Tag Archives: RPG

Keith Baker, Phoenix: Dawn Command, and the New Frontier of RPG Design

Phoenix: Dawn Command

The following article was originally posted by the author on The Mad Adventurers Society, and is reprinted here with permission. You can find the original here.

When I initially received an email from game designer Keith Baker, I was astounded. Not only is Baker the creator of the Eberron setting for Dungeons & Dragons, as well as the designer of the narrative card game Gloom, but he had also just launched a Kickstarter for his latest game, Phoenix: Dawn Command. I knew he’d be swamped with promoting his Kickstarter, and I am a nobody blogger who got his attention on Twitter and sent him a 750-word email for his trouble. I was working on a story about a growing trend of what I have dubbed “prop-based” RPGs: games that use proprietary elements, such as special dice, unique tokens, or, in Baker’s case, cards. I wanted to know what was behind this trend; in a matter of months, we’ve seen Kickstarters for games that use proprietary decks of cards, like FAITH, Neon Sanctum, and Phoenix: Dawn Command, and there has to be a reason that designers are focusing on cards.

I still haven’t answered that question to my satisfaction, but Keith is such an insightful designer that I’ve spent the past couple weeks reexamining my own beliefs and principles when it comes to game design, specifically around conflict resolution. I’ve previously written about why the rules exist (spoiler: it’s to justify killing the characters when the players don’t want them to die.) Around these parts, MAS’s own dynamic duo, Sammy and Fiddleback, took a run at randomness and PC death on episode 65 the Potelbat podcast back in September (spoiler: everyone hates randomness.) As both a player and gamemaster, I am very much of the crunchy system mastery/optimization persuasion. I have spent hours poring over rulebooks precisely to understand and mitigate the randomness of die rolls in order to assure my character is reliably good at whatever it is he’s supposed to be good at, his “One Cool Thing,” if you will.

I’ve played dozens of different systems using a variety of mechanics: d20s, percentiles, dice pools, FUDGE dice, and whatever you want to call Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars dice. I’ve dismissed some for being to high variance—“swingy” like 40k RPGs—and some for being too low—“curved” like FATE and Dungeon World. Maybe what I’ve been looking for all along isn’t the right mathematical outcome curve of dice blended with the right measure of static modifiers and properly turned target numbers. Maybe what I really want is a slight preview of the next die roll. Maybe what I want is actually cards.

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FFG Releases Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy 2E Character Sheet App

Dark Heresy Digital Character Sheet App

In April, Fantasy Flight Games released Enemies Within, the first splatbook expansion to their Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy 2nd Edition RPG, to little fanfare. This week, to equally little fanfare, FFG released the Dark Heresy Digital Character Sheet app. Well damnit, there should be some fanfare, because this is awesome.

I’ve had a chance to peruse Enemies Within, which overall adds a lot of flavor and additional options for players and GMs without much in the way of power creep (though the Sororitas’ light power armor is a fair concern.) It’s a cool book for all the reasons I love the Dark Heresy line, and easily worth its $39.95 cover price ($19.95 for PDF). If you play DH 2E, you should check it out.

But today, we’re going to talk about the app.

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Crowdfunding Is Good for Gamers


The following article was originally posted by the author on The Mad Adventurers Society, and is reprinted here with permission. You can find the original here.

Last week, my colleague Nick Watanabe wrote a thinkpiece critical of crowdfunding (read: Kickstarter) in the gaming industry. Nick is a smart guy with a business background, and you should read his argument in his own words. In case you didn’t, I’ll offer a summary: Nick thinks crowdfunding is usually a crutch, and notes the litany of complaints from angry supporters whose funded projects never delivered. He questions whether crowdfunding is good for companies, good for gamers, or good for the industry. He also identifies specific adverse behaviors: serial crowdfunding (crowdfunding campaigns for each project or product), escalating funding goals (pledge level rewards and stretch goals), loss-leader pricing (“taking a loss” on the campaign), and a general lack of accountability (disclosure of how funds are allocated and actually used.)

Nick has some fair points. Lots of people (NPR’s All Things Considered, CNET, and even the Wall Street Journal) have noted the lack of accountability and transparency for Kickstarter, and while I suspect it’s far worse amongst video game developers, tabletop games certainly aren’t immune. The hypocrisy he cites—companies who criticize crowdfunding before they launch their own campaigns—is also worthy of criticism, though I suppose I’m not connected to the right circles to know of any specific examples. These behaviors are obviously unethical, but not unique to crowdfunding. I’m here to talk about Nick’s problems specific to crowdfunding.

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How I Murdered My Father: Lessons Learned from Playing Fiasco with Parents


Tonight, for the first time since I picked up Dungeons & Dragons in middle school, I shared my favorite hobby with my dad. He saw me playing D&D with my friends in high school, and while he was supportive, he never had much interest in learning about roleplaying games, much less participating. That all changed tonight when, almost 20 years after I first picked up a roleplaying game, I finally played Fiasco with my girlfriend, my dad, and my stepmother.

As obsessive card players, my dad and stepmom are no stranger to games. I grew up playing Poker and Cribbage with my dad, and we play hundreds of hands of Pinochle each time I visit them. We also play spirited games of Monopoly, Scrabble, and Boggle. Over the years, we’ve played a lot of games, but we just haven’t played any roleplaying games.

So it was with cautious optimism that I sat down with my girlfriend, my father, and my stepmother last night to play Fiasco. They’re both movie buffs who enjoy the Coen brothers’ films, so I tried to explain the concept in cinematic terms: we would be, collectively, the writers, directors, cinematographers, and actors in a Coen brothers movie set in the Wild West. We would use dice to determine some details, but all of the decisions were ultimately in our hands in a directed improv style. Not quite sure what we getting ourselves into, we embarked on our journey.

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Fantasy Flight Slates Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG for Q3 Release

Star Wars: Force and Destiny Core Rulebook

Fantasy Flight Games’ next entry into the Star Wars RPG series is scheduled for release in Q3 of this year. Star Wars: Force and Destiny joins Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire in FFG’s lineup of Star Wars RPGs. Force and Destiny, which entered beta in August 2014*, will pit players as Force-users in the early stages of the Rebellion, searching for the remnants of the Jedi Order while fighting off the Empire and the dark side.

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Confessional: I Hate Reading RPG Stories

Is there a good story for this?

Is there a good story for this?

Let me start this by saying that I love thinking about games, writing about games, playing games, and experiencing the memorable stories that we create through games. I am an active participant on RPG-related online forums. I created this blog to help people play games, have more fun, and push the limits of the hobby. I believe roleplaying is an artform, and like any art, worthy of study and critique. I play, I write, I read, and I analyze.

All of this is to say: I have read an awful lot of RPG stories. From fa/tg/uys posting greentext on 4chan to desperate cries for help on Reddit, I have read everything from classics like the Dread Gazebo and Tucker’s Kobolds to modern serializations like the All Guardsman Party. I consume podcasts voraciously, listening to actual play sessions, where RPG stories are created, and discussion formats, where they are discussed.

I have come to the conclusion that I hate reading RPG stories.

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