Category Archives: Editorial

Reviews, opinions, and whatever else strikes our fancy!

Deviant: the Renegades Review

Role-playing games are like most media in that they tend to resonate with the largest audience when peddling a blend of novelty and comfort. That said, the hobby has a history of lashing out when too much novelty is introduced. Consider Fourth Edition D&D. Or Traveller:The New Era. Or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Third Edition. I could go on, but the point is fairly clear: Gamers like new things, as long as they aren’t actually that different from the old things they already have.

Say, what’s been going on in the World of Darkness recently?

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Fallout: The Roleplaying Game Review

RPG licensing. RPG licensing never changes. In some ways it’s amazing that it took until 2021 to get an honest Fallout tabletop RPG, given the original game’s mechanical dalliance with GURPS and other design elements borrowed heavily from pen and paper games of the time. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until Fallout 4 that the series turned back to its roots and, with the help of Modiphius, got an official licensed port. Fallout the Role-Playing Game leans heavily on the most recent iteration of the video game series; both the mechanics and the setting borrow heavily and almost exclusively from Bethesda’s Fallout 4 for source material. Comparing this game to a Bethesda game ends up being quite apt, though; like most of the modern software titles released by this game’s licensor, Fallout the Role-Playing Game shows a lot of promise and appears at first glance to be ported well into its new mechanics…but in reality it’s hampered by a raft of grave unforced errors in editing and product management. So is it endearingly buggy, or is it hopeless? Let’s take a look.

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Generic RPGs: What’s Out There

There’s a world of games out there, but they still just scratch the surface. Maybe your favorite book series or movie hasn’t caught the eye of anyone making RPG adaptations. Maybe you have your own spin on a popular genre that you just can’t pull off with an existing game. Or maybe you just want to run something wild and straight from your own head. No matter the reason, if a game off the shelf doesn’t quite do it for you, you’re looking for a generic RPG.

We’ve talked a bit about generic RPGs before, reviewing Cortex Prime and Everywhen, discussing Fate, and even using GURPS as an example text for looking at how to use generic games. This article is less about what to do with generic games, though, and more about how to find the right one for you. We’re going to discuss three broad types of generic games: Engines which are designed to model as many situations with as few rules as possible, Codexes which use a simple base ruleset and then expand it with a wide library of additional mechanics, and Chassis which take more traditional setting-driven RPGs, strip out the specific parts, and then (hopefully) build back up to something useful. The ‘Chassis’ generic RPG is the most common and popular, but the other two design modes may very well have more to offer the prospective game master.

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Avatar Legends Quickstart Review

Water… Earth… Fire… Air. Long ago, Avatar: The Last Airbender told the story of a nascent master of all four elements and the group of young heroes that helped him save the world. Then everything changed when the Legend of Korra brought us the tale of his successor and her many trials and tribulations. But then, as these things go, that journey ended and that world vanished from the screen. Seven years passed, with the story continuing in novels and comics, but now we’ve discovered a new window into the Avatar world. Magpie Games is telling the story this time, and the prologue is the Quickstart for their newest roleplaying game: Avatar Legends!

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Here’s A Health To The Company – Saying Goodbye To Campaigns And Characters

Peren walked off into the shadows, the Mark of Death on his back and Erandis d’Vol ahead of him. Alek Dacar d’Cannith walked into the Silver Flame and began to shape it into something that creates as  often as it smites. Verdeloth took his place in what had once been Oalian’s grove, becoming the next Grand Druid of the Wardens of the Wood and literally putting down roots. Capax declined to return to Xen’drik and instead hit the open road, ready for whatever adventure was next . . . with his sweetheart at his side. It took eight years of real time, but the adventurers of the Stormhold Guild finally accomplished their goals, achieved their Prophecy-marked destinies, and went their separate ways.

Darn it all, I miss them.

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The Long-Term Gaming Group

Plot Grenades. Immanuel Moments. “Hiyo, Tom here!” Most readers won’t exactly understand the meaning of any of these, but for a small group of people each one elicits its own strong reaction. That group is my gaming group, who I’ve been playing with in one incarnation or another for 16 years. Over that period of time we’ve developed our own lore, traditions, and yes, a thick haze of inside jokes.

In some ways, a gaming group is no different than any other group of friends who share a hobby. You could develop inside jokes, stories, and catchphrases about board games, or hiking, or motorcycles. The thing that’s different, though, is that role-playing games come with an immediate emotional engagement. That’s exactly why people’s preferences are so specific, and why people are so defensive about them.

If we assume you’ve done everything right, found a group of likeminded players and opened the lines of communication to help hone your shared experience, then you’re in a good place to have your fellow players become close friends through the experiences you share. But the reason this is an article is because I strongly believe that gaming with friends is an elevated experience, and that your core gaming experience should be with people who are your friends. So let’s talk about gaming with friends, and about the things that can make a ‘gaming group’ an entity stronger than any one session or campaign.

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Aberrant Second Edition Review

I don’t review a lot of new editions, at least not of games we’ve already reviewed. While everyone remembers the giant step changes like D&D 4e, Cyberpunk v3, and WFRP 3e, most edition changes are relatively small. Reviewing the playtest version of Pathfinder 2e way back when required very careful reading to pull out the changes that would be most apparent to players of the first edition, and that was a more significant revision than many games receive. 

Aberrant is one of very few games we’ve actually reviewed multiple editions of; the only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Cyberpunk, and Cyberpunk 2020 was given a full review only in the context of the Cyberpunk Chimera System Hack series. Aberrant, though, is kind of fascinating. I spent some time jumping between Ari’s review of 1e and the new core rulebook and realized that while many elements of the game have been preserved, there is a core change to how the game is presented that both changes the experience entirely and strikes in complete opposition to a game design ethos which is slowly becoming more central to the hobby.

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Loot The Body: Hex Volume 1 – Music Review

Recounting the deeds of an evil wizard over metal riffage and proggy synths. A fuzz-laden journey into the sanctuary of snake worshippers, A trippy story of haunted nobles hiding a dark secret. A cautionary tale that pits a demi-lich against grave robbers. Goth rock through the halls of Castle Ravenloft. An Americana-tinged ode to a remote beacon of civilization. A campaign with an all-bard party going on various famous adventures? Well, possibly, it’s not a bad idea, but not quite. If you like Dungeons and Dragons and/or rocking out, you’ll want to give a listen to Hex Volume 1 from Loot the Body!

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What Does The Game Bring To The Table?

Over the last week or so there appeared the most recent incarnation of a frequent discourse, one about the quality of games correlating with their likelihood of success. Now, that’s bluntly and hilariously untrue, which is clear to anyone who has ever enjoyed a niche of anything in their life. In tabletop RPGs, though, it appears, from certain lenses, to even be anti-true. Games which make choices actively hostile to such simple traits as being able to play them still become sales successes, often becoming more successful than the indie games which old guard designers seem to snark at between requests for employment. Ultimately that’s not because TTRPG purchasers are irrational (I mean, they are, but not for the reasons we’re talking about here), but rather because they’re buying games for different reasons.

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Everywhen Review

Generic RPGs are written for GMs. A game with a setting or a conceit can speak to anyone who sees it on the shelf or reads through its Kickstarter campaign, but a game with no setting has a tougher time marketing itself. Those of us who run games, though, see them for what they are: toolkits. A good generic RPG is the toolbox that lets you build a game, and every generic RPG is a different set of tools. GURPS is the five hundred pound box of every wrench and screwdriver imaginable. Cortex Prime is a massive array of dials and knobs, ready to be toggled for your campaign. Fate is a smart everyday carry pack, providing the fewest tools to cover the most situations. What about others? Where do other approaches fit in between these?

Everywhen is a genericized version of the popular swords and sorcery RPG Barbarians of Lemuria, and it would have escaped my notice had I not seen a well-known GURPShead on Reddit give it an unequivocal recommendation. Intrigued but skeptical, I checked it out. What I found was a game that hit the right medium crunch sweet spot but also had some design choices that made it easy for any GM, novice or experienced, to write exactly what they want with it.

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