#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 7 – “Do you own a copy of Nobilis?”

Last year, today, our question is What is the most intellectual RPG you own?[1]

Most intellectual RPG? Man, that’s worse than defining “old school” from day five. Are we talking about a game that makes you feel smarter than people who don’t grok what you’re reading? Or a game whose writing is rated above a sixth-grader’s vocabulary? A game with lofty ambitions or goals to make you a better person and reflect on the real world? Perhaps an agenda-filled RPG? How about the most pretentious game ever?

Let’s face it, most RPGs are pretty dumb. You make a character and her or she or it does stuff, usually through a liberal application of violence, in order to, um, get stuff. The writing may be slightly better than these little posts I’ve been making, but the largest word I have used so far in this screed is “intellectual”, which was part of the question prompt, so that’s not saying much.

256px-Nobilis-coverSo, do I have a copy of Nobilis around here?

Nope.

Drat.

The closest thing I own to that is the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer game.

Huh.

Think.

Work, Brains. Work.

Look, most RPGs are pretty smart. You create a whole world out of thoughts, man. The people who live there come straight from your brain! Their motivations, their goals in life, their stupid, stupid mistakes they’re still paying for after all these years have sprung from your imagination. Even if you’re playing HOL, Macho Women with Guns, or Nobilis.

RPG_HoL_coverIn that case, I’m leaning towards a generic RPG, one that gives the game players the freedom to do anything. The big questions I have for a generic RPG are: Can this game do horror? Can I do a Star Wars game that feels like Star Wars in this game? (Also related: Can I do a Shadowrun game with this game?) Can I play comic book superheroes with this game? It doesn’t matter if I have to get a supplement or sourcebook to slot in a new play mode, like picking up GURPS Horror or GURPS Supers to make it work. But I don’t own GURPS proper. (Just two sourcebooks: GURPS Mysteries and GURPS The Prisoner).

I’m going with the Cortex Plus game line from Margaret Weis Productions. If I have to pick one, and only one, game in the line, it’s Smallville. Not only does it allow for all those game styles[2], but the Cortex Plus system allows for the players to create things in the world, getting their brains involved in the shared world. This thing in the world didn’t exist until this player thought of it. BAM.

MAGIC.

Is that still your answer today, Thomas?

Yeah, I think so. I’m tempted to look at Fate Core and use that for everything, but Leverage is probably the best Shadowrun game out there. And as much as I like Fate, it doesn’t do horror that well. I’d also recommend Primetime Adventures, but that doesn’t do action in a satisfying way. Cortex Plus is a base game system that can do a lot. It’s like starting with a roux, some rice, and chicken stock and winding up with shrimp etouffee or a spicy gumbo, depending on what you add.[3]

I worked on the Firefly RPG, which uses a different iteration of the basic rules that Marvel Heroic Roleplaying used and they’re both fantastic games. Leverage and Smallville both have the same basic similarity, but different executions — heck, I kind of want to play Star Wars, Smallville-style.

I would wager the Cortex Plus game system would be more popular if the license was truly open.

Aside: I’m working on sourcebooks and supplements for Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, the new game from the creator of Nobilis, so I’ve got that partially covered.

  1. aka “Who has a copy of Nobilis?” []
  2. seriously, go find Smallville and use it for a fantastic Star Wars game []
  3. I’m also loathe to recommend the various “Powered by the Apocalypse” Apocalypse World variants, despite loving AW. While they take on the same base, they are all starting to blur together to me right now, seemingly just swapping out names for basic moves and adding a new custom move here or there. There’s a superheroic variant that I’d like to see — With Great Power, I think — but I’m more interested in seeing what the Sentinels Comics RPG, developed by some of the people behind Cortex Plus, is going to do in the superhero space. Wow. Serious digression. []

#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 6 – Favorite Game Never Played

Caught up to Now, Last Year!

A year ago, the question was What’s your favorite RPG you never get to play? Let’s see how I answered last year and see if that still holds true for this year.

My roleplaying days have become leaner in recent years. I played a ton in the high school/college years, then again years later with a literal renaissance of gaming. Since moving to Maine, roleplaying opportunities have diminished. I’m on the east coast, which means that all the gamers from the home group are anywhere from two to three hours off, depending on the time of year, so it’s hard to connect. There’s the child’s bedtime to consider – unlike some gamers, my spouse also loves to game, so I can’t just say I’m going to start playing games via Hangout and honey can you put the girl to bed in an hour? – plus with the time difference, we’re starting around 9:30 at night and ending (hopefully) two hours later. There’s an occasional Shadowrun game I’m in and I’m planning on doing a Fate D&Dish game with the family this weekend, but still, I miss the weekly home game and the monthly Tucson RPG Guild meets.

In other words, there’s a lot that I’m not playing right now that I wish I could.

So… favorite RPG I never get to play. Hm.

bp_modguideBlue Planet possibly has my favorite game setting, but the actual system is… awful. I’d love to hack it with Fate or Apocalypse World, but that’s not a whole “game”, though, is it?

Shadowrun also has a fun setting, but there’s something about how old school the system is that really bugs me. Plus, that’s hit the table a few times this year.

Looking through my shelves and PDF depository, it’s probably one of three games:

There’s a Buffy: the Vampire Slayer game that mashes up Buffy and the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movies, putting a Slayer smack dab in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy that I pitched to the home group a few times, but nobody ever bit. It would have been one of those campaigns that was. But it wasn’t.

I’ve always wanted to play in a street-level Unknown Armies game. I don’t know much about the game, or how it is played, but reading actual play reports and hearing how cool that game can be has always made me want to play it. Downside: I’ve never played it.

Or maybe it’s this Star Wars Age of Rebellion game that’s right here. I did get to run last year’s Free RPG Day adventure at Gen Con 2013 for a group of friends who get back together only at Gen Con. (And once via G+ Hangouts.) I really enjoyed the game system. Unfortunately, I’m still a bit jaded when it comes to Star Wars. I’ve never fully recovered from the sting of the prequel trilogy, which soured the whole IP for me.

The more I think about it, the more I think that Buffy campaign is on top here. The movies are fast, action-packed, and fun; the show can be dark, is smart, and full of adventure. The game itself is a low-prep game to run, too! While the players fill out a full-on character sheet, the GM only really needs three stats for the adversaries. That’s a huge bonus for those times I don’t have to prep!

Honorable Mention: Apocalypse World. Man, I really like that game.

bigpreview_Pirates of the Caribbean, Elizabeth Swann

Okay Thomas, what about this year?

Wow. I’m still pretty close to last year’s gaming write-up. I’ve got two good answers to this, but one really fits with this year’s Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play. So my answer this year is last year’s Honorable Mention. I looooove me some of that there Apocalypse World. 

pdc_madmaxfuryposter2Yeah, we ran a short game of Apocalypse World that died. Wife doesn’t like it, but I think it’s because that game ended in a way that was so… not our game’s style.[1] But I love that game system — it’s fast and direct and leads to interesting fiction and so much more story can be accomplished within a game session.[2]

I’ve also been doing some projects with Magpie Games and Dead Gentlemen Productions that are derived from Apocalypse World — in particular, Urban Shadows does some neat stuff with AW merging it with a World of Darkness/Tim Powers vibe. I’m really enjoying how the system is put together and how it just works, man.

The three contenders from 2014, how do they stand up today? I still want to get some Buffy, the Pirate Slayer action going on, but that’s going to be one of those games best left in the imagination of the past. Unknown Armies… um, I’ve got the playtest documents. So we’ll see how that goes. And Age of Rebellion — man, I wish I loved those movies more. Maybe after The Force Awakens comes out and if it’s good, the girl and wife might want to do a quick Star Wars game.[3]

  1. And in truth, it was really my fault for thinking that telling the other protagonists they weren’t part of the Hocus’ organization would have let them have freer reign, but in reality it just pointed them at each other with knives and the whole game had to be scrapped. It didn’t help that we also had a horrible time with Dungeon World, another *World game. []
  2. Don’t get me started on Shadowrun. []
  3. Oh, that Fate D&Dish game mentioned last year? It never happened, but a D&D 5e game did! []

#RPGaDAY2015, Day 1: Forthcoming Game You’re Most Looking Forward To

Last year, Dave Chapman (designer of Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who Roleplaying Game) hosted a month-long series of writing prompts about roleplaying games called #RPGaDAY. He’s back again this year with another month’s worth of prompts to celebrate “everything cool, memorable, and amazing about our hobby.” I’m planning on participating again, but over here on my website instead of G+ this year. (This is also a sneaky way of prompting me to update my website.) Along with these 2015 posts, I’ll be revisiting last year’s posts.

Sorry, but I just had to change it from that horrible pink color. Click through if you want to grab the color-shifted fullsized image.
Sorry, but I just had to change it from that horrible pink color. Click through if you want to grab the color-shifted fullsized image.

Day 1 of #RPGaDAY2015: Forthcoming Game You’re Most Looking Forward To

tachyonThere are three games that I’m very interested in, but I think I’d only ever get one to the table. The two that I probably won’t be able to play are Apocalypse World, 2nd Edition and Unknown Armies, 3rd Edition. The third one is the Sentinels Comics RPG.

Apocalypse World, because my wife didn’t like the game (but I think that was more to the sour way our AW1 game ended — I learned from that game and know I won’t make the same mistakes, but a game that ends on a sour note always spoils chances to play again). Well, that and I’d really need a face-to-face crew that I know well to pick it up again. But gods alive, I love that game. The MC chapter is so amazing! It’s the first RPG book that explicity tells the game runner to not have an adversarial relationship with the players: “Be a fan of the player’s characters,” the book says. Nice. I love this game. It’s one of my favorites. I’ll probably never get to play it. (Although I’ll probably be looking for a game on G+ Hangouts.)

Unknown Armies is a game I’ve always wanted to play but never did. Again, lack of a regular gaming group will keep me from playing this, I think. Second Edition, I had a copy of and every so often I go back to read the fiction in the game and think about street-level games that never came to pass. I do have 3rd’s playtest files and a small group that might tackle it. So, who knows? That may turn into something.

But I’m probably going to be able to play through the Sentinels Comics RPG, based on the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game (and related properties). The young girl likes superheroes, but we need a fast and easy game to play that I could use to introduce her to actual heroic stuff. Something a bit more complicated than RPG Kids, but nothing as complex as pretty much every other Supers RPG out there. The team on Sentinels is mostly the same group as on Marvel Heroic, which is super fast and easy, but might be conceptually a bit over the 9yo’s head. I haven’t seen Sentinels yet, but I know Cam’s work[1] and I like his stuff. I think the girl will, too. However, if Sentinels doesn’t work out, we might have to go with some sort of ICONS/Fate mashup.

  1. I’m working with him on the Demon Hunters RPG and worked on his designs back at MWP []