Friday, September 22, 2017

40K Friday - Daemons!

In addition to the chaos marine deluge I mentioned last time I also decided to start building up my chaos daemons. I'm not just looking at them as summoned reinforcements for the marines - I decided to make them a full army as well.

The first rush was Khorne - a trio of Bloodthirsters, an outrider detachment of flesh hounds, and a battalion of Bloodletters + Skulltaker + Heralds + Bloodcrushers.

I also was looking to expand my Slaanesh force beyond Keeper + Daemonettes + Seekers but that's proving tougher to do. Mainly because I got sidetracked by Tzeentch options and ended up expanding my horrors and screamers first. I actually had more Tzeentch stuff than Slaanesh, so I picked up a metal Fateweaver and made it into a real force.

Nurgle is still an aftethought. I have a unit of plaguebearers and a beast and an old Great Unclean One that I am using as a daemon prince but that's about it.

Expansion-wise my biggest obstacle is that I have a bunch of old metal stuff and it's way more expensive to build out those 14 metal daemonettes to say 20 or 25 than it is to just buy 10 of the plastic ones. I finished out my metal bloodletter units and my metal horrors but it does slow things down.

Force-wise I then decided I needed more shooting and some heavier units in general. Lesser daemons and heralds just aren't taken as enough of a threat - I needed something besides the greater daemons. So, I added three Soul Grinders. Right now I think one of them will be for the Tzeentch force and two will go into the Khorne army. That puts the red-colored army up over 3000 points and the blue/pink army up over 2000 so that's a pretty solid start. Next project is to finish out Slaanesh acquisitions and then decide if I want to make Nurgle an equal partner in all of this.

Actual-play-wise I have not yet used them in a fight but I hope to rectify that this weekend.

  • I know Fateweaver is overcosted but I like what he can do and I'm not taking Magnus in a daemon army. If I just really hate him in play he can always be demoted to a regular Lord of Change.
  • I see very little chatter about soul grinders online. They are one of the daemons' few sources of long range firepower and one of the other fairly tough melee units as well after greater daemons and daemon princes. They do have a split role in a game that favors specialists but I would argue that they are good at both roles, unlike a fair number of generalists. regardless, I'll be trying them out for myself.
  • Most of my troops units are on the smaller side and they tend to get bonuses for having 20+ models. That will be an experiment for the future. I'll be happier adding on to them after getting in a few games first. 
Next week: Death Guard!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Imperial Injury Assessment

Stay vigilant, Guardsman!
What should you do if you are shot? While the superiority of Imperial tactics ensures that battlefield injuries are rare, you may, through carelessness, find yourself shot on the battlefield. In this case, it is absolutely imperative that you do not waste your medic’s valuable time or distract your fellow guardsmen with exhortations of fear or panic. 99% of battlefield injuries do not require immediate medical attention* – if you find yourself shot, consult the following flowchart to seek other courses of action before wasting the valuable time of your betters.
There you have it Guardsman – there’s no need to make a fuss. Following this procedure could save your life!**
* In 98% of cases this is due to immediate death.** Or, at the very least, some time.

Appropriated from here because I really liked it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Comic Catch-Up

Last year I felt like I had let my superhero/comic book interests drop off too much so I resolved to dig back in this year. I've never been a guy with a bunch of subs at the local comic shop but I've made some effort to keep up with what was going on. The electronic age has made that much easier with the online option but I had let even that go. No longer!

One thing I wanted to do was read all of Astro City, from the beginning, in order. I've liked everything I've seen from the line so via the nice collected editions out there in the world I have been catching up. Slowly, but catching up. I like it enough that I want books in my hand, not pixels, and I've been very happy with this. If you haven't read them then I'd say take a look at the first volume, "Life in the Big City" and that will give you a pretty good idea of what it's about.

Second, I decided to dive into current DC with "Rebirth". I'm just getting started so I'll have more to say down the road but it seemed like a good place to jump onboard.

Finally with Marvel I've been looking at classic stuff - mainly Avengers and Iron Man - but my next round is the Dan Abnett Hercules book from a year or two back. I've heard good things about it and hopefully I can add to them in the near future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

RPG Update

Around here RPG time has been somewhat difficult to come by but over the summer I have managed to run some 5th edition and some FFG Star Wars. I like the FFG game enough, though I am still thinking other systems might be better for certain types of Star Wars games I want to run. My players seem to like it so that counts for a lot. Deadlands and M&M have gone on hold for now.

The list of reasons is varied: high school football games, moving Apprentice Twilight off to college, con prep, medical issues for some players, Apprentice Blaster getting his first job,  hurricane impacts on player families - we've covered a lot of unusual ground this year alongside the usual stuff. Everyone is still interested, but getting 3-4 of us together has been a challenge.

In the meantime I've been filling in some things I missed in Pathfinder, 5th edition,  and M&M. The expectation is that I will get to use them at some point in a real game - hopefully sooner rather than later.

I have not finished reading Starfinder yet - I'll have at least one post on that when I am though.

I've picked up some boardgames as well and I may have something to say about those if I can get some playing time in with them.

Anyway the blog is a little slow but I will pick things up the rest of this month.

Friday, September 1, 2017

40K Friday Returns! 8th Edition Update

8th edition has been going really well here. We've played 1000, 1500, and 2000 point battles. Apprentice Red has played a little bit with his Orks. Apprentice Blaster is focusing exclusively on his Space Wolves. Apprentice Who has joined the fray with a new Tyranid army. One of Blaster's friends has joined in as well with a new Tau army too. I've built some ruins for a new city board - haven't painted them yet but I've built them!

I'm going with  a new policy on this edition as well: I'm getting all of the codices as they come out. We play most of the armies anyway in our little group so why not? I have Space Marines and Chaos Marines already and I'll be adding Grey Knights in the next week. It's not cheap but this has really turned into our main (if not only) miniatures game so why not go all-in?

Army-wise for myself it's been chaos chaos chaos! Mainly Iron Warriors but with a healthy side order of Khorne daemons and World Eaters. In June I was scattershooting all over the 40k universe, picking up a unit here and a unit there for a bunch of different armies - Chaos, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Orks, Eldar. I decided this was just going to lead to a bunch of half-finished armies competing  for playing time so I went with a variant of my "Year of the Eldar" approach. The second half of 2017 is the "Year of Chaos" where I am finally making my Iron Warriors into a full-on massive force and getting the daemons into usable forces as well. Getting the CSM codex really helped solidify

Iron Warriors

  • HQ's are pretty much set at a daemon prince, termie lord, termie sorcerer, warpsmith, dark apostle, and an exalted champion
  • Troops are a bunch of CSMs and about 30 cultists if I want to sink that low. Seriously, I play CSM's for the marines, not cultists. I'm still experimenting with the CSM squads. 
    • Five of them wit ha heavy bolter in a ruin is cheap and contributes even at range. A lascannon or missile launcher improves the contribution but also ups the cost, 
    • Ten of them with double or triple plasma or flamers in a rhino turns into an actual threat to many units. I'm still not settled on what  I like better.
  • Elites are termies and helbrutes for the most part. Possessed were effective when I put ten of them in a rhino and rushed it up the board. Berzerkers will likely be included in a different way.
  • Fast Attack is limited to spawn for me right now but they have been very effective bullet sponges leading a charge and can do some real damage in close combat if they survive to reach it. Also, being able to take them in units of one can lead to some formation shenanigans if you're so inclined. They're great for blocking out deep strike zones too.
  • Heavy Support is kind of the IW's thing so I am going in pretty heavy here.
    • I have 3 predators and they have done great work and I think they are very effective in this edition. I have not tried out the triple-shot strategem yet but I will!
    • I have also added 3 vindicators. I have not done much with them yet but I will and I'll be trying out their triple-shot stratagem too.
    • I have added a land raider - finally the basic land raider is a strong player again!
    • Havoc Squads - effective but best off in cover. I like autocannons and I like missile launchers. I use the predators for lascannons so I look for other options for my havocs. 
    • Obliterators - they were terrible in the index but the codex seems to have made them much stronger. I need to try out this new version.
  • Dedicated transports: My Rhinos have gotten quite the workout this edition and I love them. The workhorse APC from the early parts of the game is fast, tough, and just really useful this edition. Rush them forward and pop smoke and the squad inside is almost certainly safe untiil next turn. Use them as cover. Run them into the enemy to soak up overwatch. Put guns on them! The chaos Rhino can carry two combi-bolters and a havoc launcher for 85 points! That turns them into a Razorback effectively, while still retaining the ten-man capacity. They're just handy to have on the table.
Expansion: I don't really _need_ anything but I am looking at maulerfiends and maybe some raptors just to have some of everything in this army. 

World Eaters

This is a fairly new addition to the force. I started picking up more berzerkers and while trying to decide how to integrate them into the army I realized I could just make a separate World Eaters detachment to include whenever I felt like it. This is mainly driven by the WE's being able to take Berzerkers as troops. The core force right now is Kharn, a dark apostle, and an exalted Champion accompanying a trio of 8-man berzerker squads in rhinos. That's around 1000 points and makes for a nice add-on force.

Expansion : I'm already considering expanding it into a full army on it's own - land raider, helbrutes, daemon princes, more berzerkers. We will see.


I mainly focused on Khorne daemons as they work well with a more shooty Iron Warriors marine army. Right now it's built on two detachments:

  • An outrider detahcment of 3 flesh hound units led by Karanak 
  • A battalion detachment of 3 bloodletter squads led by Skulltaker
Pretty basic right? I also have a unit of bloodcrushers I can add in, and the specific unit sizes above can be varied somewhat, but the sauce is in the other HQ choices. A herald on a juggernaut, a pair of khorne daemon princes and up to three bloodthirsters. Taking the thirsters as a separate supreme command detachment and I am pushing 3000 points.

Expansion: Well I am still building this one but I think a skull cannon or two would give it a little shooting and some more heralds would make it more playable at lower point levels. Plus it can always use more bloodletters.

I'll see if I can put up some battle reports and talk about what I am thinking with the rest of my armies next week. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Day 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

  • The new 40K RPG will be something to watch. Different company, different approach, different era altogether I suspect. A new system gives me hope that this might be a more playable and fun entry to our library.
  • The Expanse RPG might be interesting but I haven't read the books or watched much of the show. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Traveller and other harder sci-fi RPG's. I'm wondering if Starfinder might have sucked most of the air out of this room by then though.
  • FFG's Star Wars is taking a turn with the first of what I suspect will be a series by publishing Dawn of Rebellion - an era book, not a "campaign type" book. I'd like to see more of that.
  • I'll be interested in seeing where D&D 5E goes next. With a first big rules supplement scheduled for later this year and a pretty diverse set of adventure modules in print what's next?
  • Mutant Crawl Classics! What comes next beyond some more adventures? 
  • Starfinder: does it sustain the incredible momentum it has right now? Or does it slow down once people actually start playing?
  • The new Star Trek RPG: how does it do? Big hit? Medium hit? One year on what will it look like?

Non-RPG Bonus Anticipation: 40K 8th edition will continue strong and that new codexes will enhance the game without breaking it - fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Day 30: What is an RPG genre mashup that you would most like to see?

Don't we already have just about all of these? At least that we're likely to see published since a Star Wars - Star Trek official crossover is unlikely at best? Between Shadowrun, Torg, and Rifts haven't we had them for 25+ years now? Deadlands, Numenera ... how much is left here? Superhero games tend to do this inherently and we have tons of those.

I'm struggling to come up with something original here that's a mashup.

How about this though as a game I'd like too see whether it's a mashup or not?:

How about a Kaiju RPG? Something where you play as a Kaiju - you get the Kaiju's point of view? You have some kind of motivation for doing what you do - smashing cities, roasting tanks, eating nuclear power plants. You have goals to accomplish and these pesky humans and maybe other kaiju are standing in the way. Maybe you're eating, maybe you're doing this stuff to reproduce, maybe you're trying to protect the planet - but they just do not understand and they cannot be allowed to stand in the way.

I'm sure we could come up with a basic mission structure:

  1. Emerge
  2. Replenish
  3. Discovery by humanity
  4. Initial Opposition
  5. Begin Agenda
  6. Heavy opposition
  7. Rivals!
  8. Final goal + climactic battle
  9. Resolution
The trick is to make all of these interesting and applicable to most characters. I could see using a fairly simple system similar to FATE, Apocalypse World, or ICONS. I could also see going more complex and building up some sub-systems for battling the human military, spawning offspring, battling other Kaiju, developing a cult following among humans, all kinds of little things that show up in these kinds of movies. Maybe the whole framework of defending earth against various threats from pollution to alien invaders would serve as the core conflict.

"Stand by wave motion gun and RELEASE THE KRAKEN!"

To make it a mashup once you have the basic system figured out then it's time to take it into space with *COSMIC KAIJU*! Now you're not just defending the earth - you're going into space, perhaps allied with humanity and their space fleets, to stop alien threats before they invade! Imagine Star Blazers/Yamato or Robotech/Macross  with Kaiju as a part of the fleet!

...or maybe the fleet and the kaiju are running from something ...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Day 29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

As of today I have been a part of about 30 Kickstarters and about 20 of those have been related to tabletop RPG's. I have received the promised rewards on every single one of them other than the most recent ones and even on those I may have a PDF already while we wait for books to print.

Most of them have been fun and interesting. the M&M 10th anniversary run was cool and the RQ2 KS turned up a lot of old material and released it as PDFs.

There are two that stand out however:

Spirit of '77 had a tone that stood out right from the beginning. The concept, the video updates, and the follow-up and delivery were all top notch. That was a really great job.

The other one is a company, not one particular KS. Pinnacle, the Savage Worlds guys, has done a consistently excellent job with Kickstarters. I've been a part of Weird Wars Rome, Deadlands: Stone and a Hard Place, Deadlands: Good Intentions, and Rifts Savage Worlds and every one of them has come thru with everything promised, no surprises, and pretty much on time. I like their game, I like their settings, and I like the way they handle their business. For a smaller company they have a damned impressive track record and I'm interested in anything and everything they do in the future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

  1. Star Wars (movies and shows)
  2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger movies
  4. The Tick (animated series)
  5. Star Trek (shows and movies)
  6. Lord of the Rings (movies)

I am under no illusion that this is unique to us. I suspect a lot of other groups have similar lists, particularly those of a similar age. A lot of it is influenced by what we're playing so the order may reshuffle but these are pretty consistently the set of things that turn up. You'd be surprised how many "bad feelings" are found in a D&D game or how That Still Only Counts as One even in a superhero game. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Day 27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

I think I've covered this before so I'll keep it short:

  • I need a good game. For me this is basically a game I like, one that starts the wheels turning just by flipping through it. It might be the setting, the concept, the mechanics, or even the art, but something about it has to inspire me.
  • I need some players. Interest and availability are the two key elements here. Experience isn't super-important - I can teach you the game if you're interested and can show up regularly and I can provide dice, character sheets, and books for the game.
  • I need time. This is often the hardest thing to come by. It's not really a tool but it is a necessity.
Anything else is gravy. You'll probably want some pencils and paper. You'll probably want some kind of character sheet. You'll probably want some kind of dice or cards or coins to flip. That said there are workarounds for all of these - a smartphone can replace all of them, and can probably keep a copy of the game rules available as well. A tablet or a laptop can do the same. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Day 26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Sometimes I wonder if these questions get divided up among multiple people - "OK you write days 1-20, you do 11-20, and I'll do 21-31" and if some of those people don't have much actual experience running or playing these games. At a minimum some of them have language issues - like this one! An RPG doesn't "provide" anything! Maybe they meant which RPG company provides the most useful resources? Maybe they meant which game has the best support? Would this mean only "official" resources or would third party or player-generated stuff count here too? I'm not sure but I'll see if I can come up with something coherent below.

The best resources to have from a GM point of view:

  • A game you like - probably a book or a PDF
  • At least 3 interested and available players
  • A place to play
  • A regular opening on the schedule

That's all I need to run a good game and I've been known to run without one or two of those things. I suspect this question is aimed at "gaming stuff" like splatbooks, screens, mini's, dice, etc.  We can do better than that though, as I don't really think of that stuff as all that "useful" when running a game. 

  • A game with a solid forum where ideas and problems can be discussed has a leg up on others. Mutants and Masterminds, FFG Star Wars, and Pathfinder all benefit from this. I find a good forum particularly helpful with more mechanically complex games like PF and M&M. 
    • Paizo's Pathfinder forum is also extremely useful when running one of their adventure paths as a ton of player-generated material starts showing up as soon as the first volume is released - maps, player handouts, plot outlines, character portraits - all kinds of good stuff for actually running a game shows up in these. FFG's Star Wars forums provide a similar service for their adventures too. 
    • Green Ronin's M&M forum is a treasure trove of famous character writeups from well-known superheroes to things like folk heroes, video games, and D&D conversions. You could probably run an entire Marvel Universe campaign in M&M 2nd or 3rd edition without ever needing to write up your own stats. That's some useful material.

  • Something I need to run a lot of games is NPC and monster/enemy stats in an easily usable form. It's not something that is always available.
    • D&D 4E had the online monster maker which meant I could pull up any monster they had released in an instant, and I could also modify it on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse - that was incredibly useful for that game. 
    • FFG Star Wars makes 3 decks of cards that have complete stats and gear and some notes on different types of NPCs from stormtroopers to criminals to rebel officers. I suspect I could run an entire campaign using these  and nothing else for friends and foes alike. They are extremely useful, much like the templates from d6 Star Wars.
    • Pathfinder came out with some books - the NPC Codex and the Monster Codex -  that have pregenerated stats and gear for character types and monster types at every level of the game. That's a start but having them locked in a big hardback book doesn't really help me during the game because I probably need more than one of them at a time. HeroLab to the rescue! If you pick up the add-on for those books for HeroLab you can pull up whatever characters or monsters you need and save them as an "encounter" within HL. That way you can set it up and save it ahead of time or you can do it on the fly and wing it as you see fit. It's an odd fusion of formats as the codexes provide a big bunch of NPC data, but it takes HeroLab to make it useful in my opinion. 
    • M&M has been very good at providing these from the Instant Superheroes book of second edition to utilizing HeroLab as well. Many of their books have a HeroLab support option.
  • An aid to help players get up and running is another useful resource and Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics has a few of them:

  • Another card option: condition cards. I think Pathfinder's official set was the first one I saw but there are player-created versions for M&M and D&D 5E and I notice they are one of the first scheduled products for Starfinder. Any game that uses something like "conditions" as a mechanic usually has a whole set of them and no one memorizes what all of them do. This is a simple, inexpensive, easily-implemented way to solve that. 
  • HeroLab deserves a mention of its own - beyond just generating characters it has tools for running encounters during a game. The more stat-heavy your game of choice, the more useful this is.
  • The Pathfinder Combat Manager is something I've discussed before but if you are running that game and haven't checked it out you should probably take a look. It's what makes that game usable to me in spite of the detail and size of the Pathfinder Mechanics Universe. 
So looking at all of that I'd say "useful resources" for me covers things that make actual play of the game easier, and that more complex games benefit from these kinds of things even more. Books that add more features for player characters are not really "useful" to me as a GM. Supplements that add more sub-systems to a game are not necessarily useful in that sense either. The Items I have listed above are the things I have found that make starting a game and/or keeping a game moving that much easier and so are quite "useful". To sum up:
  • Resources where I can discuss or help prep outside of game time are useful for any game but are especially helpful with the more complicated games.
  • Online systems or resources I can use for prep or during the actual game are really nice, especially for more complex games.
  • Cards are a really useful thing even for simpler games. I like having NPC info or monster villian info right there, I like having rules tidbits like conditions easily at hand, and I like being able to toss someone a card with say an important piece of gear on it. The cards serve as both a reminder of the mechanics and an indicator of who has the item or who is suffering from the condition. I'd like to see more card type products for RPGs anywhere it makes sense. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Day 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

It's pretty simple-  Show Up! I don't need stuff, I don't need food, I don't need pats on the head - I want tuned-in reliable players!

  • Show up to the games - make them a priority once you commit!
  • Show some enthusiasm - put your phone down!
  •  Be honest - tell me what you like and I'll make sure we work in more of that!
That really covers it for me. Onward!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Day 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more

I do not consistently pick up anything from any PWYW publisher so I do not have a perfect answer for this question. There is one small publisher that I have consistently purchased from so I'm going to talk about them: Fainting Goat Games

Mostly I know them as publishers of a lot of interesting little adventures for ICONS. Now they do work for other systems as well but ICONS is the one I use them for the most. The "Improbable Tales" series is almost completely great - an interesting scenario, stats for everyone and everything in the adventure, ideas for leading into the run, and ideas for follow-ups. They're roughly 20-30 pages long and cover some classic comic book situations.

They did a series of individual characters in a couple of different lines - Space Supers for cosmic style games and Justice Wheels for more typical four color games but with each one featuring  character who uses a vehicle.

They also did a city and cosmic setting supplement for ICONS under the Stark City line. If you're hunting for a setting or just want something to steal stuff from they are quite useful.

Anyway, that's my nomination!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Day 23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Now we enter what for me is a less interesting section of the question list. Jaw-dropping layout? Does it matter that much? I mean, once you've read through it the first time it's more about usability than making statements.

The Underground RPG in the 90's had a strong layout and organization - the publisher really put some effort into these books. Strong enough that I still have a  positive impression 20+ years later. if you get a chance to flip through the core book you'll see what I mean.

The original LUG Star Trek the Next Generation core book made a strong impression in 1998 as well. it was the first full-color hardback rulebook I remember seeing. It felt like a no-holding-back no-expense-spared effort and made for a beautiful book.

More recently I really like the layout of ICONS: Assembled Edition. It's a nice clean design - much like the game itself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Day 22: Which RPG's are the easiest for you to run?

D&D, Supers, and Star Wars - Done!

OK I can expound.

D&D: I've been running D&D for so long that it's pretty easy to just jump in and go. Some players, some characters, pick a setting and let's go. There's enough material bouncing around in my head that I don't really need any more than that. A strange combination of games I have run and games I have never run means I have all kinds of material to work with to make a game. The funny thing is that the further back you go, the easier it is for me to run as the newer editions have more rules and more numbers and more presumption of balance etc.

Supers: Once enough has soaked into your brain from comics/cartoons/movies all you really need is a system of some kind to resolve success/failure and you can just run with it. Punching people thru walls with occasional melodrama is easy enough to run and so much of the genre can be dialed up or down to taste on the fly that it's an immensely flexible type of game. Good rules will make it easier but the mechanics are not the main attraction. It's the ability to work dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, and aliens into a single session that is the attraction for a lot of us. Pick a system, sketch out a basic plot, let your players throw together some characters, and you're good.

Star Wars: Similarly, a lifetime of Star Wars movies, shows, books, comic books, and games means there's a bunch of it in my head. An RPG, regardless of system, means I get to let some of that out. Pick a system, get some characters together, and en media res - you're in a starship spiraling downward towards a planet/you're in the middle of a bar fight on the jungle world of zom-tek-zo/you're standing inside of an imperial base's computer core when the door slides open and thigns start moving!

Bonus: Star Trek! I haven't run a Trek game in forever but it's another example of soaking in it forever equaling a surplus of material in my head ready to spring forth. I talked about one approach here a few years ago. "What to do" is really not a question, and the choice of system is just a bonus!

When I see this question I immediately tend to think genre, not system. It occurs to me that maybe not everyone does. Regardless, I think focusing on the type of game and not the mechanics of the game tends to make for a better run.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Day 21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I'm not typically a believer that "older is better" but in the case of this category ... it's going to be a lot of old stuff I suspect. So much of the RPG scene is caught up in 300-400 page giant core books supported by 10 - 100  supplements that it's hard to believe how little entire product lines used to be! I looked around my library and checked some page counts before I started writing this and it's amazing how book sizes and book numbers have crept up.

Ignoring D&D as the one example everyone knows about, here are some others:

  • Gamma World 1st-2nd-3rd editions are all right around 64 page booklets. The later two add in an intro adventure that adds some page count. It's incredible the amount of time we spent playing in these. Years and years of fun from one 64-page book and some adventures plus a whole lot of imagination and paper.
  • Original Traveller: three 48 page books that covered a fairly detailed character generation system, task resolution, combat, ship construction and combat, and system generation. We played for years with this just set and maybe an adventure. We did pick up supplements but the core box alone was a ton of material.
  • Marvel Super Heroes: a 16 page intro book and a 48 page campaign book along with some stat cards for famous characters had us off to the races. That universal table covered everything in a short and sweet way. There were adventures of course, but most of the early supplements added official writeups for Marvel characters, not new rules. 
Looking at my shelves and thinking back most of those early games and adventures were under 200 pages total even with a full boxed set treatment. Most of the time the ideas was "here is how to play mechanically, here are some adventure ideas, and here are a few notes about a setting" and that was it! Nowadays though the books are better in a lot of ways I think you could trim a lot of them back by a third to a half and it would only improve them. 

In most cases you get a bunch of pages on character creation, but you're going to get "advanced" character creation a month or two after the book releases with even more options. This is not new, Traveller in particular pioneered the "extra book for each character type" approach in the early 80's. Why not make a conscious effort to go minimal on this if you're just going to redo it anyway?

You get a chapter on the setting in the core book, but you're going to get another big book on the setting anyway in most cases, plus you may get regional or era-type sourcebooks that go into far more detail as well. Can we separate rules and setting as a matter of routine?

My #1 example of a game that does the most with the fewest words is this:

The 1st & 2nd editions of Champions gave us a detailed system for creating and playing superheroes in 80 pages. The boxed set added a 16-page adventure that added some ideas on locations and plot, an ongoing enemy organization, and some additional villains but even counting that you had a complete superhero solution in under 100 pages. I think that's pretty remarkable. Later editions may have ballooned it up into far more than that but in the early days Champions was one efficient little game system. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Day 20: What's the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

Well this one is pretty simple - but first, some history:

In the 80's it was conventions. If you wanted to look for older RPGs you pretty much had to go to a con. As a runner up, if you had a good game store in town they might have a used game section but most of the ones I saw were pretty small.

By the 90's we had Half Price Books! Used bookstores in general had been a minor source but by the 90's the HPB's in the DFW area were paying attention and had at least a shelf or two devoted to game books. Cons were still useful but were no longer as necessary. I noticed more local game stores carrying old stuff too. It was a great time because it was a treasure hunt! You pretty much had to do the leg work and drive around town to see what each store had. I had a regular circuit of stores I hit every week or two while driving between home, work, and friends.

Funny story - I sold Rifts Japan when I purged most of my Rifts collection in the late 90's. There was an identifying stamp I had put in most of my game books in those days to help me avoid getting them mixed up with everyone else's books. Years later I was rebuilding my Rifts shelf and I stopped in to a local HPB, saw they had a copy of Rifts Japan. I opened it up - yep, it was mine! I bought it and I still have it today. 

By the early 2000's we had two developing titans - Amazon and eBay. Over the last 10-15 years these two have steadily replaced the local game stores, conventions, and even my beloved HPBs as the go-to source for old game stuff. From miniatures, to books, to doo-dads like dice and screens they are typically my first and last stop. Beyond the vast selection of what has effectively become "America's Attic" and the leveling effect of national if not international price competition these two entities make it possible to plan to acquire certain games instead of being at the mercy of the local selection. I can decide to go pick up a bunch of Runequest 2nd edition supplements and have a really good chance of doing so as quickly as I want to instead of waiting for years to come across them in a shop.

And that's my final answer: eBay is the number one stop, with Amazon a close second and generally better when it comes to in-print games.

Optional bonus answer: if you don't care about having a physical copy of everything DTRPG has a lot of old stuff in PDF form. It takes up a lot less space and you won't lose it in a fire. Some of it is available in print-on-demand format too so it might be the best of both worlds.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Day 19: Which RPG features the best writing?

I don't think most RPG's have notably outstanding writing. To me good writing for a game should inspire one to want to play it just by reading a rulebook. That can be a real challenge as you're not writing a story, you're trying to tell other people how to play through a story! Bad writing can stand out but when it comes to rulebooks it's more about organization and layout than writing style when it comes to making a good book.

I suppose the intersection of these things can elevate or sink a book:

  • The first Dungeon Master's Guide, the original AD&D DMG, has some organization problems but the writing is somehow really inspirational, at least for a lot of people. Style/art/eye of the beholder etc. notwithstanding a lot of people I see cite it as an inspiration. 
  • Shadowrun 5th edition is ripped in almost every review for it's terrible organization. Regardless of the quality of the writing the poor organization overshadows it to the point that for many it's a problem just getting through the game. 
Of the games I think of when I think about the quality of writing:
  • The old James Bond 007 RPG was pretty atmospheric at the time. I remember thinking it really sold the concept well.Flipping through it today it still stirs some interest in playing an agent who lives that high class life while traveling the world in defense of England.
  • Shadowrun in general has done a pretty good job here over the years, at least through the first three editions. One example  - integrating a comments section on each page or section long before we had common internet usage made it that much more interesting to read. 
  • MWP's Marvel Heroic is another winner here. I thought it did a really good job of integrating rules, examples, and setting into a cohesive whole.
  • Right now I think Dungeon Crawl Classics does a really good job of this. There's a ton of flavor in the words in this book and it conveys a setting and a tone when the game really has no specific setting - that's quite a feat.

One thing I notice from my choices - I think it is easier to write better when you have a setting to build on and not just a rules system. References to people and places, references to historical or future events, equipment, even jokes are easier to integrate when you have a strong setting to work with in a book. Even D&D 5th edition makes specific references to D&D lore and is a better book for it. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Day 18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

Well this is easy enough - Dungeons and Dragons! All editions combined this is easily more than half of my lifetime playing time.

Narrowing it down to a single version of the game, it has to be AD&D, the original. Because I had more time back then - so much more time! We ran multiple characters up into the teens - and even 20th once! We played through probably every published module, every Dragon adventure we could lay hands on, numerous homebrewed settings and adventures, and a bunch of random dungeons too.

It was about a ten year run for me as I didn't get an AD&D book until 1980 and it was the main game up until 2E came out in 1989. That covered all of junior high and high school and the first half of college and I spent a ton of time with it.

Admittedly, by the mid-80's we all knew its flaws but we didn't care that much - it was D&D! In between all of the others - Champions, Gamma World, Runequest, Twilight 2000, Traveller, Marvel, Star Trek, etc. it was the game someone was always ready to run, the game everyone had characters for, and the game everyone liked and knew how to play.

Honestly, that really hasn't changed. Some version of D&D has always been our core game, our baseline, and I do not expect that to change.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Day 17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I had to do a lot of thinking while standing in the main "library" room to answer this.

If we start counting different editions as different games then it's probably Hero 5th edition. It came out in 2002, I bought it that year, and I've never run it or played it with anyone. That's 15 years and that's a pretty long dry spell for me.

I've never run Aces and Eights and that came out in 2007 so that's ten years.

Underground is in this discussion too. It came out in 1993, I've owned a copy since around that time, and I think we made characters for it once but never had another session where we actually ran.

Hackmaster is in a similar situation: Had it since around 2001 but never ran it. We played around with making characters but never had an actual run and we were so wrapped up in 3E D&D at that time that it was never going to get serious attention.

If you don't count character creation as "playing" then those two would bump Hero 5 down to third place.

There are some other games that have been out longer that I have not played but I did not pick them up until later. I have a pretty decent collection of RPG's but unlike a lot of collectors I usually pick up stuff with the intent to play, not just store it on a shelf. Now I may have only run them once, but the vast majority of the games I own have been played at some point.

That said I own a fair number of RPG's I haven't run or played in 20+ years. I may have played them a ton in the 80's or 90's but for whatever reason I haven't touched them in the 2000's. They may have been superseded by later editions, no one else is interested in playing them, or tastes may just have changed but they still have some value to me and so they remain.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as-is?

Well, I try to always start playing a new game by running it as-is. That's how you should start it IMO. I'm always amazed at players who come into a game's forum and start talking about changing up rules before they've run a single session! You don't know !@$#$ about how a game works until you've played it. You don't know enough about how it really works until you've run 3 or 6 or 12 sessions. I don't understand those who are in such a rush to start switching stuff up. To me there's a huge difference between these two statements:

  • "Oh that doesn't look right - we need to change it"
  • "We tried it for our first few sessions and we didn't like it so we switched to this."
Anyway, right now we're playing our first few sessions of Edge of the Empire. Since it's effectively a referendum on the whole game system for my players I am trying to stay with the rules as written. If we find a problem I'll see how other people are handling it  - the rules have been out for 4-5 years now - and talk to my players about how we want to proceed. So far though it all seems to work as intended and we are having a good time. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I don't really "adapt" games that much these days as there are a ton of them out there nowadays and I can usually find one I like that covers what I want to do. If you want to broaden the question to using a system for multiple different types of games then I will say "Savage Worlds" - it's a great fit for a lot of genres and a good-enough fit for almost all of the rest. I've run and played different genres in GURPS, Hero, and d20 and SW beats them all in my opinion if I have to pick one system to run every possible kind of game. From cowboys to pirates to knights to jedi to juicers it works and works well in real, actual play. It always seems to be the "next" game on the list so we don't play it as much as I wish we did but it's a great game system and has been for a long time.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Day 14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play

Dungeons and Dragons. Any version.

  • Want to take a sailing ship to the edge of the world?
  • Want to stop a zombie apocalypse?
  • Want to start one?
  • Want to ride dragons into battle against evil?

From low-level rat fighting to building a castle and running a barony to invading the Nine Hells there's a ton of options for a campaign and nearly infinite directions the players and DM could take a campaign. I know because I've done it as a player and as a DM across a bunch of versions of the game.

Runner up
Any superhero game. The universe is yours! In fact, multiple universe may be yours! You can do basic street-level crime-fighting heroes if you like, and you could scale it up to repelling an alien invasion and invading the Nine Hells here as well!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Day 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

This may be a little different than what the creators of the question intended but it's the first thing that came to mind so ...

We were playing D&D 2E. We had been playing this campaign for a while with just a few players - about 4 altogether, and we ran if at least two people were available. I was running it and it was going pretty well. One guy, one I had known for years at this point, had been increasingly "insurgent". He went against everything the other players wanted to do, he went off on his own when the party was trying to do something, and was just generally difficult in-game. I was willing to tolerate a fair amount of this in-game as people play in different ways and every character doesn't have to get along all the time.

Then he started to let it leak out outside of the game itself - talking smack about the players, insults, sneering condescension, and making implications about their work and personal lives.

So I threw him out.

I told him that was enough, right in the middle of the session. He popped off. I told him exactly what was going to happen if he didn't stop and think about what he was doing and who he was doing it too. he doubled down on his approach. This was at my apartment at the time so I told him to leave. Then I picked up his stuff,  took him by the arm, and escorted him out. He seemed surprised. It briefly interrupted the venom spewing from his mouth, but not for long. Once I shut the door though it didn't matter much as we didn't have to listen to him anymore. We went on with the game and the campaign and didn't miss him at all.

So what this experience changed for me is that I don't tolerate disruptive, hostile, angry players. We all have bad days sometimes but you don't get to take that out on everyone else who showed up to the game. If you consistently show up mainly to screw up what everyone else is doing then you need to go somewhere else.

Note that this is not really a one-time-incident policy. It has to keep happening for me to consider telling someone to leave. It's happened one or two other times in the 20+ years since that first incident.

I see posts on messageboards every week asking how to handle difficult players and some of them I totally understand. Others though ... the only thing I do not understand is why you're asking what to do instead of telling what you've already done. If I have a group of 4-6 friends gathered together to do anything and one of them starts screwing it up for everyone else, I'm going to ask them to leave. That's just a basic social thing, it's not specific to tabletop gaming. If as an adult you can't get along with other adult humans who have a shared interest for a few hours, well, it's not my job to train you.

When I'm running a game, particularly at my home, one of my responsibilities is to protect the players time - to make them feel like we actually did what we said we were going to do when we set the thing up. Allowing someone to disrupt the game beyond a certain point is a failure on my part to do that, a failure as a host. I don't like failing at something like that so I don't let it happen.

It takes a lot of effort to get a group of people together and play something consistently. Add in whatever prep time the GM spends on setting up a campaign and then on each session. It's a lot of time and work. Do not let that one person ruin it for everyone. At some point:
  • They're not acting like a player
  • They're not acting like a friend
  • They're actively damaging things for everyone else. 
That's when it's time to cut them out and get on with things with the people who are there to work with the group and have an enjoyable time.