Anime RPG is Mindset as Much as Ruleset.

My point is, you can slip a little of that anime flair into just about anything. Ask my college writing professors. It can be done. (*Pretty sure one of them retired early. I’m not saying it was my fault, but…)

With Dyskami dropping Anime 5E on us around June 1, it’s time to briefly discuss Anime as attitude and game system.

Dyskami Anime 5E

Btw, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m a bit biased toward this particular genre and anything Big Eyes, Small Mouth in general and have been for many years. I actually had the privilege of going to a Gen Con seminar with Mark MacKinnon all those years ago. I learned a lot about RPGs in general and anime/manga games in particular. I also think Lemmings in Space would be a hilarious but short-lived RPG. Mark and the team at Dyskami have delivered a wonderful new spin on this genre, attitude and rules.

*Note, if fantasy is less your jam and you want more cyberpunk/mecha/space anime action, I highly recommend BESM Fourth Edition from Dyskami. Anime 5E is very much fantasy genre oriented, being based on the 5E D&D rules. All of the races, classes, monsters, magic and other tropes are based around fantasy stuff.

But enough shameless promotion, on with the show!

Just as a writer can pick up different tones and perspectives while writing, RPGs can come with differing attitudes for GMs and players. If a writer is working on a horror novel, for example, the tone might be dark, gritty, and have almost a feeling of hopelessness hanging in the air. Where as a horror RPG might have rules for insanity; penalties for PCs casting dark, creepy ritual spells; and foreboding, unfathomable, undefeatable old gods and monsters.

What does one think of when we hear the term “anime” or “manga?” It’s a pretty broad genre. Japanese animation and comics cover a pretty large spectrum of subgenres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy and cyberpunk to name a few. Personally I think of giant robots and cyborgs followed by high flying fantasy martial arts and determined samurai. It’s a different flavor of roleplaying gaming all together.

If it’s an attitude, won’t any old RPG system work?

The short answer to this is: I guess. Mileage may vary.
The long, complicated answer is: Nope. Don’t do it. You’re trying to force a square peg into a triangular hole. There’s an easier way.

I love a lot of basic European style medieval fantasy RPGs. Pathfinder 2E, D&D, ICRPG, DCC, and dozens more. Orcs, elves, dragons and labyrinthine death dungeons are the order of the day for me. Good stuff. I can certainly approach those with the anime/manga mindframe. But, then the rules fall a lot short of the mark.

How do you pull off a 50′ anime character leap while wielding a Bisento as an unarmored samurai? How do we set the scene for a brief chibi moment during a long rest? What do you mean I can’t play a cat girl ninja? It’s just not in the rules. (In fairness, I did stat out cat folk and ninjas for ICRPG, but…) If you want anime rules for a “classic” game, it’s going to end up being heavily homebrewed.

If I’ve learned anything from being a GM/writer over the years, it’s don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else has done the legwork for you in terms of an RPG system, by all means- beg, borrow, or steal as much as you can for your game. If another system does something better than the one you’re currently using it’s not like you’re married. Switch to what works or adapt bits as needed. If that means switching to a new ruleset, then by all means.

The question is always how far to go.

If your D&D game is running just fine with a few anime moments, then maybe stick to D&D proper. If you’re just borrowing a few tropes here and there with the Monk, Fighter (Samurai) and Rogue (Ninja) characters and the players are cool, stick with it. Maybe the characters yell a lot. There are some chibi character moments that don’t detract. Dragons are worshipped as gods in the campaign setting. Certain weapons and armor are re-skinned. Maybe add some homebrew rules for unarmored defense?

OR- things are crazy overly stiff an rule dependent and you’re dying to be able to do more cool stuff. Try an actual anime RPG and setting! As a GM, boot whatever seems too outrageous or unreasonable. It’s still your game!

The main thing is do what you, as a GM, and the players will have the most fun with. Typical fantasy settings don’t do mecha and/or firearms at all. Anime games have to such restrictions depending on the GM. Giant leaps are very possible in anime. Ninjas are more Naruto and Ninja Scroll than historical black pajama party. Stuff blows up more in anime games. Trust me.

Complicated Relationship Table.

Another advantage to anime games is the amount of character drama. I once drew a very complicated flow chart for myself to map out all of the very complicated relationships in an anime supers game I was working on. This person has a crush on this person, but is secretly liked by this other person who they want nothing to do with and so on. It ate a couple of entire pages of my notebook and looked like one of those crazy conspiracy theory board memes by the time I was done. It ended up being useful for dealing with specific character interactions, though. It made for a fun game, despite over 20 pages of NPC backstories. I might have overdone it a little.

Anime fits in with so many other tropes and themes.

SCS mecha by Zsolt Varga is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Anime does very well with several subgenres either as a separate game or as part of a preexisting one. Many anime videos exemplify this.

Horror- easy. I’m sorry, have you seen some of the scarier anime? Eesh. I don’t want to give video examples. Just… it’s the internet. Feel free to explore, okay?

Supers- Sentai, giant robots, psychic cops even four color heroes. Again, it’s an easy catch. Power Rangers, Patlabor, Witch Hunter Robin and Tiger & Bunny are great examples of video anime supers. In fairness, I have to mention Sailor Moon, which is the premiere magical girl supers anime. It’s also one of the older anime RPGs.

Fantasy- Such a broad category by itself. Fantasy anime covers things such as Record of the Lodoss Wars. (Fantasy anime emulating a fantasy rpg emulating Tolkien. Mind bending.) Ninja Scroll is serious fantasy anime, and brutal. Rurouni Kenshin is great fantasy samurai anime. One of my personal favorites, which is also sorta shoujo, Inu Yasha makes for amazing rpg fodder. I also highly recommend Princess Mononoke. I should also mention Full Metal Alchemist, too. Again, they’re all fantasy anime, each with its own unique angle.

Mecha and cyberpunk are more or less ready made for anime games. These two subgenres pretty much started out as anime. Masamune Shirow was a pioneer in both genres with Appleseed, Dominion Tank Police, Black Magic M-66, and Ghost in the Shell. Mecha anime would not be complete without a mention of Macross/Robotech just to start. I should also mention Gundam in all of the many series on video. There are a lot of other cyberpunk anime on video, many are ultra violent in nature. Likewise, I’ve barely scratched the surface of mecha anime on video. The RPG potential is almost unfathomably deep for both subgenres.

Action- Last is all of the action anime. This would work with any modern type RPG. It could be martial arts, detectives, pirates, demon hunters, or any other number of action tropes. There are more anime video examples than I could list. I would recommend Gunsmith Cats if you get a chance.

I realized I barely dove into inspirational videos.

Anime 5E Magical Cat Girl

I’m probably going to write more articles in the coming weeks/months about anime RPGs. I didn’t even mention many of the anime I’ve taken inspiration from over the years.

I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I’m not sure how it would float as an RPG? I’d also recommend Big O and Giant Robo as both mecha and superhero anime. There’s also A.D. Police Files, Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crash. These series were all a mix of police, mecha, supers, and cyberpunk anime with a tiny bit of psychic stuff thrown in. Last, Starfinder fans especially would benefit from watching Iria: Zeiram the Animation.

Like many otaku, I could go on for hours mentioning tasty videos to watch. Bringing character concepts and tropes over to RPGs is a subject to approach with your GM. Likewise, GMs probably shouldn’t expect players to just jump blindly into an anime series if it’s not what they’re expecting.

More, much more to come. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Thanks.

Monster of the Week: Continuing the Conversation

I’m loving Monster of the Week more every day. This game is well-designed and has so much to offer new Keepers.

Monster of the Week by Evil Hat Productions.

MotW is a fascinating RPG.

I really dig this game, but it’s taking a little bit of getting used to. Specifically, the Keeper’s section. I’m probably going to have to run a couple of mysteries before I get the hang of the system.

I still feel like it’s a little stiff and rigid from the Keeper’s side of the table. Then again, I’ve always felt that PbtA in general is a push toward GM-less roleplaying. As I say often, if that’s what you’re into, go for it.MotW would be a tough run without a Keeper because someone has to come up with all the cool monster and plot stuff, right?

I keep coming back to Page 131.

I actually think MotW is great for new GMs (Keepers.) They give you a play-by-play how to way to run a game session. They give all kinds of really solid advice on running a #ttrpg. The core book gives two mysteries and walks the reader through how to run them.

How awesome is that if you’re brand new? I would have loved this back in ye olden days. I’m still wrestling with it mentally now. It’s like learning to run a game all over again.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It’s the same thing I’m already used to doing, but I never referred to it as “using moves.” Up until this came up, I never had a strict list of principles to stick with in order to run the game.

My long standing way of setting up a campaign (*Oops! Not supposed to say, “campaign” any more. Now they’re “plot points.”) So, my long standing way of setting up plot points is episodic in format. I plan 24 sessions/games. At one episode per week that’s about half the year give or take. It rarely works that way, but that’s how I plan it.

My original planning for this game was to set up 24 episodes with pretty specific agenda. So, I hit rewind. It’s going to be more of a sandbox now, kinda like I planned Power Rangers RPG campaign. (Which is also still in the works, btw.)

I’m going to build a set of case files that the group can fall back on for clues and in-character advice. They’re following a group of three hunters that have vanished or moved off grid for mysterious reasons. Not really X-Files, but more like Giles’ school library in early Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The group’s mystery files won’t cover every mystery, though.

I already know who the first season BBEG looks like and what they’ve got going on. We’re going to touch on some real world conspiracies and paranormal events. I already know who most of my Bystanders, Minions, and Monsters are going to be. I have most of the behind-the-scenes stuff worked out. I think we’re still going to do episodes, but they’re going to be more like story arcs and done similarly to the way they’re described in the MotW core rules.

They have a very nice template worked out for writing mysteries. They walk the reader through all of the steps of mystery creation. It’s brilliant! Other game companies could learn from Michael Sands.

In short, with any game system, harvest what you like, pass on the rest. There is no one set way to run a game, as many, many of us have said. I’m personally just struggling to learn and adapt to the PbtA way of doing things.

I’m going to be dropping some of my mysteries on here, since I’m not expecting my players will read my blog. Bwah Ha Ha. I’ll put trigger warnings on the really gruesome stuff. I have an in-game calendar of events in my head, depending on which hooks get a bite. <“evil” Grognard Keeper noises.>

Thanks for being here all. I appreciate you! Have a great weekend!

Inspiration for Dungeon Crawl Classics Material.

I am a big fan of the Beg, Borrow, and Become-Inspired-By school of campaign and dungeon design, however. What’s a game without homebrew materials? Especially one like DCC that strongly resembles old school D&D.

I borrow from other RPGs when building campaigns for just about anything.

I have three games that I am drawing a lot of inspiration for my DCC campaign. I’m building this game for fun, partly on here, partly just for fun. Three games immediately came to mind when I first read through DCC. They were Warhammer FRP (First Ed mostly,) Hackmaster, and Earthdawn.

I’d be remiss if I left off prior editions of D&D, but I think that should be pretty obvious. I really liked a lot of 3rd Ed. The Diablo 2 books were of particular interest for DCC given that game is almost a never ending dungeon romp. There are also some keen things in 4th Ed, oddly enough. I’m thinking of borrowing some items and abilities from that edition.

*Disclaimer: I’m not publishing anything that I borrow directly from any of these games. I am a big fan of the Beg, Borrow, and Become-Inspired-By school of campaign and dungeon design, however. What’s a game without homebrew materials? Especially one like DCC that strongly resembles old school D&D.

The 0-Level funnel and class abilities in DCC immediately made me think of Warhammer FRP.

Ran this a lot back in the day.

The first edition of WFRP was epic in its own right. The classes and utterly brutal combats made for an outstanding game. The combat and class abilities are a nice fit with DCC. I may actually consider pulling some of the classes over. They’re pretty simple. Heck, DCC is a pretty simple system to begin with.

DCC only has 10 class levels to work with. The previous 0-Level career also plays in a lot like good old WFRP’s mulitclassing options. Not to mention WFRP’s rich world and grim fantasy adventures. This system begs to be pillaged for spells, items, and character classes.

The Dungeon Crawls and overall camp value reminded me of Hackmaster.

Using a game that emulates another game for ideas in a game that emulates the same game… Deep thoughts.

I still have all of the Hackmaster books within easy reach on my shelves. I’m most likely going to pull some of the less cartoonish weapons and monsters from Hackmaster. Every time I look at DCC, I think of Knights of the Dinner Table. The Hackmaster sword, the Crossbow of Slaying, and a Fireball coming online.

Yes, Hackmaster is a campy take off of Rolemaster and old D&D, but it is hilarious and a lot like DCC in its delivery. Given a +2 weapon is noteworthy in DCC, I’m sure the big ticket items from Hackmaster will fit in quite nicely. The modules for Hackmaster are knockoffs of old D&D modules, so converting them should be fun. I also like Flateroy’s Guide to Fortification and plan on pillaging some from that book.

Last but not least is Earthdawn.

FASA really out-did themselves with this RPG in terms of campaign creation and world design.

I played a lot in the first two editions of Earthdawn. The Horrors are ridiculously powerful. Magic was its own sort of special. The gods? Long gone, IIRC. I miss a lot of the Earthdawn world

When I read through the magic system and saw the variable monster tables (*Demons, Dragons, etc) toward the back of the book, Earthdawn immediately came to mind. I think a few d12 tables of unspeakable random horrors would be good for DCC. I’m also considering adding Windlings to DCC and possibly Orks and as friendly races. I think adding Trolls and Obsidimen might be a bit too much.

Thanks for stopping by. More to come. Have a great week!

Laughable Old Grognard Moments.

I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Y’all kids make me laugh.

I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Btw, when I say “kids,” I really mean some of you younger Players and Game Masters that are in your 20s and 30s. Again, not dissing on anyone, it’s all good clean fun. Some of us just don’t remember the glory days of D&D as well and it makes me laugh.

Someone on YouTube said, “When a cleric switches domains, they might lose touch with their deity for a session or two.”

Ravenloft 2E. The campaign setting so potentially brutal it nearly required a change of underwear.

This comment had me rolling on the floor. Anyone remember getting dropped into Realms of Ravenloft (*Not just the module with Strahd) as a cleric from somewhere else? Or a paladin? Congratulations! Your cleric just became a second rate fighter and your paladin just became a fighter with a holy symbol that meant absolutely nothing! Rangers and druids didn’t have it much better.

See, Domains in Ravenloft (*The setting not the specific geographical domain Ravenloft, where Strahd lived,) didn’t have a standard pantheon of deities and demigods per say. The Mists were controlled by an unknown element (*Who we always suspected might be the Old Gods of R’lyeh, but could never confirm due to IP reasons.) The Mists were renowned for grabbing adventurers from other realms such as FR, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and elsewhere, and dropping them off in a suitable realm where they could be tempted toward evil. The Mists would also rarely spit adventurers back out if they proved to be too incorruptible.

The healing magic in Ravenloft… Let’s just say the healing you wanted you weren’t getting and the magic healing you received was usually at a terrible cost. Remove Curse? That ain’t happening. Raise Dead? If you did have access to it, did you really want to see what happened? Eesh.

Dragonlance has been teased.

Picture of my copy of the AD&D 1E Dragonlance hardcover.

Oh, y’all thought Ravenloft was tough on clerics? At least they had clerics. OG Dragonlance didn’t even mention clerics!

It got better. Mages had to make a critical choice of which Tower of High Sorcery to serve. Spells were limited accordingly. Oh, and Tiamat’s illegitimate sister was on the list of things you could possibly run into at high levels. Paladins and cavaliers had it kinda rough, but not really. (Knightly orders ftw.)

Races played a huge role in old DL. I’ll be curious to see what they do in the new WotC paradigm of warm and fuzzy races everywhere. I will say Minotaurs, Wild Elves and Kender were pretty friggin sweet, though. (Love my Kender thief.) We’ll see what happens.

Someone mentioned they hadn’t been born when the last edition of Spelljammer was new.

Old Spelljammer. Let’s bring back audio cassette tape adventures while we’re at it. (Yes, that really happened.)

Okay, I’m old. I graduated high school in 1990. Spelljammer was first released in 1989.

I was not the first kid on the block to avoid this thing. I remember the Forgotten Realms comic even mentioned it. Great comic series, incidentally. The group in the comics actually had access to a ship with a spelljamming engine.

Despite all advertising efforts, I just couldn’t get into it. For me, sci-fi is its own separate entity. If I wanted to do space fantasy, there’s always Star Wars or Rifts. Nowadays we have Starfinder.

I go back to the notion that there’s nothing wrong with Spelljammer per se. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s worth a shot, just like Strixhaven and Candlekeep Mysteries. Maybe it will turn out better in 5E. Who knows?

What puzzles me the most about 5E right now is-

Why did they choose to bring back Spelljammer and Dragonlance? Why not Al Qadim or Dark Sun. For crying out loud, they brought back Dark Sun in 4th Ed. It wasn’t that bad.

Or better yet, Greyhawk, Birthright, Oriental Adventures and Mystara are completely untouched by the newest editions. Why not? Are all these old campaign worlds a tough sell for the Mighty Matt Mercer? (Yeah… Old Grognard still poking at Matt. Sorry, kid.) What? They can’t be reimagined for today’s audiences but Spelljammer can? What’s next? Chronomancy?

Here’s a deep thought: If 5E spawned as many or probably several more homebrew campaign worlds than even 3E, why not tap into one or two of them? I mean, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of homebrew campaign settings and ravenous hordes of fans looking to become the next Ed Greenwood or Keith Baker. Why won’t WotC tap into a literally untapped landscape of campaigns with no real IP attachments or potential lawsuits?

Food for thought, anyway. I hope you’re having a great week so far. Take care. Thank you for being here.

Fantasy TTRPG: The ‘Why’ of Dungeon Crawling.

One of my favorites is the group stumbles onto the thing completely by accident through a buried entrance or random hole in the ground. “While doing your character’s business off the trail, he stumbles into a hole and plummets 30 feet into (dungeon room number 1.)”

I like to give players a reason for their character to enter the spooky underground maze of despair and certain doom.

Picking up where we left of yesterday. Why would anyone in their right mind enter an underground complex full of locked doors, deathtraps, and horrifying foul creatures of every sort? Okay, beyond the motivation of, “We’re perpetually angry thieving murder hoboes looking for the filthy lucre mountain to steal.”

What is the hook of the dungeon going to be? What can I put out there to get at least one player, if not the whole group motivated to go traipsing down into The Lair of the Vampiric Devil Dragon? What logical reasons could there be for wanting to cheat death? Okay, aside from it being a fantasy game.

The two most basic kinds of motivation: Intrinsic or Extrinsic.

We’ll start with the complicated reasons- the intrinsic kind. Maybe the group wants to rescue someone. Maybe the lost component of someone’s backstory lies within. Perhaps the lich that built the place is someone’s great grandfather. In extreme cases, it might be to keep some really frightening thing from ending the world. Whatever the intrinsic reason is, it’s something motivated by the characters themselves.

By comparison, extrinsic reasons are pretty simple. The group has a reason to believe wealth, fame and fortune lie within. They’ve been promised a great reward for braving the depths and retrieving the MacGuffin. Gold and magic items top the list of extrinsic motivators.

There’s always basic curiosity and dumb luck.

All of us veterans know some hooks by heart. For example: a ragged looking wizard stumbles into the inn with a map in his hand. He falls over dead in the middle of the group’s table, dropping the map in the unsuspecting rogue’s lap after muttering something about an ancient curse.

One of my favorites is the group stumbles onto the thing completely by accident through a buried entrance or random hole in the ground. “While doing your character’s business off the trail, he stumbles into a hole and plummets 30 feet into (dungeon room number 1.)”

Last, there’s always basic curiosity. Rumors abound at the inn about a miner’s discovery of a door covered in an ancient, unknown dialect. The cleric’s order recently unearthed a series of forgotten vaults underneath their oldest temple. Why is the humble town of Tristram suddenly under siege by hordes of demons and undead? Who lives in the Death Fortress on Skull Island? There might be some sick loot in the old ruins at the top of the hill.

Whatever the reason, good luck to you and your players. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you!

Birth of a Dungeon Crawl?

DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC.

I’m contemplating a new series of articles.

I recently got turned onto Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) and Mutant Crawl Classics (MCC) by Goodman Games. DCC has been around in its current form since 2012, but its roots extend back to the good old 3rd Ed D&D days. (*Editor’s Note: I still have many of the old modules and treasure them dearly.) DCC in its current printing is very much in the vein of Old School Revival (OSR) as it looks a LOT like old B/X D&D. (*Editor’s Note: I’ve written more about it here.)

MCC is a little newer (2017?) and is a throwback to Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World in so many ways. It also reminds me a little bit of Palladium’s Rifts with its mix of magic and technology. DCC and MCC are fully compatible with one another, which is awesomesauce when designing creatures. While I’m not huge on post apocalyptic genre games in general, I like MCC because of its old school charm and simplicity. It also uses the same character funnel 0 Level play as DCC only AD Terra style.

One thing that really jumps out at me about both DCC and MCC is the incredible amount of third party support that exists for both games. Goodman even goes so far as to list many of them in their books. I have not begun to dig through the various websites to look for what am looking at creating. I have ideas for several character classes/races. Much like other OGL endeavors, I’m certain anything I come up with is going to resemble material that already exists somewhere.

It will be a work in progress.

Similar to my Power Rangers RPG campaign, my DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC. Anything I put on the blog is always free to use anywhere. I might eventually cobble together an entire book for pdf publication on DriveThruRPG or my Ko-Fi Page.

My plans from there in regards to OGL endeavours is to either do more on DriveThruRPG or possibly consider starting up something on Patreon. There are a staggering number of RPG startups out there. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going to set my work apart just yet, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because DCC/MCC are an OGL venture, I may eventually veer off into other systems such as D&D or ICRPG.

What can I say? I love RPGs. I love monkeying with different systems.

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. More to come. Take care. Have a great week. Game on!

One Roleplaying Game Fits All?

Trying to make one system of RPG rules fit every genre and campaign is like mashing a round peg into a square hole. It fits, kinda.

“Any system can do anything you want it to do.” — from TTRPG Twitter.

I’m leaving the name off of this because I’m not trying to cause problems in the community. This person is technically correct. But in the interest of discussion, I will say there is a larger continuum to consider here.

From a tactical or strategic wargame perspective, no. Absolutely one system doesn’t work for everything. Typically, many RPGs don’t translate well to wargames/miniatures warfare. Ironically D&D came from the miniatures game Chainmail, which was a wargame. But if one tries to run epic naval battles with D&D 5E, for instance, it’s going to come up short on a mechanical level. One could just as easily create an entirely new game in the amount of time it would take.

Mashing the medium round peg into the medium square hole.

Why are we trying so hard to make D&D work for literally everything?

When it comes to RPGs, yes one can make any system work for just about any game. Yes, you can play virtually anything from stone age fantasy all the way through supers in space with D&D 5E. It’s possible because roleplaying doesn’t require some of the crunchier nuances that wargaming requires.

The whole thing comes down to how much time one wants to spend converting the game to work for one genre to another. How many hours does it take to rework D&D 5E into Call of Cthulhu in the 1920’s? Would it be easier just to buy another game? Would it be easier just to grab a set of more generic, universal core rules to do the same thing?

Yeah, it’ll fit with enough force.

Some game systems hold up to being manipulated better than others. D20 is the most common and debatably popular system as a core on and off for the last 20+ years. But it’s not always the fastest or most efficient when it comes to converting it into specific niches. For example Mutants & Masterminds looks almost nothing like D20 Modern, even though they’re both based on the same SRD/OGL.

I fall back on FATE and FUDGE for a lot of the quirky one shots or mini campaigns I come up with for certain niches because the conversion is relatively idiot proof. Their dice mechanics are simple and flexible for everything, especially combat. Character creation is pretty much the same from one genre to the next with a few minor adjustments. (FATE Horror and any game with supers takes a bit of tweaking.)

I will say that DriveThruRPG and similar websites offer a ton of options when it comes to generic systems. I’ve found a lot of gems such as Fantaji and GMD Core on there. Savage Worlds, the system that Deadlands RPG runs on, is also available. It is a good, crunchy generic system that has been adapted to fit several campaigns in multiple genres. That’s also where I discovered ICRPG which is exceptionally adaptable.

Time to get out the left handed monkey wrench.

Photo by on

So, it’s either spend potentially hours or days converting a d100 or d20 RPG into whatever genre or game you want. Depending on the complexity of the game one desires, the amount of crunch the players are going to want, and the specific mechanics for some settings (horror, for example.) OR one can simply grab a generic core system and have the whole thing knocked out in an hour or two with some minor adjustments on the fly. Some games are intended to scale into one size fits all.

At then end of the day, it’s a matter of how much time you as a GM and your players want to spend haggling over character traits, historical data, combat mechanics, scale, and dozens of other factors. Personally, I like to get the right tool for the right job. If a preexisting game covers the bases, I’ll grab it and use it. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate your support. Have a fabulous weekend!

Mixing the Genres

Some concepts mesh very well together. Others require a bit of work on the part of the designer, such as Spaghetti Western Mecha. It is possible, however.

I think we all do this to some extent.

My personal favorite is Cybernetic Kung Fu Mecha Jocks in Space. Not surprisingly, the Lords of Kung Fu actually appear in several of my RPG campaigns. I’m a big fan of martial arts movies and TV. Of course, that fits right in with anime and before you know it, everyone’s at the party.

Let’s list most of the major RPG genres:

  • Fantasy. (Low, Middle, or High magic.)
  • Horror. (We’ll come back to this one…)
  • Science Fiction. (Low, High or Fantastic Tech, Hard Science, and Space Opera.)
  • Superheroes.
  • Cyberpunk/Shadowrun.
  • Anime. (Most commonly mixed with something else such as Mecha.)
  • Modern. (Crime, Military, Spies.)
  • Post Apocalyptic.
  • Western.
  • Steampunk. (I might be stretching a bit with this one…)
  • Comedy.
  • Catch-All. (Games such as RIFTS that defy most other categories.)

I’m sure I’m missing one or two that will dawn on me mere minutes after I hit “publish” on this article. I think of all of the categories Fantasy is probably the one most people are familiar with and have the easiest time getting into. Elves, dragons, swords and sorcery are the stuff many tales were made of long before we started rolling dice to them.

Dungeons & Dragons has become synonymous with fantasy roleplaying games.

But it’s only one system of literally dozens. D&D is one of the grandparents of the industry, but there are a handful of other games worthy of mention in another article. Fantasy genre mashes up well with a lot of things, like the humble potato. Almost everything blends with fantasy in some way.

However, the company that started D&D also pioneered into other genres. Where would we be without Boot Hill, Metamorphosis Alpha, Top Secret SI, and Marvel Superheroes Roleplaying?

Ravenloft was probably the first D&D module to really feature a mix with horror as a genre. We have the mighty Strahd Von Zarovich and his minions in Ravenloft. Players figure out very quickly that they can’t just hack and slash their way through, really bringing out some of that fear element. Not to mention good old Strahd is a vampire and all.

Coming back to Horror as a genre…

I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of old White Wolf games. Vampire the Masquerade being probably the biggest standout for games that churn my stomach. I liked Werewolf a lot. Mage and Hunter were sort of okay-ish. The rest could go rot in a pit for all I really care. I just wasn’t into all the twisted weirdness that came with some of it. Even games like Beyond the Supernatural, Chill, and Don’t Look Back, Terror is Never far behind kinda turned me off of the genre a little.

Vampire, actually most of the old World of Darkness stuff does one thing exceptionally well- faction politics. But, at that point is it really horror? I mean, you can change Vampire’s clans over to political parties, corporations, or even magic guilds leaving the backstabbing and scheming to be just as intense.

Horror is one of those big Session Zero red flag “No” squares for a lot of people. Most of us have had trauma in the real world and don’t necessarily want to play around in gore, fear, paranoia, or even jump scares. Horror elements in any game should definitely meet the approval of the rest of the group before they are implemented. I’ve had a couple of experiences where they weren’t, expectations didn’t mesh, and trauma followed. I highly caution the use of horror with almost anything.

Anime is a good genre to blend with almost everything.

Many anime stories inevitably fall under some other category; especially fantasy, cyberpunk, mecha, and superhero. It is very easy to take almost any campaign, add a ruleset that includes bold, flashy maneuvers, intense action scenes, complicated relationships, and put it into the Anime category. I see Anime as a sort of attitude in gaming more than a specific genre.

The other fun thing about anime is bringing some unlike concepts together in art. Cowboys in Space? Fantasy martial arts superheroes? How about Post Apocalyptic Steampunk Spies? Anime is super flexible.

Almost anything can end with “In space.”

Think about it. (*Editor’s note: I love doing this!) You can take almost any campaign setting known to RPGs and end it with “In space” and it will take on a whole new meaning and perspective. It also gives clever GMs an excuse to recycle old modules.

I sometimes think Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had it easiest. Take any plot from any TV show ever made and set it in space. Feel like a western? Well, these “aliens” over yonder have a heap a trouble with them space horse rustlers. Next week we’re fighting an imperialist socialist dictatorship over on Planet Beta Nine. We’re overcoming real Cold War tensions with starships and space stations the next week. The week after that our captain will fall in love with a beautiful elf-like maiden while battling orcs and amnesia on a fantasy world.

Science Fiction, space and time travel in particular, lend themselves exceptionally well to crossing over and amongst everything. Think about all of the things shows like Red Dwarf and Dr Who accomplished. I hear most Brits consider Dr Who to be a national superhero.

Space Opera focuses less on science and technology and more on plot and characters. Star Wars is a blend of science fiction, fantasy and martial arts. All of the subgenre stuff supports the characters and the plot.

I’m probably going to revisit the concept of blending genres again farther down the line. This article was mostly intended to get the creative juices flowing. The one amazing thing about tabletop roleplaying is that almost anything can happen and usually does.

Thank you for being here. Hope you have a great week.

Firearms and Fantasy- Do They Mix?

I’ve said for many years that fantasy game designers don’t know how to write a modern RPG that involves guns. It’s so much easier for Mr Potter to point his wand at the target and yell “Allakazotimus!” to fire off a lightning bolt. It’s going to be unpleasant for a knight in full plate to get hit with said electricity, to be sure but it’s easier in terms of rules.

Should I allow guns in my D&D Campaign?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on
(Not a Blunderbuss.)

I’ve seen a lot of takes on this particular subject over the last thirty years or so. It’s actually a debate that’s been going on since 1st Ed AD&D Dungeon Master’s guide introduced it. There are numerous articles written about the subject and countless opinions. It seems like anyone who DMs the game has their own take.

And that’s a good thing! At the end of the debate, the best answer on this subject is that it is up to the individual DM and group to decide if they want to allow gunpowder into the campaign or pretend that it was never invented. Then the next debate is the tech level of said firearms. Matchlock, Flintlock, cap and ball, or more modern?

The Blunderbuss was a big deal in 2nd Ed.

Photo by Skitterphoto on

One of my players back in the day insisted on putting one on practically every character. Why? Well, look at the damage. Okay, big numbers unless the thing randomly explodes in the firer’s face. And then there’s that pesky reload time.

Not everyone min/maxes the same way. A light crossbow iirc could put three or four times the number of bolts downrange more accurately and without a chance of critical oops in the same amount of time as it took to reload the Blunderbuss.

Then came the notion of black powder bombs and grenades being lobbed about. Healers were getting overworked. Druids were becoming scarce. The mages were just standing around saying, “You know I could throw a fireball for way more damage…”

But then again, doesn’t black powder sort of negate the need to spend years studying magic if a common peasant can shoot anyone with one of these man-portable cannons or lob a bomb in the general direction of something and destroy it? The dynamics of fantasy medieval warfare change dramatically with the introduction of firearms of any kind.

Desperately trying to keep the fantasy in the game.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

I’ve said for many years that fantasy game designers don’t know how to write a modern RPG that involves guns. It’s so much easier for Mr Potter to point his wand at the target and yell “Allakazotimus!” to fire off a lightning bolt. It’s going to be unpleasant for a knight in full plate to get hit with said electricity, to be sure, but it’s easier to write in terms of rules.

This is in comparison to firing a Viking 9mm SMG with a 30 round mag on full auto at a target 14 yards away wearing Kevlar body armor. What’s the grouping? How many rounds are expended? Did it jam? Firearms combat involves some degree of real world data and knowledge of statistics. Who wants to go to all of that extra effort?

I’m trying to leave real world opinions and politics around firearms out of this discussion because I think a LOT of people in the world have had enough bad experiences with firearms, explosives and so forth. I grew up around hunting rifles and shotguns, and I have studied firearms extensively because of my interest in roleplaying games. Again, not everyone cares for anything involving real world violence. Honestly, can’t say I blame them.

Many of us indulge in fantasy roleplaying to escape the trappings and tribulations of the modern world. It’s fun to play a dual sword wielding elf ranger or a half orc barbarian with a great club. Yay magic and dragons! Why spoil it with things that remind us of sh*t that happens in real life?

It comes down to Session Zero.

Uh oh. I said what some think is a dirty phrase in the RPG community. You either love it or hate it. DMs/GMs sitting down with their players before the campaign starts to discuss expectations and boundaries in the game. Personally, I’ll red flag any kind of guns or gunpowder in any fantasy setting where firearms aren’t already well established.

Why? Because I know people are pretty sensitive to gun violence. My son’s school just had a drive-by shooting that ended in a fatality and two critically injured a couple of weeks ago. My oldest son is pretty freaked out about it. So, we’re keeping my game very swords and sorcery.

I have another campaign, not D&D, that involves swords and pistols. It also has magically powered mecha and steampunk/magic tech. It’s not even the first setting I’ve made like this. Yeah, fantasy with guns can be a thing if everyone’s cool. But not in Forgotten Realms or even my regular D&D world. If the expectation isn’t there, don’t roll with it.

Thanks for stopping in. Have a marvelous day! I appreciate you.

5 TV/Movie Franchises That Would Make Epic RPGs.

There’s recently been a bloom of RPGs based on old cartoon franchises. In that tradition, I’d like to offer up some that I think deserve an RPG or a campaign at least.

Some would make great campaigns, others probably deserve the full treatment.

Number 5: Mission Impossible.
While this could literally be plugged into any modern or spy game ever written, it would make for an interesting campaign. Personally, I think DwD’s Covert Ops is about perfect for this campaign. Confession: I want to have all of the characters on vacation just long enough to get interrupted by the famous MI mission delivery system. That, and the theme music.

Number 4: Combat!/Rat Patrol/Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan.
For those who didn’t watch old school black and white TV shows, Combat and Rat Patrol were set in WW2. One was a group of GI’s trudging through the war. The other was a band of Jeep riding Americans fighting Nazis in Africa.

I know Operation White Box sort of covers the WW2 niche pretty well. I just wish someone would build more of a Twilight 2000 style game about the war. (Looking at you, GDW fans…) There are plenty of historical minis games about WW2, but no one really covered it in an RPG for some reason.

Number 3: The A-Team.
How has this game managed to not have been made yet? Again, it would make a freaking awesome campaign! You’ve got the military cops chasing our heroes while they try to right injustices all over the place. Meanwhile some reporter is tagging along with them trying to write a good story and clear their names.

It was a good TV show, and we know that doesn’t always make for good RPGs, but c’mon. It’s The A-Team! Okay, honestly Cyberpunk kind of fills this niche in a roundabout way. I think it made for a cool Spycraft game back in the day. One could probably tweak the Covert Ops rules or any other modern game to fit. FATE might be a good choice due to the quirky personalities of the iconic characters. I do love it when a plan comes together.

Number 2: Thunder Cats
We debated back in the day about doing this as a Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) campaign. The only problem was the vehicle rules and less powerful characters always took a back seat to the big bruisers in that system. It would probably work better as a D&D game now.

I suspect the biggest holdup with this cartoon/anime is the intellectual property rights and trademark issues. Still, what if Lion-O’s team wasn’t the only group to escape Thunderra’s destruction? (Okay, I know they weren’t, but…)

This game might suit itself well to Hasbro/Renegade Studios’ Essence20 system. The only downer is I think the toys were actually made by Bandai? (It’s the interwebs. I’m sure someone will fact check me.) So, the game rights might still be up in the air. Still, if a franchise ever deserved an RPG of its own, Thunder Cats surely has to make the grade.

I was going to mention GI Joe and Transformers in this article originally, but Renegade beat me to the punch. Other honorable mentions that have a game include Starship Troopers, Aliens, Predator, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Battlestar Galactica.

Number 1: He-Man/She-Ra
I’ve been watching the reboot He-Man series on Netflix along with the miniseries that ended the original franchise (Revelations.) I’m sure there’s probably some kind of copyright/trademark funkiness going on with this one, too. Still, it would be amazeballs if someone would put out a game for this. (cough-cough Renegade cough.)

This cartoon is also well suited to a campaign in Cartoon Action Hour by Spectrum Games. The playsets for this thing were epic in a genre of cartoons designed to sell toys. Eternia is big enough and diverse enough that one could easily make a group of characters outside of Castle Grayskull or even set a campaign in one of the eras before or after Prince Adam was He-Man.

This was fun.

It’s not really a Top 5, because there’s no particular order. Sorry for the lack of pics on this one, too. I’m trying to be sensitive to the IP rights of the various shows’ creators and you never know who might be looking to start trouble. I link several RPGs because it’s nice to go see what I’m talking about a little bit. I don’t make any additional money for mentioning the companies or products.

(*Although we can always talk sponsorship deals. Wink wink, nudge-nudge.)

Have a great week! Take care. See ya soon.

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