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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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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

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Review: ‘Ladykillers’

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I’m slowly working my way through the first Bundle of Holding I obtained (first of many), and it’s time to review Ladykillers by Matt Snyder, one of the games in the Bundle that I’m most interested in. It features a pitch that could easily be run in most other systems – wronged women return from the grave with magic powers to hunt monsters – but its native system is quick, simple and flavourful.

Content warning: this is a game where you will want to discuss permitted content. One of the character generation questions involves suicide, and obviously given the subject matter, which is very much in the genre of female-centric revenge thriller, there is a lot of potential for upsetting themes to come up. Continue reading

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Review: ‘Masks: A New Generation’

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The Powered by the Apocalypse system, Vince Baker’s revolutionary game design paradigm originally showcased in Apocalypse World, has become a big of a mixed blessing: while it inspired games like Monsterhearts (which is incredibly important to me as it massively changed how I play and think about roleplaying games), it seems like lots of people are trying to make PbtA games without really thinking about what that means. The virtue of PbtA is that is can emulate a specific combination of genre, emotional intensity and surprising twists like no other system that currently exists. At the same time, it just doesn’t work for everything. It shouldn’t – it’s not a generic system. It’s pretty much the opposite of that. There are some great places to look for systems that can be hacked into whatever shape you like: Fate if you want high-action, minimal changes; Cortex for something more tailored to genre emulation; Hillfolk for high-drama big-picture plots.

So when I hear ‘it’s x done in PbtA’, my heart sinks a little. Will it disappoint me? My ears prick up. Will it have mechanics I really want to get my teeth into?

Continue reading

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Review: ‘The Secrets of Cats’

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The Secrets of Cats by Richard Bellingham is an excellent setting for Fate, part of their Worlds of Fate series (which, by the way, is generally wonderful, as they’re really committing to their Open Gaming Licence and promoting lesser-known designers with innovative uses for the system). The characters are all cats who belong to a secret cat society that guards and watches over humans, their ‘Burdens’, using sacrificial magic, territory and occult know-how. If that didn’t already make you excited about this game, you’re probably a lost cause for this review, because this game fully embraces the concept. Less horrifying than Bunnies and Burrows, more heroic than Another Fine Mess, it’s a sweet and occasionally brutal game of animals who are willing to risk anything to save those they love. Continue reading