#RPGaDAY 2016, Day 4: Future Convention Plans

In the past #RPGaDAY events, the four days of Gen Con had questions that revolved around game conventions. This year, there aren’t any. So for the next four days, I’ll be covering topics about gaming conventions. The one “official” prompt I’m interested in pursuing from this time frame will show up on the 8th.

Today, in question form: What are your plans for conventions in the future?

While I enjoy Gen Con, I don’t see me attending again unless I’m there as part of a company. It’s grown too large for me to handle. Last year on Day 14, where the topic was “Should I attend Gen Con?”, I wrote a bit about an episode of Ken Hite and Robin Laws’ podcast discussing that convention. The takeaway line from that was Ken saying, “I hate to say it, because Gen Con used to be great one-stop shopping for freelancers… I would find it amazing if a freelancer was able to get two words of quality time, edgewise, with a busy booth owner.”

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#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 4: Most Surprising Game

The #RPGaDAY writing prompt for day number four is Most Surprising Game.

There’s a few ways to take that, but I’m going with the game that really made me realize that something else was going on, something that was so eye-opening it changed how I run games from that moment on.

EDN6010That game is Eden Studio’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Before I get to the what in the game that really shook up how I approach games, I’d like to take an aside and mention how Buffy is the shining perfection of what licensed role-playing games aspire to be, because it is. The voice used in the book fits perfectly with the IP the game is based on, and I’m saying this as someone who worked on the Firefly RPG.1 The tone, the graphics, the ads in the back of the book for non-RPG yet Buffy-related things? It is the finest marriage of license to product I’ve seen in role-playing games.

But to what really got me about Buffy was how the system worked for the GM. In Buffy, the GM doesn’t need to roll dice at all.

Wait, wait. That’s not it.

Shadowrun_Fourth_Edition_000001Here: I was coming over to it from Shadowrun, which is a huge mess of a game system. Just look at the fourth edition character sheets from the FanPro edition. Here, here, see? The attributes: there’s eight over here, broken up into four physical and four mental, some special attributes that you might have three or four of, and some other things that they just shoved in there to have a nice little four by four grid. Creating an NPC is awful: do those first eight attributes, adjust for race, derive some other attributes which would change by how much cyberwear one has and if they’re magically awakened or technologically awakened, then derive some more stuff and then oh god the skill list. Oh god.

This is only page one of four that the players at the table are filling out.

So here I am, like a chump, creating NPCs with the same skills and attributes that the player characters have and I’m reading Buffy. And Buffy’s white hat protagonists have two dozen skills and a handful of stats and a few signature moves and all this detail, detail, detail that characters in role-playing games have.

And the NPCs only have three stats.

I’m looking at an abbreviated statblock, I think. No. That’s it. There’s a handful of stats, but there’s only three in Buffy that you use: Muscle, Combat, and Brains. That’s it? That’s it.

And that’s when I realized something. Something nobody ever told me.

I didn’t have to be playing the same game the players were.

Back to Shadowrun with the 13, 14, 15 attributes. Back to the list of skills and specializions. Back to the gear and race modifiers. The players can have that. All I need for the NPCs were Muscle, Move, Brains, and Cool. That Troll ganger? Muscle of 9 dice. Is he doing something he should know how to do? +3 dice more. They’re playing Shadowrun. Me? I’m playing Ghostbusters.


Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: one of the key games that changed my gaming.

  1. With all of the -ing words dropping the g’s, Firefly is almost perfect, but Buffy was there first and really nails it across the book and all supplements. []