Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On Feminism

This isn't going to be a super eloquent post.

I've never been good at eloquence.

I don't aim to write many political posts on this blog, but here's one just for joshies.
I've been thinking a lot about feminism and what it means to me and all that jazz. It's complicated, right? Like, there are all of these different schools of feminism, including ones filled with racism and trans-hate and bullshit like that. I'm no expert on feminism, hell, I only really discovered it a few years ago.

Well, that's not true. I'd heard of it and rejected it soundly as some crazy liberal thing. This is back when I was a conservative. When you're raised in rural Pennsylvania on a farm by a bunch of blue collar people, you are likely to be taught the same values I was, and those were mostly conservative values. I've changed.

And feminism has changed, yeah, over the years that it's been recognized as a thing, and now it's not just for middle- and upper-class-white-ladies. Feminism in a lot of circles means equalism (gosh that's unwieldy) - rights and equality for everyone. That's what I believe in, these days - the feminism that means everyone gets treated decent and where laws treat people equally and the kind of feminism that tells people they need to be better to everybody and not just the people they were taught to be better to.

I get stuck in my old ways some days. Bothered by little things. I take a while to change. It's hard changing two decades of habits. Not hard enough to stop doing, but hard.

One thing I learned this year is I have to fight my battles carefully, and choose them even more carefully. I also learned sometimes it's worth putting in for something that has a small benefit even if it also has negatives. It's tough because it's a compromise but it's still sometimes worth it. The biggest thing I learned, though?

I can't let myself be swayed by the day to day changing winds of the internet. I have to research before I get angry. I have to think before I spout off my anger.

I just need to be more careful.

Five or So Questions with Will Hindmarch on Project: Dark

I got the chance to interview Will Hindmarch on his current Kickstarter project, Project: Dark. It just debuted yesterday and it looks fantastic!

Tell me a little about Project: Dark. What's the general idea?
The project is a single banner for a single game—Dark—that can be played in several different game worlds with just minor tweaks and expansions. The game takes stealth-adventure play into the tabletop RPG space by casting all players as stealthy sorts of characters operating in perilous and mysterious worlds. It's a game of sneak-thieves, spies, trespassers, and other such nefarious sorts, without assuming that such characters are heroic or antiheroic necessarily.

The first setting for the game is the titular Dark (though this world has gone through a lot of names during development!), set in a fantastical city of staggering riches and squalid slums, with a style that's sort of a blend of Elizabethan London and medieval Constantinople.

What led you to create the project?
For years, I wanted to facilitate this kind of campaign with a system that was designed explicitly for this kind of play, so I designed one that did what I wanted.

I'm the kind of GM who loves to make maps and imagine what goes on in the game world before (and after) the players' characters come through. I like the glimpses into occulted corners of the world or the little conversations and monologues we sometimes hear in great stealth video games. As a player of stealth video games, I love the moments when the setting comes alive around you through little performances or moments of humanity. Eavesdropping on a world that doesn't know the players' characters are there creates this great multifaceted feeling. It's not like the guards who patrol that rich castle every night think some trespasser is the star of the story, right? It naturally creates great conflicts and worlds with multiple viewpoints.

So I didn't just want to design a game that brought stealth play to the table as a puzzle or tactical simulation; I wanted players to be able to imagine the spaces around them and have those details come into play in a variety of ways. To get the most mileage out of the game and the world, I wanted to create as many environments as I could—I wanted to design little sandbox levels, really—that were both compelling fictional spaces and narrative structures. I didn't just want to make the game, I wanted to support it with a bunch of adventures to make it easier for other GMs to play.

I've heard it's great at emulating a very cool stealth-action feel. What kind of mechanics did you use to create that feel?
While most everything in Dark points at a few core kinds of gameplay choices, I think the card-based play is the best example. To help reduce the impact of randomness a bit, and to emphasize the role of caution and precision, the game system relies primarily on regular playing cards rather than dice. (The GM uses a combination of dice and NPC traits to express the environment, though.)

The cards sort of straddle the gap between character-level and player-level mechanisms in this case. Inputs from the game world determine how many cards a player holds—so the better hidden your character, the more options you have available to you and the more you can plan your next move. But that ability to see what sort of options you have available isn't nailed down too tightly. The abstraction there gives the player some freedom of expression. Does a hand full of cards suggesting physicality mean your character's itching for a fight? Does it make her confident or reckless?

Part of the way cards work also emphasizes that stealth is sometimes about ponderously deliberate action rather than dashing antics. Making slow, measured moves in Dark seldom comes down to a single volatile die roll, but neither is it tedious. Everything happens in dramatic, informative increments.

Individual adventures then emphasize or focus on unique circumstances and situations, so one scenario might be about sprinting for a treasure before rival thieves get it while the next is about shadowing a mark without being detected. The game offers a lot of diversity in play, even with its honed focus.

What did you use as inspiration for this project?
Lots of stealth video games inspired this one, for sure. I love having the time during a level to explore and experience the worlds of games like Thief and Splinter Cell and Dishonored. My favorite Halo game is ODST because of the meditative style of those city levels and the way players get to slow down a bit and get glimpses of life in the future through audio diaries and the like.

Look at the variety of play styles within the various Splinter Cell games, for example. That's inspiring to me. Each new game isn't just new gadgets and levels but new ways of framing the themes, characters, and environments of the game world. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Blacklist especially contextualize player actions in fascinating ways, turning some tactical decisions into rich ethical and dramatic choices.

At the same time, I'm into architecture and history, futurism and espionage dramas, so I'm rolling elements of those into the game worlds, too. It's been great fun to study up on the physical places and the cultures that have inspired the worlds for Dark. Part of the joy of creating fictional worlds, for me, is that I can draw on lots of interests and hobbies to make the worlds feel more real. All kinds of research ends up going into the final product.

What can we expect to experience when we play Project Dark?
Like a lot of RPGs, some of it will depend on the scenario or campaign you play. The game shines, though, when it's about suspense and suspicion, about camaraderie between thieves and skulduggery against rivals. A Dark campaign can be about righteous trespassing in corrupt halls, about desperate revolutionaries toppling rotten powers, or about a variety of other takes on the core activity of play. Every setting for the game is meant to put the act of intruding, of trespassing, of stealing into a dramatic context that provokes more questions than it answers. Robin Hood was a hero, but not all Dark tales are about Robin Hoods.

The game breaks out into a few key phases of play—casing the target, the job itself, and the investigation by an inspector—each of which can be spun or altered to create a different rhythm for the campaign over time. So while your campaign might become about vendettas and revenge, dodging a zealous inspector, or bringing down a sordid duke, the game expresses helps you channel that story into those key phases.

It's a bit like the way that a classic fantasy dungeon-crawl can be about things bigger and more epic than the dungeon … even as the game often expresses itself through linked and thrilling maps to explore. Over time, I expect the adventures to show more and more ways to remix these components.

What's next for you, after the Kickstarter?
Depending on how far the funding goes, I'll be presenting additional content for the game for a little while yet. I'm planning on presenting adventures for Dark, as well as a few other games, via my Patreon page over the next few months, if interest is there.

Of course, I'm also writing and designing for Storium at and I have at least one other game in the works for 2014. These are exciting times!

Make sure to check out Will's Kickstarter and his Patreon for more Dark goodness!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Birthday D&D

The first RPG I ever played was D&D 3.5. I don't remember much of the details except being a halfling rogue who tried to steal a diamond and got turned to stone.

That's not what this post is about, really.

D&D has its problems and I don't really play it anymore. I don't really play much of anything D20 anymore - mostly I play story games. But, this is a recent development. For a very long time I played more traditional games like D&D, Shadowrun, Pathfinder, and similar stuff. A few years ago I kind of cracked and found a new home in story games and more freeform, simple stuff.

However, without D&D, I may have never found my way to gaming. My life with gaming has been tumultuous - the relationship drama that surrounds so many gaming groups was no stranger to me, and I've lost a lot of friends that I gamed with for both good and bad reasons.

I don't miss all of them. I don't really even miss D&D.

I'm still grateful for it.

Happy Birthday, D&D.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I started a new blog!

From now on, you can find my posts on . I've done some interviews and a few posts already, so head on over to check them out!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five or So Questions with Mark Diaz Truman and Epidiah Ravachol

I interviewed Mark Diaz Truman about The Fate Codex, and Epidiah Ravachol about Worlds Without Master, both Patreon projects. 

First, Mark!

Tell us a little about The Fate Codex. What goals do you have for the project?

The Fate Codex is a mostly-monthly e-zine showcasing the Fate roleplaying system. Each month(ish), we'll publish an e-zine that features new Fate Systems, Essays from Fate experts, Quick Start Adventures, and Short Fiction in the Fate style--all featuring new and experienced voices in the Fate Community.

My goals are diverse. I hope to bring in new folks to the system with a set of e-zines that are easy to pick up and play and to entertain experienced Fate players with Systems and Essays that expand what the system can do. I'm also hoping to feature new perspectives on Fate from a diverse set of creators!

Finally, I want to see people get paid for the great work they're doing. Folks like Ryan Macklin, for example, are constantly pushing out new ideas to the Fate Community, but often as unpaid blog posts and community discussions. I don't want to replace that work--these discussions are so valuable--but I think there's clearly a hunger for polished pieces that present finished ideas.

What motivated you to create The Fate Codex?

Since the Fate Core Kickstarter blew up the interwebs in 2012/2013, Fate has been a big part of my gaming experience. I was lucky enough to write Timeworks for Fate Worlds, followed by work developing Wicked Fate and Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, and now Fate is a regular feature at my table. I love developing these bigger projects, but there's also a lot of little stuff that I'm working

At the same time, I'm also an active member of the Fate Core Google+ Community, and I see so much interesting and different thinking coming through that group. Unfortunately, much of it is lost, pushed down the Community page and inaccessible to new folks. It's like trying to drink from a firehouse of awesome sometimes!

It occurred to me that I could kill two birds with one stone by creating a venue for this kind of work (both my own and the work of others) that would be curated and polished. And when I saw Eppy's Worlds Without Master Patreon campaign do so well the last few months, my brain slowly slowly slowly kicked over to thinking about some the work I do in Fate being a good fit for that system as well.

What benefit does the Patreon model provide for you, as a creator?

More than anything else, it gives me a budget to bring in great people. Magpie Games is lucky enough to have some cash on hand from our work on our previous Kickstarters, but it's tough to estimate demand for something like a mostly-monthly e-zine. Knowing that I've got over 250 subscribers who are excited to get their copy of The Fate Codex through Patreon means that I can hire great people to produce great pieces for future issues. We're already talking about Issues 3 and 4, and I'm excited to be able to pay people for that work right now instead of waiting for several months' worth of revenue to come in before we can start planning Issue 2.

What is the biggest challenge to creating and distributing an e-zine like The Fate Codex through Patreon?

One of the biggest challenges is getting a regular flow of content. There's a lot of good stuff out there, but gathering up great pieces, editing them, and laying them out on a regular basis is tough. I'm thankful that Patreon structures the payment system so that I don't have to think much about how much content to produce, but staying on top of it all is a big job. Luckily, I've been doing these kinds of projects for the last few years, so I've got some experience herding game designers.

What are you looking forward to the most with the project?

Right now? Our first issue! We're deep into writing, editing, and laying out our first issue, and I can't wait to show the Fate community what we've put together. It's exciting stuff.

I know that down the road I'm also really excited about the potential to bring new voices to the table--especially folks that haven't had a chance to show off what they can do in Fate. It's a wonderful system, and I want to bring in new voices that will take the system to interesting places. In many ways, I think The Fate Codex could be a wonderful place for new designers to get started with Fate--it's small enough to give folks a chance to try new things and big enough to have a real audience for good work.

Thanks to Mark for the interview! Make sure to check out The Fate Codex, which will soon feature a short story by yours truly!


Next, Epidiah!

Tell us a little about Worlds Without Master. What's it all about?

Worlds Without Master is an ezine of sword & sorcery fiction and games. It’s as much about sword & sorcery as it is about that intersection between fiction and gaming. I want the reader to feel as if they’ve been shown the paths to a myriad of worlds for them to explore in whatever way they wish.

What motivated you to create Worlds Without Master?
It’s been in my head for a while now, and perhaps even longer. Sword and sorcery was the genre of my youth that I abandoned for several decades for many reasons, some very much misguided. About four or five years ago, I began the used-book store hunt for Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stuff. I remembered really enjoying his books when I read them as a teen and wondered if they held up. They did. And what’s more, the parts of them that struck a chord with teenage Eppy read as delicious satire to adult Eppy. I began to find new things about the genre that I missed back then, but now captivated me.

This set me on the path towards making the Swords Without Master game. While struggling through the forging of this game, all these proto-stories kept welling up from within, always to be cast into the future. Once this game was published, I promised myself that I would set pen to paper and finally write these things out. I just needed to get this game published first. But I wanted the physical object of the game to be something I did not have the power to create just yet. So everything kept being pushed into tomorrow.

In the summer of 2013 I started to look for places to submit my stories and a surprising number of ezines were only offering free copies as compensation for my work. As my frustration with this was on the rise, I became aware of Patreon and it all sort of tumbled out from there.

What benefit does the Patreon model provide for you, as a creator?

So many benefits! It allows me to write the stories I want to write, hire folks to edit and proofread those stories, dream of artists I want to see illustrate those stories, pay those artist to do just that and then distribute those stories to an audience who is not only eager to receive them, but will pay me for them!

By only charging the patrons when an issue is released, Patreon has relieved me of a lot of the pressure to release on unrealistic schedule.

By letting me know roughly how much money will come in after an issue is released, Patreon eviscerated 90% of the risk involved in publishing.

The traditional publishing model has evolved a number of vestigial organs that now exist only to second-guess what the audience wants. Patreon surgically removes these obstructive organs and puts me in direct communication with my audience. This closer relationship with the audience is a powerful motivator. You can look at your Patreon page, see how many people are eager for you to create, and more importantly, know their names. This is a different relationship than before, and it’s one I intend to explore further.

What is the biggest challenge to creating and distributing an e-zine like Worlds Without Master through Patreon?

There is a deluge coming. At the moment, I’m holding back a liquid wall of fiction, games and art. A flood of sword & sorcery that wants to sweep across the land and alter the landscape forever. I’ve got amazing works from talent writers, artists and designers pushing and shoving at me. And I want to set them loose. But I have until the Patron Horde is huge enough to take them head-on. So at the moment, each issue is the merest trickle of what this ezine can be. The biggest challenge is waiting that out.

What would you say is your biggest achievement with Worlds Without Master?

“One Winter’s Due,” my story in the second issue. Before that, it was “Strange Bireme.” With a little luck, each story will be a slightly bigger achievement than the last.

Thanks, Epidiah, for the interview! Keep an eye out for Worlds Without Master on Patreon!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Game Design Brunch 1-19-14

We had a game design brunch on Sunday. This time it was just four of us, thanks to the plague hitting Pittsburgh and taking out multiple members, plus people being busy due to work, etc. I missed people but it was still good to get together and do the business we needed to do.

First up was Clash. I'm taking Clash to Dreamation in February (OMG NERVOUS), which is exciting and challenging all at once! Problem is, I'm terrible at pitching games and explaining what they're about. Cue me bothering my Game Design Brunchers for phrases, keywords, and the like about Clash.

(the following is not verbatim)

Marc said: It's a game where you give up what you want in order to get what you need.

Rachel said: It's a game about relationships and how strained they can be.

Everyone agreed that it really is a game about conflict and that I should zoom in on that, and the sacrifice aspect. I also asked for a few examples of stories that could be told with Clash. Number one, as usual, is Romeo & Juliet. I wish I knew more about the play! Others included our current game-in-progress (the Untouchables vs. the Mob), as well as high school rivalries (which can get surprisingly messy), and John says Eastern Europe during WWII. I know nothing about WWII so I'm not helpful there, but it seems rich for the taking.

Finally, for Clash, I had some thinky time about how the game requires specific things, based on comments at the table. John, Marc, and Rachel said that they noticed that they needed to have time interacting with each other, so it's hard to do people on distant battlefields, you need people forced together in space. One of the best examples of this in media I can think of is North & South, which I saw multiple times as a kid. I'm sure it's epically problematic, but I <3 Patrick Swayze and was a big fan. The big thing about the miniseries is that the characters are literally at war with each other but still find themselves in the same places - family gatherings, business meetings, etc. That's the kind of thing I'm looking at for Clash. Take tons of bad blood and problems, shake 'em up, and put everyone into one place. Bam. Done.

With this in mind, I added a new mechanic to the game. Locations are now like, a thing! And there are mechanical bonuses based on your location, plus some narrative stuff with locations. I'm pretty excited about that.

Up next, we discussed Tabletop Blockbuster and the possibility for going back to positive and negative traits. So far, all of our players have liked the idea, we just need to playtest it now. I think it will work out just fine.

Finally, we did some work with Marc's Legends of Bardic Distortion game, which he needs to be writing more about. We helped out putting together some new talents for the Kensei tier of talents, and it sounds like we also figured out some stuff that he'd been sitting on. Cool beans.

It was pretty damn productive! I love these brunches.

Five or So Questions with Martin Ralya on New Game Day

I interviewed Martin Ralya from Gnome Stew about New Game Day, upcoming on February 2, 2014, as well as Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing. Today's Five or So is a special edition to give people time to plan for the holiday!

Tell me a little bit about Gnome Stew, and about this new holiday you're starting, New Game Day. Why should I be excited?

Gnome Stew is a system-neutral, multi-author GMing blog that's been running since 2008, with over 2,400 articles (all free). We've had almost 2,000,000 visitors to date.

New Game Day is my attempt to jump-start a gaming holiday in the vein of GM's Day (March 4): a free annual event for tabletop gamers worldwide, dedicated to playing new RPGs and board games.

You should be excited about it for lots of reasons: it's fun to play new games, and even more fun to share them with friends; it's fun to celebrate our hobby with shared events like this one; and because playing new games expands your horizons in good ways.

It was one of those ideas that hit me and wouldn't let go until I'd done something about it. It seemed so simple that I was surprised not to find it out there already. So I put together a website, hired my friend Darren Hardy to create a logo for it, and now I'm trying to get the word out.

What goals do you have with this New Game Day?

New Game Day happens on 2/2 (yes, it's also Groundhog Day -- and, this year, Super Bowl Sunday), and the idea is that folks will get together to play new RPGs and board games, or just one or the other, and share their love of games.

Who should be interested in the New Game Day?

Anyone who plays tabletop RPGs and board games (including wargames, card games, etc.). There's a lot of overlap between those two hobbies, but if you don't already do both New Game Day is a great excuse to try the other one. And if you do already play both kinds of game regularly, take it as a challenge instead: Play something outside your comfort zone, or see how many games you can play in one day.

Gnome Stew is also sponsoring a giveaway to celebrate New Game Day, with over $300 in prizes just for dropping by to tell us what you play on 2/2 (Click here for the giveaway!).

Tell me a little about your work with Engine Publishing. What's new and upcoming?

I started Engine Publishing in 2009, and I've worked with the authors of Gnome Stew, as well as other talented folks, to produce a book a year since 2010: Eureka, Masks, Never Unprepared, and Odyssey.

Our fifth book, also a system-neutral resource for GMs, is currently in editing. I'm not ready to talk about it yet, save to say that it's different than the first four but should appeal to the same audience.

What big plans does Gnome Stew have for 2014?

We're going to be hiring a couple of new gnomes (authors) to replace Patrick Benson and Kurt Schneider, who left the site in 2013. We have a conference call and a bit of discussion between us and posting that announcement, but it should happen sometime next month.

Apart from that, we're going to keep doing what we've enjoyed doing so much for the past six years: writing about GMing, talking about GMing with our readers, collaborating on Engine Publishing books and other projects, and featuring articles by our readers.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Unexpected Side Effects of Gaming

One of the suggestions I was given for a blog post was "Unexpected side effects of gaming."

This is going to be a lot of stuff, but I'll try to keep it coherent and brief!

The first thing that comes to mind is scheduling! When I'm not gaming a lot, I have a lot of free time and I don't have to make a lot of plans. When I am gaming regularly, though, I have to work my schedule like magic in order to get in all of my gaming time, plus regular socializing, and that's with work, school, family, and even conventions in the mix. It's kind of wild.

Next, there's stuff like con drop and creativity exhaustion. Con drop is, in case you're not aware, is a sudden feeling of depression or generally feeling "down" after a convention. I experienced it for the first time last year and WOW. I wasn't prepared. With a history of depression already, I'm sensitive to things like that, so I got hit pretty hard. On that same note, creativity exhaustion - when you've been so creative and done so many creative things for such a long period, like during a con or a gaming marathon or during the design process, and you just reach a peak then crash - is a real thing and it's really exhausting and kind of paralyzing.

The opposite of that side is the euphoria and creative bursts. I spend a lot of my time in pain and exhausted. At cons, though, and during great gaming sessions or gaming events, I find that I get these strong bursts of positive feeling, my pain eases, and I'm on fire. I wake up earlier, can stay up later, feel more refreshed. It's pretty awesome. Likewise, after great gaming sessions or game discussions or cons, I get energized and want to write more and design more. Bursts of creativity are great!

One negative thing is the associated drama and social stress. Gamer groups are like any other group of friends - people fight, break up, have differing opinions - and damn, it can get overwhelming and really frustrating. I hate that aspect of relationships in general, where things are contentious and filled with drama-llamas. But, it's basically a fact of social existence. There's also a lot of social pressure. Pressure to know games well, to GM, to play a certain way, to know about game design theory, to like certain games, to dislike certain games, etc. That gets old pretty fast.

I would say one of the better things, though, in spite of all that, is the social growth and professional growth I've had. Gaming gives me an environment to enjoy myself, learn, and de-stress. It's given me a place to write and do editorial work and that's awesome! It's also given me a lot of good friends that I wouldn't have had otherwise. As a whole, gaming is a great impact on my life, and even the bad side effects are worth it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five or So Questions with Tracy Barnett on Iron Edda

Today I have an interview with Tracy Barnett, who is currently Kickstarting Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone. I'm so excited to have him on the blog! Check out the five or so questions below. 

Tell me a little bit about Iron Edda. What is it? Why should people be interested?

Iron Edda is a Norse fantasy setting where the dwarves rose up against humanity in large, metal destroyers. To fight back, warriors bonded their spirits to the bones of dead giants. It's epic in scope, and personal in nature. It's a great setting because there's room for grand action, personal stories, and everyone who comes to the game table should find a place for themselves in the setting. I've worked very hard to make the setting as diverse as possible.

What sparked the idea of Iron Edda?

I pitched the initial idea to Machine Age Productions for their Apotheosis Drive X Kickstarter. I wanted to write for that game, but mecha is not my strong suit. Fantasy, however, is. So when I thought about how to do mecha in a fantasy setting (with some inspiration from Skyrim), the dwarves in destroyers and human as bonebonded came to mind. Turns out that it's a really sweet idea.

Inclusiveness is important for you. Why? What made it a priority?

I've lived a pretty privileged life. And as I've come to realize that privilege, I've also realized that I can turn it to good ends. There are so many amazing voices in the sci-fi/fantasy, and RPG communities that don't get heard. I want to do the best I can to provide exposure through paid work, and diversity in the projects that I create. It's just the right thing to do. As well, I've come to realize that I'm transgender. Specifically, I''m genderqueer. I don't always identify as male, or as female. I want a space for myself in games, also. And if I'm going to advocate, I'm going to advocate intersectionally, meaning that I'm going to advocate for space for everyone.

What does Iron Edda mean to you, as a project?

That's a difficult question to answer. One one hand, it's just my next project and gets all the care and attention that any of my previous projects got. On the other hand, this is the biggest, most in-depth project that I've ever done. If it succeeds in the ways I think it could, it would go a long way toward making my dream of writing and designing full-time a reality. That means a lot to me.

What has been the greatest part of the Iron Edda project so far?

Absolutely it has been the response I've gotten to it. People seem to really dig the concept, and those that have played it have had a good time. I love seeing a thing that I've made prompt a positive response. That means a lot to me. And if I can throw a second thing in there, working with the team I've assembled for this project has been amazing. So many talented people working towards a unified goal is a wonder to behold.

Don't forget to check out Tracy's Kickstarter for Iron Edda

Favorite Games Evar!

Title coined by Meguey Baker

I realized recently that I’ve been gaming for about 10 years! Like, wow. I know I’m still a n00b in comparison to many people out there, but that’s a pretty long time for me to keep up with any hobby. It’s so cool to realize I’ve been doing something for so long!

I asked G+ what I should blog about and Meguey suggested I write about my Favorite Games Evar! which I thought was a great idea. I neglected to ask whether she meant specific games or game systems, so here’s a little mix of both.

This is going to come as no shock to a lot of people, but one of my favorite games of all time is Shadowrun 3rd Edition. I haven’t played any of the other editions. I know the mechanics are kind of wonky and that it’s crunchy as all hell, but the gameworld is so rich and flavorful that I couldn’t help but love it. My first session of Shadowrun was one of the first tabletop games I ever played, and I only lasted 5 minutes in the session before my character was gunned down with poisoned syringes and killed. With probably any other game I might not have ever played again, because character death without meaning is one of my biggest turn-offs when it comes to games. But not Shadowrun! I have played MANY sessions of Shadowrun, multiple campaigns of varying length, and built tons of characters.

I don’t think I have a favorite Shadowrun game, but I have a lot of favorite characters. Enough to fill a different post, so we’ll wait on that!

This is kind of a confession here: I actually like Pathfinder. Not a ton of people are fans of it, because it’s kind of a remix of D&D 3.5, but I enjoyed playing 3.5 with houserules. Pathfinder fixed a lot of the rules so we didn’t have to houserule it as much anymore, plus I really like some of the world they have put together. It’s inclusive and exciting.

In 3.5, I played a game in a world my husband designed that we eventually ported over to the Pathfinder system. I played a half-giant woman who fought in tournaments, owned her own land the size of Alaska (that was filled with diamonds), and was a serious badass. I also got to build a bunch of the gameworld, which was super fun.

I’ve also discovered I really enjoy Monsterhearts. It’s kind of funny. Up until about last year or the year before, I was very no-sex-in-games, no-relationships-in-games, etc. A few sessions of Monsterhearts changed that pretty quickly. I’ve even made two skins for Monsterhearts . I have really pushed my boundaries as a player and as a person with the game, and I’d love to do more of it.

I’m playing a Rusalka in our current game, and it’s mega fun. This is only the second campaign I’ve been in. I really am enjoying the kind of sex-and-drama-filled mess of a high school we’re playing in!

Finally, Clash and Tabletop Blockbuster are my babies. Tabletop Blockbuster is fun as hell, a rocking good time. My favorite session of it? So far, the one I played as Ransom Bentley, who I’ve been writing a fair bit about. She’s a private eye in a supernatural world. Super fun. Clash I’ve only played a few times, but I love the system I’ve designed. Right now we’re playing the Mob against the Untouchables and it is badass. When the system is really showing off, the scenes are tight and filled with conflict and it’s exactly what I wanted out of the game.

What about you? What are your favorite games?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Five or So Questions Series

Very soon I'll be starting up the Five or So Questions Series, where I'll interview members of the gaming community with about five or so questions.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Clash Playtest 1-11-2014

Yesterday I playtested my in-progress tabletop roleplaying "story game," Clash. Clash is a game about exploring big conflicts from a small perspective. You fight, you argue, and you look at the moments that change the world. It's a GM-less, team-based game with a table you roll against to have "The World" act against the players.

Clash has been a big challenge for me. It was put together in a single day and then fiddled with and messed with for about a year before I got the courage to playtest it. I've had near-zero luck getting playtesters outside my group to play, but I've finally got my group into it. I have a lot of emotional investment in it, as it's my first solo game, so playtesting was really a tough subject to broach with my group.

Anyway, we finally started playtesting, and this is session 2. We had 4 players and the session was about 3 hours.

The setting is Chicago during the height of prohibition, where one team is playing the Mob and the other team is the Untouchables. We have a pretty nice mix of characters, including a young rookie on one side and the son of the woman mob boss on the other. We've fiddled with history a bit in part to allow for some women characters, such as my Untouchable, Penelope Wilson, who is a woman fighting against the Mob and against the discrimination within her own organization.

We had a shoot out, an arrest, threatening notes left on doorsteps, and generally a great time. My biggest goal with Clash is for it to be fun, so that was good to see. Players enjoying themselves, cracking jokes when the time is appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate), getting into the gritty parts of conflict - that part of the game is happening.

The mechanics work. Right now I'm fiddling with some numbers to make it run more smoothly, but it seems to be going pretty much right. I don't think I'll have many more changes, honestly, because most of it is rewording or fiddly bits. I haven't made any big alterations so far, and it seems to be working well. I'm going to keep playtesting for a bit, but more than anything I want to get the game in other people's hands to see if they run into problems.

The biggest change (addition, really) this time around was to write in rules about how to handle multiple actor conflicts. It was just simply adding some wording and I think the rules I wrote in work great for the narrative and mechanical purposes.

Overall I think the playtest went really well. I'm hoping to do a crunch and play some more but I don't know how much success I will have there. I just want to play more!