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.
We’ve gotten so much Unearthed Arcana content for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition lately that, I’ll admit, I had a hard time keeping up! I’ve got a lock on it now, though. First we got a sorcerer with an aberrant mind and a warlock who lurks in the deep. Then we got an Eloquent bard and a Heroic paladin (capitalization deliberate and important). Finally we got a twilight cleric, a wildfire druid, and a name-calling wizard. I think my speculation from the barbarian and the monk is proving true: we only see a swath of content like this when another book is on the horizon. So lets Unearth some Arcana and see what our new varieties of adventurer can do!
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!
Role-playing games are perceived as complex due to their volume of rules. What really makes RPGs complicated, though, is the relative dynamism of these rules and the degree to which they sit in the text. In other words, the rules of a game you must know in order to play an RPG are not limited to those which are printed in the rulebook.
While this of course varies from game to game, it can be generally stated that a board game will contain all the rules necessary to play inside the box. This is not always true with an RPG. Given the significant breadth of concepts that a game could potentially cover, RPGs have usually needed a GM to establish a more concrete set of boundaries which make up a campaign. The key here is that what the GM is doing, from writing the world to tweaking the mechanics to actually running the game, involves making and enforcing rules which are supplemental to those actually written in a book.
A Falcon hunting phantoms through the trees of Shinomen Forest. A Lion trying to heal the wounded and avenge an ancestor’s death. A Unicorn riding out to free the spirits of corrupted kin from the shadows that have swallowed them. A Phoenix desperate to redeem his bloodline and himself before it’s too late. The land of Rokugan thrives in the light of the sun, but shadows creep in, and someone must stand against them. We’re telling another tale in the Legend of the Five Rings from Fantasy Flight Games with this haunted but ready-to-play party of samurai seeking honor and glory in the Shadowlands!
Last month was famine. Instead of putting together a Kickstarter Wonk article at all, I wrote briefly on why Tabletop RPG Kickstarters fail. This month is feast. There are ten games below, and I can say genuinely that there are 2-3 more that easily would have made the cut as well. A great number of campaigns, and I’m probably spending a bit more money than usual this month. Speaking of money. There’s been some turmoil over at the Kickstarter corporate office, mostly involving a distasteful activity called ‘union-busting’. Kickstarter employees are trying to unionize, and someone upstairs fired two of the organizers. Not good, guys. Not good at all.
Nonetheless, Kickstarter campaigns are primarily about the creators. Beyond that, the process to get a union formally recognized is fraught, so even if the company is making distasteful (read: bad) decisions regarding the rights of their workers, the creators on the platform and the broader business as a whole shouldn’t necessarily suffer. For one thing, it makes that whole organizing thing that much harder if there’s evidence that organizing a union is impeding business. The intent of organized labor is to make productive compromises between a company and its employees, and a preemptive boycott fails at that. Therefore I am still here, still promoting Kickstarter campaigns, and still spending some money to support the excellent creators on the platform. If you’re interested in supporting Kickstarter United and are a project creator, you can sign a petition here. After you’ve done that, read on, because there are some really great games out this month.