RPGaDay 2021: 10th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

10th August: Advantage

While it wasn’t particularly revolutionary if you consider RPGs as a whole I think the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanics in D&D 5E was an inspired move by the WOTC design team (unlike Inspiration, which never felt like it was anything more than a tacked on idea). With one fell swoop it drastically simplified the +/- modifier system that had become excessively overcomplicated in 3.5/4 just because of how many factors could come impact a roll.

Situation works in your favour? You have advantage. Situation works against you? Disadvantage.

It’s simple and elegant and I really wish that they’d come up with it for 4E as that was a game that could have really benefited from it. While there has been some resurgent interest in that edition I’ve not heard of anyone tweaking it to include the advantage mechanic and I’d be interested to hear how it impacts play.

RPGaDay 2021: 9th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

9th August: Percentage

Like a lot of gamers I’ve only run or played a small percentage of the games that I own. Just looking at my shelves I’ve probably brought around 70% of the systems to the table in one form or another but that’s a little deceptive. It doesn’t account for the various sourcebooks I’ve not had a chance to use or that I’ve slimmed down my collection over the past couple of years, which filtered out a lot of games I’d owned for years but never run/played. It also doesn’t account for the elephant in the room: PDFs. Thanks to various bundles and impulse purchases my PDF collection dwarfs that of my physical collection. Just using ZineQuest as an example I backed a single zine in print but around a dozen digitally. The number of those that I’ve run or played? Well I’d be astounded if it even approaches 20% and wouldn’t be surprised if was actually below 10%.

Oops.

All that said I am getting pretty good at reading through games. While the number is lower than I’d like I would say that I have read a significant chunk of everything I own, probably in the 60-70% range (though not necessarily cover to cover). Part of that is because I’ve been increasingly focused on design and want to get a feel for how other creators approach a challenge but the larger motivation is that I enjoy reading them. I always have. Is it as good as playing them? No, not even remotely but I enjoy the process of diving into a new world and set of mechanics, to see how it all comes together and the story the creator was trying to tell through it.

What’s on my shelf 2: Cortex

Collection of RPG books using the Cortex system including Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, Leverage, Smallville, Firefly, Marvel Heroic and Cortex Prime

Following on from the overview post of what’s on the shelves of my new bookcase I want to focus in on a few individual groups of books. First up – Cortex RPG.

While Torg may have been the system that got me into tabletop RPGs it was Cortex that became the first I picked up independently, without being introduced to it by somebody else. The game that drew me in was the original Serenity system. As a massive fan of the show (which is unfortunately tainted by the actions of Joss Whedon) I picked it up as soon as I was aware of its existence and with the giddy excitement of being a brand new GM proceeded to run an absolute clusterfuck of a session. We had PCs turning on one another, half drunk players falling asleep (we were playing during a uni society overnight event following a club night) and a ‘quick’ combat that stretched into multiple hours.

Somehow that failed to put me off GMing and after gaining a little more experience we returned to the system to play the most cursed campaign I’ve ever run. Thankfully the curse here was scheduling rather than the game. Every session we did manage was great, they were just few and far between. The more we played the more I fell in love with the mechanics and naturally, being a collector, I picked up subsequent releases. One of those was Demon Hunters, a game which I have talked about at length on this blog.

As the system progressed from Classic to Plus I continued to pick up the books, focusing on the core rulebooks rather than supplements. Of the core rulebooks the only one I’m missing is Supernatural. I’m really excited about the new Prime edition and the opportunities it offers and have vague ideas of putting together a game using it. Right now I’m waiting to see what the rules for the Creators Workshop look like but if all goes to plan at least one game in my Dyson Eclipse setting will make use of the system. As far as the future of the line goes I’ve no plans to pick up the currently announced games, primarily as I’ve never been big on fantasy settings. I have mixed feelings about the focus on the digital platform, but what I’ve seen so far looks promising and it’ll be interesting to see if they can finally fulfil the potential of digital approaches.

I’m not sure I can fully articulate why the system resonates with me so much. That it was the first game I found on my own is certainly a part of it but I think the interlocking of traditional and narrative approaches is also a significant factor. It achieves a lot of what I enjoy about Fate but in a way that is slightly more intuitive and feels less meta. It’s also remarkably easy to teach, people latch onto the ‘when this applies grab the associated die’ and as a result I’ve run it repeatedly at numerous conventions.

Combining it all together I expect Cortex, in one form or another, is going to be one of those forever systems for me and I’m glad to see that it’s in good hands going forward.