There are plenty of more socio-political aware blogs providing commentary on the atrocity that was 2016. I don’t have much to add to that, only to say that, even disregarding international events, personally this has been the worst year of my life.
I played some cool roleplaying games though 🙂
Between various one-off games at conventions and my monthly RPG brunch group, I managed to squeeze in several ongoing campaigns this year…
- Ferrymen, my long-running hard sci-fi Fate game, celebrated its 50th session last month. Since they’d just pulled off a phenomenally successful trade exposition, I decided to mark the occasion by letting the villains open fire with every scrap of dirt that they had! The PCs have endured, and are hungry to strike back… what form that will take is still uncertain, but we’re meeting early next year to chat about it over dinner. One way or another, we’re coming up on our ending, but that’s a relative term. Since the campaign has been running for four years plus, the “ending” could still take another year or two.
Courtesy of the inimitable Melissa Trender.
- Meanwhile, my Star Wars game “Embers of the Jedi” for Force and Destiny only started this year, but it turns out you can fit A LOT of sessions into a year if you’re basically playing weekly. Last time, an erstwhile companion who turned to the Dark Side rejoined the party of Force-wielding Rebels. Her return has been met with unease and suspicion, but they’ll need her help for their most challenging mission yet: striking at the Inquisitorius Academy on Coruscant itself! I’m expecting this campaign to end in the first few months of next year – I’ve had a few dissatisfying sessions recently that dented my enthusiasm, and I’m kind of running out of ways to escalate the action…
- The second season of Watcher, my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fate game, ended around the start of the year. This game is difficult to talk about. It’s one of those “super intense for the players, super boring for other people listening to us rant about it” games, the kind most people have around the start of their roleplaying careers. So allow me to summarise my feelings with pithiness and pretension: Why be a fan of the player characters when instead you can fall in love with them?
- In the second half of this year, I ran my CAMELOT Trigger game, which I’ve been blogging about recently. It ended with an extremely long but suitably epic battle, with a couple of heroic sacrifices and the vanquishing of evil. I had to be persuaded into running this game (I play so much Fate already), but I’m glad I was – I had a fantastic time.
- The nice folks at Evil Hat Publishing invited me to join the Dystopian Universe playtest, which again I blogged about plenty at the time. Looking forward to seeing the final release guys!
- Pandemic Legacy is not a roleplaying game. But it certainly resembles one: ongoing character advancement, a narrative that develops over a campaign, and a setting that is personal to each gaming group. Schedule wise, I ended up playing this game instead of another RPG this year, so I’m including it on this list. My review? It’s good! Go buy it.
- Sadly, whilst I was lucky to GM three games to their conclusion this year, all the games I played in were abandoned: the Musketeers and Rogue Trader campaigns from last year, and a Mouse Guard game my housemate ran for a few sessions. The first of those was on me – we hadn’t played in seven months, and I requested we call things quits, rather than return to a game for which I could barely remember my character. The others just fell victim to the shifting tides of schedule changes, rather than anything sinister.
It’s funny. Last year I was so determined to branch out the game systems I tried, rather than playing a bunch of Fate again… but as it happens, I’ve played even MORE Fate this year, with the only other system I’ve really explored in a campaign being Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG. I’m even more determined to redress that next year: I plan to return to The One Ring, join the Star Trek 2D20 playtest, and maybe fit in some Savage Worlds. But given my track record, perhaps I shouldn’t make too many promises!
THE BIG RELEASES
Most of the other games I want to play in 2017 are new releases – games I hoped to try this year, but that still haven’t been released. To be honest, it’s been a somewhat underwhelming year for RPG releases, but there have been some big-name highlights.
- After running the first ever $1m+ RPG Kickstarter, the new edition of 7th Sea went on sale at GenCon, and I picked up a copy for myself at Dragonmeet. First observation: good GRIEF this rulebook is expensive. Second observation: it’s an interesting game, I’m particular taken with the structure of narrative character development – you decide all your key milestones in advance and are rewarded as you play through them – and I’m looking forward to trying it at the table.
- The Dracula Dossier was unleashed upon the world, though technically it’s first release was at Dragonmeet in 2015 (I think). This mammoth undertaking went on to win a well-deserved Ennie “Product of the Year” Gold medal, so congratulations to the team all-round.
- Actually, this was a pretty great year for Gumshoe as a whole – which makes sense, because it was the ten year anniversary. Fear Itself Second Edition was my RPG purchase of GenCon, TimeWatch finally arrived to much fanfare, and Bubblegumshoe (which I’ve been anticipating for years!) now finally has a place on my bookshelf. Probably most excitingly, advance copies of Cthulhu Confidential were circulating at Dragonmeet a couple of weeks ago. Keep an eye out for me and my girlfriend in the playtester credits!
- Blades in the Dark and Apocalypse World Second Edition have PDFs out in the wild, but it’s cold comfort for me until the real books arrive…
And they started selling PDFs of a game I wrote for, which was pretty cool too!
THE RPG BOOK AND BRUNCH CLUB
My friend’s monthly RPG book club is still going strong one year later, and I’m still absolutely loving it. I’ve heard some troubling rumours though. Rumours that we might not be gaming as much next year because… *shudders*… some people want a bit more time to “hang out with friends”. Rest assured I shall do my best to withstand this harrowing less-game-filled dystopia, and savour the moments of true roleplaying bliss where I can get it.
The clear frontrunner for my favourite brunch game of 2016 is Primetime Adventures, a super-flexible television serial game that I tried for the first time this year. Apparently edition wars are a thing in indie-land as well – I’ve only tried the second edition, so I’m hoping next year I can try the newer third edition and compare to determine my favourite.
The other game that was most enthusiastically received by our brunch group was Heroes of the Hearth, from the Seven Wonders story game anthology. It’s a moving tale of the loved ones left at home in fantasy adventure stories, their longing for absent heroes, and ultimately how they cope when the enemy arrives at their doorstep. Frustratingly, I missed the chance to play this one, grrr. In fact, I’ve not played ANY of the Seven Wonders games since picking up a copy at Dragonmeet last year, so I think this is something to add to my new years gaming resolutions!
For me, no December is complete without a visit to my city’s annual tabletop gaming convention: Dragonmeet, this year held at the Novotel in Hammersmith (like this year’s Nine Worlds). This event happens just in time for me to do all my Christmas present shopping for geeky friends, and as mentioned above, I bought myself a cheeky 7th Sea shaped present as well.
At this point, Dragonmeet’s seminar schedule is pretty much just a sequence of roleplaying company sales pitches. This year Onyx Path joined the roster alongside Cubicle 7, Modiphius Entertainment, Pelgrane Press and Chaosium (I attended the first three). I almost left the event early, but I’m glad I stuck around long enough for the “What’s New in Indie Games?” panel. You can listen to it here, and might even be able to hear me hassling Grant Howitt with an annoying social justice question.
I have two Dragonmeet traditions: attending the live recording of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (which was brilliant, obviously), and complaining about not playing in any RPGs. I have roleplayed two or three times at the con before, but they’ve always been short exhibition games like demos or drop-in games on demand – for a one day event, committing to a four-hour roleplay is just too big a time commitment, especially as roleplaying with complete strangers is always a bit of a gamble. Whilst the London Indiemeet rescued me with a games on demand service last year, they didn’t run one this time, so I came away roleplay-free. So I’ve vowed to have a part in setting it up myself next year! I’d call it a service to the community, but really it’s just an excuse to get some games in…
SO THAT’S ME
I’ve not been especially optimistic about 2017, but re-reading the above has reminded me I have quite a lot to look forward to: games I’m looking forward to playing, exciting upcoming releases, another year of game brunches with friends, and Dragonmeet stuff at the end. Here’s to a brilliant year ahead, filled with many great games for us all.