I’ve said before that I don’t really “get” John Harper’s Lady Blackbird, but it’s more accurate to say I don’t “get” the evangelism. Undoubtedly, it triumphs in conveying depth of setting in few words, with a simple system that compels decisive action, from an explosive inciting event. That’s not nothing, but it’s not the best game of the decade either. I thought it was fun, but that the system didn’t translate well outside Blackbird’s controlled environment, and felt no more inclined to replay one scenario than I would any other published adventure.
Released six years later, Magister Lor was precisely the next step I wanted. But like Lasers and Feelings, the shelf-life is limited. If you’re looking for a way to extend your Tales of the Wild Blue Yonder, I wouldn’t set aside longer than another four hours. Continue reading
My obsession with Cortex Prime shows no sign of abating. Since I put together the Cortex Prime Rules Menu last year, I’ve been playing more than ever – both as a GM (a one-player modern day, young adult, superhero thing with my girlfriend) and as a player (a high-concept, pretty gonzo, reformed supervillains game). In between games, I’ve been devouring the latest iteration of the SRD, and sending across bits of feedback to the designer. It’s safe to say I’ve caught the Cortex bug. Continue reading
There’s no shortage of roleplaying games with horror settings. If the book is well written, and the players are receptive, they provide a compelling horror experience. But a horror roleplaying game – where the mechanics themselves exist to scare players, not characters – that’s much rarer. In my perhaps limited experience, only two games come to mind: Ten Candles, the candle-lit tragedy I reviewed last year; and Dread, the one with the Jenga tower. Continue reading
I think 2017 was a pretty good year, certainly compared to the one before. Here are my 17 highlights from a year with lots and lots of roleplaying games! Continue reading
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
EDIT 13/08/18: Since this is quickly becoming one of my most popular blog posts, I should direct readers to the fact that I have now produced a more up-to-date version of this menu, which accounts for the changes made in successive iterations of beta. Enjoy!
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.
This rules menu is my attempt to contribute to the latter. Continue reading
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