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#RPGaDay: Day 7 – Rambles on the Ephemerality of RPG Theory

the owl

The Owl from Lady Blackbird

Day 7’s subject was ‘Favourite free RPG’. I chose Lady Blackbird: Adventures in the Wild Blue Yonder, not having the hugest amount of experience with free RPGs. So I mainly chose one I’d actually read, but Lady Blackbird is a beautifully-designed game and it feels like a privilege to be able to read it for free. In many ways, it’s very similar to FATE with aspects (keys and secrets in this) but you add to a dice pool rather than spending points to tag aspects. It’s a gaslight fantasy adventure which is only 16 pages long but manages to give a really evocative setting and fascinating characters. I’ve never tried running it, but I would love to see the game expanded out into a full system – apparently Lady Blackbird is not great for a campaign. But seriously, if you want to see how a free RPG can raise the bar for indie projects, check out Lady Blackbird. I’ve heard good things about Lasers and Feelings from the same studio but haven’t yet had a look.

The Story Games forum used to have an utterly fantastic wiki called the Story Games Codex which explained some of the dominant theories and elements of story games, as well as lists of RPGs that suited conditions like ‘free’ and ‘family friendly’. Sadly, that disappeared some time ago – now there is a new wiki in place but it has very little content. That list had some really great games on it that I suspect I’ll never be able to find again, like a game that was just written up on some blog that a parent had written to run for their kids, and was about a midnight adventure. Things like that are few and far between, and finding them again is basically impossible in the vast Internet.

RPGs feel like they exist in quicksand. Some things, like Dungeons & Dragons and the Forge are fixed enough points that they’ve attracted scholarly attention, but there is so much out there that is lost when someone can’t keep renewing their hosting or buried in a lengthy thread in the archives of a forum somewhere. Maybe that’s OK, I dunno. The archivist and academic in me screams about that. Gaming is by nature an ephemeral artform that mainly exists in memory, but we’re increasingly driven to record everything, especially those things that we know will never be repeated. We film performances of plays and record music, and document every experience with selfies and statuses.

The thing is that we don’t have rockstar GMs except in very small communities and pockets of fandom. I often get sad that a GM’s brilliant campaign or adventure might be forgotten if they don’t keep extensive notes or write-ups. But then, is it possible to record a gaming experience? Actual play recordings are always somewhat unsatisfying to me. While there are some larp photographers who have got the whole thing down to a fine art (particularly those who haunt the Profound Decisions events like benevolent fairies), photographing theatre-style and smaller-scale larps is invariably a little disappointing. It’s a reminder that this is just a bunch of people standing in a room in silly costumes, not a creepy circus in the Hedge or a vampire’s stately home. Similarly, accounts of games and even GM notes don’t tell the whole story, and can’t capture the entire experience.

But then, listening to a recording of a musician on tinny speakers isn’t capturing the whole experience. Listening live adds a dimension and energy that you just can’t recreate except in remembering that performance. So should we stop trying to record great performances? I don’t think so. The RPG community is so wide and varied that it becomes a very difficult task to keep up with it. You have to lurk on endless message boards, keep up with obscure developers through their own web pages and go by word of mouth. But there is so much good stuff going on out there – bloggers and theorists coming up with models for roleplaying, random little RPGs with revolutionary concepts, and so much rich discussion on forums. A hell of a lot of dross as well, but that’s true anywhere, and the really good creators and theorists are struggling to be heard. The problem is, most of it is fan-driven and a lot of it disappears, never to surface again. We’re currently in a very slow climb towards roleplaying being considered more mainstream and ‘respectable’ as geek culture becomes more central to society, and hopefully there will be more consistent academic attention pointed to it then. But for now, it’s up to the fans and creators to preserve it, and keep expanding it.

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#RPGaDay: Day 6 – Negotiating the Spotlight

We are basically these guys with a gruff family man as ranking officer.

We are basically these guys with a gruff family man as ranking officer. And a warforged.

I’m running very, very behind with this, so I’m going to try and catch up.

I’m lucky to be part of some really incredible campaigns at the moment. Tragically, this has meant some other fantastic campaigns have just petered out, though hopefully we can restart them at some point. However, we’ve just finished a season of Monsterhearts, I’m in a regular FATE game over the Internet called Agents of CROSSBOW (like Agents of SHIELD with more occult crime and tomb-raiding) and a 4th Edition Eberron game called The Chronicles of Cyre, run by the very talented GM who writes at Dice Tales. This last one was the ‘most recent RPG played’ for me, and the campaign is basically Sharpe in Cyre, a rough and ready unit of scouts with the Cyran army who go on hideously dangerous missions and have risen from skilled but undistinguished soldiers to the ‘heroes of Cyre’. Anyone familiar with the Eberron setting will know how this story goes: when we hit paragon tier, the Day of Mourning is going to happen, and our characters will have to deal with everything and everyone we love being taken away from us, defenders of a shattered nation that is now a magic-scarred wasteland. It’s going to be AWESOME. But we’re only just level 8, so we have a bit of time before that.

It’s also a game where I’ve had to reassess some of how I approach roleplaying. I’m a bit of an entitled player. Not to say that I’m not generous, but I’m only generous as long as I get what I want out of the game, which has caused tensions in a number of games and has especially caused issues for me in live games. I’m not always seeking the spotlight, but I’m a Fixer, and if I don’t get my Fixer fix, as it were, I’ll become disillusioned with the game very quickly. I really hate feeling ignored and devalued, as though I don’t deserve to be included or to have the story be about my character for a bit, and I can react badly if I perceive that to be the case (note that my perceptions can twist this waaaaay out of proportion).

I’m actually really grateful that I’ve been playing Monsterhearts and D&D at the same time. In one, I’ve had a lesson in listening to other players, generosity and understanding that even if the scene isn’t about you, you can still enjoy it. In the other, I’ve seen the fallout of two people (i.e. me and another person) who are good friends outside the game getting competitive for the spotlight, and I’m not proud to say that I could have been more generous about that.

I think the amount of live gaming I’ve been doing over the past few years has changed me a lot when it comes to roleplaying. In a tabletop game, where things are more intimate, it’s way easier to see if one person is dominating and another is getting left behind. In a livegame, it sometimes feels as though the only way to have your voice heard is to shout loudest and first, which can be really uncomfortable for someone who is anxious or who doesn’t like to dominate. I’ve realised that I’ve got so used to having to be decisive, to having to rush through scenes and make sure I’m heard, that I’ve lost the ability to think about how the scene as a whole fits together. I want to get ‘my bit in’, the one cool thing I do in a combat or the one moment in a scene where I feel like my character is an important part of the narrative.

There are lots of cool rpgs that give options for playing with narrative control: it’s a big trend in story gaming, which often removes the GM entirely. However, there needs to be a certain level of self-awareness and self-restraint to negotiating the spotlight that can’t be compensated for with system. That’s why there are relatively few people I’d play Monsterhearts with (as well as the potentially upsetting content and the trust required) – we all need to be in it together, or it doesn’t work.

I've not reached Mazes and Monsters levels of corruption yet, though

I’ve not reached Mazes and Monsters levels of corruption yet, though

I’ve been trying to be a more mindful player over the last couple of sessions, not jumping out in front of every development, not feeling like I needed to have input into every moment in a conversation. Interestingly, I left both of those sessions feeling slightly frustrated, as I hadn’t had that big damn hero moment and the rush of feeling like my character was important, but my mood across the whole game was more even – I hadn’t risen to potentially tactless comments and had interpreted them (as I am sure they were meant) as not intending to offend me. I managed to control my temper better for my really terrible rolls without diminishing the victory of my high rolls. I listened more to the other players and tried to see it as a narrative belonging to all of us.

That said, I’m starting to see why the rush a lot of roleplayers chase, where it’s all fitting well and the coolest possible thing happens right then, and it feels like your character is a hero, is getting scarcer and scarcer. When I started roleplaying, just being part of it, having powers that could do cool stuff, and learning more about this weird pastime was enough. Now the rush is part of feeling like my character is the hero of their own story. I hope that someday I can get that rush from playing as a group and really telling a communal story (Monsterhearts has shown some encouraging development in that direction, at least), but for now I’ll settle for just not offending and angering the other people in my group, and trying to make it a game we can all enjoy.

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#RPGaDay: Day 5 – Settings Without Systems or something I guess?

midgardDay 5’s topic (on the correct day, no less!) is ‘Most recent RPG purchase’. This is a bit of a tough one as I don’t actually remember the last physical RPG book I purchased. I’ve been on a bit of a buying-new-books fast because we’re running out of storage space! However, technically the most recent RPG I bought was the Bundle of Holding I purchased yesterday, which featured a bundle of Midgard books. Midgard, Wikipedia reliably informs me, was the first German roleplaying game, but Wikipedia also seems to think it’s never been released in English, which I hope is not true, as my German is not up to scratch. I suspect, by the look of it, that a new edition has been released as a Pathfinder campaign setting. But anyway, I don’t own Pathfinder, so I mainly bought it for the setting information.

I do that a lot, as do many roleplayers. Settings are often more enduring than mechanics, as the charmingly old-fashioned elements of a setting are rarely as head-poundingly frustrating in play as outdated mechanics (the exception is when settings include prejudiced elements that were considered acceptable at the time but are now recognised for what they are). Mechanics do go through trends and fashions, just like anything else. Currently, we’re in an era where story gaming is king. The Narrativist and Gamist camps are working together to make fairly rules-light systems that enable and enhance the story without getting in the way of it. Simulationism is pretty much out of the window.

But, hark, on the horizon! It is the Old School Revival: it’s Old School mechanics with modern sensibilities. Some people are playing 2nd Edition for nostalgia value, but games like Dungeon World have taken overblown systems and kept the nostalgia while taking out the frustration. It does, however, mean that many games look needlessly complicated now. Who knows how our story gaming mechanics are going to look in twenty years time? But then maybe everyone will be plugged into sensory-immersive headsets and all the game mechanics will be based on how quickly you can eat a ham sandwich without using your hands.

Oh my God, Midgard is so pretty!

Oh my God, Midgard is so pretty!

Setting, however, is enduring. You can make settings that are reflected in mechanics and mechanics that are reflected in settings, and you can make generic systems like FATE, True20, GURPs, etc. However, it is very rare that you can’t remove a setting from its mechanics and run it with something else. The enduring popularity of D&D settings like Ravenloft, Planescape, Dark Sun and Eberron shows that innovative and interesting settings win through across drastic system changes. Unhallowed Metropolis, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of the best settings I’ve read, but the system…eesh. The skill system is fine and the Degenerating mechanic is beautiful. Plus the injury tables are delicious. But when I ran it, I sat down and played out a combat with basic zombies and some characters (the first game I’d run, so I wanted to make sure I had a grasp on the mechanics) and had to basically hack the combat system so it didn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to play out a single combat. And then it was still so bad in the game itself that I mostly avoided combat altogether, because it was a constant standoff as neither side hit the other. For hours. Answer? Take the setting and run it in WoD. Seriously, that’s what one of my friends did and it was super fun. The system wasn’t getting in the way of the story any more. If you have a system like WoD or FATE that is easily adaptable, as well, you can add in a lot of the stuff you liked about the old system, that the setting would suffer from removing.

There is definitely an argument to be made for creating pick-up-and-play settings and adventures with fully statted monsters, but you can also write a setting without a system in mind. Sure, it’ll take a bit more work to run, but the short-lived gaming magazine Arcane was stuffed full of campaigns that had a suggested system but weren’t bound to it. Some of those systems have since become games with their own systems (I believe Puppetland first appeared in Arcane) but the idea of talking about gaming without talking about system seems alien and weird. And, of course, gaming has to have some kind of mechanics. That’s what makes it gaming rather than traditional oral storytelling or improvisational theatre, but with systems such as FATE that are designed so you can hack them to suit pretty much any setting with an absolute minimum of effort, inherently saying that one system is the best for running your standard fantasy RPG seems odd, especially with the huge variety of systems on offer now.

Seriously, so pretty.

Soooooooo preeeeeeeeetty

Midgard, by the sound of this review, is primarily focused on setting, as it originally had its own system but has been released to be compatible with Pathfinder. That’s…actually pretty much ideal for me. Who knows what system I’d run it in? There are some great fantasy systems to choose from. I was disappointed that the recent Blue Rose Kickstarter specified that it will be written to run with the Dragon Age system, but on the other hand, the system (while good) wasn’t the be all and end all of the game. Besides, I still have the original book and the True20 book, so I can run it in whatever the hell I like.

So, I guess this disorganised ramble comes down to the idea that there are some neglected ways of writing games and settings that could be explored more, and maybe should be. There are some games where mechanics and setting are integrated so much that it would be a shame to pull them apart, but those are in the minority. Usually an enterprising Gm can pick up the setting, hack in a few mechanics from the original system, and make something that is optimised for their playstyle and the story they want to tell, but what would be even cooler is if they didn’t need to surgically remove the system in the first place.

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#RPGaDay: Day Four – The Fun of Failing

I seem to be perpetually catching up with #RPGaDay – despite technically writing Day 3’s post on the correct day I’ve ended up posting it on Day 4.

monsterheartsDay Four’s topic is ‘Most surprising game’. I’m choosing Monsterhearts, which I played for the first time this year as part of an excellent campaign. In theory, Monsterhearts shouldn’t have been a surprise favourite: I love paranormal romance and ridiculous teen drama, and collaborative story games are one of my favourite kinds of RPG. However, I was initially dubious as I’d tried Apocalypse World and found it very much not to my taste. However, I feel like Monsterhearts does an awful lot of things I really enjoy well, and with the right group it’s an absolute joy. Hooray!

My more general discussion today is about the fun of failing. Monsterhearts is a game that encourages you to embrace failure. I suspect it wouldn’t be suitable for a lot of people (my partner, for instance) because they like to feel competent and succeed at things for the most part – a lot of roleplayers want to be the hero, not the bumbling idiot. That’s totally fine. It’s a very understandable impulse, as on some level we have a hobby built around wish fulfilment. However, I would say that as games that embrace failure go, Monsterhearts is a really good way of getting into the fun of failing.

In Monsterhearts, the characters are not enormously competent (because they’re teenaged monsters filled with angst who get things wrong a lot), but their failures are often more interesting than their success. There are the obvious examples where a dice roll going wrong means a series of hilarious and traumatic situations for the characters such as getting arrested or being captured by the bad guy, but there are also times when your character, by gazing into the darkness of their own soul, puts themselves at risk of becoming their Darkest Self, an extreme version of their monster type (skin) in which they might lash out at people, run away or become obsessed or delusional. It’s extremely powerful, because at any minute, failure might mean your game suddenly changes drastically, and the useful tool of Gazing Into the Abyss might throw your character into an awkward situation that is OoC rewarding.

natural 1I’m not good with failure. In D&D I’ve had to apologise to people in my group for getting really angry at consistently low dice rolls on important attacks or tasks, and it seems that the bigger my dice pool in World of Darkness, the fewer successes I’ll inevitably roll. I like to feel like a hero too, and because I’m a Fixer type gamer, I’m often after the short-term goals that give me a boost of satisfaction at completing them. It’s particularly galling when something is well within my character’s capabilities but a really bad dice roll means I don’t manage it.

Monsterhearts was a great lesson for me in rolling with the punches. Failure happens, because your chances of rolling a natural 1 are as good as your chances of rolling a natural 20. However, failure doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Our D&D GM (find his blog at Dice Tales) does a great line in reassuring people who roll badly on skill checks despite being competent at the skill by giving plausible reasons why the character is distracted, which goes a long way to soothing the anger at unhelpful dice rolls. In a more narrativist game like Monsterhearts, you can take it even further. Our Monsterhearts GM turned several bad rolls on the part of the players into a saga of character vs character (as Dark Selves kicked off everywhere), arrest by police and ultimately tragic consequences that have had ongoing impact. It’s been quite the ride.

Many story games systems have ways of making failure fun these days, whether it’s choosing to regain plot points through losing access to your powers in Marvel Heroic Roleplay (deliberate choice rather than random failure) or giving the option of a pass with consequences in FATE. It makes a huge difference, because if you can trust your GM to keep the game fun through natural 1s as well as natural 20s, everyone has more fun.

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#RPGaDay 2015: Day Three – So Many Games, So Little Time

fireflyDay Three’s topic is ‘Favourite new game of the last 12 months’. I’ve been really bad at keeping up with the new developments in RPGs over the last year. I haven’t even acquired that many new games, so this one is a bit tough. With a huge pinch of salt as I haven’t even finished reading the book, let alone actually played the game, I would say the Firefly RPG by Margaret Weiss productions. It’s a really good iteration of a lot of the ideas put forward in the Cortex Action system, but in a more adaptable and generic way than the Leverage RPG (which was previously the flagship for Cortex Action). From reading it, it’s a very solid way of representing the kind of game that Firefly might inspire. I look forward to playing it when someone I know runs it!

That’s sort of the problem, isn’t it? It’s always the problem. A game only lives when you play it. Just like reading a play script without performing it or seeing a performance, you’re only ever going to have half of the text. The tension in roleplaying, as in acting, music or any other form of live entertainment, is between the static page and live play.

I have played a very small percentage of the RPGs I own (under ‘played’ I’m counting running or GMing as well). Some of this is because I like to pick up RPGs that contribute something to the wider gaming conversation as well as the more popular ones, but some of it is the simple, and sad, fact that I will never have the time, the energy or the groups to play or run every single game I want to.

I’ve actually played quite a good range of games over the ten years I’ve been gaming – not just D&D, World of Darkness, FATE and Uni System, but also Rifts, Cyberpunk 2020, Everway, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Dread, Scion, Monsterhearts, Icons and Don’t Rest Your Head. There are so, so many more I want to play. However, a lot of the games from my second list are in my collection for the sake of one specific thing they do really, really well rather than as generic systems. Some of them are even famous for things they do badly (Rifts). That means, inevitably, that they’ll get played and run less, while more generic and balanced systems like D&D 4th/5th Ed or FATE will be played more.

Add to that the tendency of the gaming community to like long campaigns and consistent groups (both of which are fantastic) and the majority of gamers probably won’t ever be able to run or play everything they want to. I think as well, I’m suffering from the fact that I don’t go to cons (and don’t like gaming with people I don’t know) – it sounds like cons are a great place to rock up, get involved in a game and leave at the end of it, but that requires you to be willing to brave a con that is for more than just people who want to sit around a table for hours rolling dice, which can often be a challenge.

The UEA Games Society has a time-honoured tradition of getting locked in Congregation Hall for 24 hours to play whatever people decide to run. It’s a great way of learning about games you’ve never played before – the problem is that games take a long time. 24 hours sounds like a long time, but when you factor in eating and socialising, board games and an election for the society committee, and the puny human need for sleep that many people feel, it’s a challenge to feel like you’ve done enough. There will always be times when things that you wanted to get involved in clash with each other – and times when everyone is well into their games and there isn’t anything new starting.

So, a solution? Yeah, sorry, I don’t have one. I wish I could say ‘Everyone should play things that have weird mechanics and aren’t any of the mainstream games’, but that’s dumb. People should play whatever they want, and a lot of those mainstream games are much better balanced and playtested. It’s silly to say that we should reject games written by people at the top of their profession just because everyone else is playing them too. More events like cons, 24 hour roleplays and evenings designed to showcase a particular system are good – our local games shops have already started doing that with great success (and that’s how I know Edge of Empire is AMAZING). But that requires GMs, and more importantly, GMs who are willing to take anyone into their game who shows up. On top of that (learned from bitter experience), pitching a game that anyone can show up to is a fine balancing act, as you can have too many players or not enough. Offering to run a game and then no-one showing up is pretty upsetting. Ideally, I would like some kind of publication (or website, though websites tend to get overwhelmed with more general RPG news) that highlights particular systems that may have been overlooked. But hey, if wishes were owlbears, right?

I suppose my way of trying to improve this is to make an attempt to read more of the games I own, and to maybe even start writing little scenarios or statting sample parties. I find it really hard to passively read things (literature student ahoy), so these methods actually help me interact with the games in a more active way, and as a nice side-effect, it means I’m prepped if I ever get the chance to run something without resorting to a system I’ve played lots. It’ll never be perfect, but even if I can feel like I’m engaging with my hobby a little bit more, it’ll be worth it.

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#RPGaDay 2015: Day Two – The Power of Kickstarter

Since I’m writing two posts today to catch up, I’ll keep this brief: our topic today is ‘Kickstarted game most pleased you backed’, which is somewhat of a challenge for me as only one RPG that I’ve backed has arrived at this point (the others aren’t off schedule, just taking their time). So…I guess it would be the second edition of ‘Witch Hunter: the Invisible World’ for RPGs. If I can say any game at all? The Marrying Mr Darcy Emma expansion (with the original game in my reward tier). I missed Marrying Mr Darcy first time around, but it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, and by the sound of it, might never have come out if it wasn’t for Kickstarter. Regency romance with robust mechanics and enjoyable snark? Count me in!

marrying mr darcyKickstarter is a phenomenon that, it is often observed, is a mixed blessing. However, it has been an unparalleled success for tabletop gamers. RPGs, wargames and board and card games are not cheap to produce unless they only exist in pdf and they have a very niche market that requires a great deal of Internet word of mouth to get any traction. Kickstarter is fascinating because suddenly companies and individuals can pursue projects that can escape a lot of the corporate rules that restrain high-risk projects. Sure, they need to be able to prove their business acumen to backers and deliver on the product, and as Kickstarter grows it becomes more difficult to sort through the dross, but things that gamers never thought we would see are emerging from the woodwork. Blue Rose is getting a second edition. Witch Hunter: the Invisible World continues to be supported. Mantic Games, an early adopter of Kickstarter, have produced some really exciting wargames from crowdfunding, and of course Reaper Bones have been a ridiculous juggernaut of success. Possibly most exciting of all, the Fabled Lands books may now be completed.

Let that sink in: a 20-year-old game book series that was mourned by many fans as an eternal disappointment MAY NOW BE COMPLETED. That’s awesome, it really is. Imagine if the fans who loved (for instance) Firefly so passionately could have signed up to be part of its resurrection for as little as $1.

On top of that, there are now countless RPGs out there that have earned out their cost before they are completed. The expensive moulds for wargaming models can be factored into the Kickstarter goal, since the figures themselves cost comparatively little to manufacture once the setup cost has been provided. It’s definitely not all wine and roses, and many people have fallen foul of the whole process (as well as the question of whether established companies should be using Kickstarter or leaving it for the little startups with big ideas) but it seems like a force for good, because it allows smaller projects to connect directly with the people who want to buy them.

The thing I want to see from Kickstarter now is a gaming magazine that is non-system-specific, basically Arcane. Get on that, someone.

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#RPGaDay 2015: Day One – Edition Wars

I’m already a day behind with #RPGaDay! Not a good start.

Day One’s topic is ‘Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to’. There are lots of great games coming out soon, but the one I’m most excited about right now is Changeling: the Lost 2nd Edition. With The God Machine Chronicle and Blood and Smoke, Onyx Path have proven that they are providing some really great new mechanics for their lines. Not just rehashing the old settings, either, but altering them so they do something different. Blood and Smoke is subtly but significantly different to Vampire: the Requiem in a way that makes me highly optimistic for Changeling 2nd Edition.

edition warsI suppose one thing that has always bothered me about RPGs is the concept of an edition war. I didn’t get into D&D until 3.5 Edition was well underway, but I definitely felt a lot of defensiveness about 4th Edition that took a long time to break through (now I love 4th Edition and I’m highly suspicious of 5th Edition). I know lots of people felt the same way about the change from 2nd to 3rd Edition. There are still plenty of people who discount the entire new World of Darkness line in favour of the original World of Darkness games, and I imagine there will be some who will always prefer First Edition WoD to Second Edition. However, with pdfs, Kickstarter and the Old School Revival, the edition wars have lost some of its power. OK, people don’t seem to play 2nd or 3rd Edition D&D much any more, but 5th Edition and Pathfinder were introduced specifically to provide an updated ruleset in the tradition of D&D that 4th Ed somewhat left behind. What’s great is that the spirit of those editions can still exist within newer versions while also allowing for new mechanics (5th Edition) or a slow carving out of their own styles and niches (Pathfinder). Onyx Path have gone one better by (appropriately) resurrecting their old lines through Kickstarter, celebrating the success they had, while still moving forward with new mechanics that introduce more storygaming concepts into the system. In fact, they even provide cross-edition synergy by providing translation guides for playing, say, Masquerade in the Requiem rules. It’s a pretty stellar business model.

That said, there is the risk of things slipping through the cracks. 4th Ed D&D is no longer supported, and 5th Edition feels like a step backwards for many people who enjoyed the changes that 4th Ed made. First Edition WoD had very minimal support for some of its lines (Geist, I’m looking at you) and it begs the question of whether the edition was complete enough to warrant moving on…or whether there is enough life left to provide a whole new edition. However, Onyx Path is a good example of edition wars done right: the new generation of game doesn’t invalidate the old one. Vampire: the Requiem has an awful lot going for it, as does Masquerade, that Blood and Smoke doesn’t do. They are not simply re-releasing all the old bloodlines and covenant books with new mechanics, and the Strix Chronicle provides a new facet to vampire antagonists that hasn’t been seen before. It doesn’t stop VII or Belial’s Brood being great bad guys, and it doesn’t remove the advantages of owning the first edition books.

Ultimately, everyone is going to have their favourite edition of D&D or WoD. What I’m glad to see these days is that the attitude is no longer out with the old, in with the new. It makes business sense to keep the old lines alive, and it enriches the hobby as people have a wider range of editions to choose from. The question becomes ‘how do you want to run your game?’, which can only be a good thing, in my opinion.

(Though the one thing I think is a shame is that 3rd Edition has fallen so far out of favour, and as a result some really good things like the Open Gaming Licence and the many, many spinoff settings and books that resulted, are forgotten. D20 Modern, Swashbuckling Adventures and the True20 system deserve to be remembered.)

For a thoughtful explanation of what Wizards of the Coast has been trying with Fifth Edition: this Guardian article