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.

Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit Gameplay Review

The Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit made a splash at GenCon, selling out huge stacks of the black and red box set in what seemed like no time at all. Given the hype of Cyberpunk 2077, it’s important to step back and look at both what this means for Cyberpunk fans as well as what we can honestly expect out of a product which is still just a Beginner Box.

Personally, I’ve been waiting for this moment in one way or another since 2005. 2005 was, for those of us who remember, the release of Cyberpunk v3. Without casting (too many) aspersions at that product, I can say that it was not what Cyberpunk fans expected or wanted, and was disappointing to many, including myself. After making my peace with the fact that Cyberpunk 2020 was the last edition of the line that I’d play, the announcement of Cyberpunk Red split me between side-eyed skepticism and bouncing off my chair like, well, a nerdy teenager.

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Kickstarter Wonk: August, 2019

August is GenCon season, but it’s still bumping on Kickstarter! This month we’ve also seen the tagline “Break Kickstarter” pop up, which has produced some intriguing campaigns. Needless to say, there’s plenty to sift through. Don’t worry though, because sift I did, and I’ve come up with my top nine for the month! Check out some hacks, some new games, and some truly odd design projects.

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Traditional Games and Why We Love Them

I’ve made plenty of hay over my opinions about D&D. D&D is not a bad game, but it’s such a limited expression of what a role-playing game can look like. The most common counter-argument I get to saying that a gamer should play games other than D&D is somewhere along the lines of “if that’s what they like, that’s what they should play”. This is usually followed by pointing out several more obscure games, which usually look absolutely nothing like D&D, and harping on about how that’s not the play experience they want. And this straw man argument is one of many reasons I’ve decided to sing the praises of the giant middle ground of the hobby, the traditional RPGs.

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System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Combat

The one subsystem that all traditional RPGs bolt onto their core resolution mechanics is a conflict system and, like it or not, the most popular iteration of a conflict system is one for physical combat. Cyberpunk 2020 had a combat system designed with realism in mind, and, thanks to a statistical basis in actual criminal activity using guns, did very well in terms of combat verisimilitude. This did mean that some of the “imbalance” in the system, namely the overwhelming power of a high initiative roll and the destabilizing impact of armor, were based on reality. Quirks aside, what made ‘realistic’ fun was that the system played quickly and had enough detail to mean that player choices in terms of tactics and weapons mattered. The issue with Cyberpunk’s conflict systems, really, is that combat is much more ‘baked’ than the other conflict system, netrunning, and the only semblance of a social conflict system is the ‘facedown’ mechanic, which is one die roll for one specific situation. 

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Fate Space Toolkit Review

I’m a fan of Fate Core, and my favorite additions to the Fate Core family have been the purple books, the System Toolkits. What makes Fate so interesting to me is the level of modularity and genericization available in the rules, which both let players run pretty much anything they can imagine in Fate. With all that flexibility, though, comes the simple fact that there are a hundred ways to do anything, including some really inventive ones that any single player probably didn’t think of.

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Torchbearer In-Depth

In RPG discussion circles in places like Reddit and Twitter, there has been a fair amount of hay made over the relative absence of ‘critique’ in the RPG realm. As someone who reviews RPGs fairly regularly, this is something which is difficult to parse but ultimately fair. A review aims to go over the traits and writing quality of a game in order to answer whether it is worth buying and worth trying to play. In RPGs (though honestly in all media) reviews skew positive because negative reviews get more negative attention, and because honestly writing 1500 words about something you don’t like simply isn’t fun.

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Kickstarter Wonk: July, 2019

It’s July, and the Kickstarters are out in force before GenCon! Well, it was actually a fairly sparse list on the publisher front, though it’s worth noting that there’s a new edition of Chivalry and Sorcery, a supplement for the latest edition of Torg, and a new edition of Aberrant, to boot! Still, those are all editions of existing games, and Kickstarter Wonk is about the new stuff. I’ve painstakingly separated the wheat from the chaff and brought you ten games that should all be pretty solid…or at least pretty to look at.

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Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 14

The party was invited back to the governor’s estate to help interrogate Paul. The stories of the wizards crafting a gate were corroborated, though it sounded like Paul either didn’t agree with or didn’t believe the reasoning of his compatriots. Either way, it was a spirited argument and too many available teleport artifacts that caused the malfunction, opening the gate maybe a third of the way and casting Paul into the Interface. Paul wasn’t imprisoned, per se, but he was held in an office in the administrative district of Third City for safekeeping.

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System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Attributes and Skills

So we’ve stated some design goals, and we’ve set a baseline with an in-depth review of Cyberpunk 2020. Now, it’s time to get into the weeds. As I stated in the design goals, I want to create a game inspired by Cyberpunk 2020. As such, most of these articles will revisit one or more mechanics from that game. That said, after considering the implications of these mechanics, I will more often than not rip them apart. Want to see us journey from nine stats and a d10-based resolution mechanic to three stats and a dice pool? Read on.

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