All posts by Aaron Marks

Gaming for 15 years and writing about it for nearly ten, I've always had a strong desire to find different and interesting things in the hobby. You can follow me on Twitter at @LevelOneWonk, and read my more personal ramblings at 563rdattempt.wordpress.com.

Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 5

In the dark future, everyone is looking out for number one. Sometimes, though, it’s what you do when everything’s gone to hell that really shows people who you are. When we last left our band of eager mercs, a deal had gone sideways with a Russian mobster named Vlad. Vlad tasked the team with acquiring a shipping container full of power armor, but when a motorcycle gang caught wind of the successful heist he withheld payment and took the goods anyway. Nobody in the CabbageCorp family was too pleased at that development.

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Deviant: the Renegades Review

Role-playing games are like most media in that they tend to resonate with the largest audience when peddling a blend of novelty and comfort. That said, the hobby has a history of lashing out when too much novelty is introduced. Consider Fourth Edition D&D. Or Traveller:The New Era. Or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Third Edition. I could go on, but the point is fairly clear: Gamers like new things, as long as they aren’t actually that different from the old things they already have.

Say, what’s been going on in the World of Darkness recently?

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A Novice’s Guide to Reading New Games

It’s a wide world of games out there, and it’s nearly impossible to truly experience the richness of the RPG hobby if you only play one. Even if your group is set in their ways, or deep into a multi-year campaign, you can still take a look across the hobby and see what new ideas are cropping up (and have been cropping up for the last four decades). Reading some games can seem daunting, and certain incumbents in the industry benefit by making the whole process of reading in the hobby seem more difficult than it actually is (you know, the incumbents that make you buy three books to run their game). That said, role-playing games are not as difficult as some would make it seem, and 400 page books need not scare you away.

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Kickstarter Wonk: September, 2021

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for September! We’re nearly ¾ of the way through this weird-ass year, and the desire for more escapism hasn’t abated. While we might *still* be gaming on Zoom, designers from all over the world are ready to serve up new twists. Whether it’s magical realist convenience stores, fantasy adventure insects, or just a nice blimp, Kickstarter (and a new upstart) have what you need to keep your mind off (waving hands) all of this.

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Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 4

Not everything goes according to plan in the dark future. Not every lie will be detected, not every trap will be disarmed. And when things don’t go an edgerunner’s way, there’s no time to get mad…only even.

When we last left our ragtag group of highway robbers, they had been fired upon with some pretty hefty hardware. The hitters responsible? Hired by Jayhawk, and sent home down two and with the remaining two lucky to be alive. Clearly, the information Olga had stumbled onto was not anything Jayhawk wanted getting out. The firepower, though, was an open question. The drone looked an awful lot like the one which was seen getting passed through an Arasaka loading dock. The hitters had the control rig in their van, and they said they rented the thing. …Rented? Bubbles was able to hack the control rig and put a backdoor in the drone. Not enough to control it remotely, but enough to gather some data and maybe tell where it called home.

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Fallout: The Roleplaying Game Review

RPG licensing. RPG licensing never changes. In some ways it’s amazing that it took until 2021 to get an honest Fallout tabletop RPG, given the original game’s mechanical dalliance with GURPS and other design elements borrowed heavily from pen and paper games of the time. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until Fallout 4 that the series turned back to its roots and, with the help of Modiphius, got an official licensed port. Fallout the Role-Playing Game leans heavily on the most recent iteration of the video game series; both the mechanics and the setting borrow heavily and almost exclusively from Bethesda’s Fallout 4 for source material. Comparing this game to a Bethesda game ends up being quite apt, though; like most of the modern software titles released by this game’s licensor, Fallout the Role-Playing Game shows a lot of promise and appears at first glance to be ported well into its new mechanics…but in reality it’s hampered by a raft of grave unforced errors in editing and product management. So is it endearingly buggy, or is it hopeless? Let’s take a look.

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Building Characters From Archetypes

Everyone knows what a character class is. From D&D to Diablo and from Final Fantasy to Facebook personality tests, the notion of starting your RPG adventure with a Fighter, Thief, Mage, or Cleric has transcended D&D and TTRPGs in general to become a nerd pop culture staple. In the modern TTRPG hobby, though, classes are but one way to present a set of archetypes from which to build a character.

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Kickstarter Wonk: August, 2021

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for August! Now, you might be looking down the headings and notice we only have seven games and an honorable mention. Well, that’s because, whether you know it or not, you got way more Kickstarter content this month than usual! Check out my preview of Dreampunk, which is still live for another ten days…really neat game using imagery cards to drive play through a dream world. Then you can read Seamus’s quickstart review of Avatar Legends, the new game from Magpie Games! That brings us up to nine, but you can count Avatar Legends twice if you also read the Meet the Party Seamus put together. Beyond those, though, all eight below are all worth checking out, and should help you ease the pain of missing this year’s superspreader event GenCon. 

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Generic RPGs: What’s Out There

There’s a world of games out there, but they still just scratch the surface. Maybe your favorite book series or movie hasn’t caught the eye of anyone making RPG adaptations. Maybe you have your own spin on a popular genre that you just can’t pull off with an existing game. Or maybe you just want to run something wild and straight from your own head. No matter the reason, if a game off the shelf doesn’t quite do it for you, you’re looking for a generic RPG.

We’ve talked a bit about generic RPGs before, reviewing Cortex Prime and Everywhen, discussing Fate, and even using GURPS as an example text for looking at how to use generic games. This article is less about what to do with generic games, though, and more about how to find the right one for you. We’re going to discuss three broad types of generic games: Engines which are designed to model as many situations with as few rules as possible, Codexes which use a simple base ruleset and then expand it with a wide library of additional mechanics, and Chassis which take more traditional setting-driven RPGs, strip out the specific parts, and then (hopefully) build back up to something useful. The ‘Chassis’ generic RPG is the most common and popular, but the other two design modes may very well have more to offer the prospective game master.

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The Independents: Dreampunk

Role-playing games can be a perfect venue for the surreal. Exploring a strange world that has its own incomprehensible rules is often better done in games, where players have the opportunity to poke, prod, and learn, rather than being stuck in an author’s or director’s interpretation. That said, most games that embrace surreality these days embrace a designer’s vision, and are still one possible experience in a world that could be a whole lot weirder. Enter Dreampunk, a game currently being funded on Kickstarter. Dreampunk is a game that borrows heavily from the mechanics of Belonging Outside Belonging and, by extension, Powered by the Apocalypse. What makes Dreampunk unique, though, is the use of card drawing mechanics not only to pace the game, but to develop the very reality of the setting.

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