RPG a Day: Systems in my toolbox

 

15. What is an awesome RPG you enjoy adapting?

Ah well, I keep mentioning these names but in terms of flexibility, my favourite systems are Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions), HeroQuest (Moon Design/Issaries/Chaosium) and PDQ (Atomic Sock Monkey Press). They are easy to adapt, easy to explain, and easy to run.

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RPG a Day: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

14. What is an awesome RPG for open-ended campaign play?

This is sort of the opposite of the Day 9 question. Most RPGs work for this, unless they are specifically designed for short play. What really matters is how engaged everyone at the table is, and whether you’re tracking what has gone on from episode to episode so dangling plot threads and interesting NPCs can be reincorporated in play, making the GM’s life easier (the adventures write themselves) and the players’ actions more important (they impact the game world.)

That said, some games make it particularly easy for me, because the mechanics are light enough that statting more NPCs and creating new locations and plots does not create a burden on the GM. I particularly like games based on Fate Accelerated (like War of Ashes or Dresden Files Accelerated), PDQ (like Truth & Justice, Jaws of the Six Serpents, or The Zorcerer of Zo), or Heroquest (like Mythic Russia or of course Glorantha.) Some (not all) games Powered by the Apocalypse work well for this style of play, like Dungeon World or Monster of the Week.

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RPG a Day: Beautiful Inside

12. Which RPG item has awesomely inspiring interior art?

I love good RPG art, but I know my tastes aren’t necessarily those of the majority of gamers. For example, I prefer pencil or ink line art and sketches to painterly renderings, and watercolours to airbrush work. But let me pick a few recent examples of interior art I love. To even out the playing field, I will exclude games based on licensed properties. To narrow that field, I will also select from recently published games, and I will pick items that I feel have been underappreciated.

Atlantis: The Second Age (Khepera Publishing)

Continue reading “RPG a Day: Beautiful Inside”

RPG a Day: Two Hours!

8. What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

[Wherein I give up on picking a single option.]

If you’re going to plan on a 2-hour game, you had better use a streamlined system with rapid character creation. Systems that are well-suited include Fate Accelerated, The Shadow of Yesterday, PDQ, Wushu, Over The Edge, etc.

Continue reading “RPG a Day: Two Hours!”

RPG a Day: Sweeps Week

6. You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

I used to game five days a week on a regular basis. In the mid-1990s, when I had just arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and busy making new friends, I played AD&D, Hero/Champions, Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and pretty much anything my new friends would run for a one-off; and I ran Mage: The Ascension.

Continue reading “RPG a Day: Sweeps Week”

RPG a Day: Judging a Book by its Cover

5. What’s an RPG item cover that awesomely captures the spirit of the game?

Today’s question is another toughie. A lot of roleplaying games have excellent, imagination-grabbing covers that really convey the feel of the game. To name a few from the top of my head: Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games), Burning Empires (Burning Wheel Headquarters), Young Centurions (Evil Hat Productions), Blue Rose (Green Ronin Publishing), Hollow Earth Expedition (Exile Studio), Xcrawl (Pandahead Productions/Goodman Games), Deadlands (pretty much any edition—Pinnacle Entertainment Group), etc.

However, I have to select Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade (Vigilance Press), with a cover so delightful that it convinced me back in 2013 to change my Kickstarter pledge from PDF-only to hardcover. This cover turned out to be very truthful to the play experience, which in turn was so much fun that I ended up writing for this game line.

Why do I think it best captures the spirit of the game? Because it shows two very different characters, both very true to the wuxia genre; because it is explosively dynamic; because it is structure around a taijitu (yin-yang symbol), representing a balance which really does infuse the game; and because it really makes me want to play these characters.  Continue reading “RPG a Day: Judging a Book by its Cover”

RPG a Day: I’d love to see…

2. What’s an RPG item you would love to see published?

Eh, I tend to adapt systems and settings to my needs. It’s relatively easy for publishers to wow me with ideas I had not thought of, or with high-quality implementations, but if I thought of a game I really wanted to play, I probably already scribbled a homebrew.

That said, I would love to see a well-done, attractive, crunchy-but-not-too-crunchy, not-too-many-splatbooks game for the setting of The Expanse, and near-future mostly-realistic space exploration, etc. Fortunately, the Fate Space Toolkit will be released next year… 🙂

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RPG a Day: Wish I was playing…

Note: Yesterday (July 31), S. John Ross came up with a great hack for #RPGaDay2017, which I will be using. That’s really pretty much how I treated the prompts in previous years, but I like that it’s made explicit. 

1. What published RPG item do you wish you were playing right now?

Ugh, ask me again in five minutes! We’re starting directly with the kind of question that is difficult for me: narrowing things down to one title.

This very minute, I would be really pleased if a good gamemaster offered to run Blades in the Dark for my husband and I and a few more brave rogues. I have the glorious Special Edition, I’m itching to play. I love stories of clever heroes, ensemble casts, moral dilemmas, and daring plans.

Scrivener Lesson: Setting Up

This weekend I spent some time jotting down some ideas for the easiest writing prompts, drafting a few answers (Screenshot #1). I also made sure to set up properly, for example, choosing a cloud backup location, Dropbox, for safety (Screenshot #2).

And yeah, yesterday I saw this great idea from S. John Ross for reframing the writing prompts and I decided to add it to my project Research section. There were a couple of ways to do this. First, I could just add it to the list of links (Screenshots #3 and 4).

But I decided I wanted to be able to access it from within my Scrivener project, so I created a new file in my Research folder, and pasted John’s text with a source reference (Screenshots #5 and 6). That way, I can have it open in the bottom window area as I write (Screenshot #7).

Then I decided I need to write a Scrivener lesson for all this, but I want to be able to locate it separately from my prompt. So I converted the first entry from file format to folder, and added a new file in it to contain the Scrivener lesson (Screenshot #8). You can easily switch between Scrivener file and folder formats and back again (Screenshot #9), the difference is pretty much just conceptual for our purposes.

It’s a useful thing to do if I want to be able to create collections of related text. In this case, I want to be able to group only the Scrivener tutorials at some point, so I will create separate sections for each. I will also change the icon (Screenshots #10 and 11) for easy reference. In a subsequent lesson I’ll show you how that serves my purpose.

 

 

 

 

Software Review: Scrivener

OMSFSM, Scrivener! I love it so much!

I wrote War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus on LibreOffice and it worked well enough, but by the time the manuscript got to about the 50% mark, it started being a real chore to revise and restructure. By the time I finished, it was 221 pages that we were passing back and forth between writer and editor to handle in LibreOffice and MS Word, and it was rather unwieldy.

Towards the end of the process I downloaded Scrivener but I was too far along to try converting the document. However, when I worked on the Open Content materials from War of Ashes later on, I tested a variety of more advanced writing tools (mostly distraction-free editors and LaTeX-based power tools), with the most promising being LyX and Scrivener.

In the end I decided that Scrivener was a good option for me. It was powerful, flexible, inexpensive, multi-platform, easy to learn thanks to its great tutorials and manuals, and supported by a vibrant community.

When I say inexpensive… The macOS, Windows, and iOS versions go for $40, just enough to cover minor support costs, and you can download a free trial version. The Linux version (that’s the one I use) is free because it’s unofficial but the user community is very helpful, and I ended up sending my $40 as a donation because it was worth every penny.

It has so many features and so much flexibility to work the way you want. I use it right from the planning stage to create my structure and outline, and to gather my writing resources: publisher’s guidelines, references, examples, cheat sheets, lists of names, notes I jotted down, etc.

I use its metadata features to add notes to each section such as keywords, actions needed (“Write examples of play,”) references cited (“Top Secret, TSR, 1980,”) status (“first draft”), or who will be a collaborating author on this section.

I have Scrivener set up to save the draft in my working folder and create a backup on Dropbox, in addition to using iDrive for my regular computer backup. On top of that, every time I stop working for the night or reach a significant milestone, I compile an export version of my draft in .docx format and post it for my publishers on Google Drive so they can follow my progress, and have a work product in hand if anything happened to me.

But I kind of got used to its ease, and I forgot what an improvement it was! Except that when I stopped to take stock of my progress tonight, I looked at the page count and realized what a chore the current drafts would be to handle on a basic word processor. In addition, I had reworked several individual sections of the Tianxia Rules Companion this weekend and instead of being a major hassle to locate the sections to edit in the middle of a manuscript, it was a breeze. So I just had to say a word for useful software!

Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.