Kickstarter arrivals

I’ve had a couple of Kickstarter campaign deliveries in the last couple of weeks. First, the Zine Quest entry by Lauren McManamon and Jesse Ross (Hedgemage Press), Girl Underground, a game Powered by the Apocalypse:

Contents: The game is really interesting and I definitely want to run or play this soon. I particularly like that although the Girl playbook is narratively central to the game, the Companion playbooks all feel interesting and exciting to play, not mere sidekicks. Other favourite feature: GM support for adventure-building includes an array of fantastical locations with prompts, NPCs, plot hooks, and guidance for scene-setting.

Even though I already have two games booked at Big Bad Con, I’m now considering running this at Games on Demand in October, or maybe running it online for friends this summer.

Format: It makes a better ebook than print zine because the text ends up so small I can barely read it even in good light. That said, the layout is elegant and the art lovely.

Second arrival: Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne by Ruben in ’t Groen (Nocturnal Media/Gallant Knight Games/Chaosium), a game based on the rules from Pendragon:

Contents: The book is massive, with over 450 pages, and excellent. The Pendragon v5.2 rules are carefully adjusted to reflect the Frankish empire, and the rich setting section is well written. It’s exciting for me to read a game based on these tales, which were as present or more in my youth’s reading lists as Arthurian legends. Edmund is planning to run a campaign starting very soon.

Format: The text is small but not as tiny as Girl Underground‘s. The book binding, end pages, gilt page edges, bookmark ribbons, covers, and section headings are beautiful. The pleasing layout is similar to that of Pendragon, but in addition the red headings (rather than blue) make it easier to navigate quickly.

The illustrations… Well, the first backers-only PDF version had raised a hue and cry with the poor quality of some illustrations. In response, Nocturnal Media and partners commissioned new art to replace the most egregious pieces. The art is now technically competent but often flavourless. Unlike the famous pieces from the public domain, most notably those by Gustave Doré, few of the commissioned illustrations evoke the Carolingian setting and not just some generic European medieval fantasy.

And this gem still made it as the chapterhead illustration for Chapter 17: Foreign Cultures. RLY? I can’t decide which this least evokes at first glance, Charlemagne’s paladins or foreign cultures. Except the cis het white dudebro culture, which is foreign to me.

Still, the book is overall a good purchase and I think we’ll have good gaming with it.

The Warren: City Park

On Sunday night I was scheduled to run an episode of Blue Rose, but for a variety of reasons this was not a good time emotionally-speaking. However, the whole group was available and eager to play so instead I ran a light-hearted adventure of The Warren (Bully Pulpit Games) by Marshall Miller. This game a sort of Bunnnies & Burrows powered by the Apocalypse, very easy to run with minimum preparation,

I used the “City Park” playset created by Kristin Firth and Eric Mersmann. It’s based on Central Park in New York but we decided to set it in Austin, Texas instead. This matter because of the weather, wildlife, plants, etc. Because it had been a crappy week, we agreed to make it more My Little Bunny than Watership Down.

Our Rabbits

Nutmeg the Thumper (female), a Strong rabbit; a young, energetic, go-getter, with a short-haired white coat and a black streak. She had an ongoing dispute with Oakley the squirrel, who kept getting to the best acorns first. Played by April.

  • Character Move: Thumper. When you cuff, kick, or knock another rabbit about, you may roll +Strong instead of +Shrewd when you Speak Plainly.

Pip the Swift Runner (male), a Swift rabbit, young and overconfident; the best runner in the warren, he would do anything on a dare. Played by Adi.

  • Character Move: Swift Runner. You have never met an animal you couldn’t outrun. When you Bolt, treat a roll of 6- as a 7-9.

Fluffy the Hutchwise (male), Shrewd rabbit despite being less than a year old: given to a child as an Easter gift, but left in the park to “run free with his rabbit friends” when the realities of caring for a house rabbit sank in. Known for his long soft coat, and floppy ears, a bit unkempt at this point. His rival for expertise on humans was an escaped laboratory rabbit called 76, with a very different perspective.

  • Character Move: Hutchwise. Raised in a cage or hutch, you are familiar with humans’ routines and mysteries. When you Pay Attention to humans, add “Why do humans do that?” to the list of questions you can ask. The GM will tell you a truth and a falsehood—pick whichever is more interesting or useful.

Peanut the Pigeon-Speaker (female), a Steady and experienced rabbit, currently pregnant. Her short coat’s shades of gray and ring marking around the neck made her look uncannily like a pigeon, so she had forged a bond with them.

  • Character Move: Circles of Life. The fight for survival makes for some strange bedfellows. When you first use this move, choose another type of animal with which you have history and rapport.
Continue reading “The Warren: City Park”

RPG test drive: Turn

I had a chance during the holidays to play with one of my online groups. You know how hard it can be to get a group together, especially when they are spread in different time zones; when the friend who was supposed to run the adventure had to ask for another week to prepare, I offered to run something in our original time slot so we would not lose our precious gaming time.

Since this group has greatly enjoyed Golden Sky Stories, I first thought I would try running Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but I just can’t quite grasp how play proceeds, let alone explain it to others. So I decided to playtest Turn: A Game of Shapeshifters in Small Towns instead.

Turn (Daedalum Analog Productions) is “a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern era”; I think of it as Northern Exposure meets Teen Wolf, or Twin Peaks done by Studio Ghibli.  It’s written by Brie Beau Sheldon and recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign (where you can find the beta playtest version, freely available.) Here is what the author says:

Players in Turn are shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must balance their human lives and habits with their beast needs and instincts in quiet drama. Their baser natures will challenge them as they strive towards goals from everyday tasks to life-changing experiences, and they will need to find comfort in one another to make it through without becoming stressed out.

Turn is part of the family of games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), which means that a lot of the setting and story creation comes from the players, not just the game-master. Starting a game involves group creation of the small town where the stories will unfold, and player characters are designed by picking one human role and one beast archetype and selecting from their menu of options to customize your characters.

Continue reading “RPG test drive: Turn”

Playtest: Dream Askew

Yesterday I got a chance to play Avery Alder’s Dream Askew (Buried Without Ceremony) for the first time. We tried a playtest of the new edition for which a Kickstarter funding campaign was ending today (you can still pre-order through the page afterwards.) The book is going to contain two takes on the system:

  • Dream Askew proper, where you play members of a queer enclave in a post-apocalypse setting (written by Avery);
  • Dream Apart, where you play inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe (written by Benjamin Rosenbaum).

Both make me want to play, and I hope to have a chance to try Dream Apart soon. The art looks wonderful for both settings, and amazing contributors have been added through stretch goals. I expect the final result to be a delight.

Preparation

In addition to the playtest materials available on her website, Avery was also kind enough to share a draft of the “How to Play” chapter for our playtest. I love how caring, generous and thoughtful Avery’s writing is. The chapter provides advice for the play environment and behaviours, not just the mechanical aspects.  Continue reading “Playtest: Dream Askew”

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 25 through 30

Final round of Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 25: Being a tabletop role-playing game designer means…

Argh! This kind of question makes me worry about gate-keeping. I feared at the beginning of this challenge that many people would self-select out because of impostor syndrome.

I think of the definition as flexible and inclusive: if you create games, supplements, scenarios, settings, rules, playbooks, worksheets, and other tools to share with the world, if you listen to constructive critique and try to improve, if you keep polishing your work, then I’d say you are a game designer.

I’m not saying that keeping your meticulous DM campaign notes since the first game of D&D you ran in 1979 and trying to run games in that compendium at every convention makes you a game designer. Based on my training as an engineer, I think that in order to qualify as a designer:

  • You need to articulate what it is you are trying to create.
  • You need to separate the product of your work from your own identity, enough to listen to reasonable criticism.
  • You need to want to improve the product of your work even if the improvement goes in a new direction.
  • You need to keep informed about approaches other designers have used to solve similar problems so you don’t try to reinvent the wheel or publish fantasy heartbreakers.
  • You need to think of several different solutions to every problems rather than pre-select based on bias.
  • You need to try, evaluate, reject or refine, and try again until your design can be pronounced good by comparing to your objectives.

These are features of design, any kind of design. It’s not about how many copies you sold, or how long you have been working on an idea.

Continue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 25 through 30”

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 19 through 24

Part 4 of Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 19: Game that’s most essential to your design?

Fate Core CoverThese days it would be Fate Core, since a lot of the projects I’m writing for are Fate games: Fate Infiltration Toolkit, Tianxia Rules Companion, Uprising: The Dystopian Universe RPG. I’ve also got a small item for Monster of the WeekContinue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 19 through 24”

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 13 through 18

Part 3 of Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 13: Biggest influence?

In roughly chronological order:

Over The Edge by Jonathan Tweet (Atlas Games); Robin’s Laws of Good Game-mastering by Robin Laws (Steve Jackson Games); Truth & Justice and The Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo by Chad Underkoffler (Atomic Sock Monkey Press); Fate Accelerated by Clark Valentine, Leonard Balsera, Fred Hick, Mike Olson, and Amanda Valentine (Evil Hat Productions).

 

But the funny thing is that I also got influences from games I thought were deeply flawed such as:

Primetime Adventures, The Esoterrorists, Burning Empires, Apocalypse World,

Continue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 13 through 18”

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 7 through 12

Continuing with Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 7: Your workspace.

The important thing about my workspace is that it includes cats. At least one, usually two, even three when the afternoon sun shines on my desk.

Also includes: an antique mahogany roll-top desk, bookcases mostly filled with RPGs (but only a fraction of the ones we own!), a worktable opposite the desk, and my computer (running on Ubuntu 16.04, with Wacom Intuos 5×9 tablet.)  Continue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 7 through 12”

#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 1 through 6

Kira Magrann started a cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge. Everyone who participates in creating RPGs is invited to chime in! Kira’s list of daily questions is included at the bottom of this post. They’re mostly short answers on Twitter and other social media, but I thought I would re-post them here in small groups, with better grammar and a few more characters.

Day 1: Who are you?

I’m Sophie Lagacé, a Canadian expatriate living in the San Francisco Bay, avid gamer, convention organizer, blogger, and game writer. I write and manage projects for Evil Hat Productions, and write freelance for Vigilance Press, Atlas Games, Generic Games, ZombieSmith, etc.

My career outside games has been as a civil and environmental engineer.  Continue reading “#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 1 through 6”

Play Report: Threadbare RPG

On Sunday I ran a game at EndGame, a local friendly game store, as part of their 3d6 Con event (a mini-con with six table of role-playing games held three times a year.) I chose to run Threadbare, a delightful game created and published by Stephanie Bryant and Powered by the Apocalypse.

Threadbare RPG is a role-playing game in which you play a jury-rigged toy in a broken world. Caught in a world where Entropy is a constant danger, you’ll patch yourself up, invent new devices, and maybe make new friends along the way.

Your character starts out as a Softie (soft-filled toy), a Mekka (hard-shelled, plastic or metal toy), or a Sock (a single sock, often thought to have been lost in the laundry).

In Threadbare, there are no hit points and characters do not die (unless a player wishes to make an extraordinary sacrifice.) Instead, each toy character is made up of parts that can be damaged, modified, exchanged, or lost. They are in a constant state of change. There are also no experience points; instead, the characters undergo more change or repair of their own choice. In addition, when a player rolls a failure (6 or less on two six-sided dice), they gain a hold which can be spent at a time of their choosing to activate a benefit specific to their character’s type and form.  Continue reading “Play Report: Threadbare RPG”