#RPGaDAY 17: QAGS

I often have a hilarious time playing RPGs, and the many games tend to run together in recollection, so picking one single “funniest game” is pretty much impossible. I can tell you the funniest recent game I was in: I played a game of Little Wizards at Gen Con this year. It was quite fun and we broke the GM at least twice, though I don’t recall the particular parts that were so funny. I think one of them was the 11-year-old complaining that we couldn’t use the fountain in the town square to brew a giant draught of tea to cure the town of fairy dust-laden chocolates because the water is recirculated and thus not sanitary, to which someone quipped “we’re responsible for preventing fairy dust, not dysentery”. 

Another funny convention game I can heartily recommend is Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja-Educational Preparatory Super-Elementary Fortress 555, when run by Akira and/or Jason. I had a hand in it’s origin, though it evolved quite a bit before it was published, but it really is those two that bring it to life. I can put funny stuff on paper, and even play a funny character, but running a funny game is something Akira, in particular, excels at. 

But the funniest convention games I can (vaguely) recall were all QAGS games, run by the Hex Games crew. It’s been enough years that I can’t recall any details, much less which games were which, but I can remember some of the settings/genres: classic Hammer Films-style monsters as ‘80s buddy cops; “laser ponies”; swinging ‘60s superspies with superpowers; Discworld-ish deconstructed fantasy. All were hilarious, and while QAGS can be used for serious games and the Hex Games folks sometimes do so, if you ever get a chance to play one of their wacky games, do it! They’ve been reliably the most fun I’ve had playing convention games, often necessitating breaks to recover from the laughter. 

#RPGaDAY 16: GURPS Bunnies & Burrows

Hmmm…there are a lot of RPGs I wish I owned—I’m a bit of a collector, and even more of an obsessive reader/tinkerer/designer/player. Too many games, not enough money (or time)! The currently-available games that I keep wishing I could justify buying are the various Warhammer 40k RPGs. I have Dark Heresy and 1 supplement, but I love that universe, and I’d love to have at least all the core rulebooks—what are there, 6 now? But it’s hard to justify $50 a pop—much less ~$300 all told—for a game that I pretty much know I will never run or play. 

But the games I most want but don’t have are generally non-existent. I’ve been waiting nearly two decades for a Heresy RPG (sharing the world of the Heresy CCG), and in that time Flat Black, Ustio, Aun J’nu, and Zero Movement have all failed to materialize as commercial products, though some of them have shown up in some other format.

However, in the interest of listing something that I could someday acquire, I have been on the lookout for a copy of Pixie, a self-published RPG from the early-/mid-80s that was once reviewed in Dragon. I suspect, all these years later, that it is no longer innovative or novel, so it would now be merely a cultural artifact. But if I ever find it for a reasonable price, I’ll still have to grab it—I’ve been looking for it for 25 years or more, after all.

Similarly, there are two other 80s games that I would love to have. The British Doctor Who game and GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows. In the former case I have a legal PDF version, so I don’t really need hardcopy. As for Bunnies & Burrows: I have the original version, a good familiarity with the books, lots of experience hacking games, and a couple dozen setting-neutral systems, along with everything else I could potentially hack, so if I ever could get anyone to play Watership Down: the RPG, it’s not like I’d be hurting for the lack of a detailed RPG setting book. But I still want it.

Maybe I’ll luck into an affordable copy some day, like I did with Alma Mater

#RPGaDAY 15: Heroine at Forge Midwest

I’m going to start with the best convention game that I wasn’t actually part of. It was Con of the North, many years ago—I think before Dread had actually been published. So people had heard of Dread—it was part of why we were invited to the con—but it wasn’t yet known, and our games weren’t yet swamped. One of the games that Eppy was running only had 3 players, which is pretty much the minimum for the game to really be fun, and he nearly lost 2 of them when he was doing the scenario introduction and they realized that they would be playing rabbits. Not anthropomorphic rabbits, not rabbits with magic powers, not people transformed into rabbits—just rabbits. [We had thought this was clear from the event description, but apparently not.] And that this was nonetheless a serious game. He nearly lost them again when he busted out the Jenga™ tower. Luckily for all concerned, they decided to give it a go. 

Con of the North is the best convention for playing Dread that I’ve been to. At least half the gaming space is in cleared out hotel rooms with just 1 or 2 tables in them, so you don’t have the dull roar of a large convention hall, and at most you have one other group making noise. Luckily, for this game it was just them in the room. So as night fell on the rabbits they turned the lights down in the room. I had finished running my game, so I had come by to sit and watch. As the rabbits tried desperately to escape the owl stalking them, they all were hiding, verging on tharn, which would’ve made them easy prey. Eppy told each player that they would have to pull for their rabbit to keep their wits about them. One of the players volunteered to go first, and started examining the tower. Then, with no warning, in a silent room with just the light spilling from beyond the door, he smacked the tower, sending blocks everywhere, almost-shouting “I bolt!” at the same time. Everyone, Eppy included, jumped, and that rabbit became owl food, but gave his compatriots a chance to get away. 

 

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#RPGaDay 14: Storypath Cards

Hmmm…I’ve had many great, even amazing, convention purchases over the years. There are all the games I discovered there—particularly the small press games before there was realistic internet ordering—such as Providence, Fudge, Maelstrom Storytelling, Theatrix, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Aria, and Everway—games unlikely to ever show up in my FLGS. Several of these went on to become my favorites, and, more importantly, they helped broaden my notion of what an RPG could be. Likewise, though after internet ordering was becoming an option, there are Burning Wheel, Sorcerer, My Life With Master, and Primetime Adventures. In a similar vein, I once picked up all 4 issues of Interactive Fantasy, and I still return to some of the articles in them when I need game design advice. 

My best purchase this year is easy: a gorgeous limited-run print juxtaposing the Doctor’s name, River Song’s name (both in Gallifreyan), the Tardis, space, and the vortex. You can sorta see it in my picture of this year’s Gen Con loot

But my best convention purchase of all time is undoubtedly my first set of Storypath Cards. Not the originals by Lion Rampant, but their [licensed] successors by Three Guys Gaming. Storypath Cards became a core part of the mechanics of Four Colors al Fresco, and without them it might never have quite gelled into a solid game (even if you don’t need a set to play the final version). They’re also one of my favorite tools for any traditional RPG—and some story games—for injecting a little player authority into a game. Nearly everyone who has ever played with them has said their eyes were opened to a new way to play. Despite the recent proliferation of card decks for RPGs, I’ve yet to see anything quite like them. 

p.s.: I’m working with Three Guys Gaming to publish a new edition of Storypath Cards, hopefully this winter, probably via Kickstarter. Keep an eye on here or The Impossible Dream website, if you’re interested. 

#RPGaDay 13: A Hit! An All Too Palpable Hit!

Hmmm…you know, I don’t really have many memorable character deaths, off the top of my head. Partly because I tend to be the GM, so I only have half-a-dozen long-running characters in my history, and all of them survived to the end of the game. Partly because I’ve never played particularly lethal games, and never played with (or as) an adversarial GM. So, outside of games that were designed to be about PC death (Dread, Call of Cthulhu, Fiasco, etc.), there haven’t been a lot of deaths in the games I’ve played. But mostly, I suspect, because the deaths didn’t stick with me, perhaps because they weren’t notable even at the time.

So instead, I’ll tell you about the worst character death from a game I was in—the incident that showed me what happens when people don’t communicate their playstyle expectations. 

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#RPGaDAY 12: Four Colors al Fresco

Well, there’s “still play”, and then there’s “still play”. The oldest published RPG I have played recently is probably The Shadow of Yesterday (we’re playing it now). I also regularly return to Primetime Adventures, though it’s been a couple years since we last played it. And Primetime Adventures is pretty much my go-to game when I don’t have some other game specifically in mind, so I’m sure I’ll play it again some time soon. 

And then there are several older games that I would play at the drop of a hat, but it’s been many years since I last have: Ars Magica, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Underground, The Babylon Project, Everway, Fading Suns, Deadlands (the original), or Over the Edge. I still buy all the Ars Magica supplements as they come out, and try to find time to read them. 

The oldest published game I actually have played semi-recently is Rolemaster: I played for a bit about 4 years ago with a group that is still playing the original edition, 30 years later. But I don’t really think it’s fair to say that I “still” play or read it—I haven’t touched it since then, didn’t read any of the books at the time, and before that group I had last looked at a Rolemaster book in about ’85. 

The only games older than The Shadow of Yesterday that I’ve both recently played and intend to play again in the future would be my own Four Colors al Fresco, created in 1999, released as a free beta PDF around 2004, but not yet properly published. It will be this fall/winter, if I can make the time between school and work. 

#RPGaDAY 11: Lowlife – Rise of the Lowly

There’s weird, and then there’s weird. I have several RPGs that do some variation on “all the wacky things are true!”: Over the Edge, Pandemonium!, and InSpectres. And then there are the various “let’s mash these seven genres together” games like Feng Shui, Torg, and Providence.

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Providence deserves special attention, because rather than providing different areas for all its elements, it just layers them all together: a world of winged people, where various types of wings and degrees of wingedness are the basis for a rigid caste system in a pre-modern society with lots of unexplored deadly wilderness surrounding it. And there is magic of a wizardly sort that some characters use. So far, basically standard fantasy, but with bird- and bat-people. But then we add in a significant mystical martial art system and a whole chunk of society about this—its wuxia! Oh, and there is a major thread about the oppressed wingless people fomenting revolution—it’s got punk elements (“wingpunk”?).

On top of all this, it’s a supers game—in fact, that was how it was originally sold, almost completely eliding all of the other elements except the wings. So, by default, all of your characters are supers. Not everyone in the world, of course—while magic and mysticism are widespread “normal” things, superpowers are unusual and exceptional (i.e., the usual for the supers genre).

And on top of all that, its set inside a hollow world, and the very world itself is self-destructing. And there’s nowhere to go, but the people originally came here via magical portal to escape their old world which was being devoured by monsters, so maybe they can rediscover how to open a portal to another world. In any case, its the same threat from their old world that has caught up with them. So it’s apocalyptic with a touch of Cthulhu and a dash of world-hopping.

Despite all this, Providence actually holds together pretty well. It doesn’t feel so much like a mishmash as like a very complex and layered setting. It’s certainly unique. And the superpower rules are pretty good—I’d use them for a regular supers game.

But for just plain weird, I’m going to give the runner-up status to two games that play with the notion of what it means to be a person. Khaotic is about a group sent ahead to survey/pacify a planet, except the transmat process results in all the PCs being stuck sharing a single body, so you have to work together and/or take turns controlling the body. Zero is the story of people who have always been part of a collective consciousness, but find themselves individuals one day, for no known reason. So you need to figure out what has happened, and either rejoin the collective or learn how to live as individuals.

But I think the weirdest game I have is Lowlife, Andy Hopp’s bizarre flight of fancy. It is a postapocalyptic fantasy unlike any other you have likely seen. Humanity is gone, and our dregs have inherited the earth. The new rulers of the land are the evolved sentient(-ish) descendants of our detritus: sentient twinkles, cockroaches, and industrial goo.

Floom Auricrap Works, by Andy Hopp, found at Mutha Oith Creations

Floom Auricrap Works, by Andy Hopp, found at Mutha Oith Creations


Here’s an example; go to his webpage (above) for much more Lowlife and his other awesome work.