Wednesday, September 6, 2017

RPGaDay 2017, Week 4

Sorry, lost track of this because things got busy on me. But now, belatedly, is the final week and change of RPGaDay 2017.

(Part 2 of my Gencon posts should be up soon, I've got the game write-ups about finished as I do this.)

Day 22: Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Pretty much anything Powered by the Apocalypse like Monsterhearts, Monster of the Week, etc. Easy system to teach, playbooks help with character creation by establishing expectations while still giving players the tools to help build the setting. As much as I miss rolling dice (because the GM doesn't do that in PbtA), I still have a lot of ways to interact with players by yanking their characters' chains and what have you. Which is the reason why I tend to run MotW for Gencon one-shots.

Day 23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I'll be honest, really not loving the "Which RPG has the best <vague subjective thing>" questions this year. And it doesn't help that layout is one of those things where I only really notice it if it's done badly. (I mean no disrespect to people who do layout. But I just don't have an eye for gauging it.)


Alternate Question: How long does it take you to learn to get the most out of the game?

Honestly, it depends on the game. It's either one or two sessions of either playing or running to get enough of the gist that I feel comfortable exploring, or it's something really obnoxiously number-crunchy in which I may never actually feel like I've gotten the hang of it because I have no interest in 'optimizing.' That said, I prefer to do more of the former than the latter, but there's still that divide.

(Regarding crunchiness - Yes, I know I run Pathfinder. But that's because their Adventure Paths can give me months of regular content and all of the math has already been done for me. I tried running a game of my own design, and managing the economics of treasure-placement damn near killed me.)

Day 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Not a whole lot come to mind. I mean, there's Evil Hat, obviously. And at the risk of sounding like I'm indulging in favoritism because he's a good guy who deserves financial success through writing, but Topher Gerkey's Skins for the Skinless PDF on DrivethruRPG should probably be going for more than Pay What you Want.

Day 25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

Oh god. Okay, let me see if I can get through this one without it turning into a rant.

The best way to thank your GM is by showing them proper respect. This means not bickering with them if they make a rules call or ask you to create a character that's actually viable for the setting and story that's being crafted. It means not defaulting to staring at them "What did I do?" expression if they point out a bad habit you have and ask you to dial it back. It means, if the GM asks people to play workers in a soup kitchen, not insisting on playing a gun-nut armed guard because anything else simply bores you. It means not texting them in the middle of a night with rules questions.

Sometimes it means knowing that your presence is causing more problems than it solves, and maybe opting out of a game where you know where you're not going to be a good fit.

It also means occasionally offering to buy or make dinner without being asked. It means going the extra mile to clean up your end of the table. It means maybe, around the holidays or their birthday, tossing a few bucks their way in a gift card so they can continue to buy books and snacks for the group's use/consumption. It means sometimes looking up rules questions that don't necessarily need interpretation, or finding whatever means you can to lighten the load on making them look stuff up. It means going out of your way to tell them if you think a particular session went well, and if things went slightly off the rails asking what you can do to make it go better.

In the end, you thank your GM by making them feel valued. That they're participating in this game for you, not just being your entertainment vending machine. And all sorts of other metaphors.

That's as far as I could go without going into a full-bore rant, I think.

Day 26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Okay, so I actually did a little digging on this one to get an idea of what they mean by 'resources' -- speaking of which, it'd be really nice if the longer descriptions of these were easier to find this year. But the general gist is a game that provides good support for players and the GM, in terms of examples of play and such.

And the first one that comes to mind in that regard is the Atomic Robo RPG, by Evil Hat. Mostly in that there are play examples of pretty much any and all of the mechanics, explained in a conversational tone and mapped onto scenes from the Atomic Robo comics to give you an idea of what that mechanic 'looks like.'

(The Sanguine Games version of the Usagi Yojimbo does something similar, though not as thoroughly.)

Day 27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Okay, even with the official explanation, I don't have a good answer for this one. I can't think of any answer that I could give that wouldn't be some sort of cop-out answer, like "I'd be good with a notebook and some way of randomly generating numbers." So I'm going to the alternate questions again.

Alternate Question: What section do you read first when you get a new game? Why?

In general, I start with a basic description of how the system plays, or the character creation section, depending on which I find first. Because I'm trying to get sort of a baseline for how flexible/specific the game is and what the assumptions are regarding player characters, and I will likely filter the rest of my reading of the book through that lens. That said...

If the game in question takes place in a weird setting that I might have to wrap my head around, I'll skim an introduction or some opening fiction first, so I can potentially grok that. I'm aware that 'weird setting' is subjective, but I'll give you an example or two. Post-apocalyptic settings (like those seen in Apocalypse World) are easy, because we've all seen the various movies and such that inform the popular vision of such settings often seen in games. On the other hand, a setting vaguely based on Indian mythology, where all of the technology is based in magic crystals, the native animals are giant bugs, and the player characters are anthropomorphic animals unaware of having been transplanted from another world (Shard) takes some time and reading to grasp. (And then some head-scratching, as the anthropomorphic animals in question are completely unaware of their origins and those origins actually bear no impact on play. Yet the opening fiction establishes this, because it provides some context for their creation myth, I guess?) But you get the idea.

Day 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

There actually aren't a lot of consistent ones, as there's not as much overlap between a lot of my group's pop cultural tastes as there would have been a decade ago. The closest thing to a common one would be Dragon Ball Z Abridged, and even then I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in my group who doesn't semi-regularly follow it.

(And yes, this answer is rewritten from the original daily version, because the DBZAbridged thing didn't occur to me right away.)

Day 29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Oh, that's an interesting one. 'Best-run' is an interesting choice of words, though I do get it. I think after some early missteps (<cough>Exalted<cough>), the Onyx Path Kickstarters have been getting better at keeping things reasonable-ish, managing expectations with regards to shipping, keeping lines of communication open, that sort of thing. I think the sweet spot has been the ones where a mostly-complete text has been made available for community perusal and feedback. That said, I do get that the Beast Kickstarter in particular burned out Matt on that sort of open development (and I completely understand why, and he's a better man than I for how he handled that), but in terms of just judging Kickstarters on their own merits I still think it was a pretty solid idea at the time.

Day 30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Honestly, I'm tempted to punt to an alternate question because I'm having trouble thinking of one that I'd want to see that hasn't already been done yet, but I've been doing that a lot this year and so I'll give this one a couple of minutes to think about it.

(Also, for the sake of argument, I'm more than willing to assume that anything I do come up with has been done and I just haven't seen it yet.)

Okay, here's one. I don't think I've seen any sort of straight-up superhero/cosmic horror stuff. Like, not just talking about a superhero setting with a handful of Lovecraftian villains, but one where the predominant 'bad guys' are those sorts of horrors, and perhaps the occasional hero driven mad by them. Just among other things, I'd be curious to see what sort of dynamic you'd get when having your mind shattered is something you risk even if you have immense power and use it to protect the people around you.

Day 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

That's a tough one. Because I'm not expecting much in the way of drastic upheavals or industry-changers for this coming year. I mean, I will say that with Scion and Trinity properly progressing, Cavaliers of Mars and They Came From Beneath the Sea! on the horizon, and the early runaway success of Pugmire, I'm kinda looking forward to Onyx Path becoming hopefully less reliant on the current iteration of White Wolf. Not sure what else comes to mind on that front.

And that's it for this year! Questions, comments, whatever, I'm all for 'em.

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