#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 5 – Old School Game

This one really hasn’t changed since last year.


Today’s #RPGaDAY topic is most old school RPG owned. This is going to be difficult as I doubt there is an actual definition of what “old school” is. I’m going to say that it’s not the oldest RPG I own, because that would be either Ghostbusters or Twilight: 2000, both of which have some modern elements in them.

Twilight: 2000 aside: While I probably don’t have to go into how Ghostbusters was groundbreaking with dice pools, brownie points, or a crazy successful example of expanding a rather limited IP into something so much more than the original, but Twilight: 2000, a modern game? Surprisingly, yes! (Well, partly.) See, in T:2000, your character could buy contacts – people in the game world that your character knows. But the clever part was you could leave them blank and fill them out in play. You filled them out in play by telling the GM that a specific NPC in the game is someone that you know. Even if the NPC is the Baron of Warsaw, which would completely derail an adventure if GM slavishly stuck to his master plot.

Twilight: 2000 is the earliest game I can recall that allowed for the players to take some narrative control over the story that didn’t involve their character’s actions.

But back to the most old school RPG I own:

It’s got to be a game with a defined GM/player divide – the players are playing in the GM’s story and have no input on the setting or storylines apart from in-game character actions and reactions.

One of the game’s primary focus is combat resolution. Preferably, this is the main focus of the game. Combat resolution is done with an attempt to make the combat as “realistic” as possible, despite the setting. Tables with many, many combat modifiers helps. Characters should also have to keep track of how many arrows/bullets/laser blasts they have fired off.

Pile of DiceCharacter creation should last an entire game session; some players will have to finish making their characters before the next session, but probably won’t.

Encumbrance rules? Good.

If the game has magic, are there spells that directly target one attribute score, suggesting that magicians in the game world have realized that every living thing in the world is, in fact, a character in a game?

Does the background section of the main rule book (Of course we have supplements and additional sourcebooks!) have a timeline or is at least twenty pages long?[1]

Is there a meta-plot?

My most old school RPG is Shadowrun, 5th Edition.


  1. The best example of going way overboard on the background section is Blue Planet, 2nd Edition. There’s a long in-game fiction section about the setting, an equally-lengthy narrative about the history of the world of Poseidon and recent events back on Earth, plus an incredibly long timeline. []

#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. []

#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 2 – First RPG GMed

Revisiting the writing event from last year, I’m checking to see if my answers have changed at all. However, the first few entries in the month are all about the first game played or purchased and barring access to a time machine, they’re not gonna change. For these few, it’s a repost from my G+ feed from about this time last year.


#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 2: What was the first roleplaying game you GMed?

That’s answered a bit in Last Year’s Day 1 post, but I’d like to expand on it a bit.

The first adventure I GM’d was included in the D&D boxed set. I don’t remember too much of it, but I do remember the door maze. Something stupid huge like a 60’ x 80’ room divided into 10’x10’ rooms with doors on all four walls. I thought this was amazing! The players would be spending time mapping out the room, opening doors and there is an identical room with three more doors to go through! This was such a great idea for a dungeon that I included it in nearly every one I created over the next two years until I realized it was pretty stupid. Lost? We just leave the doors we walked through open. Or just mark all the doors. Or break them all. And what dungeon lord decided to purchase/build two hundred-odd doors and install them all in an oversized room?

Gods, that was dumb.

I ran that module several times. One time we had a large group of adventurers and they decided to split up right at the beginning of the dungeon, so I had to split my time between each half of the group. You know the phrase “never split up the party”? It’s not because the GM will kill off the characters, it’s because half of the people at the table aren’t playing for half of the game. And the GM will kill off the characters.

Advanced_Dungeons_and_Dragons_2nd_Edition_Players_Handbook1We played the heck out of that, but weren’t sure how to continue with D&D. The choices were very strange. We could play D&D, but then there was Basic D&D and Expert D&D and Advanced D&D… We didn’t understand what the deal was with those and that some were in a series, but hey, we were the smart kids. We could totally handle Advanced, so we skipped over Basic, Expert, and whatever came after that. We were better than Basic. We were Advanced.

AD&D 2nd Edition was the flavor of D&D for me. I played the heck out of that until I discovered Shadowrun, but that’s a tale for day five.