Friday, December 2, 2016

Help! My Wheels are Burning!

It's a crazy time of year - Thanksgiving just passed (hope everybody had a wonderful one), and the holidays are approaching.  Sadly, this has meant that getting gaming groups together can prove a bit challenging, considering family obligations and all the things that need to get done.  I myself have had some trouble over the past couple of weeks getting my Burning Wheel group together, but we ended up having our second session last night, which was a big plus.

As I've mentioned before, my group (including myself, really) is brand new to Burning Wheel, although three out of the four of us were part of the Mouse Guard campaign that ended earlier this year.  Obviously with a system like Burning Wheel, there's a lot to try and work through for new players.  The biggest part of this is obviously the Beliefs.

Now you may remember that our setting is kind of weird - there's a city guard who at more or less as mercenary soldiers akin to The Three Musketeers, but with everybody wearing unique masks similar to lucha libre.  All this is in a more or less gothic horror setting.  Our first session was a reworked version of Words Remain Below, and it went pretty well.  The action was smooth, there was a lot of urgency, and it ended up with a fairly spectacular and tense (and successful) exorcism.  The problem was, coming out of that more or less self-contained session, there wasn't a lot of direction as to where to move things from there.  Looking at the players' Beliefs didn't add much guidance for me either, and it made me think more about the game I'd presented.

When we got together last night, the first thing I did was mention to everybody that I wanted to take a look at their characters' Beliefs a bit closer and get tighter with them.  I explained to my Mouse Guard players that, while they're called the same thing in BW, Beliefs function closer to a mashup of MG's Goals and Beliefs rather than the standalone, creedo-style Beliefs in Mouse Guard.  I used an example from the Codex of more of the two part Belief wording, where it's phrased more as a cause/effect relationship.

One of the players burned a relationship with a rival swashbuckler that involved a lot of Musketeer-esque posturing and one-upsmanship, and I used him as an antagonist in the first session to pretty decent effect.  I used his Belief as written in the first session as an example: "I will embarrass my rival Jank."  We talked about this a bit, and we discussed how the Belief as written was rather flat - "embarrass my rival whenever possible" is a good Instinct, but as a Goal/Belief it was too vague and generic.  We talked through a more actionable Belief akin to "Jank is my rival and I must undercut him whenever possible; I will embarass him by..." This gives me as a GM much better direction as to what the players are interested in exploring, which I explained to the group, and everybody got it.

That being said, I'm not placing the blame for a lack of direction coming out of our first session on my players, and I was absolutely ready for the first question for me once we ran through the example above: "Can we know more details about the setting?"  This was one of the pitfalls I realized when looking at the player's characters when trying to put together the second session - we had established a feel, not a true setting, and definitely not a situation.  So we ran through a bit more of the world to try and figure things out, and discussed a bit more about how I envisioned the game being structured to a degree, provided the players were down with it.

One of the big things we established coming out of our discussion was fleshing out the masks more.  We had established that everyone within the society wore a unique mask, and that those masks were tied to a person's identity.  We also established that, in keeping with the high-honor type of setting, the masks could be wagered in duels, with the loser being unmasked and humiliated.  What we talked about during this session was the idea of there existing in the world "lost" masks.  These would be masks of great renown whose owners had perished in battle or, in some cases, enchanted masks that could be sought out by people as either honor missions or to replace their own mask and regain their standing in society.  This is something that our dwarf, who started the game unmasked, can work towards.

We also had originally started off with necromancy being illegal in the kingdom.  However, we brought up the idea of it only being illegal in this particular kingdom.  I'm a big Elder Scrolls fan, and a lot of my gaming ideas come from that game series.  This idea comes from TES lore of necromancy being banned in the Imperial province of Cyrodil, but completely fine in the College of Winterhold in Skyrim.  We don't have any magic users in the group, but this has some possibilities later on I feel.

All in all, I feel very good about where things are headed with the game, probably even more secure now than I was following our first session.  It really just shows the pitfalls possible in putting together a Burning Wheel game.  The system has endless possibilities, but you still need to play to the system in order to make it go.  Otherwise, you're just wandering around in a fog.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lucha Musketeers!

I've thankfully gotten back into the gaming swing of things as of late, which has been a very welcome distraction from everything else that's been going on.  Coming off of the successful Mouse Guard campaign that wrapped up, we've finally moved onto Burning Wheel proper, which I'm incredibly excited about.  I've been dying to run this system since I first bought a copy at PAX East years ago, and now finally getting the chance to do so.

Part of the appeal for me of Burning Wheel is both the lack of a baked-in system setting, as well of the flexibility of the lifepaths and skills to create almost limitless possibilities for settings.  This can obviously also be something of a curse as well as a blessing.  It can be very easy to get bogged down with endlessly discussing setting ideas simply because there's so many options available to you.

My original plan, as I've mentioned before, was to run a session of Questlandia in order to come up with a setting as a group and then move that setting into a longer campaign of Burning Wheel.  We had gotten together with this idea in mind, but between setting up a time to finally get together and all physically getting together as a group, I had some odd inspiration.  I brought it up with the group once we all sat down at the table and laid out my setting idea, with the caveat that this was just a suggestion.  If they still wanted to run Questlandia to try and build something fresh, I was more than willing to do so.  However, as we discussed the setting idea I had in mind, I could see everybody kind of start their wheels turning listening to everything, and so I wasn't wholly surprised when that was the plan we went with.

So what's the setting then?  Where did this inspiration come from?  Turns out, a number of places.

Coming off the heels of Halloween, and leafing through the Codex on my downtime, I had the inkling for a kind of gothic horror feel.  Some supernatural monsters, some folklore and superstition, that kind of thing.  I've also been reading The Three Musketeers (my first time - I know, I know), so I also had that mulling around in my brain.  Something like official city guards that are commissioned to defend the countryside against supernatural beasts, with lots of rules of etiquette and honor.  Still, musketeers fighting werewolves still seemed like it was lacking something for me.  What else could we add?

Lucha libre!

Alright, so not lucha libre specifically, but the mask portion.  If I haven't disclosed this information previously, I'm a pro wrestling fanatic from childbirth really.  Over the past five years or so, lucha libre in particular has fascinated me.  For those unfamiliar, a lot of lucha libre culture and history is tied into a luchador's mask.  Most wrestlers compete under a mask, and each mask is unique to that luchador - it really defines their identity.  Because the mask is so important, a lot of the most important matches center around the masks themselves.  Wrestlers will challenge each other for their masks, with the loser being humiliated into having to permanently remove their mask, essentially losing their identity. 

This fit perfectly into the feel of the setting I wanted.  So much of The Three Musketeers story is built around honor and rivalry that I wanted something tangible to draw players into that mindset.  Having a rival in the game that you could needle and play off against until the tension is so great that you finally challenge them to a duel to claim their mask is just so attractive of a story element to me.  And then after one of you loses your mask, what then?  How does that change the rivalry?  How does losing your mask affect your standing, and what other relationships are now changed because of it?

We had a session and a half of character creation and then played our first actual play session last night, which went surprisingly well.  The group is made up by two thirds of my Mouse Guard group and one player who hasn't played in the system before, so it was a good mix.  That being said, there was a lot of relearning of rules in the early stages, particularly as to how skill advancement works in Burning Wheel versus Mouse Guard.  But I think by the end of the session everybody had a grasp on the basics.

I struggled a bit with coming up with our first scenario, and was really stuck for ideas.  I ended up going with a kind of rework of Words Remain Below, which ended up being perfect.  All in all, it was a great game and everybody came out genuinely excited for our next session, which is what everybody wants at the end of the day, isn't it?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Actual Play - The Hive

So earlier this week, I released the playtest document for my game The Hive for anybody who wants to give it a try.  But today I figured it would be a good idea to run through a solo playtest to give a better understanding of what the game is and how it works.

Setting Up the Game

So the first thing I'll need to do is figure out which species my hive will be.  Being a bug nerd, I know a few, but I've yet to come up with one that creates a better narrative for this game than leaf cutter ants.  

Leaf cutter ants

Leaf cutter ants do exactly what they sound like - they cut leaves.  However, what they do with these leaves is pretty fascinating.  Rather than eat them, they actually use them to feed fungus that they cultivate inside their colony inside a large chamber.  So for this play through, I'll go with leaf cutter ants as my species.

I take three d6 and set them aside to represent my Queen.  These will be rolled at the end of play as needed to see if my colony makes it through the winter, but I might need them in between.  Now I roll 3d6 in turn to set my starting citizen die pools.  I roll in order:  3, 4, 4.  Not too shabby - this makes my starting totals as follows:

Workers - 3
Soldiers - 4
Drones - 4

Not a ton of Workers, but I've got a good number of Soldiers and plenty of Drones to replenish my colony as needed.

Now I'm ready to get started.

Turn 1 - Spring

To start the first turn, I draw six cards from the top of my deck.  I draw:
2 Hearts, 2 Diamonds, 1 Spade, 1 Club

Nothing terribly dire is threatening the colony to start with, so that's good.  I've got a small Food Issue (Hearts), a small Health Issue (Diamonds), and minor Predatory (Spades) and Environmental (Clubs) Issues.  So what's going on then?  I need to figure out what these Issues are and how they're affecting my colony.  Here's what I come up with:

It's early spring, and we've been feeding on our fungi all winter while waiting out the cold.  As a result, our fungi supply has been depleted, and we'll need to get to work right away on cutting some leaves to help it grow back to full strength.  The trouble is, the forest around us hasn't fully thawed, and so leaves are in short supply at the moment.  Worse yet, a spider has stumbled upon our harvest line, and is trying to make a meal of our workers!  

So there's how my Issues are playing out: the Food Issue is that we need to cultivate more fungi, and our Environmental Issue is that the late cold has stunted growth.  I move my Club card over to my Food Issue, since that's how it's working against the colony.  My predator is a spider - nothing overpowering, but still threatening.  And it's taken out a number of the workers in the colony, so there's my Health Issue.

So now we set about addressing things.  The most pressing matter is the spider, as we can't effectively find food or replenish our numbers without getting rid of that first.  I attack the spider with my Soldiers to start, and roll my 4d6 Soldier pool:  3, 5, 2, 1.  I roll my one success needed to vanquish the spider, but that 1 means that I've suffered some casualties in the battle.  I reduce my Soldier pool down to 3.

Now that the spider has been dealt with, we can recover from the damage it caused a bit.  I roll my Drones 4d6 in order to bring our numbers back up to snuff:  5, 4, 6, 1.  Three successes - enough to solve my Health Issue, but that 6 means I've lost a Drone due to exhaustion (Drones count only 6s as casualties, not 1s).

That leaves only my Food Issue to be dealt with, which is going to be tricky.  I have 3 Worker dice to tackle a level 3 Issue - not great odds.  My workers are going to have to bust their butts to try and solve this:  3, 3, 5.  They manage to knock off a bit of the problem, but not enough to cancel it out completely.  I decide that my soldiers are going to have to get involve.  They'll move some of the larger debris out of the harvest path to help bump up the efficiency of the line:  6, 1, 4.  Their help manages to help my Workers harvest enough food to grow the fungi back to sustainable levels, but the work was grueling.  More of my Soldiers have died off, and I'm in real danger of attack in the coming seasons.  But no Issues are carrying over to Summer!

Turn 2 - Summer

Here's how I'm looking going into the warmer weather:

Workers - 3
Soldiers - 1
Drones - 3

I draw my six Issues cards: 
3 Diamonds, 1 Heart, 1 Spade, 1 Club

Things are a little more dire in the summer.  I've got a pretty severe Health Issue on my hands, but luckily nothing else is really causing real problems.  Let's figure out what's causing all this:

In their haste to harvest enough leaves to bring our fungus back up to full health, it went unnoticed that a few of the leaves my workers brought back to the colony had spores of a fungus that feeds on ours!  These spores have started attacking our fungal food supply.  We've got to remove the predatory fungus and find more healthy leaves to feed on, but there's been a lot of rainfall as of late, so there's puddles everywhere.  This has caused a rival colony to divert from their usual harvest route, and they've started encroaching on our harvest territory.  We need to drive them back!

I move my Environmental Issue over to my Health stack, and we're ready to get rolling.

I'm going to get a little strategic here and address the rival ant colony first.  I send my remaining Soldiers out to drive them off: 4.  Bugger off!  (Pun intended)

Now that my Workers don't have a rival colony to contend with, They can focus on addressing the fungus issue.  They work to start removing some of the infected parts of the fungus from the colony:  5, 6, 6.  My Workers eliminate the fungal issue, but the predatory fungus is incredibly toxic to ants, and those two 6s take a big chunk out of my workforce.  This doesn't leave me in very good shape to tackle my remaining Food Issue.

I decide to get a bit creative.  I send my Soldiers out to raid the rival colony's harvest chain in order to scamper off with some of their leaves: 2.  Not much of a help.  It's up to my Workers now: 2.  Uh oh.  Looks like our Food Issue is rolling into Autumn.

Turn 3 - Autumn

Not in the greatest shape at the end of the workable year:

Workers - 1
Soldiers - 1
Drones - 3

I draw six cards for my Issues:
3 Diamonds, 2 Clubs, 1 Spade

I've got another bad Health Issue on my hands, plus a decent Environmental Issue to go along with the Food Issue from Summer that I'm still dealing with.  And barely any Workers to deal with any of these!

An early frost has set in, and between the extreme cold and the depleted food source the colony's numbers have dropped off dramatically.  Ants that aren't being knocked off through starvation or freezing are fighting over the remaining food sources as they prepare for the long winter.  The colony will have a nearly insurmountable task in trying to secure enough food to see it through.

Based on my narration of my Issues, I move my Environmental cards over to my Health stack (now a level 5 Issue!) and get to work.

A Health Issue like this one is one of the few problems my Drones can try and tackle.  Let's try and get the population numbers back up!: 6, 4, 2.  We've whittled away a bit of the problem, but lost a Drone along the way, and I'm still looking at a level 3 there.  My workers are going to have to try and dig deeper tunnels to escape the cold:  1!  Not only did they not succeed, I've lost my only Worker die!  I'm going to need to shore up the number with my Drones to have any shot of making it through the season:  6, 1.  I'm now down to my last remaining Drone, but I've got 6 Workers!  My last shot is to try and get creative - my Soldiers are going to use their bulk to corral the ants in the colony into a central area, trying to combat the cold with body heat:  3.  No luck.  My Queen is going to have to try and get us through that one in the winter, which doesn't bode well for our chances of survival.

Needing to give up on my Health Issue, I set out tackling my Predatory one.  My Soldiers set out with my Workers to act as bodyguards and fight off any competing colonies: 1!  Not only did they not succeed, but I'm out of Soldiers!  My Workers are going to have to try and fend for themselves:  3, 5, 6, 5, 6, 6.  Four successes more than what I needed, but unfortunately with a ton of 6s.  My Workers made it through, but took heavy losses for a task they were ill-suited for.

I now have no Soldiers, and only 3 Worker dice to tackle my remaining Food Issue with.  I roll:  5, 2, 6.  They scrounge up enough food, but the cold weeds the weaker ones out.  I finish with 2 Workers.

Endgame - Winter

So my colony prepped as best they could, but I'm still left with a level 3 Health problem that only my Queen will be able to solve during the winter.  I grab my three Queen dice and get to rolling:

2, 6, 2

My Queen made a dent, but she's weakened.  I roll again:

5, 3

She's powering through.  We might have a real shot:

3, 6

We made it!  The Queen nearly killed herself, but the colony makes it through another winter.  What the future holds, though, looks uncertain.

So that's the game!  Again, feel free to download the playtest document here and give it a spin.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


So I've been working on a game...

I've tinkered with game design a bit over the past year or so, with a couple of different attempts producing half-finished designs that will need to be revisited later.  But I think I've stumbled upon something that I wanted to share with all of you.  What's the game about?


Well, not just bees, but any type of social insect really.  The game is based around the idea of working through the various obstacles that would befall a beehive or ant colony through one year as they prepare for a New England winter.  The game took inspiration from Questlandia and also from a 200-word game created by Grant Howitt called Exodus.

I've done a number of solo playtests (the game functions perfectly well solo),  but I would love for other people who are willing to take a stab at running it and give me their feedback.  The playtest document is available here.

The game itself is, as mentioned, based on the idea of a beehive working through a year in preparation for their winter hibernation.  Play is broken into three turns, which signify one of the seasons - the first turn is Spring, the second Summer, and the third Autumn.  At the beginning of each turn, players draw six cards from a deck of playing cards to determine which issues they need to address to get their hive through that season safely.  Any issues that aren't fully dealt with in a given season carry over to the next.  At the end of the third turn, the survival of the hive depends on the strength of its Queen to power through any remaining issues.

The problems are dealt with by using the usual citizens of a hive - Workers, who carry out most tasks; Soldiers, who provide the muscle and defend the hive; and Drones, whose sole function is to mate with the Queen and reproduce.  These groups are represented by dice pools, but are very vulnerable, and so their numbers can dwindle quickly as they carry out their tasks.

If this sounds like a game you're interested in playing, feel free to download it from the link above and give it a spin.  Any feedback is more than welcome.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Life and Games and Such

So I didn't realize until today how long it's been since my last post.  Unfortunately, Real Life has not been kind lately, and I haven't had a ton of motivation related to gaming.  I lost both my dad and our dog within the same week, and so sadly I've been in a bit of a funk that's been a little tough to get out of, but there's enough good on the horizon to be optimistic.

So let's talk about some of that, shall we?

My home group finally had the conclusion of our multi-year Mouse Guard game before everything really hit the skids, which was wonderful.  The group ended up completing a coup of Elmoss, and our patrol leader ended up sacrificing himself for the cause.  It was all in all a wonderful game, and part of me is reluctant to let it go, but I think we were all ready to move onto new things.  Coincidentally, this has also coincided with the end of my Stars Without Numbers campaign that never really gained any traction, which is largely on me, and me dropping out of my online Mouse Guard game because of all my Real Life business.

So what other things to move onto?  Well, we originally talked about using Questlandia as a jumping off point to building a Burning Wheel campaign, which would be the ideal (at least for me).  I've also talked to my SWN group about possibly trying out Burning Wheel as well through Roll20.  I put together everything for running Twilight in the Duchy Verdorben, which is an intro collection of three adventures for Burning Wheel.  If I was more savvy about Roll20 I'd try and make the module available for people, so if anybody has tips on that feel free to let me know.  My wife has also been at me as of late to take another stab at putting together a weekend group with some of our friends who are new to roleplaying like her, so we'll see if I can get that going as well.  I'll likely keep that group to something in the Powered by the Apocolypse family for ease, although I do also have Ryuutama that I think would fit that group well enough.

While I haven't had much available scratch to throw down for new games as of late, there have been a couple of Kickstarter campaigns I've stumbled upon recently that have caught my eye.  One is Eden, a GM-less roleplaying game where players play either humans learning the ways of the world from their animal companions, or the animal companions themselves.  The game itself looks adorable, and appears to be that it would make an excellent roleplaying game to run with children.  The gameplay examples show the game to be designed in a way that the advice the animal companions give to their human friends is largely rooted in the instincts of that animal, making it both a wonderfully imaginative roleplaying game as well as a way to incorporate more science/biology into your child's play if you're into that.

The other Kickstarter I want to mention is a game called Rise Up.  This game, which I can't do justice to here, is a board game centered around protest and bringing about social change.  This is, from everything that I've seen, an incredibly profound design put together by The Toolbox for Education and Social Action, and is the first Kickstarter that I've backed at a non-reward level simply to help it see the light of day.  Please check them out, seriously.

Speaking of board games, I have Granite Games Summit coming up this weekend!  This is going to be a bit of an adventure for me, despite literally being less than four miles from my house.  I'm obviously much more of a roleplayer than a board gamer, but helping to support a gaming convention in my hometown along with being able to meet new gamers is quite exciting to me.  For whatever reason I tend to have some anxiety when it comes to gaming with strangers.  It's a very odd thing, considering I'm generally a pretty outgoing and social person in most other aspects of my life, but when it comes to gaming I tend to be very shy, hence the adventure of this particular convention.  I'm going solo, and outside of the wonderful people running G2S, I do not know anyone else attending that I'm aware of.  So how do I counter this?  With baseball!

Bottom of the 9th
Bottom of the 9th is a fantastic board game that was one of my first Kickstarters that I backed.  The game is based around playing one half inning of baseball between two players, one controlling the pitcher and the other controlling a lineup of hitters.  The game is pretty easy to learn and teach, so I'm planning on bringing it with me to G2S to try and run for some people to help try and bring me out of my shell a little bit.  Hopefully it will lead to me interacting more than I would normally at this type of thing.  Getting more comfortable with a setting like this is something I'm very keen on, and might lead to me being able to stretch out a little bit with online gaming.  I'm part of an amazing community of roleplayers online that I have as of yet played very little with, and with some more confidence from situations such as G2S I might be able to become more involved with that arena, if that makes sense.  At the very least, it'll help me play the game more, which is one of my favorites.

As always, thanks for reading my ramblings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

I had a bit of a rough Sunday this weekend, so I decided to distract myself from Real Life a bit with some work on my Witcher Burning Wheel hack that I've been tinkering with.  I posted the lifepaths and traits that I shared previously on the BW forums and got some excellent feedback on those from a couple of people, including some amazing advice from Thor for tweaks, so I'll be reworking those.

One of the big things that Thor pointed out is that the elven spell songs probably were a better model for the signs than using the Art Magic rules that I had initially intended to go with.  This solved one of my big concerns I had with having witchers use the Sorcery skill when there would be actual witches using the regular Sorcery rules in the game, which is something the Codex specifically calls out as an issue.  By making the signs themselves individual skills based off the elven spell songs, it eliminates the conflicting magic rules while still achieving the same effects.

That still leaves the issue of creating the new sign skills, though, so I've take a stab at that below!  These function mechanically as the elven spell songs more or less, being open-ended rolls but not requiring the Gifted trait.  Instead, the use of these skills requires the Witcher trait I shared before.  The other chief difference obviously is that use of these skills doesn't require sustained singing as the elven spell songs do in order to use to make them a bit closer to the magic used in-game.  Each of the signs is its own individual skill, it should be noted.

Quen  -- Ob 4^ -- 11 Actions
The witcher surrounds himself with a magical shield, absorbing damage from enemy blows. Functions as the existing Turn Aside the Blade spell.

Yrden -- Ob 4^ -- 2 Actions
The witcher casts a circle of magical fire on the ground, trapping supernatural foes caught within it. The caster chooses a single supernatural target to make a Steel test.  Hesitation is increased by the margin of success.

Igni -- See Description -- 2 Actions
A burst of flame erupts from the hand of the witcher, setting torches or foes ablaze in its path.  Functions as either the existing Flame Finger or Fire Fan spells as applicable to the intent.

Aard - Ob Speed -- 1 Action
The witcher assails his foes with a telekinetic blast.  Targets in the path are knocked prone.  Weapon length: as spear; Range: as pistol.

Axii -- Ob 3 -- 2 Actions
The witcher influences the mind of a target, forcing them to speak honestly or stunning them into inaction.  Targets must make a Steel test, and must speak honestly for a number of actions equal to the result.

Please take a look and let me know your thoughts, especially any changes you think might need to be made,  Are they too powerful?  Are they not powerful enough?  Let me know!  Once I get enough feedback, I'll work on putting together a post with the revised lifepaths, traits, and signs in a single post as an easy reference for anybody to use in their games.  At some point in the future, I might even take a stab at putting together some folklore monsters and Wild Hunt NPCs for those that want them, but that's a hill I'm not quite ready to climb just yet.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Curse the GMs!

So for those that are unaware, there's been a fairly tongue-in-cheek hashtag going around the G+ called #INDIEGAMEaDAY2016.  Similar in nature to the #RPGaDAY hashtag that goes around every year, this one tends to poke a bit of fun at a lot of the trends around indie RPGs and try and get everyone to not take their hobby so ultra-seriously.  For an example, here's today's topic:


16. Are GMs abusers, control freaks, or both? Best story explaining why this is so.

Now if you don't follow indie RPGs too closely, this might not land for you, but a lot of indie games strive for player agency and there's more than a few GM-less systems out there (one of which I've talked about before and will do so again in a bit).  But anyway, I'm not going to discuss the hashtag itself, because I thankfully have no GM horror stories to share.  However, the question did get me thinking about GMing, my style, and why I got started into it.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I only very recently got into GMing, probably within the past two years or so.  My first real run of it was an online Mouse Guard PbP game with a group of people I've been playing with for years, kind of as a feeler.  I had a campaign idea, and we had a player dropping out, so I asked the person who had been running the game for years if he would mind letting me run the game for a bit.  He was delighted, and I ran a fairly decent campaign, especially for a first time running it, but had some issues.  Primarily, running a PbP game is a completely different animal, and the chief challenge is keeping everybody focused and checking in regularly.  I quickly learned I am very bad at this, as I am not a generally authoritative person by nature.  I ran I think one full year, three sessions, and then burned out from chasing one of the players and turned things back over to the original GM.

The experience did reinforce my own feelings on why a lot of people end up GMing, though:  they want to play games.  If you enjoy a game or a system enough, you want to play it, and it is the eternal struggle of a gaming hobbyist that they don't ever have enough players to play with.  And so in order to play a game they want to play, they have to convince other people to play with them, and the easiest way to do this is to volunteer to do the heavy lifting and run the game for the other players.  Ask your GM if they'd mind you taking over for a bit and watch their eyes light up.  Seriously, do it.

That being said, I think there is definitely a group that prefers GMing to being a PC, and I think I may be skewing more towards this end of things the more games I run.  I have always been a writer at heart from childhood on.  I have never been published and never have really put much effort into that end of things, but I've always written stories if for nobody else but myself.  It's part of the reason I play the video games I do (only massive open world games where I can create a character and do my thang.  Your game doesn't have a story?  Perfect.  I will make my own), and it definitely is a muscle that I enjoy flexing as a GM.  I find I enjoy putting together scenarios and watching players develop over time more than any character I have played.

For the most part, I enjoy improvising when I run games, and reacting more to what the players are doing than anything in particular that I planned, and so I gravitate more to those systems that allow me to do that.  It's one of the main reasons I have issues running a lot of OSR games where there's more prep involved.  But my primary focus with any game I run is simply to make sure everybody is having a good time and enjoying creating stories alongside me.

New Games!

I bought some new games!  Well, one new game and another game I already owned but only in a digital format.  


Questlandia I've written about before, and I already grabbed a digital copy when Hannah Shaffer offered it as a free download for Free RPG Day this year.  The game is so good, though, that I felt guilty having not paid for it.  That and it's typically much easier for me to get into games in physical format.  As I've said before, I really can't recommend this game enough for world building, both just for a fun game to play with friends and especially as a prep session to starting a longer campaign.  Once we wrap up our home Mouse Guard game, I'm planning on running this for a session or two to lead into a Burning Wheel campaign.


Ryuutama is a game that is completely new to me, but one that I've had my eye on for quite a while.  I almost grabbed it at PAX East this year, which was the first time I had seen it, but thankfully waited and bought the physical/digital bundle from Kotohi direct.  Having both formats is kind of perfect for me, as it allows me to do session prep during my lunch break or slow days at work, while allowing me to get deeper into the game reading before bed.  Plus, I always prefer buying direct from creators whenever possible.

I started reading this one last night, and I really am excited to play it.  The system is kind of brilliantly simple, and it will make a great introductory game for people that have never roleplayed before.  I'm especially looking forward to eventually running this game with my daughter in a few years when she's old enough for gaming, provided she shows an interest.  This and Michtim are going to be my go-to early years roleplaying games, but both are also robust enough to easily entertain players of all ages for years.  If you have kids, or even if you just like cute stuff and also RPGs, you should definitely own both these games.