RPGaDay August 27th

27th) What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Character sheets, dice, 1 copy of the core rulebook. That’s really all I’d term as essential but if we’re expanding out then I’m going to cheat and point you towards a previous post where I detailed my gaming kit. At the centre of it is my All Rolled Up which is one of the best gaming purchases I’ve ever made. Plenty of space within it and ideal for storing the foldable whiteboard and a selection of dice.

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RPGaDay August 26th

26th) Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Quite a wide open question this. What should be defined as a resource? You could go the splat book approach in which case I would have to say Legend of the Five Rings and Corporation. For both of those games the extra books really expand upon the settings and provide (generally) useful additions to the rules. They’re also both systems where I really enjoy the style of writing so having extra books doesn’t feel like a chore to read through.

There’s also resources in terms of referenced information, such as depth indexes and system documents. In that case I’d have to go with FATE as both the core book and the SRD are thorough and easily accessible. Really handy when you need to look up something on the fly. The community for FATE is also really engaging and including Fred Hicks regularly engages with the games audience including commenting on blogs such as this one (See this post from when I was struggling with some parts of the game).

Finally there’s resources in terms of extras that add to the game without being necessary. Spell cards, custom dice, details character sheets etc. D&D and Pathfinder are the obvious answers for those games but they’re the big publishers, they rely on those sort of extras to entice players to keep spending. It’s even seen in the scale of their organised play, a great resource but not something that the smaller publishers could ever really contemplate.

RPGaDay August 25th

25th) What is the best way to thank your GM?

Beyond just saying ‘hey I’m really enjoying the game, thanks for running it’ I can think of a few ways. But that really is the best approach.

So what are those other ways?

Well the biggest is simply to be engaged. I can’t speak for other GMs but personally I spent a lot of time on games outside of sessions. Prepping characters, going over notes, working out where the plot might be going (especially as I find I need to regularly adjust my expectations based on player actions). Some of this will be actual hands on, dedicated time while some of it will be idle speculation during odd moments of free time. All together it adds up, I’d estimate that each hour of game time will correspond to an hour of prep. At a minimum.

That’s a lot of engagement with the game, far more than I’d ever ask of the players. What I do appreciate though are players that engage during the session, it makes me feel like all that time was worth it and is appreciated. There are lots of ways you can engage with the game, for example:

Actively engage with the plot, give me an idea of where you want it to go.
Set aside the time to game. If you’re regularly flaking out at the last minute then you’re wasting my time. Flakey gamers are something that really pisses me off. Gaming is an important part of my mental health so it matters to me when you disrupt that.
Make an effort to learn the rules. I don’t expect mastery but I appreciate not having to explain the basic mechanics for the umpteenth time.
Know what your character is capable of. As the GM I’ve got to keep track of a lot of aspects, if you know your PCs abilities it’s one less thing I have to keep in my head.

RPGaDay August 24th

24th) Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Not sure I can really answer this one as there is only one PWYW publisher that I have purchased from on a regular basis. That publisher is of course Evil Hat, creators of FATE. I’m loathe to say they should be charging more as they seem to be doing well with their approach so clearly the model is working for them. Would I pay more if they moved away from the model? Yes, at this point they have a proven track record but at the same time it would reduce the number of items I did purchase. I’ve picked up a few of the Worlds of Fate products and overall had a mixed opinion of them, if they switched to a standard fixed price model I probably wouldn’t buy any more of that line.

RPGaDay 23rd August

23rd) Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

My immediate thought is Technoir, it really excels at having a minimalist future vibe that is clear, concise and easy to read. Those last aspects are particularly important due to nature of the information RPG books have to convey but where Technoir excels is that it achieves this while maintaining an appearance that suits the genre. Many books will lean heavily on one aspect over the other and at the moment there does appear to be a push towards more graphically complex books that lose clarity and readability. I’m of the opinion that this is partially down to the multi-facetted role that game books have.

tn-pageAt the simplest level they have to convey the rules of the game, in a manner that is logical and clear. Fate Core is a prime example of a game that achieves this, with a heavy lean towards the technical. It clearly lays out the mechanics of the rules in an unambiguous but also rather flavourless manner. The book is also well indexed and easy to flick through when double checking individual rules / aspects/

Which leads me on to what I consider the second level of game book design, enjoyability. Regardless of whether or not it impacts on playing a game I’m of the opinion that a game book should be enjoyable to read. Fate Core is an example here of where the writing puts me off, the first time I read the game I found it a slog, to the point that it put me off the system. The interesting contrast? I’d previously read the original Dresden Files RPG and really liked it, the style of that book helped me learn Fate because I was enjoying reading it. That game sacrifices a lot at the base level of clarity due to being heavy on the visual aspects of layout so I think somewhere inbetween is best. Amongst the Fate material I’ve read Atomic Robo probably achieves the best balance of clarity and enjoyability.

The final layer for me is inspiration. How well does the game get me to want to run it. A lot of this comes down to the writing and its ability to convey setting information (generally I’m not a massive fan of setting neutral systems) but the visual presentation also plays a part. I know there may be the argument of ‘well I can already use my imagination’ but to me that doesn’t really work. Just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean I will do so in the way that the designer intended. Having those visual elements is, therefore, important to me though once again it is possible to overdo them. It’s all about the balance.

RPGaDay August 22nd

22nd) Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

cortexplusThis again mostly comes down to familiarity for me, so once again I’m going with Cortex. More specifically Cortex Classic or Cortex Plus Action (such as Firefly) which are the two variants I’ve personally run. For both of them I could pick up the game and presuming I had a setting inspiration have characters ready to run in a few minutes. Especially Cortex Classic where I’d even be comfortable with characters being generated in play using the old ‘assign your stat when you first roll it’ approach.

The other reason for picking Cortex is that I know I can comfortably run it for players unfamiliar with the system. I’ve done so a number of times for both friends and at conventions. Having that level of system mastery means I can focus more on the game in front of me without getting tangled up by the mechanics.

RPGaDay 20th and 21st August

Double post before I fall even more behind and because two days is the most dramatically appropriate number of posts to catch-up on.

20th) What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

For me it’s a mix of eBay and drivethruRPG depending on whether I want to own physical books or not. I’ve drifted over to the not camp for games I’m just interested in if only because of the space saving or because it’s splat book 21 of a given system and really I only need it to reference a single page.

In terms of the single best out of print purchase I’ve had it was from an Oxfam bookshop. Somebody had obviously been clearing out their shelves and had donated a massive pile of WEG Star Wars d6 books. I ended up buying almost all of them, spent close to £100 on them which is probably the single biggest book purchase I’ve ever made.

21st) Which RPG does the most with the least words?

A difficult question but I think that I’m going to go with Hell 4 Leather. The rules fit on a double sided fold out (around A3 size) but manage to be both evocative and detailed enough to outline the entire story arc. The game is designed for single story play but because of the way scenes are described it has tremendous replay value.

The game isn’t known nearly as well as it deserves but I highly recommend picking it up: Hell 4 Leather on DriveThruRPG