Thursday, March 02, 2017

Chris' Picks For GM's Day


RPGNow/DriveThruRPG often has sales, and I don't usually put lists like this today, but I had a couple of people ask for recommendations on what to pick out from the mass of available games. These are my recommendations, in no particular order. There are a lot of games available, and it will take me a while to work through the list, so I will probably update this a couple of times before the sale goes away.

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure. Hubris is a really interesting setting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (also on sale) that is filled with great monsters and a potent Swords & Sorcery vibe. Usable for any OSR game, or D&D-esque system with a little work. If you want a dangerous setting, this is the one for you.

I was really surprised by the Adventures In Middle-Earth Player's Guide. I will admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Tolkien, but this really surprised me. If you want a dark fantasy setting that has the benefit of familiarity to most gamers, Middle-Earth is where you want to go.

NEW is a dice pool-based game of science fiction. Character creation is robust, but quick, and the game is fast-moving. Unlike some other science fiction games, NEW isn't locked into a particular paradigm or style of science fiction. It also has the benefit of being the base for the rules to the upcoming 2000AD/Judge Dredd role-playing game from EN Publishing. I write for EN World, which is run by EN Publishing, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt if you want.

Now, I am the co-publisher at Battlefield Press, so I was involved with the publication of the Ninja High School RPG (I am also working on the upcoming Fate version of the game). But, I would still recommend this game if I wasn't involved with it. Based on the D6 rules originally published by West End Games, the Ninja High School game is a pretty light game itself. This is probably one of the better uses of the D6 rules that I have seen in a long while.

Delta Green is back! Delta Green is a modern espionage role-playing game powered by the Basic Role-Playing engine. Spies and soldiers attempt to hold back the tide of encroachment of the Cthulhu Mythos. I played in this setting a lot when it was "just" a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This game is the King (in Yellow) of Cthulhu Role-Playing games.

Colonial Gothic is a horror role-playing game set around the time of the founding of America. Fans of historical settings and horror should check this game out. The system is a unique one, and robust.

As long as I am talking about horror games, be sure to check out the third edition of the classic horror role-playing game Chill. Chill Third Edition is a game of investigative horror and monster hunting. If you're looking for something where the heroes have a bit more of a chance than they might in a more Lovecraftian RPG, you should check out Chill.

Theorems and Thaumaturgy is one of the best third party OSR magic supplements that you will find. I might be slightly biased because the author took a couple of suggestions that I made in putting this expanded second edition together. There are new spells and spellcaster classes designed for Labyrinth Lord, but usable in any OSR game.

Based on the Swords & Wizardry rules (my preferred OSR ruleset), Crypts and Things is a very British take on the old school system. If you were a fan of Warhammer Roleplay, or Games Workshop's old White Dwarf magazine, you'll enjoy Crypts and Things.

I've been a booster of the Hydra Collective designers for a while. If you want some imaginative and psychedelic adventures for your old school fantasy games, you really need to have the modules of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes trilogy: Slumbering Ursine DunesFever-Dreaming Marlinko and Misty Isles of the Eld. Chris Kutalik is one of the most inventive adventure writers in the old school movement currently, and these modules will thrill and freak out your players as they come to terms with the psychedelic fantasy world that he has created.

Inspired by the B/X edition of Dungeons & Dragons and more contemporary games like Dungeon World, The Nightmares Underneath is a "traditional" role-playing game with an nontraditional approach. If you've played classic editions of D&D you'll have this game down in no time at all. The setting of the game uses the inspirations of the Middle East and Northern Africa in its world building.

There's plenty of other games that are available in the sale, but these are some of the ones that I am familiar with. Any of these are worth having on your virtual gaming bookshelves. The sale ends March 13, 2017, so be sure to check it out before then.



Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So There's This Trailer For A World Of Darkness Documentary...



I will admit that I didn't play World of Darkness stuff until fairly recently. I could have been playing it in the 90s, and 90s me was certainly a part of the target demographic, but many of the people who were local to me at the time and who were playing the game just weren't people that I wanted to game with. So, I went off and read my Poppy Brite and Caitlin Kiernan novels in peace and played a lot of Call of Cthluhu and nowhere near as much KULT as I would have liked to have played.

Mostly I'm saying this to set the tone for the rest of this post.

I get that this is a prelude (see what I did there?) to a marketing piece that is supposed to reestablish the coolness of the World of Darkness and the eventual relaunch of games like Vampire and Werewolf. However, if we have learned anything over the last forty some years of tabletop role-playing games, it is that we can market our games without being a dick to people who like other games and styles of play. That lesson seems to have been lost on the people making this "documentary."

Also what seems to have been lost is an actual grasp of the history of role-playing games. Perhaps they could have fixed this by seeking out some outside voices, people who could speak authoritatively on the history of gaming, and its culture. If only there were people who regularly write about tabletop RPGs, and do so in a a way that demonstrates that they have tried to look at the bigger picture of things.

I am committing what I consider to be the biggest Cardinal Sin when it comes to reviewing: "DON'T BASE YOUR REVIEW OFF OF THE TRAILER." I think that if more people lived by that rule, the internet would be a much happier place. Plus if we got rid of the racist, misogynistic homophobes things would be happier too, but that has little to nothing to do with White Wolf and the World of Darkness. The reason why I'm willing to suspend this rule, in this case, has to do with the history of the people who are now in control of the White Wolf intellectual property. These people seem to be overly enthused about a grim and gritty, dark and edgy culture of the 90s that, while popular amongst a particular demographic (I know, because 90s me was all about a lot of this stuff, and I have the autographed print from James O'Barr to prove it), it was a culture that was, in many, many case, predicated on being shitty to other people. And honestly, being shitty to other people is something that geeks can stand to do less of.

There has been a number of weird decisions being made by the current regime at White Wolf, the recent mobile games fiasco being part of that.

It looks like the people running the show at White Wolf is getting the ball rolling to alienate more than a sizable chunk of their audience. I don't know, maybe they'll pull something out of their asses and it will all suddenly make sense and everyone around the world will join hands to sing a Goth Kumbaya set to a back beat of a guy beating on an old, rusty oil drum with a working circular saw. Or maybe not.

The thing is that this really isn't the way to do things in the 21st century. We can make our games, and promote our games, without belittling our fellow gamers. We can sell our games without willfully ignoring the history of tabletop RPGs. We don't have to be dicks, or talk shit about other games to make the games we love look better. We just have to love them. You know what is infectious? Love. You know what turns people off? Being a dick.

Yes, White Wolf turned a cultural corner in tabletop role-playing games with Vampire: The Masquerade. But, not because the mechanical part of the game was revolutionary. We already had dice pool mechanics (any D6-powered game, Champions and Shadowrun). We already had games that handled horror. We already had games that handled relationships (Pendragon or Ars Magica). We had so many different things.

It isn't the 90s any longer. The industry part of the tabletop role-playing industry isn't the same as it was then. The retail landscape isn't the same as it was then, either. And it is more than just the fact that businesses work differently now from then, but it is the fact that the culture of those who play tabletop role-playing games has (for the most part) shifted. Gaming is a lot more diverse. With diversity comes a wider variety of viewpoints. With a wider variety of viewpoints comes the idea that people look for different things to be "adult" and "mature."

It seems like the people who made that trailer have some outmoded sensibilities. I mean, who knows, maybe they're right. There's always going to be a market for angsty, holier-than-thou asshole types. Maybe there is this huge, untapped market of people who want to dust off their NON vinyl and go watch Mark Pauline do a show. I would be incredibly surprised to discover that is true, even though I would personally love a Survival Research Laboratories revival to happen.

I just wouldn't mind seeing gaming grow up more and decide that treating each other like shit wasn't the way to go.