I had a realisation. Oh geez, I know, I’m going to look back at this post in a year and cringe. But my realisation was this: I make characters whose arcs are internally seeded but externally motivated. By that I mean that when I create characters, I build psychologies based on their past, their hopes for the future, their traumas and the poles they are dragged between – the people they are, the people they want to be, the people they fear becoming. That’s awesome, it’s super fun, I love making these rich characters*. I have these intense arcs to explore that will take them through emotional changes. Except…a lot of the time, I’ve struggled to get those characters to the point of an emotional change. I’ve usually resorted to asking another player out of character to intervene in their spiral of degeneration before they hit rock bottom, or instigating a scene with an NPC that will lead to that kind of change. My characters are always primed to change, but rarely have I made a character already in the process of changing, someone who realises that something is wrong and that they need to fix their life. Continue reading
Slooowly catching up, as Day Eleven of #RPGaDay asks: which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?
Right now we’re seeing new editions of all kinds of old favourites that many thought were dead in the water: 7th Sea, Unknown Armies, Rifts, the 30th anniversary edition of the Star Wars RPG. So nothing is beyond the realms of possibility – with a supposed Cyberpunk computer game coming out at some point, will we see the next chapter in the classic tabletop RPG? My pick for this is one I’ve already mentioned during this run of #RPGaDay: In Nomine. In Nomine was originally In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas, a French game about angels, demons and everything in between, adapted and translated by Steve Jackson Games first using its own system and then for GURPs (I have not read the GURPS version). In Nomine’s system is…definitely something. Considering its era, it isn’t actually that terrible, but it’s unnecessarily complicated.
What I’d love to see is a Cortex Plus hack for In Nomine. The pieces are all there, and Cortex Plus is a perfect system to create something with a bit more crunch than other toolkits but a Story Game sensibility (which I think is vitally important for running something like In Nomine). Cortex Plus gives design space for a game that needs to allow for powerful angels and demons, rebels to both realms and humans who are touched by the divine and infernal. In Nomine tried to deal with the different demands on the game by including different levels of character creation, and Cortex Plus is the kind of system that can handle that. Continue reading
Day Ten: where do you go for RPG reviews?
Huh, so something I hadn’t realised: I don’t. Like, I don’t really read RPG reviews, which seems crazy given my obsession with roleplaying games of all kinds. If I feel the need to read an RPG review (now and then I will look things up to get a gauge on whether I might like them), I will usually go to RPG.net or EN World, but I find the former a bit longer than I would like (I am aware of the irony) and the latter a little light on substance. Also, I tend to find that I prefer some writing styles a great deal over others, and follow particular reviewers I click with. For instance, for computer games, Rock Paper Shotgun and the Extra Credits game focus videos are usually my go-to for both developer news and reviews. I used to spend hours reading a specific horror film review blog that I sadly don’t remember the name of any more, just because I liked the writing style. I also find that RPG.net often focuses on the RPG as product rather than a contribution to an art form (detailing the feel, look and price of the book over its role within the form, though that is obviously very variable by writer) and also go into the complexities of the rules, which is less interesting to me in a review.
Day Nine (yes, I know I’m still running very late, that will be a theme for this whole month) asks: what is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?
10 sessions sounds like an awful lot, and it is certainly a good amount of time – 2 and a half months of weekly games, or 5 months of bi-weekling games, assuming no interruptions. However, you’d be surprised how quickly you can work through a plot. A season of Monsterhearts usually only lasts for around 7-8 games maximum, and that’s if people are levelling quite slowly. It can last as few as 6. My Masks game lasted a similar amount of time, since I was using the arc as a guide to when to end the season (there isn’t really a mechanic for ending seasons in the game). So, actually, 10 sessions is slightly longer than what I would consider to be ‘a story’, judging by my experiences. Continue reading
Still playing catch-up, I sally forth into Day 8 of #RPGaDay. The question: what is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?
I think a lot of people would agree that Fate is a useful system for this. Fate is the Swiss army knife of games – it will do whatever you need it to, and it will do it well. However, I think there’s quite a lot to this question, even if the answer can be summed up quickly. Whether or not an RPG can be played for two hours or less isn’t so much the query – most can be. OK, some are clearly better suited than others, but you can, at a push, play most RPGs for two hours or less, assuming character creation, levelling, etc. aren’t included. Continue reading
Day 7 of #RPGaDay asks: what was your most impactful RPG session?
I imagine that’s an extremely difficult question for most gamers to answer, which is how it should be. Made particularly difficult because over the last two weeks I’ve had some very intense games (including the climactic session of two campaigns, one live and one tabletop). So this doesn’t turn into a post about ‘what my character did this one time’, I’ll try and focus more on events-driven impact rather than things that were incredibly powerful for my character but didn’t necessarily impact the rest of the group as well. I’m fundamentally quite a self-centred gamer unfortunately, and tend to remember things that affected my character most. Continue reading
Oops, I forgot this #RPGaDay! The reason I’m having to play catch-up halfway through the month is that I’ve just run the very final session of a two-and-a-half-year theatre-style Vampire live game, which took up a lot of my time and brainspace. Day 5 of #RPGaDay asks: which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
This is likely to be a gallery of covers, as I would find it hard to choose one, and they all do different things, but I’ll try and talk about why that cover is so effective in each case. Continue reading