Thursday, 4 September 2014

Music To Roleplay To: Ambient-Mixer

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we look at another audio app that can be used in your games, this time focusing not so much on music but instead on background ambience:


My attention was recently brought to a site called Ambient-Mixer.com. The site is a compilation of user-submitted templates containing up to eight audio files mixed together to form an 'atmosphere'. The application is designed for a variety of uses: general ambient listening, background music for a short film, etc.; and for the mobile versions, an alarm clock and night timer. The applications for gaming have not been overlooked.

The nice thing about Ambient-Mixer is that there are figuratively tons of free, pre-compiled ambient templates to listen to; organized by category, recentness, popularity, and entirely searchable. (Doing a few quick test searches I pleasantly discovered users have complied a bunch of specific mixes tagged for RavenloftNumenera, and Star Wars games.)

You can view public atmospheres created by other users, which is handy if you dig their sound. That said the quality of mixes varies and thus so may your mileage; at least there is a wide selection and multiple genres to choose from!


You can also actively alter the mix you're listening to, changing the volume, cross-fade, frequency, etc. of tracks, which is convenient if you want to emphasize a particular sound or you need to mute one you find grating. I didn't have the time to make an account and create my own custom mix/save a template, so I didn't see that side of the coin.



One of the downsides of Ambient-Mixer, regardless of using it via desktop or mobile, is that it can take up to a few minutes for the mixer to download the necessary audio tracks; thus creating a period of dead air when searching for/swapping between atmospheres. Not really conducive for GM's like me who like to keep the game from being interrupted by fiddling with music. Also if you want to download an atmosphere as an MP3, the site charges you $5-16 USD based upon the length of the file.

The mobile version of Ambient-Mixer seems to also (at least with iOS devices) suffer from the inability to play sound when operating in the background or with the screen switched off (at least the screen blackens after a minute or so to minimize power loss); relegating your device purely to producing audio. Also the app has crashed once or twice on me, so I don't know how stable it actually is.


Additionally to note, all of my testing was done with the free mobile version of Ambient-Mixer; there's a full version about $4.99 USD for iOS devices and $4.73 USD for Android; the only difference from the 'Lite' version and full seems to be the ability to save atmospheres; when you already have access to all the other features combined with the currently stability of the app and its lacklustre interface doesn't make it seem worth the price.


All in all my impression is that Ambient-Mixer's major variety balances out its mild utility in gaming.


Keep On Listening! ;{١

Sunday, 31 August 2014

#RPGaDay Entries

This August I participated in +Autocratik's #RPGaDay event that was making its way around the interwebs this month, and instead of answering each entry with a blog post, I just replied on the social media sites I frequent. But I've complied all 31 entries here for ease of future reference:




Day 1: First RPG Played



The first RPG I 'played', like many grognards, was Dungeons & Dragons Basic (1st Edition a.k.a Holmes Basic); played is used loosely in this sense as it was more so coming across the boxed set at my Dads', being amazed by the concepts within, and later trying to figure it out with a bunch of uninterested friends from highschool, all way back in the day.

I still have the tattered box on my shelf. Ahh memories..



Day 2: First RPG GM'ed


Related to yesterdays entry, I immediately assumed the role of DM of our first 'game'; the introductory module that came in the D&D Holmes Basic boxed set: B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. This particular set didn't come with dice, just a print out of numerical chits one was supposed to randomly draw. Suffice to say the group soon lost interest since we had no idea what we were supposed to do. I just goes to show that back in those days you needed someone familiar with the hobby to show you the ropes.

But obviously that setback didn't deter my interest in RPGs at all.



Day 3: First RPG Purchased


I'm fairly certain the first RPG I actually purchased with my own money was Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, specifically the Player's Handbook. This was when the hobby began to take off for me; some highschool friends were getting into it with me (they actually got me the Dungeon Master's Guide for my birthday that year), and I met some people who were also passionate about gaming and became best friends with them.

Despite this personal revolution so to speak, I was pretty D&D/d20-system insular for a many years, only getting to play one other RPG (new-WoD) a few times. I'd amassed a decent array of 3.x splat-books that I still have to this day. I think that's why I took the news of a 4th edition pretty hard; I had already given WotC a fair share of my earnings at the time, so I refused to lay down any more cash for a new edition. With my bubble burst, I began to consider other RPGs.

I was still somewhat devoted to 3.5, and never went to Pathfinder as the majority of d20 gamers did despite hearing it was essentially a '3.75' edition with some of the flaws fixed (I've played Pathfinder a few times, know most of the differences, but I've never actually bought the corebook). Also I found that the Star Wars: Saga Edition d20 Role Playing Game is my one of my favourite incarnations of the d20-system; reasonably light with a decent amount of crunch. It wasn't until I really experienced other RPGs I began to really see the inherent flaws in the d20-system by comparison.

3.x edition will always be important to my gamer development, and hold a special place in my heart, but as always the times they are a changing. With a new 5th edition D&D is arriving that seems to getting closer to its roots, and tons of brilliant systems already out there, perhaps a golden age is upon us.



Day 4: Most Recent RPG Purchase


Today I'm not going to include any recent 2nd-hand purchases in this entry nor bought PDFs, only things I've picked up from a brick-and-mortar FLGS:

My most recent RPG purchase was on June 21st a.k.a Free RPG Day, and was Dungeon World (Have I really gone that long without buying an RPG?). I had gotten the chance to play DW once before finally adding it to my collection, but I've played tremulus a couple times and they're both based upon the Apocalypse World Engine, so I'd like to think I'm somewhat familiar with the core mechanics.

With simple rules, low-prep, complete collaborative world building, and cinematic fantasy action; what more could one ask for? One can easily see why DW has grown quite popular and is one of the contenders WotC's D&D 5e has to deal with. Also with playbook use, this makes a Dungeon World true pick up-n-play RPG, something fairly rare in this hobby. Can't wait to try this one out.



Day 5: Most Old School RPG Owned


In literal terms, one could easily determine the old school-ness of an RPG by its age a.k.a the date of its printing. In this case it would be a toss up between the aforementioned D&D Holmes Basic edition I own (complete game) circa 1979, or the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual (book) circa 1978, in terms of age.

But the era something was printed in shouldn't be the only factor that determines whether or not an RPG is 'old school'. Old school can be a mindset, a play-style, afeeling as it were.

In my opinion, I believe that Torchbearer by Burning Wheel HQ. is a modern old school RPG. Created by the designers as a love letter to Basic D&D, it focuses on the classic dungeon crawl, but with fresh new perspective. Though a bit heavy on the rules compared to many OSR contemporaries, Torchbearer makes the now somewhat tedious prospect of dungeon crawling much more compelling by brilliant mechanics.




Day 6: Favourite RPG I Never Get To Play


This is a tough query to answer when you have an RPG collection as big as mine, have played as many as I have, and/or the recent season has limited your gaming to maybe five times a month at the most between two games. One could easily say any RPG I'm not currently playing right now could potentially be a favourite that I never get to play.

I'm not saying that every game on my shelf is hence a favourite, but out of the vast collection there are many I would count as such. I've limited the parameters to something I've actually ran/played before, and not within the past two years. The conclusion I've arrived at is: Spirit of the Century.

For those uninitiated, Spirit of the Century (or SotC) is a pulp RPG, and by pulp I'm referring to the serialized adventures of the early 20th century and their modern echoes: Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Rocketeer, Tintin, Indiana Jones, Hellboy/BPRD, etc. I like my action just how I like my orange juice, with PULP.

A little background: When I first moved to Victoria and managed to find a group of gamers, the first game we played was a pulp-style scenario our GM was running using the FUDGE system (the precursor system FATE is based off of, which is coincidentally the system Spirit of the Century uses). Our group only lasted a session or two before it broke up, but a few years later I ordered in a copy of SotC from an FLGS and it's been a favourite ever since I read and run it.

All my friends who played in my SotC games say they really enjoy it, so why don't I play it more often? I'm not sure. I want to, but it seems other games take priority, especially ones I haven't tried at all. Keeping up with the Jones' in my own way I suppose.

Spirit of the Century was my first introduction to FATE; although the system is now immensely popular with the recent Fate Core release, SotC still leaves me with an itch for two-fisted action!



Day 7: Most "intellectual" RPG Owned


Today's query seems to have a lot of fellow gamers participating scratching their heads over what could be considered "intellectual" as far as RPGs go and coming up with some pretty interesting and/or amusing answers. The answer for myself came rather quick and easy, perhaps because it leapt to mind before I even considered it: Hillfolk: A Game of Iron Age Drama.

In terms of "intellectual" Hillfolk was one of those few games that made me think more deeply than ever about roleplaying and narrative theory than any other RPG I've currently read up to this point. It's not a game that requires a degree to figure out any complex mechanics, nor is it pretentious telling you the 'correct' way to play. But it IS different than most other RPGs out there. And that's why I consider it the most "intellectual" RPG I own in my opinion.

I won't go into further details here, as I've already typed them out a while ago in a blog post about Hillfolk; it's available for viewing here if one is so inclined: [Link]




Day 8: Favourite Character


As many gamers are aware, answering this question goes against an unspoken rule, because nobody wants to hear you prattle on about a character in a personal game your unfamiliar with, so I'll try to keep this short.

As the majority of the time I GM games, my characters are mostly NPCs and although I do like to add personality to each one that my players deem important, I can't say that one is my all time favourite, and since they're NPCs I don't really get attached to them that much. They're all fun to play, that's one reason why I like to GM games; why play one character when you can play many?

Regardless, I'm sure this question is more aimed at the player side of things so I'll try to answer it as such. I'll narrow it down to two of my most recent PCs:

First is probably Edward Dunsmuir, a time-displaced turn-of-the-century Egyptologist in modern-day Victoria, from The Dresden Files RPG. Edward is/was the longest character I've played consistently by far. He enjoys his friends' company, tea, reading, and looking dapper. He has the ability to speak with ghosts and practices ectomancy (a spiritualist), is a scholar in many occult fields, and always a gentleman first. Despite his reserved nature he tends to be a magnet for weird happenings. He was recently placed under arrest by a warden by the white council under the charges of breaking several laws of magic, punishable by death. His companions believe he was set up, but the current situation is unresolved...

Second is Jabez, a grizzled, stubborn American Civil War veteran-turned-Mormon. Along with his companions, Jabez kept the peace and the true faith by patrolling the State of Deseret (pre-Utah) as God's Watchdogs (commonly referred to as Dogs) during a few sessions of the indie RPG, Dogs in the Vineyard. Jabez was a hoot to play.



Day 9: Favourite Die / Dice Set


I'll keep this quick and short, because the only thing that can be more boring than character gushing is dice gushing. I have three sets of dice I'm fond of:

First is a dark violet-white/gold set that I've had nearly as long as I've played RPGs. They're sentimental for that reason, plus they're my favourite colour. No sure on the make, probably Chessex or some combination there of.


Second is a metal-black 'steampunk' solid steel dice set by Q-Workshop, given to me by a co-worker who found them whilst packing to move and was unsure what they were. A set like this goes for nearly as much as an RPG book and I got them as a gift! Talk about lucky! They've a nice hefty feel in my pocket and because they're so weighty, I don't really have to worry about a die or two 'jumping' out of my pocket when active. On the downside they can leave marks in certain bare surfaces.

Third is a 'ancient' beige-black set of 4dF a.k.a four FUDGE/FATE dice. Also by Q-Workshop. Skookum.



Day 10: Favourite tie-in novel / game fiction


I'm not a huge fan of tie-in novels and game fiction for RPGs beyond what is presented in the actual game. I've read a few Forgotten Realms books in my day; they were entertaining but I don't have them now because they're not really worth keeping in my opinion.

And most of what I consider decent fiction is already from an existing non-game-based intellectual property, like J.R.R. Tolkien for The One Ring, and MERP; H.P. Lovecraft for Call of Cthulhu, Trail of Cthulhu, tremulus, etc; the TV series for Doctor Who; Robert E. Howard for Conan and Solomon Kane; and anything Star Wars for any SWRPG. So I won't count them.

RPGs are a way of collectively creating your own story in a given setting, so why would you want to read fiction that someone else has written instead of crafting your own?

Regardless I'd have to say my answer to today's question is The Amber Monolith, a short story set in the far future of world Numenera. Short but evocative, it sets the tone for Numenera quite well. I suggest checking it out if you're interested in this setting. Plus it's free to browse or download here: [Link]



Addendum: Though I kinda pooh-pooh'd the Forgotten Realms books, as an admittance of a guilty pleasure, will say I do enjoy the cliché-filled, semi-biographical Ravenloft novel: I, Strahd. My tastes are not that refined. :)





Day 11: Weirdest RPG Owned


Hoo boy. Here we go. My pick for today is a game that isn't intentionally weird per say, at least not in the way games like Gamma World or Laminations of the Flame Princess could be considered weird. No, this is a peculiar game that freely came into my possession and I can basically sum up with a phrase:

Flowery Genital People.

Welcome to Wraeththu: From Enchantment to Fulfilment.

The premise is you play as androgynous, hermaphroditic beings called Wraeththu on a post-apocalyptic earth that abduct and transform humans into themselves; like vampires but even creepier. Oh, did I mention they can only transform males? And they also ejaculate acid? And that this is based of off an actual series of novels? (Mind you I've heard the novels are much better than this RPG tripe.)

The concept is as bizarre as it sounds, and the game itself is very poorly written; full of bad writing that spans 400+ pages of wasted paper. I pity the trees that gave up their lives for this.

But what about these flowery genitals I spoke of? The book goes into needless depth of the sexuality of the wraeththu. See that faded image underneath the dagger on the front cover? That is a graphical representation of the penile part of wraeththu genitals. I really wish I was joking.

Why do I have this game, knowing that'll never play it because of the very strange content, terrible writing, and horrible mechanics? (Though the wraeththu do have possibility as bizarre predatory antagonists in any other game.) It's an RPG oddity for sure, and I might be keeping it in my collection because its infamy makes it somewhat rare/interesting...? Or at least that's what I tell myself to sleep soundly at night.

If you're interested in further info on this level of weirdness (hopefully not), look it up on the web; there are at least a dozen in-depth reviews going over this "unique" RPG with a fine-toothed nit comb.

* sigh * There are many highs to this hobby, and some really weird lows. Like life, you gotta take the highs with the lows.



Day 12: Old RPG I Still Play / Read


I'm going to go with Call of Cthulhu. Though I haven't actually run the game in years, along with the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, this has had profound influence on me, inside and outside of gaming. I still read the material from time to time when the 'weird' mood strikes me.

The core system for CoC has changed very little I'm told between 2nd and 6th edition (the edition I currently read/play), so I count it as an old RPG in this case. Thus the rules are beginning to show their age; the impending 7th edition claims to be updating a few things for the times, but we'll see how much changes there are.

Despite some misgivings about the system (I feel that there are now simpler, more streamlined systems that wouldn't get in the way of the narrative as much; I'm looking at you Dread), you can't beat the writing of Chaosium's flagship line. Though many products are a miss, most tend do well to capturing the tonality and themes of Lovecraft's body of work.

Plus this is the game that wrought us such fan-favourite gems as Masks of Nyarlathotep, Delta Green, and Beyond the Mountains of Madness. Currently, over half of the top 10 RPG items on RPG Geek are Call of Cthulhu-related. This just further represents its popularity in the minds and hearts of gamers.



Day 13: Most Memorable Character Death


This is going to be split between two; comedy and tragedy essentially, neither of which are any of my own PC/NPCs' deaths, though I was privy to them: the death of Tim during a Ravenloft game, and Zogg's death from my old room-mates' campaign; both in D&D 3.5E.

Tim the Scribe gets a vote because his end was a series of critical failures that began with a pit trap that led directly into the River Ivlis. This was further compounded by another PC (whom we just introduced to our group and whose character the party had just met) diving into the water in a vain attempt to save him: he too rolled poorly and they both ending up drowning in the river.

What made this memorable was the hilarious string of horrible rolls and the fact that Tim was too stubborn to drop any weight to gain buoyancy so he and his would-be rescuer might have a better chance of surviving. Tim actually was given a lease on life from the reaper (at a cost) via a houserule, but his drowned companion's own good-natured player decided to roll up a new character.

(This also further cemented my belief the two most deadly things in nearly any RPG is respectively drowning and falling. Two excellent ways to quickly bring about character death.)

My second vote is more tragic: my good friend's PC named Zogg, whom he modelled after Ludo from Labyrinth. Zogg was eventually slain in combat by a critical dealing Umber Hulk, and his body was petrified into a monument by the citizens of a small underground community we had sort of became the residential protectors of. A loss felt deeply inside and outside character.

Zogg's affinity for stone allowed him to return from death later on, shattering out of his statue-like form with much gusto in our final bid to take on the campaign's BBEG.

We never did have that climatic battle. Regardless of his final fate, I do miss the big lug.



Day 14: Best Convention Purchase


This purchase wasn't exactly from a game convention, instead it was from a recent bi-annual hobby and toy fair held here in Victoria, hosted by local Cherry Bomb Toys.

The previous time I had attended the fair, I had picked up AD&D module I4: Oasis of the White Palm. I was hoping I'd be as lucky this year.

After a couple hours of fruitlessly scouring tables for any interesting RPG-related stuff, I was ready to leave when I discovered two boxes filled to their brims with old, mostly D&D material beneath a vendor's table. I had only the cash on hand for about a dozen items, so I carefully went through the boxes and picked out my choice ones; (there were several I had to leave behind but later picked up at the vendor's collectible toy store in town) mostly Basic D&D and AD&D 1e modules.


For the decent condition each module was in and the amount I paid for them, I think I made a pretty good deal.



Day 15: Favourite Convention Game


Another question where I'm going to split the answer into two parts: Favourite game I've GM'd and favourite game I've played in. (And I suppose one could go a third route by stating their preferred system/setting for convention play but I'm not going to go that far.)


Favourite Convention Game I've GM'd


This one goes to the first two times I'd ever GM'd at a convention, back during 2013's GottaCon Gaming Convention. During one slot I ran the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game to, I believe, a well-received table. The following day I ran the same adventure again impromptu for a group of gamers who were interested in trying out the latest SWRPG iteration. They also quite enjoyed themselves.

My first time experience boosted my confidence GM'ing games for strangers, and hooked me on running convention games in the future. I also got to showcase EotE's unique dice system that I was gaga for at the time and am still rather fond of.


Favourite Convention Game I've Played In

I've played in several memorable convention games, but the one that might stand out the most for me would be the Conan RPG I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing during the most recent GottaCon.

My buddy Ash is both a superb GM and lover of Conan, and the fact that he GM'd our session in his 'aquilonian' centurion kit that he'd been also wearing for most of the day was further testament to his dedication. His oratorian tone and demeanour enraptured his players into the epic tale we were together weaving. Each dice roll was kept interesting and the common issues I had with d20-systems faded away when adequately drenched with narrative and story. Our GM knew the setting and theme inside-out, and applied them perfectly.


The session was a blast, and I really hope he does another one next year.



Day 16: Game You Wished You Owned


If I play an RPG and enjoy it enough, I will go down to my FLGS and buy it, or order it in. Or I may just buy/order it without having played it if I think I'd enjoy it, even if it's highly unlikely I'd ever get to play it. I actually enjoy reading RPG books; seeing what makes them tick, how they're similar/different to others, absorbing their settings and themes, etc. Hence my collection has grown thus.

After a bit of thought, the game that I've wanted a physical copy of for the longest time but still don't own has to be Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The two Free RPG Day supplements with their stellar production values really sold me, along with the chance to try out the game proper at GottaCon this year (thanks again Jeff). This dark, gory, weird fantasy OSR game is right up my alley.

Originally, I've been too wussy about the cost to have a copy shipped here from it's native country of Finland, which is about $40 CAN, close to the cost of your average RPG here anyway.

But no longer! After a tiny bit more thought, I just went and ordered the book. After all, I own the two related Free RPG Day adventures and I've backed both designer Rafael Chandler's Lusus Naturae bestiary and No Salvation for Witches adventure. I thought it was high time I owned a copy of the actual associated system!



Day 17: Funniest Game You've Played


I enjoy making others laugh and I enjoy laughing, so it's to be expected the games I'm apart of tend to have at least a few humorous moments. So picking the funniest game in this case should to be geared towards an RPG that's comedic in its very nature. Again I'll split this answer between player/GM.


Funniest Game I've Played In:

A couple years ago I played in a first edition Paranoia game at GottaCon 2013 that loads of madcap fun, as any good Paranoia game should be. It was a late night slot, you had just spent the rest of the day gaming, so you became that silly tired that helped fuel the hilarity. Did our team of hapless troubleshooters accomplish anything? No! Did we laugh doing it? Hell yeah!

Eventually I'd like to run my own session or two of Paranoia for friends, and I also have a crazy dream of running a manic multi-table game at a convention...


Funniest Game I've GM'd:

My choice was also the only game I had a chance to fully GM at the most recent GottaCon: a little thing I called Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force!

Because of my health concerns at the beginning of the year, I missed my chance to submit any events beforehand, but the awesome RPG coordinators gave me a table to run something during the con. I brought along something I had designed to be run using Fate Accelerated Edition, with a bit of homebrew ingenuity.


BZDF! was the basic setting I had designed around a mechanic I had developed for FAE; a group of individuals akin to the Power Rangers but based around Chinese Zodiac combat the wacky evils of the world whilst delivering food. There was flashy cooking in space, a rush through freezing Norway to deliver hot food to an infamous critic, and a battle with an army of fishbowl-wearing ghost-aliens and their giant mecha-mantis. And my custom mechanic uses the paper strips from within fortune cookies.

You can see how serious this game took itself.

As you may have guessed, the game was a hit; I certainly had many guffaws during it. I'm considering it a go-to for future con games I run, possibly on a Games-On-Demand roster.

For those inclined, an overview of the setting and my homebrew mechanic for BZDF! can be viewed on my blog here: [Link]

Feel free to give it a shot with your group; if you do, tell me how it went! I'd love to hear feedback!



Day 18: Favourite Game System


Okay, this may be the single most difficult question to answer for #RPGaDay, as I believe all RPG systems have their merits and flaws; some more so than others. I'm also a gamer who likes to select the right tool for the job so to speak; the system that best performs any heavy lifting in a given setting. Games where mechanics go smoothly hand-in-hand with set pieces are a big in my book. Like children I am told, it can be impossible to chose a favourite.

But I will list my go-to's for particular themes:

Action/Adventure - Any Fate derivative.
Gritty Fantasy - Torchbearer/Burning Wheel.
Heroic Fantasy - Dungeon World.
Tolkien-esque Fantasy - The One Ring.
Science Fantasy - Numenera or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion.
Horror - Dread.
Group Storytelling - Fiasco.

That all said though, I think I'm going to have to go with Fate Core, and to a lesser extent its precursor Fate 3.0 used in Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG, and it's younger sibling Fate Accelerated Edition as my favourite all-round game system. As far as generic systems go, Fate Core has the potential to support a vast potential of settings without needing to reference any splatbook for rules, unlike most generic systems like the d20 System, GURPS, Savage Worlds, etc. Allow me list the other ways I dig Fate:


- It has simple rules for newbie and old guard players alike to easily grasp.
- Aspects are a brilliant mechanic. Pure genius.
- Small numbers for those not inclined to the maths like me.
- 4dF generates a gentle bell-curve result that supports the use of low numbers.
- All you need to know is neatly packed into 302 pages (or in the case of FAE, ~45 pages) of a highly portable A5-sized book.
- It's perfect for creative types who think 'gee, I have this great idea for a game but I don't what to run it in/have enough time to figure out the mechanics'.
-All of the rules are adjustable dials, allowing the GM to tweak the system to match their ideal setting.
-The PDF is pay-what-you-want. Can't argue with that price! 



Day 19: Favourite Published Adventure


Another tricky question as I have a bunch favourites. Well, potential favourites I've read and I'd like to eventually run, but haven't actually had the chance to do so. So I'll narrow it down to adventures I've actually ran, which then makes it obvious:

Ravenloft



Both in the original AD&D I6 module and the later Expedition to Castle Ravenloft for 3.5e are just dripping with gothic awesome (I'm excluding the campaign setting for 2e and just focusing on the land Barovia and its' famous castle.) I was borderline obsessed with this. So many hours spent replicating maps on large graph paper for minis, crafting props, and building custom playlists. At one point I wanted to craft a level by level miniature-scale replica of Castle Ravenloft out of cardboard, or in Minecraft...

You can view all my hardcore dedication to it here: [Link]

I have also learnt from running EtCR multiple times in 3.5e, it has some big drawbacks; both system-wise and having too much additional material. Next time, if I get the chance, I'll try a system more simple like an OSR retroclone with vanilla I6 to prevent complex mechanics and bloated material from getting in the way of the amazing atmosphere and terrifying themes of Ravenloft. The random Fortunes of Ravenloft allow some replayability, which is great when you consider most adventures have zero replayability once you complete them.


My other choice would be the Basic D&D adventure: Quest for the Silver Sword. Despite being a glorified dungeon crawl with a basic plot, it's been hella fun to convert and run for my Torchbearer group, proving that the system can take a simple premise and spin it into an epic tale. Also it proved to me that conversions are entirely possible, so no need to feel confined playing an adventure in the original system.

I've also been considering Ravenloft converted into Torchbearer. A truly frightful prospect...



Day 20: Will still play in 20 years time...


Oh jeeze, a brain-buster. What RPG will I still play in 20 years? Heck, I haven't even been playing RPGs for that length of time!

As you may have guessed, I'm not a single system guy like some gamers. I own and play a variety of RPGs; different settings, different systems. My tastes change weekly at the least, monthly at the most. It's kinda my curse; unless I'm obsessing on something, I tend to change gears fairly frequently. So your guess is as good as my own where exactly my gaming interests will be a score of years from now.

And it's not like I have a handful of games to choose from, no, I have dozens. And that's not including the ones I might yet play or own!

For the purposes of this question I'm going to go with the very foundation of this hobby: Dungeons & Dragons. With multitudes of official editions and a veritable plethora of retro-clones and offshoots to chose from (and not counting any future incarnations) I'm sure I'll still be playing D&D as I enjoy it in some form when I'm in my 50's, if I last that long that is.

D&D has had a long interesting run since it was first published about 40 years ago in 1974 as a war-gaming supplement, and it'll be interesting where D&D, and more so the RPG hobby in general, go within the next twenty years. It might not be the game we know now then by name, but it'll be the game we knew and loved in our own personal ways.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't really care if I'm playing something particular in two decades time, more importantly that I'm still playing RPGs at all; having fun with friends and family, that's what it's all about for me. Whether it's a simple game of cops 'n' robbers with nieces and nephews or some futuristic hyper-VR-assisted RPG with old friends, perhaps playing a module from before the majority of us were born with a system that came out two minutes into the future. With house rules of course.


I'll still be playing pretend twenty years from now regardless of what game it is, as long as those playing with me are having at least as much fun as we are now.

Ubi Amicitia, Ibi Victoria, gamers.



Day 21: Favourite Licensed RPG


Those who know the rabid fanboy inside me might have bet money that my answer for today, like many gamers, was purely going to be Star Wars; believing it'd be a sure thing. But after a bit of thought I think I'm going to go with something else (and because I hate to be so predictable):

The Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game is quite possibly my favourite licensed RPG. It introduced me to both the amazing setting within gorgeous graphic novels by David Petersen and a slimmer version of the Burning Wheel system. Though I don't own the boxed set (just the hardback rulebook), my buddy does; we played with it and I must say it's phenomenal. It was one of those RPGs that broke the mould for me both in terms of mechanics and setting potential.

You play as tiny mice in a world full of gigantic predators and huge catastrophes, trying to do what's best for your fellow rodents! Tell me that's not as heroic and epic as fighting a colossal dragon or saving the world from certain doom, and I'll call you a boldfaced liar. There's an revised version in the works that should improve some of the rough parts; I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully it'll contain new story material from the recent Black Axe story-arc as well.

Star Wars would be my first overall favourite RPG license if it's track record was completely spotless; but sadly the system WotC first produced after they took over the license from WEG was pretty awful until they got it right with Saga Edition. FFG's current SWRPG lines of Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and the upcoming Force & Destiny are poised to give the classic d6 system a run for its money in sheer brilliance, especially with the innovative dice mechanics. 



Day 22: Best Secondhand RPG Purchase


I think I've come across some nice second-hand RPG finds at thrift stores and whatnot. Today's choice is going to be something that I think I should have owned a long, long time ago: The Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Second Edition - Revised and Expanded.

This was THE Star Wars book I should've owned back when I was a fanboy in growing up in the nineties, when I lived and breathed the original trilogy and the expanded universe that had formed around it. It wasn't that I was completely ignorant of it; no, I was well aware of the game, I just never saw it anywhere locally to acquire it. I'm quite sure my interest in RPGs would've been kindled much sooner if I had owned a copy then. I've amassed Star Wars ephemera throughout the years; but this lone text eluded me.

It wasn't until last year I finally came across it in my favourite curio shop and promptly added it to my collection. In a way I think it kinda represents a part of my past I miss; a time before the prequels, when Star Wars wasn't quite ingrained in pop-culture as it is today.

Though I've never actually played the d6 system, the book itself represents to me a piece of nostalgia of my past; a time before life became so complicated. 



Day 23: Coolest Looking RPG Product / Book


Decisions, decisions...
Another tough one as I have many RPGs that are cool in their own ways, and I really enjoy games that break the mould to terms of design, art, or writing.

The 30th anniversary edition of Call of Cthulhu I had shown before has a very posh leather cover, which looks good paired with the fabric-covered hardback of Masks of Nyarlathoteop. Though unfortunately the art contained within both is decent B&W images; evocative, but nothing special.


Spiffiest art I think would go to my Legend of the Five Rings - 4th Edition Roleplaying Game and to Monte Cook's Numenera. Both have some of the slickest art I've seen in any RPG product line; Numenera has some really good layout and cartography to boot.

The most cleverly written game I own has to be The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchhausen (Gentleman's Edition). The entire book is written as if by the Baron himself (with occasional assistance from his publisher), and is rife with all the pomposity, exaggeration, and digression of an 18th century nobleman. The book itself is a hilarious read, and helps set the mood for a raconteur of 'true' flights of fancy.

Coolest non-book product would probably have to be the narrative dice used in FFG's Star Wars RPG line. The non-binary results they generate are as innovative as they are awesome!

But if I must cast my vote for THE coolest looking product / book I own, it'll be The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild, because it encompasses nearly all of these traits.

The whole product is a nice thick slipcase that contains an Adventurer's Book, Loremaster's Book, two sets of maps of the wilderlands (one for the players and GM respectively) and a set of customized dice with tengwar script on the d6s, and Gandalfs' cirth rune 'G' top of the d12 and the Eye of Sauron on the obverse.


The art in this line is just phenomenal, as to be expected when one of the illustrators is legendary John Howe. Designer Francesco Nepitello really dug deep into Tolkien's lore when he wrote this, and even though I've only had the chance to play it a few times, the system appears to be well intertwined with the setting of Middle-Earth, which is a huge plus for me. The whole package just looks amazing sitting upon my shelf. Top notch.



Day 24: Most Complicated RPG Owned


I enjoy a 'crunchy' system from time to time, but not that often. For example, the d20-system is complicated; Burning Wheel can be complicated; Eclipse Phase is complicated; same with The One Ring. I generally prefer lighter games, but complexity isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on your group. It's when a game is needlessly complicated it's a bad thing.

A friend of mine thought that I should go with my copy of GURPS Vehicles as my answer to this question; as jam-packed as it is with high-level math, it's only a supplement to the core game and thus can be ignored.

Whereas Enforcers: A Super-Powered Science Fiction Role-Playing Game, is a stand-alone product that is supposedly playable on its own. I don't think it actually is, or rather I don't want to constantly stop play to tabulate formulas:

E.g. Velocity Damage = ({ CC x .33} - Object Weight) x 2

If that seems fairly tame, they only increase in complexity beyond that. (See the attached photo for another "fun" example.)


I think it's a good sign that an RPG might be 'too complicated' when a computer program can be utilized to aid character generation. Well, Enforcers was probably one of the first to make use of the burgeoning technology of 1987 by including several pages of listed code that you can input into any Lotus-compatible spreadsheet program for your 'convenience' during character sheet calculation. You know things are really bad when doing an hour or so of rudimentary coding can save you time in the long run.

The only reason I'm keeping this game is as a testament to how absurdly convoluted RPGs can get, and as a reminder that math has never been fun.



Day 25: Favourite RPG No One Else Wants To Play


This one is difficult; in my case, it's pretty much is the same as Day 6's question: Favourite RPG I Never Get To Play, which would again be: Spirit of the Century.

There's not a fine line in this instance of differentiating the two, and it's not a matter of having a game rejected by a playgroup, it's not having enough free time to have one rejected in the first place. And because I don't like to repeat items on this list, I have to come up with something new.

I think out of all my RPGs, the setting that may be the most difficult to pitch to players is Space: 1889. Think if the empires of the Victorian Era began establishing colonies on a Barsoom-like Mars. It's sort of a proto-steampunk setting with a dash of Edgar Rice Burroughs; which I totally dig.


As unique in concept as the setting is, the original system is just awful, so I'd have to run using another system. A while ago I picked up the Savage Worlds conversion Red Sands; I've flipped through it and it seems descent, so I have that option for a conversion.

Still, I may be surprised by a group who actually wants to play it, if it every gets the chance to be an option.



Day 26: Coolest Character Sheet


Yay! Let's talk about pieces of paper, because that's fun!

Don't mind me. Okay, current consensus seems to be split down the middle in between two common camps for 'coolest character sheet': ones that look spiffy, but might not be that functional for some; and those that are more utilitarian but spartan in design. Form vs. Function.

In the former (pun), we have the character sheet for Numenera. Just Gorgeous. And designed so you could fold it into thirds like a pamphlet. Now that's neat.


In the latter, we have the beautifully simple sheets used in Fate games, and the playbooks used in *World's games. The really nice thing about these is how tailored they are for immediate or convention play.

And this is common consensus that I also agree with, so there goes me being original. I've got nothing interesting to say.

Wait! Maybe the coolest character sheets are custom sheets! Like those designed by John Harper on his blog, The Mighty Atom: [Link]

Mr. Harper also made a sweet retro-inspired sheet/game for Dungeon World: [Link]

Or perhaps these incredible character sheets fashioned for AD&D by renowned artist Tony DiTerlizzi, that can be found here: [Link]

The coolest character sheet I actually possess is for Torchbearer; lightly embossed, detailed with gold ink, and printed on thick, textured cardstock. Very posh. My pal Larry was nice enough to grab one for me when he visited the Burning Wheel HQ. booth at PAX East this year.


Okay, I tried my best to make character sheets seem interesting. I'm done now.

P.S. Form-fillable PDF sheets are also handy.



Day 27: Game you'd like to see a new / improved edition of...


It seems that every game I think of that could benefit from a new edition is just about to release one or just has: D&D's 5th edition; Call of Cthulhu's 7th; The One Ring is coming out with a revised edition, and so is Mouse Guard.

For any other game where I enjoy the setting, but dislike the system, I'm apt to running it in a system I prefer.

Though it's a game I've mentioned before this month, I think Spirit of the Century could use an update using the new Fate Core rules; although billed as a pickup game, I think SotC is a little too heavy on rules and stunt selection to be something easy to play-on-the-fly. Fate Core took the system laid out in SotC and slimmed it down further into a lean, mean, pickup machine. In turn I think this forerunner deserves the same treatment.

The companion book Strange Tales of the Century, has rudimentary rules for converting SotC to Fate Core, reaching a happy medium between the amounts of aspects, stunts, and refresh in both; and renaming a few skills and actions.

This is all well and good but I think the price point for the book is way to high in this case for just a single chapter of info. (Personally I find most of the writing in STotC is a little too dry for my tastes; I was expecting more pulpy goodness, less historical reference.) It's easy for the system savy to come up with they're own conversions as the gap between both isn't that wide, but I think an officially updated edition would be nice.

I think what I'm really getting at is I believe Spirit of the Century should at least have an updated character sheet with adjusted stats for Fate Core users!

(Attached below are the listed concerns and suggestions I directed at Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions why using a Fate Core character sheet doesn't quite cut it for SotC characters converted using the suggestions on STotC:)

"It'd be fine if you're playing a SotC game using just the rules given in Fate Core, Fred Hicks, but the adaptation notes in STotC suggest that centurions should have seven aspects, five stunts, and five refresh; FC sheets have space for only five aspects, and it'd be a tight fit writing five stunts into the place provided. 
Additionally, it's suggested high action pulp characters should start with three stress instead of two, meaning that additional stress bonus' granted by skills may require another stress box. 
All these changes could be done by filling up blank space on the sheet I suppose, but IMHO that makes the sheet messy and defeats the point of using a printed character sheet in the first place. It makes things easier running adapted SotC at conventions and one-shot games. 
I'm also a fan of the PC background 'phases' used to fashion aspects in SotC (also used in Dresden Files). Since there are five 'phases' (Background, The Great War, Your Novel, and two Other Adventures) meant to generate two aspects each for a total of ten in original SotC, how about creating a single aspect from each to make five, add the High Concept and Trouble aspects, and boom: seven aspects for your Centurions.
And like High Concept and Trouble, place faded out text on the sheet for each phase as easy reminders during chargen?"

To any designers out there: Impress me of your skills by making a snazzy updated character sheet!

Please?



Day 28: Scariest Game You've Played


I can't recall ever being scared playing an RPG. Perhaps I've just never had the fortune of being in a game that actually made me, as person, feel fear; perhaps because most of the players I've gamed with tend to shy away from horror RPGs in general. Or in the back of my mind I still know it's a game.

I've played a few games where there'd been tense moments for sure, like Call of Cthulhu, but never anything I'd call scary.

That said, tension is the best way to simulate fear in a RPG, and the best game I've experienced that creates tension is Dread.

Some of you may know Dread as 'that game that uses jenga'. Yes, it does use the stacking block game as the core mechanic and that may seem silly at first but it uses this concept to brilliant effect: the best way to make players feel characters' fear is by putting the player themselves under tension. And what better way to do so than making them manipulate an increasingly challenging physical puzzle knowing that their PCs' lives are at stake should they cause the tower to fall? Good scary stores are all about mood and atmosphere, but the rules and mechanics of RPGs tend to disrupt that. Not so much with Dread.

I love Dread, it's innovative but beautifully simplistic, and my go to game for if I want to run anything horror related, regardless if the setting has any 'official' systems; I know I can tell a better story with Dread.



Day 29: Most Memorable Encounter


Like many gamers, I have too many to choose from. And I'm too tired today to pick one.

So I'm gonna cheat and say the Torchbearer session we had last night contained the most memorable encounter, because it's the most recent in my memory and I just finished committing the session to text.

Which encounter was it? Go ahead and guess...



Day 30: Rarest RPG Owned


A little story: Last month, when I was taking a trip up island to Tofino with a couple co-workers, we stopped at the Coombs Country Market (a.k.a Goats on the Roof) to grab some picnic supplies. We also browsed a local second-hand book store that happened to have a few boxes full of old RPG material; mostly old issues of Dragon and Pyramid magazine. There I picked up my copy of the Basic D&D Expert Rulebook by Frank Mentzer.

I also came upon a very notable find and what I believe is the rarest RPG I own; a spiral-bound xeroxed copy of Elemental Axes, a fantasy game written and designed circa 1999-2001 by my friend Eric. I planned on further inquiring about the details of his work when I was going see him face-to-face that following Friday, but unfortunately his work schedule had changed and he has been unable to make our Friday games since. Well the story's no longer secret now thanks to #RPGaDay.

It's kinda humorous too because he just called me out a week or so prior that I don't own a copy of Elemental Axes in my collection. Well now I do, albeit I don't know how legit it is.

I know and have seen that Elemental Axes has its 2nd-edition printing perfect-bound with more art and some added errata, which I should still acquire a copy of from a FLGS. I don't know if the 1st-edition/printing was spiral-bound, or if what I have is a draft or illegitimate copy. How many copies of either edition where produced during their print run? Both Elemental Axes' website and wikipage have gone defunct within the past month, so what's the story Eric?

Also, sign my copy!



Day 31: Favourite RPG Of All Time


Thirty days of entries and it has finally come to this. We've already seen my examples for all other kinds of favourites when it comes to RPGs and things related to them, now it's the big question, and quite frankly I don't know if I can, or rather if I want to answer it. This is like asking what's your favourite song of all time to a music aficionado, or a gourmet what's their favourite food of all time.

My tastes ebb and flow like a primordial ocean under the influence of several moons orbiting around a planet looping a binary star system; and how appropriate because my current top two favourite RPGs of all time fall under the same genre: Science Fantasy.

I'm sorry but at best I can narrow this choice down to two options; I just can't choose one over the other, but if I must, one may slightly beat out the other, but only slightly. And just because they're my favourite games doesn't mean they're without flaws; I'm just so much enamoured with them I accept such faults and am willing to see past them.

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First: Numenera.


Numenera is brilliant. From system to setting the entire thing might be as close to a masterpiece one might get in this day and age. I've already gushed on my blog at length on how incredible I think this game is, so I'll paraphrase what I've said before:

To me, this game strikes a perfect balance between traditional RPGs and indie RPGs, making it easy for either player of to grasp the simple concepts and mechanics, and thus design, develop, and customise their characters how they'd like. The system really places the power in the hands of the players by making all the dice rolls player driven, and never keeping the game bogged down by counting mods or in the dark with hidden numbers.

I love the setting of The Ninth World, possibly more than the system itself; it's a blend of far future science-fantasy, a setting that has been little explored in RPGs, and it truly instils a sense of wonder in me. It doesn't have to conform to either fantasy or sci-fi tropes to explain-away anything; and that is liberating to both players and GM. There are very few RPGs I've heard of let alone seen that have such a unique setting as Numenera.

Additionally, the community that has sprung up online around this game is nothing short of amazing.

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Second: Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.


Ever since I saw the first film over 25 years ago, I've been a devoted fanboy ever since. I can't help but not love Star Wars, and any RPG based upon it has me hooked. But the line being produced right now by FFG has me hook, line, and sinker. And what really has me is the narrative dice; they're just so innovative and full of possibilities.

I've cooled a bit from my initial craze now seeing how FFG is handling their Star Wars RPG line: some decent adventures, but most of the same old mechanics in Age of Rebellion and career splat-books that makes me wonder if the publisher isn't going to break much from the mould of previous SWRPG lines. Less rules minutiae and more new general mechanics I think are in order.

And that's where the dice come back into it: At the end of the day, I could throw all these extra rules and fluff out the window and still tell an epic story worthy of a galaxy far, far away with naught but a handful of these dice. Success, Failure. Advantage, Threat, Triumph, Despair. Light side, Dark side. All the elements of a great Star Wars tale are in the palm of your hand.




A big thanks to Dave Chapman of autocratik.com for coming up with #RPGaDay. It's been a blast posting my own thoughts, reading comments, and seeing what other enthusiasts have been submitting. I look forward to possibly doing this again next August.