Note of Gratitude and Congratulations!

Congratulations to April Kit Walsh, Whitney Delagio, Dominique Dickey, Jonaya Kemper, Alexis Sara, and Rae Nedjadi and the folx at Evil Hat Productions! Their game, Thirsty Sword Lesbians became the first RPG to win a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Holy buckets! Is this awesome or what?

A member of the gaming community recently hit it big.

Congratulations to April Kit Walsh, Whitney Delagio, Dominique Dickey, Jonaya Kemper, Alexis Sara, and Rae Nedjadi and the folx at Evil Hat Productions! Their game, Thirsty Sword Lesbians became the first RPG to win a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Holy buckets! Is this awesome or what?

Nebula Award for Thirsty Sword Lesbians. Neat!

I think this is going to put Evil Hat on the map even more than before.

Thirsty Sword Lesbians RPG.

One thing I will say about Evil Hat Productions is they seem to really know how to pick them. FATE RPG is an amazing game with several successful spin offs/settings. Monster of the Week by Michael Sands is outstanding in the horror RPG genre as well as being an amazing game in its own right. Now, Thirsty Sword Lesbians by April Kit Walsh has hit big on several fronts. The good times are rolling for our friends at Evil Hat.

There are a couple of things that really stand out about this award as an event in the RPG community that I want to discuss. Aside from one of “our” own, (ours as in an RPG writer) making some headlines, I think it’s great that it’s not one of the big names in gaming for a change. It’s also remarkable to be recognized outside of the usual RPG industry awards such as Origins, ENnies, or Gen Con. Finally, this game uses Powered by the Apocalypse (*Apocalypse World Engine) as its core rules. I’ve been critical of any game using PbtA in the past, but my mind is changing fast.

Confession, I haven’t played this game yet.

Honestly, as much as I uh, love lesbians, I’m still a guy. That’s not to disrespect the gay community. A couple of my best friends are lesbians. Before anyone starts blasting this “Old Grognard” in the RPG community, let’s be clear- I fully support and encourage members of the LGBTQIA++ community. I honestly admire the fact that Thirsty Sword Lesbians was chosen over other industry notables such as D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars RPG, Savage Worlds, and others.

That’s actually the first thing about this particular award that blows my mind. There have literally been decades of RPGs out there that could have been chosen in years past. I sincerely hope the marketing people at Hasbro had kittens when they found out about this. A little “indie” game did something D&D has never accomplished. Critical Role hasn’t even broken some of these barriers yet. Woot!

I think the rest of the RPG industry should be taking notes over what has been done here.

For any RPG to win an award outside of the usual circles is truly fantastic!

I used to be critical of PbtA. Then I was introduced to Monster of the Week RPG. After making four or five characters, I’m really liking the simplicity of character creation and the playbook style. It’s especially easy on new players. It lays out what characters can do well and helps build backstory in a few easy steps.

Usually one would expect an RPG to be given an award at some event such as Origins, Gen Con, or EN World. (love the ENnies!) For the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to take notice? Thirsty Sword Lesbians must be a truly outstanding game. Whatever awards this games wins going forward, let’s consider this Nebula Award to be a good step in success.

Like I have pointed out here on my blog before, other Evil Hat games are pretty remarkable in their own right. I think part of what sets Thirsty Sword Lesbians apart is the subject matter. Fabulous art and talented writing help quite a bit, too. Again, I am grateful and really admire what this game has accomplished. Keep up the good work!

I hope someday I manage to put out an RPG product that makes money, wins awards, and raises awareness. I really admire what has been done here. I’m happy and grateful that members of the RPG family are being acknowledged for their hard work.

Congratulations again, Thirsty Sword Lesbians!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Take care.

Please be kind to one another!

Tales of the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society (MotW TPG)

This is some of the backstory for my MotW RPG campaign. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is unintentional. This is a work of fiction.

Disclaimer: This is a fictional organization.

From the notes of Brenda Hart, Secretary of the Des Moines Remote Viewing Society:

Aug 3, 2016: Making it official tonight. Dan, Tom and I are going to start looking into the odd phenomena occurring here in Des Moines. I’m new here, only having moved from Colorado a few short years ago after my husband died. Ironic that I’m the one with the most experience in the field and the only trained remote viewer of the bunch.

Dan is our resident parapsychologist and tech guru. We wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for him and his website, The Midwest Monitor. He lives here in Des Moines and has seen a lot of strange things, more as of late. Most of his journals are on video in one form or another going back to the early 1990’s. He’s done a lot of investigations of local haunted houses.

If Dan is our parapsych and tech guy, Tom Ross is the exact opposite. He’s our resident spiritually conscious conspiracy guy. His intuition has led us to the tunnel network. (More on that later.) He’s also convinced Des Moines, IA is a popular stop on the extraterrestrial superhighway and a visitors center for the Reptiloid population. He also things a lot of the local happenings are eyeballs deep in the Illuminati, Freemasons, Nosferatu, shadow government, demons, Men in Black and so on. Tom’s notes are regularly mailed to my address as additional proof along with copies sent to friends, relatives and a random PO Box.

We have an unofficial fourth member named Lewis. He’s strictly on the Internet and goes by Big Lou 42 on most things. He’s a nice guy, but a lot secretive. I think he might be former government or a shadow corp employee turned whistleblower. He doesn’t live here, but he sure knows a lot about DsM. We have other internet friends, most live in BFN Iowa, MO, or MN. The local MUFON folks know we’re around, too. Dan used to be a member.

Tonight’s meeting was very informal. We met at Dan Miller’s house for pizza. It was our way of getting to know each other. Dan recently caught onto some sketchy activity in the cemetery over by the State Fairgrounds. It happens every year when the Fair crowd starts coming around.

Some teenagers were out partying near the cemetery when they saw some strange lights and bizarre fireworks coming from within the graveyard. They may have been drunk. They might not be credible. But I did manage to dig up some old newspaper files from the 1970’s and early 80’s of similar sightings.

In 1993 four college kids attempted to hold a seance in the middle of the night with a Ouija board. A week later, one of the teens died of an apparent suicide, two in a car accident, and the fourth went missing a few short years after college having been hospitalized in a mental institution suffering from multiple delusions and a nervous breakdown.

This year we’re going to do a very passive stakeout with cameras, trail cams and night vision gear mostly off the premises. If things look promising, we might move closer in toward the last nights of the Fair or after it’s all over. I’m going to do a reading three nights into the stakeout to see if I can determine where the disturbance might be coming from.

Tom says he has a lead on a bunch of activity near the cemetery in Pleasant Hill. That’s probably going to be the next destination just because of the close proximity and similar reports. Should be creepy fun.

-End of Entry.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great week. See ya soon!

It’s Friday the 13th!

What happens if Buffy Summers and her crew runs into a guy wearing a hockey mask and carrying a machete?

I think we all know what that means.
Monster of the Week RPG!

Monster of the Week by Michael Sands, Evil Hat Studios.

MotW Cover.

What? No, I promise I’ll behave this time and not get all gory and violent. My new trigger warning graphic is posted at the end of the article. I’ve tried to make the warning as obvious and broad-reaching as possible, but I’m still not 200% sure about the wording.

How much is too much in Monster of the Week? I think serious Session Zero conversations need to be had and the players most assuredly need to know where the Keeper stands on certain topics. Obviously it’s best to make sure things aren’t too gory, too many jump scares, or too disturbing for sensitive players. I’ve seen plenty of horror games fall apart because it just plain got too dark for one or more players. Nobody wants to show up every week just to get more depressed or creeped-out. Most of us can probably relate.

I think MotW is more geared for the high-flyin’, butt-kickin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer style game. At least, that’s sort of what I imagine running as opposed to the dreary World of Darkness style game. No, not all Storytellers run a dreary game, but WoD has that tone sorta built into it IMO.

Knocking down “scary” vampires and kicking monster butt is great, but what happens if they run into that one guy?

I think we all know which guy I’m talking about. Yeah… Michael Meyers. Ha! No, Freddy Krueger. Wait, Chucky? Leatherface? Hannibal Lecter? No…

How was this guy not going to come up?

Most of us get the idea of the iconic Urban Legend serial stalker. That guy with the kitchen knife, machete or weed eater that literally tries to go after the whole cheerleading squad. I think it makes for awesomesauce bad guy material in MotW. Others may not. As a player I might be a bit unnerved by getting chased by our favorite hockey mask wearing psycho.

Guys like Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees just keep coming in the standard issue slasher flick. There’s no stake through the heart or tranq dart that’s going to stop them for long. Some are far worse than others, having their own dimension to hide in when things get rough (Freddy, Pinhead.)

Buffy Summers- Jason Voorhees. Jason- Buffy. There, now we’re all introduced.

The heck with Freddy vs Jason. I want to see Buffy vs Jason. Some guy that’s short of needing locked and chained in a locker and drowned. In game terms, hes seemingly unkillable. Or at least permanently unkillable. MotW even mentions letting baddies come back if the group fails to use the monster’s weakness.

Personally, I think it’s frustrating for players to get their butts handed to them every week by the same bad guy. On the other hand, most Keepers love having a recurring villain that literally everyone dreads. The Keeper starts hinting that we might be dealing with a situation similar to one we’ve seen several episodes back.
Jack: It- it can’t be. We killed him. We literally watched him burn.
Keeper: What if he wasn’t human?
Serena: Copycat crime, maybe?
Keeper: Maybe. Some supernatural beings can come back, though.
Bob: He did eat three bullets, a shotgun blast, a sickle, two tranq darts, a katana, and got pushed off a cliff before the fire. Maybe he survived? Somehow?
Keeper: Bwah ha-ha. Did anyone actually find his body?
Group: <gulp!> Uh-oh. (In unison.)

Sometimes the best way to get rid of it is to change campaigns before the next session.

I hope it never comes to that. Jason is a villain that has survived any number of atrocities that should have killed a regular human being a few dozen times over. The MotW doesn’t have to be quite so durable. What if it’s a demon that can be cleansed? What if he actually has some sort of wolfsbane, cold wrought iron, garlic, or some other substance that can kill it. Has anyone tried a simple circle of salt? What about legit magic?

The point is, just because something seems unkillable, doesn’t mean it is unkillable. Personally, I like villains that have more lives than a Batman villain. But the players have to have a chance to come out ahead or break even. MotW villains mean business and not putting one down could spell disaster for the characters and innocents alike.

So, here’s to treading that fine line between safe and unsafe, sane and insane, here in the Twilight Zone…

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend! Stay safe. Be back soon.

Too much or not enough?

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!

My Recent Foray into Monster of the Week.

I will say this game truly inspired me to go back to my old Hunters Hunted and Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green notes. I’ve always wanted to run a sort of detective agency mystery/horror game.

Monster of the Week from Evil Hat Games.

Monster of the Week by Michael Sands

I kept seeing this game go by in various places and I finally got curious. While I have sort of a love-hate relationship with horror games, this got my attention because it’s more focused on the good guys. I prefer my horror games to be A.) Not completely hopeless for the PCs, and B.) Told from the perspective of regular people fighting the darkness. Monster of the Week gets it done for the most part.

A friend on RPG Twitter mentioned this as their favorite game and I became curious. My first venture into the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) system was with Henshin:Sentai the RPG and I have to say left a bad taste in my mouth. I still kinda feel like PbtA is a bit restrictive in terms of the PC actions and character creation. It feels to me like we’re constantly using Pre-gen characters. A lot of experienced gamers prefer to customize heavily.

I will say this game truly inspired me to go back to my old Hunters Hunted and Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green notes. I’ve always wanted to run a sort of detective agency mystery/horror game. My wife is a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I’m big on Evil Dead/Army of Darkness. I also have my own personal freaky experiences to draw from if so desired.

Honestly, I love horror movies. I see so many things that are just laughably stupid. No one in their right mind would do some of the things characters in horror movies do and I find it amazing that some of the simplest solutions to these paranormal terrors are often overlooked.

I have so many scenarios in mind for this game already, I’m having trouble writing them all down fast enough. I’m inspired. Don’t know if I’ll have a group or if this will be an online game just yet, but I’m excited nonetheless.

One thing I really admire about the game is that they seem to have a playbook for just about everyone. Great job! It does take some of the analysis paralysis out of character creation.

Powered by the Apocalypse.

Evil Hat delivers once again!

Tome of Mysteries for MotW. Fantastic Sourcebook!

I’m a big fan of FATE as well. Part of the appeal of Monster of the Week was the quality that comes with all of the games I’ve seen from Evil Hat. (*Minus Thirsty Sword Lesbians because I haven’t read through it yet.) These folks also write a heck of a sourcebook, IMO.

I’m talking about Tome of Mysteries for Monster of the Week. They added more moves, playbooks, and a bunch of GM Advice. I felt some of the moves they added in this book were overdue and excellent additions. The GM support for MotW in general has been awesome. It has made setting up a sandbox easier for this game and dispelled some of my long-held beliefs about writing for horror games. I give it a huge thumbs up.

I can’t wait to get a chance to try this game out. I have a LOT of projects in the works right now. I hope to get some of my series outline posted eventually, as soon as my calendar clears up.

Thank you for stopping by. Happy May Day. I appreciate you!

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 icon0.com on Pexels.com

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!

Some Lesser Known Alternatives to D&D Fifth Edition

This is a short list of lesser known, less discussed generic rules lite RPGs. If you like D&D, but want to try something new, these are worth a glance.

D&D 5E is a great game and a wonderful introduction to the hobby of roleplaying. Here are some new ways to branch out:

FATE by Evil Hat Productions
  • Index Card Role Playing Game aka ICRPG from Runehammer Games. This is a simple set of rules similar to D20/D&D. It has fewer things to keep track of, which is why your whole character fits on an index card. It’s handy for multiple genres, but excels at fantasy.

    The print copy of the Master Edition is available from Modiphius. I’ve bought into the Second Edition of the game and I absolutely love it! It’s easy on the GM and fun for everyone in the group. If you like the items and monsters in D&D, it’s definitely worth looking at ICRPG.
  • FATE. from Evil Hat Productions. This game has a lot going for it and cool artwork. If you love the roleplaying element of D&D, then this is probably a good system for you.

    It’s easy to learn, easy to run and has cool dice. Honestly, any D6 can work, but their plus, minus, and blank dice are pretty cool. It’s another rules lite game where you can go as in depth or as vague as you’d like. I love it for its simplicity and adaptability as a writer and as a GM.

    I’ve discussed FUDGE on my blog before here. It’s FATE only simpler and a little more adaptable yet. You can literally play any world or campaign you can imagine or steal from. Best part is- It’s FREE! It’s a little older, but very fun.
  • ICONS by Steve Kenson. This is my go-to superhero game these days. It’s got some elements of FATE in the ease of play and dice mechanics. The character creation and abilities have been expanded upon a few times during its run as the Assembled Edition.

    As Steve Kenson once admitted, it’s not even the first RPG he’s ever designed. It’s not even the first superhero RPG he’s ever written. Mutants & Masterminds is a classic and genre-defining game worthy of mention elsewhere. ICONS is a labor of love, as far as I can tell.

    The thing I love most about ICONS is it takes most of the mechanical elements away from the GM so all we really have to focus on is good storytelling. It can be played as campy or as serious as the GM and group desire. The Dan Houser artwork is loveable and very comical.

    While it is a superhero game at heart, I’ve seen ICONS adapted to some pretty interesting subgenres within supers/comic book gaming. Just because it’s intended as a four color comic book world, doesn’t mean it can’t adapt to sentai anime, fantasy supers (He-Man,) spacefaring heroes, or steampunk dystopian post apocalyptic roleplaying. (*Yeah, that’s a thing.)
  • What’s Old is N.E.W, N.O.W, and/or O.L.D. from EN Publishing. There are actually three core books in this series depending on which genre you might be interested in. OLD is fantasy. NOW is modern. NEW is science fiction. All three combine to get some very interesting genres/campaign settings.

    EN World is a D&D fan site from back in the day. Morrus, WOIN’s creator, is a crack game designer on top of everything else he does. He’s definitely got his hands full on any given day. I sometimes wonder how he does it all.

    The mechanics of WOIN are simple enough. There is a ton of free online support for the system. Much like FUDGE and Open Legend, you can pretty much piece the game together for free if you want to. Character creation is about as complicated as D&D 5E, but with fewer homebrew sourcebooks.
  • Open Legend by Brian Feister and Ish Stabosz. Like FUDGE, this game is community based and basically FREE. It’s another generic system that does fantasy extremely well. You can certainly emulate other genres with it, as shown in the core book. Mixing genres is easy and practically encouraged.

    I was attracted to this game because of its, well, openness. If you want to create your own sourcebook for it, they encourage it! Just make sure credit is given where due. It takes the idea of Open Game Licensing to a new level.

    Again, it’s a fairly rules lite, easy to learn game. If you can master D&D 5E, Open Legends is easy and fun to pick up. It’s got the wholesomeness of Essence20 and similar games going for it. Roll 1d20+other dice vs Target Number. The spells and equipment are a bit more fluid in this system. It really does look like what a generic set of core rules should look like.
This is what the Open Legend website has to offer. They really go all out.

This is the first of these D&D alternative articles I’m working on. There are so many games that don’t get enough press or really any press outside of the company’s own meager promotions that I think they deserve some press here and elsewhere. I intend to discuss some lesser known game companies in my next article in this series. Lots of indie publishers deserve more screen time.

Until then, stay safe. Stay hydrated. Be good to one another. Thank you for being here. Please go out and try something new today!

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