RPGaDAY Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven

What is the best way to thank your GM?

Be a good player. Show up on time, shut off the electronics at the table, and pay attention. In combat, be ready when your turn comes around so you aren’t slowing things down. Your GM puts in a bunch of work behind the scenes which you will never see. Thank them with your attention and good behavior.

But I’ll also accept an ice-cold Crabbie’s ginger beer or three.

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Pathfinder RPG, just by sheer volume of useful sourcebooks and gaming material. If I wanted to start another Pathfinder campaign, I’d be literally spoiled for choice because I’d have a sourcebook and probably an adventure path to support me where ever I set the campaign in Golarion. Heck, I could start the campaign on another planet in the solar system and be okay, because there’s a sourcebook for that. And that doesn’t include the very useful flip-mats, magnetic combat pad, miniatures (paper and plastic), and the many other support products they have available. You could start a Pathfinder campaign with very little advance preparation, and that can be a godsend for the busy GM.

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Having just said how much I love the many tools available from Paizo for gaming, I’m not going to back-track a bit and say: nothing. There is no piece of equipment, really, that I absolutely must have in order to run a game. Obviously, if I’m just playing then I need whatever the system requires me to have to play. But if I’m GMing, I can do that with nothing more than paper and a pencil (I don’t include those as tools, because I have them around all the time, even when I’m not gaming). I can ask a few questions to get an idea of what the players want to play, a few more to get an idea of the setting and tone they want, and we can go.

Flipping the question a bit, and assuming I’m already in a campaign for something, then my answer is also: player buy-in. I’m willing to tweak things to better fit my players and their characters, but I need my players to trust me and buy-in to the world I’m creating. If I don’t have that then the game isn’t going to be fun for any of us, and I’d rather just play a boardgame.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

It’s not one that I own, but please check out anything to do with Invisible Suns by Monte Cook Games. It Kickstarted as a deluxe gaming system, and it is a beautiful work of art before you even play the game. Add to that all the gorgeously-themed digital support for the game, and in my opinion the game is definitely worth the high price tag. I wouldn’t want every game to go this route, but I’m happy there are a few games releasing luxury versions.

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

All of them. I don’t think pay what you will should be an option. I think if you are selling stuff on DriveThru RPG or DMs Guild, or any other online venue, you should set your price and spit in their eye if they don’t like it. That doesn’t mean go overboard, but figure out your price and run with it. Personally, I am less likely to purchase something which is pay what you can. I realize that makes me different from most people, but seeing PWYC next to an item tells me that the author doesn’t have confidence in their work. And if they don’t why would I?

I should note, I don’t have an issue with free items, because to me that’s just a useful marketing tool. I’ve given away things here on the blog, after all. Having an item or two you give away so folks can decide if your style matches what they are looking for is just good business, especially in this hobby. But otherwise, set your price.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Two

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

My desire for crunch has shifted through my RPG carreer. I find myself less enthused about keeping track of myriad rules and ensuring players follow them. When I GM something like Pathfinder, I believe it’s up to the player to keep track of their character’s rules details. If they forget something at a crucial point, so sad, moving on! But that can create an antagonistic feeling at the gaming table and I try to avoid setting up a GM vs Player dynamic.

So these days I tend toward games which don’t have a lot of crunch. Kobolds Ate My Baby! is a good example. It has a very simple rules system which is intuitive and gets out of the way of the players and lets them get to the not-so-serious business of being kobolds. And I like that. Once everyone has the rules sorted we just play, and I can improvise the stories without having to parse rules all the time.

I think this contributes to my enjoyment of D&D 5E. The current version borrows so heavily from earlier editions, while incorporating more modern system design, that I can comfortably just play the game without worrying about keeping a bunch of fiddly rules straight. I’ve played this game for so long it’s almost a reflex at this point. Even if I don’t know a rule, I can usually make something up to get us through the moment, and I usually find I was accidentally pretty close to the actual rule.

RPGaDAY Nineteen, Twenty, and Twenty-One

Which RPG features the best writing?

This seems to be another way of asking which RPG do I enjoy reading the most, and there are a few which top the list. I have enjoyed reading Shadowrun RPG material over the years, because they use the conceit that what you are reading is a BBS/Forum post. So the books are peppered to a greater or lesser extent with comments from characters in the Shadowrun world, and was such a cool way to immerse the reader in the world.

Currently I enjoy reading material for The Laundry RPG. The layout and sidebars help reinforce the bureaucratic nature of the game setting, and the excerpts from Charles Stross’ The┬áLaundry Files helps set the tone very nicely. I’m also in the middle of my annual re-read of the original Volo’s Guides, which are still my favourite supplements for any game setting.

What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I’ve found Noble Knight Games to be my best bet for finding something out-of-print. I have a few other places I’ll check if they don’t have the thing, like Troll and Toad or Ebay, but generally if NK doesn’t have it it’s not available. Or at least not available at a price point or in a condition I want to buy.

That said, if all I want is the information, not the physical book itself, then DriveThruRPG is my go-to resource for finding a clean .pdf copy I can read. Yes, I know I could likely find a free .pdf to download with just a Google search. But I always check DriveThru RPG first, because if they have it it means the company is getting some of the money from it’s sale, and I like keeping my hobby healthy by supporting game companies. Only if I can’t find it there do I search for a scanned .pdf, as my assumption at that point is that the company has no interest in making money off the product.

And I think I may have suggested it before, but check out sales at your local library. My library has a book sale of donated items every couple of months or so, and I can pickup soft cover books for $1 and hard cover books for $2. The last time I made it out to one, I walked away with 38 sourcebooks for $38, which is a pretty sweet price however you measure it. I just grab whatever I can find, because a sourcebook has to be pretty bad that I can’t get at least $1 worth of material from it, regardless of the game it’s for.

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

There are a number of really great one-page RPGs which do a yeoman’s work, but my current fav is John Harper’s Lasers & Feelings. The mechanics are incredibly simple, and yet tell you everything you need to know about not just the character, but the setting. And the game is super friendly to GMs who are low on prep time, with a simple yet evocative adventure generator. If you’re caught short on game night and need something quick and easy to play, bring this up on your tablet or laptop and get playing.

RPGaDAY Eighteen

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

No question, Dungeons & Dragons takes the title. I started playing when I discovered the game at age ten (I even wrote about it once), and I don’t think more than a few months have gone by since then when I haven’t been playing some form of Dungeons & Dragons. Being my first roleplaying game is certainly a part of my long love affair with D&D. But it has been useful as my baseline as I explore other games, a handy comparative as I explore new games and whether I like them.

Saying that, it’s not that a game has to be like D&D for me to enjoy it. It’s more that I want a game to give me a similar feeling to when I discovered D&D. I want a roleplaying game to excite me, I want to need to play it. I want the act of making a character for the game to be engaging. I remember very well how I felt about all of this when I played D&D for the first time, and I compare my first exposure to every other game I’ve ever played to that feeling. How close it replicates that feeling for me determines how much I’ll enjoy a particular game.

RPGaDAY Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I’ve posted quite often about the fun I’m having developing my own world for my D&D 5E campaigns. Whether it was planned or not, I think it was smart for WotC to launch the new edition without a defined campaign setting, as it allowed DMs to decide for themselves where they wanted the game set. And while they did eventually release material set in the Forgotten Realms, that hasn’t been so obtrusive as to overshadow the game’s use in other settings.

I’ll get back to posting about my campaign setting, Cotterell, over the next few months. There have been changes and additions to the setting which have come through game play with my two campaign groups. As well, as I’ve had time to think more about the world, I’ve changed aspects of it which neither group has encountered yet, so the surprise will still be intact.

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

There is no RPG I’ve ever played or game-mastered that I haven’t modified in some way, so the honest answer is none. The Pathfinder RPG, however, comes as close as I get to playing/running a game without heavy modding or house-ruling. The Golarion setting is so rich and well-detailed, I rarely have to do anything beyond adjusting details to fit a particular group of characters. As well, there are just so many character options that I have rarely had to mod the rules to get a particular character build.

I’ll admit that Pathfinder isn’t for everyone, and I’ll also admit it sometimes deserves its nickname of “Mathfinder”. It is definitely a game which appeals to the players who loved D&D 3.5 (I was one) and want to keep that kind of game going. I still enjoy running and playing it; I have never succumbed to the need to decry a game once it fell out of heavy rotation for me. While the new D&D and several other indie games have caught me eye of late, I keep coming back to Pathfinder for the rich setting. And I’m excited to see what Starfinder holds in store.

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

There is no one RPG which can claim this title, as I collect RPG material new and old. So I have shelves of games I have picked up to read, but have never made it to the table. I used to have a low-level anxiety about that fact, but I’ve since sorted that out. Because I collect and somewhat study tabletop games, my purchasing drives and habits are different from most gamers, who tend to purchase only what they’ll immediately use. And the material I buy certainly sees use, even if I don’t play it all the time.

That said, when my local RPG convention rolls around I try to dust off some games I haven’t looked at in a while, and sign up to run those. So if you’re in Edmonton and coming to IntrigueCon (and you should), I’ll be running sessions for The Laundry RPG as well as an Indian-Jones inspired scenario for Kobolds Ate My Baby!. I might add a third session, but I’ll wait and see what everyone else is running first; I might find I want to play more than I want to GM for a third time.

RPGaDAY Thirteen and Fourteen

Describe a game experience that changed how you play?

What comes to mind is the first time I played the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Up to that point I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons, and other TSR games and their ilk. Games where we were very much the heroes, and as long as we didn’t get stupid we were going to win through to glory and treasure.

While we were heroes in Call of Cthulhu, almost none of the rest of what I knew up to that point applied. First, this was a realistic modernish setting, so the usual “murder-hobo” instincts were useless. Second, investigation trumped brute force. Sure, sometimes you needed to rough somebody up or engage in gun play. But just as often your characters were in libraries and museums, or searching weird locations for clues. And last, success was not only not guaranteed, but it was entirely possible you had failed well before the final encounter, you just didn’t know it yet. And none of that includes the possibility of debilitating madness.

So it was quite the mind shift for a young gamer. But once I understood how it worked, I loved it! When I eventually went back to playing D&D I brought some aspects of CoC with me, and that became my first experience with blending game systems as well.

Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Currently I’m enjoying D&D 5th Ed as my open-ended RPG of choice. The system is comfortable to me, combining enough aspects of the various editions of the game that I have no problem taking my games in whatever direction I need to with little fuss. And as long as a player is familiar with some version of D&D it’s easy to get that person in to the game. We’ll be touching on it in a later post, but the game also allows me to stretch my creative wings again; I’ve done more world building this year than I have in the previous 3-5.

That said, if I need a more modern setting, then I turn to FATE. Very intuitive and player friendly, and a great way to build a modern campaign.