All posts by Aki

Using Fanfiction Tropes to Maneuver Canon in Roleplaying Games

Let’s face it, some of the most popular RPGs out there are part of popular franchises. It’s hardly something to complain about. Roleplaying comes out of investment in a story, and a lot of things that hook people is a universe in which they are already immersed. I don’t believe that it is an accident that we’ve written a number of articles that include the Star Wars, Mistborn, and Witcher RPGs, nor that there are numerous iterations of RPGs based off of pop culture phenomena (I am personally aware of Buffy, Firefly and Doctor Who RPGs) as well as my personal experience with GMs use Genesys as a universal system to build games in the Harry Potter and the Stormlight Archive universes. Even for systems that were always games first there is an impressive amount of lore that has been generated over the years in novels, such as the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden in the Forgotten Realms or Theo Bell in Vampire the Masquerade, and for any players these stories are distinctive part of what they love.

This leads to what I refer to as the “fanfic quandary”. The reason why you pick a work of fiction to base your own story on is that you want to immerse yourself in it, but how do you make your mark on that universe? Players generally want to have agency, want to be the heroes (or villains) of the day, but how do they do so when that work’s main character is the Chosen One.Well, the problem is not unique to RPGs. The aforementioned “fanfic” can get a bad rap, but quite a few have turned out interesting over the years, and as previously mentioned some have been officially licensed novels, so why not take a look at some of the techniques these writers use and see the potential benefits and pitfalls.

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Traveller: Behind the Claw Review

Exploration has been baked into humanity from our earliest history. It has inspired epic journeys, discoveries and legends that have shaped us. So, of course it would seem natural that our wanderlust and thirst for the unknown would lead us deep into the reaches of space. However, with that discovery has always come an immediate complication: who owns what’s newly discovered. It wouldn’t be humanity without quarreling over it, and with an entire sector of recently settled space, you better believe that there is room to move that petty bickering to a (literally) astronomical scale, and with Mongoose’s newest splatbook, Traveller: Behind the Claw, there is material for a resourceful GM to build for years.

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PAX Unplugged 2019: Day 3 Log

Well, I have a moment before things might be getting hectic, so I wanted to share some overall impressions and observations about the totality of PAX Unplugged so far. First, I want to say that overall I see a vast improvement in organization from last year. Lines are shorter, and there are more options and backups to keep people happy. The decision to keep one main entrance seems to be paying off dividends, in that people are processed a lot faster to get in the action. Do I miss being able to pop out exits for a bite at a local market without walking all the way back around? Maybe a little, but the overall wait time is shorter, and the end result means that I am hanging around the con and exploring more.

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PAX Unplugged: Day 2 Log

Well, today was a lot quieter and casual for me. I was doing today with a group of friends who…well, were less interested in cramming into events. And you know what: there is no wrong way to enjoy a con. People come for a variety of reasons, and while I had effectively jam packed myself yesterday, I wound up enjoying different parts of the con that I had actually missed out on. One of the nice things about PAX Unplugged is that there is a wide breadth of things to try, and while some require the dedication to be there at signup at the moment the doors open, there’s plenty to enjoy for people who just want to show up and have fun Continue reading PAX Unplugged: Day 2 Log

PAX Unplugged: Day 1 – Live Update Log

This article is a log updated periodically throughout the day, and then published when complete.


Arrival: 8 AM

First of all, an update and correction from my last scouting report. While we had been warned off the changes in entrances previously, for some reason it hadn’t sunk in. For those of you taking a train in, stops around 14th -16th streets will be superior than hiking over from elsewhere. In addition, Will Call has moved from the location originally sent out by email, and is now by the entrance hall. This means that everyone is all going to the same location, which, well…

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PAX Unplugged: A Local’s Guide

Ho adventuring gamers! We are on the eve of PAX Unplugged in downtown Philadelphia, and two of us fellow Cannibal Halflings will be lurking about. It seems that event organizers have failed to learn their lesson, and allowed Seamus (2017) and I (2018) to return for our second years in attendance. While both Seamus and I are excited, I have the advantage of actually living in the area for the last five years. It has been helpful for planning on my end, and it’s time to turn over some of those nuggets of wisdom to you dear readers to act as your man on the ground in advance to the upcoming invasion of gamers into the heart of a major American city. Hopefully these tips will help make your experience more enjoyable! 


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Vampire: The Masquerade 5E

It’s Devil’s night, and a warm wind is blowing. Carousers and arsonists swarm through the streets, thinking themselves at the top of the food chain. How wrong they are. Still, caution is deserved…all it takes is one of them getting a bit too happy with one of those smartphones, and suddenly new foes are on your doorstep. It used to be that a Kindred only had to worry about others of their kind, or some of the other supernatural creatures that bumped in the night. Mortals were catspaws, beneath notice, the few hunters more of a distraction for all but the most careless of the Kinde. That was before Vienna and London. Now, no Kindred with half a brain underestimates them…which seemingly excludes a shocking number of your Elders. Still, their (un?)timely Final Death serves a purpose: finally, finally, finally there are holes at the top, room to advance, to actually make some real change. But until then…well, needs must be met: A Beast you are, lest a Beast you become. You spy an increasingly drunk punk rocker type, working through his second bottle of liquor as he stumbles down a side street. Yes, he’ll do nicely…

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The Independents: Undying

I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.

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Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy Review

Not everyone is so lucky as to be an ace pilot the moment that they fall into the cockpit. Some have gotten as far as they have due to a lifetime of training and experience. Yet for all of their grizzled charm and “oh you sweet summer child” attitude, they had to start somewhere. Something had to hone those instincts and prepare them for the battle at hand, and this week, we get to find out what. Strap back in for this supplement of Evil Hat’s starfighter RPG Tachyon Squadron in Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy.

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Freeform Dramatic Roleplay

LARPs are all about getting dressed up, either with groups of people who got in heavily costumed and shouting spells while others wailed away on each with foam swords or actively plotting about the plots against their domains or the biggest threat to the Freehold with earnest index cards and play rock papers scissors, right? Well, just as there are innumerable styles of play, and people willing to experiment with design of more traditional tabletop formats, there are people who like to play around with how to run different styles of LARP, and I wound up stumbling into a freeform style that prioritizes how people get and stay in character, and what they do to make a story interesting entirely over mechanics.

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