Category Archives: Articles

On Game Preparation

Games are static documents. No matter what supplements or errata are released after the fact, the text of a game is just words on a page once it leaves the designer’s head. What makes a role-playing game more than that, though, is the act of play. Role-playing games are different from board games or card games because unlike those, where there are procedures and set-up and specific things to do, role-playing games in their text form merely template the play experience. In traditional role-playing games, it’s up to the game master, or GM, to actually produce the play experience.

I haven’t discussed much in the way of procedures for running a game, and this oversight became more clear as I was attempting to write about how specifically to run a long-duration game in the conclusion of Meet the Campaign: Anti-Boredom. Also, and surprisingly, there’s been some discourse about game prep recently? I was under the mistaken impression that understanding how best to prep for a campaign or session was essentially a solved issue at this point, that writing about prep would mean giving advice, not taking a position.

That all said, there is better and worse prep technique, and there are better and worse games to prep for. One reason that so much of what constitutes ‘GM Advice’ in the broader RPG discussion world is merely advice on how to prep for and run a gaming session is that the monopoly game, Dungeons & Dragons, is a poor tool for GMs. When it comes to running the game D&D has been getting worse by the edition, really, and players who were raised on earlier editions, versions of the game that were much more specific about how to prep and play them, are only getting older. So if you are struggling with running your game, my first piece of advice is to stop playing Fifth Edition D&D.

Continue reading On Game Preparation

Meet the Campaign: Anti-Boredom part 3

From time to time, you’ll see the gaming press and sometimes even the broader ‘nerd’ press pick up a story about a years-long or decades-long RPG campaign. One thing you’ll immediately notice is the focus of these articles: “Meet the GM who keeps on using the same damn world”. “This group has been playing one single game for 35 years. See how the GM does it.” The GM is the key to any campaign, but when a campaign is both long and sustained, others take notice. Long and sustained is the key for an anti-boredom campaign, and though it may not last 35 years, putting in the work will help keep a long, complex, and rich campaign going for longer than you may have initially thought possible.

GMing a long-running game isn’t about shortcuts, but it’s not not about shortcuts either. As a campaign builds history and increases in complexity, the amount of work the GM must do just to keep everything straight is going to increase. ‘Lazy GMing’ isn’t a preference here, it’s a way to make sure you can do everything you need to do without burning out. This is also where much of the content of the other articles begins to synthesize. A system with more mechanics that support what you want to do will take less effort to run. A setting that is constrained but has depth is much easier to do bookkeeping for than a sprawling wasteland of 150 dungeons and ten nation-states. That said, once the game has started, all that’s left to do is run.

Continue reading Meet the Campaign: Anti-Boredom part 3

Galactic & Going Rogue – Games of Rebellion and Sacrifice

An interstellar empire controls the galaxy with fear, propaganda, and alienation. Only constant aggression, weapons development, and violence keep it propped up, but even with its brittle foundations it can cause untold death and destruction before it could ever collapse on its own. However, heroes both plucky and jaded are building a community beyond the empire’s reach and fighting for the liberation of the galaxy. We’re telling a galactic story of rebellion, relationships, and war among the stars before going rogue and putting it all on the line to pass the torch of hope onwards!

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So You Want To Change The Rules

Play in any game system long enough, and you’re going to want to tweak things a little – there’s something missing, or a rule doesn’t quite work the way you want it to. Or maybe you’re coming at things fresh with an idea of what you want to do. No game system matches your idea 1:1, but there are a few that come close enough that you don’t want to have to design a game from the ground up. Whether it’s just for a home game or you’re designing one yourself to publish, that means it’s time to change or ‘hack’ the system in question. But what thoughts might you want to have along the way? I’ve got three.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: October, 2022

Welcome back to the Crowdfunding Carnival! It’s actual carnival season here in the northeast, with a lot of state fairs happening in the month of October due to the fall harvest. If you’re not into fair food, rickety rides, and farm animals, though, we still have plenty of entertainment coming out of crowdfunding sites as the days get shorter.

October is kind between GenCon and the holiday season, so we’re a little short on product announcements in the hobby as a whole. There’s definitely still action in the crowdfunding space though; last week I reviewed Rae Nedjadi’s Apocalypse Keys, which is being crowdfunded with the help of publisher Evil Hat as we speak. As of this writing there’s a little less than a week to go, so click through if you’re interested.

Beyond the games, there’s also some moves happening in the crowdfunding business. Some are large, some relatively small, but all worth examining. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading Crowdfunding Carnival: October, 2022

Weekend Update: 10/1/2022

Welcome to the Cannibal Halfling Weekend Update! Start your weekend with a chunk of RPG news from the past week. We have the week’s top sellers, industry news stories, and discussions from elsewhere online.

DriveThruRPG Top Sellers for 10/1/2022

  1. Mutants and Masterminds PDF Mega-Bundle
  2. Aliens of Charted Space Volume 3
  3. Star Trek Adventures Utopia Planitia Sourcebook
  4. Tools for Frontier Living
  5. Cyberpunk Red

Top News Stories

Kickstarter hires new CEO: After Aziz Hasan announced he was stepping down this past March, Kickstarter has hired Everette Taylor as their new CEO. Taylor spoke with Dicebreaker and attempted to clear the air around Kickstarter’s ill-fated blockchain announcement, along with what’s going on with the games division after the departure of former Games head Anya Combs for Backerkit. With both Taylor and new games head Jon Ritter-Roderick hired after the commencement of Zinequest this year, it’s still anyone’s guess as to how Kickstarter is going to approach this segment going forward.

Have any RPG news leads or scoops? Get in touch! You can reach us at cannibalhalflinggaming@gmail.com, or through Twitter via @HungryHalfling.

Apocalypse Keys Review

Powered by the Apocalypse, or PbtA, is one of the most popular RPG rulesets in the indie gaming sphere. After getting its start with Apocalypse World and the Bakers’ permissive license, PbtA blew up first among single designers and small groups and then in the wider gaming sphere. While Apocalypse World was modestly successful in its own right, many of the games it spawned, including Monster of the Week, Dungeon World, and Blades in the Dark, multiplied its success many times over.

Mainstream PbtA success continues to this day, fed mostly by two mid-sized publishers: Evil Hat Productions and Magpie Games. Magpie Games, arguably the largest and most successful company to design primarily PbtA games, first saw success with titles like Urban Shadows, Bluebeard’s Bride, and Masks, and has gone on to rake in millions of dollars from some of the first licensed PbtA games, Root and Avatar Legends. Evil Hat Productions, more known as the company behind Fate, doesn’t design PbtA games in house, but publishes several of significance. Evil Hat publishes Monster of the Week, Thirsty Sword Lesbians, and Blades in the Dark, and they’re about to add another PbtA game to their library.

Continue reading Apocalypse Keys Review

Weekend Update: 9/24/2022

Welcome to the Cannibal Halfling Weekend Update! Start your weekend with a chunk of RPG news from the past week. We have the week’s top sellers, industry news stories, and discussions from elsewhere online.

DriveThruRPG Top Sellers for 9/24/2022

  1. Mutants and Masterminds PDF Mega-Bundle
  2. Warhammer Age of Sigmar Soulbound: Blackened Earth
  3. Legend of the Five Rings: Writ of the Wilds
  4. Tales of the RED: Street Stories
  5. Adventures in Rokugan

Top News Stories

Brotherwise Games to release a Stormlight Archive RPG in 2024: Building on the massive success of Brandon Sanderson’s book Kickstarter and their existing efforts with games set in the Cosmere, Brotherwise Games has announced that they will be releasing a role-playing game based on the books of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. What’s interesting about this is that Brotherwise has no current RPG portfolio, being mostly known for their board games like Call to Adventure and Boss Monster. There has been immediate speculation as to whether the game would be 5E-based or use a custom ruleset like the extant Mistborn Adventure Game, written by Crafty Games. Johnny O’Neal of Brotherwise Games has written for Dragon Magazine in the past, but considering how little we know at this juncture, that isn’t a strong indication of anything. There is also some question as to why the project didn’t go to Crafty Games, but the reception of the Mistborn Game was certainly not glowing enough to guarantee their return.

Discussion of the Week

School D&D Club is Out of Control!: The OP’s middle school D&D club has over 50 students signed up! A great thread for running RPGs for kids and managing large RPG events and organizations.

Have any RPG news leads or scoops? Get in touch! You can reach us at cannibalhalflinggaming@gmail.com, or through Twitter via @HungryHalfling.