Nexus: As Above, So Below

I have perhaps alluded to my first rpg system, Nexus, in previous posts. It was a universal RPG with stats derived from Legend of the Five Rings and point-based traits like Tri-Stat. It lasted a summer before getting supplanted by Savage Worlds as a ruleset for me, but the setting itself lives on in all of my games. It also features heavily in my greater design philosophy, so this is as good a time as any to address some of my long-range goals.

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The Climb (Bully Pulpit Games)

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…

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Rider’s Last Rites

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.

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CUT TO: Stealing the Language of Film for Tabletop Gaming

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?

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Midwest GameFest, Pt. 8 (Protocol)

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)”

Midwest GameFest, Pt. 7 (Dread)

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 Destinymore “Midwest GameFest, Pt. 7 (Dread)”

Midwest GameFest 2018, P. 6 (Soth)

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)”

Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 5 (Untamed Suburbia)

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!

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Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 4 (The Quiet Year)

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)”

Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 3 (Ten Candles)

Ten Candles and I have a brief but passionate history: I have written about it twice before (at KantCon and when I ran my own variant), I barely missed a chance for a pickup game of it with some friends a few weeks ago, I’m quoted on the Ten Candles website and have emailed back and forth with Stephen Dewey about my Running on Empty build.

I’m super into this game, is what I’m saying. So it makes sense that when I had the chance to jump into another session at Midwest that I would do it. This might be my last time writing about it for a bit, but it definitely won’t be my last experience with it. Let’s get to the session, shall we?  more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 3 (Ten Candles)”