Monthly Archives: January 2015

RPG Challenge, Day Seven

Favorite Edition

I have no interest in sparking off an edition war, so let me be clear that I am stating a personal preference, not making a claim for universal superiority.
Even if I decide the question is: “What is your favorite edition of all rpgs that you ever played, even if it’s the first edition of something that only has one?” the answer is still Pathfinder.
First, I have loved the progression of the d20 rules engine, and I am a fan of many of its games. I’ll happily play me some M&M, 13th Age, 5th Ed D&D, SpyCraft… but my favorite remains Pathfinder. It gives me the crunch level I want so different choices have a different impact on the reality of the game (as defined by the rules). It had customization and flexibility I want. It serves as a strong framework for many different styles of game, and it allows players and designers to focus on different areas. Such things are always compromises, and Pathfinder makes exactly the choices I want it to 90% of the time.
I am also a fan of the fans of the game, enjoy playing it with friends, love the enthusiasm of PFS volunteers, and like the company that makes it.
I might be biased, of course, but I was saying the same things 2 years ago, before I ended up simultaneously working for three companies that produce Pathfinder game material, including Paizo itself. :):D

RPG Challenge, Day Six

Favorite Deity

I suspect the more specific these questions are, the shorter my answers are going to be. With broader things I tend to get a tad philosophical, but this is more like being asked who my favorite actor is on a particular show – it’s a more this-or-that question with less need for me to get into the background of why I feel a particular way.
So, currently? My favorite RPG Deity is Iomedae, from Golarion. I like that she’s an unapologetically good, militant, female deity. I think she has an interesting backstory. I like the portfolio of Valor, Rulership, Justice, and Honor. I even like that her favorite weapon is the archetypical longsword. She has an iconic feel to her, that draws me to her.

RPG Challenge, Day Four (observed) and Day Five

Favorite Game World and Favorite Die or Set of Dice
I missed a day, and I am sure it’ll happen again. So today you get Day Four and Day Five (which is a short answer, anyway).

Day Four – Favorite Game World
I love me a lot of game worlds. I have sat around for hours reading the histories and travelogues of imaginary places just for fun. Heck, I *have* the Dictionary of Imaginary Places on my bookshelf. So I take my love of fictional worlds seriously. Which makes it so weird that my favorite game world isn’t particularly well-defined, as game worlds go.
It’s Gamma World.
Mostly as the setting for 2nd ed Gamma World, but part of the point is that it doesn’t really matter. It’s the world of skyscrapers that turn into twisted girders at the 14th floor. Of warriors with STOP-sign shields. Of anthropomorphic animals, radiation that gives you superpowers, and devices from the Old World that you may-or-may-not understand. I read every adventure, every settingbook, I could get my hands on. And the loose, often contradictory descriptions are a big part of what I love about it.
It is also the perfect sci-fi setting for D&D-style rpg games. First, as Jonathan Tweet noted once long before I had the idea, because it’s set up to kill the monster, and take their stuff – the most basic of rpg plots. Second, and this is my humble opinion, because it doesn’t require you to obey the dictates of normal society. In most sci-fi games, there are social rules much stronger than in a typical rpg world, and while that’s great if you want to explore the societal norms of an imaginary realm (and sometimes I do), it works less well for people who want to be frontier viking explorer cowboy ruin raider samurai lone wolves (or pack wolves) who face challenges on their own terms. In Gamma World, you can have powered battle armor (see Day Three of the challenge) and still take over an abandoned building and clear out the lands around it to build your own kingdom.
And third, because characters based on wildly different societies can hang out together, and most people seem fine with that. My personal theory on why fantasy rpgs are (in general) more popular than sci-fi rpgs is that if a group of players have based their characters on Red Sonja, King Arthur, Elrond, Rand al-Thor, and Polgara, most players can accept that there’s a fantasy world where all those characters can co-exist; but if players make characters based on Captain Kirk, RoboCop, Ahsoka Tano, Priss (Bladerunner OR Bubblegum Crisis), and Aeon Flux, it’s MUCH harder for them to accept there is a sci-fi setting where those characters all make sense.
Except having post-apocalyptic version of the characters on Gamma World, and then it’s fine.
Day Five – Favorite Die or Set of Dice

The d12. It doesn’t get enough to do, and it presents a lovely range of numbers without getting into too many double digits. I’ve worked on new game systems that focus on the d12 more than once, but never liked the end result that much. But it’s wonderfully round and rolls well without tumbling along forever before it stops, it’s easy to read, and it’s great for table-rugby. It’s perfect.
Honorable mention for the d5 and d7, which are wonderfully nonstandard, AND would make certain Pathfinder weapon designs I’d like to play with easier if they were widespread enough I could use them for published products.

RPG 30-Day Challenge, Day Three

RPG 30-Day Challenge, Day Three
So on Day Three I have to answer: What’s my Favorite Playable Class
So this one is easy to answer… which is weird. It’s weird because the answer is true even though I play a lot more than pathfinder-style games. Even when I add in superheroes, sci-fi, post-apocalypse, fantasy Asia, modern horror, and rules-light-narrative-coperati9ve-storytelling, there’s a clear answer to this question.
I want to play the guy in the heaviest armor.
I want to play the he Iron Man character. Or the Glitterboy. Starship Trooper. Crab Engineer. Swat. Exosuit. Gundam. Mobile Frame. Heavy Infantry. One Man Army. Walking Tank. Hulkbuster. Hell, if I’m asked to play in a Quest for Fire prehistory game, I’ll at least consider playing Tantor, He Who Wears Thick Mammoth Hides.
This may date back to my love of the Lensman series, which is arguably the first source for Sci-Fi Powered Armor. And the fact that I love the Starship Troopers novel and John Steakley’s Armor is obviously tied in, though I don’t know if that’s cause or effect. But I’ve played more characters in heavy-to-heaviest armor than anything else.
That includes a LOT of different superhero characters. Monitor. Jessica Steele. Antaeus. Dreadnought. Argus. Templar. Dragonhawk. Troubleshooter. Some are very much Iron Man. Some are more “battle pods” as ultra-small vehicles. Some are mecha. Some are powered spandex. Some are flying suits of ballistic armor. But nearly everyone I’ve games with for a few years will recognize at least a few of those names.
My fantasy character lean the same direction – knights, cavaliers, dwarves in full plate, mercenaries in banded mail with tower shields, samurai in the full heavy armor, even dragonhide. Heck I *wrote* the armiger class for Pathfinder in 6 hours because I suddenly had an idea for a heavy armor support character class.
I love other things too, and I believe fewer than half of my characters can be described as part of my armor fetish. But the one category of character I love the most?
The one with Heavy Armor.

RPG 30-Day Challenge, Day Two

RPG Challenge Day Two: Favorite Playable Race
This is trickier than Day One, because I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question before. I’m not sure I have even ever thought about it before.
Going by percentage of characters, I’d have to say human. Some of that is because I have played a lot of non-fantasy games over the years, and the common point of overlap between Pathfinder-style worlds, Gamma World-style Worlds, and Supernatural, Superheroes, Modern Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Star Wars, Star Trek, Call of Cthulhu, Pulp Masked Men, EverQuest, Black Company, Wheel of Time, and everything else I’ve played is humans.
But to be fair, even if I look at JUST one system, I think I play more humans than anything else (though as a GM I seem to have a soft spot for major NPCs who are half-elves with dangerous families who want to get them killed… ). Some of that is a result of liking flexibility – humans tend to have fewer “fixed” powers in RPGs than other races, and thus often get some kind of flexible advantage to balance them. I think some of it is flavor. Many games have a vision for elves, giants, dwarves, Argonians, Nanoborgs, Klingons, Mhaktor, or whatever, that doesn’t exactly fit MY vision of those races – but we all have a lot of experience with humans so they tend to feel “right.”
Also, I often want to explore a specific idea with a character. What would it be like to be a person with a strong sense of order and rigid interpretation of social responsibilities from a nation that claims to match that, but it actually an evil tyranny? What would it be like to be a legacy hero who fears your talented ancestors didn’t pass their greatness on to you, and who is convinced everyone else on the adventure is better than you? If you loved magic more than anything else, where would that take you? Exploring that while human means I can focus on *just* the interesting idea, without also having to incorporate being an alien in an Alliance of non-aliens, or remembering that my character is 400 years old, isn’t in a hurry for anything, and already has 10 times my own world experiences.
I do PLAY other races fairly often. The only character I’ve played recently is a dwarf, and I love me some dwarves. But I suspect even when I have other options, half my characters are human, and the other half are divided fairly equally among other options.

RPG 30-Day Challenge, Day One

I got hit with the 30-day RPG Challenge, and was asked to begin my responses on Jan 1. (It’s technically the second now, but it’s still the first *somewhere*). I’ll see how well I can do with these, though paid writing obviously takes priority. 🙂

Day 1 – How Did You Get Started?
I actually get asked this a lot, and I remember it clearly enough it’s a story I have told many times. This respons originally appeared in The Encounter Table.

“I was first introduced to D&D in the summer of 1982. I was staying at my uncle’s house in Tennessee, the year of the Knoxville World’s Fair, while my parents took a trip to Europe. My uncle had a library at least as vast as my parents’ (and mostly with different books), and among them was the 1979 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. I was enrapt.

But that’s all the D&D he had, and he’d never played. I wanted to play, and he was willing to run a game, but he wanted me to “figure out how to play” so he could run it for me. There were lots of clues how D&D was supposed to work, but without a Player’s Handbook or Monster Manual, I saw there was a lot of information I needed to fill in before we could try anything.

So, I set to work creating my own notes for classes, and weapons (which, as I remember, included light sabers, space axes from the Lensman books, and the kligat throwing weapon from the Star Trek episode Friday’s Child). I have no idea how good the rules I cobbled together were – no copies survived leaving my uncle’s house that summer –but they were good enough for us to get a few games in. It is thus literally true that I was writing rules for RPGs before I had ever played one.”