Zine Month Round Up #5

Practicing a new (and literally newer than most) language via a roleplaying game.  The exchange between the distance between two people and the people themselves. A doomed mech pilot trying to help the survivors of their people reach safety. Delving in the darkness, maybe never to return. Saving the Jewish people by masquerading as Queens. We’ve done it once, twice, thrice, and four times before, let’s check out one last batch of Zine Month games and make it five, then have a serious talk about itchfunding!

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When The Game Blows Up

You have a great idea for a new campaign. You explain it to your group, and everyone’s on board. Session Zero goes great, it seems like everyone has made interesting characters and is totally bought in to the premise. Then you start playing. For whatever reason, things just aren’t hitting the same way that everyone thought. Then comes the big inciting action. This will drive everyone to really dive in, right? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe everyone’s looking across the table awkwardly. Maybe someone gets upset, maybe not. Whatever happened, the game blew up, and now it’s time to pick up the pieces.

When most of the hobby assumes that you’ll pick one game and play it forever, there’s not a lot said about the risks of trying something new. Even among those inveterate RPG collectors with four dozen different systems in their bookshelf, there were never that many games that were really *out there* until recently…and even now, the vast majority of games sold hew to a common template. So, when the range of experiences and expectations is fairly narrow, you have to be prepared for what happens when you step outside of those experiences and expectations and something unpleasant happens.

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Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 9

The big day had come, and Hydropolis was feeling the heat. With the Future of the Midwest conference in full swing, every edgerunner in the city was looking over their shoulder at the corporate operatives and East Coast tourists trying to scope out the action. For CabbageCorp, though, the Future of the Midwest was looking shaky. While local agricorps like Biotechnica, Continental Brands, and Petrochem had been snubbed from the agenda, Jayhawk Agritech got the keynote slot with Dr. William Squires. Or at least that’s what the team thought.

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Zine Month Round Up #4

Artificial intelligences trapped in a video game. A baker’s dozen of bounty hunters. High adventure on the high seas. A quantum camping trip. The story of a skyship through the ages. We’re more than halfway through Zine Month 2022 and… nowhere near halfway through covering every project, gosh, who could? But we’ve got another five of them that are worth your time and quite possibly your money, so let’s count it off with Round Up # one, two, ah one, two, three, Four!

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System Split Redux: Legend of the Five Rings (AEG and FFG/EDGE)

A while ago I had a bit of a hot take off the press. At the time I had played the Beginners Box for Legend of the Five Rings 5th edition produced by Fantasy Flight Gaming and then, in purely coincidental timing, played in a campaign of 4th edition that had been written by AEG. Excited, and with childhood memories rekindled, I ran to write up the differences I have seen between the two. So, why do I mention it?

It’s been a few years since that article was written, and the world proceeded to break time with the years of 2020 and 2021. With a slew of personal life changes, and with a need for incredible caution for social gatherings, my choice in games became dictated by what I could find online. Over the last two years, I’ve had a healthy diet of games run in 4th edition and finally had the chance to build characters and play in a campaign using the full 5th edition rules. As I reflected, I began to wonder: had I done a disservice by rushing to put something out? Sometimes we become too excited at a new prospect, and become so eager to champion it that we don’t get the full picture. There is also another element in play now as well: time. Back when I did my first crack at a System Split, FFG were the new kids on the block, with their hands on a shiny new property and some interesting ideas on how to freshen things up. Now, not only have they released the full rules and published several expansion books for Legend of the Five Rings and reorganized. EDGE Studio has now taken over the IP, and while books continue to be published, and the system itself remains mostly intact, I feel like it’s worth circling back and taking a deeper, more nuanced dive into the differences between the two systems.  Overall, with some time and space, I have come to believe that FFG created their version with a firm eye on past editions, but there are noticeable differences that might sway both gamerunners and players in one direction or the other.

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Zine Month Round Up #3

Sending messages to someone you’ll never see again across growing interstellar distances. A giant whirlpool crawling with pirates. A bar crawl on the borderlands. Trying to make sure your people don’t fall off the map. A rescue mission into an environmentally hostile forest chock full of horrible mutants and dragon cultists. A veritable library of zines. Zine Month ’22 continues onward at a typically breakneck pace, although maybe that’s just the time dilation we’re all going through… nevermind! You’ve had two rounds of ZiMo content already, so how about a third?

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Pacing Problems

How fast do you burn through a storyline? If you’re like me, sometimes that core conflict is approaching a climax halfway through what you thought was your campaign. Or, if you’re like me at a different point in time, you find your players have cracked the advancement mechanics on the cool new system you wanted to try and now the power curve is shooting upwards, taking the storyline in places you weren’t ready for it to go. Whether it’s from game mechanics or your own writing, it’s easy for a GM to find themselves with a pacing problem.

There are a few issues with figuring out how to pace a role-playing campaign that don’t appear in other media. The first one is simply that other media have it way easier. It might be challenging to write a novel or direct a movie, but that author or director has complete control over how fast or slow events progress. When you’re GMing a game, with players staring back at you and wondering what’s going to happen next, that control is illusory. The second is that many of the tricks we’re taught in interactive media, like video games, either don’t translate or translate poorly back to the tabletop. Once again, a lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s more than one person playing and setting the clock.

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