Category Archives: Articles

Bargain Bin Gaming: April, 2020

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk! This month we’ll take a look at ten Kickstarter campaigns that definitely exist, that people can definitely pledge money to! 

April Fools! Now, fooling aside, there’s a very good reason that there’s no Kickstarter Wonk this month, namely that there are no Kickstarters (not *no* Kickstarters, but you know my spiel). This is not because of any peculiarity in the RPG world, but rather a peculiarity in the real world. In less euphemistic terms, a global pandemic. On one hand, creators have had to refocus their time into activities that keep food on the table. On the other, many people who would typically have a budget for things like Kickstarter projects are finding their money diverted as large chunks of the economy shut down, and jobs along with them. Because of this, many creators have determined that there’s way less money to go around for Kickstarter campaigns, greatly increasing the likelihood that any given campaign will fail. Therefore, we’re going to pivot this month, and look at different ways that the cash-strapped and/or stir crazy can get a gaming fix for not many dollars.

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March Masksness: When Podcasts Come Together

As you may have guessed from my previous articles, I enjoy podcasts. RPG actual play podcasts in particular. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional stream. But podcasts have just such a relaxing quality to them that I can’t understate. The fact you just whip out your phone, pop in some headphones and throw one on. It’s fun to have these stories pour into your ears.

And, as you may have also noticed, I enjoy Masks: A New Generation. It’s easily my favorite RPG and in my opinion, does the best job of emulating superheroes of any tabletop RPG on the subject. It’s just good teen superheroes that are a mask (See what I did there) for the angst and drama of teenage life.

So it should come as now surprise that Masks actual plays are one of my favorite things in the world. I was waiting on bated breath for season 3 of Young Justice for so long, and discovering there’s a whole catalogue of stories that deliver the hits of that show so regularly was more than welcome.

And when James Malloy of Protean City Comics and Stop. Hack. And Roll! Podcasts set up a cross podcast tournament based around voting polls for Masks podcasts, I was ecstatic. I was writing fanfics, interacting with the community and making memes (God, did I make so many memes) left, right and center on Twitter. It’s an amazing time to see a community come together to just have fun.

And I thought:

“Hey! I write articles on awesome subjects. And this is an awesome subject. Why don’t I write an article on this?”

And surprise, surprise, I did! So sit back. Relax, Open up a favorite drink. And maybe you’ll find a podcast here to listen to.

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Around the OSR in Five Games

Few segments of the RPG fandom are as misunderstood as the OSR. At least, that’s what they keep saying on Twitter. The OSR, or “Old-School Renaissance”, are gamers who appreciate both the mechanics and implied playstyle of older editions of D&D, any of the TSR versions but usually Basic D&D and usually the versions of it (B/X, BECMI, or Rules Cyclopedia) that existed roughly from 1981 to 1991. The real problem with the OSR is a marketing problem; in the past it has been hard to distinguish those genuinely interested in the play philosophies of older D&D from those who were merely retreating to older games. Every time I’ve tried to look into the OSR and OSR games, I’ve come away asking the same question: “why are there so many hacks of Basic D&D and why exactly should I care?”

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We Are Venom: Using Symbiotes (And Horror) in Masks

Spiderman in the Marvel Comics has had a lot of memorable foes. From the more comical such as Shocker and Rhino. To the deathly serious in Green Goblin and Kingpin. Peter Parker and his many fellow Spider-Folks have no shortage of villains who left a mark on the minds of fans. But for me, it was always one villain that was memorized in this ol’ skull the most. Or rather, as I soon came to discover, a group. More like a plague when you think about it.

The Symbiotes. These alien menaces would bind to the most heroic of crusaders, granting them a boon of immense power. At the cost of what made them so heroic. They would prey upon the impulses that, in moderation, make us human. Anger. Hate. Jealousy. Pain. Only, they weren’t content with those impulses remaining moderate. They would take the knob and wind it all the way up to the max. These symbiotes would turn heroes into villains.

And as a kid, that both fascinated and scared the ever living hell out of me. These beings were like the zombie virus storylines on adrenaline. They don’t just turn you into a monster. They do it slowly. They whittle away at who you are, amplifying the parts you’d rather forget and minimizing the aspects you hold dear, bit by bit. They turn your love to obsession. They turn your courage to fanaticism. They turn you into…..well, NOT-you.

And when I think of the idea of horror stories in Marvel, I can’t get closer than the idea of a well done symbiote story. Barring Immortal Hulk, cos that’s friggin’ amazing.

So, let’s discuss how to do a symbiote story in Masks. Let’s discuss horror in Masks: A New Generation.

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System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Organizations

We are here yet again with System Hack! Cyberpunk Chimera is a construction project that’s really gotten off the ground; all the important parts that turn a series of articles into a game have at least been sketched out or brainstormed. There are some key elements, though, that shift the focus of the game in the direction that I’m most interested in. There are two parts of the Cyberpunk genre which are often overlooked in RPG mechanics, either because they’re considered “setting elements” or because they aren’t part of what makes the genre science fiction. These are the cities and the corporations, and their centrality is just as true in games as it is in literature and film.

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A Glimpse Into The Vault: The Stars Align

The sun starts to go down, dusk begins to fall, and the stars start to come out. As true night begins, the star begin to flicker . . . and if you’re lucky and have a sharp eye, you just might spot a shooting star! Sounds like a pretty great night, right? Well it’s also a pretty great board game, where the first person to spot five shooting stars wins! This is The Stars Align, designed by Matthew Radcliffe and Sean Fenemore and published by Breaking Games!
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Playing Through Actual Play: The Makeup of Actual Plays

Us RPG fans are a creative bunch. We kind of have to be for this hobby. It’s the lifeblood of it, isn’t it? You gotta think of what your character says when their best friend reveals a deep dark secret to you. You need to come up with a quick witted comeback to an insult from the mercenaries in the tavern who are just begging to have their teeth kicked in. You embody a character. And that requires creativity.

And the thing about creativity? It’s entertaining. We’ve all shared a deep laugh when someone at the our game table makes a joke that just fits so well for that scene. We wait on baited breath when our players finally confront that baron who’s been making their lives hell. We see these stories being played out in front of us. And even when we are not directly participating, it’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s a story.

And what’s to stop us from letting those on the outside of the table engage with these stories too?

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The Trouble With Worldbuilding

In theory we all know what worldbuilding is. The process of creating a fictional world isn’t technically related to role-playing games, but it has become inextricably intertwined with the hobby, given the preponderance of science fiction and fantasy settings in the most popular games. In considering and examining worldbuilding, I’m not going to spend a lot of word count talking about what it is, or even how to do it well. Instead, I’m going to talk about how worldbuilding affects RPGs specifically, which boils down to a lot of mistakes, missed opportunities, and general poor form.

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A Glimpse Into The Vault: Crystallo

A nefarious Black Dragon has imprisoned six innocent magical creatures deep in its cavernous lair, trapping them with its crystal magic. You are their only hope: you must explore the caverns, find the creatures, and free them by using the Dragon’s own crystal magic against it. Along the way you might find treasure to aid you in your efforts, but beware. Even if you free all of the creatures, you’ll still have to deal with the Black Dragon itself, and it won’t go down without a fight. Brought to us by Light Heart Games and Zafty Games, this is the single player puzzle and card game of fantastical creatures and crystal magic, Crystallo!

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Back To School: Why You Should Listen To Unlabelled

There’s an amazing thing with seeing yourself in the works you enjoy. It’s beyond just making you feel seen. It shows the strength within you. That you can do it too. That there’s people blazing a path, waiting for you to join. That you belong. That you’re not alone. Now, before I get really into waxing-Shonen anime, I think it’s important to delve into today’s article. Yes, it’s another Masks: A New Generation topic. Yes, it’s an actual play podcast. And yes, you’re gonna freaking love listening to it.

Where Critical Bits is phenomenal at matching the bizarre and wacky with serious and satire, this podcast excels at the grounded feeling of so many things. Growing up in a new school. Being a trans girl. Having friends who you can depend on. And being a superhero student.

Wait, the last one’s only true if you go to U.A. Or in the case of these three girls, Phoenix Academy.

This is Unlabelled. And it is in my opinion, the brightest rising actual play right now.

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