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#RPGaDay 2017 Day Four: Why the 4E Hate?

On day four of #RPGaDay, we ask the question: which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

There are two games I play regularly: Dungeons & Dragons 4E for an Eberron campaign and Princess: The Hopeful, a fan hack of Chronicles of Darkness for the magical girl genre. Beyond that (and discounting live games, which are overwhelmingly Chronicles of Darkness 1st and 2nd Edition), probably Monsterhearts. Honestly, I prefer to play lots of different things over any one system forever. I don’t even want to play just one edition of a system in the case of D&D! My quest over the next few years is to play broadly, rather than deeply (though ideally I would like to find depth in everything I play) – experience as many different games as possible and challenge my assumptions about systems. Continue reading

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#RPGaDay 2017 Day Three: Coverage and Accessibility

Rather late here is the 3rd day of #RPGaDay with the question: how do you find out about new RPGs?

I don’t have a central hub for information about new RPGs. I’ve tried to be more aware of the ENnies these last couple of years (I was going to try and read and review as many of the ENnie nominees as I had access to this year but it didn’t work out like that), I keep an eye on cool RPG Kickstarters, my nerd friends know the kind of stuff I like and point me in the right direction, and I am on several G+ groups for systems I enjoy. The biggest access point for new and indie RPGs has been Bundle of Holding, as it has brought my attention to so many games I never would have heard of otherwise. I should probably check news sites like EN World for RPG news more regularly, but they are often basic news bulletins with little analysis, and focus on a lot of lines I have no context for or interest in. Even the Chronicles of Darkness often gets short shrift. I also pick up Tabletop Gaming when I remember to – they’ve only recently moved into the world of RPGs as they were originally more board games and wargames, but they’re the closest to a mainstream publication that is system-neutral right now. Continue reading

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#RPGaDay 2017: Day Two – Cap’n Crunch or Lucky Charms?

Day Two of #RPGaDay: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

This is tricky because if I see a gap in the market I tend to hack or write my own solution, and the games where I idly think “If only there was a game that did x” and then forget about aren’t usually particularly important to me. I would like to see a robust system that takes a story game approach (preferably a Powered by the Apocalypse approach) to heroic fantasy games but isn’t Old School Revival (sorry, Dungeon World). I have future plans to write something along those lines and have started hashing out mechanics, but it would be much simpler if it already existed.

Beyond that, something that incorporates all the awesome things from different RPGs that I love – relationship links similar to Strings in Monsterhearts, meaningful changing attributes like the labels in Masks, influence not unlike the debts in Urban Shadows or icon relationships in 13th Age, strong support for improvised mechanics as in Fate, some kind of plot point system that walks the line between balance and awesomeness, intuitive and empowering shifts of narrative control, goal and achievement-based advancement like aspirations in Chronicles of Darkness, an improvisational magic system, generic and modular design so it can be adapted for loads of different genres as in Cortex, well-defined encounter design system as in 4th Ed…the list goes on. Basically, the One True RPG for my design ethic will likely never exist, and if I tried to put it together, it would undoubtedly be an incoherent mess. The whole point of the RPGs I’ve cited above is that each of them does what they do very well, and to try and combine them all would be lesser than the sum of its parts. Still, that’s the dream. Continue reading

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#RPGaDay 2017: Day One – In Praise of Short Campaigns

RPGaDay is back with some really cool questions. Today’s is: what published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

My answer to this question is usually either a list or whatever I’m most fired up by at the moment. There are a few constants: I pretty much always wish I was playing more Monsterhearts or other Powered by the Apocalypse games, particularly Urban Shadows. Maybe I’ll get tired of Monsterhearts someday, but that point has clearly not yet arrived! I would dearly like to play the new 7th Sea, because it looks amazing and I’ve never actually played a game set in Theah, despite my love of the Swashbuckling Adventures D20 adaptation. I backed the Kickstarter and have the book for 2nd Edition, but currently it has to go on my huge list of games to play. I’d also really love to try running D&D 5E as it, surprisingly, really sparked my interest in heroic fantasy games again after years of being more interested in dark fantasy and atypical fantasy. In terms of more improvisational games, I desperately want to play Dead of Night, Heroine and Unbound. Continue reading

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Living a Hundred Lives At Once: My Gaming Credentials

Let’s get this all out of the way right now. For the sake of context, not boasting.

I was a geek before I knew what that was. My mum introduced me to Star Trek and Star Wars from an early enough age that I had nightmares about the salt-sucking beast from TOS and freaked out about the arm-cutting scene at the start of Episode IV. My dad, in rare moments of geekery, read me The Hobbit as a very young child and lent me his very old copy of The Lord of the Rings (held together with sellotape) when I decided to read it aged 11.

I introduced myself to many other geeky things: fantasy novels, computer games, comic books and TV series like Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My early computer gaming interests were RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and strategy games like Caesar III. I forced myself to become less squeamish so that I could read Sandman and negotiate my love of horror films.

Since then, my interests have broadened further, though I’m very aware that I’m a geek of all trades since I often have a surface knowledge of a lot of different things rather than a deeper knowledge of any one of them. I know the names of the captains and series of Star Trek but I don’t remember that many individual episodes because I grew up with them being broadcast in weird orders on BBC Two (as an aside, can I get a cheer for the BBC sci-fi hour at 6? I wish that was still on).

But none of that is about gaming (except the computer gaming, and that was limited by what I could find by myself or borrow from friends), mainly because I didn’t encounter roleplaying as a concept until I got to university. There, under the watchful eye of UEA’s brilliant Games Society, I learned about D&D, WoD (old and new), 40k and a whole world of experiences that I had never even heard of before. I’ve LARPed, I’ve livegamed, I’ve wargamed, I’ve CCG’d, I’ve boardgamed, I’ve tabletopped, I’ve done more computer and console gaming that I knew existed, and I love it. All of it. Sure, I may not be hugely fond of some systems or games, but I always said I would try anything but Cyberpunk and then I was in two long-running Cyberpunk 2020 games that were amazing.

And along with all of that, I’ve come to indie rpgs, story games and the theoretical side of gaming. It’s a relatively recent development, but I’m interested in games as an art and a practice. I don’t think my parents ever envisioned my English Literature degree being useful in gaming criticism, but hey, who knows where people are going to end up?

I’ve also struggled with generalised and social anxiety disorders for most of my life without realising what they were. I’ve been hampered by low self-esteem as long as I can remember. I’m self-diagnosing here, and my experiences are comparatively mild but they still affect my life negatively. I’ve become more aware and I’m learning to cope with them more over the last few years but they have meant that I haven’t taken opportunities and enjoyed life as much as I could. I’ve found that gaming is a hobby that impacts very strongly on social anxiety in positive and negative ways. Gaming can trigger immense social anxiety due to its nature as a group social activity but it can also be a useful arena for dealing with anxiety issues as a part of a community that is, on the whole, sympathetic and accepting of disorders and shyness.

The stereotype of the socially inept gamer is still a stereotype first and foremost, but the gaming community has a larger number of members affected by anxiety issues. I have found it to be a community where it is more acceptable to air personal issues and discuss such problems among friends who’ve probably had similar experiences.

This blog is, to some extent, always going to be divided. On the one hand, I want to talk about gaming and roleplaying in terms of theory, practice, art and context (both academic and social). I want to talk about geek culture in a wider sense as well, and other areas of geek interest. On the other hand, I feel that a blog focusing on social anxiety and the highs and lows of how it interacts with gaming would be interesting to write and it’s a side of gaming that lots of people within the community don’t understand.

The Anxious Gamer was born. I hope you enjoy it.