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.

Weekend Update: 11/27/2021

Welcome to the Cannibal Halfling Weekend Update! Start your weekend with a chunk of RPG news from the past week. We have the week’s top sellers, industry news stories, and discussions from elsewhere online.

DriveThruRPG Top Sellers for 11/27/2021

  1. Traveller: The Third Imperium
  2. Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy
  3. WFRP: Archives of the Empire Volume 2
  4. Twilight: 2000 4th Edition Core Set
  5. Aerospace Engineer’s Handbook

Discussion of the Week

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US, so the Cannibal Halflings are all off spending time with their families. Hope everyone has a safe and restful holiday, we’ll get back to the salt mines next week!

Have any RPG news leads or scoops? Get in touch! You can reach us at cannibalhalflinggaming@gmail.com, or through Twitter via @HungryHalfling.

Game Wizards Review

The story of role-playing games begins with the story of Dungeons and Dragons; the story of Dungeons and Dragons begins with Gary Gygax. And Dave Arneson. And, frankly, all of TSR. As our hobby evolves and our record keepers get older, we need to look back and make a good record of what got us to this point. With both Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson passed away, the invention of D&D is becoming just a story, in some people’s minds a footnote to Mentzer and Moldvay and Allston and Tweet and Mearls and Crawford that have come since. Well, Jon Peterson to the rescue.

Off the success of Playing at the World, a history of the role-playing game as a concept, and The Elusive Shift, an investigation of the role-playing game as its own standalone ‘thing’, we now have Game Wizards, arguably now the definitive text on the luminaries who invented D&D and how rabidly they fought over credit for that specific thing. Peterson is showing his breadth here, moving from broad-based historical synthesis (Playing at the World) to deep, particular investigation (The Elusive Shift) and now into that popular but difficult historical realm, disputed narrative. In some ways, this is a bit of a departure from Peterson’s earlier work, which was very much grounded in the how and why that made RPGs what they are. That said, Game Wizards as a book has convinced me that, as someone interested in RPG history, the story of Gygax and Arneson is one I need to know.

Continue reading Game Wizards Review

Twilight:2000 Review

The RPG hobby is driven by remakes and revisions. Fifth Edition this and Seventh Edition that, yes, but entire movements in the hobby are built around hacking and re-hacking D&D’s sub-sub-genre of play, fantasy dungeon crawling. With this perspective, RPGs fit in nicely alongside movie studios who remake Spiderman and Batman decadally, and media companies who continue to make live-action versions of critically acclaimed anime without asking how they’re actually improving things. In a young hobby like RPGs, though, there is still space for remakes to be good. So if you want to make a good remake, why not start with a game that practically screams ‘don’t update me’, the 1984 classic Twilight:2000?

Continue reading Twilight:2000 Review

Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 6

In the dark future, there’s no such thing as an easy decision; you either have the hard part now or you have it later. When we last saw our erstwhile entrepreneurs, they had just tattled on a mobster named Vlad and put him on the receiving end of an Arasaka kill squad. Then they quietly scooped up all the documents that the corporates didn’t stick around to grab. Priceless opportunity, or painting the target on your back by hand? CabbageCorp employees have to find out, of course.

And among all the mob mischief, Biotechnica is still making moves. Mason’s boss is pleased with the dirt the team has found on Jayhawk, and is planning to exercise a stock purchase option soon. Knowing the contract that Biotechnica made them sign, Jayhawk chief technology officer William Squires reached out for a meeting. Not interested in hearing his pleas or complaints, Biotechnica brass kicked the invite down the chain until it hit Mason. Mason accepts, even though his boss says it’ll be seen as an insult and no meeting will be set up. Despite that prediction, he’s invited to take a ride by private car down to the Heartland Complex in downtown Hydropolis.

Continue reading Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 6

Kickstarter Wonk: November, 2021

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for November! There’s a whole bunch going on here as the year gets darker, and it’s a perfect time to stay in and play some games. This is also where the spooky games ended up: we have sea shanty poltergeists, food horror, and even a game where all women are werewolves! In addition, though it’s not a new game and as such isn’t included below, the new box set of Mothership has also gone live on Kickstarter and it looks sick. Even though it doesn’t quite fall in the bounds of a Kickstarter Wonk selection, it’s still definitely worth noting. As far as what does fall in those bounds, we have 8 (plus one) really neat games to check out this month. Grab your dice, pencils, and tarot cards!

Continue reading Kickstarter Wonk: November, 2021

Meet the Campaign: Intro to West Marches

Seamus and I both came of age at a time where the long-running campaign was considered the platonic ideal of the role-playing game. There’s a lot of historical justification for this; the ‘campaign’ as an innovation in the wargaming space was one of the things that led to interest in the character-driven gaming that eventually became Dungeons and Dragons. The campaign as a procedure within a game, though, has been somewhat of a stagnant thing. Even as games continue to push on notions of advancement and other structures which define how events progress across multiple gaming sessions, it’s still assumed that a long-running game would be played in a series of continuous sessions by a consistent group of players. 15 years ago, a known luminary in the RPG design space ran a campaign that worked quite differently, creating ripples across the hobby. I’m of course talking about Ben Robbins’ West Marches.

Continue reading Meet the Campaign: Intro to West Marches

The Trouble With Ecosystems

How many RPGs do you know which consist of a single book? There are definitely some, plenty of indie games especially are singular works. When it comes to the games most people play, though, you can expect that the core rules are joined by supplements, additional books which expand the game through either deepening existing elements or adding new ones. Beyond that, you may have secondary accessories, things like dice, card decks, and maps which add to the physical experience of the game. Taken together these elements create a product line. When you add additional material made by players and designers other than the original authors, then now you have an ecosystem.

Continue reading The Trouble With Ecosystems

The Curse of the Wandering Eyes

It’s happened to all of us. You spend weeks, maybe even months, convincing your friends to try a new game that you’ve discovered. It takes some effort, but eventually everyone buys in and you start a new campaign. Things are going well, people are getting into it! And then…Another new game is in your sights. All of a sudden, the thing you were most excited about for weeks and weeks is now a frustrating roadblock. You are a victim of the Curse of the Wandering Eyes.

While the Curse of the Wandering Eyes can strike any gamer, it’s the GMs of the world who are most acutely afflicted, and for whom the affliction can have the most dire consequences. It’s not only the GMs who actually drop games at the blink of an eye who can create group discord, any GM who looks longingly at a game other than the one they’re playing can often let those thoughts and frustrations seep into their current game, making it less fun and possibly cutting it short. What’s worse, though, is that although the grass often looks greener on the other side, when this frustrated GM starts up their next game, often it isn’t any better, and the process repeats anew.

Continue reading The Curse of the Wandering Eyes

Kickstarter Wonk: October, 2021

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for October! It’s not exactly that spooky in here. I mean, there’s a bit of grimdark, and some goblins, but overall things are light, bright, and colorful. And there are several games about food. Overall though it’s a great crop, with eight games and an honorable mention zine that should make it into your campaign. Ready? Onward!

Continue reading Kickstarter Wonk: October, 2021

Under Hollow Hills Review

How much changes in a decade? A couple years ago I went to my tenth college reunion. I was struck by how different things were; how my old fraternity was simply not familiar any more, and how my favorite late night food spots gave me significantly more indigestion. I couldn’t help but notice, also, how much was exactly the same. The city of Pittsburgh was still the same idiosyncratic mix of rust belt and academic, and the campus very much elicited all the memories I had from being in that place. Ten years seems like both enough time for something to change completely and yet not change at all. And so it is with Powered by the Apocalypse.

It hasn’t been exactly ten years since the start of Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), Apocalypse World was released in 2010. That said, as the game scooped up awards through 2010 and 2011, we could say that it’s roughly the 10th anniversary of PbtA as a phenomenon. By the end of the 2011 awards season the momentum had built, and Dungeon World, the game that arguably sent PbtA into the next tier of indie phenomena, came out in 2012. No matter your exact accounting, though, 2021 is the perfect time to reflect on a decade of PbtA because the Bakers have released a new PbtA game.

Continue reading Under Hollow Hills Review