Category Archives: Articles

System Hack: A Not-Advancement System for PbtA

Every creative endeavor has a ‘how’ and a ‘why’. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, your project will have something you’re trying to do or say, and then a method by which you do or say it. A couple weeks ago, I meditated on the prevalence and necessity of advancement in RPGs, coming to the conclusion that advancement as a story concept in games is a truism, a trope, and not necessarily a requirement. That article provided me with a ‘why’; today we’re going to talk about one potential ‘how’.

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Kickstarter Wonk: July, 2020

Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! As we enter into July, the world shows no sign of getting less interesting…and I mean that in the proverbial curse sort of way. Still, though, there are Kickstarters being launched and games being funded! Like before, we’ll take a look at a reduced list of Kickstarter campaigns, and hopefully add some valuable flavor to the discussion. Remember that with everything going in the world, often creators need the support to continue creating, so if you have the means, look for ways to help the creators that enrich your life, whether it’s through Kickstarter, itch.io, DriveThruRPG, Patreon, or one of the other platforms out there.

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Level One Wonk: Advancement

How much of a meme is RPG advancement? It’s so much of a meme that it’s right there in my pseudonym. Levels, experience points, and the various versions of same filtered through the ‘TSR don’t sue me’ lens have been considered inseparable from the notion of a tabletop RPG pretty much since D&D sold actual copies. The notion of awarding experience points (or XP) has become so ingrained in the concept of an RPG that tack-on advancement mechanics are *the* thing added to video games to give them “RPG elements”. The reason why this is the borrowed element is fairly clear: experience points have always been and continue to be an elegant mechanic to turn a game into a Skinner Box, to get us to keep pushing the lever in modern video games with perhaps repetitive mechanics. So why do they continue to be a mainstay of tabletop RPGs, where there should be more going on than just watching numbers go up? Well, read on.

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Secrets of the Crucible Review

In 2018, 25 years after the debut of Magic: The Gathering, Fantasy Flight Games released Keyforge, a game from Magic designer Richard Garfield. Keyforge is a hybrid between a trading card game like Magic and a living card game like Netrunner, which has no trading aspect and includes all the cards needed to play. Keyforge is sold in complete, playable decks, so the card trading and acquisition (and significant financial outlay) aspects are reduced, though not eliminated. In 2020, Fantasy Flight decided the Keyforge setting was strong enough to be the basis for the next setting book for the Genesys RPG. And in June of 2020, my copy of that book, Secrets of the Crucible, showed up on my doorstep. Time to take a look.

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The Kids Aren’t All Right: Why You Should Listen To Rollout

I’ve recommended a few Masks: A New Generation actual plays at this point. From the amazing school days of Unlabelled. To the always entertaining and oft-times bizarre Critical Bits. And these stories, for all their hilarity, are no strangers to dark moments. However, today we are going to be talking about an actual play that began as something quite light only to transition to a very real dark side. And did it oh-so-well.

Today, we are going to be talking about Rollout Podcast. In particular, we are going to be talking about their longest running and, in my opinion, the most beautifully painful series: The Young Vanguard.

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Bundle for Racial Equality and Justice – Spotlight Two

When I stopped updating our first spotlight for Itch.io’s Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality it had slightly more than 1,000 video and tabletop games and had raised about $3 million to be split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund. As I write this, less than a week later, the Bundle consists of 1704 items and has raised more than $7 million. That is, frankly, a staggering effort that shows what a community – one that often exists on the edges of its respective industries and has a larger percentage of marginalized creators – can do when rallied to a good cause. Millionaires and corporations have sacrificed and given less, and we’d be wise to keep that in mind.

 

Still, the actual contents of the Bundle is still staggering by itself, and after picking Chalice, For the Honor, and Dragonhearts out of the haystack Maria was good enough to point me towards two more that will be worth your time to check out – whether they’re currently sitting on your dragon’s-hoard-sized bundle of charity or you need one last incentive to pitch in as the Bundle winds down.

.  Continue reading Bundle for Racial Equality and Justice – Spotlight Two

Kickstarter Wonk: June, 2020

Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! We are technically a week late, yes, but these are not normal times. While I do want to keep the focus here on new and upcoming games, the fact is that we’re in a time of upheaval, a time to throw some weight behind forces that have been working for justice and equality in one form or another for decades. Now, the tabletop roleplaying community is neither at the forefront of this nor has really been all that great at the equality and diversity thing over the years, truth be told. In spite of that, there are many people in our community coming together to support both those who are protesting right now as well as those victimized by the pervasive racism we see every day. To keep this slightly gaming relevant, I’d encourage all of you to check out the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io, and know all proceeds are split between the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Community Bail Fund.

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Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality – Spotlight One

Right now, brave protesters across the world are standing up and fighting for the rights of the far too often overlooked Black community, campaigning to dismantle white supremacy and ending the authoritarian reign of police brutality. And we here at Cannibal Halfling have nothing other than complete and utter respect and support for these brave protesters. And many others are stepping up to help support these courageous fighters. In particular, today we are going to talk about the Itch Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality. 

Clocking in at currently over 1000 games (it started with 700+), this bundle can be yours for a five dollar purchase. Of which all proceeds go towards NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund, split evenly. As of this writing, it sits at an amazing $2.8 $3 million accrued so far.

This an amazing bundle of games that has a commercial value of over $3000, all for $5. Some of these games alone are worth five times as much as the bundle by themselves. But, the amount of phenomenal products you get for your donation can be overwhelming to sort through. So, these series of Spotlight articles hope to help sort through and show which ones would stand out the most to your interests. And while you’re buying it, consider buying some as a gift to your friends. Or paying above the minimum. 

Cos it’s damn sure worth it for the cause.

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Degenesis: Rebirth Review

Let’s say you want an original game. D&D is played out, Star Wars requires dealing with Star Wars fans, and Cyberpunk seems like 1989 cosplay. You’re tired of all these tropes, you say, you want something built from the ground up to be new and strange. Let’s say that this game exists. It’s free, even, and the free PDF is filled with gorgeous art. The entire book is gorgeous because the publisher is a design studio first, and happens to be an exclusive partner with Riot Games. It’s even a second edition, with rules revamped to improve speed of play. This sounds perfect, you think. What’s the catch? Well, there are 720 pages to read and since it is wildly original, you need to read all of it. Welcome to Degenesis: Rebirth.

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System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Conclusion

In March of 2019, I began a project with a simple premise. After having played Cyberpunk 2020 for 15 years, I wanted to create a game that took everything I loved about the system and recast it into a game designed for me and how I run games. Now, 14 months later, I’m happy to say that the first stage of this project is complete, and another set of System Hack articles is coming to a close.

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