Tag Archives: Opinion

Level One Wonk: Narrative

That’s right, the Wonk is back in the building! Today we’re getting super wonky. While my last foray into RPG theory was an examination of an old universal theory, GNS, today I’m going to be looking at a narrower component of games, and a particular dichotomy which, after some examination, I realized shapes the core of how I want to play and run games, as well as what game systems I enjoy. I’m talking about narrative, but I’m not talking about whether a game is “narrative” or not. Rather, I’m going to talk about the two types of narrative which are generated in the course of playing an RPG: Prescriptive and Emergent narrative.

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Kickstarter Wonk: March, 2019

Welcome to a busy and bustling March for Kickstarter! Adding to the tons of projects, Zine Quest, which had submission dates through the month of February, is still going on! Check it out here. There were a couple full games under the Zine Quest banner which I was particularly intrigued by; be sure to check out Dragon and Warrior, Grey Cells, and Be Witching.

Even after taking the Zine Quest projects out of the running, there were still at least a couple dozen games contending for your limited dollars. Among a few heartbreakers and some that just weren’t interesting, there were still more than enough for me to come up with a top ten of intriguing, unique, and worthy RPG projects for March.

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The Independents: Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG

The government has turned corrupt, and what should be serving the people now crushes them under the weight of fear and oppression. Secret police hunt for any kind of dissent, and authoritarian goons stalk the streets looking for heads to crack. Whether in public rallies or in secret meetings, with fists and firepower or words and willpower, revolutionaries fight to realize their ideals and create a better world. But how will they make those ideals come true? What are they willing to do, how far are they ready to go, to overthrow their oppressors and build a future? And even if they ‘win’, will that future be one that’s worth the cost, or will it be another nightmare? That’s the kind of story you’ll be telling if you play Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG by W.M. Akers, currently live on Kickstarter. Continue reading The Independents: Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG

The Independents: Emotional Mecha Jam

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that distributing RPGs can be a major pain, especially for independent publishers. Printing physical copies, funding shipping and distribution, dealing with returns, controlling PDF disbursement, combating pirates—the list of issues goes on. Some authors have chosen to sell games through their own websites, but many turn to the monolithic marketplace of RPG sales: DriveThruRPG. Despite some overlap with Kickstarter and Patreon, DriveThru is clearly the leader in both physical and digital RPG fulfillment.

That being said, a curious challenger to DriveThru’s platform has begun to stir up some discussion within the indie RPG scene: itch.io.

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Troika Review

Imagine, if you will, that Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett have returned from the dead. They both pile into a Ford Cortina and take a long drive across the American Southwest, pondering the nature of the fantasy genre. Once they arrive in California, they legally acquire several ounces of the finest cannabis sativa and hotbox the Cortina. Then they write an RPG. This, roughly speaking, seems to be what produced Troika, a delightfully simple and delightfully absurd game which recently published a second edition.

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The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide Review

So you’ve got yourself an RPG character all set to go – you’ve got the stats, and the skills, and the starting gear . . . except there’s something missing. Right now all you really have are the numbers, but where’s the story? The fact that you have an 18 in your Strength stat doesn’t contribute to the narrative . . . except that from Across A Crowded Tavern (Exercise #9) the figure in a shadowy cloak notices that you bear a tribute to your athletic prowess, like maybe a scar earned in a test of strength or a tattoo received in victory. Such are the kind of things that you might get to learn about your character when using the Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide by James D’Amato! Continue reading The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide Review

The Independents: The Quiet Year

For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. Now, finally, we’ve driven them off, and we’re left with this: a year of relative peace. One quiet year, with which to build our community up and learn again how to work together.

The opening words of The Quiet Year lay out the bones of a melancholy story. A community torn apart by war, a mysterious enemy gone but not destroyed, and the empty promise of a year of peace. No matter how desperately the community clings to survival, something awaits them on the horizon. Every hardship conquered pales in comparison to what is to come. When winter arrives, the Frost Shepherds shall also—and things will never be the same.

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Shadow of the Beanstalk Review

The day has come, and the second supplement for Fantasy Flight Games’ Genesys RPG is out! Shadow of the Beanstalk covers the Android setting, specifically focusing on New Angeles, the Beanstalk space elevator, and the Heinlein lunar colony. As an Android splatbook, the book works perfectly, giving a starting point for running games in the Android setting and tons of adversaries, locations, factions, and gear to flesh it out. If you look at the foreword, though, and at the Settings section of Genesys Core, it’s clear that this book is supposed to expand the Genesys toolkit to enable a wide range of science fiction settings. With three Star Wars games and the Worlds of Android book already in print, what does Shadow of the Beanstalk really provide to the Genesys ecosystem? Let’s take a look, chapter by chapter.

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The Independents: CAPERS

A Rolls-Royce Phantom peels around a corner, stray dollar bills from the sacks in the back fluttering out the open windows, as a pair of police cars howl in pursuit. A man in the rear seat leans out and chatters a string of bullets from his tommy gun at the coppers, but his shots go wide and the gun jams. Cursing, he leans back in to try and fix his weapon, yelling at the woman riding shotgun to handle it. She leans out her own window, raises a hand . . .and a beam of cold energy shoots out of it, creating an ice slick right in front of one of the police cars. The vehicle swerves, skids, and slams into a street lamp, but the second pursuit vehicle gets around it and draws closer. Suddenly, there’s a flash of energy from behind the windshield of the crashed car as one of its occupants steps through a dimensional gate and appears perched on the hood of the Phantom, shotgun in hand, demanding the gangsters pull over in the name of the law. It’s the 1920s. Alcohol is Prohibited, crime pays very well, the law does what it can. And, of course, there are superpowers. This is the BAMFsie-award-winning roleplaying game CAPERS from NerdBurger Games!

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Kickstarter Wonk: February, 2019

This February is an intense month for Kickstarter Wonk, with tons and tons of content. First up, February is the month of Zine Quest! Zine Quest is a Kickstarter event supporting RPG zines, small publications that have had an outsized impact on RPG history. For the event, there are 35 different zine projects (as of this writing at least, the number keeps going up), and pretty much all of them are worth looking at. Cyberpunk zines, PbtA zines, a Torchbearer zine…I could go on. Check out all the projects here!

In addition to 35 zines, there were nearly 20 different RPG projects I checked out. Some don’t fit my criteria, but are still worth checking out, like the third edition of Interface Zero. Others…the less said about them the better. Overall, though, it was tough narrowing this list down to ten, as there was a lot of quality stuff out there.

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