Let’s face it, some of the most popular RPGs out there are part of popular franchises. It’s hardly something to complain about. Roleplaying comes out of investment in a story, and a lot of things that hook people is a universe in which they are already immersed. I don’t believe that it is an accident that we’ve written a number of articles that include the Star Wars, Mistborn, and Witcher RPGs, nor that there are numerous iterations of RPGs based off of pop culture phenomena (I am personally aware of Buffy, Firefly and Doctor Who RPGs) as well as my personal experience with GMs use Genesys as a universal system to build games in the Harry Potter and the Stormlight Archive universes. Even for systems that were always games first there is an impressive amount of lore that has been generated over the years in novels, such as the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden in the Forgotten Realms or Theo Bell in Vampire the Masquerade, and for any players these stories are distinctive part of what they love.
This leads to what I refer to as the “fanfic quandary”. The reason why you pick a work of fiction to base your own story on is that you want to immerse yourself in it, but how do you make your mark on that universe? Players generally want to have agency, want to be the heroes (or villains) of the day, but how do they do so when that work’s main character is the Chosen One.Well, the problem is not unique to RPGs. The aforementioned “fanfic” can get a bad rap, but quite a few have turned out interesting over the years, and as previously mentioned some have been officially licensed novels, so why not take a look at some of the techniques these writers use and see the potential benefits and pitfalls.
Continue reading Using Fanfiction Tropes to Maneuver Canon in Roleplaying Games
Kickstarter Wonk is an opportunity for me to, every month, show off some neat Kickstarter campaigns that deserve to get a little extra attention. To write these articles, I read pretty much every Kickstarter campaign that could be termed as an original RPG, and then pull from there to make my list. Some months, getting to ten is difficult because there are twenty or more games, sixteen or more that are worth covering, and narrowing down the list gets really hard. That’s when I apply some really arbitrary metrics like “the campaign ends less than two days before the article will be published” and “I will weigh my choice towards the game with original mechanics as opposed to the one which is using Fate”. On the other hand, sometimes there’s fewer than ten games I want to cover, and the last one or two which are all right will have a bit of sarcasm in the descriptions. What has not happened until now was a month where I couldn’t even muster up half a dozen games I was excited about.
Continue reading Why Tabletop RPG Kickstarters Fail
I’ve made plenty of hay over my opinions about D&D. D&D is not a bad game, but it’s such a limited expression of what a role-playing game can look like. The most common counter-argument I get to saying that a gamer should play games other than D&D is somewhere along the lines of “if that’s what they like, that’s what they should play”. This is usually followed by pointing out several more obscure games, which usually look absolutely nothing like D&D, and harping on about how that’s not the play experience they want. And this straw man argument is one of many reasons I’ve decided to sing the praises of the giant middle ground of the hobby, the traditional RPGs.
Continue reading Traditional Games and Why We Love Them
The one subsystem that all traditional RPGs bolt onto their core resolution mechanics is a conflict system and, like it or not, the most popular iteration of a conflict system is one for physical combat. Cyberpunk 2020 had a combat system designed with realism in mind, and, thanks to a statistical basis in actual criminal activity using guns, did very well in terms of combat verisimilitude. This did mean that some of the “imbalance” in the system, namely the overwhelming power of a high initiative roll and the destabilizing impact of armor, were based on reality. Quirks aside, what made ‘realistic’ fun was that the system played quickly and had enough detail to mean that player choices in terms of tactics and weapons mattered. The issue with Cyberpunk’s conflict systems, really, is that combat is much more ‘baked’ than the other conflict system, netrunning, and the only semblance of a social conflict system is the ‘facedown’ mechanic, which is one die roll for one specific situation.
Continue reading System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Combat
The party was invited back to the governor’s estate to help interrogate Paul. The stories of the wizards crafting a gate were corroborated, though it sounded like Paul either didn’t agree with or didn’t believe the reasoning of his compatriots. Either way, it was a spirited argument and too many available teleport artifacts that caused the malfunction, opening the gate maybe a third of the way and casting Paul into the Interface. Paul wasn’t imprisoned, per se, but he was held in an office in the administrative district of Third City for safekeeping.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 14
So we’ve stated some design goals, and we’ve set a baseline with an in-depth review of Cyberpunk 2020. Now, it’s time to get into the weeds. As I stated in the design goals, I want to create a game inspired by Cyberpunk 2020. As such, most of these articles will revisit one or more mechanics from that game. That said, after considering the implications of these mechanics, I will more often than not rip them apart. Want to see us journey from nine stats and a d10-based resolution mechanic to three stats and a dice pool? Read on.
Continue reading System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Attributes and Skills
What? Whaaaaat? Really putting the wonkiness in Wonk here, after last week’s little doozy. But yeah, there are still a couple Adventure Logs left before I put a feather in the cap of my last attempt at running Dungeons and Dragons. This is the penultimate Adventure Log, from a series of sessions run in August of last year that led to an intriguing conclusion.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 13
Cyberpunk brought a new vision to science fiction roleplaying in the late 80s, which was further refined by Cyberpunk 2020. As described in the design goals, the intent for Cyberpunk Chimera is to take what’s already there and adapt it to the sensibilities of me as a GM and what I’ve learned in the 15 years or so since I started playing Cyberpunk. In order to do this, it’ll be necessary to dive into Cyberpunk 2020 and take a look at what’s there to see what I like, what I don’t like, and what’s not necessary to change or adopt. So let’s take a look at the core rulebook, chapter by chapter, and see what conclusions we can draw about both mechanics and presentation of the game. While this is setting up a baseline for the Cyberpunk Chimera, it’s also a detailed, chapter-by-chapter review of the mechanics of Cyberpunk 2020. Whether or not you’re interested in my project, if you want to play Cyberpunk you’re likely to find something useful here.
Continue reading System Hack: Cyberpunk Chimera Baseline
The party made it to the castle, sending a signal flare to warn the regent of the doppelganger they were following. By the time they made it there, three of the pirates had not-Hugh in a sleeper hold, and the doppelganger’s command of language was deteriorating. The group went to see Sybil the regent, after providing some quick proof that they were not in fact doppelgangers themselves.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 11
Ho ho ho, holy hell that’s a lot of views! As we enter into the twilight of 2018 and as all of you are home with your families, it’s time once again to reflect on what the year has brought us. My year on the home front has been a difficult one (for reasons I need not get into here), but what we’ve been doing at Cannibal Halfling Gaming has been a continual bright spot for me no matter what else was going on.
Continue reading The Level One Wonk Holiday Special: 2018