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… 🙂

#RPGaDay2017

 

 

 

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.

 

Big Bad Con games

Yep, I posted games for Big Bad Con. Many short games, to be specific.

Alas for the Awful Sea

A role-playing game created by Australians Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, thanks to a successful Kickstarter funding campaign.

The premise: it’s the 19th century and unnatural storms forced your vessel to seek refuge in a poor, troubled little coastal town. Expect intrigue, desperation, betrayal, and supernatural mysteries. The game system is a mean, unforgiving, stripped-down Powered by the Apocalypse.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule  here.

Tortuga 1667

Another successful Kickstarter baby, a card/board game created by Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games.

The premise: two pirate ships, one Spanish galleon, and Tortuga Island between them. Treasure, mutineers, and divided loyalties. Up to nine players vie for the gold amid shifting alliances and tides in this social deduction game.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.

Salem 1692

Another social deduction card game from Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games.

Because the Tortuga 1667 Kickstarter campaign was so successful, Facade games was able to launch a new printing of this game that has already been a success in the last couple of years. Up to 12 people play witch hunters and inhabitants of Salem, Massachusetts, who must find the witches before being accused themselves! Much fun, paranoia, and religious extremism will be had by all.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.

To the Temple of Doom! To Defeat the Ancient Evil!

A no-prep, mini-roleplaying game by Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, which they offer free for download.

I submitted this as part of the line-up I want to offer at Games on Demand. Participating game-masters each offer a choice of two or more games for walk-in players, typically run in two-hour time blocks.

The premise: play archaeologists portrayed in the vein of action movies like the Indiana  Jones series, The Mummy, etc. An ancient evil stirs, waking deep within the bowels of an untouched temple.  An evil that will end the world as we know it. Only you and your fellow archeologists can examine the clues, unravel the mysteries, and uncover the method to subdue this terrible threat.  It’s reportedly very rare to finish a game without a few characters dead or at least cursed…

Loose Threads: A Fate World of Adventure

A lovely adventure for Fate Core by Tara Zuber, published by Evil Hat Productions. I was lucky enough to try it when Tara playtested it and I greatly enjoyed it. Now I’m offering it for Games on Demand.

The premise: you play a secondary character from a fairy tale, one that was forgotten by the heroes of the tale but has since managed to make a life for themselves helping others avoid being the collateral damage of a happy ending.  You and the rest of your Company break curses, retrieve stolen keepsakes and lost children, and chase ogres away.

I also listed half a dozen other games I could offer at Games on Demand, including Cat (Wicked Dead Games), Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions), octaNe (Memento Mori Theatricks), PDQ in its various incarnations (Atomic Sock Monkey Games), Urchin (Clint Krause), etc.

 

 

Fate of the Inquisitor

TL;DR: Play materials for a Fate hack of Dark Heresy. Enjoy.

table_sign_foti
A year ago, I was planning on running demo games at conventions featuring the Open Content from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. The Advanced Conflict rules, which are now also available from Randy Oest’s awesome Fate SRD website, are intended to support miniatures as an integral part of of Fate. Since we have approximately 30,000 points’ worth of miniatures in the house — you think I’m kidding, but I’m not — it seemed like the grim, gothic future of the 41st millennium, as seen in the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures combat game and the Dark Heresy role-playing game, was a perfect match.

Of course, health issues soon forced me to cancel my convention plans, but now that I am recovering and convention season is upon us, I decided to go back to packaging the game for quick-start.

First, the pitch:

Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitor Lucanus has led you, his retinue, to the Hive World of Corundum IV amidst an ongoing Genestealer invasion to retrieve a priceless relic from the foul xenos. Now the Inquisitor has disappeared during a brutal firefight and the ensuing cave-in, and you are chased by a Genestealer cult. Will you find your master again? Complete his mission? Call for help? Or die bravely but pointlessly?

I made templates for nine types of player characters, using a playbook format like the one used in games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA). The rules are pure Fate SRD, but I hope the playbooks make character creation quick and easy for time-constrained one-off games.Each comes with a choice of names, looks, customizable aspects, and stunts. The playbooks include:

  • Arbitrator
  • Assassin
  • Imperial guard
  • Ogryn Bodyguard
  • Ratling Scout
  • Sanctioned Psyker
  • Scum
  • Sister of Battle
  • Tech-Priest

I also modified the appearance of the blank character sheet from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. Then I made a cheat sheet of the Advanced Conflict rules I am using, and a table sign. All of these are available on Google Drive.

I have not yet put any effort into creating well-formatted single-page folding sheets because I expect mistakes may be pointed out and it’s easiest to update text prior to layout. Also, not a big priority right now.

Your comments are welcomed!

 

RPG a Day: Character development

31. What is your preferred method of character improvement and why?

[Alternate question from BrigadeCon’s list. The default question for today was: “What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?” but it didn’t shake loose any ideas.]

For me, the question of character improvement has become less about “advancement” and more about “growth” over the years.I like getting rooted in plots and organization, forming relationships with characters, seeing a player character mature and change.

A number of modern games offer characters that are very competent from the start and playing them over a long time means not so much accumulating skill points and treasure, and more becoming integral to the story of the setting, whatever its scale.

A number of systems offer ways to modify your drives, motivations, descriptors, relationships, and so forth rather than just increasing ratings: games based on the PDQ, Fate Core, PbtA or Burning Wheel engines, for example. Alternately, some more traditional games are exploring options like “partial levelling” and more narrative rewards; I’m thinking of 13th Age and The One Ring, for example.

Hera_ABC-1

#RPGaDay2016