Let’s say you want an original game. D&D is played out, Star Wars requires dealing with Star Wars fans, and Cyberpunk seems like 1989 cosplay. You’re tired of all these tropes, you say, you want something built from the ground up to be new and strange. Let’s say that this game exists. It’s free, even, and the free PDF is filled with gorgeous art. The entire book is gorgeous because the publisher is a design studio first, and happens to be an exclusive partner with Riot Games. It’s even a second edition, with rules revamped to improve speed of play. This sounds perfect, you think. What’s the catch? Well, there are 720 pages to read and since it is wildly original, you need to read all of it. Welcome to Degenesis: Rebirth.
In March of 2019, I began a project with a simple premise. After having played Cyberpunk 2020 for 15 years, I wanted to create a game that took everything I loved about the system and recast it into a game designed for me and how I run games. Now, 14 months later, I’m happy to say that the first stage of this project is complete, and another set of System Hack articles is coming to a close.
Now, it should be no surprise to anyone here that I enjoy podcasts. I cut my teeth on My Brother My Brother And Me for my early beginning. Have listened to the occasional intersection of that interest and my love for pro wrestling in podcasts such as Wrestlesplania. And may even be starting my own. But that’s an article for another time. What this article is about is the amazing phenomenon that has exploded in the RPG community. The thing that nearly all of us have at least one of us listening to. A fun endeavor that both enriches us and inspires others to listen.
What I’m talking about is actual play podcasts. You may have already read some of my earlier podcast reviews or other articles about podcasting and RPGs. But this is going to be a bit of a roundup of them. A brief list of a select few all put together to maybe put the thought “Hey, this would be a fun listen” into your head.
A small but fierce combatant, able to slip past enemy defenses and outside of their counterattacks with equal ease. A leader of beings both digital and organic, with ships and fast attack craft and crew all following her lead. A staunch defender, who can patch up whatever wounds make it past his efforts. Consult your star charts and prepare to go beyond the galactic frontier to complete your objectives, with a ready-to-play fleet of Artificial Intelligences and starships for Transit: The Spaceship RPG!
Comedy RPGs are a tough nut to crack. There are broadly two challenges to writing funny role-playing games, and even the best ones have only overcome one of these two. The first challenge is to create humor from situations and premises that remain relevant. Paranoia is one of the most successful games at doing this, and that’s because ultimately the humor is about RPGs themselves and violating in-game expectations. The second challenge is to create a game that remains funny after the first session. While there’s no formula to solving this challenge yet, leaning on structures from other long-running comedy media is certainly a viable strategy. Teenagers From Outer Space is a comedy game from the mind of Mike Pondsmith, best known as the designer of Cyberpunk. Using tropes from comedy anime, he created a game that is light, smart, and self-aware about how it’s going to be played. Unfortunately, this game is 23 years old (33 years old if you count the first edition) and feels that way, which can lead to some awkward reading in a game about teen romance. Teenagers From Outer Space was given away for free as part of R. Talsorian’s response to the current pandemic, so now is as good a time as ever to take a look.
Let’s face it, some of the most popular RPGs out there are part of popular franchises. It’s hardly something to complain about. Roleplaying comes out of investment in a story, and a lot of things that hook people is a universe in which they are already immersed. I don’t believe that it is an accident that we’ve written a number of articles that include the Star Wars, Mistborn, and Witcher RPGs, nor that there are numerous iterations of RPGs based off of pop culture phenomena (I am personally aware of Buffy, Firefly and Doctor Who RPGs) as well as my personal experience with GMs use Genesys as a universal system to build games in the Harry Potter and the Stormlight Archive universes. Even for systems that were always games first there is an impressive amount of lore that has been generated over the years in novels, such as the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden in the Forgotten Realms or Theo Bell in Vampire the Masquerade, and for any players these stories are distinctive part of what they love.
This leads to what I refer to as the “fanfic quandary”. The reason why you pick a work of fiction to base your own story on is that you want to immerse yourself in it, but how do you make your mark on that universe? Players generally want to have agency, want to be the heroes (or villains) of the day, but how do they do so when that work’s main character is the Chosen One.Well, the problem is not unique to RPGs. The aforementioned “fanfic” can get a bad rap, but quite a few have turned out interesting over the years, and as previously mentioned some have been officially licensed novels, so why not take a look at some of the techniques these writers use and see the potential benefits and pitfalls.
Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk! The world is still a deeply weird place this month, and Kickstarter is still being affected. With the economic uncertainty that comes along with a global pandemic, it makes sense that fewer people have the resources to either pull off a Kickstarter campaign or pledge one at this time. Still, there are creators out there putting in work, and producing some good stuff. If you have the means, check this shorter list of campaigns out. Since four campaigns does not an article make, I’ve also gathered up my thoughts about being a third-party D&D creator, community content programs, and why you should be careful pursuing either.