When someone says the word ‘adventurer’, the picture of a steady home life is not often one of the images called to mind. The dusty road, the shadows between the megascrapers, the space between the stars, these are most often the places that adventurers spend their time and make their fortune – or lose everything. While being an adventurer, or really any type of player character. almost universally involves going where others won’t either physically or mentally, I think there’s something to be said for breaking the mold and giving them a tavern, a ship, a base, a business, a home. While it might not be the one they were all born to, a party of adventurers with a place of their own can certainly turn it into a place that makes them feel like they belong.
It’s the genre that started it all, and it has set the baseline for what people think of when they hear the term “role-playing game”. It’s a literary genre of astonishing breadth, that still seems to get people thinking about elves and wizards. So why is fantasy role-playing such a different animal than fantasy in general? And what sort of games are hiding in the wings around the 500 pound Gygaxian elephant in the room? Today, the Level One Wonk is going to look around what fantasy role-playing is, how it’s related to fantasy literature, and what that all means when it comes time to sit down and roll dice.
Back a decade ago, in 2008, I was fascinated by Code Geass, a mecha and fantasy anime series. While looking around I found a forum with people creating their own stories, imagining themselves on different sides of the conflict and imagining their own strategies. I had seen roleplaying threads on other internet forums, but this was something different: an entire board, devoted to making a game to be played. Rules were pretty much non-existent, other than the admins and mods making pointed suggestions, and rewarding players who played out uncomfortable or losing scenarios or roleplayed richly. There were no game mechanics. But I had found my first Play by Post. For me, the roleplaying and storytelling aspect of gaming was the best part and it was often overlooked at my school’s gaming club and the few sessions with friends. This was all about the story, and through that I met two of the people I game with now. As a note, driving out of state to the house of someone you’ve only known online, and not telling people where you are going might not be the safest idea, but it’s how I met a really cool group of people.
So far, System Hack has highlighted Seamus working through the process of writing a hack for an existing role-playing game, specifically a mecha hack for Genesys. In my first System Hack outing, I’m going broad, super broad! We’re not talking about a specific hack, or even a specific game. Instead, I’m going to talk about a design choice that is so prevalent, so widely assumed, so transparent, that it’s not a given that everyone will give it much thought. What’s that, you may ask? Well, it’s dice. Good old dice.
The adventurers rested, either leaning against the altar with weapons in hand, or scrambling around the spare furnishings of the temple. The Shadows moved faster than Folk did, and they didn’t have much time until the ten of them that were released found the way up and out of the crypt. Ander and Jethro found glass bottles in the Undertaker’s apartment and filled them with water for their skins, setting the bottles and some of the silver they gathered from the Keep in front of Hugh, who performed a ceremony to bless the water. Holy water seemed to be a potent ally in the fight against what was to come. Clouds gathered over the temple, and the adventurers prepared for a fight. As the sky darkened, the adventurers scrambled to the squares of sunlight made by the overhead windows; shadows didn’t usually exist in daylight, and the adventurers needed all the help they could get. The Shadows ascended the crypt stairs in groups of two and three, met by eldritch blasts, sacred weapons, and holy water. Now, with time to prepare and adequate supplies, the adventurers drove back the Shadows with only a few wounds and a little strength sapped. Not yet ready to return to the crypt, Hrive went outside the walls to retrieve his mule, and the group foraged old abandoned gardens for food. Sleep came easier in the keep without gnolls to harry them, but the adventurers were still wary.
Theories are tools for understanding and explaining any number of different subjects. As role-playing games began to increase in subject matter breadth, there immediately followed an attempt to explain what different games do, and what games do best. Unsurprisingly, attempts to “explain” the range of games on the market were typically incomplete and sometimes dreadfully inaccurate. Despite this, some theories stuck around, usually because they were punchy and easy to remember, and were “close enough” to work as a shorthand. Today, the Level One Wonk is going to look a bit at game design theory, and use one of the most popular theories as a springboard to discussion about RPG Theory as a whole and what it’s trying to accomplish. As George Box once said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” That is the best way to understand many RPG Theories, including the GNS Model.
Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for May! There are tons of games out there, and as usual, it can be tough to narrow down to a reasonable number. This month I’m highlighting nine games and a tenth category, into which at least three of this month’s games fell. In thinking about this spread of projects, it made it clear to me that I needed to ask a very direct question: what makes a project stand out? What makes a game that can advance or expand the hobby? These ten games all provided a good answer to those questions, whether I’d choose to pick them up for my personal library or not.
The Beta Campaign. I made have made previous mention to it in a past article, but what precisely is it? While we at Cannibal Halfling are hardly going to take credit for the idea of running multiple campaigns within a group, I think we owe it to at least mention its benefits. When I initially joined a particular group, through which I met the fellow CH staff, a lot of the focus was on a single campaign. This is not to complain about that, and I had a great deal of fun, but as we keep playing throughout the years there are things that I have noticed as we take on new responsibilities in our lives.
After several futile attempts to put a gaming group together, my boyfriend and I decided to try a 1 on 1 game. I’m going to take a moment here and discuss the way we approached this game. We have friends who are a boisterous collection of identities and preferences. This game is an attempt by us to explore identities that don’t correspond to our own, to step out of the safety of our projections of ourselves. At the same time, we recognize that this experience can never be complete because this is being done in a safe environment and they are identities we can shed when we’re done playing. The point is empathy. Aaron’s character was born male but does not identify that way. This is an epic tale of adventure, magic, and identity.
Welcome back to Adventure Log! Our heroes have scoured the city of Glebhavern, and are turning their attention to underground, where opportunity awaits. However, mysterious crypts and undead foes give characters plenty of chances to really step in it, and the Glebhavern Crypt is no exception. When things go south, do the characters breathe their last, or does the DM step in to keep the party going?