Category Archives: Editorial

Reviews, opinions, and whatever else strikes our fancy!

Star Trek Adventures In-Depth Review

Gamemaster’s Log, Stardate 57252.7. It has been several months since the launch of the New Orleans-class starship U.S.S. Verrazzano, NCC-07302, from the Foggy Peak system. Since that time, I have seen her crew serve with distinction in accordance with the finest traditions of Starfleet. I have also seen them called before a board of Admirals to review their actions and directive violations, and while impressive the fact that no fewer than three starbases have had to be commissioned to deal with the discoveries from their missions is beginning to put a notable dent in the power requirements for the local sector’s industrial replicators. As the Verrazzano is currently away, responding to a distress call from a Vulcan Expeditionary Group, I have decided that this is a fine opportunity to review their so-called ‘Star Trek Adventures’ in-depth, to better understand how they have and will continue to boldly go where no one, not even the rest of Starfleet, has gone before.

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RPGs Have Two Sets Of Rules

Role-playing games are different from any other type of analog game because of their relationship with rules and procedures. When you sit down to play a board game, or a card game, or even a game of darts, you follow a set procedure to determine an outcome. Wargames took half the steps away from board games by introducing rulesets which could be adapted to a wide range of scenarios, the only limits being how many minis you had and how big your sand table was. The early ‘Braunstein’ campaigns started the other half, walking away from simple win/lose conditions in scenarios. For the role-playing game to turn from a weirdo version of wargaming a couple nerds were running to a repeatable, salable product, existing wargaming rules had to be supplemented with rules for writing and executing free-form scenarios which very much didn’t resemble battles any more. Every traditional role-playing game, from the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons onward, has rules for players and rules for the person running the game.

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SLA Industries 2E Review

Are you not satisfied with the dystopia in your life? Is Paranoia too tongue-in-cheek? Is Dark Heresy not tongue-in-cheek enough? Is Cyberpunk just too grounded for what you had in mind? Well, loyal readers, there is another dystopia out there. Combine Paranoia’s sense of humor, Dark Heresy’s grim and dark setting, and Cyberpunk 2020’s love of guns, and you get something altogether different but still, well, ‘British Isles’ in its sensibilities. It’s time to freshen up your resume and go work for SLA Industries.

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So You Don’t Want To Play D&D

It’s wildly common on Reddit: A thread complaining about the popularity of D&D, or a thread complaining about 5e being hacked into things it doesn’t work well for (I am guilty of that second one). Half the commenters will agree that yes, there are so many other games out there, and people should broaden their horizons! The other half will say that if people are having fun with D&D, why must you rain on their parade! And the fights continue, eventually, like they do in all discourse, repeating themselves. But you out there, venty thread creators and venty thread agree-ers, I see you. I know the real reason you’re creating these threads. You, personally, don’t want to play D&D, and either you can’t find a group to play something else with, or, more likely, your home table has you outvoted. Or, if you’re in a slightly better position, maybe you see these threads online and simply can’t imagine going back to playing only D&D (and you like fighting on the internet).

No matter the reason, I know the pain of playing a game you’re not really interested in because you still want to hang out with your friends and roll dice. There are ways to diversify your gaming experiences and be a happier gamer in general. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t involve complaining on the internet. It also doesn’t involve slagging on D&D.

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The Elusive Shift Review

Jon Peterson has done it again, my friends. The author of Playing at the World, arguably the most comprehensive history of the creation of Dungeons and Dragons on the market, has released another book. While Playing at the World covered anything and everything that led up to the first publication of Dungeons and Dragons in 1974, Peterson’s second book, The Elusive Shift, focuses narrowly on the time it took for ‘role-playing game’ to become an established medium. The story of how D&D and indeed the tabletop RPG itself matured in this roughly five year period is fascinating, eye-opening, and ends up asking a lot of questions about the state of the hobby some forty years later.

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Four Years of Cannibal Halflings

Cannibal Halfling Gaming has been working to Bring Games and Gamers Together for four years, and this last one has been by far the strangest. Despite everything, while it has definitely been a year of two steps back, I think in the ways that mattered we managed to take three steps forward. Let’s take a look at what we’ve done, and have a think about where we’re going next.

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Vaesen Review

For reasons not entirely clear to me, I have never reviewed a Year Zero game. The Year Zero engine is Fria Ligan’s centerpiece, and maybe even their house system as well. Named for Mutant: Year Zero, the game system powers designs as widely varied as the Alien RPG and Tales from the Loop. And now Free League Publishing’s Vaesen. Vaesen is new territory for the Year Zero engine and indeed mainstream tabletop RPGs in general, being a game of fairy tale horror and specifically Scandinavian fairy tale horror at that. While fairy tale horror may not seem like the most natural fit for a system better known for maps, bases, and colored dice, Vaesen ends up being a pretty wonderful take on the system, its juxtaposed strengths working well provided that you buy into the high concept.

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Factions 1 Review – Organizations in Genesys from Keith Kappel

Let’s be blunt: things have been very quiet on the Genesys front lately. The switch from Fantasy Flight Games to EDGE Studio has not exactly hit the ground running, although in fairness a lot of that can be attributed to disruption caused by the pandemic. Still,  that means that aside from promises and rumors – good money says Twilight Imperium will be the next IP tapped for the system – there’s been nothing coming out . . . except what’s found in the Genesys Foundry.

Player characters often find themselves interacting with much larger groups, organizations, and factions – but how does a character actually gain prestige and support in such groups? Sure, many games can handle that narratively, but what if you want something crunchier? Out of the Foundry and the mind of FFG-veteran Keith Ryan Kappel comes Factions 1, a Faction Talent Supplement for Genesys!

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Electric Bastionland Review

Role-playing games are rooted in rulesets which provide a simulation to help determine what happens in-game. In most traditional games, this simulation is, in broad strokes at least, based on physics; the game provides rules intended to reflect a world which players find consistent and believable. In many recent indie games, the simulation is based on narrative; the rules define what happens next based on what makes the story either adhere to a given narrative schema or, in some cases, just more interesting. What about the middle ground, though? What would it look like if a game were simulating tropes rather than physics, but of a setting rather than a storyline? It would look an awful lot like Electric Bastionland.

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The Trouble With Discourse

For as long as tabletop RPGs have existed, people have wanted to talk about them. At the very very beginning we had amateur press associations (APAs), zines, and good old mailing lists; today we have forums, Discord, and Twitter. As our media have changed, so too has how we talk about games and what ends up coming to the forefront of any day’s given discussion. Discussing RPGs is very much like discussing anything else, except the number of people involved is often much smaller. Combine this with the excessive bandwidth of our platforms, and…well, let’s say I could cause way more of an uproar on Twitter with the right mention than anyone ever could have writing an inflammatory letter to Dragon Magazine.

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