#RPGaDay2019 29th August: ‘Evolve’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 29: Evolve

The way I approach gaming has definitely changed over the years and I hope that it continues to evolve in the future. When I first started I was very focused on the numbers. Bonuses, weapon stats, combining x and y to get something better than z. I suspect a lot of that came from my wargaming background, where working out the best combos was an essential part of putting together an army. The second driver was that I got into RPGs at the point in my life where I found myself with disposable income for the first time. As a player I avoided adventure books but was more than happy to scour eBay for the other various sourcebooks that were available for Torg, my gateway game into the hobby.

Since those early days how I game has changed. I rarely play now, preferring instead to GM and most recently I’ve been exploring design and publishing. My preference for games has shifted towards more lightweight systems but not so far as to be heavily into storygames. Mechanics still appeal to me, its just that these days I prefer for them to flow better with the story as opposed to being something that pulls me out of it. In contrast to many gamers I seem to have drifted away from online games, despite them being a big focus for me previously so it is interesting to hear about how that side of the hobby continues to evolve and push the boundaries of how what a game is.

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#RPGaDay2019 1st August: ‘First’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 1: First

While my first tabletop RPG was Torg my first introduction to the wider hobby was actually larping. Nexus was a near-future system about outcasts living on the edge of Corporate Britain. I got into it completely by chance – The organiser wanted to use Airsoft for the combat system so reached out to one of the communities that I was a part of. Despite having access to a range of airsoft equipment I ended up creating a low combat medtech who promptly died during an ambush on the first day and was revived by a rare piece of technology that the Corporation were testing on the local population. While the system only lasted a few years during that time I was hooked, both the events and online activity between them scratched a creative itch I hadn’t realised existed. When I moved to Glasgow for my PhD I didn’t hesitate to join GUGS, the RPG society.

RPGaDay August 18th

Demon Hunters18th) Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

In terms of total hours it would have to be Torg, I was in a long campaign of it and have run a couple of campaigns of it. Total play time would be around a year and a half of weekly sessions and GMing time would be similar. While I love the setting I’ve slowly drifted away from liking the rules, they are very much a product of their time (early 90’s) which is why I’m stoked for Torg Eternity. The update looks like it has succeeded in keeping the feel of the game while also introducing a more modern approach to many of the mechanics.

As for the one that I just keep going back to then it has to be Demon Hunters from Dead Gentlemen Productions. Again, there has been a new edition recently and while I’ve not played it as much as I’d like it does lean itself more towards my current mechanical inclinations. I can pick up that game with essentially zero notice and throw something together there and then. Plus it is just pure, unadulterated chaotic fun. Perfect for both one shots and a series of short adventures.

RPGaDay August 14th

14th) Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Honestly this is another question where I think almost any with the exception of those designed for one shots (Fiasco etc). As I’ve already mentioned my I’m moving away from open ended play towards more focus story arcs but I think I could still run an open ended campaign so long as there was a big epic background plot that played out over the course of the game.

Torg would be a good example, no matter what the individual is adventure is the setting explicitly includes the invasion of the world by other realities. For anything else I think I would go the approach of multiple story arcs rather than open ended play. The Dresden Files novels would be a good example of this, each is self-contained but slowly come together as part of a larger narrative and rather than play it as one campaign I’d probably do it as a series of games, with each arc buffered by short breaks and other games.

RPGaDay 2017 11th August

11th) Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

Until recently I would have responded to this with Torg but that’s just had a wildly successful Kickstarter and relaunch so I’m actually at a bit of a loss for this question.

[A while later]

besm2Actually one of the games I’d like to see would be BESM, an anime orientated game that used the Tri-Stat DX system. I really enjoyed that but the 2nd edition book ended up tying itself in knots with contradictions and ability combos that broke the game. The 3rd edition, published just before the publisher went under, completely  reversed the mechanics (roll under became roll over) and introduced its own set of issues. So a new, up to date version of that with detailed sections that spilt the various anime genres down and presented separate rules for each alongside a relatively lightweight set of mechanics with narrativist elements.

RPGaDay 2017 7th August

7th) What was your most impactful RPG session?

Once again another difficult question to answer as while I can think of numerous impactful games many of those came from looking back after a campaign and seeing how the story arcs had come together. I could mention my first campaign of Torg which saw my bitter ex-cop descend into darkness to become the very thing that had broken him in the first place. Or I could talk about the excellent Smallville campaign by Stephen of Step into RPGs where my ordinary, boring and completely un-powered sidekick character ended up having to step up because those who should have been saving the day were too distracted with their own messy relationships (seriously, Smallville is amazing and such an underrated system). Or I might discuss my introduction to Legend of the Five Rings where my samurai went from having everything he could have dreamed of to a tragic tale worthy of the pillow books of Rokugan.

But those are campaigns and the question was session. Which goes to a game where I was GM rather than players. A Demon Hunters adventure where the players decided to metaphorically turn left instead of right. We hadn’t even started the adventure but were in what was the transition period from the previous mission. One PC was recuperating, having recently been turned into a vampire. The rest decided they wanted to get flowers for her and being a rookie GM I made an offhand comment that that section of the Warehouse (an interdimensional essentially infinite storage space) had been declared off limits for some reason or another. I’d been trying to redirect them back to the job at hand (I’d yet to come across the idea of “Yes and…”), instead they ventured off into the unknown assuming the comment was a plot hook.

We’d not even started the adventure and they’d already managed to break it. I was flummoxed. I could handle players getting creative in solving puzzles or side stepping encounters but bypassing the entire adventure? That was new and from the look on my face they knew how much they’d thrown me.

So I did the only thing that was fair, I literally screwed up my notes, admitted how much they’d evaded my prep and called a 10 minute beer break. Looking back I can’t remember the details of what I’d planned but I can tell you that the adventure we ended up with was far more creative and entertaining. It eventually led to the Chapter imploding in on itself with the vampire PC giving in to her hunger for blood and turning not one but two of the other characters after having been attacked. We ended on an epic fade out with the Chapter fighting amongst themselves in a grand library while trying to rules lawyer their way out of a Demonic contract.

It was amazing and taught me a lot of vital lessons about GMing.

First Thoughts: Torg Eternity Preview 1

Torggame-logo

Torg holds a special place in my heart, it was the first proper tabletop game I ever played and also the first system I even ran a campaign in. As much as I love the game the system underlying it has a tendency to get under my skin, especially the use of multiple sub-systems which were intended to give each Cosm a unique feel. The game is a product of it’s time (which was the early 90’s) so it’s with interest that I’ve been keeping track of any attempt to update and re-release it.

Torg Eternity is the long awaited new edition of the game and Ulisses Spiele who currently own the licence have recently put out the first preview for the new game. At the moment the details are limited, mostly focused on what the principles for design and what core elements they are maintaining. The design principles are:

  1. The rules must be easily identifiable as being Torg
  2. The resolution of actions must be fast and easy
  3. Reduce the number of sub-systems while keeping the Torg flavor.
  4. Changes must provide benefits. No changes for the sake of change.

All in all the preview is a solid start and it looks like a lot of the bits I really like about the system are staying put. Central to those are the core roll mechanic, the drama deck and possibilities, without which the game just wouldn’t be Torg.

The reduction in sub-systems is something that the game definitely needs. There were just far too many in the old game, especially given each of the many Cosms had it’s own unique aspects. Magic in particular was overwhelmed with systems, there were in the end close to 7-8 distinct magic systems each with it’s own quirks so anything that reduces the constant need to look up rules is a massive bonus as far as I’m concerned.

The other big change in this first preview is the removal of separate action and effect totals, which tended to complicate matters. The new system replaces this with a bonus die system – beat the target by 5 and you get +d6 to your result (such as to damage), beat it by 10 and get +2d6. Simple, quick and hopefully effective.

That’s all from this preview, it looks like the Kickstarter for the game will be sometime early next year so plenty of time for more updates.