The first mini-review I ever wrote, Smallville, was published a year after the game went out of print, because that’s how behind the curve I am. Margaret Weis haven’t produced new Leverage content for years, but the Cortex system is alive and kicking, with a new design studio at the helm, a successful Kickstarter, and a resourceful fan community (including yours truly). As 2017 ends, nostalgia moves me to re-examine where the seeds of Cortex Prime were first planted, and in a way, this blog too. Seven years later, Leverage still holds up. Continue reading
Full disclosure, I’m not usually a fan of modular roleplaying game systems. Providing a hacker’s guide for an otherwise complete ruleset is one thing, but a game that requires players to assemble it themselves before they can start play is often hard to distinguish from something unfinished. I was pondering this whilst reviewing the latest Cortex Prime beta recently, and arrived at a conclusion: for Cortex Prime to be a really excellent release for me, it would need to produce a really solid and exciting core un-modified system, or it would need to be modular in a way that roleplaying games have never been before.
So my plans to develop a turbo-accelerated version of my accelerated character creation for Smallville have taken a back seat. After the last post, I had an opportunity to review the latest beta for Cortex Prime, and that’s where my heads at now. I might return to it, but at the moment it feels more rewarding to be seeing the future, than designing content for a game that went out of print four and a half years ago. Continue reading
I recently started running a 1-v-1 game of Smallville with my girlfriend, as she’s considering adapting Cortex Plus Drama for her own upcoming campaign. It’s an interesting challenge, taking a game that’s so clearly designed to generate momentum from the interactions of a player party (the campaign villain is usually a PC), and trying to make it fit to our quite specific requirements. It’s also been a challenge relearning all the things I didn’t like about the game when I tried it the first time: the impenetrable layout, inconsistent rulings, and seemingly limitless ways in which the game’s Plot Points can and cannot be spent. If it wasn’t for Stephen Morffew’s comprehensive Plot Point exchange chart, I think I’d be lost entirely.
Sitting snugly in the centre of my love/hate Venn diagram is the relationship map Smallville uses to form the basis of its “Pathways” character creation. Continue reading
Just a short update this time. I’ve not been blogging too regularly since the start of the year, but I’ve tasked myself with posting at least once a month – even if it ends up being literally the last day of month, like today. I think some discipline is good, to keep things going and justify continuing to pay for the site. Happily I’ve got enough of a back catalogue now that I’m still getting a fair amount of hits, and it’s gratifying to know there is content here people are still finding useful. Continue reading
Licensed RPGs are a tricky thing. It’s not always easy to capture the spirit of a property in a format that’s enjoyable to roleplay. Particularly egregious failures tend to linger in memory – the 1984 release “Middle-earth Role Playing”, for example, had most high level player characters flinging thunderbolts with nary a care for Tolkien’s subtle, low-magic mythology. Cubicle 7’s take on the Lord of the Rings phenomenon is equally distinctive, but in a good way. In this game, journeys are arduous, evil is insidious, magic rarely seen but powerful, and companionship amongst friends a greater power still. This is as Tolkien as fantasy roleplaying gets, right down to the exclusive use of masculine pronouns throughout the game text. (Perhaps authenticity isn’t always desirable when adapting something 70 years old.) Continue reading
I blame Will Hindmarch. It was his article for the Escapist, which I read over six years ago, that set me down this track. It started with a couple of sessions of experimentation, before it became the mantra I always live by. For every game in an RPG campaign I run – and every one-off game, where I can get away with it – I have a soundtrack that plays alongside the game. Continue reading
Horror RPGs are difficult to run because they live and die on strength of tone. The suffocating dread of an excellent horror game delivers a cathartic thrill unlike anything else in the hobby… but when mishandled, it’s fodder for unintentional comedy. Ten Candles is a fantastic game because generating atmosphere is its first priority – it’s dark, thematically and literally. Best of all, it’s a game where you get to set things on fire. Continue reading
Character advancement is a staple of roleplaying. Character deterioration is less common. Fiction is replete with heroes who lose everything to achieve victory, stories with pathos, so cathartic to roleplay. Becoming fulfils that niche by upending the concept of the “player party”, underlining the tragic loneliness of the sacrificial saviour. What does that mean in practice? One PC. Three GMs. Continue reading
A couple of years ago, I sat down with the players in my ongoing hard sci-fi Fate game Ferrymen, and agreed on a direction that we wanted to take the campaign going forwards. The players all agreed that after thirty-odd sessions of building contacts and making a name for themselves, it was time for their actions to start counting on a galactic political stage. I put together a ruleset for controlling galactic factions and waging political conflicts, which can still be reviewed here.
Since then, we’ve played enough games with those rules in play that I have a good understanding of their limitations. Continue reading