I can’t really speak to this except to say it was published before White Wolf became popular. Any of the early RPGs from the mid ’80s can set up rules and a setting with half the pages than an RPG can today. Jeez, Cubicle 7 felt the need to do a book for every damned Doctor in Doctor Who. Each D&D core book — Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, etc. is 400ish pages. The AD&D books did it with half that.

Now, get off my lawn!

Ten years ago, I’d have said Coas Book Store in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Now? eBay and Noble Knight online. There’s a really good one out of Canada, I think, that Runeslinger uses that shipped internationally. I’m sure he’ll chime in with a comment as to the place and it’s website.

That’s a tough one. Define “best”…best delivery of information, how to play the game; best writing for setting tone? The problem with RPG writing is that it is part technical manual (the rules) and part creative writing — two sharply different styles of writing with divergent purpose. To balance both is very difficult.

I think the writing team for Firefly did an excellent job with the latter type of writing — getting the tone right, as did the guys over at Evil Hat with their Atomic Robo RPG for Fate. Generally, the Fate games have done a good job with the first type of writing, although they have also been moving toward comic book panel style explanations of things. It works, but it’s probably not qualifying as good writing, but effective design.

Design is an issue I’ve carped on before. There’s a lot of focus on art design and fancy layout on high-gloss paper. These $60 a book tomes are often very pretty, and utter f***ing useless to try and understand the rules. Red typeface on purple backgrounds (dumb!), 8 point type (Have you ever seen a gamer? Most wear glasses.), pages of gorgeous artwork that distract from learning how to play.

Now combine that with the problem of writing clearly the rules so they are understandable and can be played out of the gate without having to flip through a book with a magnifying glass and a Ouija board to figure out what you do in scenario X, with making the verbiage interesting enough you don’t think you’re thumbing though an army field manual. It’s tough! I don’t even think i do it well, and I’ve been at this a while. It’s worse when you can’t stop typing…

One of the my issues with the current state of big production game writing like you find at Cubicle 7, or Wizards of the Coast, etc. is the need to prat on far too long. 300+ page corebooks that could be shaved down to half that with some decent editing and a bit less indulgence. But that is less of function of bad writing than bad editing and the presumption by the producers and consumers that a bigger, prettier book is “better.” (Just look at any of the interminable fantasy series of 1000 page books.  (Hey, the 16th book in the Shadows of Not Tolkein series by Pretentious Cat Lady is out!)

Did I answer the question? Not really…

Easy: Victory Games’ James Bond: 007. I bought a first edition copy in 1983 and have used it until about 2010, since when we haven’t had an espionage game running. Partly, this is a function of having worked in the industry, partly it was a response to the real life asshattery of the Global War on Terror.

Probably next up would be Space: 1889, at least as a setting. We used other game systems to play in that universe, and from 1989 when the game premiered until about 2010, there was usually a campaign going, at least part time.

I think this question is supposed to be “…and never played.” At least that’s how I’m taking it.

Hands down, this is Jovian Chronicles by Dream Pod 9. It’s an anime giant-robot setting with a lot of hard science trappings. Think The Expanse meets any Japanimation space show. The setting is wonderfully rich and interesting, but also has the problem of having a built in metaplot that — along with the tons of background material — can be daunting for a GM. Where to start?

Also, in the new millennium the idea of the Singularity, of transhumanism, etc. meant that the anti-AI “Edicts” that was central to the JC setting seemed horribly outdated. Now, I would suggest the worry over AI and joblessness is playing into the conceits of this game universe.

It’s got gorgeous ship designs and rich world-building, and an absolutely shit set of mechanics.

The only rules set that I use with little or no alteration is Cortex. The original Cortex, not the Fate-ified Cortex Plus. The way the game is constructed, there is little that needs tweaking to work well, and the one or two issues I have with it have rarely gotten in the way of play. I did have to cobble together mass combat rules to deal with large space and land battles more quickly, but that didn’t really change the core mechanics.

I ran Marvel Heroic without any house rules, and the same with James Bond. I haven’t done any tweaking with the Ubiquity system of Hollow Earth Expedition, although i can see where the combat system needs streamlined and cleaned up badly.

I have been pretty by-th-book on Dungeons & Dragons, but that’s because I’ve got a rules lawyer in one of the players who has run it much longer than I have.

This is a curious question, as it can be taken a few ways. Do they mean adapting the rules to a different setting, or adapting the setting to fit a rules set?

Let’s start with the first option. I have, over the course of 30 years, used James Bond: 007 RPG from Victory Games for a number of different settings. I’ve run Cyberpunk using the rules, which required the creation of cybernetics rules. I’ve used it for Stargate, which required creating ways to render aliens in the mechanics. It’s a versatile set of rule that can be poked and prodded, but which start to fall apart as scale gets above, say, a coast guard cutter, for spaceships or vehicle combat.

A setting that begs for better mechanics is Space: 1889. The original GDW rules were bolted onto their Sky Galleons of Mars boardgame, more or less. I ran this setting using the GDW game, then using a home-modified version of Castle Falkenstein until about 2006. The new release of the setting by Clockwerk in Germany and Modiphius in the UK, uses the same Ubiquity system as Hollow Earth Expedition, and works well.

As with other questions we’ve had this year, my response is “All of them?” A more precise answer would be, whatever one you have on-going material for.

I’ve played a lot of long games, but they usually last about two to three years before they run out of steam. The longest campaigns were ones where the world and the PCs changed from time to time. The Star Trek campaign I ran from 2000- 2005/6 was actually three tightly connected campaigns, one taking place coterminously with another, or a follow on “series.” I had a Babylon 5 game that lasted about three years, and a Stargate one that had a similar run. The first ended when the story did, the second faded away. The longest continual campaign was probably the recently ended Battlestar Galactica game, which eventually knocked all other games out of rotation as it powered along for five years despite players coming and going, births and other life intrusions.

I think the question is “What can you keep fresh?” The BSG game was fantastic, fun, and came to a very satisfactory end. But I miss it sometimes and keep thinking there were things I could have done with it.

The question for today was “Describe a game experience that changed how you play.” I really don’t have a response for this one, so I’m going to go with my own question: How Has Gaming Positively Affected Your Life?

There’s the usual hackneyed responses about having made so many good friends through the hobby (and I have), but here’s a few really concrete ones:

First, I learned how to think quickly and creatively because I usually get stuck with GM duties. This also ties into the second positive effect on my life: I learned how to tell stories well, both verbally and written.

Related to that second effect, I 3) developed an interest in many things and have maintained by curiosity throughout my life because I have a real hankering for verisimilitude, which 4) led to my branching out into writing and teaching history.

That intellectual curiosity about, well, everything started with the old James Bond games in the ’80s. I wanted not just the feel of the movies, but some level of realism in those games. (I’d eventually go into the intelligence game and get out just as fast.) Cars, boats, planes, guns, intelligence agencies and their operations, I wanted to know everything I could about them.

With Space: 1889 I dove deep into Victorian history, which was my main focus until my doctoral work. A hard switch to modern American history coincided with taking an interest in Hollow Earth Expedition and the 1930s. I immersed myself in Star Trek to run a game for almost five years. Now I’m heavily researching Late Antiquity Rome and early Christianity for the D&D game, but the impetus for the setting might have come from having taught Early Western Civilization a lot over the last six years.

Fifth and tied to that “friends” truism: I met a lot of my girlfriends, and both wives (not at the same time) through gaming, although not always directly. Gaming got me laid. A lot. Even my wife, who wasn’t a gamer, I met through my gamer pals of the time. My daughter is playing in the other room as I type, alive because of gaming.

I once clinched a job in a small firm doing intelligence work because the president was a gamer.

Has gaming positively affected my life? You bet!

I think on this one I’ve got to go with Numenera and Tales from the Loop. I’m not a fan of the Numenera  system, but come on! the art is gorgeous!

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And the artbook of Simon Stålenhag inspired the whole bloody game Tales from the Loop, so I think that counts.

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