Lost in the Role – or – Why so Little RPG Talk?

If you look back on my blog, you will see that up until this year I had a heavy focus on roleplaying games, especially science-fiction RPGs. This year I have turned hard into boardgames with a mix of tabletop family games and wargames landing on the table. RPGs have definitely fallen off to the side.

I recently took a look at DriveThruRPGs Black Friday to Cyber Monday Sale and made a few purchases, but at the same time I asked myself why I lost my RPG mojo. Last year I really tried to like Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius Entertainment. I participated in part of the Living Playtest and offered (few, very few) comments. In the end, instead of liking Star Trek Adventures, I was turned off to RPGs and only now am (sorta) giving them a chance again.

I have talked elsewhere about the art in Star Trek Adventures and how I find it totally opposite what I imagine. I also talked about how the now-decanonized Klingons Sourcebook for the FASA Star Trek RPG was more inspirational. But the part that turned me off the most was this:

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Courtesy Modiphius Entertainment

This is the Star Trek Adventures Borg Cube Collector’s Edition Box Set. To me, this is not an RPG.

I cannot fully explain why I have such a visceral reaction to this offering. I understand that I don’t need the extra maps, and dice, and miniatures, and tokens, and other baubles to play an RPG. I know that all you need to play is a simple set of rules and imagination. I know because that is what I did with Classic Traveller for many years.

I think when I saw Star Trek Adventures I saw the continuation of a trend towards bigger RPG rulebooks and more IP-related gaming. To a point I had bought into that market with Serenity and Battlestar Galactica and Traveller 5 and Mindjammer and Atomic Robo and Firefly and Star Wars Roleplaying Game finding cherished places on my shelf.

But then something changed.

The first was that Mongoose Publishing brought out Traveller Second Edition and repackaged it in a way that makes it totally a price grab. This was just after they changed the rules for third-party publishers and stifled creativity (no…that’s not fair…they monetized it in an unfair manner). This was followed not long after by Star Trek Adventures and the Borg Cube trying to assimilate my wallet.

I rejected them…and walked away from the RPG hobby for a bit.

I am slowly finding my way back, thanks to small publishers like Gypsy Knights Games and Zozer Games and Stellagama Publishing. For a while that’s where I think I am going to stay for RPGs, on the smaller side of the spectrum with publishers who offer material that stimulate my creativity in a more rules-lite, non-restrictive campaign setting.

220791-thumb140I have found my RPG mojo…it never left and it is actually little changed from the late 1970’s. It just doesn’t need a large box and multiple rulebooks and maps and tokens and minis and hardcover expansions. It needs nothing more than the PWYW Cepheus Engine and a setting like The Clement Sector. What I need is like what Zozer Games is offering; the very simple 1970s 2d6 Retro Rules. With these simple tools I can make grand adventures; I don’t need a huge Kickstarter box or endless hardcovers or miniatures or tokens to do have fun.

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#RPGaDay 2017 – which #RPG does the most with the least words? Classic #TravellerRPG

#RPGaDay August 21, 2017

45b96a0a8845ed78b2958bc87f1b6b58_largeIf you follow me, then I am sure you are getting tired of my constant #TravellerRPG praise. Sorry, but I just like the game that much!

Sure, there are other rules-lite or “microRPG” or folding-style games that do a lot in a little area, but to me the simple three Little Black Books of the original (now Classic) Traveller are what I think of in a ‘lite’ RPG. Many people apparently don’t realize (or have forgotten) that Traveller was not a setting but a simple core mechanic within a (short) flexible ruleset within which basic setting materials were provided. Like many other RPGs of that era, it was expected (demanded?) that game masters would develop their own universe to adventure in. [For the best discussion of this, see Tales to Astound, TRAVELLER: Out of the Box to the Third Imperium].

#RPGaDay 2017 – What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

#RPGaDay August 20, 2017

With the rise of online publishing and a consumer ‘renaissance’ in gaming, is this really a good question?

From Wizards of the Coast putting items on DriveThruRPG to Fantasy Flight Games republishing older classics; it looks like the consumer has voted (with their wallets) and demonstrated that they will BUY BUY BUY older games.

Take a look at Gen Con 50 (especially #gencon50 on Twitter) and you will see MANY games (tabletop board and RPGs). Most new, but some old.

Speaking of older games…I guess I really am getting old when my classic RPG of choice is now in the Gen Con museum. Just remember – out of print does not mean out-of-play!

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GENCON 50 Photo – “The first ever copy of ‘Traveller’ in the museum at GenCon 50” by Marc Miller, 17 Aug 2017 (from @RMBStudio1)

#RPGaDay 2017 – Which #RPG have you played the most in your life? #TravellerRPG!

#RPGaDay August 18, 2017

pic514176Don’t even have to think…it’s Traveller. Started in 1979 with the 1977 Little Black Book boxed edition. I somehow missed the MegaTraveller and Traveller: New Era times. I came back to Traveller in the much maligned (but personally respected Traveller 4).  These days I use a combination of Classic Traveller, Cepheus Engine, and Traveller 5.

#RPGaDay 2017 – What #RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

#RPGaDay August 15, 2017

Adapting…in what way?

pic1550426_tAs a tool to use in building (or adapting) a campaign it has to be Traveller RPG, either the Classic Traveller, Cepheus Engine, or Traveller 5. I use bits and pieces of all these games and “adapt” them to my campaign. I find that between the three systems (all closely related) there is actually very little I cannot create for my sci-fi RPG settings (and yes, I use it event to create items in the Star Wars Universe).

In terms of rules that I play around with (i.e. “adapt” to whatever game I want to play) these days it is FATE Core and FATE Accelerated and to a lesser degree CORTEX. I am looking forward to Fantasy Flight Games Genesys because I absolutely love their narrative dice system.

#RPGaDay 2017 – Which #RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

#RPGaDay August 14, 2017

pic514176#TravellerRPG, nee Cepheus Engine. No surprise if you have been following my #RPGaDay for 2017. But, not just any version or style of Traveller, but what Tales to Astound calls “Out-of-the-Box” Traveller. This version of Traveller depends on using Encounters as they were originally laid out in the 1977 Little Black Books – as tools for creating the setting, situation, and play. It wasn’t laid out for you in an adventure or campaign arc; the GM created it on-the-fly.

It’s true that such an approach is not exclusive to one game; indeed, I use this approach in my Edge of the Empire campaigns. More narrative-driven games, like FATE Core and FATE Accelerated actually use game mechanics to encourage this kind of on-the-fly creation. But no game does it as well as Classic Traveller does.