Favourite RPG setting

I’m gonna cheat yet again and call this a tie between M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel and Greg Stafford’s Glorantha. I’m all assuming that the topic addresses published RPG settings, and not setting types or home-brew settings.

I’m also sort of cheating because I have had very little actual play in these settings. I’ve played two sessions in Tékumel, one using Guradians of Order’s Tékumel: Empire of the the Petal Throne  RPG, and one using Barker’s home-brew rules as GM’ed by the excellent Victor Raymond. The only Glorantha proper session I’ve ever played was a fantastic HeroQuest event run by Ian Cooper at last year’s GenCon.

But! These settings have intrigued me since I was a wee lad. Both are so vividly realized and detailed, and both target various tastes of mine. In the case of Glorantha, it’s the Dark/Bronze Age Europe and western Asia feel, plus the rich mythology. In the case of Tékumel, it’s the heavy dose of India mixed with semi-classic-SF trappings — yet without feeling like a “kitchen sink” of swords and lasers and random stuff. Honestly, neither of these settings feel anything like others I’ve experienced.

And also, importantly, they feel organic — pure creations of their creators and the fandom they inspired. It could be my ignorance talking, but I don’t get the impression that any parts of these settings were created out of some business or marketing need. Maybe I’m a snob, but for me that makes them somehow “pure” or “genuine”; a product of the hobby, not the industry.

Runner-up for this category would be WotC’s Eberron. Yes, it’s sort the polar opposite of my winners above: a corporate artifact created out of a need to sell books. Despite that, I still think that Keith Baker managed to create one of the best D&D settings to yet see print, especially if we restrict ourselves to the original 3.5e setting book and ignore a lot of the supporting material that came later. I think it fits the D&D paradigm (especially the 3.5e paradigm) better than any other setting, and has lots of “situations pregnant with crisis” baked right in: the mystery of Cyre’s destruction, the status of the warforged, Five Nations politics, House politics, mysteries of Xen’Drik, etc. Sure, it has its issues (Xen’Drik-as-Africa and the tribal drow), but overall I think it’s pretty cool.

Favourite Horror RPG

I’m going to go with Sorcerer by Ron Edwards.

This is a tough one, as I don’t think I play straight-up horror RPGs all that often, leaning toward urban fantasy and “heroic horror” genres like Buffy and Hellboy, And it’s weird to classify Sorcerer as “horror”, because it’s not horror in the classic RPG, “investigate/fight monsters” sense.

Still, Sorcerer is very much (maybe literally) about confronting inner demons (and outer demons, since summoning and handling them is the whole point). It’s about the price of power and the horrible things we’re willing to do in payment. So, it’s not oogy-boogy-spookum horror, but “Oh, my God, what have I done?” horror, which is a lot more appealing to me.

I’ve read the rulebook and the supplements a few times, but I’ve only played it once, a great session run by Ron as part of the Kickstarter for the annotated edition (thanks to MadJay Brown for inviting me). I’d love to play some more, much less get around to reading my annotated edition. This is a powerful game. It’s also an indie classic, one of the Great Games™ of our hobby, and I think everyone should at least read it (and its supplements), if not play it at least once.

Ref: http://adept-press.com/games-fantasy-horror/sorcerer/

A (distant) runner-up for this topic would be Call of Cthulhu d20. Yeah, I know, lame. Whatever. I honestly consider this a good d20 design, frankly an improvement over the original BRP version. I’ve had fun both playing and running it, and it always makes me sad that Chaosium did pretty much nothing to support it. It’s maybe the only stripped-down, low/no-power d20 design I’ve seen, and, for  a d20 game, it works pretty damn well.

Favourite Supers RPG

This is a tough one. No, really!

Champions, a.k.a, HERO System will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first supers RPG I ever owned, and I’ve played it (in the form of 5th/5er) more than any other “supers” RPG. It’s the bar against which I measure any other supers RPG (much less any point-based RPG).

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, however, totally took over my supers needs when it came out. I ran a campaign of Civil War that was not only a blast but also the catalyst for creating my Sunday game group. In a lot of ways, I think it handles the genre better than any other, though it’s certainly a lot more “meta” than good ol’ HERO.

So, let’s call it a tie.

Runner-up would be Villains & Vigilantes, which provide hours and hours of some of the best gaming I had as a wee lad. Plus, fantastic art.

Favourite SF RPG

Another no-big-surprise choice here, but I’ll say Burning Empires. It’s masterfully designed, captures its source material perfectly, and handles technology better than any other game I’ve experienced. Plus, gorgeous physical artifact. People need to get over how intimidating this game looks on paper and just play the damn thing.

Runner-up for this would be Diaspora. My feelings on Fate have become more and more mixed over the years, but Diaspora is just a solid little game — one of the few non-Evil-Hat Fate games that “gets’ Fate, IMO. Honestly, were I to point anyone to a Fate-based RPG, I would point them to this one.

Favourite fantasy RPG

Burning Wheel, natch. No big surprise here; the game I love to death but rarely get to play, yet which has provided some of the best gaming I’ve ever had. Everyone should play this game and all of its derivatives.

Runner-up for this topic is probably RuneQuest, though it may be more the idea of RuneQuest than the game itself, as I’ve hardly ever had a chance to play it. Note that game called “Runequest” published by Mongoose does not count here.


#rpgaday2015  catch-up edition
Longest game session played

When I was a kid, all of my roleplaying happened at sleepovers with my friends. None of us lived very close to one another, and of course we couldn’t drive. Ergo, we’d get to play maybe once a month, and we’d start Friday and keep going until Saturday (or Sat/Sun).

Since play was so sporadic, we didn’t really do campaigns. We’d pick a module (or write one) and make characters, play those characters until we were done, and then never play them again — or rarely so. Granted, essenitally the same PCs would recur: my pal Anthony almost always played a fighter named Welleran, and I think Rich played an elven F/M-U dual-wielding a longsword and short-sword every single game we ever played (he was a math nerd and knew this was the best option).

Most often we’d play AD&D 1e, but occasionally we busted out Star Frontiers, Top Secret, or Villains & Vigilantes. I tried on a few occasions to run Chivalry & Sorcery or Space Opera, but those generally bombed. I did a session of Call of Cthulhu once, and ended up turning my friends off the game forever.

Regardless, we were impressionable lads hopped up on Dr. Pepper and pizza playing these games for 8-10 hours at a stretch. It was glorious. Sure, we had almost no idea what we were doing, but it was pure and engrossing in that tweener way. Were it possible to recapture that feeling, I probably would.

#rpgaday2015  catch-up edition
Longest campaign played

I’m pretty sure the answer to this is the D&D 3e campaign played by my old Monday Night Crew, which ran about six years.

We started the game under 3e and finished under 3.5. I want to say we hit exactly 101 sessions. This was a Greek-mythology-themed game that began with basic dungeon-crawling fighting frog cultists and ended with us killing their god. The 101st session was one long battle with said god. Tracking buff spells alone involved reams of paperwork. I played a human barbarian, “Rurik”, from 1st to 20th level (he started as a Ftr/Bbn, but I went single-class once we switched to 3.5). I also added in a cleric, “Zenobia”, who started at maybe 10th and was played through 20th.

My friend Mark Pauna was the DM for this, and he is one of the most talented DMs I’ve ever played with. He knew the rules inside out and crafted insane encounters — he used monster templates, for Zeus’ sake. I had insane rules mastery over 3.5, largely due to him.

The runner-up is the “Metaforce” HERO 5th/5ER campaign I was in from about 2002 to 2007 or so. We did a bit of a reboot maybe two-thirds of the way through, and I took on the son of my original character. Like a lot of Champions campaigns, the GM’s world long pre-dated me, and it kept going long after I left. So, the campaign didn’t so much end as I just told them that I wouldn’t be coming any more. Good people,. but the group dynamic. both in-game and out, just kept chasing its tail. I’d had enough.

Favourite RPG Accessory

If Dice count as “accessories”, then I nominate the awesome precision machined metal gaming dice created by Amber Rix. I freaking love these dice more than any other dice I own, and I would (metaphorically) kill to see her make other polyhedrals like this. I have a moderately staggering amount of d6s, but unless I need a specific type (Fate dice, HERO dice), I generally use these.

Why precision, machined dice are not a common thing in our hobby, I have no idea. Sure, lots of companies make metal dice, but AFAIK they’re just die-cast and other than being more expensive are no better or worse that you typical Chessex or Koplow dice.

Favourite RPG podcast

TBH, I am not actively listening to a lot of podcasts right now, save for one: Willow Palecek and Colin Regan and Tim Jensen’s Fastcast. And, no it’s not 100% tabletop RPG focused, but that’s a huge part of it. I love the short format (how I miss you, Durham 3!), and I find the three hosts have great rapport and express interesting viewpoints. I would love to see them garner more patrons so that they can continue to improve the audio quality (and maybe get on iTunes or Feedburner) — thought the quality is certainly not bad; much better than many many podcasts.


Favourite RPG illustration

It’s hard for me to answer this after going apeshit back in March posting under the #RPGCoverArtAppreciation  hashtag, because I’m mostly tempted to just pull from those.

For today, though, I’ll choose this installment of Dave Trampier’s Wormy from Dragon issue 62. My copy of this issue has practically fallen apart from me reading over this comic so many times. There are certainly more visually stunning panels from the comic, but this one so exemplifies Tramper’s naturalistic, casual side — the “day in the life” of his fantasy world’s inhabitants style at which Wormy excels.

Runner-up for this category might be the cover for the first edition of Mouse Guard, which is another piece that I can pore over for hours picking out all of the details.