Monday, 31 August 2015

Just like the cool kids: the other 14 questions for #RPGaDay!

In my last post I slammed all 31 days worth of topics down in one go. Now that I'm done I regret it a little since quite a few of the topics deserved their own space and might have generated some discussion. As it is, no one is going to comment on the omnibus post because they'll forget the thing they care about by the time they finish.

The cool kids have an extra 14 topics that I just couldn't get to the other night. I didn't realise how negative most of the questions are. This will be a bit of a departure from the typical, positive stance I take on things. Strap in...

32. Worst game you ever played?

Most games have something salvageable about them. Some thing in it works for me or it will do what it says on the tin so even if it turns out to not be my thing I can at least respect it for being a success.

Not so with Savage Worlds. My worst game experience came when playing a new savage worlds setting. I liked the setting and was excited to finally play "fast, furious and fun" savage worlds! The setting was pretty good but savage worlds was neither fast, nor furious, nor fun. 

I had read savage worlds but never really got a feel for how the damage worked so I thought a run through with someone experienced with the system would make it all fall into place. After four hours of play and a few long, painful and boring combats I'm no more certain of the rules than before. I think we broadcast that game but I'm not going to link to it because I don't want to even look at it again.

Savage Worlds is fiddly. There are a bunch of fiddly rolls to make that lead to more fiddly rolls that end with something happening sometime later. I suppose next to something like Pathfinder it might seem like a fast system, but compared to the actual rules-light systems I'm used to savage world crawls. I love pulp-fiction action. I did not find it here. Which is sad because Savage Worlds has some of the best setting books in the industry. Necessary Evil is a game with a great premise and a solid set of adventures. Sundered Skies is an innovative fantasy world that could have gone a bit farther and dumped the dwarves and elves but at least does a good job shaking up the common fantasy assumptions. The set of adventures again, are good and the origin story for the setting is fantastic! With all the great material, it's too bad the system just doesn't measure up to the promise of: "fast, furious and fun."

33. Interesting rule embedded in an otherwise baleful game?

Machinations of the Space Princess is a game from postmortum studios in desperate need of more playtesting and another edit. It was kickstarted so the art is top-notch but the game itself feels clunky and unwieldy. That said, the character generation includes a method for creating a wide variety of alien races. A player can just mix and match different alien features to create nearly any character. From floating gas bags to a dead guy, it's all on the table. I mention the ability to play a dead PC because it is the first time I've seen explicit rules allowing someone to make a character resembling the dead assassin from the sci-fi television program Lex.

You are supposed to stop at three features but can continue to take more. Taking more features pushes your character farther away from the human experience and makes relating to other characters difficult so the PC with more than three alien features takes a penalty on charisma. This penalty is a good way to open up the crazy with a reasonable consequence. 

This set-up for generating aliens almost redeems the game. Fortunately it's under the Open Gaming License to we may see a streamlined and better explained version of this innovative rule in a new sci-fi OSR game sometime soon.

34. Game you never played but knew it sucked just looking at it?

I can't think of a single example of a game I knew sucked just by looking at it. I've been turned off by a game's art, but I didn't know it sucked. The bad art stopped me from caring enough to find out if it sucked or not.

35. Game you most wish didn't suck?

I wish Machinations of the Flame Princess didn't suck. Besides the unique alien character generation I mentioned above there's a lot this game has to offer. There's simply too much in it to fix, it's easier to bolt the good bits into another system.

Reading through it and playing I always get the feeling that it wasn't quite finished. That and the author didn't understand some of the abstractions used in the mechanics of old school games. The best example is how he doesn't understand Armour Class so he "fixed" it with extra, fiddly mechanics that included rolling more dice in every round of combat and it dragged on! The saving throw system was also a terrible mess.

The main reason I wish this game didn't suck is the art. Satine Phoenix did an amazing job capturing the sexy, sleezy sci-fi vibe of the source material. Her work also does a lot to reinforce the implied setting. That's a good thing because the implied setting is another reason I like this game and wish it was good. It's a shame the game doesn't deliver on the promise made by the art. It would have been amazing!

I'd like to see more of Satine's work in RPGs.

36. Game about which you have the most mixed feelings?

I suppose, MotSP above fits the bill for that one too. As bad as the game is we had a tonne of fun playing. Our GM Chris had this serious, dark setting planned for us but made the mistake of mentioning the possibility of us playing centaurs. It was easy to make centaurs under the MotSP rules.

Centaurs in space turned into My Little Pony in space and our campaign became Friendship is Blasters as we gleefully named our characters things like Rainbow Smash and Pinky Die.

So we fixed the terrible rules and had fun with the idea of the game rather than the game as written. I guess that's the source of my frustration. I contributed to this game as a kickstarter and did my best to spread the word about it because the idea of the game is great. The possibilities available in this style of sci-fi are great fun. The execution of the final product failed to express that idea and there is so much work involved in bringing it up to where it should be to begin with. This game is only fun if I hack it and there is so much that needs to be hacked!

I don't know if it's better to get some vellum and paste in my own text around the great art or just leave it on the shelf. Maybe I resent the need.

37. Old game most in need of an upgrade?

Rifts needs to be brought into the 21st century. It is fun and charming in its own way but games have improved a great deal since Rifts rolled off the presses in 1990. The subtext of power and ignorance is even more relevant now than it was back then. The story behind the setting works but the mechanics could do with some smoothing out. The rules could support the different kinds of play offered by the setting, but don't.

I know there is a Savage Worlds version of Rifts in the works. Savage Worlds would not be an improvement. I'd rather play the old rules. I can say this without a doubt because my group played a short Rifts campaign about a year-and-a-half ago. A new, scratch-built system that is designed for the completely unbalanced nature of Rifts so the Rogue Scholar PC can play in the same party as the Dragon PC and everyone has a good time is what this game needs.

If not Rifts, then Toon. Toon would be great as a Fate Accelerated game.

38. Game you can run with the least prep?

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is my go to game for a lot of reasons. In this case, character generation can be done in minutes and I have a stack of adventures on my shelf I can use at a moment's notice. If I want to freestyle a session I know the system is not going to get in my way by tripping me up.

39. Game with awful art and who you wish you could hire to fix that?

The art for FATE Core is boring. The majority of it features people standing around, doing nothing. Even the cover is boring, with three figures waiting for something interesting to happen. The execution of the magical cop figure is boring and terrible. His face and leading arm are at an awkward angle and appear to be the wrong size for the rest of him. What an awful distraction for a cover.

I would hire Jez Gordon to defibrillate the visual presentation of this game. He can draw dynamic figures in all genres and can give a character in a static pose a sense of menace and danger.

Seriously, hire Jez Gordon to bring your games to life. He is awesome!

40. Best houserule you've seen in action and now you use in your own games?

I suppose my favourite thing is using a random table for searching a body. I think it was on Zak's blog before he put it into his LotFP city supplement, Vornheim. That's my favourite because it can turn a random encounter into an adventure hook. My next campaign I plan on making up a series of "search the body" type tables to keep things interesting.

41. Game you've most changed your thoughts/feelings about?

I was excited about Fate Core when it came out. It seemed like a great toolkit for playing in different intellectual properties on the fly. It also felt like a game-building kit so you could sit down with a group and make up a game but keep everyone inside a basic framework. It looked like a great refinement of Fudge that would streamline the whole system into something fast and easy.

In practice it was a fiddly and awkward process. We played it for several sessions but only had one really good one. That one worked because a relationship between an NPC and a PC was exploited to move the plot forward. I think it can work well in a particular kind of game but is not the universal system it promised to be.

42. Game you'd use to run just about any setting if necessary?

I think I'd probably use Lamentations of the Flame Princess as my base game of choice if I had to stick with one. It's a rules-light system that adapts well to added rules. The skill system and Specialist class makes it adaptable to many genres.

The classes were modified for LotFP to give each mastery of its own domain while having the same ability in the overlapping areas. For instance, all characters can use any weapon and wear any armour. That makes it easy to adapt them to multiple genres without unbalancing them. A given class can be altered or removed as the setting demands and it all still works.

I might steal the healing rules from 5e D&D though. I like how 5e works with the abstraction of hit points better than LotFP.

43. Game that haunts you and you aren't certain why?

Old World of Darkness Storyteller system games. I found my set of books for it a few months back in a cupboard at my parents' house and I have no idea what to do with them now. They call to me, even though I have no desire to play them. I want to look at them. Read them. I don't know why. The 1990s were a strange time.

44. Game that would probably be the most fun to play a bee in?

Rifts! I could play an inter-dimensional Mega Damage bee! A true D-Bee! Or I could play a dragon that thinks it's a bee and stays polymorphed as such all the time. A fire-breathing honey bee with a Mega Damage sting! Yeah! RIFTS!

45. Best Star Wars Game?

I already talked about this one in the last post. WEG D6 Star Wars. I prefer the first edition but I would happily play the second edition too.

46. Game that's good in theory but your kind of on the fence about really?

The Strange by Monte Cook Games. It sounds amazing and original but once you are playing in it so much feels like it's been done before. I think Numenera gets much of its oomph from the setting. The Strange feels a mix of Amber Diceless and Mage the Ascension with Numenera-like mechanics. A lot of the terms from Numenera are needlessly renamed, which I found mildly annoying as well.

I enjoyed playing the Strange even though it was something of a let down. At this point I may have played so many games I've developed an RPG system cynicism. You should probably try it for yourself.

That is the whole shooting match of questions, just in time for the end of the month!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Bandwagon Blogging: #RPGaDay2015 in one go

I'm jumping on the bandwagon for the #RPGaDay2015 31 questions all in one day with another 14 added on top to make it all interesting. Here are my 45 RPG answers...

1. Forthcoming game you're most looking forward to? (Don't end sentences with a preposition kids - it's not cool!)

Break!! by Reynaldo MadriƱan and Grey Wizard is something I'm looking forward to seeing in print. The concepts for action and the way they are adapting the anime genre to an RPG looks brilliant. The layout and design samples I've seen makes me think this one might be a game changer. If you want to know more check out their development blog.

2. Kickstarted game most pleased you backed?

For game I'd have to say the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules and Magic Book. The layout and design is fantastic! The rules are streamlined with some fine-tuned innovations that only add to adaptability of this version of the world's most popular roleplaying game. I've received piles of extras along with my beautiful rule books and I'm pretty damn happy with it all.

3. Favourite new game of the last 12 months?

The fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons is my favourite new game this past year. Wizards of the Coast hauled in the ENnies this year for a good reason. The new D&D is one of the best versions of the game to date. It takes advantage of 40 years of game design progress with a return to the spirit of play that launched it all. 

4. Most surprising game?

I can't really say. I don't know if any of them surprise me. That's not something I look for in a game. Maybe Numenera? It surprised me that Monte Cooke came up with a number of ideas that were damn close to the system I'm creating. When he was talking about the design choices for his game I was freaking out a little, but luckily when it came out it wasn't as close as I was afraid it might be. I also moved forward in different directions so it didn't really matter in the long run. By the time I'm finished playtesting the two games may have so little in common people will look at this post and wonder what the hell I was talking about. 

5. Most recent RPG purchase?

Chris Helton of the Dorkland Blog encouraged me to pick up Dyson Logos' Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts. Chris is planning on running Labyrinth Lord when our group gets back to fantasy D&D style play and he wants to use Dyson's book for the magic in our game. Since magic users are my favourite class to play I decided to pick up the PDF. I haven't had a chance to dig into it yet, but after a quick scan I'm happy with the purchase. It changes the flavour of magic in an old school game without major changes to the expectations of how things work. I'll give it a thorough read and possibly a review once we are closer to starting our game.

6. Most recent RPG played?

That's classic Traveller. I picked up the bundle of holding for the Little Black Books back when our Tuesday night group decided to give the old game a try. The PDFs print out well in booklet form on an office printer and aside from some terrible layout and a total lack of art it's a sweet little game. There's a tonne of flexibility there to play several styles of sci-fi adventures. I'm looking forward to seeing where Chris takes it. I know if I ran it I'd set it in the declining years of a vast empire with a crumbling communications network and an erosion of technological know-how. 

7. Favourite free RPG?

My favourite free RPG is Swords and Wizardry. It's a clean version of the classic D&D game and comes in three sets so you can play pure 0D&D or take it forward a few years. I don't know why I love S&W while LL leaves me cold. It might be little things like the single saving throw or bigger choices like the classic Jeff Dee art on the cover of the Complete version. I'm not surprised by the number of games that use S&W as their core rules. It's easy to make changes and bolt more rules on top of the basic core game that they published for free. You can even download a text file of the rules so you can slide your house-rules in where they belong with ease!

I'm looking forward to seeing what the new edition with updated art and layout has to offer!

8. Favourite appearance of an RPG in the media?

D&D is rarely portrayed well in the media because the writers usually haven't played and often those that have played try to distance themselves from the material by making fun of it. The first time I saw D&D in the media was in the beginning of the movie E.T. When Zak S and his group from "I Hit It With My Axe" fame appeared in Maxim Magazine I found out who the self-appointed gate-keepers of the online RPG community were. That was unpleasant, but useful in a way. The article itself was silly but at least gave a positive snapshot of the hobby. 

My favourite appearance of D&D in the media is a recent piece on about why D&D is still fun in the era of video games. It's also by Zak. I suppose his fame in other pursuits makes him a media darling and a natural for such crossover attention. His article is an honest appreciation for the game that I love, for many of the same reasons I love it.

9. Favourite media you wish were and RPG?

I'd love to see Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar in RPG form. I've blogged about the hollow earth as a setting before. What makes it a great choice for an RPG in its own right is the vastness of the world. With seven books of material there is plenty of flavour to begin with more uncharted territory to discover in play. 

(Frank Frazetta's cover for Savage Pellucidar)

What attracts me to Pellucidar is not that gonzo creatures or savage beauty of it. The constant "daytime" of the world has strange effects on time that would be interesting in play and would present a different kind of game than we usually see, especially for D&D players used to measuring out resources, actions and effects in time segments.

10. Favourite RPG publisher?

My favourite publisher is James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess. LotFP pushes the bar higher and higher in terms of adventure content and production values. Janes has put together a wild rogues gallery of writers and artists and he doesn't compromise on the vision of either. LotFP is where you will find the most innovative content in the OSR in hard copies that show the pride in the content. It's no exaggeration to say the Grindhouse boxed set brought me back into the hobby. It was exactly the thing I wanted to play at the time and finding it let me know I was not the only one. James continues to challenge the assumptions of the hobby and make new things that I can't help but buy. The majority of my RPG budget goes to purchasing hard copies of the LotFP adventures and setting books because I trust that they will be worth it. The four ENnies from this year's awards for the 2015 flagship release, A Red and Pleasant Land, should help spread the world about this small press bastion of creativity.

11. Favourite RPG writer?

There is a plethora of fantastic content coming out for RPGs right now. There's so much I can't keep up with it all. Picking one person as a favourite when there are all these awesome choices is ridiculous. I don't want to leave it blank though, so I'll go with Zzarchov Kowalski on this one.

Zzarchov, of Unofficial Games, has written as a freelancer and self-published some of the most innovative content in the OSR. His adventures invariably have a fresh take on the source material. I'm particularly happy with my purchase of his Lovecraft adventure generator with weird time effects, an insidious cult and a collection of mundane yet nasty bastards, called Scenic Dunnsmouth. It is compatible with most of the OSR rulesets. In fact, I plan on using it in a science fiction game.

12. Favourite RPG illustration?

Despite all the amazing art coming out for RPGs these days and the wondrous variety, I don't have any trouble choosing my favourite RPG illustration. I am certain. It's "Throne-Crypt of the Blessed Afflictor" from Death Frost Doom by Jez Gordon.

("Throne-Crypt of the Blessed Afflictor" from Death Frost Doom by Jez Gordon)

Your players' characters' enter the room and you show them this image. They know they are in trouble. They know in an instant that it is time for the A-game or they are all rolling up new characters. He did all the interior art for the updated release of Death Frost Doom and he was the perfect choice. His style of heavy blacks embraced the infamous dungeon crawl and draped it in a new height of macabre tension.

It is impossible to overstate the talent of Jez Gordon. I love this piece because it is an example of quintessential Jez art. His ability to convey mood and texture with full-contrast black and white is amazing! His grasp of the interplay between light and shadow on any surface is nothing short of Mozart-level genius. Jez can reveal character while maintaining an iconic quality in a portrait that encourages player immersion. These two things are in conflict and should not be possible.

The fact that he is a top-notch graphic designer means if you don't love him you should hate him with all the jealousy your shrivelled little heart can hold. I want to work with Jez. I just need to write something good enough to deserve it.

(Random Jez Gordon image from Scenic Dunnsmouth for anyone who still needs convincing)

13. Favourite RPG Podcast?

I used to listen to a lot of these while I post-produced photos. Now that I've retired from the photography biz I've cut down my podcasts in a big way. My favourite is one of the few that made the cut. Fear the Boot has a long history, their own Con and an active forum because they put out a great quality cast. The interplay between the hosts is natural, the insights are solid and the sound quality is excellent. I don't always agree, but I'm nearly always entertained.

14. Favourite RPG accessory?

Google+ Hangouts are (is?) my favourite RPG accessory. Without it I would be lucky to play once per month. With it I can play as often as twice a week when my schedule allows for it. The ease at which I can attend a game after my kids go to bed is a game changer for me in the hobby.

15. Longest campaign played?

I think the Swords & Wizardry campaign that started our Tuesday night hangout game was the longest campaign I have ever played. I think we played if for approximately two years before our gamer ADD got the better of us and we started rolling through other systems and campaigns. We started playing it as a broadcast hangout around the six month mark and, aside from when we playtested A Red & Pleasant Land, broadcast our actual play nearly to the end of the campaign. It featured the creation of the "Lawful Brothel" to combat Chaos on every front, the transformation of a love seat into a holy relic and other shenanigans.

I think it lasted as long as it did because Chris likes to GM. Before that I don't think anyone I played with (including myself) managed to go more than a year before getting tired of running the game and passing the reigns to someone else.

16. Longest game session ever played?

Back in university we played though a long weekend once or twice running on enthusiasm, take-out and caffeine. All-nighters and two-day games were common on the long weekends as well since the laws in Ontario back then meant everything was closed on all Sundays and the Mondays of the long weekend. If the weather was bad we buckled down for some gaming goodness.

17. Favourite fantasy RPG?

Dungeons and Dragons is still my favourite fantasy RPG. There are different editions, versions and clones of it but it's all D&D* to me. I love it. It was my gateway into the hobby and I always return to it knowing it will be a good time.

(*In the spirit of full disclosure I have to say my exception to this statement is 4th edition D&D which never felt like D&D. I know it's a great game that many people enjoy. It should be called something else.)

18. Favourite Sci-fi RPG?

I loved Star Frontiers as a kid and later played the hell out of GURPS Space, but my favourite in the SF genre is the West End Games D6 Star Wars. The way the system supports the crazy, cinematic action is brilliant and fun to play. Star Wars is more science fantasy than science fiction but it's close enough for jazz.

We just started playing a Classic Traveller campaign on Tuesday nights but I don't have enough of a feel for the system to make any kind of definitive statement about it. I'm sure I'll let you know in a month or two. It has potential to be the favourite.

19. Favourite supers RPG?

I've played all kinds of these, but my favourite remains the old Marvel FASERIP game from the 80s. I prefer the advanced game and loved the improvements from the Ultimate Powers Book but I'm happy to play any way someone will run it. There's pile of material out there for it and the PDFs of the actual game books are available for free at Classic Marvel Forever!

The old game captures comic book action and four-colour morality in a great way. I wish I had bought a physical copy of this thing when I had the chance. A bunch of my friends had it though, so I basically had access to it any time I wanted when we were playing.

20. Favourite horror RPG?

Lamentations of the Flame Princess borrows enough from the horror genre that I'm going to use it as my favourite horror RPG. It also qualifies as a version of D&D so it's hitting my list a few times.

I've played Call of Cthulhu, I simply prefer LotFP.

21. Favourite RPG setting?

The setting for the Talislanta RPG is my favourite. I love the rich, imaginative world full of intrigue and danger with a wide variety of people and creatures to interact with. I enjoy the homages to Vance and Bakshi and the straight up nose-thumbing at tolkienesque vanilla fantasy. I love the weird cities, the crumbling, faded and/or conquered empires. The vast rainbow of fantasy races and cultures creates so many possibilities! I love that even though there is a large library of free PDF materials adding wonderful detail to this world (like sentient snails who will talk your ear off) it is still a vast sandbox with huge continent for any group of players to explore and create with their own adventures for years. I love its long and sordid history spanning the creation, rise and fall of the different peoples of Talislanta. I love the airships and floating cities. I love the wild magic that permeates the world to the point that it is everywhere but is still merely a limited shadow of the ancient art that basically made Talislanta what it is.

22. Perfect gaming environment?

I have played RPGs in some odd places. A friend of mine worked as a janitor in his church so we would play there at one of the large tables and then give him a hand moving chairs around on a Sunday evening. The pentecostal church was not a bad place to play spooky Ravenloft games. We only ran into the pastor once. He was fine with it. He was probably thankful Mike was not out dancing, drinking and doing drugs like everyone else.

I like gaming in boardrooms. We had access to them for games back in university and college and now that I'm a real adult boardrooms are even easier to come by. The typical boardroom table is always a good size for even a large group to sit around and still have room for everyone's books, dice and other crap. It will usually accommodate a vinyl battle map too. The chairs are always comfortable. There are usually multiple bathrooms available. There is usually an LCD projector for sharing maps and images and in a pinch a white board is a great tool to clarify a complex situation.

The best feature of a boardroom is I don't have to clean up my house ahead of the game. I have two daughters. My house is a disaster.

23. Perfect game for me?

Nowadays I like a fast, rules-light game. I want to get to the stuff where we interact with the world and find new stuff.

I like rolling dice because the uncertainty creates an awesome tension. I need risk to make the successes meaningful. I don't like rolling dice more than once to resolve one action. This whole thing with the roll to hit, roll for damage, defender rolls dodge/soak/saving throw... Blargh! It should be player describes the awesome they want, rolls dice, GM describes outcome based on roll and on to the next thing!

The perfect game is flexible! With room for anything to happen! difficulty is on a reasonable curve that makes adjudication of any hair-brained scheme fair, fast and consistent.

I want depth of possibility with pulpy action and quiet intrigue in the same game. I want a game that can make combat, gritty, dangerous, brutal and short but still accommodate battle with creatures of an entirely different scale such as a dragon or giant.

I want a game with an open, fluid magic system. One that allows players to take advantage of their imaginations but still has reasonable limits on what it can do to protect the setting/campaign from world-breaking shenanigans.

I want all these things and more in one game. Since I haven't found it, I'm writing it. I'm hoping to have a playtest document for the basic system in the next few weeks so I can start ironing out the kinks, one piece at a time this fall.

24. Favourite house rule?

Back when we played 2e D&D we did initiative on a D10. Every round was split into ten segments and the casting time for spells was also measured in segments. We played it that when a caster rolled initiative they would start casting on the segment on the die and casting would last however many segments the casting time of the spell listed and go off on that last segment. The house rule part was you had to damage a caster during the actual casting segments to interrupt a spell before it activated. If a caster rolled a 6 on the initiative die and cast a 3-segment casting spell, the spell would go off on segment 9. The same spell could only be interrupted on segment 6, 7 or 8.

The rule made it harder to wreck spells in casting unless you held action waiting for them or simply became lucky. It also made low-level and short-casting-time spells like magic missile more useful since they were so hard to interrupt. We ruled the power words impossible to interrupt which only made them that much more scary. Spell casting foes demanded a whole new level of strategy for how to best use the initiative. It also meant the PCs could be careful how they used their own spells to make certain they were effective. It was pretty awesome.

25. Favourite revolutionary game mechanic?

It's a toss up between the Boon mechanic of Barbarians of Lemuria and the Advantage mechanic of D&D 5e. I can't decide because they are effectively the same thing but enter the game in slightly different ways. With BoL you get a bonus D6 when doing something your character is particularly suited to and can suffer the opposite when doing something within a special weakness. The 5e system of rolling two D20s and picking the highest with advantage and the lowest with disadvantage has essentially the same effect. The 5e is typically a situational bonus that a character can take by jumping on a table for the high ground or something but can also be a class feature or result of a feat like the BoL Boons. I suppose a BoL GM could assign situational Boons if s/he wanted to as well.

What I like about these two mechanics is the effect shifts the curve of probability to either a positive or negative outcome. It's not a set value so it adds an extra element that can make for some heroic success or epic failure. That's fun! It's also simple to adjudicate so there's no arguing over how much bonus a certain cation gives you. The advantage is the advantage and that is all. Roll and move on!

I know I said earlier that I don't like rolling extra dice for a single action but this method works for me because the dice are rolled together, adding no real extra time to the process.

26. Favourite inspiration for your game?

I take inspiration from so many places. Old pulp stories I've read and re-read, novels, movies (good and bad, often the best stuff comes from the bad ones), TV shows, comics, crazy stories that come from shooting the shit with people, real-life news-type events, history, religion, myth, RPG adventures/settings/books, and art.

My favourite RPG inspiration is art. The fantastic scenes of a good artist always inspire me. I enter their weird worlds with my mind and explore out-of-view locales, adding to what they've shown me and travelling deeper into it. With great art as a starting point I could end up anywhere. So as far as inspiration goes art works as the first step on a journey I didn't know I wanted to take until it showed me the door.

There's no style that holds me either. I mentioned Jez Gordon in no uncertain terms above but I also like everything from the dreamlike, exotic paintings of Frank Frazetta, to the stylized realities of Larry Elmore and Kieth Parkinson, to the hyper-reality of Jason Rainville.

(Cover image: "The Magnificent Joop Van Ooms" by Jason Rainville)

27. Favourite idea for merging two games into one?

I've done a lot of this sort of thing over the years. Taking the best bits from multiple systems and hooking them together to get a better overall experience. Often it's worked, especially if it's using space combat from one game and RP from another. Other times it hasn't.

Games are crafted better now than they used to be though. I haven't seen a need for this kind of thing in any major way. Mixing and matching elements of different OSR games doesn't count because they are too close together mechanically to be called a mashup and the base rules are crying out for more stuff to be bolted on anyway.

I'll just answer this one with my favourite merging of rules with a setting that doesn't fit it to make something new. I've mentioned LotFP in the Old West before, but my favourite of these is Dogs in the Vineyard used to play a Doctor Who campaign.

28. Favourite game I no longer play?

With everything I have to choose from in games I no longer play my favourite is not terribly exciting. It might have something to do with the internet finding me all kinds of people to play nearly any game. I've even played RIFTs in the last year!

Second Edition D&D is my favourite RPG I no longer play. I can't see myself playing it again either.

Part of what made it great is how I knew it so well I could adjudicate player actions on the fly using comparable rules as framework to keep everything consistent and fair. The kit system supplied PC variety without bogging down character generation. There were so many spells! I love spells! People complain it was a scrubbed up version of D&D but it wasn't hard to put the demons and devils back in. We still had the fiend folio after all. Assassins were a kit. The complete humanoids book brought back the half-orc PC and doubled down with more evil races for player characters. It was certainly the best supported system of D&D with so much supplemental material produced the game became a beautiful mosaic of possible play and the Planescape setting became the bridge to bring them all together.

I also ran a strongly house-ruled version of 2e D&D so it could take months to figure out how to play it the fun way again. That makes starting over an unattractive prospect.

The last reason I no longer play is I gave all my 2e books away before moving out of my home city 20 years ago. I don't like playing from a PDF and I do not have the means to replace what was hundreds of dollars of books then and may amount to thousands on eBay now (with shipping and scarcity factored in).

I wish I still had those books. Not to play, but as a souvenir of the years of good fun I had with some wonderful people. And to mine for ideas.

29. Favourite RPG website or blog?

Three years ago James Maliszewski was chased off the internet for a kickstarter gone wrong. In the end he bowed out as gracefully as he could under the circumstances and everyone eventually got the thing that matched their contribution so I'm not interested in reopening that drama. The real cost of the Dwimmermount debacle was my favourite RPG blog: Grognardia. James wrote a compelling and entertaining blog about games with detail and careful thought at a rate that boggles my mind. They are some great blogs out there now with tonnes of excellent, game-able content, but I still miss the way Grognardia connected what was happening in gaming at the moment to the history that spawned it all. It offered a kind of context that I found useful as I re-entered the hobby and, above all, it made me feel welcome.

Others who have caused far more lasting harm than James have received a pass from the online hobby community. It would be nice if he could get the same forgiveness.

30. Favourite RPG playing celebrity?

I like how Vin Diesel gets excited when he talks about D&D. His contagious enthusiasm and A-list celebrity status makes him a great ambassador for the hobby. Wil Wheton on the other hand is actively trying to make RPGs more accessible to more people through the leverage of his nerd-culture celebrity. With his well-produced actual plays I have to give the top spot to Wil Wheton.

31. Favourite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs?

This hobby has brought me into contact with some of the most talented, creative, brilliant and compassionate people I have had the pleasure to call my friends. I don't know if it is the mix of traits needed to project yourself into an imaginary person's experience that makes the friends I've made through the hobby so amazing or I am simply lucky beyond words. I don't care.

The lasting friendships I've made thanks to these silly games is the single greatest thing to come out of them and a value that has made and continues to make my life better.

I know I promised the full 45, but I think I'll post the original 31 for now and follow up with the rest of the questions in a second post.