Category Archives: Articles

Crowdfunding Carnival: May, 2023

Welcome to Crowdfunding Carnival for May! Now, I admit, last month I was a bit low on energy, low on patience, and I forgot some things. For one, I forgot to write a five year retrospective for April. Now, there’s no use in crying over spilt free content, but I assure you that my energy is up and we’re back in the swing of things for May. In addition to this month’s five year retrospective, I have thirteen different games that I’ll run through in rapidfire fashion. We’re back to all Kickstarters for standalone games this month, but in between the copycat 5e pablum and a whole lot more NSFW miniatures (seriously, what is up with that), there were some diamonds in the rough.

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The Unpublished Network at PAX East 2023

If you want to catch a tabletop game in one of its more interesting stages, it’s always a good idea to swing by the Unpublished Game Network.  The ‘Unpub’ Network  provides, well, networking for unpublished games that are still in development and at a convention gives them a place to put their game through its paces. It’s notable that the signage says ‘looking for playtesters’ instead of just ‘looking for players.’ While not quite as rich in traditional CHG content as its Unplugged sibling PAX East offers the advantage of being right in my own stomping grounds, and getting to attend its ’23 iteration for all four days meant I was able to swing by the Unpub tables multiple times.

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The Maximalist Fallacy

I enjoy a whole lot of different role-playing games. Indie games, trad games, OSR games, solo games, you name it. As I’ve said before, there’s a wide world of games out there. Despite that, there is one design method for RPGs that profoundly irritates me. And, as luck would have it, it is incredibly common.

The basis of pretty much any RPG is that you, the player, have a character, and you guide that character through the setting, using the rules to determine what happens. The ways that RPGs can structure those rules are basically endless; you can have the entire game determined by a single die, or you can map out six phases of play in as much detail as any strategic board game. Where many games seem to fall, though, is that characters and all they can do are defined by long lists of incremental abilities, all assigned or selected one by one. This is a form of maximalist game design, where the quality and capability of a game is defined by the number of incremental elements you can cram in there. And yeah, it kind of cheeses me off.

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How the Wonk GMs: Running a Session

You’ve prepped, plotted, and planned. You have character sheets from the players, printouts from the rulebook, and everyone found a spot on the calendar that works. Now, your players are sitting around the table, dice in hand, and are looking expectantly towards your end of the table. What do you do?

I wouldn’t go so far to say that running your game is easier than prepping for it, but it is a completely different set of skills. Many of those skills, like using the game’s rules and putting yourself in the headspace of a character, apply equally to all players, whether they’re the GM or not. Others, like taking notes and tracking what’s going on in the setting, look the same whether they’re happening during the session or in prep time before. There is one skill, though, that is both admired and dreaded in equal measure: improv.

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Basic Roleplaying Review

Back in the 1970s, a new role-playing game built a foundation that would stand for years to come, a foundation of accessibility, hackability, and ease of use. Am I talking about D&D? Absolutely not! I’m talking about RuneQuest, a game which, in 1978, not only became a quick second place finisher to D&D in the fantasy genre but also established many RPG conventions we still see today. In 1980, the RuneQuest second edition box included a little 16-page booklet titled Basic Role-Playing, and from there it was off to the races. Basic Role-Playing (later Basic Roleplaying, also called BRP) would form the basis of every game released by RuneQuest’s publisher, Chaosium. As that esteemed publication history includes none other than Call of Cthulhu, BRP is likely the bestselling house system in the history of role-playing games.

Thanks to RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, BRP forms the cornerstone of how gamers expect d100 systems to work. In short, your attributes and skills give you percentile values which are equal to the probability of rolling under them on a d100 roll. Look at your sheet, you know how likely you are to succeed at a baseline roll. In addition to BRP itself, this mode of d100 mechanics saw widespread adoption in games as varied as Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Eclipse Phase. Now, Chaosium is staking the future of BRP on its utility as a platform. The new edition of Basic Roleplaying is here, and it’s being marketed to game designers as much if not more than game masters.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: April, 2023

Welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival! It’s April, which means two things. First, we’re done with ZineQuest for real; there are no more event stragglers (though an odd zine will pop up from time to time) and we’re back to “normal” campaigns. Second, April is my birthday month. Readers, I’m feeling old, I’m feeling it in my bones. Looking at campaigns this month has gotten me all crotchety. I will admit, I’m turning 36 and that’s not actually old; I’d still be ‘the kid’ in many gaming groups I’ve played with in the past. What has happened, though, is that in advance of my birthday a lot of the Kickstarter campaigns have got me complaining. Nothing makes you feel older than complaining about stuff you have no control over.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there aren’t that many interesting campaigns live right now in the wake of ZineQuest. There are plenty of 5e filler modules, which I don’t care about, and a lot of model files for semi-pornographic minis, which is weird and a bit disconcerting. In my usual market, though, new original RPGs, there are only a few of interest and weirdly a bumper crop of ones I can’t bring myself to be interested in or write about. It’s made me realize it may be another good time to go over the crowdfunding market, and ways that the crowdfunding market could be more useful for project backers.

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