Welcome back! I’m the Level One Wonk, and today we’re throwing things at a wall to see what sticks! Most popular games out there exist within the framework of a genre or existing setting, and use those constraints to create interesting stories. In Dungeons and Dragons you have magic, monsters, and an underlying battle between good and evil. In Star Wars you have the Force, liberties taken with the laws of physics, and…an underlying battle between good and evil. At the end of the day, though, sometimes you want to mix chocolate and peanut butter and get something else. What if your D&D setting was invaded by aliens? Who were actually Force Ghosts…who actually came from the world of Exalted? What if they were all psychic? Why stop there? Sometimes you want everything and the kitchen sink.
Walk into your average gaming store and you’ll probably find a fair number of tabletop roleplaying game books for sale, ranging from the relatively slim like Fate Accelerated to mighty tomes that a bard could use as a last-resort weapon such as Numenera. What you probably won’t find, unless someone is hosting a game, are RPGs whose page count is in the single digits, often even only 1 or 2 pages long. While they probably existed beforehand these games are now mostly children of the internet, born on websites and blogs and in competitions and tweets. Sometimes they’re called ‘one page RPGs’, or ‘one page dungeons’. Sometimes they’re referred to as ‘nano games’. I know them mostly as ‘micro games’, and just because they’re short doesn’t mean they aren’t sweet.
Welcome back to Level One Wonk, where new campaign day is every day! Starting scenarios run a huge gamut in role-playing games, but it’s the tropey tired ones that continue to haunt the institutional memory of this hobby. “You all meet in a tavern” has steadily been replaced by “you all wake up in prison”, but the fact remains that establishing a campaign introduction without player input makes you vulnerable to these and other contrivances. There is of course a time and a place for every kind of campaign introduction, but sometimes you want to both get into the stuff your players care about as well as make them care quickly. This is when you want to run a Session Zero.
Cole Strutter coughed and spit, grimacing. Almost miracle-grade healing aside, the taste of bacta in the back of one’s throat after needing to heal internal injuries was nastier than the worst rotgut he’d ever had, and that said something. Plus, he still had one less leg than he remembered. But the real reason for the grimace was that Verjylla, Nak, and Caleb had been there to greet him when he got out of the tank in the Rabblerouser One‘s infirmary, and the Bothan had handed him a bottle of the finest Whyren’s Reserve the second he’d been sat down by the medical droids. He eyed the bottle and his comrades suspiciously before taking a swig, and then asked the obvious question. What had gone wrong while he was out?
Last week, Seamus gave a comprehensive overview of the first part of Fantasy Flight Games’ new toolkit system Genesys. The first section presented a new angle on the Narrative Dice system which lived up to the promises of a genericized Star Wars game, while the second section on settings left a lot on the table and a bit to be desired. But there’s a lot more book here! Even if Seamus got more page count, this last section is the one that’s really full of the stuff you’re going to want. Now, if you need to get the lowdown on the basics of the mechanics and how this book differs from the Star Wars games, you should go ahead and check out Seamus’ first review. If you’re ready to talk toolkit, though, read on. All four of these chapters are from Part 3, the Game Master’s Toolkit. Overall, the toolkit is very well done, though there are several missed opportunities to have taken an addition that was merely good and make it great.
Genesys, the universal roleplaying game system from Fantasy Flight Games, is starting to land in mailboxes and game stores this week, and sure enough both of us here at Cannibal Halfling Gaming got our hands on a copy! Billed as a ‘toolkit’ that GMs and players can use for any setting they want, we’re naturally excited and curious to see how it shapes up. Does the system work? Is it as adaptive as it claims to be? As universal systems go, where does it land on a scale of Fate Core to GURPS? Will it actually be fun to play? Read on and let’s find out together as I take us chapter by chapter through the book for the first part of CHG’s review!
Welcome back to Level One Wonk, where together we will wonk out on various and sundry gaming topics! Now that you’ve finished gorging yourself on turkey (and maybe checking out some Burning Wheel characters), it’s time to look down that home stretch of the year, get ready for the holiday season, and maybe even make some New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of thinking about the game today, let’s think about the gaming group. While playstyle, system, and campaign all play into a gaming group having fun, there are even more basic structural elements that are key, and it all comes down to who’s doing what.
A strange cultist who everyone ignored until he accidentally summoned a lesser demon. A noblewoman, cast to the nunnery for birthing a bastard and now on the run from a coup. A rebellious participant in said coup, who found his true god within the Cult of the Dead Stars. Meet the Party is jumping systems again, this time generating a trio of unlikely heroes for Burning Wheel!
I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged with my wife this past weekend, and while I (quite wisely, we needed a vacation darn it) wasn’t attending in any sort of official CHG capacity I was still viewing the convention as a whole with a critic’s eye. So what worked, what didn’t, and would going yourself next year be worth it?
After much hype and hullabaloo, Wizards of the Coast has released Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the first rules supplement for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. While there is nothing revolutionary within this volume, it offers some great new options for both mechanical and story aspects of D&D. I’d say it’s nice to have for players but more recommended for GMs due to the expanded proficiency and downtime rules, trap creation and encounter expansions, and the solidly integrated rivals system.