As I’ve wandered into the Indie Frontiers this past year, I’ve heard tales of a fabled place where indie RPG designers gather from across the land: Big Bad Con. This yearly tabletop and LARP convention is hosted in Walnut Creek, CA, a short seven hour drive from my home in Los Angeles. I had never been to an RPG convention before, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. I left LA with a backpack full of dice and a mission—a mission to interview as many up-and-coming indie RPG designers as I could find.
Today’s interviewees: JR Goldberg, Viditya Voleti, Riley Rethal, Dee Pennyway, and Kurt Potts.
The RPG space is filled with unchecked assumptions regarding what gaming groups actually do. We already know that market information is hard to find, but it’s even harder to find information on how people consume whichever RPGs they choose to consume. Are they playing mostly in organized games hosted at game stores? With a group of friends at someone’s home? At cons? How often do they play? How many different systems do they try? We have, as one of my players once said, no hard data but a lot of assumptions and circumstantial evidence. The one element which is most significantly reflected in how games are actually designed is how long a discrete ‘game’ or ‘campaign’ is intended to be played.
Cyberpunk as a literary genre has many touchstones, like the role of corporations in society and humanity’s relationship with technology. These have trickled down to tabletop games in different ways, but certain tropes keep coming up. Cybernetic enhancement is *the* subsystem for cyberpunk games, and has generally succeeded in early cyberpunk games where hacking, a complementary subsystem, often failed. Cyberware stands in for magic in most cyberpunk games, giving the characters access to superhuman power, though at a cost. In addition to cyberware, there is usually a digital world aspect of cyberpunk games, adjacent to but not always overlapping with the hacking rules. In early works this was a completely separate virtual world, while in modern games, there is much more focus on augmented reality, and the digital commingling with the real.
I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.
A fighter whose armor and weapons glow with the power of runic magic, granting the strength of giants. A ranger who can call upon a swarm of spirits to aid them and tear their enemies to shreds. A rogue who is back from the dead but has no idea how they got there – or why. Unearthed Arcana completes the set for its latest wave of character options for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons with one each for the fighter, ranger, and rogue. Whether using the strength of titans, swarms of bees, or the knowledge of the dead, let’s see what they have to offer!
“Your world will fall unless you risk it all. Are you ready to collaboratively design a world you must defend? Create powerful characters destined to fight the ever-present Darkness? Solve challenges, fight battles, and risk death and injury to save the realm? Heroic Dark is a build-your-own setting game about heroes defying the forces of darkness that threaten their world. The GM and players work together to tell a one-of-a-kind story about danger, sacrifice, and hopefully victory.” The odds are against you. The ending is uncertain. But if this opening pitch catches your eye, then you might find yourself one of those brave enough to fight the good fight in a setting of your own making with Heroic Dark!
Role-playing games are a delightfully analog hobby; the best parts of coming together with your friends to roll dice and tell stories cannot be duplicated by digital media. The way we play, though, has changed, with forums and voice chat programs and online dice rollers all giving us ways to use technology to enhance the RPG experience. When it comes to the actual reference materials, progress has been uneven. Online SRDs and paywalled content providers like D&D Beyond show we at least acknowledge that digital reference materials can look different, but the majority of game PDFs out there are just books, barely improved from the days when RPG PDFs were made with a scanner.
Æon. Poor, sweet Æon. Or is it Trinity? Depends on who you’re asking and if Viacom is listening. This RPG was meant to be White Wolf’s epic space opera, but fell short financially and was cancelled much to the dismay of it’s small, but loyal fanbase. However, the death of Æon had larger reprocussions. As the first chapter in what became a planned trilogy, its inability to generate sales spelled doom for the other two games in the Æon Continuum. I had written a piece awhile back about Aberrant, the second game in the series, which was White Wolf’s swing at the superhero genre. They introduced us to an engrossing, but nihilistic story of superhumans doomed to be their own destroyers. In the time since writing that article, Amazon released The Boys, which is basically Aberrant the TV show. I had a friend text me, quite serious, asking if White Wolf was planning to go to court over it. They didn’t. He didn’t know it was a comic and White Wolf didn’t invent the grim superhero shtick. They didn’t invent the epic space opera either, but with Æon they gave it an earnest shot.
Gaming news and games we Can’t Let Go, Happy Horror Stories wherein things went awry on the table in the best way, and a four-way pitch fight for the best Halloween One-Shot RPG in this episode of CHR!