Monday, December 31, 2018

My Gaming in 2018

2018 was a pretty dope year in gaming...well, until the very end, but that's an entire blog post. (The one before this one, in fact.)

In February, I joined a very brief Savage Worlds game that was sort of supposed to be a weird conspiracy/paranormal investigation type thing, but we literally played for about 20 minutes total during the first session and then it just kind of fizzled out.

Around this time, I briefly rejoined the old school D&D group I used to play with at Dragon's Lair, but some ugly interpersonal stuff at the table made me decide to seek my fortunes elsewhere. (It didn't directly involve me, but it left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I felt no compulsion to return.)

In March and April, I started getting interested in the Apocalypse Engine. I picked up Urban Shadows, Blades in the Dark, and Masks: A New Generation. I still haven't read or played them much, but they piqued my interest.

In May, I kicked off a mini-campaign of All of Their Strengths with a group in Lincoln. It was supposed to be a one-off, but ended extending into the summer. It was incredibly fun, and quotes from that session still regularly resurface among that group.

In June, I bought Monster of the Week before going to Florida for a week. I was impressed enough to set up a game to start after KantCon.

KantCon was great. I did nothing but GM and it was the absolute right decision. I think I'm GM-only at KantCon from now on.  My sessions were:

-Starships & Spacemen 2nd edition, using a module that was inspired by LotFP's The Monolith Beyond Space and Time. The ending was great and the players surprised the heck out of me.
-Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I ran A Stranger Storm and it was an absolute riot. One of my players told me that he's hated high level evil wizards and liches less than he hated the innkeeper in that adventure. (Mission accomplished)

-The Savage Worlds edition of RIFTS. I ran The Garnet Town Gambit, a module I got as part of my PDF backing. I had players who were familiar with RIFTS but not Savage Worlds, players who were familiar with Savage Worlds but not RIFTS, and one adventurous soul who was familiar with neither. My takeaway is that the Savage RIFTS set is so much better mechanically that I'm not sure I can go back.

-All of Their Strengths. I ran a condensed version of the game I ran over the summer. The players wanted to ditch my pregens to make their own insane combos, so I let them. That Half-Werewolf/Half-Reaper was amaaaaazing. It was fun to watch this group of players handle the same situation differently than my regular group.

-Stars Without Number (revised edition). I ran a module called The Tartarus Gambit, a community-designed, system-neutral module. It wasn't hard to translate into SWN. The pregens had goals that were at odds, but the players sort of found a way to compromise on the goals... lots more teamwork than I expected. Unfortunately, I didn't have a glowing first impression of SWN2... I think I like the original rules considerably better. I'll still give SWN2 a second shot sometime, but I might be an SWN1 ride or die.

Some time over the summer, I played in the lady's Now Playing campaign set in a cartoon multiverse.(Now Playing is based off of Fudge) I played Rick Sanchez.  I do a pretty good vocal impression of Rick. I was a dick, but the players found it amusing and on-brand with Rick and Morty.  It was fun. I had to quit the game because I can't game during weekday afternoons once the school year starts up and I'm forced to work for money.

In August, I started my Monster of the Week game. The players really took to the PtBA system, even though it was very unlike the systems they are used to. It took a little bit of adjusting for everyone to do the whole collaborative world building and the "play to see what happens" style of the game, but they got into their characters and we all enjoyed the setting that developed. I ended up also picking up Monsterhearts 2 and we've developed a big shared-setting between the two games, which I alternate back and forth every time we conclude a "season."

Around this time, I tried to rejoin my old Thursday Palladium group. They were playing Beyond the Supernatural 2nd edition, the old West End Ghostbusters RPG, and the TMNT RPG in rotation. They also turned their games into a podcast. I ended up only playing in one BTS session and one Ghostbusters session. I really couldn't tell you why I quit going. I think I just genuinely don't like being a player anymore. If I'm not the DM/GM, I'm just...not really that interested.

In October, I did a one-shot of Little Fears Nightmare Edition. I ran a module I grabbed from DriveThru called The Fall Harvest. None of the players had ever played LF before, but they enjoyed the hell out of it. Their characters were really believable kids. Our group also now has the hashtag #tooscaryforgary.

In December I ran a session of Basic D&D and it was utterly wretched and the players hated it. It was a really shitty note to end an otherwise pretty good year of gaming on.

I've been asked to run a one shot of "something" tonight, and my Monster of the Week season 2 will resume this Wednesday.

My takeaways from 2018:

-Narrative heavy games can be really fun and really creatively satisfying
-I like PbtA games
-Player collaboration is a good thing and not a bunch of hippie bullshit
-Running games where I don't roll any dice isn't as awful as I expected it would be

My gaming goals for 2019:
-Knock out two more seasons each of Monster of the Week and Monsterhearts 2.
-Try Urban Shadows or Masks. Leaning toward Masks because 80% of my gaming in 2018 was urban fantasy/horror
-Find a totally different goddamn group to play old D&D with
-Go to KantCon again (Still salty about the one I missed)

Carry on, pals. I hope 2019 brings you lots of great gaming.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Bitter DMing Failure

Well, today I actually got my girlfriend and two of my friends to try old school D&D. This is a group whose first encounters with roleplaying games were D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder.  I chose the red Basic Book (with the fighter squaring off against a dragon on the cover) and I decided to run Tomb of the Serpent Kings as my introductory scenario.

It was a miserable, miserable failure and they quit after ten rooms.

I can't help but feel it was my fault, though in moratorium there were a number of factors. They said that "everything was too arbitrary," specifically citing a distaste for the saving throw system. They didn't like one of the traps in the module (which I will not outline so as to avoid spoilers) because they thought there was "nothing they could do" to prevent it. They were frustrated by lack of skills that could be used to resolve situations. They didn't like that firing a missile weapon into a melee is a bad, bad idea. The magic-user's player didn't like only having two spells per day. (I give +1 spell for magic-users with intelligence of 13 or higher.) The list goes on.

Really the only thing they liked was combat. They said combat was faster and less complicated. (Though they didn't like group initiative or surprise rolls.)

They didn't like that 1 HD monsters are worth about 10 xp. They didn't like that treasure gives you XP, or that there's no CR rating or encounter balance. They didn't like the slower pace of the game.

Part of me wishes I'd run A Stranger Storm or Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess. Yeah, those aren't exactly 'classic' examples, but I think they would have enjoyed the experience much more. As it stands, none of the rest of them ever want to play old D&D again. It's a good thing that I've got them hooked on Monster of the Week and Monsterhearts 2, because I would rather have my teeth pulled than play Pathfinder again, and I'd rather have my teeth pulled and forcibly inserted into my ass than GM a Pathfinder game again. (I blogged about it once quite a few years back. Running Pathfinder was among the worst gaming experiences of my life.)

I take it a little personally, because I feel like I could've somehow done better or prepared a better intro to old school gaming. I've hooked people with my old Temple of Zirugar thing I wrote up for con games, or with Lamentations scenarios. I actually netted old D&D -3 players today. Even so, I feel like even that might have not been enough. They seemed unsatisfied with the play style itself, and with many core conceits of the game. My girlfriend in particular bemoaned the lack of a feat system. (Although one of the players actually enjoyed the lack of feats quite a lot.) I could've used The B/X Warrior or The B/X Rogue (both excellent books, by the way) to provide some "featiness," but I was in a hurry to get playing.

I'm a good DM. Hell, I'm a great DM. I'm not used to failing. I'm not used to having bad sessions. I'm damn sure not used to turning people off from an entire fucking system.

They wanted me to run a different game afterward, but I politely declined.

I got them to enjoy All of Their Strengths, plus my two PbtA games mentioned above, and those are about as opposite of Pathfinder as you can possibly get. The group is also interested in Masks , so that's something to look at for 2019.

In the meantime, I'm going to give my bruised DM ego another week and resume Monster of the Week.

Oh, and because it seems obligatory: I'm not affiliated with the books I linked in this blog post or their authors or blah blah blah. I gain nothing if you buy them, I don't give a fuck if you buy them. Cheers.

Monday, December 17, 2018


You know what I wish I'd done a better job of?

Putting keywords on my goddamn posts so that I could find stuff I wrote a few years ago that I want to revisit. As it stands, I have to use Google searches as an ersatz index for my own blog.

I mean, first world problem for sure, but still...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Monster of the Week Season 2

We're back into Monster of the Week. It took us a bit to hit the stride of the game, plus we had a new player whose character we had to plug into the setting.

We ended the session with the PCs entering the bowels of a pharmaceutical lab overrun by a giant telepathic parasitic plant and its various people-absorbing minions. Good times.

The inclusion of this character also expands the lore: in addition to a Shadow World, there is a Bright World, but it's not a blissful heaven full of benevolent angels. Really, it's just Bad Guys Team A vs. Bad Guys Team B. Our resident Bright Worlder is a little more merciful than his brethren, and has been ousted for his troubles.

We have some PvP brewing, as the Spooky plans to open a gate to the Shadow World, which is probably going to land her square in the sights of the rest of the party. This player likes making antagonists, but she provides interesting antagonism that supplies good rp.

We have one character moving over from Monsterhearts 2 to Monster of the Week. The conversion was a lot more seamless than I could've imagined.

I'm not saying that all my gaming is pretty much PbtA now, but I'm not saying it isn't.