that absolutely does not concern itself with the specifics of how you accomplish any of that.
I just had the chance to play a charming little game from 1992 called Jewels in the Attic, by Discovery Toys (and no other credited authors). I should also note that the same company was responsible for a series of puzzle games/activities including the Think-It-Through tiles I’ll be referencing in an upcoming post as well.
The premise is simple: The Jewelkeeper has a treasure trove of gems they have hidden in the attic of a large manor house and your group of friends have to brave the threats in various rooms using your own skills and magic items you collect along the way. Once you find enough objects to attempt the Attic, you can attempt to conquer the Jewelkeeper’s minions and defeat the Jewelkeeper himself. The trick is you play in your actual home, moving from room to room and using an ingenious set of cardboard tokens to run these challenges.
more “Jewels in the Attic”
Almost a year after my last big LARP experience (The Climb, played with basically the same group), we got together to try out a new project called Far Space by Christian Griffen. The print-on-demand website describes it thus:
This game is a Live Action Roleplay scenario based around escape-room-inspired problem solving challenges in which the fate of individual characters and the ship as a whole depends on the choices that the players make. Far Space game description
I was immediately intrigued by the bridge simulator/ship in crisis vibe of the game. I’m a huge fan of any game that really wrestles with life aboard a vessel, be it a submarine, spaceship, or airship so I knew this was something I wanted to try. I’m also a fan of escape room-style puzzles and resource management, so that was a bonus when I found out what gameplay was going to be like.
more “Far Space”
Last weekend’s gaming also brought me to The Climb, an “American-style LARP” by Jason Morningstar that bills itself thus on their website:
THE CLIMB is a short, six-person, live-action game about an expedition to a virgin peak in the Himalayas. The game requires six players, a large quiet space, and should take 2-3 hours to play. There is no Game Master, but you’ll need one player to organize and facilitate. The premise is an illegal summiting attempt on a mountain in Bhutan (which is a real thing in that real place)
The story puts six climbers at Camp Three, battened down against a significant storm that would make climbing suicide. The players wait for a break in the storm (which is either timed by a player or cued off the soundtrack which features howling winds and Chinese weather reports) and have to determine which three members of the expedition will attempt the summit when the time comes. But in practice, that’s not such an easy thing to negotiate…
more “The Climb (Bully Pulpit Games)”
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”
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 game was a first for me, a GM-less experience without specific PCs that functions as a world building exercise as well as an rpg experience.
The Quiet Year by Avery Alder follows a community after things have collapsed, in a lull between their conflict with a group known as The Jackals and before the arrival of the mysterious Frost Shepherds which ends the game on a random card during the winter. The game is available for download and can be run as a print-and-play or by buying the printed copy which has you looking fewer things up. Either way, you’ll need some paper and writing implements to plan your community. Hopefully, your community fares better than ours did… more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 4 (The Quiet Year)”