Sunday, August 16, 2015

RPG a Day, Week 2

Here's my second collection of RPG a Day 2015 posts, in a single spot for easy linking. Again, remember, for the most part I'm not updating these from the original postings, so anything really time specific like 'most recent blah' might be out of date already.

And remember, if you want to follow these and other posts on a more real-time basis, you can do so at my Google+ page.

Day 8: Favorite Appearance of RPGs in the Media

This is going to feel a little like cheating, because it's also the most recent example I can think of, but I'd want to say the recent Gravity Falls episode "Dungeons & Dungeons & More Dungeons." It pokes fun in a good-natured way at old school D&D and boffer LARPing, as well as getting in a few jabs at itself. Also, it guest-stars Weird Al Yankovic as the math wizard Probabilitor.

That said, if you're not normally a Gravity Falls fan -- or you are and you're behind -- and are curious about the episode, it's a little continuity-heavy so I wouldn't recommend randomly tracking it down to watch out of order. I mean, JK Simmons has been appearing on the show lately and even telling you literally anything about his character is a huge spoiler for one of the show's big mysteries.

Day 9: Favorite media you wish was an RPG

This one's pretty easy, mostly because I've got a Fate conversion sitting on the back burner for the moment: The Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra shows. It's a setting that I'd love to see explored outside the given canon, something with official sourcebooks based on the creators' notes and such. But it's a diverse setting with a rich history and a lot of potential to run different sorts of games, and it's a sandbox I'd love to play in as either a GM or a player.

Day 10: Favorite RPG publisher

Another easy one: +Onyx Path Publishing. That said, there are plenty of fine options out there, lots of companies that have impressed me. But Onyx Path is the latest incarnation of a company I've enjoyed for a good long while, and through them and their games I've made some good friends and will be getting to live out one of my writing-related dreams in the next couple of years (assuming I don't find some way to colossally fuck it up).

Day 11: Favorite RPG Writer

Oh hell. I'm in a similar boat as +Bruce Baugh  here, in that you're basically asking me to pick a favorite out of half of the people I'm following. I mean, I can call out some folks who really stand out (in no particular order) like +Matthew McFarland, +Filamena Young, +Stew Wilson, +Tanya Cohan-Diaz, and +Topher Gerkey , but that's barely scratching the surface of potential candidates for this question. I could spend days narrowing things down to a proper top 3 but I don't think I could ever really pick a favorite.

Day 12: Favorite RPG Illustration

This is really, again, one of those 'choose one from among the hundreds of absolutely gorgeous artworks I've seen across various books.' I've actually had this question on my mind for a couple of days as I know it'd be hard to pick just a few, so I'm gonna cheat a bit. I'm gonna list 3-ish illustrations (technically one's a comic, because if I'm gonna cheat I'm gonna fuckin' cheat).

First, there's the cover to W20 Umbra, by Borja Puig Linares. It sets a mood, establishes a vibe and gives you a feel for the spiritual nature of the book's content.

Second is the cover to Book of the City, one of my favorite Revised-era supplements, by Steve Prescott. Again -- sets a mood and gives you a glimpse of the sorts of action some werewolves can get into in an urban environment. Also, that's a hell of a design on that BSD there.

And the third-ish I describe as 'ish' because it's technically a two-page comic. Sadly, I can't find a link to it and I'm not even sure which artist is responsible for it, but there's an amazing comic on pages 77-78 of the Aberrant core from back in the day, depicting a conversation between Jennifer Landers and Andre Corbin that sets up a lot of the story stuff running through the game line. It's a part of the book that's always stuck with me, in my memories.

Day 13: Favorite RPG Podcast

I'll be honest, I don't listen to a lot of RPG podcasts. I mean, I used to listen to +Eddy Webb's back in the day, and I've been known to pay attention to Strange Assembly though they don't talk about a lot of the tabletop stuff I play any more. In general, I have kind of a tough time engaging with RPG communities at large (like most forums, for instance). I mean, if someone wants to pitch a particular podcast at me, feel free to do so! But this is something for which I'm really not all that prepared.

Day 14: Favorite RPG Accessory

This is another of those ones that's tough because not a whole lot of accessories come to mind and I hate for one to win just by default. But something sticks in my mind, out of a sense of nostalgia and fun rather than anything else. Something I think back to from my earlier days of running games...

That would be the old GM's Screen for Hackmaster 4th Edition from Kenzer & Company. In line with Hackmaster's original aesthetic as a parody of old-school D&D (a requirement from WotC to license the 1st and 2nd edition rules, to basically stop them from doing what Paizo later did with Pathfinder), it's an unwieldy beast of a gaming screen. An inelegant monster of a product, meant to intimidate and amuse and serve the GM's needs in equal measure.

Your typical gaming screen has three or four panels of art on the front, and an equal number on the back with rules cheats and the like for the person running the game. The Hackmaster screen had four panels of art and twenty-eight panels of rules material. It had stuff that folded up, stuff that flipped over the top; it covered about 95% of the charts and tables a GM could need in the course of the game. In a game where the critical hit location chart required rolling a d10,000, having all that in one place was absolutely necessary. IIRC it was also friendly to dry-erase markers for making notes and marking things. 

Out of the four panels that faced the players, two were art panels and two more had rules cheat sheets for the players to use as well. Flipping over the panels you needed to get to the combat stuff would replace the fantasy scene in the art panels with a much more violent version meant to hit home to the players that 'combat time is now.' So yes, basically, the screen had a 'combat mode' into which it transformed.

(Like I said, this was a different time for me gaming-wise. This was a period where having a player's handbook that was 51% appendices, had an appendix entirely about dice-rolling protocol and luck rituals, and had detailed charts about things like how much a given character can drink before suffering penalties was considered amusing enough to be worth putting up with the kludgy old rules. For a while, at least.)

Early Hackmaster, until Kenzer switched to their own proprietary system and swapped the setting for the more serious Kingdoms of Kalamar, was known for ridiculous excess and constantly poking fun at D&D tropes (which was in line with their Knights of the Dinner Table comic). Their GM's screen was nothing less than a shrine to that excess. I've just been done with that game for a while, for a few different reasons, but I do still wish I had my GM's screen as a souvenir. 
(It was lost when the Hackmaster group fell apart between sessions, some of my stuff had been left behind at the house where we played, and at the time I considered it a fair price to pay to not have to see the asshole who lived there again just to get it back)

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