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 2

Sure, there’s some sweet benefits in being a W2. Steady paycheck, funeral insurance, and a steady helping of plausible deniability. That said, when you only go into the office once a week to have a meeting with your boss in a room with a Faraday cage and get your actual marching orders from a man biosculpted like the main character of a 40 year old TV show…well, maybe corporate life wasn’t as boring as they told you.

When we last left our motley crew of inbetweeners, they had started working for Lynx, a Biotechnica-connected fixer with a taste for prestige TV and cheap beer. They had also had their first run-in of many with a party member’s past when Jacob’s ex Olga became the main subject of an intrusion op gone wrong. After delivering Lynx the good news about their smuggling tunnel, though, it was right back to work again. Biotechnica was part owner of Jayhawk Agritech through the financing deal that helped create Astropolis, and Jayhawk was trying to wriggle out from under the terms of that deal. Who was available to tighten the leash? CabbageCorp, of course.

Continue reading Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 2

The Trouble With Finding New Systems

Your campaign is ending. It’s been a good time but the story is coming to an end, and your players are looking to the next big adventure. You want to switch it up, and they’re on board. What do you do?

There’s a whole lot of game systems out there, and you probably could run a fun game with any of them. That said, you’re not picking a system because it meets the low bar of “could be fun”. You want a system that will make your game better because it’s there, either because it makes it easier to have fun or it helps you do a fun thing you wouldn’t otherwise be able to or would have thought to do.

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Kickstarter Wonk: June, 2021

Welcome to June! 2021 is heating up, at least if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, but in the RPG space it’s heating up all over! I had way more than 10 games to read this month, and several I had to check out less than 24 hours before this went live! Designers are wild out here! These ten games represent a potent intersection of design, marketing, and yes, hype, on Kickstarter, and there’s no better way to start your hot nerd summer than by checking them out.

Continue reading Kickstarter Wonk: June, 2021

What Does The Game Bring To The Table?

Over the last week or so there appeared the most recent incarnation of a frequent discourse, one about the quality of games correlating with their likelihood of success. Now, that’s bluntly and hilariously untrue, which is clear to anyone who has ever enjoyed a niche of anything in their life. In tabletop RPGs, though, it appears, from certain lenses, to even be anti-true. Games which make choices actively hostile to such simple traits as being able to play them still become sales successes, often becoming more successful than the indie games which old guard designers seem to snark at between requests for employment. Ultimately that’s not because TTRPG purchasers are irrational (I mean, they are, but not for the reasons we’re talking about here), but rather because they’re buying games for different reasons.

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Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 1

Fleeing the city in a vegetable truck? It’s going to be a weird night. Having two mercs shoot out the tires of the truck and drag the most obnoxious passenger into the trunk of a waiting car? Very weird night. Getting picked up by two bodybuilders in a box truck converted into a mobile clinic? Now you know you’ll be talking about this night for a good while.

As noted in our prologue, the misfit group of edgerunners known as CabbageCorp met coincidentally in the back of a truck while seeking new homes, new friends, and also maybe running for their lives. A somewhat hasty decision to accept a ride from Tyrone King and Doctor Kong would form the party in earnest; while they don’t need each other yet, they certainly can’t back out.

Continue reading Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 1

Everywhen Review

Generic RPGs are written for GMs. A game with a setting or a conceit can speak to anyone who sees it on the shelf or reads through its Kickstarter campaign, but a game with no setting has a tougher time marketing itself. Those of us who run games, though, see them for what they are: toolkits. A good generic RPG is the toolbox that lets you build a game, and every generic RPG is a different set of tools. GURPS is the five hundred pound box of every wrench and screwdriver imaginable. Cortex Prime is a massive array of dials and knobs, ready to be toggled for your campaign. Fate is a smart everyday carry pack, providing the fewest tools to cover the most situations. What about others? Where do other approaches fit in between these?

Everywhen is a genericized version of the popular swords and sorcery RPG Barbarians of Lemuria, and it would have escaped my notice had I not seen a well-known GURPShead on Reddit give it an unequivocal recommendation. Intrigued but skeptical, I checked it out. What I found was a game that hit the right medium crunch sweet spot but also had some design choices that made it easy for any GM, novice or experienced, to write exactly what they want with it.

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Kickstarter Wonk: May, 2021

Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! We’re all getting ready for vaccine summer, and it looks like the designers are too! We have another full ten-pack of Kickstarter campaigns here, including a number of first-timers who are putting forth really solid stuff. I’ve already put forth more money than I was planning to on several of the campaigns below, and I have a feeling after you read you may do the same. Keep a tight hold on your wallet, and let’s dive in.

Continue reading Kickstarter Wonk: May, 2021

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Review

Frank Herbert’s Dune is high in the science fiction pantheon. The novel combined originality and prescience in a way that has continued to inspire readers over the last 55 years; it has also defied adaptation. Both film versions of Dune (prior to the upcoming 2021 movie) were beautiful failures in their own right, and the version that never happened, plotted by psychedelic filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, was so ambitious that its lack of production still inspired a documentary. Dune’s RPG history is similarly troubled. Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium was designed by Last Unicorn Games and held up by licensing disputes. When Wizards of the Coast acquired Last Unicorn, they got permission to print any pending projects, and a 3000 copy print run of Chronicles of the Imperium was made. Apparently the entire run got scooped up on the con circuit and the game fell into obscurity after WotC scrapped further printing in favor of converting the whole thing to d20, which fortunately died on the vine in a new spate of licensing disputes. So, literally two decades later, Modiphius has the vaunted Dune license and has made good with Adventures in the Imperium, their latest 2d20 title.

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Weekend Update: 4/24/2021

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 4/24/2021

  1. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook
  2. Worlds Without Number
  3. Hard Wired Island
  4. Cyberpunk Red
  5. WFRP: Sullasara’s Spells of Unrivaled Utility

Top News Stories

The 50th Anniversary of the Tabletop Role-Playing Game: At the beginning of this week was the 50th anniversary of Dave Arneson’s first foray into fantasy scenarios for his ‘Braunstein’ wargames. It’s widely observed as the invention of the role-playing game as we know it.

Discussions of the Week

An Illustrated account of a Thousand Year Old Vampire Game: Tim, @dog_blink on Twitter, has been posting illustrations following his Thousand Year Old Vampire game. Check it out.

How to Narrate Sex Scenes Properly: Romance and sex are much better represented in RPGs than they were in the past, and this is a good thing. Over at r/rpg the Redditors have an extensive and thoughtful discussions about how to handle sex at the gaming table.

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

Wanderhome Review

There are certain things one takes for granted in a role-playing game. I’m not talking about anything as concrete as attributes or skills or levels, I’m talking about exogenous conflict, which is so omnipresent in traditional RPGs (and most non-traditional RPGs as well) that it’s invisible. Well of course there are monsters to fight. Well of course you need to define a ‘need’ in Fiasco. Well of course there’s scarcity in your apocalypse. Like many people I took this for granted until I saw a game that completely stepped away from it. No, the war is over, no one fights. No, people are inherently good, there are no monsters. No, you will have hospitality in every place you visit. When I first read Wanderhome, this twisted my mind a little. How does one play a game with so little conflict? And then I created a character. And then I immediately got it.

Continue reading Wanderhome Review