Category Archives: Articles

The Trouble with Canon

The most passionate fans of fictional properties are rarely satisfied with consuming them passively. Fanfic, the convention circuit, cosplay, and yes, roleplay are all ways that fans engage with their favorite shows, movies, and books, and it’s no surprise that tabletop RPGs based on fan favorite licenses have become immensely popular. Engaging with these licensed games can pose challenges, though. Every fictional world, be it that of Star Trek, Star Wars, Discworld, or Marvel, has a body of work upon which it’s based; this body of work is referred to as its canon. While the definition of canon dates far back and has roots in Christian theology, canon as we nerds typically refer to it is most directly traced back to Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes stories. Sherlock Holmes was an immensely popular character and also an early example of a character who was the subject of fan fiction, or fanfic. Sherlock Holmes is also the first example of trouble with canon, as there are Doyle-penned works which are not necessarily considered ‘canon’ Sherlock Holmes stories. Arguing over canon is one of the pillars of nerd discourse, propped up by numerous comic book retcons and bigger events like the recent revision of the Star Wars canon by Disney. To say the least, the arguments don’t necessarily stop when we sit down at the gaming table.

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Cortex Prime Review

Imagine for a moment that you’re back in May of 2017. Cannibal Halfling is six months old, and I’m still tagging all of my articles “Level One Wonk” because I felt more like a guest writer than a co-founder. I hadn’t started doing regular coverage of Kickstarter campaigns yet, so one week I decided to write an article about one that excited me: Cortex Prime. The campaign was about halfway over when the article was published, and I said some enthusiastic and somewhat hyperbolic things, like how Cortex Prime would be the next big thing after PbtA. What I’m trying to say is that I jinxed it. Cam, I’m so, so sorry.

Joking aside, this week is a special week for all of us who backed the Cortex Prime Kickstarter back in May of 2017: As of yesterday (October 20, 2020), Cortex Prime is done, it’s released, the campaign is actually over. After a number of roadblocks and obstacles, we have books in our hands and the game is actually on sale. And you know what? It was worth it. Like many other backers, I was already familiar with the Cortex system and its potential; in my case it was from Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. What Cortex Prime does is take that system and turn it into an immensely powerful toolbox, laying all the switches and dials bare in a way that GMs can actually use.

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Soldiers, Scoundrels, and Lost Acolytes: Why You Should Listen To Heroes of the Hydian Way

They’ve found themselves Dead in the Water and having to deal with Friends Like These. They’ve known there’s Trouble Brewing and tracked down the Mask of the Pirate Queen. They’re trying to find balance in the Force and working their way through the Chronicles of the Gatekeeper. Ever looked at a published adventure for Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying and wondered what kind of stories they could tell? Well this crew decided to find out for you, and no matter what cantina you drop into or freighter captain you talk with there’s a decent chance you’ll hear Why You Should Listen to Heroes of the Hydian Way.

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Thirsty Sword Lesbians – Kickstarter Review

Oftentimes in combat within tabletop roleplaying games, the dealing of damage and conservation of health points seems to be all that matters. The concept of getting in your hits and hoping to all hope that it’s more harm than the opponent gets in. It often treats opponents in the game as a roadblock, similar to video games. “You must get past me to receive more story.”

And there’s no harm in that, on the surface at least. A challenge can be enough of a motivation for fun. Strategizing and planning to surpass the foe in front of you so you can get what you want. Video games wouldn’t have made an entire industry and genre on the concept if it didn’t work. But, sometimes you don’t want a compilation of stats and HP. Sometimes you want an enemy you can empathize with. An enemy who has motivations, internal strife/virtues and a personality that makes you feel so many conflicting emotions about them. Above all, that’s it. You want a foe you can feel for. People in real life, no matter how detestable and wretched, are rarely as binary in “100% good or bad”. Like the saying goes: People contain multitudes.

While nearly every RPG can be used to achieve this goal of a complex and nuanced villain, I’ve yet to meet one that incentives it. A game that makes it an imperative of the message within. A game that damn near bakes it into every mechanic.

Until I played this game. When I joined the playtest for this RPG, I had such fun even in it’s beta stage. It was what I had been searching for in a fantasy RPG: a game where it’s not about how big your numbers are or the modifiers on your special sword. But about how your character feels about the world around them and people within.

This game is Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

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Agon Review

Fantasy RPGs borrow heavily from myth. The superstructure of character advancement in D&D has always intended to emulate character growth from humble beginnings to nearly godlike heroism. Where D&D takes this broad structure and uses it for its own unique version of fantasy, Agon goes back to the source. Agon is an RPG of mythic heroes, seeking to emulate epic poems of Ancient Greek heroes and their exploits. Where a game like D&D guides the action and the narrative in broad strokes, Agon uses a more structured set of procedures to play through the trials faced by the characters. Designers John Harper and Sean Nittner seek to provide a specific structure by which players address challenges, see the consequences, and grow in relation to their world. The result is something evocative and easy to play, but which may frustrate players used to the more open-ended approach of D&D and other older, more traditional RPGs.

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Rolling for Gender: Why I’m Angry At A D&D 1st Edition Magic Item

A long, long time ago, a man named Gary Gygax created D&D 1st edition. And while there were MANY problematic aspects of it that continue to proliferate and cling onto D&D and Wizards of the Coast at large, I am here today to talk about a particular part of the 1st Edition that always stuck with me since I became aware of its existence. 

The Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity is a curse item. As what was seen by many trans players back in this time as the closest thing to acknowledgement of them in the “World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game” , the sheer fact alone that it is classified as a curse item should show you what the game back in those days thought of people like me.

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Kickstarter Wonk: October, 2020

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends… Am I referring to world events? The continuing growth of the RPG Kickstarter market? Do I just really like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer? No matter what it is, we’re back again with Kickstarter Wonk for October of 2020! 2020 is slowly coming to a close, and the RPG market is slowly recovering…while making my 10-game articles would still be tough, I’m happy to say that the five game article format has forced me to make some tough decisions between definitely more than five great looking projects. This month we also have a bonus sixth game! Fellow Cannibal Halfling Maria’s game Hero Too: Super Edition is currently on Kickstarter, and while I think it’s great and deserves your pledges I’m noting the conflict of interest here just so no one gets huffy. In addition to these six projects of note, I’ve also reflected a bit on who the Kickstarter platform is for. People sometimes get grumbly when larger or more well-known companies use the platform, but it’s worth it to set the record straight a bit on the realities of financing game design.

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Exploring The Multiverse: Why You Should Listen to Otherwhere

It’s no secret I enjoy Masks: A New Generation. In particular, I enjoy the podcasts that have spanned outwards from the system. From the schooltime days of Unlabelled to the messy and oftentimes heavy narratives of Young Vanguard to the absurdist but potent style of Critical Bits. Masks has spawned a universe of podcasts that interconnect into different facets of the superhero genre.

But we’re not here today to talk about universes. We are here to talk about multiverses. The Big Two comic companies have ingrained the idea of parallel universes and spiderwebs of different realities into comic book canon. The idea that there isn’t just one Batman, but a whole cacophony of them. That in one universe Spiderman is your friendly neighborhood superhero. But in another he has become a flesh-eating zombie. It’s the concept of a multiverse that has allowed writers to explore radically different stories for their characters without throwing a gigantic wrench into canon.

And while podcasts such as Protean City have touched upon the multiverse premise (And believe me, the Why You Should Listen To Protean City is coming) none of them have made it THE premise for the storyline taking place.

That is, until May 27th, 2020. When a group of different teen heroes, some from the local reality, some from ones far off in nature and domain, met in a graveyard and begun journeying together to ask the question:

What if someone told you there isn’t just one world. That your world isn’t the only one…

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No Man’s Sky and Sandbox RPGs

On September 23rd, Hello Games released the Origins update to No Man’s Sky, the latest in roughly a dozen major content updates to the game since it was originally released about four years ago. These content updates have turned No Man’s Sky from an overhyped mess into possibly one of the most celebrated sandbox exploration games available in the digital space. No Man’s Sky is not worth talking about on this tabletop-focused site because of its crossover potential, but rather because of how both its design and post-hoc development have laid it bare in a system sense. No Man’s Sky has three interesting things going for it as a subject: First we saw it fail, then we saw it succeed, and it happens to do both of those things to a mode of gameplay commonly attempted in the tabletop space: the sandbox game.

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Alice is Missing – A Silent Roleplaying Game Review

Silent Falls is a small coastal town in the heart of Northern California. It’s quiet here, and since the recession a few years ago, people are not as friendly as they used to be. It’s been a rough few years for everyone. Alice Briarwood is a junior at Franklin Academy – the local high school – with a pretty decent number of acquaintances and friends, but as dawn rises on the first morning of winter break, nobody has seen or heard from Alice in three days. A friend returns to Silent Falls and reaches out, wondering at Alice’s silence, sparking off an effort by her loved ones to find her.  However, this is no normal storytelling game; during play, you won’t say a word. Instead, as characters scatter across Silent Falls to find Alice, a text group chat will be the only way to tell your tale. This is Alice is Missing – A Silent Roleplaying Game.

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