Here’s my list of my favorite RPG books of 2017. Not all of these came out in 2017 though! These are books that have been at my bedside table or working desk most of the year.
How to Write Adventures that Don’t Suck
This is a great book of essays on adventure design from a lot of the greats, with short adventures to go along with each essay. Fantastic stuff! All GM’s should have this one.
This is an OGL redux of the Marvel Heroes RPG from TSR that had a LOT of expansions and material that my brother and I basically ignored after getting and playing the yellow box set a few times. We were CHAMPIONS kids and that meant pointbuild and brokenness and combat that took forever. Frankly I wish we had looked at TSR’s superhero game at the time a bit more OR they had the common sense to realize that kids wanted to make their own characters! Faserip has character creation (which I would dub semi random). Also, this shit is FREE.
We got to play FASERIP once this year (thanks to Lordlobo) and I intend to run it soon.
Veins of the Earth
This is great shit-reading. Probably one of the best shit-reading books to come out in long time. While the campaign itself is nothing compared to World of the Lost or Better than Any Man (it’s more of a gazetter), it has oodles of weirdness and unique ideas for your OSR, D&D5e or even 13th Age campaign. While not a fan of the author’s writing generally (“get to the fucking point man!” is the constant comment running through my head) this is worth suffering through the rough spots. After purchasing the lackluster Deep Carbon Observatory, I thought this guy needed an editor and he got one when publishing Veins: it really helped. Hopefully he can tighten up his tendency to overwrite and wordiness even further for the next thing he does because the bones of it this are fantastic. Art is great.
This is older but I just picked it up this year. It is likely an essential book in any GM’s library (like Dungeon Dozens!). Why? This has one of the best world building generators I’ve come across for both modern and fantasy stuff. Not only that, it has a unique adventure builder that, while set up to work in the Early Modern to modern settings, could be used in any Fantasy Universe as well. And this fucking guy really can write!
Vagina’s are Magic!
This is the new magic system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess! People have a lot of work to do getting all the spells in line with the new set up, and this also means the game is no longer backwards compatible with old D&D (sorta). What’s most important is the system brings it closer in line with DCC’s (and likely the new WFRP’s) magic systems which are superior to the vancian system in oD&D and 5e).
Hob is out as of yesterday. I put an hour in tonight and it reminds me of… Mario 64. Remember that? It was awesome. If you like that type of game, you will love it.
The game is a total departure from Torchlight 2, the only things similar are some of the aesthetics and the scale of the game. That said, there are some item management aspects as you can power up your sword and your arm.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a great game with some pretty glaring burrs on the system in actual play (yep, in all three editions). For First and Second edition, the combat system is very whiffy, far too whiffy for low fantasy in my opinion and despite the funny critical hit tables in first edition (the 2nd edition ones were not as fun), pretty damn boring.
However, I have a soft spot for it and it’s milieu, despite what it’s become since with GW and Fantasy Flight’s strange 3rd Edition. Third is… very odd and to me unplayable with my group, impossible to play online as well. It’s great it has died and hopefully Cubicle 7 will do something great with the license (there are some EXCELLENT adventures written for third edition though that beg conversion to a better system). With the Humble Bundle giving access to all the 2nd edition material recently, I wanted to post this thing I worked on for a bit about a year ago: creating characters in Mythras using a WFRP style career system. This assumes that you know a bit about WFRP (or just got the books) and you know Mythras or Runequest 6.
Mythras core is all system and can work for all sorts of genres, especially low fantasy. It’s got an explicit Sword and Sandal feel to the main book but it’s not really pushing any type of world on the players. It’s a massive toolkit game with an amazing combat system, and easy levelling /XP system and while difficult to grok in some cases (Animism), a very rich magic system.
What it doesn’t have is easy character creation. It takes a bit of time to build characters, and I’ve built about 10-15 of them so far myself and for my players and con games. Players have a lot of choices in skills and the points buy system gets a bit tedious when you spend a set of 100 points 3 times during character creation to build up your skills, and man that is tiresome when you want to grease up and get playing! I first got this idea while running Thulian Echoes (from Lamentations of the Flame Princess) with Mythras. I had to make pre-gens for the … diary characters in Thulian Echoes, and while that was OK for me in prep, actual Character generation took a bit of time and my players are impatient, especially when they know most (non 13th Age) adventures I run have a 20-90% death toll (per session). They didn’t know for the first 2 sessions, Thulian has no possible death toll to the original characters…
What I wanted to build on top of Mythras is a career system like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for starting characters only. The XP system in Mythras is perfect so once the initial career is set, the rest of the WFRP career stuff is not useful, however quaint, and you don’t have to look back or be bound by your career (which you don’t do anyway since you are a murderhobo now).
The reason to run WFRP with Mythras is obvious: it’s a better system, but why do this to Mythras? It will be easier to make characters. It will be faster. It will still define the character (more in some ways) than the base careers/culture in Mythras without having to roll on all the family and background charts.
What you lose: the age of the character won’t give bonus points like in normal Mythras, you just roll your career and all selection is taken care of except for a couple skills. You also lose the WFRP signature ‘skills’ in the game, like Strike Mighty blow, Dodge, Flee!, etc. If you play Mythras you will realize that these are no big loss at all since they are handled by the skill and combat systems more elegantly than WFRP 1,2 or 3. Also lost are the advanced careers. If you use the Mythras XP and guild system, this won’t be missed. Yes, I know some people loved jumping around from Pirate to Pirate Captain, from Rat Catcher to Bodyguard to Student (?!), trying to become a wizard after hundreds and hundreds of spent XP, but that all can be handled via the normal Mythras XP system and Guilds/Affiliations.
Here is how it works:
1) Create a character up to the step where you start picking skills (roll or points buy as normal), you will need to pick a RACE at this point (dwarf, wood elf, human, halfling) and create that according to the rules in Mythras
2) Pick a Class – warrior, rogue, academic, ranger which defines the set of careers you were BEFORE starting on the murderhobo career of an adventurer
3) Roll on that Classes Starting Career table see below for the list (or pick if you must, you wuss)
4) Add the bonuses listed in the Career description for all skills listed to your base skill.
5) Add the bonus and any listed professional skills
6) Add the bonus points listed to the combat skill (or skills)
7) Take the spells listed for that career if applicable
8) Take the trappings for that career listed
9) Name the character
10) Passions (if you use them) -work these with your GM.
11) Go play!
Alchemist’s Apprentice, Artisan’s apprentice, druid, engineer, exiseman, herbalist, hypnotist (!?), initiate, pharmacist, physician’s student, scribe, seer, student, trader and the oft-sought after but never-rolled Wizard’s Apprentice.
I also have the excellent WFRP 2nd edition career compendium from Fantasy Flight with hordes of careers that are crying out for some sort of use, that would be a LOT of work to convert all those careers.
There’s the base system for character creation, now someone has to bust out the remaining 62 career templates in their spare time. I’ll throw up a magic user type next week as an example with some ways I was thinking of doing battle magic spells. Really it’s just the same as creating a ‘cult’ in Mythras that gives magical knowledge/power to it’s members. Some of the WFRP hedge and battle magic spells are iconic however.
I decided to have a party at my house instead of going out to a bar (a gaming bar that is) all day this year. It worked out well. My old place was too small to ever have anyone over, but the new place has a bit more space and we had multiple games going at once! We played a lot of stuff and people got drunk and the kids all sang me the cat licking the birthday cake song instead of the regular birthday song. I did get the regular birthday song sung to me but in GERMAN earlier in the week so it’s OK.
We played a great game of Quartermaster 1914– very tense and fun. I missed out on a game of Secrets, but played Ethnos and A Study in Emerald instead. The capstone to the night was a seven player Cosmic Encounter game with what I think is all new Aliens (Nanny? Cloak?) on account of me getting the Cosmic Eons expansion for my birthday that day. As always, Cosmic proves to be the best board game ever made. Can’t ONLY play just that one game, but it’s just the best.
Meanwhile, the kids all got to playing DCC with my now 7 year old running it. He has not begun to understand that it is not a competitive game so put the hapless first level guys against an AC 18 Owlbear that ripped off limbs on a whim…
It’s Sunday night and I’m beat. We were up until 3am playing a cracking game of A Study In Emerald wherein MOUTH failed to disclose via his actions in game which faction he was on due to rather erratic play. I was in the lead after destroying a couple royals but the Loyalists could have pulled out a win if they crushed my partner in restoration who was down to a single agent on the board. Mouth, shockingly, played a card to push the Loyalist War Track up to 10, ending the game, at which time he revealed himself to be a Loyalist. This after murdering another Loyalist player’s agents with the Vampire (Matt’s). Madness.
ASIE is a fantastic game, every time I play I get better at it and it gets more fun!
I spent some cash at the con, needless to say. Notable stuff I picked up: Decision at Elst, a Squad Leader starter kit campaign, SECRETS by Eric Lang, Ethnos, 1914 Quartermaster General and I went ahead and spent the 30$ to get the board game geek exclusive Blood Rage miniature (Hili).
I got to see CMON’s Rising Sun played, and saw someone walking around with a copy (they won it in a charity auction) so I think Rising Sun may be closer to shipping than we have info on from Kickstarter. I also got to see Massive Darkness played, which, while I kickstarted it, I’m not totally sold on the co-operative gameplay yet. Nice minis though right?
One odd game we got to play was Mr. MeeSeeks (from Rick and Morty) which is pretty great if you can play with girls and are drunk. It is not an all-guys game WHATSOEVER. I saw, but did not get to play Anatomy Park, also from Rick and Morty.
RPG’s were fun but a bit scarce this year. I played in an excellent game of Mythras based on the 80’s sci fi world Luther Arkwright. I’m going to pick up that book and see if it will work well for a BPRD style game. We played as Luther, Rose, another sex-addict character from the graphic novel, the Avengers (emma peel, johnathan steed) and Dr. Who (8th) in a sort of murder mystery, find the bomb game with dueling psychics and science! It was great fun.
My Mythras game was set in 1648 during the battle of Roicroi and the characters were Walloon deserters from a defeated tercio who fled into the town only to find it very strange indeed. Everything ended with a double hendersen and I feel I did a good job for only two hours of play.
The following day I ran Sailors on the Starless Sea, a DCC funnel adventure) for a big and rotating group of people who got exceedingly drunk during the affair. It was a lot of fun for me to try to manage the chaos, but it became too loud with the yelling for anyone to hear, so we didn’t get the adventure done on account of gin and the like. Someday I will finish running that all the way through: it is a pivotal module for DCC fans.
My favorite new game of the Con is probably Ethnos, but I really like Quartermaster General 1914 as well. We played about half a game of that and it clicked for all the players (too late at night though!). We’ll see which of those get more play. Ethnos with 6 players is really difficult to manage as a euro.
My favorite non-gaming thing was the Museum. I hope they do that every year. We get a mini one every Gary Con, but this was gencon big and had a ton of really cool stuff.
One thing my brother said on the way home was that Gencon is an anomaly from normal life because everyone is NICE. Packed in to a dealer hall, destroyed bathrooms and feeding areas you’d thing there would be dickheads and fights and yelling (remember, a LOT of people are drunk and high at gencon, like any other convention) but I never saw a single thing that wasn’t nice. That is really saying something, especially sitting in the Trump era where people seem to be going out of their way sometimes to be total cunts.
i guess it’s Saturday already. My Mythras game went well despite fucking up and signing up for only two hours rather than four. We tried to get through The DCC funnel sailors on the starless sea but near total drunkenness ensued and the characters were left on the ship ready for a TPK, which was awesome. I’m going to make a big picture post when I get back home.
A bit like GLADIUS from back in the day except without all the 3D graphics and a lot more death; you are the head of a household trying to make money and gain glory buy the purchasing and equipping of other human beings for them to fight to the death in various arena’s. 5$ on steam I don’t think you can go wrong.
I haven’t played enough to really know the game at all, but it’s quite addicting at first blush and has very silly events. My only beef with it is that multi-gladiator fights don’t seem to be implemented all that well, with the gladiators all running into a big mosh in the middle of the arena and suddenly some are dead.
Today was a big day for the nerd gaming with Free RPG day which included a new Runequest quickstart, new DCC adventure, the intentionally controversial Vaginas are Magic from lotfp and while I’m not a Pathfinder fan, there was a quickstart for STARFINDER, a new space game from Paizo.
In addition to the RPG goodness, it was the official release of the new version of Warhammer 40,000 in it’s 8th edition.
The 40K book looks incredible, as you would expect from 2017 GW. I had a short talk with Dan about the rules and they look good–it does not seem like they age of sigmared that shit up as was feared. I’m looking forward to breaking out my 1987 beakies and having a go at some point.
The Free RPG stuff Matt and I grabbed up was a trove of goodness. Swords Against Owlbears for 13th Age looks boss, the new Runequest adventure is SOLID Glorantha, though I wasn’t able to make heads or tails of the magic system after a short perusal. The DCC adventure is cool, but what’s best is that the quickstart has the character creation rules in a module format! So I won’t need to lug around the big book all the time nor pass it around the table to get all sorts of greasy hands all over it and spilled beer/bong water.
Finally there is Vagina’s are Magic. While it’s silly and fun, the important bit is the update to the LotFP magic system. It’s similar to the playtest packet that came out awhile back in that no spells have levels. In addition, spellcasters can keep casting spells but have a danger with every cast over their level each day to have a miscast, which can be horrible as you would expect from LotFP. While the spells in the book are cool, what has to happen now is that ALL the other spells in the game will need a miscast chart appended to each one. This will make the LotFP book nearly double in size with 1 page for each spell in the game (much like DCC). VAM may be just testing the water before going that far with the magic descriptions for the core lotfp spells. Looking forward to trying this out.
For me, I got a chance to run Feng Shui 2 (with a new adventure I wrote that will get posted to the blog eventually) and today I got to play FASERIP after a gap of about 30 years!