Queen City Conquest 2018 Report

I have returned from a swell time at Queen City Conquest in scenic Buffalo, NY. This marked the seventh year of this convention, but only my second time in attendance. It has quickly established itself as one of my favorite cons, but that's no surprise, as the organizing team (Lake Effect Gaming) has ties to (and overlap with) the "GEM" collection (Gnome Stew, Encoded Designs, and Misdirected Mark), which themselves forms a pretty overlapping Venn diagram, as well. Additionally, this year's QCC featured some Double Exposure representation with their "Play to Win" board game program being present, so all-in-all, there were plenty of familiar faces around.

Not that I took much advantage of that! The way this year's QCC landed on the calendar, it ended up sandwiched right between my partner's birthday and Rosh Hashanah, so between engagements on either side and the travel time, I only ended up spending a day-and-a-half at the con. I did have a few fleeting encounters with friends that I don't see nearly often enough, so it was nice to at least get some hellos and hugs in while heading between games or on a mid-game break, but this con was definitely not one of my more social ones. I did get a few good games in, though, so let's get to it!

Monster of the Week by Michael Sands/Evil Hat
"Reign of the Shadow Lord" (but not really) run by Christopher Sniezak

At last year's QCC, I played in a three-session "long con" of Dungeon World that Chris ran, and this year his offering was a two-session MotW. Unlike last year's arrangement, which was three single slots spread over three days, this year was a single double-length slot plus a lunch break, so it really was one long gaming session. The player group was almost the same as the previous year: myself, Alexandra, and Rob B. were all returning players, while the spot occupied last year by Jesse was ably filled by the equally excellent Eric. Monster of the Week is a Powered by the Apocalypse game and, as you might surmise from the title, geared for episodic monster-hunting, by default in a modern setting where the monsters and their world are not part of everyday, quotidian life—settings like SupernaturalBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and The X-Files.

What made this session notable from the get-go is that the players managed to derail things before the game even really got started. The original pitch involved a scenario in a demon-infested post-apocalyptic Buffalo shrouded in unending darkness, with part of the setup being that the crew was coming off a previous victory over a demon in Chicago. During character creation, though, we wound up so focused on figuring out what had happened in Chicago that the background event became the actual session we played out. Chris, the GM, even went so far as to tear up the prep notes he had printed out for the intended game: "Guess we won't be needing these!"

The game was super fun. Though I'm already well-aware of Chris' chops as a GM (plug: and you can be, too! Check out the Misdirected Mark Podcast!), I still really have to hand it to him for rolling with just completely chucking the adventure he had prepared for the con and instead improvising a whole new story from the ground up, and for a double-length session, no less! The players were also excellent, of course. Rob B. portrayed Ziggy, the aging ex-hippie turned expert monster-hunter who tours the country in a Winnebago. Alexandra portrayed Zephyr, half-human/half-fae/total-badass and secretly Ziggy's daughter. Eric portrayed Anastasia, a conspiracy theorist and online troll who had unwittingly helped usher in Chicago's takeover by the Dead-eyed Demon. I portrayed Laszlo ("not his real name"), a con artist and fake storefront psychic who got recruited into demon-fighting and now has to keep pretending to have powers. There was plenty of excitement and drama to go around; the action of the game was punctuated by some pretty great interpersonal character drama, and it was a pretty great time all around.

Like most PbtA games, Monster of the Week strives to emulate a specific genre, in this case, as mentioned above, contemporary episodic monster-hunting stories. We played a lightly modified version in which Chris introduced some additional basic moves to further push (1) the investigative portion of the story and (2) the emotional involvement of the main characters. The emotional involvement definitely added a new dimension to the kinds of character interplay supported by the base game, and highlighting the investigative portion introduced a structural change to the intention of the original. Both changes were satisfying, and both (as any PbtA hacking tends to do) furthered the particular kind of game experience that Chris wanted to run.

Dusk City Outlaws by Rodney Thompson/Scratchpad Publishing
"The Funeral Job" run by Jennifer Adcock

Dusk City Outlaws is first and foremost a heist game. I remembered when I first heard about it, I had thought it was an Old West setting, but that was definitely not the case. The setting struck me as much more of a fantasy Renaissance Europe and between the setting and the focus on a criminal crew pulling of heists, it actually superficially put me in mind of Blades in the Dark, but that's pretty much where the similarities between the two end. Dusk City Outlaws carries a much lighter ruleset, for one thing, as well as what I perceived as a lighter tone. It's also set up nicely for one-shots and out-of-the-box play. And when I say "out-of-the-box," that's much more literal with this game that with other RPGs.

DCO presents much like a board game, complete with colorful, arty components, custom dice, and the whole nine. There isn't actually a board, though, which I guess might give it away, but even so, it's got a lot of that visual and tactile appeal which so often draws people to tabletop games. It's solidly an RPG, though, with characters being built broadly from a combination of a cartel to which they are a part and a role they play in the crew. The system uses percentile rolls and skill lists that are built into the character roles, and play is structured within a set number of planning or legwork phases that lead up to the execution of the heist proper. It is, again, a game tightly focused on telling a particular kind of story, but in contrast to the PbtA-style "play to find out what happens" aesthetic, this one leans on pre-written scenarios that the characters investigate and explore.

I'd gamed with Jen at last year's con, and the player group was a mix of familiar and unfamiliar to me. I knew Glenn, though I can't recall offhand if I'd played in a game with him before. Drew I had met previously, but I know we hadn't played before, because, shockingly, the first time I met him wasn't at a con! There was Emalyn, who I'd seen around but didn't know, and Rob H., who was brand new to me.

I actually don't remember a lot of details about the characters, I think largely because a lot of the character is made up of the cartel, which is setting-specific and with which I was unfamiliar. Glenn played Lenox, who I recall was like a theater performer or something similar. Drew played Ulyesses, who was an alchemist and belonged to the cartel that dealt with mortuaries and the like. Emalyn played something like an aristocrat or noblewoman named Elanore. Rob H. played Simon, and I can't remember his specialty, but I believe he made a lot of disguises. I played Nikolai, kind of a wheelman/smuggler type, but mostly I made hay out of being somebody in the crew with a legit job.

It's a fun game, and I can see the appeal, but I'm not sure it's for me. The primary part of the game, aside from the heist itself, is basically gathering information and making the plans for the heist, which doesn't hugely speak to me as far as gameplay goes. I do enjoy the heist genre, and I also like heist games, but I go for ones that deal more in flashbacks than planning, something like Leverage or the aforementioned Blades in the Dark. This one strikes me as coming more from an old-school module kind of tradition, where it's on the players to ask the right questions and put together the right puzzles, which isn't my cup of tea, I guess. It's not to say that the game doesn't pack in the action and excitement, because when the shit goes down, it goes down, but to get to the action, it feels like you first go through a mystery, and it's just not my particular bag.

Iron Edda Accelerated by Tracy Barnett/Encoded Designs
Run by Tracy Barnett

The original Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone is a Fate Core-based game that came out a few years ago, and the same developer is returning with Iron Edda Accelerated, a new version based on, well, Fate Accelerated. IEA just completed its Kickstarter campaign a few weeks ago and so is not yet on the market. I've known Tracy for some time now, but this con was the first time we met face-to-face! It was also a great way for it to happen, because I was really excited to back this game on Kickstarter, and I was really looking forward to playing. I was not disappointed.

There was a lot of familiarity in the player group. Notably, one last-minute addition to the game was the same Eric B. who I played with earlier in the Monster of the Week game. Also present were Tim, who I've seen around and gamed with at these cons before, Wen, a Gnome Stew gnome along with Tracy, John, whom I kinda know via the Misdirected Mark community (#Chatroom4Life), and Rebecca, who I pretty sure I've gamed with before at QCC, but maybe have just seen around.

The world of Iron Edda is based on Norse mythology and tells the story of the progression of Ragnarok, which has come in the form of Dwarven giant metal war robots, and the Vikings who are fighting them with, among other things, the animated skeletons of Giants. If it sounds to you from that description like an epic Viking Fantasy Pacific Rim knock-down-drag-out, you wouldn't necessarily be wrong, but honestly the strength of this game to me is the "session zero" part, which loads up on the collaborative worldbuilding and group character creation, which is, as you may know, what really gets me going in an RPG. In my personal estimating, I'm putting IEA up there with Headspace and Backstory Cards as the one of the top collaborative building toolkits on my shelves. It's a strong prompting engine with a huge amount of room for creativity, and it's one of those pre-game processes that builds in immediate emotional investment from players and tremendous idea fodder for GMs. Sold!

The other thing that really grabs me about this game is that you're also not necessarily building a party, per se; the group is literally just a collection of people living in this world. They may be working together...or they may not. There's something Apocalypse World to me about that (which I guess is only natural given the subject matter of both games), and I know that it's the kind of thing that really needs support from the right group of players, but when you've got that, look out; things can really get cooking.

The game centers around a single community, a holdfast, which is trying to make its way in these final days. In our story, the previous leader of our holdfast (the jarl), had died, along with his chosen heir, so we were in the midst of choosing a new leader. Wen played Halvor, who was next in line to become jarl but who didn't want the job. Tim played Helm-teer, the seer of the holdfast who was in charge of things while a new jarl was being selected. John played Ivarr, a Runescribed in the holdfast dedicated to decay and change. I played Bacchus, an aging warrior bound to one of the skeletal giant war machines and actively seeking to drag the holdfast into war. That's four of the characters, you'll note, while we had six players. Eric played Astrid, the self-styled "Jarl of Jarls," who came from outside the holdfast and looked to take it for herself. And Rebecca played Gäll, a skald and the herald of Astrid.

With all of that and the introduction of an additional NPC vying for the seat of power and the widow of the previous jarl just vying for power in general, let me tell you, we played an entire session and never once joined a battle or encountered a giant metal war robot. It's based on Fate Accelerated, so I already have an idea of what combat would be like system-wise, so I was really pleased with how well the game also supported interpersonal connections and interactions. I had a great session, and I'm really excited about the game.

In Closing

Like I said before, I didn't participate much by way of socializing at this con. I did get to meet a lot of online friends in the flesh for the first time, which was pretty darn nice. I think I'm taking away from this the lesson I always take away from cons (and then always forget) about how I shouldn't overschedule if I want to hang out with people, but also I'm giving myself something of a pass this time around for having not a lot of time and also for having other stuff going on. So...it's fine. There will be other cons and other chances to hang out with people.

As far as haul goes, I did secure my two primary objectives: the ashcan of Crossroads Carnival (Kate Bullock/Magpie Games) and the ashcan of Hydro Hacker Operatives (Phil Vecchione/Encoded Designs). (Big shoutout to my favorite vendor Jim Likes Games for helping make my dreams come true!) Both Kate and Phil are dear friends, and I have been incredibly excited about both these games for a long time. I'm pumped about finally holding these ashcans in my hands! Both of these probably deserve future posts of their own.

I also picked up a copy of Zany Zoo! (Daniel Kwan, Patrick Keenan, and Daniel Groh/Dundas West Games) when I happened to run into Daniel and had a chance to introduce myself. I've been following him for a little while and had kinda been tracking Ross Rifles, but what I'm really encouraging people to check out is his new podcast (with co-host Agatha Cheng), Asians Represent. At the time of this posting, only episode zero is out, but I'm excited about the podcast, which is highlighting Asian game creators and discussing Asian cultural influence in games. Look for it on the One Shot Network!

There was also a strong Gauntlet presence at QCC, but again, I sadly didn't spend a lot of time hanging out. I got some QCC swag, and owing to a running joke in GEM circles, Senda got me a squishy toy banana. Other than that, I didn't take a lot of pictures or anything, so this seemed like a good con to recap in order to try to get back on the blogging horse. Also, the last con I recapped was Metatopia in 2014, so...it's fair to say that a lot has been going on since then.

As always after a convention, I'm left bemoaning a few missed opportunities, but one of the biggest was that I didn't get to try out Orun. I was hoping I'd have the chance to play or at least talk with Eloy Lasanta, who was a guest at the con, but I couldn't make it work. Among the many things I didn't have time for, this was the one I wish I could have snuck in.

In any case, it was a really good con, and under different circumstances, I would have loved to have taken in more of it. As it was, though, I had a lot of fun, and definitely plan to go back again next year. Until next time, then, farewell!

#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 27

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 27 - What are your essential tools for good gaming?

I feel like I can indulge my minimalist streak for this question, but my list is pretty simple and has been for basically my whole gaming career: good players, paper and pencils, and dice. More recently I've been getting into index cards and Sharpies, but I gotta be honest: that's about as fancy as I'll get. I never even got quite comfortable having a computer at the table, nor did I ever really cotton to online gaming. I guess RPGs have become a big way for me to not engage with technology so much, which I guess is a little weird, but there it is. And even my simple list isn't "essentials" across the board; I'm sure there are many fine RPG experiences to be had without dice, for example (hello, Dread). I'll just blanket concede that there will always be exceptions. Good players are probably the most essential, though, and everything else on the list is there based on my own personal preferences. And my "essentials" list is pretty damn close to what I'd consider a "complete" list, anyway. I like to keep it simple as much as I can.

#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 26

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 26 - Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I'm interpreting this question such that "useful" comes out to "generally useful" as opposed to "useful for that particular game," mostly because that makes it easy for me to answer. I imagine this will have to be a very common answer among Gamers Of A Certain Age, but my pick for this would have to be GURPS. Say what you might about the system itself, the GURPS supplement game was always on point. GURPS sourcebooks are, by and large, excellent and comprehensive resources. Further, they generally get authored by people personally enthusiastic about the subject matter, which is what happens when you basically just leave an open call for pitches. The goal of each sourcebook was to present enough material to build entire campaigns around, and that alone meant that they could be mined for information and ideas to be ported to any game. But each being based on the GURPS engine at the core also meant that it was effortless to mix and match them into whatever setting mashup your heart desired. While it always remains my goal to assemble an extensive and varied RPG library, I tend to want to go for breadth of systems rather than depth. That said, though, if I went the other way and wanted to build a whole library around a single system that could inform the widest variety of campaign settings, if not outright support them, then I would do it with GURPS.

#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 25

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 25 - What is the best way to thank your GM?

Honestly, nothing has ever occurred to me as either a player or a GM beyond just a verbal thanks. I've seen a lot of other answers along the theme of "offer to run a game and give them a chance to play," which is pretty nice, but everyone's got their preferences, and some people just plain like GMing more. I certainly understand the need for a break now and then, though, so maybe generalizing that idea and seeing if the GM wants a break would be pretty good. Another answer that caught my eye was not leaving it up to the GM to also do the game organizing, which I also think is a valid point, but I also think that demands a pretty significant culture shift. Not that it isn't a worthwhile one! I just don't expect it. So, yeah, for me personally, no special thanks are required. I do it for love of the hobby and enjoyment of the work, and I hope that's why other GMs do it, too!


#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 24

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 24 - Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

I'm straight up taking a pass on this one. Time for an alternate question, pulled from this fine list at Casting Shadows!

Alternate Question - Campaigns: do you prefer set-length or open-ended play?

Currently, I prefer set-length, inasmuch as I'm taking that to mean the alternative to open-ended play. I'm not assuming set-length to mean a particular number of sessions or length of real-world time, but rather there's some kind of "end condition" to the story; a planned arc, perhaps, or some kind of campaign goal, or anything that will signal, in the fiction, that it's time for the campaign to wrap up. I'll also note that this answer is very much a product of the constraints of practicality. Given infinite free time for myself and all others concerned, sure, I'd love some open-ended campaign play, but I can't see that happening for a bunch of busy adults, at least not for myself or the circles I run in. I'll also note that I'm accepting the question constraint of sticking only to thinking about campaign play. Given my choice of all available options, I'd prefer one-shots at this point in my life to any kind of campaign, though you could certainly also make the argument that a one-shot is just a very limited set-length campaign. But given the kind of gaming time I have (or don't), and given the number of games still I'm still waiting to play, one-shots would be the way to go for me. For campaigns, life being what it is, I'd like to know we were working (playing?) toward something concrete and that we'd know when the game is over.

#RPGaDay 2017 – Days 22 and 23

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Blog fatigue must be setting in; it looks like I missed another day! This time, I didn't even realize it. So here's a special double-issue with not even a flimsy reason attached.

Day 22 - Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

My first thought for this question was immediately Lasers & Feelings by John Harper. It's not only a super-light game mechanically, but it comes complete with nicely constrained character creation, a setting, an adventure generator...basically everything you need to just grab it and go, even with people completely new to roleplaying and like ten seconds of prep time. It lightly piggybacks onto Star Trek for tone and maybe tropes, but in this particular case, because the adventure generator plots things out for you, that's not even really necessary for the core experience.

The question did give me a lot to think about, though. I've never really spent time thinking about the "ease" of running a particular game. In my mind, the big factor that a game can affect is the rule complexity, but that's more about how easy the game is to learn, and I feel like once you learn a game, the ease of running it is probably about the same as any other game. Some games will (or can) require more prep time, some may require more rules mastery than others, but once you're comfortable bringing it to the table, I feel like the ease of running doesn't depend on the game anymore. Games that are the easiest to run are the ones with a good group of players! If everyone's on board for setting and tone and so forth, and if you've got players that are imaginative and collaborative and enjoy playing, then honestly, the properties of the game itself aren't that important anymore. I think that there may be games that may be inherently harder to run due to their innate characteristics, like games that need a lot of record-keeping during play, for example. But it's my opinion that, by and large, ease of running is going to come down to the players and your GM techniques and toolboxes.

Day 23 - Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

This was a pretty difficult question for me, as layout is not something I particularly notice about games. As discussed previously, I do enjoy me some RPG artwork, but I don't feel like I get the same level of communication about a game from the layout as other people do. So to answer this question, I'm just going with a game that stuck out for me as being particularly eye-catching and easy to use, and that is Numenera from Monte Cook Games. I like the smooth two-column format bolstered by additional notes and references in an oversize margin. It's got nice, noticeable (but not intrusive) cutouts and boxed text, a classic style of table that appeals to me as an old AD&D-head, art that is plentiful, aesthetically pleasing, and well-placed (even in mid-text, which I feel like is a hard thing to do well), handy color-coded "parts" of the book (basically groups of chapters), even neat and evocative page decoration. It's pleasant to read as a text, and it's also useful as a reference manual, which are two sometimes opposing aspects that all RPG books have to try and accommodate. I don't think there's any question that MCG puts out quality products, and I feel like Numenera was the flagship offering in what became a spectacular line.

#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 21

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 21 - Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I'm choosing to focus more on the "least words" part of this question than anything else, and based on that criteria, it's hard to go wrong by checking out the 200 Word RPG Challenge organized by David Schirduan and Marshall Miller. In particular, my pick for today's answer is one of the winners for 2017, Grant Howitt's Mechanical OryxMechanical Oryx packs a surprising amount into its 200-word frame: a mysterious and compelling setting, interesting resolution mechanics with narrative inputs, a gameplay currency, even ideas for character advancement! In just those few sentences, I can immediately picture the world and its troubles and know what the game's story will be about. And lest I spend more words talking about the game than there actually are in the game, I'll leave it at that.


#RPGaDay 2017 – Days 19 and 20

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

It finally happened: I missed a day. Enjoy this special weekend double-issue!

Day 19 - Which RPG features the best [awesome] writing?

I interpreted this question to be lean more toward the non-rules portion of the writing. My first thought on this was Underground, because it was such a joy to read, but I already went on about that game on Day 11, and I didn't want to repeat myself too much. My second thought was Orkworld, but that one I gushed about on Day 17. That'll teach me to go on tangents. I think for my official pick I'll go with Monsterhearts by Avery Alder. Just a few weeks ago or so did I finish my readthrough of the second edition, and it was most excellent. I actually don't have a lot to say about that wasn't already said in Martin Ralya's recent G+ post:

It's lean, without an ounce of cruft anywhere on its frame. It's devoid of blather. This is a bullshit-free presentation honed by years of actual play, design chops, and feedback from others. It's fucking beautiful.

It's also packed with advice delivered in the best way possible for an RPG: conversationally but directly, with its intended audiences in mind. I love design notes and anything that brings in all the stuff that exists on the edges of the actual text -- like intent -- and MH2 makes so much explicit so well that it just rocks.

I agree with everything Martin said. Monsterhearts is not only a great game to play but also a great game to read. Reading it makes you want to play. That's probably the best indicator I can think of for a well-written RPG.

Day 20 - What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I understand the value of digital RPG projects, including digital copies of books, but I am all about physical books. To that end, I interpreted this question as where to get physical copies of out-of-print books. I'm assuming there's a baseline answer of hitting up your FLGS(es) or used book stores, but I'm also discounting PoD solutions like DriveThruRPG, just because that's never what I'm looking for when I'm looking for old books. To that end, my favorite source is Noble Knight Games. They're usually my first stop when I'm looking for a specific out-of-print book, but I've also just found stuff there that I didn't even know I wanted. I think, as a retailer, they're just right in my sweet spot of what I'm looking for. It's getting harder to turn to my FLGSes for older stuff, because I (like a lot of people) are also very interested in the avalanche of new (and largely indie) games that are coming out all the time, and there's only so much a store can do with limited shelf space. (I also live in New York City where physical real estate is at a ridiculous premium, so a sprawling game shop with endless inventory is not a tenable situation out this way.) But, yeah, I'm a big fan of Noble Knight. If you're interested in older games and haven't yet had the pleasure, give them a browse and see if you find anything you like!

#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 18

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 18 - Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

This is another one that makes me reach back into the misty memories of the past. Back when I had all sorts of free time for playing RPGs, my gaming followed a very different model than it does today. Back then, stable groups, campaign play, and a not very wide awareness of available games all meant that there was a lot of gaming of not very many different titles. Many years later, following a bit of a dry spell, I got swept up not only in the indie game explosion, but also a renewed interest and ability to attend cons as well as a much wider social circle than before. This all led to gaming that not only tended more toward one-shots, but also tended toward playing a little bit of a lot of different games instead of the other way around. So any "what have I played the most of" questions spanning my whole gaming career are going to have to tilt toward my early years. Another thing I pondered for this question was whether to count different editions separately. In the end, I think I'll go with "yes" on that; I don't feel the need to call AD&D and 3.5 the same game, any more than I would call any two PbtA games the same game just for both being PbtA. Similarly, I wouldn't consider the various World of Darkness titles (VampireWerewolf, etc.) the same game; I'd consider those separate.

Going by sheer hours logged, it's going to be hard for me to decide between Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (first edition) and Vampire: The Masquerade (second edition). I think I can tilt the scales toward AD&D, but that is pure guesswork on my part. Mostly that's based on the memory of having quite a few different AD&D characters but mostly having GMed V:tM. If we discount number of sessions or actual play time and just go by number of characters made, I would definitely have to give it to Champions (fourth edition). That game was my first exposure to a point-buy generic system, and I was simply entranced. I really enjoyed coming up with just the right powers and modifications to fit the visions I had, and I would make character after character, basically just to do the math. It seemed to me at the time the height of creativity. Years later, and after encountering more GURPS players, I would come to know this as "the character-creation game," which honestly is still one of my favorite games. (Well, favorite solo games, let's say; though I won't discount the draw for me of any game with a robust group chargen mechanic.) I liken it to, when playing any of a number of adventure or tactical video games, instead of actually playing the game, spending all my time customizing the character avatars. Which I have no regrets about, by the way. Fun is fun, after all!


#RPGaDay 2017 – Day 17

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This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!

Day 17 - Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I'm going to give myself permission to meander a bit on this one, if only because it was a nice little trip down memory lane. I won't lie, it does irk me a tiny bit that there must, by definition, be an objectively correct answer to this question, but I lack the resources to be certain about it. For one, I've been buying RPGs for a long time now, so determining what I've owned the longest takes me way back. Two, because I have not kept exacting historical records of my purchases, and because the vast majority of my older library is packed up in storage boxes that would take me forever to go through, I'm having to rely on my admittedly spotty memory about my own youth. Before I start down that path, though, I want to take a quick detour that was highlighted for me by seeing other people's responses.

I saw a mention today of Orkworld by John Wick. This would actually be an excellent candidate for today's answer for me, too, except I know it can't be the one I've owned the longest. I know I've never played it, though! I suppose I probably would if the opportunity arose, but it's not on the ol' bucket list or anything. I just loved reading this game, though. It functions perfectly well as a setting book, and I'm happy enough to treat it as such. As a game it brought some interesting ideas to me, like using the time scale of seasons and having it be significant to the narrative, but mostly I just dug all the detail and love that went into the setting. Let's not mince words; this game is about orks. As such, you are presented with orkish culture, biology, ecology, and whatever else you'd need to really make a good go at roleplaying them. This book made me love orks. It was also instrumental in the development of what became a long love affair for me of thinking about the lives of monsters outside their interactions with PCs. I got to know orks as a people, and I found myself wanted to get to know the rest of the lot, too. This was mostly thought exercises for myself; I never delved too deeply into getting books about it or anything. (Good thing, probably, too, because my shelves are already bursting.) But Orkworld was very significant to me in that way, and I think Wick did a tremendous job. I often feel like this is a bit of a hidden gem, but that's probably just for me personally. Not only have I never played it, but I don't even really remember anything about the system, so...I have to assume that it didn't make much impression on me as a game. But as a book, as a work, I loved it and still do.

In any case, back to my actual answer. And we're going to take the long way around to that, too, because I feel like typing a lot today, I guess. The first thought that occurred to me was In Nomine, the RPG of the hidden war between Heaven and Hell. It's by Derek Percy and published by Steve Jackson Games, but it was an adaptation of a French RPG by the same name, published by In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas. They way I came around to this game was twofold.

Firstly, in order to answer this question, I started trying to think back to my early days of buying RPGs, and In Nomine jumped out at me because of the unusual way I came to buying it. It was at some long-ago DEXCON (I think probably 6?), and I had "won" some prize at a game of Toon. I can't remember the circumstances or why I won something. I probably have a certificate around somewhere. Anyway, part of the prize was a gift certificate or something to the Steve Jackson Games table at the con (because Toon was also an SJG title), and later on when I was browsing the table, it was literally just the eye-catching cover that led me to express interest in In Nomine. I had a gift certificate, here was a cool-looking book...sure, why not? So that's why the game came to mind as an early purchase.

Secondly, the reason it came to mind as a game I'd never played was because I became famous in my circle of friends for not running the game. A particular group of friends and I were all ridiculously obsessed with the movie The Prophecy. If your'e not familiar, it stars Christopher Walken as the angel Gabriel who has parted ways with God and started a second rebellion, similar to Lucifer's original one. (Special bonus parenthetical: Lucifer in that movie is played by one Viggo Mortensen, capturing the hearts of that little cadre of teenage goths back in the 90s, years before he would later set loins aflame as Aragorn.) In The Prophecy, it's clear that Gabriel has his own agenda, completely separate from both God and Lucifer, so naturally the question arose: how would this affect the setting as written in In Nomine, which leans on the polarized opposite sides of God and Lucifer? Given the arrival of a third option, which archangels would jump where? Which demon princes? We formed an RPG group and set about to find out. I spent months hacking the setting to fit this new model of spiritual politics. We spent late night after late night talking about characters, examining world concepts...preparing the campaign, basically. Suffice it to say, it never materialized. This was on the cusp of college for some of us, adult life for others; people became busy, moved away...eventually I moved away...the campaign never started. It became an in-joke for our group: "Hey, when are we going to play this new game?" "Right after Rob runs In Nomine." I call it the greatest campaign that was never played. I'm sure if I dug down far enough, I could find all my old notes and junk. Anyway...that's why I thought it would make a good answer to this question; even if I was wrong about it being the game I've owned longest, it still made for a couple good stories.

Except that it doesn't even fit the second criteria! In being so lost in my own nostalgic memories of the good old days, I completely forgot that I did play in an In Nomine campaign, with a totally different group after I had moved away and failed to start up the Prophecy campaign. It was relatively short-lived, as I recall, and after that arc, I don't think I ever picked up with that group again, but it was multiple sessions, at least, so there's no way In Nomine qualified as a game I never played. Back to the drawing board.

As I started tracking backward again, I thought of another big one that I never got around to playing: SLA Industries. I remember picking up the game, it having come recommended by a friend of mine, a gamer whose opinion I hold in high regard. It's kind of a...cyberpunk horror game? I think? I have to admit that I remember starting reading the book, but I'm pretty sure I never even finished it. The friend who recommended it to me at the time lived somewhere far away, and where I lived at the time, I remember having enough trouble even finding people to play "regular" RPGs, let alone some weird European cyberpunk. I think the game remains a classic in some circles even today, but I just never managed to get into it. So I thought that it was likely to be my answer today.

But then...I realized I was going about things the wrong way. What I had been trying to do was work my way backwards to think about my longest-owned game, but what I should have been doing was working forward. So. At my start in the 80s, all I ever got was AD&D stuff. That's how I was taught, that's what was played, and that's what I bought. It probably wasn't until the early 90s that I even got interested in other RPGs. Like...I had been vaguely aware that GURPS existed...I kinda knew Call of Cthulhu was a thing, but there was never a need for any of that stuff with the group I was in, and I didn't have a lot of disposable income anyway. It wasn't until I moved to a new town and started playing with a new group that I started sampling different games, so I remember coming to Champions and the Hero System; I sunk some money into that. Taking this little memory trip also served to remind me that I bought those games because I was playing them, though. I learned about new games through my gaming groups; this was long before I would buy games just because I was interested in games. Feng ShuiTMNT, that eventual and inevitable point where Vampire: The Masquerade would enter my world. Definitely I threw a few bucks at White Wolf in my young life...


White Wolf.

Something's tugging at the back of my mind. Not White Wolf proper; I played a lot of that World of Darkness stuff. But surely that involvement would have put new things on my radar, things that I might never have...

Oh. Oh no.


I think the actual answer to this question might be a little game I bought called HoL. I don't even know what to link to when I mention its name; here's the Wikipedia pageHoL was...well, it was a game. It was a game about...I'm not sure. Ultraviolent criminals living on a planet made of garbage? I think there are really only two things you need to know about HoL. One, the actual, published text consisted entirely of handwritten pages. (Handwritten largely, if the author is to be believed, at an IHOP.) Two, the game was so out there that White Wolf didn't even really publish it; they created a separate imprint (charmingly called Black Dog) to handle HoL and other games of its ilk. I initially checked it out because of the enthusiasm one of my friends had for it, but reaing it just made me feel a little bad inside. I didn't know it at the time, but I think that was the start of my relationship with edgelords. I won't go on about it. If you want to hear more, the fine gentlemen at System Mastery did an entire episode about HoL. If you like, you can listen to them complain about it instead of me. So, yes...until I can factually countermand this by going through my library, I'll stick with HoL as my answer and...well, just look forward to tomorrow, I suppose.