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.
The Cannibal Halflings wrap up their tour of duty with the Band of Blades! Blood soaks the ground in the forest outside Plainswood – but the Heavy, Sniper, Medic, and what’s left of the Silver Stags squad of the mercenary Legion press on in their assault against the undead (and turned) forces of the Cinder King. When they earn the personal attention of an enemy leader, however, they’ll have to depend on their luck to survive – and they’re not the only members of the Legion at risk.
Oftentimes in combat within tabletop roleplaying games, the dealing of damage and conservation of health points seems to be all that matters. The concept of getting in your hits and hoping to all hope that it’s more harm than the opponent gets in. It often treats opponents in the game as a roadblock, similar to video games. “You must get past me to receive more story.”
And there’s no harm in that, on the surface at least. A challenge can be enough of a motivation for fun. Strategizing and planning to surpass the foe in front of you so you can get what you want. Video games wouldn’t have made an entire industry and genre on the concept if it didn’t work. But, sometimes you don’t want a compilation of stats and HP. Sometimes you want an enemy you can empathize with. An enemy who has motivations, internal strife/virtues and a personality that makes you feel so many conflicting emotions about them. Above all, that’s it. You want a foe you can feel for. People in real life, no matter how detestable and wretched, are rarely as binary in “100% good or bad”. Like the saying goes: People contain multitudes.
While nearly every RPG can be used to achieve this goal of a complex and nuanced villain, I’ve yet to meet one that incentives it. A game that makes it an imperative of the message within. A game that damn near bakes it into every mechanic.
Until I played this game. When I joined the playtest for this RPG, I had such fun even in it’s beta stage. It was what I had been searching for in a fantasy RPG: a game where it’s not about how big your numbers are or the modifiers on your special sword. But about how your character feels about the world around them and people within.
Fantasy RPGs borrow heavily from myth. The superstructure of character advancement in D&D has always intended to emulate character growth from humble beginnings to nearly godlike heroism. Where D&D takes this broad structure and uses it for its own unique version of fantasy, Agon goes back to the source. Agon is an RPG of mythic heroes, seeking to emulate epic poems of Ancient Greek heroes and their exploits. Where a game like D&D guides the action and the narrative in broad strokes, Agon uses a more structured set of procedures to play through the trials faced by the characters. Designers John Harper and Sean Nittner seek to provide a specific structure by which players address challenges, see the consequences, and grow in relation to their world. The result is something evocative and easy to play, but which may frustrate players used to the more open-ended approach of D&D and other older, more traditional RPGs.
The Cannibal Halflings join the Legion as it flees east towards Skydagger Keep, the undead forces of the Cinder King and his Broken generals hot on their heels. Having reached the village of Plainswood, the command staff have issued orders and squads are on the march to strike back and clear the path. Faced with twisted undead and even more twisted people, however, it’s going to be desperate going for this bloody Band of Blades!
Not everyone is so lucky as to be an ace pilot the moment that they fall into the cockpit. Some have gotten as far as they have due to a lifetime of training and experience. Yet for all of their grizzled charm and “oh you sweet summer child” attitude, they had to start somewhere. Something had to hone those instincts and prepare them for the battle at hand, and this week, we get to find out what. Strap back in for this supplement of Evil Hat’s starfighter RPG Tachyon Squadron in Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy.
The Battle of Ettenmark was supposed to be the end of it. A great host of armies from the Eastern Kingdoms marching west, led by the divinely-blessed Chosen, to strike down the Cinder King and his undead host once and for all. Instead, it was a slaughter. Some of the Chosen were Broken in the previous conflcits, and no one was prepared for the horrors they’ve created for their new liege. Now the Legion is a mercenary band all on its own – except for a single Chosen who helped to pull it out of the fire. Command has decided that the company’s only hope is to march back east, making for Skydagger Keep. If it can be reached, the Legion might just be able to hold the undead back long enough for the Eastern Kingdoms to find some way to save humanity. But the Broken are in pursuit, and winter is closing in . . . it’s going to be a hard campaign for this Band of Blades from Off Guard Games and Evil Hat Productions!
ENnie-Nominated Cannibal Halfling Gaming breaks out of the written word and invades the airwaves with Cannibal Halfling Radio!
That sound pretty fancy. Really, we just want to find our podcasting legs and talk about some games. Aaron, Jason, and Seamus talk about some CHG goings-ons, what they’ve been playing, and shine a spotlight on a malevolent haberdashery in Episode 1: Episode Zero.
“How do I play a roleplaying game?” One might answer that question with a bunch of talk about the rules, and the dice, and the character creation, but that doesn’t quite cover all the aspects of the question. What about the actual roleplaying part? I’ve mused among friends and while teaching newcomers that it’s a ‘learned skill’, but don’t worry about, let’s just get into it and you’ll get the hang of it. I don’t think I’m wrong to say that . . . but surely there’s a way to learn the skill, and better yet practice it, besides just fumbling your way through the first few sessions? As it turns out, there is, and it comes in the shape of a book: Improv for Gamers from Evil Hat Productions!
It’s time again to look at one of Evil Hat’s purple books for Fate. The Fate Toolkits, or the purple books, are the cornerstone of Fate rules hacking and, in my humble opinion, some of the best resources for a Fate GM out there. Today’s purple book takes a very different approach than the others, but still provides a comprehensive resource. The Fate Accessibility Toolkit is the book in Evil Hat’s lineup which deals bluntly with how to approach disability in your games, both in terms of characters and players.