Almost there! One whole month of #RPGaDay2015, finally completing the challenge I flaked on last year. I’ll leave room for back-slapping and victory laps at the end.
- Perfect Gaming Environment. Close your eyes and imagine: a large, secluded room where music and excited roleplaying won’t upset anyone and play won’t be interrupted, with a big table for notes, character sheets and play aids (and snacks), comfortable chairs around, and lots of space beyond that to move around in. My living room fails to meet these criteria (too small), but two of my roleplaying friends live just around the corner, and their lounge is pretty damn close. At the opposite end of the scale, public roleplaying causes social awkwardness, and lounging around on sofas is a bad idea – without a table to focus on, attentions wander. I’ve had players “rest their eyes” whilst gaming from sofas, which is a pretty demoralising prospect for a GM. I’m torn on the subject of large halls for multiple groups to roleplay in. Obviously it impedes the ability to use soundtracks, presents distractions, and makes some roleplayers feel self-conscious… But I do get a buzz from being part of something bigger than just the one game, and soaking up that geeky atmosphere. I certainly don’t hate it.
- Perfect Game For Me. Fate Core, maybe? I mean, it’s the perfect game for me because it’s really really good, but that doesn’t sound personal enough (though on the invisible spectra of simplicity-vs-depth and abstraction-vs-specificity, Fate matches my preferences pretty perfectly). Perhaps the perfect game for me is Dark Heresy, because I’ve been a Warhammer fanboy since I was nine, and Dark Heresy’s focus on Inquisitorial investigations triggers nostalgia flashbacks to my earliest roleplay experiences with Inquisitor. Anything with “Star Wars” in the name gets an easy ride for similar reasons. I dunno. I think this is a weird question.
- Favourite House Rule. I don’t tend to introduce house rules into my own games that much. If I’m trying a game for the first time, I usually try to use the system “as-is” to get a sense for how it plays; if I’m using a system I’m already familiar with, it’s probably because I think it’s good, and doesn’t require house ruling to function properly. I like hacking systems I know well for specific genres or settings, but I tend to think of them as campaign special rules unique to specific games, rather than house rules I would use in everything. The only non-campaign-specific house rule that I can recall (and therefore my de facto favourite) is that when I run a Fate game, minor milestones at the end of sessions allow PCs to swap out character aspects AND a skill or stunt, rather than requiring players to choose. Simply because I think changes in aspects are a really effective way to model character growth and story momentum, but for mechanically-minded players, raising your Burglary skill in time for the next session’s big heist (or whatever) tends to be a priority. And any instance where players are choosing between story and mechanics, rather than finding a way to blend the two, raises a red flag for me.
- Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic. Automatic success on the use of investigative abilities in Gumshoe, and a proscribed list of “hard moves” that follow failed rolls in Apocalypse World, are both excellent mechanics that have inspired imitations in countless games since. Both are embracing the classic principle of “Never call for a dice roll unless both success and failure would be interesting” from opposite ends – Gumshoe by cutting out unnecessary dice rolling, and Apocalypse World by making sure failure is ALWAYS consequential. But my favourite revolutionary game mechanic is probably aspect compels in Fate Core, wherein players are incentivised to explore their character’s flaws by accepting a mechanical reward when those flaws get them into trouble. It’s a perfect engine for pacing games, for shifting character spotlight, and for producing deeper actors for more dramatic narratives. That is excellent roleplay. That is excellent design.
- Favourite Inspiration For Your Game. I can only really thinking of the intellectual properties of other media that have inspired me to create roleplaying games set in that same universe – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40K etc. Of those, I’m going to jointly award this to Men In Black and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – fiction which inspired me to do the legwork of adapting non-affiliated games to those settings (Savage Worlds and Fate Core respectively), rather than just playing the officially licensed roleplaying games. I feel like this category is angling for me to tell a touching story of a “Eureka!” moment in which an idea for a roleplaying game struck me in the shower or at the supermarket or something, but I don’t have anything like that. So.
- Favourite Idea For Merging Two Games Into One. Well, Legend of the Elements just Kickstarted successfully! And apparently mechanically it’s kind of a mashup of Fate Core and Powered by the Apocalypse. Those are my favourite games, so already this sounds pretty promising – the fact that it’s totally not an adaptation of the brilliant Avatar the Last Airbender is the cherry atop the cake. On a similar note, Undying is another game that recently completed its Kickstarter campaign, and is basically “what if Vampire: the Masquerade was Powered by the Apocalypse and diceless?” I haven’t played either of these games yet, so I can’t say if they’re good. But they certainly sound cool!
- Favourite Game You No Longer Play. Has it now been so long since I last played Savage Worlds that it qualifies as a game I no longer play? I dunno. It’s no longer my preferred have-setting-need-generic-system match (that would be Fate Core), but I still like it, and I still plan to play it again. Besides that, I’ve not been roleplaying long enough to have had major changes in taste, so all the good games I used to play are ones I’m still playing today. I suppose one system I’ve gone off in a big way is Unisystem, an engine best known for its use in the zombie RPG All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Back when I started, I appreciated how easy it was to learn, and how simple it was compared to the other systems I was using at the time: D20, original Cortex, and 40K. Now I feel much less enamoured, and can’t imagine every wanting to play it again. Feels weird to call it my “favourite” though…
- Favourite RPG Website/Blog. I was inspired to create this site by Rick Neal’s blog, which blends actual play reports, reviews and event coverage into something that’s invariably great fun to read. So let’s say that’s my favourite, though it hasn’t been updated for a long time now. I also regularly check out Ryan Macklin’s blog (which is an interesting discussion source for Fate Core in particular, what with Macklin being one of the design leads) and the Shut Up and Sit Down website, which cover RPGs in between their more prolific board gaming material. I also often find myself on the websites of various RPG publishing houses, such as Fantasy Flight Games, Evil Hat, Cubicle 7 and The Onyx Path. Fantasy Flight Games are especially skilled at promoting their upcoming material, and the open design diaries of The Onyx Path are often worth a read, even for games I wasn’t otherwise interested in.
- Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity. Vin Diesel. Or Mark Sinclair, to use his adorable, nerdy, non-stage name. Allegedly the character of Riddick is based on one of Diesel’s roleplaying characters. Also allegedly, whilst filming The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel convinced Dame Judi Dench to try out roleplaying too. What a hero.
- Favourite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGing. …Friendship? Nah, that’s far too saccharine for a British male’s gaming blog. Moreover, whilst I have made many friends through roleplaying, most of my best friends are people who got me into roleplaying after I was already befriending them, so I doubt gaming’s been as influential in that respect for me as it has been for others. Some great things to have come out of roleplaying include travel (going to GenCon last year was my first time visiting America), education (all the things I have learned whilst researching for roleplaying games…) and this very blog. Which whilst maybe not that impressive from a reader’s perspective, is something I’m very proud to have created and stuck with for over a year now. Many thanks to RPGs for giving me something to keep talking about!
And that’s it! I made it. And proved to myself I am actually capable of seeing this thing through to conclusion. Here’s to another year of RPG blog posting. 🙂