Every successful RPG must have a strong setting or a strong ruleset. When Fantasy Flight Games hit it out of the park with their trio of Star Wars RPGs, they clearly had a strong setting. As it turned out, though, the system was pretty solid too; the Narrative Dice System had been patched to tone down the excesses of WFRP 3e, resulting in a game that was a good balance between robust and quick, and added a good amount of narrative flair and interesting in-game decisions. It was so good that people were able to overlook the expensive proprietary dice. From Star Wars came Genesys, a generic RPG which truly begs the question of whether the Narrative Dice System can succeed on mechanics alone.
This article is a log updated periodically throughout the day, and then published when complete.
Arrival: 8 AM
First of all, an update and correction from my last scouting report. While we had been warned off the changes in entrances previously, for some reason it hadn’t sunk in. For those of you taking a train in, stops around 14th -16th streets will be superior than hiking over from elsewhere. In addition, Will Call has moved from the location originally sent out by email, and is now by the entrance hall. This means that everyone is all going to the same location, which, well…
This is the sight of the entrance hall at 8:00, two hours before the con is supposed to open, and an hour before event registration was set to begin. I had already picked up my badge, and I knew where I was going to RPG registration, but I was far from the first.
To reiterate, this is an hour before registration opens. If anyone thought I was overstating the morning pileup, things look like anything but right now.
However, in spite of the backup I did it! After striking out last year, I managed to get into one of the Star Wars modules run by Fantasy Flight Gaming. There is also a neat change from last year: along with Games on Demand, people have games that they are offering to run that have been included on the docket. I am seeing some people are using it to demo games they have/are developing, which seems like a great way to generate interest and stress test.
10 AM – 2 PM
“Begun the Clone Wars Have” was a fun module, and I know enough about the system that I can see the hallmarks of a module designed for this kind of event: early rolls to get people used to the system while getting them to use resources, challenges that stretches people out of their niche followed by a finale that left two thirds of the party down for the count.
I won’t say to much about the events, because I really don’t want to spoil it for people, but I think FFG is definitely leaning into the Rise of the Separatists and Collapse of the Republic splat books on this one, and that character choices heavily come from those books: Clone Commander, ARC Trooper, Jedi Master, Jedi Padawan and Senator were all included in the group of up to 6 players with an Outlaw Tech to round it out. Considering Seamus’ work on both of these books, I was excited to play, and I think I can definitely say that a full Clone Wars campaign seems really viable. I even got to take a look at some of the squad combat rules from Rise, and they could really do nicely in an Age of Rebellion game to make being a Diplomat more interesting in combat.
As an observation, the time slot bills itself as four hours for all of the games FFG is running (also Legend of the Five Rings and Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk). My group was one of the first to let out, and the other two games were still going strong, so I would say that four hours is indeed the expected time.
Finally, I learned something cool! There is a fan community run version of Pathfinder Society for Star Wars: Legends of the Galaxy. It has a shared, generally running plotline for GMs and players, along with resources for both (including hosting the Oggdude character builder!). The creator and head of the site was actually one of the GMs, and hopefully I will get the chance to sit down with him and learn more.
Ignores his own advice, quickly scarfs down crab fries in the cafeteria while typing updates
While signing up for events, I had seen something that piqued my interest: a recently Kickstarted (though not yet released) game by the name of Zafir. It’s billed as a tactical RPG along the lines of X-COM, but set in an alternate Earth where an industrial revolution has been set off ahead of schedule with new magical ores. It sounds like an interesting idea, but I’ve signed up for a card game tournament, so I can’t stay for the whole time. Still, I manage to chat with the developer, watch character creation and plan to meet up to find out more later in the con.
There’s a cool little racket being set up in the tournament center, a soft drink tavern. You buy your mug and have free refills for the day. It’s great for people here for the whole day, especially as you get thirsty, and they seem to be making bank.
Oh, and I got bounced from my tournament in about 15 minutes. *sad trombone music*
Well, the Zafir game is still running. Fortunately, they are still in combat, and I get the chance to see how combat works over a few encounters. It seems pretty intuitive, but I hope to go over things a bit deeper in another article.
I catch Seamus between Transit sessions and check in before I prepare to leave. Yes, it’s early, but I’ve been going at this for 10 hours now, and cons are marathons and not sprints. I plan to be back tomorrow with friends, and I have the whole expo hall to explore!
Tis the season to be Wonky! December is not always a very busy month for Kickstarter, it’s more important to deliver and sell near the holidays than it is to fundraise, so in some ways this is an off-cycle time for creators who are trying to kick off projects. As such, there are only eight projects in this month’s line-up. That said, we do have a holiday miracle in store, and in just a couple days eight projects will turn into nine! Thanks to a creator who I am a particular fan of, we have access to a project preview that should turn into an honest-to-goodness campaign just a few days after this article’s publication date. While we’re waiting for that, though, the rest of the projects in this article are all quite promising and worthy of your attention.
Welcome back to System Hack! Over the last few months I’ve been slowly but surely building out elements of a Cyberpunk game, inspired by but not really based on Cyberpunk 2020. At this point, we get into the weeds. Until now, the articles published so far have all dealt with simulationist aspects of the game. That is to say, when a character in the game wants to do something, what happens? At this point, we’re going to pivot away from the characters and focus instead on the players.
A Bow who wanted for nothing and had the world at her fingertips before suffering a rude awakening. A Sword who never understood other humans, instead being raised and taught life’s lessons by the wilderness, his only kin the wolves. A Shield who was haunted by the city their parents brought them to, a stranger in a land where they didn’t belong. All three have died. None know how, or even really who they were. As the Boatman delivers them to the shifting sands of the Tenebris, though, these Wanderers will grasp at glimpses of memory and start their journey to the Beyond in this Meet the Party for Afterlife: Wandering Souls!
Welcome to another Review In-Depth! Here I explore and attempt to critique a game using not just a reading or even a mere one-shot, but rather a full short campaign of play. While reading may tell you about rules and ease of use, and a one-shot may demonstrate game balance and fun factor, it takes several sessions to really tease out how well a game accomplishes its stated goals. And because rules aren’t everything, I cast an equally critical eye to the content of the story the group ended up telling.
Today’s game tells a sadly real story about the gap that exists between enthusiasm and actually finding time to play something. Cannibal Halfling’s first breakout article was written in March of 2017, about four months after the site was founded, and it was about two Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) Cyberpunk games, The Veil and The Sprawl. This recent campaign was the first time I successfully ran The Veil, in fact the first time I successfully played it at all…it was over two years after I first read it.
“Welcome to the Tenebris. You died and something went wrong. You were meant to ascend to heaven, walk the path of reincarnation, be food for worms—that did not happen. Instead, you took a solemn boat ride across darkened water with other lost souls. Desperately trying to retain memories from your former life, you realised you died and cannot go back. The light at the end of the watery tunnel revealed an endless desert, known by its inhabitants as the Tenebris—the dark.” You’ll have to fight against the death of hope, find your own memories and learn about your own past, and find your way to the true Beyond in Afterlife: Wandering Souls from Angry Hamster Publishing!
In this episode of CHR our gamemasters ask one another “How Do You apply the experiences you’ve had toward being better at improvising at the table?”, and then reflect upon what in our gaming groups we’ve found ourselves thankful for.
There’s a wide world of RPGs out there. In that world, Dungeons and Dragons represents a small sliver of the gameplay experiences and stories that are possible, but a disproportionately large slice of the games that are actually played. It’s from this juxtaposition that comes the frequent and often irksome question “how do I hack D&D to play [insert genre]?” However, when you mix D&D mechanics with a designer who has actually played other games and given thought to how the mechanics must change, you can get something rather good. Carbon 2185 has taken 5th Edition D&D mechanics, given them a solid restoration to work better in the Cyberpunk genre, and then added some bolt-on systems which take inspiration from the best of sci-fi roleplaying.
A Matchmaker of the Deer, manipulating others to maintain Rokugan’s balance. A Spymaster of the Crane, ferreting out secrets and striking at exposed weaknesses. A Deathdealer of the Scorpion, striking down enemies by any means necessary. A Chronicler of the Dragon, maintaining the truth despite a storm of lies. The social scene in the Emerald Empire is just as much of a battlefield as any blood-stained patch of earth outside Toshi Ranbo, and it’s a battlefield that requires warriors that wield words and blades alike with the greatest of skill. Fortunately we have what we need to build an entire party of such warriors for the Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game from Fantasy Flight Games, using the Courts of Stone!