Category Archives: Articles

Meet the Party: Transit: The Spaceship RPG

A small but fierce combatant, able to slip past enemy defenses and outside of their counterattacks with equal ease. A leader of beings both digital and organic, with ships and fast attack craft and crew all following her lead. A staunch defender, who can patch up whatever wounds make it past his efforts. Consult your star charts and prepare to go beyond the galactic frontier to complete your objectives, with a ready-to-play fleet of Artificial Intelligences and starships for Transit: The Spaceship RPG!

Continue reading Meet the Party: Transit: The Spaceship RPG

Teenagers From Outer Space Review

Comedy RPGs are a tough nut to crack. There are broadly two challenges to writing funny role-playing games, and even the best ones have only overcome one of these two. The first challenge is to create humor from situations and premises that remain relevant. Paranoia is one of the most successful games at doing this, and that’s because ultimately the humor is about RPGs themselves and violating in-game expectations. The second challenge is to create a game that remains funny after the first session. While there’s no formula to solving this challenge yet, leaning on structures from other long-running comedy media is certainly a viable strategy. Teenagers From Outer Space is a comedy game from the mind of Mike Pondsmith, best known as the designer of Cyberpunk. Using tropes from comedy anime, he created a game that is light, smart, and self-aware about how it’s going to be played. Unfortunately, this game is 23 years old (33 years old if you count the first edition) and feels that way, which can lead to some awkward reading in a game about teen romance. Teenagers From Outer Space was given away for free as part of R. Talsorian’s response to the current pandemic, so now is as good a time as ever to take a look.

Continue reading Teenagers From Outer Space Review

Using Fanfiction Tropes to Maneuver Canon in Roleplaying Games

Let’s face it, some of the most popular RPGs out there are part of popular franchises. It’s hardly something to complain about. Roleplaying comes out of investment in a story, and a lot of things that hook people is a universe in which they are already immersed. I don’t believe that it is an accident that we’ve written a number of articles that include the Star Wars, Mistborn, and Witcher RPGs, nor that there are numerous iterations of RPGs based off of pop culture phenomena (I am personally aware of Buffy, Firefly and Doctor Who RPGs) as well as my personal experience with GMs use Genesys as a universal system to build games in the Harry Potter and the Stormlight Archive universes. Even for systems that were always games first there is an impressive amount of lore that has been generated over the years in novels, such as the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden in the Forgotten Realms or Theo Bell in Vampire the Masquerade, and for any players these stories are distinctive part of what they love.

This leads to what I refer to as the “fanfic quandary”. The reason why you pick a work of fiction to base your own story on is that you want to immerse yourself in it, but how do you make your mark on that universe? Players generally want to have agency, want to be the heroes (or villains) of the day, but how do they do so when that work’s main character is the Chosen One.Well, the problem is not unique to RPGs. The aforementioned “fanfic” can get a bad rap, but quite a few have turned out interesting over the years, and as previously mentioned some have been officially licensed novels, so why not take a look at some of the techniques these writers use and see the potential benefits and pitfalls.

Continue reading Using Fanfiction Tropes to Maneuver Canon in Roleplaying Games

Kickstarter Wonk: May, 2020

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk! The world is still a deeply weird place this month, and Kickstarter is still being affected. With the economic uncertainty that comes along with a global pandemic, it makes sense that fewer people have the resources to either pull off a Kickstarter campaign or pledge one at this time. Still, there are creators out there putting in work, and producing some good stuff. If you have the means, check this shorter list of campaigns out. Since four campaigns does not an article make, I’ve also gathered up my thoughts about being a third-party D&D creator, community content programs, and why you should be careful pursuing either.

Continue reading Kickstarter Wonk: May, 2020

Eclipse Phase In-Depth: Mid-Game Critique

Reading a game and playing a game are two different experiences, which both teach you different things about the game text, how the rules work, and indeed whether the game is something you enjoy. When it comes to traditionally-styled RPGs, the big hardcovers with lots of art and glossy pages, the reading experience is placed often on equal footing with the play experience. Sometimes the reading experience ends up being better. Eclipse Phase is not quite like that. While Eclipse Phase is a game that draws readers in with a great setting, evocative art, and a fair dose of in-line fiction, the mechanics definitely hold their own, though the game has benefited greatly from revision.

Continue reading Eclipse Phase In-Depth: Mid-Game Critique

System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Cities

Cyberpunk lives and dies in the city. The vision and aesthetic that we take for granted as Cyberpunk, especially when considering Cyberpunk in the context of games, is urban, replete with neon, skyscrapers, and bustling crowds of people. Cyberpunk RPGs have leaned into the assumption of an urban setting for some time now, with Night City from Cyberpunk 2020 arguably being one of the best examples in terms of character and development. When approaching the need for a city for the Cyberpunk Chimera, I opted to take a somewhat different path forward. By writing rules for the creation of a city sandbox, my hope is that any group can find a city that sets the tone for their campaign while also making prep easier for the GM.

Continue reading System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Cities

Seeing Yourself In Gaming: The Power Of Trans Player Characters

When I first came out, it was a strange time. I had to cope and come to terms with a great many things. Some of them very good. “I can finally wear the clothes I want to.” “People calling me she and her is AWESOME!” “I can be me.” Some of them less so. “God, I was a real little shit before this wasn’t I?” “I can’t tell this person yet. Don’t know how they’ll react.” “How long before I can start hormones?” All in all, it was a wild time. And while things have calmed for me and my transition at this point, there is always one thing that weighs above all else in trials I may never come to terms with.

I never got to grow up as a girl.

I’ve heard it called “The Youth that could have been” from other trans folks who came out older like I did. It happens to quite a few people who have experienced trouble or different from the average childhood. It’s one where you’re constantly thinking about things could have been, How they should have been. It’s one of wondering of “what-ifs” and “why couldn’t it haves”. It sucks. Royally. You look for any out or avenue to get away from the pain of it. From the constant imagination of the childhood you never got to have. That imagination tends to go wild and overpowering.

But. You know what else requires a good imagination? You guessed it: roleplaying games.

Continue reading Seeing Yourself In Gaming: The Power Of Trans Player Characters

Mörk Borg Review

What is an RPG? There’s a question that could send you down a rabbit-hole. At least one person per possible answer is already out there, ready to spew hate at you from Twitter. What’s an RPG book? That one, in theory, should be a little easier. An RPG book, whether we mean a physical book or a PDF, is the document that enables you to play an RPG. These can be core rulebooks, they can be setting books, or they can be supplements for either the setting or the rules, but they are, broadly speaking, the documents in which an RPG is contained. So what does that look like? You may be imagining text, some tables and charts, and probably some pictures. As much as these books vary, you probably think you know what the next RPG manual you crack open is going to look like. That’s why you need to crack open Mörk Borg.

Continue reading Mörk Borg Review

Wrestling With Dice: How You Can Become A Better GM Through Pro Wrestling

You and your friends gathered around this place today for something special. To participate in a spectacle than you would never quite see in our daily lives. A story being woven, of valiant heroes, with strength as fierce their virtues.  Of the dastardly villains, imbued with a ferocity of their wickedness. You will witness villains become heroes. Heroes become villains. The brutalist of battles. Mightiest of hugs. The bitterness of betrayal and the triumph of cavalry. This is a world where everything gets just a little bit more magical.

This is pro wrestling.

Now, while the surface level of the two may seem to have very little in common, I’ve honestly found that my knowledge of pro wrestling has helped me become a better GM for my players. Pro wrestling is the world but amplified. The emotions. The dramatics of pain. The sweetness of victory. Everything has the knob grasped and twisted all the way over. Which, let’s be honest, relates well to RPGs.

Continue reading Wrestling With Dice: How You Can Become A Better GM Through Pro Wrestling

Changing It Up Through System Jumping

A good RPG campaign usually takes on a life of its own. The longer you play, the more the characters, the places, and the events of a game overshadow the rules which you use for the game. Ironically, it’s this shift in importance away from mechanics which can sometimes reveal that the mechanics you’ve been using aren’t going to work for an important part of your ongoing game. In another situation, your campaign has taken a dramatic, albeit temporary, turn. Your grizzled heroes find themselves masquerading as schoolteachers, or your starship crew finds a rip in the space-time continuum, or your cyberpunks have to chase a villain into a virtual reality game. Whether it’s a mid-story diversion or a permanent change, sometimes you’re going to want to jump systems.

Continue reading Changing It Up Through System Jumping