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.

The Level One Wonk Holiday Special: 2018

Ho ho ho, holy hell that’s a lot of views! As we enter into the twilight of 2018 and as all of you are home with your families, it’s time once again to reflect on what the year has brought us. My year on the home front has been a difficult one (for reasons I need not get into here), but what we’ve been doing at Cannibal Halfling Gaming has been a continual bright spot for me no matter what else was going on.

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Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 10

Jethro saw her for the first time. In a clearing of the thickets that had occupied their dreams for so many weeks, stood a woman adorned in a cloak of feathers, astride a white horse.

“You are all getting closer. Eventually the time will come when you can decide to open the door.” Jethro shouted questions, but before he could get a reply, he awoke. While losing time was getting to the point of normalcy, Jethro had been gone for almost a week and a half, and the party was now far away from Montral’s Mine, sitting in a supply closet in the underground research complexes of the Wizard’s College of Glebhavern.

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Meet the Campaign: Straight Paranoia

Paranoia, West End Games’s RPG of comic dystopia, has become a meme in gaming circles, one of the few games with as strong a play identity as D&D itself. Shouts of ‘treason’ and ludicrous extensions of the color-based ranking system help evoke the feel of a Paranoia session, which tends to consist of different uses of the Alpha Complex backdrop as excuses for players to find more and more inventive ways to accuse each other of treason and/or being a communist or mutant, and then kill each other. Neither West End Games nor Mongoose Publishing, the publishers of the most recent edition of Paranoia, ever did anything to dissuade this. That said, the game has been designed to allow for something a tad more sophisticated.

It should go without saying that all text from this point hence is of ULTRAVIOLET clearance! Do not read, under pain of disintegration (or if you want hidden parts of the game to stay a surprise)!

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Kickstarter Wonk: December, 2018

Happy Hanukkah from Kickstarter Wonk! While it’s early for most people’s holiday season, there is still a dedicated group of designers out bringing their games to life on Kickstarter, waiting for a hearty Chag Sameach from your pledges. This month wasn’t too heavily populated, as is to be expected for the holiday season, but there were still a wide variety of excellent games available. Whether you’re looking for hard sci-fi or mythology or just a quick RPG party game, this month’s crop of games has got you covered.

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Wrath and Glory Review

When Fantasy Flight Games lost the Games Workshop RPG licenses, two properties were left in the lurch. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) was picked up by Cubicle 7, while Warhammer 40k’s RPG properties were grabbed by Ulisses Spiele, best known in the US for their reboot of TORG. Around the same time that the Fourth Edition of WFRP came out, a new game in the 40k universe was also released. Unlike WFRP 4e, Wrath and Glory steps away from the tried and true d100 system to create a game with 2010s sensibilities that still feels planted in the grim darkness of the future.

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Level One Wonk: Powered by the Apocalypse 201

Way back when, at the genesis of this site, I wrote a “Novice’s Guide to Powered by the Apocalypse”, a Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) 101, if you will. This article covered the basic mechanics and underlying assumptions of games written with the PbtA framework, and covered a few of the more popular games that were out at the time. Now, nearly two years later, PbtA is still growing, and has attracted many players to its fiction-forward, high-stakes style of gameplay. I’ve also run and played more PbtA games myself, and have noticed some really interesting elements that people have trouble engaging, take for granted, or even fight against. This 201 course to PbtA games should provide advice and information about getting the most out of the full range of PbtA games and campaigns.

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Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 9

Finally ascending from the mine of fire, stone, and mephits, the adventurers headed north towards the Imperial Shelter. They camped along the road, slept without incident, and made their way back to the river they had originally followed from the coast. The road crossed the river further inland, in an area they had not yet been in before. And as they prepared to cross a flooded causeway to continue on their way, they spotted a giant metal beast, drinking from the river. This bull didn’t eat grass…it was a Gorgon, which subsisted on ground up stones from its petrified prey. It saw the adventurers, and got ready to charge.

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Kickstarter Wonk: November, 2018

Man oh man, talk about a bumper crop this month! Nearly two dozen different Kickstarter campaigns, winnowed down to about 18 new games of note and then down to an even dozen . A top ten couldn’t fit all the games I wanted to write about, and I still cut out some really intriguing stuff. A new edition of Savage Worlds is being funded, and there’s a compilation of great sci-fi microgames called Four Ways to Die in the Future which, though it’s a reprint, is still worth checking out. If you’re looking for new games, though, here are those which I thought are most worth your attention.

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Strands of Fate Review

RPG design innovation is a slow, deliberate affair. For all the games which push the envelope, there are an equal number that go back over existing designs to tweak and adjust them. Even Fate, which represented a significant push on traditional mechanics when it first appeared 15 years ago, isn’t immune from this phenomena. Strands of Fate appeared on the market between when Spirit of the Century came out in 2006 and when Fate’s role as Evil Hat’s flagship was cemented with Fate Core in 2013. At the time, there wasn’t a generic version of Fate, and Strands of Fate sought to do that by expanding the mechanics and options available in existing Fate games like Spirit of the Century and Starblazer Adventures. When Fate Core did appear, not only were there now two generic versions of Fate, there were two vastly different versions of Fate.

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Table Fiction: High Impact Heroics, the Backstory: Gilbert “CryptoHertz” Philips

Have you been reading the High Impact Heroics Adventure Log? Wonder what got the team together, or why their secret base is under a game store? Well, this story won’t actually answer either of those questions. However, you can get an in-depth look into how Gilbert Philips became CryptoHertz, the Beacon and erstwhile team leader. Confused? So am I, and I wrote the thing! The High Impact Heroics Prologue should give you some background, or if you’re already familiar you can jog your memory with the most recent edition!

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