‘Tis the season, nerds and geeks, fellow wonks and gamers of all ages. The season when we gather with family and friends, reflect on the year that is ending, and look forward to the new one. And, of course, ’tis the season when your very own Level One Wonk sneaks away from his family, but only has time to hastily bang out a year-in-review article rather than bring you any new content. It has been a good year, though. We started the year with a good foundation and finished strong, bringing in tons of eyeballs with a review that was very nearly a scoop, and of a game people actually cared about to boot. Let me tell you what I’ve seen, and what I think 2018 is going to look like.
Welcome back! I’m the Level One Wonk, and today we’re throwing things at a wall to see what sticks! Most popular games out there exist within the framework of a genre or existing setting, and use those constraints to create interesting stories. In Dungeons and Dragons you have magic, monsters, and an underlying battle between good and evil. In Star Wars you have the Force, liberties taken with the laws of physics, and…an underlying battle between good and evil. At the end of the day, though, sometimes you want to mix chocolate and peanut butter and get something else. What if your D&D setting was invaded by aliens? Who were actually Force Ghosts…who actually came from the world of Exalted? What if they were all psychic? Why stop there? Sometimes you want everything and the kitchen sink.
Welcome back to Level One Wonk, where new campaign day is every day! Starting scenarios run a huge gamut in role-playing games, but it’s the tropey tired ones that continue to haunt the institutional memory of this hobby. “You all meet in a tavern” has steadily been replaced by “you all wake up in prison”, but the fact remains that establishing a campaign introduction without player input makes you vulnerable to these and other contrivances. There is of course a time and a place for every kind of campaign introduction, but sometimes you want to both get into the stuff your players care about as well as make them care quickly. This is when you want to run a Session Zero.
Last week, Seamus gave a comprehensive overview of the first part of Fantasy Flight Games’ new toolkit system Genesys. The first section presented a new angle on the Narrative Dice system which lived up to the promises of a genericized Star Wars game, while the second section on settings left a lot on the table and a bit to be desired. But there’s a lot more book here! Even if Seamus got more page count, this last section is the one that’s really full of the stuff you’re going to want. Now, if you need to get the lowdown on the basics of the mechanics and how this book differs from the Star Wars games, you should go ahead and check out Seamus’ first review. If you’re ready to talk toolkit, though, read on. All four of these chapters are from Part 3, the Game Master’s Toolkit. Overall, the toolkit is very well done, though there are several missed opportunities to have taken an addition that was merely good and make it great.
Genesys, the universal roleplaying game system from Fantasy Flight Games, is starting to land in mailboxes and game stores this week, and sure enough both of us here at Cannibal Halfling Gaming got our hands on a copy! Billed as a ‘toolkit’ that GMs and players can use for any setting they want, we’re naturally excited and curious to see how it shapes up. Does the system work? Is it as adaptive as it claims to be? As universal systems go, where does it land on a scale of Fate Core to GURPS? Will it actually be fun to play? Read on and let’s find out together as I take us chapter by chapter through the book for the first part of CHG’s review!
Welcome back to Level One Wonk, where together we will wonk out on various and sundry gaming topics! Now that you’ve finished gorging yourself on turkey (and maybe checking out some Burning Wheel characters), it’s time to look down that home stretch of the year, get ready for the holiday season, and maybe even make some New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of thinking about the game today, let’s think about the gaming group. While playstyle, system, and campaign all play into a gaming group having fun, there are even more basic structural elements that are key, and it all comes down to who’s doing what.
I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged with my wife this past weekend, and while I (quite wisely, we needed a vacation darn it) wasn’t attending in any sort of official CHG capacity I was still viewing the convention as a whole with a critic’s eye. So what worked, what didn’t, and would going yourself next year be worth it?
After much hype and hullabaloo, Wizards of the Coast has released Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the first rules supplement for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. While there is nothing revolutionary within this volume, it offers some great new options for both mechanical and story aspects of D&D. I’d say it’s nice to have for players but more recommended for GMs due to the expanded proficiency and downtime rules, trap creation and encounter expansions, and the solidly integrated rivals system.
Elves that can take to the sky on wings they are born with. Elves that view even other elves with suspicion, sticking to the deep forests of Greyhawk. Elves that took to the oceans instead of the forest, following currents instead of wooded paths. Elves that swore service to the Raven Queen, now wreathed in the darkness of the Shadowfell. There has always been more than just one variety of elf in Dungeons and Dragons, and with the latest Unearthed Arcana a lot more of them are coming out of the woodwork (or the sky, or the sea, or a plane of shadow) to take their shot at being options for player characters in 5th Edition!
Before Halloween, Wizards of the Coast took the hype level for their new D&D supplement, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and turned it up to 11 by releasing the table of contents. Now it’s known what’s in the book and what we can expect to use in upcoming games once the book is released on November 21st. Also important though is what didn’t make the cut. New classes like the Mystic and the Artificer were left behind, and so was a set of mass combat rules. Even if the mass combat rules have not been built into a sanctioned product yet, the version released in Unearthed Arcana has some neat uses and is definitely worth considering for use in your game.