On the Radar: ‘Spire’

Bias disclaimer: The people who write and produce Spire are personal friends and therefore there is likely to be bias in this post. I also took a look over Blood and Dust before the Kickstarter to suggest minor edits for accessibility to new GMs. However, the creators of Spire have not asked me to promote it and I do not benefit monetarily from writing this.

From the team (Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor) that brought you Goblin Quest, Unbound and the Hearty Dice Friends podcast comes Spire, a game of oppression, survival and resistance. Turning the standard narrative of ‘evil Drow, except that one guy’ on its head, the drow of this setting have been enslaved by the aelfir, or high elves, and forced to live deep in the lowest reaches of a towering city called Spire, far from the sun that burns their skin. Your characters are part of the Ministry, a religious sect that also forms one of the resistance movements of the city. This post primarily concerns the backer-only quickstart rules and starter adventure, Blood and Dust, as Spire itself is still in the writing stages. Continue reading


#RPGaDay Day Six: Tabletop Self-Care

A very late Day 6 of #RPGaDay asks “You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!”

I think many people would want to do a single campaign or something, but I like variety. At the same time, I think a Powered by the Apocalypse game like Monsterhearts would be too intense to play every day for a week. I think that I’d end up too deep into the rollercoaster of emotions and that wouldn’t be an emotionally safe or respectful environment to game in. But I think a single campaign every day for a week would get a bit samey. So, I think I’d probably want to do a series of one-shots and improvisational games, things where we could enjoy them while they’re happening and then set them aside. Not all games benefit from being so short, but I think a mix of more guided and unstructured games would be good. Something like Fate for less structured, mixed in with Lady Blackbird or pre-written adventures for something with more guidance (for when we’re all tired and can’t plan properly), and then light fun games like Lasers and Feelings as a palate cleanser. Probably throw some board games and maybe computer games in for variety as well. It sounds pretty cool, but I also think that trapping myself in an isolated situation with a bunch of people, even close friends, sounds like hell. I’m at my best in small doses! Continue reading


#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


#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


#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


#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


Masks: There Goes the Neighbourhood

[NB: I’m publishing this back-dated to avoid confusion with my recap, as I wrote it but did not get round to posting it before running the first episode of my campaign.]

My gaming group recently reached the end of a Monsterhearts campaign (sob!) and it’s been an experience that’s basically obsessed me for the last six months or so. I feel like it’s probably my turn for GMing duties, so I’m going to be running a Masks: A New Generation game that will hopefully last around the length of one season of Monsterhearts, but since I haven’t run a tabletop game beyond one shots or solo adventures for about five or six years, I’m a bit rusty on judging how long things will take in tabletop. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of live game running and playing I’ve been doing doesn’t help much with that! Continue reading