Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #137 - Hacking the Cypher System - Mental Damage Track

So you're playing a horror game and want to have a better way to show character mental trauma. Or maybe you are playing a game with a lot of social "combat," people arguing, vying for control, political deception, and such and you want a way to track a person's demeanor. As designed the Cypher System isn't terribly granular in this regard, but that's not something that cannot be fixed. The damage track does a great job of tracking physical damage and stress, and in games of exploration and combat the loss of a damage level from mental assault and/or fatigue works well but when focusing heavily on those more social times it starts to work a bit less well.

Social and mental damage is certainly easy to integrate as damage to Intellect pool. Instead of going to Impaired however these kinds of "attacks" could go to a new type of damage level: Provoked, Disturbed, and Unhinged.
  • Provoked - The character is saddened, angered, or off put. They are still in control but on edge and starting to lose control. While a character is Provoked they count as having one less armor for the purposes of mental and social attacks (this may mean having a -1 armor and therefore taking 1 extra damage from such attacks). 
  • Disturbed - The character is now on the verge of breakdown. They are furious, grief stricken, or offended. Their control is beginning to slip and they are prone to making poor choices and taking reactionary actions without considering the consequences. While a character is Disturbed they gain an Inability in Intellect defense tasks, and must also make a level 4 Intellect task to act counter to their emotional state (e.g. a roll to not act in anger but instead stay one's hand). 
  • Unhinged - The character has now fallen into a an uncontrolled state of wrath, anguish, outrage, or the like. At this stage the character's actions are dictated by their mental state as advised by the GM with player input. Should the character try not act as dictated by their mental state they must succeed on a level 5 Intellect task. 
Unlike the traditional physical damage track these damage conditions are tied to the character's Intellect pool only. They act as a way to track a character's mental state. When a character takes Intellect damage from a social or mental attack that puts their pool below half they also take the next available level of Mental/Social damage. When their Intellect pool falls to zero, they then take then next level of Mental damage. Should they suffer further social or mental attacks while their pool is at zero they suffer an additional level of mental damage. A GM can of course use a GM Intrusion to directly inflict a level of mental damage in appropriate situations.

Recovery on the mental damage track can be done by taking a recovery roll and succeeding on a level 3 Intellect Defense task. Success means they recover a level, failure means they do not. Taking a 10 hour rest always recovers 1 level of Mental Damage. 

As usual, these rules are not tested, so if you use them for a horror game or a Game of Thrones style political game I'd love to hear about it. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #135 - Review: Blade Runner 2049

Thirty-five years is a long time to wait for a sequel. Some would say that Blade Runner didn't need a sequel at all. That it was a perfectly fine film that didn't need a Hollywood ending that tied every loose end into a bow. I was one of that group. I like the original, I have no problem with the questions left unanswered. I'd have been far more indignant if not for another beloved cyberpunk film that got a sequel that added to the original: Ghost in the Shell. Ghost in the Shell: Innocence was somehow equal to the original. It answered some questions and raised others. It worked.

Granted, GitS:I wasn't a thirty five year wait, and it came out of Japan, out from the thumb of the Hollywood machine that churns out bad sequels to bad movies in the name of making a buck. The Hollywood system is why I (we?) groan when people mention Pirates of the Caribbean instead of remembering fondly how fun the first one was. It's why I (we?) cringe when yet another Transformers movie comes out. Somehow Blade Runner 2049 avoided the fate of some many sequels and reboots. It honors the original without diminishing it in our memories, and it adds to the legacy and world in positive ways.

It's not perfect. A friend rated it an 8.5/10 and I'd agree. I'm a little tired of the "bwaa" soundtrack, and this movie leaned on that dissonance as auditory clue in certain ways that had me wondering at times why it was a thing in the first place. The pacing is a bit  uneven, with a few moments around half way through that made me contemplate a trip to the restroom. That said, for a movie with a ~2:45 running time it goes by amazingly well for much of that time. The cold open is pretty great, and dovetails into a blooming flower of plot that proves really well constructed. There's stuff early on that you don't realize facilitates plot points until well later in the film.

It's also really pretty. Even the dingy parts are really well shot and blocked. It's dark in places, but well lit in others, and where the original delved deep into the darkness of the setting this film seems set on showing that there is brightness in the world still.

I agree with the 8.5/10 or maybe a 4.5/5. It's good. It's damn good. It's not perfect, but then again, what movie is?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #134 - Abstraction

I've been reading Blades in the Dark lately. A little here and a little there. I don't see myself ever running it as GM, and I doubt I'll ever get to play it, not that I'd want to; I'm just not that into "evil campaigns." That said, I think there's some great ideas in the book. Some really nice ways to run aspects of games that just aren't fun to grind out the hard way. Blades in the Dark does this by abstraction.

It abstracts threats, and renders them into bite sized pieces that the GM and the group can narrate as they see fit. It likewise does this with building resources and allies. It even does do with equipment in a way, with the characters having a carrying capacity that is only occupied as they use equipment, thus making the planning of the PC's criminal exploits into an abstract system that allows them the freedom to be capable.

There's something to value in these ideas. That some things in games don't need to be rigidly defined at all, or do not need to be rigidly defined initially, and that freedom to define things when they are needed, or not at all, can help tell a better story without backing oneself into a corner.

Let's go back to that idea of equipment. Specifically it's the character's loadout that is abstracted. Initially they have a certain load they decide on based on how much they want to be able to carry in total. This is left undefined, instead just indicating that the current job has the character carrying light (and being easier to remain undetected) or laden down for the operation (and being slower and easier to discern). As the players go through the mission they need a set of tools. Tools take up 2 slots and, of course they remembered to bring such an important item; they mark off two slots of gear in their inventory, noting that they are a bag of tools, and they proceed in the story.

Initially the was no entry for "bag of tools" on the character sheet, instead their inventory was abstract, they had a heavy load of gear they needed to break into this vault. By allowing the gear to be conceptualized as an abstract the group didn't have to spend time debating what to bring, the players just decide how much, while the characters, the experts that the players often cannot be, as assumed to be bringing the gear they need.


It just will not. Hell, it won't even satisfy some gamers all of the time. Depending on the game I'm playing this could be a great thing or a terrible thing. There are times when I don't want to micromanage things. Games like Cypher System tend to be very good at operating with more loosely defined terms than games intended for a more "old school" feel. Shadowrun run with Blades in the Dark's rules could either be really great, or really terrible, in part because it may be great fun, but it probably wouldn't really feel like Shadowrun if you always have the right piece of decking gear or magical focus just a check box away.

Threats are another great opportunity for abstraction. Instead of going through the minutiae of sneaking past the six guards on duty at the weapons lab the GM can decide that getting past the guards is a task needing a certain difficulty (in Cypher parlance), or a certain number of successes, or perhaps a certain DC task with four passed checks. With each roll of the dice the character overcome some fraction of the task. One quarter, or maybe more or perhaps less. They progress in increments that the GM can narrate with the help of the players telling them how they succeed. Maybe a DC of 15 was needed but a 20 was rolled, the GM says that gets them an extra increment. Instead of 1/4 complete they are now 1/2 completed. The players then narrate how they managed such a feat so easily.


Find what works for you, as both GM and player. Maybe you play a military heavy game of giant mecha versus alien invaders and tracking each missile and rail gun round appeals for such a game. Maybe you have a game of superheroes and mostly avoid rolling dice because these characters are meant to be able to be awesome first, and challenged second. Maybe, like me, you like to play in both worlds, and enjoy both sides of the coin, the abstract and the simulationist. There's nothing wrong with that. Fun is fun. 

The big take away, at least for my money, is that abstraction often facilitates characters to be more capable. If you want success to be something hard fought and the struggle to get ahead is part of your game you probably want to avoid using abstract rules in favor of strict simulation of the real world. If, on the other hand, you want characters who probably know how to be awesome in a way that their player's do not, abstraction is a great way to allow them to be more capable without loading them down with more and more abilities.

As always, your mileage may vary. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fiction - Numenera: Awakening to Need

Image owned by Monte Cook Games

Garthax awoke from the midnight black of hypersleep. He felt odd. There was a no feeling of mental refreshment as he would gain from normal sleep, but his body felt rejuvenated and ready. The medical systems in the hypersleep chamber had clearly worked as intended, repairing the wounds to his body, and saving his life. Still he wished for real sleep.

The panel before him slowly began to turn translucent allowing the physical darkness of the hypersleep couch to slowly illuminate with soft blue light, and banishing sleep from his mind. As translucency became transparency Garthax became aware that he was being watched. A pair of the primitives were peering at him through the transparent barrier while a third stood at the control panel of his hypersleep chamber. They looked different from the last time he had seen their kind, and that one of them could operate his ship's controls, even those as basic as the hypersleep couch, spoke volumes of their progress during the time he had slept. Garthax wondered just how far this hypersleep had carried him into the future.

As the medi-computer analyzed the ambient atmosphere and adjusted Garthax's lung structure to compensate for compositional drift Garthax tapped the audio sensors and ran the primitive's language through his linguistic cerebral symbiote. To his surprise Garthx found that they spoke a language that had deep roots in Kellax-trall. The symbiote assured Garthax of a 93% comprehensional match.

At last the chamber opened, and the primitives excitedly backed away. Two, wearing metallic armor and wielding crude weaponry took position in front of the third, a thin elderly female. "Careful, Jessita, we don't know what it'll do," the largest of the three, and clearly an alpha male, said.

"No harm will be offered in exception of return in kind," Garthax spoke firmly, unsure if the symbiote had fully mastered the syntax of this strange variant language. "How came your entry to this place?"

The elderly female brusquely pushed her way forward, "We seek aid in defense of our home." She looked Garthax up and down and nodded her head, "We beseech you, oh ancient traveller, to aid us in the defense of the people of Ellomyr."

Find the Numenera 2 Kickstarter campaign here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #133 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #8

Kamandi Challenge #9 is out today! So let's discuss #8. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Rude • Words: Giffen

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

OK, where were we? Oh, right, on a hang glider being attacked by a parasite. Ho hum, Kamandi foils this one by landing in the water, swimming to shore, and tearing the parasite off him before smashing it to bits. Basically something that last issue took over some of Kamandi's allies in seconds posed ... zero threat. Sadly it actually manages to get worse from here...

The remainder of the issue has Kamandi caught between two warring tribes, one of wolves, the other of goats and sheep. Each sees Kamandi as a prophesied hero of their people: Ulysses or Odysseus. Seriously. Kamandi manages to leverage his position to get a boat and try to make his escape as the tribes go to the dumbest war ever. Which is par for what is the dumbest issue of the run so far by a long margin.

The art was OK, but the writing was poor. Both the story and the dialog were unclear and uninteresting and at times actively confusing. A number of the scenes throughout can be summed by two aesthetically similar tribes yelling "Ulysses" or "Odysseus" while smashing into each other. By the end of the issue I was glad it was done, and happy to know that the next issue wouldn't feature anything by this issue's team. Maybe I'm being harsh but I can't abide by a boring and poorly written narrative that weighs down a limited series with pointless silliness.

As I said the art was ... OK, it wasn't great by any means and a lot of the pages were just confusing in layout and visual narration with two two factions having a very similar look. There were a few decent splash pages but mostly they came at the end and couldn't redeem what had come before.

World building is likewise a fail, mostly because neither tribe was interesting. The setting was likewise boring, being a little explored island with some woods and vaguely Greek inspired architecture. Even the colossus like status of Ulysses/Odysseus just elicited a groan from me when fully revealed at the end of the issue. Previously, tropes like communist bears were at least refreshed by the addition of a hive mind and a robot god-city. There was no such refreshing brought to this issues cultures.

As if all that wasn't obnoxious enough the credits are all paired off as Ulysses and Odysseus pen names. It makes me think that Giffen and Rude realized this was garbage and wanted to cover their tracks.

Make like Kamandi and run from this trite and boring story.

Rating: 20% - An entirely wasted effort that I will probably never bother to re-read. A waste of $4. The 20% only comes from the few decent panels of art and the fact that next issue has new creatives.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #132 - MCC - Random Weather Tables

Image Source:

On the most recent Glowburn Judges Forrest and James mentioned that a weather phenomenon table would be a great resource for MCC GMs. I agree, and since I'm getting prepped to start GMing MCC I figured this would be a good exercise for me to undertake. Roll a d5 and a d4, or pick, you're allowed. Oh, and, yes, I know some will percieve this table as extremely harsh, but if you're going to roll on a table you may as well have something interesting come up most of the time. Don't roll on this unless you are prepared for something to happen, if you didn't want the weather to make an impact why'd you even bother rolling?
  1. Glow Storm!
    1. Minor storm: Strange lights in the sky but no ill effects
    2. Major storm: Strange lights, terrible winds and radiation blast the area, take 1d4 radiation damage (DC 12 Fort save for half).
    3. Powerful storm: As above but take 1d6 radiation damage (DC 14 Fort save for half).
    4. Glownado!: A glownado carves a path of destruction. Arrives in 1d3 rounds. Each round a character is caught within its 300 foot wide diameter they must make a DC 13 reflex save or take 1d14 physical damage, they also suffer 1d7 radiation damage (DC 15 Fortitude save to halve).
  2. Weird Event!
    1. Solar flare: The sun bloats and turns angry hues of red. Take 1d5 radiation damage for each hour in the sun (DC 13 save for half)
    2. Meteor Storm: Great rocks from the Sky Arc rain down! 1d3 meteors rain down. Roll d16 per meteor to determine the DC of the Reflex save to avoid. Impact and heat damage is 1d14.
    3. Artifact fall: A machine of the ancients falls back to earth. Roll a d20, any character with AC lower than the roll takes 1d10 damage from the impact. The object within may be of value (75%). 
    4. EMP: A wave of strange energy washes over the landscape. All non-battery artifacts of the ancients roll to save with a penalty equal to their Complexity Level (DC 10). Failure drains all remaining charges from the device. 
  3. Foul weather!
    1. Extreme heat: DC 12 Fortitude save or suffer 1d3 points of temporary stamina drain from fatigue. +2 circumstance bonus for reptilian manimals and plantients.
    2. A tornado cuts across the landscape: It arrives in 1d3 rounds! Each round a character is caught within its 1d3x100 foot diameter must make a DC 13 reflex save or take 1d14 physical damage.
    3. Thunderstorm: Heavy rain and lightning lash the region for the next 1d5 hours. Once per hour a random PC must test Luck or be struck by Lightning for 1d16 damage (DC 14 Reflex save for half).
    4. Extreme cold: Water freeze solid and a DC 12 Fortitude save is required each hour to prevent 1d5 cold damage if not protected. 
  4. Precipitation
    1. Rain: Everything gets wet. Lowest luck character rolls on Luck or a random artifact they carry stops working.
    2. Snow: Slow going and cold. Reduce travel speed by half. Make a DC 10 fortitude save each hour or take 1d3 cold damage.
    3. Blizzard: Visibility is reduced to no more than 20 feet. Reduce travel speed by half. Make a DC 12 fortitude save each hour or take 1d4 cold damage.
    4. Driving rain/monsoon: Water and mud everywhere. Every character is soaked through. Visibility and travel speed are reduce by half. Lowest d3 luck characters roll on Luck or a random artifact they carry stops working (if not artifact they slip and fall taking 1d3 damage instead).
  5. Fair or foul!
    • If the die is Even the weather is fair for the remainder of the day.
    • If the die is odd drop two dice and combine! If conflicting results are rolled the weather swings wildly between the two (e.g. driving rain at one moment, sunny and hot the next)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #131 - Review: Hex Kit

This map took me less than 30 minutes...

This is, I think, a first for my blog: a review of software. I'm not the most computer literate guy around. For the past decade or so I've been getting by using Chromebooks at home and whatever they gave me to use at work. I always knew it was a stop gap measure, but for a good while the Chromebooks worked for my needs. The one biggest downside was their lack of software support.

When I back Torment: Tides of Numenera, I knew I would eventually have to buy a "real" PC to be able to play, and when I later backed Cecil Howe's Hex Kit mapping tool I figured "Well, I already have to buy a PC..."

Both Torment and Hex Kit have been available for month now, but it was only this past weekend that I finally bought into a new PC. It's hardly a supercomputer, but considering I've been getting by on Chromebooks it feels a bit like on to me!

All of that preamble is to explain why I'm reviewing something that has been available since April. That said I'm so impressed with the artistic quality of Mr. Howe's Hex Kit map hexes, and the ease of use for the Hex Kit tool that I felt "better late than never" would apply.

Hex Kit is an inexpensive ($15) mapping tool for PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) published by Cone Of Negative Energy (Mr. Howe's publishing self) via It's a tool that allows one to use pre-render tiles to build hex maps. The above image was constructed mostly from the "Fantasyland" set (an add-on that I also purchased) which consists of literally hundreds of hexes in numerous styles with a few dozen of each style being available. You can click on farmland for instance and just quickly fill in a 6 by 6 hex sheet with the following at random:

Alternately I can choose a specific tile and populate the same, I can even rotate the tiles to form a neat and tidy look if I choose:

It's quick and easy and even a caveman can do it. These tiles are gorgeous because ... they're hand painted. Mr. Howe hand paints these on paper and then scans them. This project is a huge labor of love as much as it is a useful tool for players and GMs. The lead in image was created for the DCC game I am playing in where the characters just arrived on the Purple Planet. Since the GM (+James Walls) said it would be a hex crawl I jumped at the chance to not only fully embrace the classic hex crawl but also to use this awesome new tool I'd finally started to play with.

I back the kickstarter, and got in for short money, but I can't stress how impressed I am with this from a tool standpoint. It supports multiple layers (so you could even create a fog of war layer to hide stuff from your players) and features numerous unique places of interest, roads, rivers, coasts, forests, mountains, hills, etc. There's even a space themed add-on set that you could use to create maps for sci-fiction games like Stars Without Number, Star Trek, or Star Wars. And every tile is something that was hand painted, and scanned. Every. One.

Oh and on the off chance you aren't already sold there's a dungeon kit in works. Also you can output random maps with barely any clicks at all. Check this out!

I don't wholeheartedly recommend stuff with this kind of wild abandon very often, but I think for the price this is this kind of tool that any GM or player with a hankering for maps will probably be happy with. I do recommend you grab the Fantasyland expansion however. While the base set of black and white tiles is still not only very functional, but also attractive, these tiles really pop if you get into the full color sets.

As a before after I converted my MS Paint map of Blackstone Ford from my Shadow of the Demon Lord game to Hex Kit in about an hour. Here's the before/after.

Friday, September 8, 2017

State of the Blog(ger) - Connui

Since Gen Con I've been feeling a weird gaming funk. My weekly game hasn't started back up, my monthly Gods of the Fall game came to an end because some players had to drop out (which I totally respect, you gotta take care of you) and I felt that trying to continue would be more effort than worth, my monthly game of DCC as player hasn't yet resumed (tomorrow!) and, as a result, I've been feeling a bit less inspired of late. I've been reading Blades in the Dark recently, in on-off spurts, a few pages at a time, but beyond that I haven't really read anything or played anything RPG related of late.

Basically I am feeling a post convention ennui ... or connui as a friend dubbed it.
Connui: That low feeling after riding the high of being surrounded by the hobby you love for 2+ days

I think the fact that the blog is 3 years old now is also a factor because after 720 posts in that time (that's 1 post per 1.5 days! over 3 years) I'm at a point now where the blog has the least structure of it's history with only Nuts & Bolts holding true since the very beginning.

Whilst I'd like to be able to jump right back into most old posting routine it's clear to me that will not happen immediately. I need to realign myself and find that creative groove again. I'll do what I can to continue with at least occasional posts, but my schedule may not return to "normal" for some time.

We'll find out together I suppose.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #130 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #7

Kamandi Challenge #8 came out last week, but because of GenCon and general work business as well as #RPGaDay2017 I didn't have time to even read the issue until this past weekend. However, now I have and here's my thoughts. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Dan Jurgens • Words: Marguerite Bennett

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

Everybody kosher? OK! When we last left Kamandi he was plummeting to his probable death in the fires of an atomic reactor within the city sized robot bear Mishkingrad. As he falls he realizes that he still holds the Cortex Crown of the city. Donning the crown he uses the power of the city to build a protective cage around himself and exit the reactor to save his friend Renzi.

Instead he gets grabbed up but some dog mutants calling themselves the Bulldog Britanneks who save both he and Renzi and escape the great bear before its apparent destruction. We learn that Renzi is an android (damn, would have been cooler if his atomic heart was cybernetic), and that the Britanneks have been raiding the Comuni-bears for some time. We also learn that the giant dirigible that they are traveling on was designed by Kamandi's mother. Before we can learn more something strikes the dirigible and downs it.

Stranded in the wastelands and under attack by an Ice Wizard and some Polar Parasites Kamandi and his companions make a desperate bid for survival. The parasites however breach their lines and break their defensive position. Fleeing from the tide of parasites and some of their own, now under parasitic control, Kamandi and the others return to the wreck of their ship. Kamandi realizes that the Control Crown will work with all the "salvage" from the wreck since was all once part of Mishkingrad.

Using the crown Kamandi is able to turn the tide and crush the the parasites and free the controlled dogs. Using the crap to build a new balloon the dogs depart Kamandi, leaving him with provisions and information. Kamandi, now on his own once more sets off south in a glider to try and find his mother, but one parasite had stowed away ...

This issue finally gave us a solid hint at where Kamandi may find his parents; fitting for the first issue in the back half of the year. Like every issue thus far it offered a fairly stand along adventure. Unfortunately the characters were fairly flat. There was little in the way of development for any one character and in the end it makes for a somewhat flat story. The pulpy action stories of the first half of the year were fine, but as the series gets older it's becoming a little less entertaining to see these isolated adventures. Here's hoping things begin to truly build toward a climax in December and not just stumble along until an end conveniently happens.

Setting-wise this issue did offer some more interesting developments. From the apparently magical Ice Wizards to the sci-fi hive mind parasites that can hijack a creature there was a decent amount of new additions to the world. Unfortunately I'd have liked a little more exposition about the Ice Wizards and their exile and even about the Britanneks and their home (since these stories are far too short to show much and must often give detail via exposition).

Overall it was decent, but one of my least favorite of the series thus far. If I weren't looking at the world building as well as story this would have been far far my least favorite from a story standpoint, feeling a bit rushed and overstuffed.

Rating: 70% - An OK story that did manage to forward the larger story in small steps.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 31

As found on:

August 31st) What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
There's so much 2017 left it's hard to look ahead to next year. Probably I would have to say I'm looking forward to Gary Con next year. I had a lot of fun with it this year and as a smaller convention it feels so much less stressful than Gen Con, and at the time of this writing pre-Gen Con stress is something that I'm dealing with daily.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 30

As found on:

August 30th) What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

There's a lot of mashups out there so I feel the need to come up with something new, unique, and probably a little wacky. How about a traditional High Fantasy game combined with Superheroes. In this case a setting where Super Powers and Magic are all hereditary. The characters could either be normal folk trying to survive the wars of power between the High Houses, or the scions of those houses gifted with power, but perhaps not with the morals to use them well. Imagine Game of Thrones but with the X-men playing the major roles. What happens when a whore's son develops Powers which can only come from the blood of the High Houses?

A second idea, one that I've had for a while but never figured out how to make it work is Giant Mecha + High Fantasy + King Arthur. I called it "Grand Steel Knights". The idea being that Arthur's knights each have a magical giant mecha that they use to defend the realm. Kinda like Pacific Rim but in a fantasy setting.

I dunno, maybe I'm nuts. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 29

As found on:

August 29th) What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Hands down it has to be Robert Schwalb's Shadow of the Demon Lord. While I didn't end up taking to the game as I had hoped (though I would like to try playing it with a good GM to see if I was just a bad GM for it) I have to hand it to Mr. Schwalb for the amazing execution. For the better part of a year after the initial release of the core rules there was an adventure module, setting expansion, rules addendum, or similar product released on Mondays. Not only was there something new EVERY WEEK but they were high quality, generally highly polished products. There was no instance of a shoddy offering, or a rushed production. The game may not have been my cup of tea, but it certainly demonstrated how a good Kickstarter could be run. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 28

As found on:

August 28th) What film or series is the most-frequent source of quotes in your group?

Ghostbusters. The Princess Bride. Basically anything by Mel Brooks. Star Wars. Star Trek. Monty Python. 

Basically all the normal places you'd expect a bunch of nerds/geeks to quote from.

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time, you silly, English knight! 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 27

As found on:

August 27th) What are your essential tools for good gaming?

I kinda feel like I answered this yesterday in that the best RPGs need very little extraneous material. I don't like GM screens, I prefer as GM to roll dice as seldom as possible, and if a game has so many charts that I need to have reference handy it's probably not for me (some exceptions do apply). That being said I think the most essential tool is an open and creative mind. If you can come to the table ready to play and be creative and original and all the other things that make RPGs great everything else falls by the wayside. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 26

As found on:

August 26th) Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I'm going to answer this by saying the Cypher System because it doesn't need resources. When I run it I rarely use more than a piece of scrap paper, a pencil, and something for XP. If I'm feeling in the mood I'll pull cyphers from one of the Cypher decks, but more often I just roll them, or have the players roll them. The best resources are the ones you don't need. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 25

As found on:

August 25th) What is the best way to thank your GM?

There's all kinds of good ways. The easiest is actually saying "Thank you" after each session. Throwing in "that was fun/awesome/superb/other superlative" is also a good way to show appreciation. Depending on your GM offering to run a game when they need a break, even if it's just a one-shot or a few weeks long, can be really nice. Not all GMs get much time to play, and some wish the could. Alternately if money isn't an issue maybe offer to buy the next release for them so they don't have to. Often GMs shell out the big investment bucks compared to players. Help bear that burden if you can. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 24

As found on:

August 24th) Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Umm? No idea. I don't really follow any publishers who routinely use PWYW. 

Err... Quick! To the backup question vault!

Grabbing the question from Aug 24 last year we get What is the game you are most likely to give to others as a gift?

Hmm, last year I said Pandemic, and that is still a stupidly solid choice. BUT I think this year I'd have to say Pandemic LEGACY. Because somehow they took a nearly perfect game and made it better. Like, a lot better, which seems impossible. TARDIS level of impossible. 

Can't wait for season 2!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 23

As found on:

August 23rd) Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I have to go with Gods of the Fall from Monte Cook Games. Between the art and their signature margin notes the book is both easy to navigate and beautiful to behold. The text is always clear and easy to read and the chapters are nicely color coded such that even from the edge of the book you can get to within 50 or so pages of your target. In digital they are fully hyperlinked PDFs which does make them a bit bigger and slower, but the ease of navigation this yields is well worth it. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 22

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August 22nd) Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Cypher System. Next question!

Seriously, if you read this blog at all you knew that was coming. If you don't read this blog very often then you need only look at the way the Cypher System uses 100% player facing rolls, has a built in mechanism for GM tomfoolery, and has simplified the process of creating NPCs on the fly and you'll know why I consider this one of the easiest RPGs to run. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 21

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August 21st) Which RPG does the most with the least words?

Another question I could look at in two ways.

At face value I can point to games with fairly minimal word counts that generate a lot of options & value for play. In this case I'd have to go with Microscope. It's literally both a game and a world engine. One of these days I really want to kick off a campaign by running a few sessions of Microscope ahead of time with my players to cooperatively build the setting.

Alternately I can look at this as what RPG does the most with it's art. In this case using art to help sell the setting, tone, gene, feel, and the like. This is hard to pick just one as art can really speak to you in a way that words may fail to do so. Games like Deadlands, Dark Sun, Gods of the Fall, and Rifts (yes, even Rifts) all contain artwork of such beauty and composition as to really draw me in and put me into those worlds. Even when the mechanics or setting proves something other than what I wanted that art can stay with me for years later. As a younger gamer the covers of the TMNT & Other Strangeness RPG and its various supplements including After the Bomb all spoke to me with such strength that to this day a few of them remain in my top 10 of all time best RPG covers. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 20

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August 20th) What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I've been quite lucky with my local shop who buys and sells used RPGs, if you're ever in Worcester, Mass. check out That's Entertainment. I've also utilized Noble Knight and eBay at times. Depending on the urgency of the need and the expense of the item. Lastly though is Drive Thru RPG (and it's sister sites). Lots of older stuff is coming to PDF these days and depending on your intended use these can be a great economical way to get your hands on some of the older RPGs you may have missed back in the day. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 19

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August 19th) Which RPG features the best writing?

Hmm... let's say this is writing of setting. I'd have to say I really enjoy the way Shadowrun details the turbulent lead up to the Sixth World. Also of note is Numenera for the way that it present information for easy consumption, including notes in margins, page cross references, and the like. It's a great presentation method. 

For rules I'd have to look at things like how easy the rules are to grasp based on presentation, and how enjoyable the reading of said rules is. While I can't say as I'm a huge fan of FATE for various issues (mostly with regard to it just not aligning to my sensibilities) the Atomic Robo RPG by Evil Hat using the FATE engine is fantastic because it uses panels out of the comics as examples of the rules in action. It's both a brilliant tie-in to the source IP and a fantastic way to showcase how rules and dice translate to story. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 18

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August 18th) Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

This one is tough. I can literally break up my RPG playing "career" into three phases. My first games through college were dominated by Palladium more so than any other. While even then I found the rules clunky in spots I loved the settings and the sort of "pick and play" aspects. After college I had no local group and no luck in finding one. Thankfully I found online play via play-by-post forums. I played a great deal of White Wolf games during those years from Aberrant and Trinity and Adventure! to the new World of Darkness titles and Scion. With time the community at the site I played on began to dissolve and I stepped away as I reformed a local group and found my way into online play via Hangouts and other video calling means. Mostly I have played Cypher System and Dungeon Crawl Classics in this medium, though I did try many an indie game or story game early on. Overall though I suspect that the Palladium games still have an edge in terms of hours of game play. Being that I started in middle school I obviously had a great deal more free time to play than I do now as an adult. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 17

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August 17th) Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

Reaching into the way back of my dim memory I can come up with a handful that I've owned for more than 20 years and not played, but I cannot recall which I acquired first. Back when I first started playing RPGs I played a lot of Palladium's games and I picked up a copy of Beyond the Supernatural that has never been used as anything other than reference for other games. Likewise when Palladium reprinted their Mechanoids games I got the book but never found time to try it out. While I don't regret never playing either of them, I do think that the Mechanoids probably has the most potential for me to one day use. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 16

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August 16th) Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

Dungeon Crawl Classics is one of my favorite games right now and works amazingly well out of the book. There's a few things that seem largely GM preference in terms of how players gain information and how frequently Luck is awarded (and commensurately how quickly players spend Luck), but these are not hacks as much as they are interpretations of the rules as written.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 15

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August 15th) Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

At the moment I'd have to say the Cypher System. It's surprisingly robust with regard to its adaptability to genre. Tonally it is more heavily skewed to a sort of pulpy level of action and character capability so it's not truly "universal," but that's fine as I seldom want to run grim and gritty or horror focused games. If I want to run something more "street level" there's plenty of other games out there, and there's a few tricks I could employ for Cypher as well. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 14

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August 14th) Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

For open ended play I suppose I'd have to say Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). DCC has a wonderful mix of old school mentality & feel but with somewhat modernized mechanics "under the hood." DCC is a game where the players are likely to see characters die if they don't play smart. At the same time it's a game where, without laundry lists of feats and character powers, a Warrior can keep up with a Wizard at high level. But you must survive, and earn your power and prestige.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 13

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August 13th) Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

The first time I ran Numenera, well before the "generic" Cypher System Rulebook was out, it was my first time GMing where I didn't have to deal with dice. Where I had a clear mechanic for throwing disastrous curve-balls at the PCs. It changed how I looked at RPGs and changed how I wanted to run games. I no longer needed to fudge dice, or use a big GM shield. The system was so simple that I rarely need the book for anything other than reference for creatures or PC abilities. While I do GM other games, Cypher System may well be my favorite system to GM in because it gets out of my way and let's me focus on giving the players a good game. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 12

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August 12th) Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Art is very subjective, and I feel like this could easily be broken out by genre at the very least. For Fantasy games I LOVE LOVE LOVE the art in Monte Cook Games' Gods of the Fall. It's epic and dynamic and gorgeous, and it's not western European inspired. For Sci-Fi games it's hard to not look at FFG's Star Wars games, but I think I'm going to point my finger towards Goodman Games' forthcoming Mutant Crawl Classics. I've got the backer PDF and the art inside is old school cool in all the best ways.

Friday, August 11, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 11

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August 11th) Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

Hmm. Dead game is a weird term. I guess that means a game that is out of print and doesn't see active publishing of supplements? Well one of my all time favorite game settings is Nightbane from Palladium. I doubt they consider it dead, but I don't recall the last time I saw anything new for it. I'm really not a fan of Palladium's house system anymore so I'd love to see somebody buy that up and redo it in a new custom setting, or possibly adapt it to one of the better systems out there.

I also have incredibly fond memories of the TMNT and Other Strangeness RPG from Palladium. It seems a no brainer for some RPG company to get that IP and create a whole new game that embraces the full gamut of the strangeness of the comics, movies, and TV shows.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 10

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August 10th) Where do you go for RPG reviews?
I find reviews crop up in my Google+ stream with enough frequency that I don't need to seek them out. On occasion that I do I usually just Google the product in question or check DriveThru RPG.

Uhh ... that was quick, sorry.

B-b-b-bonus question! Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Since this was last years August 10 question I'll answer only within the past year's worth of gaming. I think the largest in game surprise of my past year came from a relatively recent session of Dungeon Crawl Classics run by +James Walls for his monthly Sunken City tour. THE Free Company (yes, it's a terrible name, and yes THE has to be all caps) had just banished the Mist Men from the area around Slither's End. Triumphant we headed back to town to get our just rewards and find the next line of investigation/plot hook. Instead we found that we were hundreds of years in the future and my retired psychic (and God-mayor of Slither's End) had become a God-Emperor and apparent benevolent tyrant over the countryside. While I knew James was planning something with my former PC around getting the remaining players to the Purple Planet the idyllic countryside and time jump were rather surprising.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 9

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August 9th) What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

While I couldn't get the hang of GMing it, Shadow of the Demon Lord is sort of designed to be run for 10 or so adventures with leveling happening when the GM feels and being encouraged to level the PCs after each full adventure. I'd say that any game system can work for a fixed number of sessions. It all depends on the goal of the 10 session arc. If the intent is to go zero to hero in 10 sessions the GM can just level the PCs after each session, but if the intent is to tell a solid story in 10 parts all game systems should be capable of doing justice to that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 8

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August 8th) What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

I've got two for this. For small groups I really like Fiasco for 3-4 players. It's GM-less, and runs quick. It also makes for hilariously terrible characters doing awful things, which is often a great way to generate a fun game with friends. For larger groups, or groups that don't know each other well, I really dig Microscope. Being able to cooperative build a timeline and explore its key moments is unlike any other game I've played.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 7

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August 7th) What was your most impactful RPG session?

Hmm, this is a tough question. I think I'd have to go way back to an early game I ran for friends in middle school (or maybe high school). It was a cross country "cannon ball run" type game with the PCs as spies trying to protect a shipment of top secret microchips for the government. It was one of the first times I can remember running a game in a very improvisational style and really having fun as a GM. It also contained one of my most favored instances of a critical failure, but I think I'll save that story for another day.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 6

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August 6th) You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!
Assuming this is a perfect world scenario I'd have six of my best RPG friends and each day one of us would run a game for the rest. These would be the kind of crazy marathon sessions that adults so rarely have time for, but since this is a perfect world we'd not need to worry about kids or spouses or jobs. We'd have catered meals and in the evening there would be drinks and casual board or card games to keep the excitement going.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 5

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August 5th) Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Today demands a visual answer...

Yes, the Star Wars RPG from West End Games. There is no doubt about what you will get inside. There is no mistaking this for anything else. If you removed the text from the cover the content would still be adequately described to those viewing the cover. There is simply no mistaking what this is. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 4

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August 4th) Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

I'd say this is a tie between Dungeon Crawl Classics and Cypher System (in various settings). Probably with Cypher System edging out the win. I've been in a monthly (ish) DCC game as well as getting some games in at Gary Con and the occasional other game. On the Cypher side I'm running a monthly Gods of the Fall game and playing in a Numenera game that meets about three times a month.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 3

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August 3rd) How do you find out about new RPGs?

Sadly, oh so sadly, the answer to this is Kickstarter. Which is pretty damn terrible. I suppose I could answer "social media" but ultimately that's a dodge because usually that's just a tweet or Google+ share of the Kickstarter with basically no other information. Having backed many an RPG on Kickstarter I also get messages direct from publishers about their next big thing. So, yeah, sadly Kickstarter gets the win on this one.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 2

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August 2nd) What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Mostly if I really like an idea I'll sort of kitbash it using the RPGs I play, reskinning rules, or making new stuff up as needed to fill the gaps. There's no specific idea that I can think of that I couldn't do via that method. However, to answer the question in the best way I can ... I'd love to see an RPG for Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra. The complex martial arts of those series, combined with the bending powers, chi-blocking, and the later series' technology and spirit magic could make for a really fun product. In my pipe dream world this would also be illustrated by the animation teams who worked on the series development; if you've ever seen the "Art of ..." books for these series you know how amazing this book could look.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 1

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Once again the best 31 days of gaming have arrived. Best because of RPGaDay and because of Gen Con. For the rest of the month my normal posting will be replaced with #RPGaDay daily posts. Enjoy!

August 1st) What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

This is a pretty tough question. When it comes down to it I never feel like I get enough gaming in general, let alone for specific games I love. I think though that I wish I were playing in a game of Bruce Cordell's Gods of the Fall, from Monte Cook Games. It quickly became an obsession of mine when it came out prior to Gen Con last year and while I have written many a blog post and am running a game of it I have not yet played in more than a couple of one-shot sessions. I'd love to get a chance to play in a regular, ongoing game set in the post-apocalyptic fantasy world where the gods are dead and the player characters are taking on the quest of walking the divine paths of prophecy to become gods themselves and put the world to right once more. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Furry Road - The Driver

Notes: Drives Like a Maniac is from Expanded Worlds. Max is actually the first pre-gen I created for this, but I held him back because I needed to design the car. Also it was convenient to have a finished character in my back pocket in case I was pressed for time. Anyways, Max is a patrol trooper, so Virtuous seemed like a nice fit, especially when combined with the other assorted characters. Drives Like a Maniac was basically a pre-req for this game. The character is one of the most well rounded of the pre-gens as well thanks in part of a hefty dose of skills from descriptor and focus in addition to those gained from type. As for the Armored Patrol Cruiser, that's designed using the rules I created for CypherCaster Magazine #6. These expand on the vehicle rules from the CSR for games where the vehicle is more center stage than in other games.  I made some terminology modifications because those rules were written for spacecraft, but they apply equally well for road vehicles... for instance the "Truck" type is the same as the "Light Freighter" type.

Max the Dog is a Virtuous Explorer who Drives Like a Maniac

Tier 3 • Effort 3
Might 17 • Edge 1
Speed 15 • Edge 2
Intellect 12 • Edge 1

Cypher Limit: 2

Armor: 2 • Bullet proof vest (medium)

  • Trained
    • Running
    • Speed Defense
    • Medium Ranged Attacks
    • Knowledge: Road Gangs
    • discerning people’s true motives or seeing through lies
  • Specialized
    • Intellect Defense
    • driving cars, trucks, & motorcycles
    • Navigation
    • Vehicular repair 
  • Practiced in Armor
  • Practiced With Light and Medium Weapons
  • Danger Sense (1 Speed point)
  • Quick Recovery
  • Stand Watch (2 Intellect points)
  • Machine Efficiency (3 Intellect points)
  • Seize Opportunity (4 Speed points)
  • Ignore the Pain
  • Driving on the Edge
  • Car Surfer
Equipment: Calivada Road Patrol fatigues, a trunk tool kit (heavy tools), roll of duct tape, flashlight, 1x MRE. Armored patrol cruiser. (see below).

  • Sawn-off shotgun • special ranged weapon 
    • 6 damage at immediate range
    • 4 damage to Short range
    • attacks as a light weapon at long range (2 damage)
  • 9mm pistol • medium ranged weapon
  • Knife • light melee weapon 
  • Molotov cocktail • thrown weapon • short range • 2 damage plus fire
Armored patrol cruiser - "Sheila" is a Hardy Truck Defends the Weak

  • Frame: 18 • Edge 1
  • Engine: 12 • Edge -1
  • Alternator: 8 • Edge 0
  • Armor: 2
  • Hardpoints:
    • Medium Weapon turret (4 damage, long range) 
    • Extra Heavy Frame
    • Light Armor 
    • Full Throttle (As Fleet of Foot, CSR pg 40)
    • Optimized for Armor

  • Cargo: None - personal items only
  • Crew: 2 (Driver & Navigator/Gunner) + turret gunner
  • Weapons: Forward mounted SMG (light ranged weapon, long range)
  • Easy to Repair: Recovery takes 1/2 time
  • Keep Rolling: Ignore one damage level
  • Brick: Trained in Hull Defense
  • EMP Shielded: trained in Alternator Defense

Initial Link: It's your job as a sworn officer of the Calivada Road Patrol to protect the roads, and the Road Hogs are the biggest threat to safety in the entirety of the coastal region.

  • You've worked with Cornelius the Chimpanzee before. On a previous mission you accidentally crashed your vehicle when Cornelius was a passenger. Though you both recovered you still feel guilty about the incident.
  • Anthony the Mouse is one of the few people you trust to work on your car.