#RPGaDAY2015, Day 27: Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games Into One

I’ve only heard of one other group coming up with this idea, and that was John Wick for his gaming group, so I know it’s a good idea we stumbled across. John’s version took the concept a step further than our group’s idea of using lenses, as in “we view the campaign through a different lens”.

This was actually Bo’s campaign1 he was running while we were out from the gaming scene with a newborn. I think he started the game off with the d20 system, then switched over to a generic RPG system he homebrewed.2 Like I tend to do, Bo ran the game like television seasons: a major storyline through a series of episodes, then a break and retooling for the next season. We joined up in season three and he wanted to test his system in different settings with different approaches, so he came up with the idea of just playing the same campaign as viewed through different lenses. When the game started, it was somewhat based in fantasy d20 basicness. We shifted the lens, and had our next adventure in a steampunk-like world. Then we shifted again and the world was — and has always been — 1930s pulp action. Then we shifted again and we’d have a Cold War feel. All the elements changed to adapt the setting and theme: Xochipulti’s magic staff became the Hellfire Pistol, Morgan’s pirate ship became a zeppelin, and Mandi’s steampowered babbage machine became a neon-fire cyberdeck. Once the lens shifted, we went on to the next adventure.3

It was quite clever.

Then, a few years later (and maybe an hour and a half drive away to the north), John Wick came up with The Flux. The Flux was similar to our Lensing, but it took thinks a step further. Instead of just recasting the world under a new light, The Flux actually changed the world in-game. The game world comes to an end, resets, and recasts the same people in different positions. Everybody in this new world knew that this world was the only reality that existed — and had existed — since the dawn of time: decades, centuries of history sprung into being, even though the world was only hours, minutes old. So: we were playing World of Darkness. Now we are playing Pendragon. But — crazy thing here kids — sometimes, your Arthurian Knights have flashes to their time as Changelings in Minneapolis. They’re new characters, but not. It’s a way to explain why you’ve got a similar band of five people hanging out with each other.

Also, quite clever.


  1. Yeah, that Bo — the one who later went on to produce Tabletop. []
  2. The intent was to develop it and bring it to market, but that will never happen. []
  3. The antagonist of the piece originally began as a god-like force that possessed a character’s beloved. By the time we got to my lens, I cribbed from the Watchmen comic and used Dr. Manhattan’s origin for her. []

#RPGaDAY2015, Day 11: Favorite RPG Writer

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.

Regarding a Favorite RPG Writer, I don’t really pay much attention to that, or at least as much as others do. See, I do graphic design and book layout and I’ve always equated it to a letterer’s job in comic books: if you do it right, nobody notices. And because I work behind the scenes (although usually coming in at the end of a project), I see a lot going on in creating one of those big RPG books. Sections are written by different people and have to be rewritten to have a book’s “voice”: chapters three and seven have to sound like they’re written by the same people, even if the two writers have never met. There’s the project manager and the editors and proofreaders keeping all this straight. They’re also the invisible hands on a project. They do a good job and you don’t notice.

This process subtly changes the output of the writing. Bob’s contributions on the Big Book of Laser Rockets and Mega Swords RPG and his work on Small Press Fantasy might have different feelings, different impressions. What can I really say about Bob, besides from what I know from him on social media and the moments I’ve run into him at Big Con? Well, I can look at some of the rules that he uses in his work: differences or similarities. I can’t even tell if Bob likes the Oxford comma, because the editors decided to use it in the Eclipse Comics Superhero RPG but not in Harryhausen Mythological Roleplaying. It can be difficult to get a sense of a writer.

That is, unless the writer independently publishes her own work, generally doesn’t seem to collaborate on her games, and keeps the same editor(s) across her career — the same guy that gets her voice and helps to make it shine through her games.

So I guess it’s probably John Wick.

No, not this one.

Play-Dirty-2-CoverNot only does he have a writing style that I enjoy, he was also the guest of honor at the first Gamemasters’ Conference that we held in Tucson. He got up, delivered a great talk about some things he learned running games, and I helped to fuck up a magic trick he was performing.1 I’m always interested when John has a new thing out, although nearly everything I have that John wrote seems to be short form: I have both Play Dirty essay collections, several of his little games (including the Big Book of Little Games), and even the What’s That Smell? adventure for D&D 3.5. But I don’t have any of his bigger games, like 7th Sea or Legend of the Five Rings, having been aware of them far too late to delve into the massive backstory.2

Coincidence: See last post. It’s John Wick day.

  1. I seem to always screw something up when John’s around. It’s seriously not on purpose. []
  2. If I had come across L5R back when the game started, I know I would have thrown way too much money at Alderac. []

#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 11 – Weirdest RPG Owned

Weirdest RPG owned is today, last year’s #RPGaDay topic.

Okay then, let’s talk John Wick’s Thirty.

Note: I’m going to spoil the ending to that game. Stop reading and experience the magic firsthand.

19186I’ve never really picked up any of John’s big games: 7th Sea, Legend of the Five Rings, or even Houses of the Blooded. Everything I have of Wick’s has been his little games. Thirty is the closest thing to one of his big games, but it’s not. It says so in the name, which truthfully is Thirty: A Little Game about a Big Secret.

It’s also not one of his little games, either. This is a full on campaign that’s guided from point A to point B all the way to point L. No deviations, sir.

And you can’t play it over the internet. You have to play it at someone’s house at a table where you can look each other in the eye and hear each other breathe.

This is a game about the Knights Templar and what happened to them and the treasure they guarded. You play Knights, right on the eve of the destruction of the order. The Inquisition comes for you and the hidden treasure of the Knights Templar, but when they arrived, thirty knights were missing. That’s who you are: the thirty Templar Knights, carrying a secret treasure. And that’s all you know when you sit down to play.

What then, do you think the game is about? Knights, in disguise, forced to hide within 14th Century Europe, safeguarding a treasure or secret from those who would wrest it away from them? Something like that. Whatever the specifics, it’s pretty obvious you’re playing the guardians of a secret treasure and trying to keep it safe from some villains (and possibly prove to the world that the Knights Templar are the good guys).

That’s obvious.

You’re wrong.

You’re the last thirty Knights, that’s true. You’re the guardians of the secret treasure of the order, that’s true. But the campaign starts with you, on horseback, riding out of the main Templar stronghold towards Heaven to confront God.

They encounter a battlefield where a fight has begun an eternity ago and continues forever. They encounter Wotan on the tree. They pass through The Forest. There’s a passage through the Underworld. There’s a passage through Santa Monica Boulevard, which is equally perilous. There is more and more, and it’s all from John Wick, written about the time he joined the Freemasons, and it’s full of occultism and belief systems and religion and Religion and at the end the remaining Knights of the original Thirty come face to face with God.

Do you want to know what happens when they meet God? Do you?

I will tell you.

But you should stop reading now.

You really should. It’s the closest thing to real magic you may ever experience and I’m going to ruin it for you.

I’m writing these few lines to give you enough time to turn back, turn away, just as the Knights should have.

This is how they meet God.

This is why Thirty is the weirdest RPG I own.

You were warned.

The Knights awaken with the moon overhead, sitting on a dirt road in the woods. A paved driveway winds through the trees, past a low stone well, and up towards a pale yellow house. Lights are on inside. The Knights are still in their knightly garb. Their companion shakes their hands, tips his top hat, and steps back saying, “I do not envy what you are about to learn… but… I do envy the power it will give you.” He points to the front door. “Go there. Knock. Then wait.”

The players at the table have their characters walk up the driveway. They climb the steps. And as the players tell you they are knocking at the door – there is knocking at your front door.

Behind the magic: You have an accomplice that is outside, with a cell phone. You call them as the Knights arrive to meet God. They listen to the players. When the players say their Knights knock at the door, you know what happens.

From the book: “Your players will probably jump. If even for a moment – if even for a moment – the lizard part of their brain makes the connection: holy shit… ourcharacters just knocked on the door!   – if they make this connection even for a moment, you’ve accomplished something no book, TV show, or movie can accomplish. For that moment, your players will be stuck, as Neil Peart put it, between Sun and Moon. The space between wonder and why. That place we were in when we were kids, listening to the story of a haunted house while sitting in the very room where that murder took place. Sitting out in the woods, listening to the story of The Hook…. If you do it right, your players will be talking about it for years. Good luck.”

The game continues. The Knights enter your house. They Knights meet their creators.

And then they continue their journey.