Thursday, November 17, 2011


15, 12, 12, 13, 12, 14...

Reader me this, Riddleman: What do weepy custard and fake raindrops have in common with...?

(And before you come in and I finish that thought, note that this piece also contains the industry tag. So much to ponder...)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Journey

Travel was emphasized in the original book, which inspired the original games. The other games were based on the first games, with details changed. So why is travel so frequently de-emphasized in the games? And what can we do to re-integrate it into our games?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Building Your Own: Adventures

Just got a shiny new RPG? Glad to hear it!

Can't wait to play it? Piqued the curiosity of a few friends? Excellent!

Got an adventure to run with it? Wait, just one? Depending on the tastes of your players, you might have a problem there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

But Where Will We Loiter 4: Gamers Without Borders

The impending closure of Borders booksellers around the country has hit many analysts like a thunderbolt. Is this a loss for gamers? Yes, but not necessarily for the reasons you're thinking.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Kid in the Kid in You

I'm not sure what it is, really. The lost innocence of youth, perhaps, or wistful recollection of a much simpler (and therefore arguably better) time. But whatever it is, it struck me that there were some games that were based, thematically if not completely, on childhood.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Computer Is Your GM

An opinion piece in the July 2011 issue of GameInformer laments the fading of the traditional role-playing game as a video game genre, lapsing from its Japanese foundations and no, I can't go on, this is just too much wharrgarbl.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Part of Something Bigger

If Car Wars were to be counted as a roleplaying game, it would be a pretty crappy one. The main focus was the cars, not the drivers. The car would have all the precisely tracked stats, covering allocation of available space and weight to maximize firepower and combat effectiveness. The human was pretty much a component stuck into the car to make it go.

Although, this symbiotic relationship between human and vehicle could bear further analysis.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Adventures in Authoring

Just picked up that shiny new roleplaying game, and can't wait to try it out? Adventure in the back of the book look promising? Exciting? Thought-provoking? Sure it does. The author usually includes the best adventure they can in the book to showcase the system, setting, and genre.

But what happens when you run that one adventure? Run it again? No, your players will know it already. Find other published adventures? Maybe, but what if you can't find any? The RPG does not suddenly become useless if you run out of adventures. It does mean, though, that you'll have to put on your thinking cap and create your own.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Format Change!

Okay, pardon the shock, but I'll be writing a little differently this weekend because I'm at a convention.

Wish me luck. And watch for updates.

Oh, and I might not get those games I was talking about earlier due to fuzz-head and distractions. On the bright side, I have a great start on next year.

Also, I get to attend panels about gaming, which is nice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

But Where Will We Loiter 3: Tales from the Front

The Friendly Local Game Store: Dying? Unlikely. Threatened? Possibly. The FLGS won't die out, but if yours does, it will be an unmitigated catastrophe. (Yes. It will. Really.)

Fortunately, things are still in motion, and an interesting motion it is.

Review: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Those who have looked at the new Fantasy Flight edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay might wonder if it's very different from the original Games Workshop edition. To that, I have to say both yes and no to the extreme.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unconventional Convention Convening

Are you ready for Convention Season?

It turns out I'm not. And as of this posting I have a little over three weeks to prepare for the major local regional convention, and I have nothing yet properly prepared to run in the game room there.

I need to fix that. Also, I think I can squeeze an IPTD post out of it, so bonus.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: Dragon Age (Set 1)

Bioware, a computer and video game company that made its name developing games based in "Baldur's Gate", a city within the Forgotten Realms campaign, which is itself a D&D property. Over ten years have passed, since which they have developed many more games and built up their own fantasy setting for their own game Dragon Age, which began as a video game. And Green Ronin has adapted it as a roleplaying game.

Much as I like Green Ronin, I have trouble dealing with certain parts of this package. Some of it's just me, of course—I make unreasonable demands. But I don't consider "room for character growth" to be one of them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quickie: Man, that's niche!

What do you get when you cross a niche hobby with a niche band? This.

And the sad thing? I'll probably buy it, too.

I mean, come on. Who sends me review copies of anything?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Trail of Cthulhu

So yeah, blah blah blah Lovecraft, blah blah blah blah monsters blah blah mythos blah blah blah blah insanity blah blah death blah blah blah blah elder blah old blah blah blah hokey religion...

To those who know of the Cthulhu mythos already (either from the books or earlier games), the telling above is only slightly exaggerated; any explanation of that world in game terms fades into a droning buzz at the edge of consciousness. And those who have been bored to tears by one tired iteration after another look to the sky and plead to strange authors, "Isn't there some way to make this material interesting again?"


Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Quickie: Arts & Crafts

Okay kids, I'm adjusting my writing style slightly. Yes, I like the very long, carefully thought out pieces, but I'm getting too many of those lodged in my backchannel like intestinal chewing gum.

Let's try something a little more off-the-cuff now, shall we?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jack of All Trades

I just picked up a copy of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying, which is the encapsulation of their classic d100 system from over a couple of decades. Yes, I'm writing a review of that, but first: Is a generic system right for you in the first place?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Murder Your Darlings: The RPG Edition

There is a trope among authors (you know, those people who stare at blank pieces of paper until drops of blood form on their foreheads) that you can't mollycoddle your characters, because that makes for boring storytelling.

As practitioners of roleplaying, there's much we can learn from that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't Fear the One-Shot

It takes a lot more prep for the aspiring and enterprising GM to turn a roleplaying game into a one-shot event that anyone can sit down and play. But come on, why should the tabletop gamers have all the fun?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I was told there'd be no math!

Recently the Distinguishing RPGs chart came to my attention, and it has kind of a cheap dig in it against two systems I rather like. Worse, the dig is not just unfair, it's done for the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unfamiliar Tongue

To those people who design roleplaying games: picking up these things can be hard enough without having to learn an alternate vocabulary for everything.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Dog That Didn't Bark

I was just looking at my bookshelf, and I realized that nobody's picked up the Star Trek license since Decipher decided to abandon it in favor of making CCGs. And then it occurred to me to look for a current incarnation of the Star Wars rules. And Wizards of the Coast isn't pushing the RPG version either, just a CCG.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: DC Adventures

Comic book superhero roleplaying has been around for some time. And people have been trying to capitalize on the comic books' good name for almost as long. The first ones to attempt an actual license (kind of a necessity because the big publishers have trademarks on all the good names) were Mayfair Games. They had a reasonable run and I have a full box of books and papers to show for it. After them came West End Games' attempt, which I admit I didn't pick up because you should not have to treat a roleplaying game rulebook like a comic book you read once and put in a mylar snuggie.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Campaign: Gosub, Return

If you're intent on running a roleplaying campaign, there are things you can learn from the programming languages of the 1970s.

No, seriously.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Divers & Sundrye Elements Converge

I think it safe to say that few are familiar with Evil Hat's book A Penny For My Thoughts. A gamer friend had borrowed it, and was a little confused by the process by which the game runs. It might even be safe to say that it's not quite a game. There are, as usual, gamey elements in it but not necessarily a full game as players taking turns picking elements and constructing a story out of them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Follow-up: But where will we loiter?

In a previous posting regarding how games are bought and sold, I ruminated on the Friendly Local Game Store (hereafter referred to as FLGS), which I fear is in a somewhat precarious position. In a tepid economy and assailed on several fronts, simultaneously its fate is affected by how people buy games, and its fate might have an effect on the hobby itself.

Yeah, heavy stuff, I know. And I usually hate anyone writing such an article for fear of coming off like a smug, pretentious ass, especially if they turn out to be wrong. Writing that article wasn't easy. Writing the follow-up where I propose solutions has proven harder.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Double-Book Blogging

This is just a quick notice, ladies and gentlemen (okay, just one lady so far, but you know what I mean), that choice bits of the commentary I spill here may be found reprinted on

This is good. First, it means more exposure for me. Second, it means I have more reason to write stuff here, since I don't feel right sending everything I write here over there. (This one, for instance? Fuhgeddaboutit.) Third, it means more people have opportunities to comment on what I'm blathering on about, and that means more lively conversation on the hot topics of the day. Watch both places for comments.

Just bear in mind that there are some conversion issues. Namely, the "visual" editor in Wordpress macerates my HTML. I at least know the difference between the italic and emphasis tags.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Games We Don't Play

So right now, between bouts of writing up bizarre encounters for my own Champions campaign, I'm playing this freaky little game called 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, which plays like a cross between Saw, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Village, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It's for the Nintendo DS series of handheld game console, and...

"I'm sorry, but what does this have to do with tabletop roleplaying, which is what this blog is ostensibly about?"

Frankly, nothing. And that's what I'm lamenting.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Cartoon Action Hour, Season Two

Have you ever pondered the nature of nostalgia, and thought about what might make the list of future trends to be remembered fondly?

And would you have put the cartoons of the 1980s on that list? You know the ones, the half-hour commercials for action figures and playsets that intertwined bouts of frenetic adrenalin-pumping action with a bolted-on afterthought of a positive message, making for a sort of four-color Frankenstein morality play?

Yeah, I wouldn't have either.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

But where will we loiter?

When you think SMOGging, you think long diatribes about the state of the industries, the well-being of individual companies, the ways in which specific games play... in other words, you tend to think length, as in these people tend to have a lot to say.

For that reason, you tend NOT to think of Twitter.

But interestingly, there's been some talk going on there, generally centered on #philipjreed which has import on the future of gaming. Like for instance, where people have been buying their games and whether print or PDF is preferred. And a little bit on what effect this will have on the production of future games. And the hobby in general.