RPGaDAY Thirty-One

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

On a personal note, I’m excited by the prospect of more and regular gaming. The groups I play with and DM for have become much better at scheduling, which means a regular gaming schedule overall, which means more games getting played every week. Currently I DM for two groups and play in two others, which averages out to three games every two weeks. I have two other groups for Pathfinder which I need to get back on track, though I might be switching at least one of those groups to another game system. That would get me up to two games a week with a nice balance between running and playing. That would leave me room to run the occasional one-shot game for systems I like and want to try out.

As for RPGs as a whole, I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry will continue to change in 2018. Live-streaming games continues to be popular, led by Critical Role and Maze Arcana, and that has had a huge impact on the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, and other games to a lesser extent. I’m curious to see if that popularity continues through another year, and what effect that will have on the industry. Paizo just released Starfinder, and the response has been strong so that seems poised to impact the industry. But sci-fi games have always been a harder sell than fantasy RPGs, so how big that impact will be depends on how well Paizo develops it going forward. And digital tools and supports continue to develop for tabletop gaming, so I look forward to watching how that affects my hobby in 2018.

In the meantime, I have the rest of 2017 to get through. This is the final post for RPG a Day 2017, so we return you to our regularly scheduled 2+ posts a week. So stay tuned!

RPGaDAY Thirty

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Let me start by saying what genres I’m tired of seeing mashed in RPGs: anything to do with zombies or cthulhu. Zombies are well over in my opinion. They’ve been done well once or twice, but now it’s time to move along. And I love cthulhu (Ia! Ia! Ftagn!) but if we need horror and dread there is plenty in our own world to use without dragging poor Cthulhu out of R’lyeh all the time. If you want cthulhian dread, play Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu.

It’s not really a genre as far as I’m aware, but I would love to see more social consciousness and awareness seep into gaming. Science fiction and fantasy, as genres, have always been at the forefront of challenging social norms and pushing boundaries in what we believe is possible. I’d love to see games which, instead of focusing the players on imaginary issues, directed them toward solving real issues we face now. Maybe that’s why I’m burnt out on Cthulhu in games; it’s something unknowable which man cannot possibly stand against in any meaningful way. But there are tonnes of things against which we can make a stand, and making games to demonstrate that may be one of the best ways to show folks that they can do something in their real lives.

Don’t worry, I don’t think that means that we leave off killing goblins, or zapping…space goblins (maybe I need to examine my anti-goblin attitudes). And I’m not advocating some sort of “educational game” like Social Consciousness RPG. But why not some games which deal with issues of race? Or poverty? And hey, maybe they’re out there and I just haven’t seen them yet. That would be amazing to look forward to, so please share any that you know.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Nine

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

One I’m currently in the throes of, the Reaper Bones 4 Kickstarter. Every time Reaper runs a Kickstarter for their new Bones line of miniatures, it is is like getting a birthday present that keeps getting cool stuff added to it. Okay, and you have to pay for, but still. Every campaign starts with a $30,000 goal which gets blown by in minutes; with a little less than a week to go, they are sitting at $1,820,275.

Their method is simple. To get the core set of miniatures, the buy-in is $100. That sounds like a lot, but wait, there’s more! The base set usually starts with about 25-30 miniatures, ranging in size from the standard character size minis to large minis like giants and such, to huge minis like a 13″ tall dragon. As the campaign goes along, Reaper alternates between adding minis to the base set and releasing add-ons which can be added to your order for the listed price. Currently, at $100 the base set gets you 125 miniatures, plus a package each of 1″ and 2″ round bases. And there is every chance another dozen or so miniatures will be added to the base set before the September 2 deadline, so even with shipping that works out to less than a dollar per miniature. On miniatures which would retail between $3 and $15 in stores. How can I not back this Kickstarter?

Definitely check it out, it’s a very impressive campaign and it draws me in every time they run it.

RPGaDAY Twenty-Eight

What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

Depends on the group. One group is packed with Old Gamers, so we tend to a lot of quotes from Eighties and Nineties sci-fi and fantasy movies (Ice Pirates, Ladyhawke, Time Bandits), with the standard stuff from the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises. Some of my younger groups, however, tend to quote from Harry Potter or the latest Doctor Who. And then I’m a big fan of new series like Killjoys and Dark Matter, so I’ll quote them when the opportunity presents.

I find every gaming group has their own list of favourite quotes, and that can tell me a lot about how I’m going to fit in that group. Not so much the quotes themselves, but how members of a group react if you don’t “get” the quote. Because it’s a form of shared communication within the group, how the group treats outsiders really comes through in how they treat you as you learn the special codes and phrases. I’ve sometimes pretended not to understand a movie reference, just to see their reaction. And I’ve left groups where this stuff was meant to be a gatekeeping device. I only have so much time to game in a week, so if a group thinks I need to pass some sort of quiz to play with them, I don’t need to be there.

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.