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.

Level One Wonk: Drama-Driven Games

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we look at drama! Characters can be so much more than stat blocks when they have loves, loyalties, and maybe teenage hormones. Today I’m looking at driving stories with character drama through the lens of a particularly successful session of Masks, by Magpie Games.

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Level One Wonk: Red Markets

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today, we’re taking an economist’s view of the zombie apocalypse with Red Markets!

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System Split: Interface Zero

Welcome to System Split! Today, our very own Level One Wonk will examine two three very similar systems to see what sets them apart. When the genre, complexity, and even rules system are exactly the same, what makes a game unique? Today we’re looking at a game that exists in three different systems, and is one of the first to jump on the Pathfinder train! Let’s get Cyberpunk with Interface Zero.

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Level One Wonk: One-Shots

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we look at one-shots: whether you need a break from a long campaign or just want to try something new, one-shots are an important way to mix it up and experiment. Check it out!

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Level One Wonk: Unbound

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we crack open some playing cards and get ready for pulp action with Unbound!

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Level One Wonk: Domain-Level Play

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today, we look into the tricky business of building an empire. Want to turn your role-playing game into a wargame? That’s done with rules for domain-level play!

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System Split: Paranormal Horror with PbtA

Welcome to System Split! Today, our very own Level One Wonk will examine two very similar systems to see what sets them apart. When the genre, complexity, and even rules system are exactly the same, what makes a game unique? Today’s post involves two spooky games which could not be more mechanically similar, or more thematically different! Let’s talk about Urban Shadows and Monsterhearts, two PbtA horror games.

Powered by the Apocalypse is a rules framework with both immense flexibility and a strongly codified play experience. When I looked at Cyberpunk within PbtA, I found two games which sat in very different places in the mechanical design space of PbtA. In contrast, since all of these games are so driven by story it is possible to produce two very different games which keep the rules very close. Urban Shadows and Monsterhearts do just that, carving out two niches in the paranormal horror genre.

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Level One Wonk: Crunch

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we talk about games with big rules and games with small rules: how much crunch do you like in your gaming?

Crunch is probably a term you’ve heard if you’ve wandered around RPG discussion groups for more than five minutes. “This game is very crunchy”, “I’m looking for a low-crunch experience”, and other similar phrases help gamers boil down their gaming desires into a reductive but understandable scale. Crunch, in game terms, is the amount of complexity in the rules, and it’s one of the strongest drivers of preference in the RPG market.

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Level One Wonk: Live Action Role-Playing with Alliance

In every hobby, no matter what it is, there is a rabbit hole. If you like working on cars, you may start with basic maintenance and go down the rabbit hole to find yourself taking the engine out one weekend. If you like hiking, you may start with day trips and go down the rabbit hole to find yourself planning a hike of the Appalachian Trail. And if you like role-playing, you may start by writing characters for games you play at a table or online, and go down the rabbit hole to buying real fantasy garb and making ‘boffer’ weapons for weekends with 50 or more like-minded people at a Live Action Role-play event.

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Level One Wonk: Cortex Prime

Are you a Butt-Kicker, a Specialist, or a Story-Teller? There is a huge world of games out there to satisfy every player’s and group’s style. And while there are academic discussions in every corner of the internet, sometimes it’s best to start at level one. Join the Level One Wonk in exploring the possibilities that RPGs have to offer, from Aberrant to Zorcerer of Zo. Today we look at a potential Indie RPG hit in the making: Cortex Prime!

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