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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)
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What ROLE-PLAYING have you been doing?
Any of you guys still play at least vaguely evil RPG campaigns?
jpat wrote: Do we have an ongoing thread about RPGs we "should" be playing? It seems, perhaps naively, to me that this is a Pretty Good Time for RPGs in terms of quality and variety, and I'm curious what people would recommend in various categories.
So Shellhead is generally right, in that random recommendations are likely to fall flat -- just like with boardgames -- unless you know what what else the person likes. That said, there's nothing wrong with looking into things if you want a general pulse check of what current trends in the hobby are.
D&D 5th ed is the 800lb gorilla. It's pretty good IMO. The wisecrack is that it's everyone 2nd-favorite edition, which seems about right to me. It supports a pretty wide variety of play types although it will always be best at high fantasy, combat heavy heroics. The official material is limited to 1 or 2 books a year, which is a refreshing change from the constant churn of the 3rd/4th eras. I think it's shown that WOTC is into supporting players, as opposed to marketing to the people who collect RPGs and read them while dreaming of all the amazing campaigns they will someday run.
Blades in the Dark is making waves, if you measure by how many people are inspired to make their own hacks of it. The original game is great, kind of like Peaky Blinders set in a haunted Victorian urban sprawl. It has sweet downtime mechanics for what your crew of thieves does in between jobs. The hacks that are out there include "Scum & Villainy," a sci-fi hack for scoundrels in space; "Band of Blades," a Black Company-esque military fantasy; and some dungeon crawling one that's mashed-up with a weird west feel.
Apocalypse World is still going strong, 13 years after its release. Blades in the Dark started as an AW hack before becoming its own thing. There's tons of hacks of it covering about every genre.
Pathfinder just released its 2nd edition. I didn't like 1st, but a lot of people did, and 2nd has a lot of buzz. If you really liked 3.5 edition D&D, with all the character builds and feats and complex everything, and wanted it tweaked rather than completely changed, this might be worth checking out.
Kids on Bikes is a simple, light, narrative RPG that's basically Stranger Things the RPG.
Many of the old stalwarts are still going strong. Call of Cthulhu released its 7th edition.
Forbidden Lands just won a bunch of Ennie Awards. It's a sword & sorcery fantasy game focused on hexcrawls, with a stronghold building/management system. Really good.
Adventures In Middle-Earth is a rewrite of the highly-respected The One Ring RPG. TOR is IMO the only Tolkien RPG that really feels like LOTR. It's set in the 60 or so years between the Battle of Five Armies, and Bilbo's birthday party. AIME uses 5e mechanics, but heavily hacked so you don't have out-of-genre stuff like a party full of wizards casting magic missile.
Edge of the Empire is FFG's Star Wars RPG. I'm not interested in SW, but a lot of people like it. One thing I do like about the game is that it has a custom dice pool system that produce two axes of results: there's symbols that indicate success/failure, but also symbols that indicate complications or fortunate circumstances. So you could fail an attack, but maybe the opponent slips and loses his balances. Or succeed at an attack but maybe your blaster jams. It's a neat way to put narrative spins on things and prevent "I roll. I hit. I do X damage." (repeat 30 times per combat). There's a generic, multi-genre, version, "Genesys" that recently came out.
You could also browse through the top-ranked RPGs at RPGgeek:
That's a good overview of what people generally think are worthy. It probably skews a little old though.
Any questions, ask! You are right in that there's a ton of great games out there.
If I play someone who's an outright jerk, it'll be in a one-shot game like FIASCO. And even then it'll be an excuse to chew scenery as an entertaining villain.
Michael Barnes wrote: I told my new group explicitly “you are heroes”. I did that with my kids too. The whole “party of moral reprobates”’ thing is so 10th grade.
I kept trying to say "A full Selesnya (Green/White) party would be cool" for this Ravnica game, but everyone wants to be mad scientists and street performers. Maybe they can all die horrible deaths and start over as Azorius or Boros investigating their deaths.
There's a whole chapter on how each guild can be played as the enemy and comes with an example location (basically just a map and some potential scenario ideas) for each one. Some adventure hooks (both as enemies and for a party of each guild).
Even if you don't jump all the way in, it's got rules for Minotaurs, Centaurs, Loxodons (Elephant people) as well as some really Ravnican things in the Vedalken and Simic Hybrids. Most other D&D races except for Humans and Elves are a no-go though. They also add the Order Domain for Azorius Clerics and a creepy Spore Druid for the Golgari. I could see using the latter as a template for a villain in the Underdark.
Still have to get the adventure going and I'll be able to get back to you soon.
The other night I DMed my second session of Against The Giants. We've brought back a couple of PCs from last year's Tomb of Annihilation game, so this is some of the only high-level play anyone has gotten. Last week they infiltrated a hill giant steading. They were able to sneak around pretty well, but after killing a couple of giants they had to make a break for it, shielding their escape with Wall of Flame.
So as I'm prepping for this last week, I'm thinking that I'll need to figure out how the giants have responded, how they put out the fire and rearrange the guards, etc. But when we arrive the players decided they were just going to burn down the whole steading. So they basically napalmed the whole fortress with every fire spell in the book. So I had to improvise the chaos of destruction, none of which I had actually planned for. This included them being pursued by direwolves and two more hill giants, who chased them up trees. The Goliath Fighter we have leaped out of the tree to attack one of them, landing on its shoulders, and eventually got knocked off by one of the direwolves.
After that they made it down to the dungeon level of the steading, by disguising themselves as orc slaves using Seeming. (Hill giants are pretty stupid, so they were able to fool them easily.) Once they were downstairs, they found a bugbear guarding a passage. They resolved to actually walk past him in their orc disguise, but they turned into another barracks filled with bugbears, so that's where we left it.
I planned for about 20% of what we actually did in the session. It was madness and it was wonderful. The Against the Giants adventure is a classic obviously, so it's fun to take part in that one. It's got this great quality where it creates situations with no obvious solution, and then lets the players figure it out. There are a LOT of giants around, so if the players attract too much attention it could kill them real quick. It's been fun to see the players figure out solutions.
My 3 year running DCC campaign just hit a huge narrative peak last night. Slowly the party was all beginning to worship Cadixtat: The Chaos Titan, led by an uber powerful fighter (by far the groups most powerful character) and cleric PCs. About half the group had eventually converted and those who did were given really powerful buffs and awful mutuations. However the original premise was that a different PC, a lawful halfling, had organized this group of adventurers and many times their chaotic nature was against his and other lawful characters ideals. I leaned into this internal power struggle and the coup went down last night. The good PCs prevail and ended up against the odds and finished off the cadixtat cult. The powerful leader fighter was given the choice by one of the players to repent and he refused, choosing instead to be slain with all his followers. Now we get to reset with mostly fresh level 4s, I think 2 surviving PCs will be continuing to the next adventure, starts as prolly 60% of PCs were killed and I assume most will be playing a lawful or neutral leaning based on how the evil slanting characters story arcs went.
But it was definetly great and I am super glad to have the player conflict to use as a tool in my story telling.
Also, my PCs in Blades in the Dark are clearly bad people, but the players running them have more morals and its fun to see how this affects their actions. I had them breaking into a church's smuggling ring, and they found out it wasn't cargo but child trafficking. They paused and thought about it for a bit and one character who really wanted to act on his principles begrudgingly took a deal to walk away unscathed because of his character's idea to protect himself. I twisted him a little bit by having them pull the human cargo back away roughly by the hair and it totally changed the situation and the "bad criminal" jumped out to do something heroic.
So I guess evil just because I'm a psychopath murderer is boring, but most of the time playing evil really is more of playing a conflicted character and I find that super interesting as a GM to play off player and PC motivations.
For those who don't know the adventure...