Here’s a quick rundown of non-blog RPG stuff I’ve done you might find interesting.
AND THEY ESCAPE!
For our most recent Play on Target episode we talk about Villains. Rich Rogers joins us for this one. Good, solid villains present one of the toughest balancing acts at the table. Many games I’ve played had villains I hated: not because they did anything dangerous, not because they raised the stakes, but because the GM played them smug and omnipotent. That would be cool as a GM "choice," but it clearly wasn’t. Instead they knew the villain was cooler, smarter, and more awesome than the podunk PCs. That may be a worse Gary Sue-ism than the hyper-competent NPC. We had a Hunter the Reckoning game where the GM turned that smarmy character into an ally we couldn’t bring to task. And then a romantic interest for one of the PCs. Ugh…
For the record: there’s a place for the smug- when the players have an opportunity or chance to wipe that off their face.
I’m also thinking about a JRPG I hate-played recently: Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. It has just a handful of dungeons. When you get to the end of them, there’s a masked figure who has gotten there ahead of you. Every time he breaks the sacred relic before you can stop him (in a cut-scene of course). This happens four times. His only dialogue consists of “You’re too late.” In the final fight, you face him again. This time he explains his plan: he’s going to destroy the world and he doesn’t have time to tell you why. You beat him; world saved.
You never get a name. You never get a motivation. You never get a backstory. You never get any kind of explanation whatsoever.
I played the game through thinking: "there’s got to be some kind of payoff..." Nope, only a minor cosmetic revelation you could see a mile away. But other than that, he was just a bad dude or creature or magical force (I don't know).
ON A LESS CRAZY NOTE
I had the chance to appear on The Gauntlet podcast. We talked about several topics, including GM-less play Monsterhearts. I covered both the challenges of running a Middle Earth campaign and my thinking when I put together Crowsmantle. There’s some great stuff on Battlestar World, which is the PbtA hack you’d imagine from that title. I’ll be curious to see how hidden role mechanics eventually come into it. Also, I talk briefly about my new love for Lucha Underground.
The Gauntlet also started a new video series, Super Friends. This episode talks about gaming things we’re looking forward to.
Finally, if you like PbtA games (and if you don’t, that’s cool) then you really ought to check out +1 Forward, Rich Rogers' new podcast for The Gauntlet. It’s a focused show, talking with a PbtA designer about their choices and how they run. So far he's spoken with Meguey Baker about Apocalypse World (2nd Edition), Mark Diaz Truman about Urban Shadows, and Stephanie Bryant about Threadbare. It literally is what I hoped for from a game-focused podcast. Amazing and great.