12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Coming Soon…

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 12: 23rd to 24th December

Name an RPG, setting, or adventure you haven’t run or played before, but really want to try out in 2018. What particularly appeals about it?

I’m particularly looking forward to getting my copy of Sell Out With Me, the supplement for Robert Bohl’s Misspent Youth. The reason is the creative team:

Designers and writers: Caitlynn Belle, Strix Beltrán & Ajit George, Misha Bushyager, Judd Karlman, Kimberley Lam, Daniel Levine, Kira Magrann, Matthew McFarland, Michael Miller, Quinn Murphy, Joshua AC Newman, Dev Purkayastha, Alex Roberts, Hannah Shaffer, Jared Sorensen, Daniel Swensen, Curt Thompson, Rachel E.S. Walton, Bill White, and Gregor Vuga.

Artists: Christianne Benedict, Nyra Drakae, Alex Mayo, Jennifer Rodgers, Evan Rowland, Ernanda Souza, Rick Troula, and Jabari Weathers.

What’s not to love, right? Also, I have run a Misspent Youth campaign a few years ago and I thought it was a very clever game that produces great dramatic action.

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12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Fun Times

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 11: 21st to 22nd December

Talk about a particular stand-out positive experience of playing (rather than running) an RPG in 2017. What was it? What was so good about it?

I get the bulk of my joy in role-playing from three things:

  1. Hanging out with wonderful people.
  2. Seeing someone at the table do something amazingly clever, gutsy, funny, well-portrayed, and so forth.
  3. Occasionally being the one to do the thing.

Pretty much all my games satisfied #1 this year. There were games where I don’t remember any of the fiction or die rolls, but I remember just feeling super-chill and happy to be with my friends.

There were so many memorable moments for #2, though! I think I will pick Adi beautifully role-playing the witch in Gretchen Burneko’s Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne game at Big Bad Con, with Edmund giving the perfect counterpoint as Sir Thorne. It was a like a front-row seat for a high-quality theater drama.

(For #3, I will be a mean person and pick my barbarian collapsing the cursed temple onto the head of [Name Withheld]’s annoying character—and mine.)

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: #internet

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 10: 19th to 20th December

Mobile phones and the internet in an RPG setting in the modern day world (perhaps with fantastic elements): discuss. What possibilities do they open up? What, if any, issues come with them when it comes to RPG scenarios?

I guess this is a question for us old fogeys. Players and game-masters who are in their 20s don’t need to discuss this (and probably scratch their heads at the question.)

Some elements jump to mind:

Instant communication between characters give a very different feel to splitting the party. They can be physically apart but still in contact; if you truly want them separated, they have to lose the signal somehow.

Communication can be private and silent, via text messages (watch out for that buzz or the lit screen that can give you away, though!)

Knowledge skills are strongly impacted: online, you can learn to make Turkish coffee, decode a cryptogram, or use a Raspberry PI and Lego blocks to create a recon bot. This means that intelligence should be treated much more as the capacity for reasoning and analysis, and less as the accumulation of data.

Instant proof and documentation—snap a photo or secretly record a conversation, upload. While opponents of the PCs will sometimes be able to claim it’s a doctored photo or recording (and some supernatural critters may not show in digital media, I guess), in general that alters a lot of stories depending on “No one will believe us” or “Get the information in the right hands” premises.

Always have the right tool: With apps for GPS, magnifier, starfinder, compass, first aid manual, birding field guide, drawing, banking, and so forth, there are many tasks that become possible or trivial wherever the characters are, as long as they have a signal.

Under Big Brother’s eye: The flip side is that it can be very difficult to evade tracking or surreptitious phone cloning, and having a phone confiscated or stolen can put a crimp in one’s plan.

Horror games should be designed to use loss of signal, surveillance, unexpected ringing, cryptic texts or calls, new suspicious apps, panicked calls from other characters, trusted but unreliable Wikipedia information, and so forth. You can really affect the pace with such tools.

 

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Future Imperfect

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 9: 17th to 18th December

You’re planning to run some science fiction, in a setting of your choice. Is there any particular technology you want to include because the possibilities intrigue you. Is there any standard piece of “future technology” you’d rather leave out?

Ah, another fun question.

Let’s start by narrowing it to subgenre, since the scifi genre is so vast. While I enjoy cyberpunk, space opera, time travel, post-apocalypse, planetary romance, and fighting dystopian futures, I particularly love space exploration adventures with a realistic feel.

They don’t have to be excruciatingly accurate to the latest scientific journals, but I like when you feel the danger and the fragility of human life in the blackness of space, the sense that everyone aboard has to pull their weight for the ship to survive the voyage. I particularly like keeping things at the scale of colonization of the Solar System.

That means no FTL drives, and the only artificial gravity comes from rotation or acceleration. No light sabers, no replicators (except 3D printing), no teleportation.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Prepping to Run

FAE: at the game table

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 8: 15th to 16th December

Talk about your typical approach to preparation for running an RPG. Is there a particular method you generally follow? What use do you make of published setting or adventure material, if any?

Now THIS is a question I can sink my teeth in.

When I prep for an adventure, I try to start from the player characters, their abilities, and their backstories—either reviewing the existing PCs in an ongoing campaign or creating pregenerated characters for a convention game. In the latter case, however, I usually leave space for some customization at the table, so I don’t know everything about the PCs yet. And for certain systems—such as Fate Accelerated, PbtA games, and most story games—I truly don’t know what characters will show up.

Then I create the cast of GM characters,  the main sets, and power factions, tying them to the PCs if I can. That should include at least one main antagonist and their minions, at least one GM character who needs the PCs’ help, and some bystanders to interact with. All characters and factions will have agendas even if they are very simple; main sets are selected for the potential for loots of interesting things to happen there, for the PCs to interact with the environment.

I build those up into action scenes (not necessarily combat) that will happen at the beginning of each act; I generally plan for two or three acts per adventure. The more we advance into the episode, the less I know about how things will unfold, so I rely on my NPCs’ and factions’ agendas when I react to the PCs’ actions.

With many of the systems I love (e.g., Fate Core/Accelerated, PDQ, HeroQuest, etc.) I can easily improvise stats for NPCs. If the system is on the crunchier side (e.g., Cortex Plus/Prime, Masterbook/Torg, Blue Rose/Fantasy AGE), I pillage from published characters as needed.

Because I start from the player characters and whatever campaign background we already established, I tend to make custom adventures. However, it’s nice to steal from a published adventure if it fits in your game. In that case, I review the adventure, identify the key NPCs, factions, and sets, and make changes as needed. I then examine the scene breakdown and the connections between scenes, think about different outcomes that could result from the players’ choices, and brainstorm for possible responses.

Because I’m deconstructing the published adventure into its building blocks and get ready to reassemble them however makes sense in response to the PCs, the adventure becomes open-ended, just like my home-made scenarios.

I have talked at length before on how I build adventures and use published ones; here are some of my past post that walk through examples step-by-step, including how they changed during play.

Credits: “At The Table,” art by Claudia Cangini for Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions 2013.)

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Roadblocks

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 7: 13th to 14th December

Is there an RPG genre which you sort of like but gives you severe mental blocks. What do you like about it? What are your mental blocks?

Not really. I can play, run, and write in just about any genre, although I may have to tailor it heavily to my preferences; a good example is making steampunk less colonialist.

I do have the same problems with certain fiction genres or  subgenres that I have in other media (books, movies, etc.) For example, I’m not terribly fond of horror, except in a relatively narrow band, and I hate gore-fest horror. I’m also not a big fan of magical realism, it just doesn’t get me engaged.

But I can’t think of an actual mental block, let alone a severe one.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Following and Admiring

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 6: 11th to 12th December

Do you follow any particular RPG authors? Which RPG authors have works you admire, and what are their stand-out pieces of work?

Wow, is that ever a difficult question. I follow a lot of RPG writers, publishers, and artists, because I like them and their work. I just can’t select a few without omitting so many whose stellar work has given me joy. If I follow you, if we exchange comments about your work, you know it’s because I love it. I’ve probably publicly gushed over your stuff before, and will do so again.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: We have some history

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 5: 9th to 10th December

You’re running a historical or alt-historical game. What place and time in history do you choose? Are you including fantastical elements of any sort, and if so, what?

Where to begin? I love so many (alt-)historical. I particularly love the ones that make me learn about a time and place I am not familiar with. Over my 35 years of gaming, I have learned about so many cultures thanks to reading spurred by games, from Tokugawa-era Japan (playing Bushido Hero) to the Roanoke colony in 1587 (playing Roanoke, of course), to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (prepping for my Monster of the Week campaign), etc.

Actually, screw that—I know exactly where I would to play: in one of the great African empires we never hear about (except as inspiration in a handful of setting books like Nyambe or Spears of the Dawn.) I would like to walk the streets of Koumbi Saleh, capital of the Ghana Empire, meet envoys from the Malinke Kingdom or the Mali Empire, and Takruri traders bringing gold and cotton from Bambuk. I would like to see Axum and Carthage, the Kongo Kingdom and the Mutapa Empire. I would like to walk where I never get to, even in a role-playing game.

Would I include fantasy elements? Yes, I would use legends from the time and place in question, and take them at face value. Shapeshifting, sorcery, monsters, ancestor spirits, orisha… They all sound like wonderful elements to include.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: A Question of Character

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 4: 7th to 8th December

Tell me about your character in an RPG you’re currently playing, or have played this year.

Oh, I have played a lot of characters, this year. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY CHARACTERS!

 

Venture City (Evil Hat Productions): Run online by Bryanna Hitchcock. I played one of her pre-generated characters, I think it was Hornet, a Wasp-like character.

Dungeon World hack: The Land of Ten Thousand Gods (Sage Kobold Productions/Edmund Metheny): I played in two of Edmund’s online playtest groups, with Jewel the wilderness guide (ranger) in one, and Sabitri the shapeshifter (druid) in the other.

Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games/Fat Goblin Games): Run online by J Gray to playtest some of the material for his Castle Falkenstein supplements. I played Penneg the korrigan (brownie), a spy for the Second Compact and an activist for the Movement for the Advancement of Lesser Faeries.

 

The Lost Age (Leiker Games): Run by the designer at KublaCon, Keith Leiker. I played Dalkan, a calatar (badger-like humanoid).

Headspace (Green Hat Designs): Run by Kasi Jammeh at KublaCon. I played Clancy the infiltrator.

Fate hack: Call of Cthulhu (Evil Hat Production): Run by Dennison Milenkaya at KublaCon. If I recall correctly, I played a fake psychic suddenly getting real psychic manifestations.

DramaSystem (Pelgrane Press): Run by Brian Williams at KublaCon. I played a spawning space jellyfish, Mother of Many.

 

The One Ring (Cubicle 7): Run by Steve W. I play Ulfwyn the Swift, a Beorning wanderer.

Golden Sky Stories (Starline Publishing): Run online by Fish N. I play Shiroko, a fourteen-year-old crane henge girl who is a bit of an older sister to all the kids.

Honey Heist (Grant Howitt): Run by Karen Twelves for a game day at EndGame. I played Ursula Berry, a black bear and retired thief, wearing a flat cap. I managed to get lots of artisan honey.

Nephews of Dune (homebrew): A playtest by Steve P. of his homebrew set on Dune (Arrakis! The desert planet!), where I play Callista Aranos, an Ixian spice smuggler.

Ehdrigohr (Council of Fools): An adaptation from the Fate 2.0 version to Fate Core, run by Edmund. I played one of the pre-generated characters, Za’ayed of the Society of the Owl.

The Watch (Anna Kreider & Andrew Medeiros): Run by Bryanna Hitchcock. I play Teyka the Wolf from Clan Molthas, a single mother trying to raise her child even as she fights for the Watch. Deliberately set up as a Lone Wolf and Cub call-back.

 

Fate of Karthun (Evil Hat Productions): Run by lead writer Tracy Barnett at Big Bad Con. I played Kistkatsa, a Lizardfolk bard who reminded me of my beloved T’skrang bard in Earthdawn.

JUGGERNAUT (Bully Pulpit Games): Hosted by Brian Williams in Games on Demand at Big Bad Con. The characters are pre-generated; I was the results-minded Major Van Der Meer, still hoping to get the next phase of the project authorized so we could fight the Commies.

Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Productions): Run by Arthur Berman in Games on Demand at Big Bad Con. I played Lynniel Bonebreaker, a human barbarian. I collapsed the temple onto my own head (and another PC’s) rather than let the macguffin fall into the wrong hands.

Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne (Pompey Crew Design): Run by Gretchen Burneko at Big Bad Con. The characters were pre-generated; I played Berrick, the squire of Sir Hayden. Of course I was in love with the witch!

Mutants & Masterminds 3e (Green Ronin): Run by Edmund at Big Bad Con. I played Growltiger the Bane of Rats!

[Edited to add:]

Teshale

Star Trek Light, a hack of Cthulhu Dark: A play-by-post playtest by Evlyn M. I play Ensign Tishale Brehan, an Acamarian Engineering officer on the USS Sussman. Teshale is ebullient, romantic, and geeky, but also world-savvy and saddled with friends in low places.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Fantasy

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 3: 4th to 5th December

You’re building a fantasy setting for the RPG of your choice. Which ingredients do you put in? Which “standard fantasy” elements would you choose to leave out?

Ah, a more familiar question.

If we assume that “standard fantasy” means D&D-derived, then I leave out the “races,” the Vancian magic, the primacy of combat over all other forms of action, and the dungeon-crawling-to kill-monsters-and-take-their-stuff premise. Also the pseudo-European flavour, faux-medieval setting, and chainmail bikini.

What I do put in: either nothing but humans, or a variety of species that are not the D&D standards; diversity and a lot of different cultural influences, with probably a minority of the denizens being white folk; a little magic goes a long way; problems solved through technical, social, and mental challenges, not only through combat; player characters rooted in time and place, not just wandering murder hobos; start small and local, grow to world-spanning stakes; the setting should be disorienting at first and turn some unspoken assumptions on their ear.

Credits: Swordsman, CC from Kaitlynn Peavler; Bridge, CC0 1.0 Universal, obtained from Pixabay.