RPG Impact 10

Continuing with RPG Impact. For my tenth RPG, I’ve chosen Pendragon. I recall seeing this game at my local games shop when I was still at school. No one I knew played Pendragon, and I thought the idea of King Arthur was boring compared to all the other games, so I didn’t discover this gem for a few years. As I mentioned in my Call of Cthulhu post for RPG Impact 6, I finally played some Chaosium when I was 18, and then was taught a bit about the company and Greg Stafford in particular.

I was impressed when I first read the book, but due to all the other games I was playing, it got put on to a list of games, and for years it was never chosen. When I did return to Pendragon was I surprised at myself, how had I not prioritised this game?

Like many growing up in the UK I’d read and seen lots of Arthurian legends over the years, so I had a basic grasp of variation on the tales. Whilst I still thought as the Knights of Camelot as interesting, but I’d mostly been playing games about super powered entities (Vampires, Changelings, Mages, Supes, Cyborgs, mystic Samurai, etc.), in some cases radically changing society or even reality. I recognise that so many games, such as Middle Earth or Changeling the Dreaming, have Arthurian legends at their core, so to an extent I did get to explore some common themes and character arcs. When we played something more mundane, it was modern day or near future.

I’m one of the many role-players that enjoy research, experimentation, buying new games just to read them. The indie scene is fabulous and rich with new ideas and tweaks. With Chaosium I am reminded of the old games company Looking Glass Studios, makers of many amazing and innovative games, in particular System Shock, which led to the epic Deus Ex and also less impressive but still great Bioshock, as well as the fabulous Thief series. Another quick PC game comparison, Planescape: Torment, which for years was a niche gem, but reviews by the likes of PC Gamer had the score go up every few years. For me Pendragon is like this. An RPG gem that many know about, but sadly most role-players don’t.

Pendragon had a big impact upon me for a few reasons. One being the winter season downtime system, not only is it different from most role-playing games, it is also something that easily fits a Play-by-Email style. The game’s focus on family and lineage is great, plus ties in with the game’s troupe style play. After completing my psychology and writing degree, I also gained a new perspective on the brilliance of Pendragon, specifically in regards to the personality mechanics. It is common for games to build upon the ideas of Freud or Jung, but less common to build upon the more complex science like the Big 5 personality traits, I think Pendragon’s personality traits are sublime. I appreciate that some players hate those sorts of things, feeling they are the tools of punishment by bad GMs, etc., but for any doubters, trust me with Pendragon it works wonderfully, empowering characters, supporting the themes.

There are a few videos about this RPG, such as:

RPG Impact 2

Continuing on with RPG Impact. Around the same time I started tabletop RPG I was introduced to wargaming, starting with Warhammer Fantasy and the then brand new 40,000 (September 87). Later an older friend was selling painted Skaven models, which I started using in my D&D games. I think it was 88 when I came across a 2nd hand copy of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP); even 2nd hand, it still cost me more than I earned in a week delivering newspapers.

Whilst the players at my high school RPG club mostly played D&D, I saw other RPGs there, in particular Star Wars (West End Games), Palladium Fantasy, WFRP and later Cyberpunk. WFRP felt different to D&D and Palladium, not just because of the mechanical differences, but the grim rich setting. I was growing bored with the various D&D settings, which felt like a zoo, whilst WFRP lore seemed to be more cohesive, dare I say realistic; of course at that young age, and without the Web, I was not aware of how much stuff had been made for D&D. Also, I guess it was easy for me to get into WFRP due to the wargame and reading White Dwarf. Reading about famous battles and then getting to play our own battles, plus the obvious basis of real life to the ‘Old World’ went someway to giving the WFRP setting a relatable sense of gravitas.

WFRP was my first introduction to Fate Points (FP). Initially they seemed so obvious, but then the question of why other games didn’t have FP resulted in some interesting debates. My young mind needed to learn why genre expectations mattered, what a story promise was, plus how FP affected a game and player decision making. I’m all for taking little bits from different systems, even large-scale fusions, but FP are something I rarely use in games that weren’t designed with them in mind.

Another thing about WFRP was how much fun I had, in particular my Chaos Champions campaign. Two of my old time favourite RPG supplements are the Realm of Chaos books: Slaves to Darkness & The Lost and the Damned. I also learned about Narrative Wargaming from this game, which later helped me appreciate different types of Play-By-Mail.

Part 3

Mage the Podcast Review

I love role-playing games (RPG), and in particular the Mage: the Ascension (MtA). There are many podcasts covering different RPGs, but at the start of 2018 there was none dedicated to Mage, so Joseph Aleo launched Mage the Podcast. Joseph explained his reasoning in what I think is quite an attention grabbing pithy introduction.

https://magethepodcast.com/index.php/2018/04/14/what-is-mage-the-ascension/

Impressively the first episode has an interview with the overall main Mage writer and current Line Developer: Satyros Phil Brucato; Satyros has many other writing credits and projects, covering numerous World of Darkness books, as well as other games (Deliria, Powerchords) and numerous fiction. Satyros was quite the scoop for the first show, plus unquestionably the best person to discuss Mage with. I found the interview informative and professional, which I am sure was helped by Joseph’s experience running radio and other podcasts. After this episode I was hooked, each week I eagerly looked forward to the new episode.

I think one of the strengths of the podcast is the mix of hosts. For episode two, Joseph introduced the show’s co-host, Adam Simpson, in a discussion about Mage’s Lexicon. Over time the team was expanded to include Terry Robinson, who has hosted most of the recent episodes, often with Adam Simpson. Other hosts include Mark Hope and Joshua Heath. These different voices, ranging in MtA experience, bring their own take on things. Useful, since the podcast is for a game that typically varies in interpretation from person to person; after all Mage is a vast game about reality and individuality.

“The Podcast that works hard towards Ascension, so you don’t have to.”

The focus for each episode is varied, with a wide-ranging of topics discussed, which I think keep things interesting. One week there is an interview with a Mage writer like Rachelle Udell, another week the guest is Dr. Anders Sandberg the creator of the old Anders Mage Page (new site). An extra noteworthy episode was about Gods and Monsters, with the writers: Satyros Phil Brucato, Hiromi Cota, James Sambrano and Isabella Price all present.

The next episode could be a discussion about cross-over games. For example: Changeling & MtA with Victor Kinzer of the Walking Away from Arcadia podcast. Joshua Heath (Werewolf : the Podcast & High Level Games) discussing Werewolf  & MtA. Charles Siegel discussing Demon & MtA. David Herman discussing Wraith & MtA (The Geekly Oddcast). I do love fusing different RPGs, increase that RPG Mental Toolkit, plus helps justify the collection 😉

Something extra dear to my heart is the old White Wolf Street Fighter RPG (SFRPG), so I particularly appreciated the chat with Kris Newton (MegaDumbCast). The chat was about the potential of a Street Fighter cross-over with MtA; a topic I thought I was the only one that cared about. I’ve been slowly running a cross-over game with one of my groups, I’ll write more about this when I am happy with the fusion.

https://magethepodcast.com/index.php/2019/09/28/hadouken-rpg-tag-team-street-fighter-rpg-mage-with-kris-newton/

Mage SFRPG

Another week has a wonderful discussion about something typically less focused on in the general Mage chats. For example Darling Rose of the Midnight Express podcast chatting about all things WoD, but in particular Quiet. Terry and Josh discussing Cosmicism (Lovecraft Mythos). Mark Hope discussing running street level games. Or a fascinating chat about Mage and Live Action Role-Play (LARP/LRP) with Matthew Webb of Jackalope Live Action Studios. There are also episodes interviewing the author of a Storyteller Vault product such as: Joshua Heath, Victor Kinzer, or Charles Siegel.

A regular feature of the podcast is to discuss one of MtA books, which there are quite a lot of; the release of Gods & Monsters meant I had to rearrange my games library ;-). This classic episode format for RPG podcasts is always a hit for me, since I have not read some of the books in many years. This review series also helps remind me of the differences between editions, which is extra helpful given some of the dramatic changes over the years; never mind our memory’s tendency to fade and/or summarise things over time.

There was a Mage Twitter game setup by Ira Grace called Duplicity that started in August 2019. I made a character and also offered to help summarise the tweets, which is how I became involved with the podcast team, albeit in a minor way. Since I am not involved in making any podcast episodes, I don’t think this counts as me fanboying myself 😉 this blog post is just to praise something I appreciate and support. You can also join the Mage the Podcast Discord server and chat about all things Mage.

If you are a Mage the Ascension fan, then this podcast is definitely for you. If you are a player of other RPGs but not Mage yet, then definitely check out the podcast’s first episode and learn about what makes this game extra special.

https://magethepodcast.com/index.php/2018/04/14/what-is-mage-the-ascension/

“Until next time, Truth Until Paradox, baby.”

#RPGaDay2019 prompts 25 to 31

Continuing on with my video summary of #RPGaDay2019 tweets, prompts 25 to 31. Previous prompts 1 to 8

I badly explain a point in the video about RPG and suspension, using the example of how big breaks in music can really add to a song, adding suspension. I also couldn’t remember any tracks in that moment, so:

The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations, Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs, Metallica – Sad But True, Beastie Boys – Sabotage, Garbage – Supervixen, Alanis Morissette – All I Really Want, Scissor Sisters – I Can’t Decide, Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well, Tool – The Patient, Portishead – Only You, Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench, Queens Of The Stone Age – The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret, Tool the patient, Sigur Ros – Staralfur, Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls, Rage Against The Machine – Freedom, Kavinsky – Nightcall, plus so many more.

Maybe I need to return to this and explain myself clearer one day?

#RPGaDay2019 prompts 17 to 24

Continuing on with my video summary of #RPGaDay2019 tweets, prompts 17 to 24. Previous prompts 1 to 8

#RPGaDay2019 Prompts 1 to 8

Another year of RPGaDay, but this time instead of questions they are prompts. I’ve been Tweeting and posting on the https://www.facebook.com/RPGaDAY/ page.

I kept putting off making videos, but I finally made a batch 🙂

Trinity Continuum Aberrant Erupts

At the time of writing Trinity Continuum: Aberrant is in the final 24 hours on Kickstarter. I’ve been waiting years for this event, a reimagining of Aberrant. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aberrant

Aberrant is a fabulous Supes/Super RPG that was part of the Trinityverse, now called Trinity Continuum. Back in the late 90s Aberrant presented a world obsessed with super powered celebrities (Novas), hyper focused reality TV (N!), individuals with the power of gods but also dark conspiracies, and power that tainted the Novas. The old game was very socially minded, why rob a bank when sponsorship and mercenary work is available, etc. The new Trinity Continuum: Aberrant builds upon this, but crucially there are some differences that I love! The game requires the Trinity Continuum core book, I wrote about this last year https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/impressive-reboot-of-trinity/.

“What would you do with the power of a god?”

First a quick shout out to Ian A. A. Watson (@VonAether), who in particular has spent years trying to create a new Aberrant. There are many interviews covering the process, so here is a summary of the journey about how the old White Wolf merged with CCP Games. Richard Thomas formed Onyx Path Publishing and producing old and new RPGs. Later Paradox Interactive purchased the World of Darkness IP, whilst Onyx Path negotiated to buy Trinityverse outright, which is now solely owned by Onyx Path. Hence the IP of Trinity, Aberrant and Adventure! have had quite the journey.

Aberrant Trinity Batjutsu

I’ve run a few Aberrant games over the years. Some of the games were more like D.C. Comics or Marvel 4 colour style, more carefree fun, sometimes a bit silly. Whilst with my main I ran a dark investigation game for over ten years. This chronicle was about hope, about trying to prevent the inevitable Aberrant War. When we last played it seemed that maybe the PCs had helped solve so many problems, that the future looked positive; I’ll not froth about this campaign, whilst I loved it, typically with RPGs you needed to be there ;-). Like many RPGs the tone can be tweaked, along with keeping in mind PCs motivations and player preferences, to create the style wanted. The new Aberrant includes an examination of this, with an explanation of how to approach the different styles of Supes.

The system is not the old Storyteller one, instead using the Storypath. I’ve still yet to play the system but I do love what I read when I backed Trinity Continuum. In addition to the great momentum mechanic, is the idea of Scale. Scale is reminiscent of the old D.C. Comic RPG, but is designed to be easier to allow for quick decision making, allowing everyone to focus on narrative. From the Kickstarter page Danielle Lauzon explained:

“Okay, so Narrative Scale is for when you just want to know how badly you crush something because of your difference in Scale. It’s described liberally as a multiplier to your successes on a simple roll to get a thing done, but what that really means is that a Scale 1 difference doubles the number of successes you have to do the thing, Scale 2 difference triples, Scale 3 quadruples, etc. Narrative Scale is there for the following kind of scenarios “Superman flies through a building, and we want to know how much damage that does to the building.” We accept that he flies right through, so the roll isn’t to see if he can, but instead to find out his damage to help figure out if the damned thing falls down. Sometimes the SG might just look at a Scale difference and decide narratively that we don’t even need a roll, it just crumples.

I loved the old Aberrant the most out of the numerous Supers RPGs, even though I appreciated it had a few mechanic problems. I’ve read/run/played old Heroes/Champions, GURPS Supers, Mutants & Mastermind, D.C. Comics, Marvel and Palladium. For me, I think the old Aberrant presented both a great setting and rules that worked well enough. Trinity Continuum: Aberrant seems to stride the middle ground between these various systems, providing a vast range of powers, in a setting with different types of powered and baseline characters, with rules that better understand what they are focused on. I’d be very surprised if I don’t love the game when I run it!

Usually I’d write about different game ideas, even crazy ideas about merging various RPGs together. Instead I look forward to returning to my old long running chronicle, which included Adventure! and Trinity. The fact the group and I have had so much fun over the years speaks volumes about the game, and I am sure we will continue to love it for years to come.

The factions are still there, but there have been some important tweaks. Another titanic difference is that Taint is now Transcendence; Novas are no longer time-bombs towards physical and psychological disaster. Characters can still grow distant from humanity, for example Dr Manhattan (Watchman) is a great example of ludicrously powered individual who has very high Transcendence. Check out these two interviews for more details about changes:

https://thestorytold.libsyn.com/bonus-episode-aberrant-kickstarter-interview-with-steve-kenson-and-ian-watson

Onyx Path have a free Aberrant comic at http://theonyxpath.com/comic/you-are-not-alone-cover/

Join the Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aberrant

#TCAberrant #TrinityContinuum