#RPGaDay2015: 23 – “Is this better than Primetime Adventures?”

A large part of what I love about RPGs is trying new ones—not just new settings, but new mechanics. I love it when a game forces me to play in a different way than I ever had before, or comes up with a new way to describe characters. I play RPGs to have new experiences, and one of the ways I get those new experiences is with new games. So I don’t think there can be a “perfect game” for me—at best, it would be the “perfect game right now”.

That said, I can tell you the game that is my baseline. Whenever I’m getting ready to run or play a new game, whatever the game is, the question in my mind is “how is this game better than running the same premise/setting with Primetime Adventures?” I use Primetime Adventures the way a lot of people use GURPS or D20 System or Savage Worlds.

But even then, the answer is “it’s not”, and I therefore end up using Primetime Adventures, only probably one time in ten. So while PTA might be as close to a “perfect” RPG for me as anything, I don’t think there’s anything that really deserves that label.

#RPGaDay2015: 22 – Give Me a Big Table and a Quiet Room

My perfect gaming environment is a big table with enough room for everyone to fit around it, big enough that everyone has plenty of room for character sheets, dice, drinks, etc., but small enough that no one has to strain to hear and it is easy to pass tokens or dice or share aspect cards or see what is written in the middle of the table. No distractions around (no TV in the next room, etc.), and not too noisy (sorry—convention gaming is about the least-ideal). Not something I’ve had for a few years, but I’ve tried enough different options to know that that is what works best for me. Add in easily controlled lighting, easy access to a sound system, and a whiteboard where everyone can see it without straining their neck, and I’ve got gaming Nirvana.

#RPGaDay2015: 21 – I Love to Explore New Worlds

Picking a favorite RPG setting is pretty much impossible for me—I buy RPGs for their settings all the time, and any new setting that is also detailed is likely to make me fall in love with it. So this is pretty much going to be a list of RPG settings that I think pass the bar—specifically, that they are worth playing in even if you don’t like the mechanics associated with them, or you have to make the effort to rework new mechanics to go with them.

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#RPGaDay2015: 19 – Simulating Powers and Influencing Stories

It’s probably no surprise that the supers RPG I wrote is, most days, my favorite. “Why” is hopefully the more interesting question.

When we wrote Four Colors al Fresco back in 1999/2000, the supers RPG scene, even moreso than RPGs in general, was very different from today. With two minor† exceptions, all supers RPGs up to that point had the same fundamental structure, focusing on modeling superpowers with varying degrees of detail and complexity. Marvel Superheroes (and others) had extensive lists to try to cover every power imaginable. Champions (and others) instead provided a system to build your power, detail by detail*.

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#RPGaDay2015: 18 – Doctor Who

Strictly speaking, there are very few scifi RPGs. Off the top of my head, just Shock:Sign in StrangerFreemarket, and Eclipse Phase definitely qualify, and a few others are arguable: Blue PlanetAlbedoDiaspora, and Khaotic. I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting at the moment, but RPGs, much like movies and TV, very rarely take a serious stab at science fiction—most “science fiction” is really just fantasy with robots and spaceships and rayguns.

But I’m not feeling pedantic, so including the many science fantasy RPGs out there, the one I’ve most enjoyed playing of late is Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Not just because I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who (though that obviously helps), but because the rules are a good balance of embodying the source material, giving a few bits of crunch to sink your hooks into, and being relatively light-weight.

It’s mostly a fairly traditional RPG, with the GM having the lion’s share of authorial power and players mostly confined to controlling the PCs. Those PCs have attributes and skills and (dis)advantages, plus hero points (plot points? I forget what they’re called). But with just a few deft touches, it really tunes those otherwise-bland mechanics to match the show I love. First, and most important, the game isn’t about combat—there are minimal extra complications/rules if a conflict turns into a fight and there’s the genius “initiative” rules: in any conflict, talkers go first, then movers, then doers, then fighters. So by the time you get to take a shot at someone, they may well have run away or closed the door, or in some other way avoided the fight.

Second, it follows Buffy (the RPG) in giving the characters with fewer capabilities more hero points, which helps to make them more the center of the story and often let them save the day in the end. This is a great balancing mechanism in a traditional-style RPG and, combined with the rest of the rules, makes a Doctor-plus-companions game fun for all concerned.