Category Archives: Articles

Meet the Campaign: Anti-Boredom part 2

The role-playing hobby is an embarrassment of riches. There are so many games, so many game ideas, and in contrast to that, only so much time. You don’t need to be all that prolific to reach a number of campaigns you want to run that will take literally your entire remaining life…and do so even if you’re just in your 30s. It’s from this massive buffet that we want to find one dish we can savor; that’s the concept of anti-boredom.

If you were here with us last time, you saw a discussion about the plots and premises that can feed a long-running, deep, and memorable campaign. Today, we’re going to start executing on our anti-boredom campaign by figuring out what support we need to make it happen. There are so many games under the sun, but some are better suited to long-running games than others, and an even smaller number still can truly support the breadth of play that will keep you, the multi-genre, multi-system, and ultimately very easily distracted GM, from abandoning them.

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On Character Creation

Role-playing games are games about characters: Who they are, what they do, and what happens to them. In most games, a character is the lever through which the player interacts with the world, and even in broader games the actions of characters are still primary in terms of what happens. What this ends up meaning is that game setup for a role-player, the act of character creation, takes on much more importance than setting up would in most board, card, or other tabletop games. 

Character creation is game setup, yes, but it’s also a game in and of itself, and was the solo act of role-playing well before solo games were popularized. Making characters is fun, and many of us who either couldn’t find people to play with or had more desire to game than time would make sheaves of characters who would never be played. As this was the one way everyone could interact with RPGs, friends to play with or not, it created a shift towards games with interactive and evocative character creation systems. Making choices was fun, though rolling random dice and seeing what you got could be fun too.

So where are we at with this? Character creation has broadened significantly since the days of D&D, and games now have longer, shorter, simpler, and way more complicated character creation methods. Each one generates different results and puts you in the head of your character in a different way, and not just because of math. This past week I had a gaming weekend with my primary gaming group, and as preparation I made characters for games of Legend of the Five Rings, Twilight:2000, and a couple others. It was the first time in a long time I had sat down to make a really involved character, and it made it clear that character creation can provide a lot more than stats if you want it to.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: August, 2022

Welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival for August! You know what time it is, it’s…well, you might not know what time it is, because while yes, it’s ZineQuest, 2022 is both the first and last year ZineQuest will take place in August. It’s ultimately a little confusing, which may be why Kickstarter moved next year’s ZineQuest back to February before this one even happened! Nevertheless, it’s happening, and there are a lot of zines to go through, just like every year.

Because it’s August it’s GenCon, which means that usually crowdfunding channels are a bit quiet as many designers and publishers look to the con for promotion. This does seem to be true this year, though there are major campaigns on each of the competing platforms which are worth a look.

The big news under the carnival tent, though, is ZineQuest. It is day three as of this writing, and the initial flood of projects looking to start strong on August first are already out in the world. How are things going?

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I Have The High Ground Review – Dueling Wits and Flourished Capes

You might be knights or fencers with your blades crossed for sport or mortal combat. But what if you were hackers vying for control of a contested server? A murderer and the aggrieved loved one avenging their victim? What if you’re assassins and ex-girlfriends, or in a boxing match, or a bar fight, or even just a school talent show? So, who will you be? What will you do? There’s only one way to find out. Pick your weapons, push the limits, flourish your capes whenever justifiable, and play through a session of I Have The High Ground from Jess Levine!

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Doctors and Daleks Review

Gamers have long memories. In the early 2000s, the first iteration of the Open Gaming License was released by Wizards of the Coast, and accompanied by the ‘D20’ branding, which allowed many games to claim official compatibility with the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. While this new era in licensing created some new and interesting games, it also created a lot of, well, garbage. This large quantity of garbage combined with Wizards handing out the ‘D20’ branding to essentially anyone combined to erode consumer confidence in the brand. Unfortunately, D&D was the biggest game in the industry at the time (much like it is now), so this, combined with some misplaced faith in the brand on the part of game stores and publishers, caused the ‘D20 bust’. Books didn’t sell, publishers and game shops went bankrupt, and Wizards…well, they published 3.5e and went on their merry way.

The point of recounting this is that the D20 bust is one of the root causes of distrust in the current crop of games developed using the D&D 5e ruleset. Because D&D is the largest, most successful RPG brand, it stands to reason that associating yourself with that brand is a way to make more money, regardless of the quality of your game, and regardless of whether or not your game aligns with the mechanics of D&D. It also doesn’t help that one of the recent high-profile games using the 5e ruleset, the Dark Souls RPG, was released in a pretty messy state, giving it no real chance to disprove the notion that D&D was a poor choice for emulating the ‘Soulslike’ video game genre (whether or not it could have otherwise is an open question).

It was in this environment that Cubicle 7 announced ‘Doctors and Daleks’, a Doctor Who role-playing game built on the 5e ruleset. The announcement was met with a fair amount of criticism, much of it baseless given that there wasn’t a game yet. The surface-level thinking, though, made sense. Doctor Who, especially the newer runs which started with Christopher Eccleston playing the Doctor, is a fantastical series about time travel, the history of the world, and a generally optimistic outlook on coexistence with life all over the universe. The Doctor has a code against killing, gadgets like the TARDIS and the Sonic Screwdriver have capabilities mostly defined by the scripts in that season, and the stories rapidly shift from small and intimate vignettes involving Vincent Van Gogh to apocalyptic, universe-ending plots where the Doctor faces off with the Master, or the Daleks, or the Cybermen. Dungeons and Dragons, on the other hand, is a game where the rules are roughly 90% predicated on killing things and taking their stuff. The mismatch observation is a fair one.

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Meet the Campaign: Anti-Boredom Pt 1

When writing, one of the most important things to know is the audience you’re writing for. And while sometimes it may be obvious, it may also be that writing for a subset of your audience helps focus what you’re doing and clarify your intent. In writing for Cannibal Halfling Gaming, sometimes the audience I write for is myself. No matter what I write about any given week, I go either run or play a session with my home group nearly every week, and just like so many gamers I’m always looking for things to make my games better. So it was when I wrote ‘The Curse of the Wandering Eyes’. The person who the curse had afflicted in my life was myself, and I still am tempted by so many games and campaign ideas that I come across.

When considering my affliction, I asked myself a question. How would you structure a campaign in such a way that it would keep your attention? What would you actually need to go back to the same storyline week after week? This series of articles is an attempt to answer that question. There are certain gifts that a longer campaign gives, mostly in the form of more and more robust character and setting development. Growing attached to a character that you’ve seen grow and change over months and years is an amazing part of role-playing games, and at the same time seeing a setting really become familiar and ‘lived-in’ engenders a lot of affection for and attachment to the campaign. Getting there, though, can be tough, and it requires some long-term thinking and planning.

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