Fate is one of my all-time favourite RPG systems, but after a hundred or so games, there are plenty of things I’ve learned to dislike. Perhaps the thing I dislike about GM’ing it the most is how often you’re required to say “No” to players. There are so many calls to be made in Fate – stunt balance, compel penalties, the legitimacy of invoking an aspect – that the book gives a little guidance for, but mostly leaves for each gaming group to work out on their own. And whilst table consensus is usually the best way to make those calls, the players have a conflict of interest, because they always want their characters to be awesome. That pitches the GM into the position of naysayer, if any semblance of balance is to be preserved.
Antagonistic GM’ing isn’t my thing. I’d far rather manage storytelling collaboratively. So rather than shutting down players with a “No” over and over again, I’d far rather teach them how to get me to say “Yes” – to approach the distinct elements of Fate with the same mindset that I do. That way, everyone is on the same page, which makes telling a story together that much easier. Continue reading
Why all the hate for custom dice? Ok, so Fantasy Flight Games aren’t model examples – overcharging for dice packs, limiting the number of dice per pack, covering the dice with bizarre hieroglyphics. But tailoring dice to better fit a setting or gameplay style is a useful design tool, and the Star Wars RPG range is a great demonstration of how to do this well. Continue reading
Dungeon World is not a fantasy adaptation of Apocalypse World. Key elements of the fantasy genre, such as mass battles or courtly dramas, go entirely unaddressed within its pages. Instead, Dungeon World is a D&D adaptation of Apocalypse World, meaning it’s about adventurers going on dungeon crawls and not a lot else. That’s hard for me to review, because whilst I love Apocalypse World, I don’t love D&D… and I suspect that the bits of Dungeon World I find most obnoxious will be the bits most celebrated by its intended market. Continue reading
A year and a half ago, I had an upsetting breakup, and got over it by crashing my friends’ house every few days whilst they breezed through Person of Interest. I couldn’t honestly call myself a fan of the show – I’ve seen no more than a dozen or so episodes, and have never felt motivated to go back and watch the rest. But I enjoyed it, and felt that the show was formulaic enough that I got the gist of what it was about. Well enough to half-arse a Fate adaptation anyway. Continue reading
After playing some more Force and Destiny, I’ve come to realise that whilst I stand by all the criticisms I had of the rulebook’s Morality system, I don’t like the rules hack I suggested last month much better. Too complicated, too time consuming, too pedantic… and too unbalanced. Balance issues could be resolved by spending the next few months of play tweaking, until I work out exactly how many Evil Points stealing is really worth, but I have zero enthusiasm for doing that. So I decided to start from scratch. Continue reading
EDIT (April 2018): It turns out this is one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever written! So I should probably say that, when I playtested this, my gaming group rejected it after a single session. It’s not all bad though, because I created another morality system, which we liked much better and used for the rest of our campaign (40+ sessions). Find it here!
I recently started running a Force and Destiny game, which seems to be going quite well. However, even though we’re only two sessions in, we’re already struggling with the most controversial element of any Star Wars RPG: Morality, how the game measures a character’s alignment to the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. Continue reading
Just a short update. I’ve done some tidying up on the site, which has included updating my review policy, for people who wonder where I derive the justification to pass judgement on other people’s games (nowhere, really). If you want a neater list of the reviews I’ve done so far, or are interested in submitting your games for me to review, you can check out that review policy here.
Hope to have something more substantial next week!
Every time I return to the 40K RPG after playing something else, my dismay at its slow, dated, overdesigned combat system increases. How much can I forgive this game for, when the only reason I’m playing is that I’m a Warhammer fanboy? Turns out quite a lot. Dark Heresy Second Edition might represent the system at its most elegant (or perhaps just “most sensible”), but Only War’s focus on the soldiers of the Imperial Guard is surely the best representation of the 40K setting. Back on the battlefield, but without sacrificing humanity to get there, this is what the Grim Darkness of the Far Future is all about. Continue reading
Let’s skip over the question of whether Microscope counts as a “roleplaying game”, so-argued because players assume the perspective of detached observers, and only rarely historical participants. Whatever your definition of “RPG”, world building has always been a part of it, and collaborative world building the very best way to engender mutual investment in a setting. Given that is Microscope’s raison d’être, it’s no surprise it does this extremely well. There’s a reason this has become the go-to setting generator for “proper RPGs”. Continue reading
About a year ago I wrote about RPG releases I was looking forward to in 2015, and examining the list now is pretty embarrassing. Of the ten games I mentioned, two already had PDF releases in 2014, two still haven’t come out yet, one has been officially abandoned for now, and one seems to have been unofficially abandoned (or least, the hint of an upcoming Cortex Plus “Heroic Roleplaying” game no longer appears on the Margaret Weis website).
I’m hesitant, then, to do something similar for 2016… Continue reading