#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 9 – Favorite Dice

One year ago today, on #RPGaDAY, it’s Your Favorite Die or Dice Set.


How am I going to get 500 words out of that?

Over on my desk, I have my dice bag. It sits flat when open and can hold slightly more dice than a Crown Royal bag. Inside are four different sets of polyhedrals: a dark blue die set that includes a d30 (which I accidentally used one D&D game session instead of a d20 and didn’t realize until I rolled a natural 24), a green set (that I use when the blue set misbehaves), the remnants of my smoke set (nearly clear, but slightly grey dice) I used during my earlier years that is in the dice bag to share their wisdom and train the other dice to roll well, and a smaller set of clear polys in a smaller bag that my wife got me for Father’s Day last year. Also in the bag are the d10 sets I used when I ran Blue Planet. Ten dark blue (like the primary polyhedral set), ten medium blue, and three lighter blue. When the players were in a lot of trouble – in over their heads – I would roll the dark blue d10s for the “deeper waters”. Easier tasks got lighter colored d10s. I don’t think anyone noticed at the table, but I thought it was cool.

All my fudge dice (and the three dice for Happy Birthday Robot – fudge/Fate dice are great for HBR) are in another bag, downstairs in the game room. There’s the garish-colored set of fudge dice in there, along with the Dresden Files fudge dice. No Fate dice in there.

14 - 1Next to the monitor I’m typing this on, I have a one liter glass stein with almost all of my other dice. And now that I’ve written this far, I realize that my favorite die is in that stein: It’s the Ghostbusters Ghost Die.

The only bad thing about this die is the Ghostbusters symbol – the 6 on the die – was printed on a blank face (I think all the pips for 1-5 were painted on, too). All that’s left to discern that it’s the Ghost Die are two reddish smudges on one side.[1] You included this die as one of the dice in every roll you made.

What I liked about the Ghost Die is every six rolls of the dice, something interesting was bound to happen.

Let’s say your Ghostbuster wanted to eat a phone. Beat the difficulty number and no ghost? You eat the phone. Good job. You ate the phone. Miss the difficulty number and no ghost? You can’t eat the phone and look like an idiot. Ah. But if you beat the difficulty number and roll a ghost? You eat that telephone but forgot to unplug it from the wall – this was the 1980s – and it rings, giving you a nasty shock. Fail and roll a ghost? You’ve got some very expensive and embarrassing dental surgery in your future.

It was really neat and made every roll in Ghostbusters potentially hilarious.

My favorite die: the Ghost Die.

So, do you still like the Ghost Die a year later, Thomas?

You know, I do. It helps that it’s a silly thing from a silly game that makes things even more silly. But I think it has some competition from the boost and setback dice in Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars line.

The way the various FFG Star Wars games work is you assemble a dice pool with green d8s and yellow d12s, which have good symbols; and purple d8s and red d12s with bad symbols; and you roll them all at once, cancelling out good and bad symbols until you find the result. It takes a bit of practice deciphering the symbols on each die’s face, but it’s an interesting system.[2] The boost and setback dice are blue and black six-siders that are awarded to the player making the roll for things in the fiction that help out.

They’re also a great tool for filling in the gaps when the GM doesn’t know the exact rule and wants to keep play going. You’re doing something cool? Grab a boost die! Shooting at an exhaust port without your targeting computer’s help? Go for a setback die!

Easy, peasy.

I was running an Edge of the Empire game at Gen Con two years back and we had a scene were a player was shooting at a bad guy that was all tangled up with one of the good guys. Although I had run this scenario before, we didn’t have this particular thing come up.[3] Wanting to keep the action flowing, we just chucked a setback die at the problem and went on.

These dice are also great for rewarding coolness at the table. Jumping off the ledge, doing a somersault in midair, then shooting at the bounty hunter as you touch down? Instead of upping the difficulty (swapping a bad d8 to a bad d12), recall that you’re trying to emulate heroic action in the movies — give them a boost die for sticking to the spirit of the genre.

Man, they’re great little cubes.

My girl likes superheroes and I want to get her into a cool supers RPG; we’ve got a few possibilities here, but I was thinking of hacking something together that’s simple. Simple is the key. One of the first things I thought of grabbing were those boost and setback dice. That’s how neat those little dice are.
So yeah. Still love that Ghost Die. But FFG’s boost and setback dice are making their way up there.

Honorable Mention: Fraternitas, from John Wick, as featured in Thirty and a few other of his little games.

  1. West End Games had a few other games where symbols were printed on the faces of blank dice. My copy of Assault on Hoth has several dice with blue smears on two faces and black smudges on two others. []
  2. For instance, the 7 face on the green d8 shows two symbols: a success in the task and a minor thing that makes things better in the fiction. []
  3. And I didn’t own the EotE rulebook, so no time to look up the rules beforehand. There was an EotE rulebook provided at the table, but I had no idea were to look that up. []

#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! []