Category Archives: Tabletop

RPG Review – WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s a fun one. Star Wars The Roleplaying Game by West End Games was one of the first non-TSR games I played. It was so long ago, and I was so young and broke, I never even owned a copy.

Some very fortuitous circumstance came about to make this project a reality. West End Games was purchased by Nocturnal Media, but they no longer held the license to produce RPGs based on the Star Wars intellectual property. Fantasy Flight Games is the current license holder (after a stop at Wizards of the Coast). At any rate, Nocturnal, FFG, and LucasFilm all collaborated to bring this 30th Anniversary Edition to light. The core book has a lovely posthumous dedication to Stewart Weick as it would not have been made without his efforts.

As a fan of both the game itself and of anything Nocturnal Media was involved in, SW:tRPG30AE was a no-brainer purchase for me.

SWTRPG_30th_2

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Star Wars The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition by West End Games. This is a reissue of the classic RPG in a slipcase with the quintessential Star Wars Sourcebook. The review will cover the entire product as a whole.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

Sitting on my desk next to Star Wars Edge of the Empire, a modern game I’ll likely never review because I don’t love the dice system, SW:tRPG30AE is similar in size and weight. However, in terms of pages, SWEotE is 400 pages and change, while both 30th Anniversary Edition books combine for just under 300 pages. This isn’t to say the reissue isn’t packed with content, the font is smaller, and in the style of most older games, there isn’t a ton of graphic design taking up space.

Where I’m just a bit disappointed is with the paper. I’d hoped Fantasy Flight would have sprung for nice smooth semi-gloss pages, but instead, we get the same type of paper the original game was printed on: flat white paper slightly rough to the touch. Yes, the same twelve full-color glossy pages are sprinkled throughout the core book that were in the original. The Sourcebook has none, although it’s pages are the same iconic black+blue of the original.

That said, for the price, you’re getting two hardbound books in a gorgeous slipcase. I’m not that upset.

I recommend picking it up at your friendly local game store. Retail price is $59.95 (or a few bucks less on Amazon).

8/10


2.) Art

By modern standards, the art is still decent. It was fantastic for its time. I love those twelve glossy full-color pages so much. Everything else is black and white, and high quality. There’s also quite a lot by the standards of the time. As I flipped through SWEotE, a game with the gorgeous art Fantasy Flight is known for, I didn’t see a significant amount more than these books have.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Here’s a neat thing about SWtRPG30AE if you don’t already have a copy, it’s entirely rooted in the original trilogy. If episodes IV-VI are your jam, this is magnificent news. The Sourcebook is jam-packed with details about ships and other vehicles, locations, creatures, enemies, and info about your favorite characters.

And THEN, there are the rules. WEG D6 system was developed for the original Ghostbusters RPG and adapted for Star Wars. These rules hit a note I love and something you’ll see me talk about when discussing TinyD6 games. They are simple, not stupid. The rules have been remarked by some as having a bit of a scaling problem at higher levels, making it difficult for GMs to challenge their players. I can see that being partly true, but a good GM should be able to deal with it. Hopefully with WEG D6 2e is released, it will deal with those issues because I love this system and would love to see more games developed with it.

8/10

4.) Game Master Section

The book is laid out a bit funny. The “Gamemaster Section” is really just the game rules with GM tips and some fairly prescriptive guidance sprinkled throughout. The “Adventure Section” has some additional thoughts on running and creating adventures. Overall, meh.

5/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is an iconic, four-episode adventure included in the book. It’s pretty good, and I’d run it as an intro to the game if you have four sessions or an all-day affair. Also, there are ten “adventure starters” that show some of the variances of the Star Wars universe. Most of these would make fine one-shots or additions to an ongoing campaign.

On the toolkit side of things, the SWRPG Sourcebook has all kinds of good stuff you can use to put together a long-running campaign.

8/10


Total Score: 36/50

If I were adding points for nostalgia, Star Wars The Roleplaying Game would get an extra five at least. It’s a solid game.

You made it to the end! Have a fun pic of Harry, Carrie, and Mark with some stormtroopers as a reward.

harrycarriemark


A Final Note About My Reviews

RPG reviews are among the highest viewed articles I write, and I’m glad people seem to like ’em. I stick to games I enjoy, have played, and usually have run at least once. I avoid reviewing RPGs I’d score low because frankly, I can’t care enough about a game I don’t dig to write a full review of it. Life is too short.

I don’t accept review copies, but for full disclosure, I do use affiliate marketing tags on my links to DriveThruRpg and Amazon. Thanks for reading. See you again soon for another review!

Running One-Shot or Demo RPG Games

I’ve run my share of demo RPG games for old-school games like King Arthur Pendragon and Stormbringer as well as newer systems including multiple TinyD6 games and The One Ring.

For a time, I was part of a group that held one-off sessions for a different game every month. The glory days.

While I enjoy campaign play as much as the next person, there’s always something that draws me to cracking open a new game, rolling up characters, and taking a new set of rules or setting out for a spin.

Not every player likes one-shot sessions, which surprised me at first, but I guess some folks want to get into a character and see them progress either as a person or just “level up”.

For me, sometimes a one-shot is just the thing.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about running successful one-off RPG sessions (and I think you’ll find a lot of it holds true for campaigns as well).

Nothing universe-shattering, but I hope these thoughts aid your games or even help you bring new players to one of your favorites!

Set Expectations

Make sure your players know what to expect. Failing to set proper expectations can result in anything from disappointment to outright disaster.

Find out player time constraints if not prearranged, and consider your planned content. Make sure you’ll have enough time to hit the major plot points.

If the content could be offensive to folks, provide a warning. Also, word to the wise, avoid scary or messy props. You don’t want to get punched or puked on.

At least, I think you don’t?

If you don’t want folks checking their phones in the middle of the game, make sure they have that guidance. If you are planning regular stretching, snack, and bathroom breaks, let the players know so they can wait for the foreordained moment.

Above all, set the appropriate social contract. Personal attacks are NEVER ok. Are there any other lines in the sand you need to draw? If you’ve never used the x-card, it can be appropriate when you’re running games at cons or for any group you don’t know. Use your best judgment.

Do What Your Players Want

If everyone enjoys character creation, don’t set them up with pregens. If you aren’t sure how they feel, ask! This may not make sense for games with involved setup, but talk about it.

Talk with players about what kind of game they want to play. Sometimes the group just wants to focus on comic relief and tell jokes, and other times they may be in the mood for a serious or darker game. Try to oblige as possible within constraints of the rules and setting, and if that isn’t possible, maybe you’re playing the wrong game for the group.

Don’t Do What Your Players’ Characters Want

It’s human nature to struggle. Make sure to seed conflict and difficulty into the session. If a risk of character death doesn’t exist in a one-shot, you may be doing it wrong.

I’m not saying TPKs and broad use of GM fiat are necessary. Just don’t make things too easy. That way lies boredom, one of a gamemaster’s worst enemies.

Minimize Up-Front Explanation

When you’re going to run a multi-session campaign, it may be ok to do something of an info dump during the initial sessions. For a one-time game, you’ll have to keep this to a bare minimum.

Instead, keep your session tight and introduce rules and setting as much as possible through the course of the game. Does this mean you don’t tell the players about the Camarilla if you’re playing Vampire the Masquerade or about Uther’s more arbitrary/mistrustful tendencies in Pendragon?

Maybe. If it’s central to the adventure, find a way to work it into a conversation with an NPC so the game can get going.

Don’t skip telling folks what type of dice they need. I’m just saying that if you’re playing a Fantasy Flight RPG with all those custom dice, you may just want to guide them through the roll resolutions and gloss over the 17 pages of dice rules (or don’t play a game with 17 pages of dice rules).

Another helpful option for more complex games is to download or create rules cheat sheets for players. Give them something to refer to while they are planning action. While they are great for many folks, I don’t always love cheat sheets. Some players can get too focused on the tool and miss what’s going on in the game.

Me. I do this. Ugh, I’m the worst.

Anyway, know thy players.

Keep The Story Tight

Most games either have a couple strong themes or they are more generic and can work for a variety of scenarios. In either case, stick to a strong idea even if you have to develop it yourself.

When playing Planet Mercenary, it’s mayhem and next-grunt-up comedic violence. When it’s Pendragon, you’re talking chivalry and romance. For a game like Tiny Frontiers: Revised, pick a micro setting and run with one of the adventure prompts or develop something fun on your own. Same for Savage Worlds, select a setting you like that’s thematic and shows off the rules.

Nothing will kill a one-shot faster than giving too many options to inexperienced players. Sandbox games can work great, as long as you have veteran players and they understand the setting.

An alternative, if your game supports it, is to involve the characters in some quick worldbuilding and plotline creation. Tough to do in limited time, but I’ve seen it work. There are toolkits to support this approach if your game doesn’t do it out of the box. I even have one I’m thinking about developing.

Sample The Game

Some micro RPGs and minimalist systems lend themselves to covering everything in the one-shot format.

When talking about a 400+ page core book (see Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Zweihander, Mage, and countless others), you won’t show everything. Still, if the game contains combat, make sure there is an encounter so players can see how fighting works. If there is sneaking, make sure they have cause to sneak. Basic mechanics are a must, as is direct use of primary abilities.

When the title has special or unique mechanics, make sure they take center stage. The One Ring’s hope and shadow and travel rules are good examples.

If the central concept of the game involves characters taking control of the narrative at times, make sure they do that. Horror/madness aspects, etc. should all be built in if relevant.

Pacing

There are entire series of articles, dialogs, and diatribes about pacing in RPGs as a whole.

If you’d like more detail, I recommend reading what Justin Alexander has to say on pacing for starters. I’m not going to attempt to duplicate that knowledge here, but I will say this: pacing is vital in one-offs. I’ve outlined a few of the component elements above, but I’ll to boil it down to what makes the most sense to me in a one-off session.

Don’t let your players get bored.

If everyone loves the role-play elements, they might have a great time discussing reactions to a philosophical quandary you’ve placed before them for some time.

If your players are action-oriented, make sure to keep the action flowing.

When you inevitably have a mix of role-play and “roll-play”, then you’ll have to use more tools from your GM toolbox to keep things moving along.

The key is to keep an eye on the group and minimize time where people seem disengaged.

Have Fun

This shouldn’t be the last point, but somehow it is.

Don’t forget, if you’re having fun, odds are the players will be too. If it’s clear to them that you aren’t enjoying yourself, that mood can rub off on the whole group.

A little Leadership 101 for you: a leader (this means you, gamemaster) tends to influence those around her/him like Patrick Stewart in a room of Trekkies. He can’t help it, but you can bet he’s aware. You can bet Sir Pat knows that if “Captain Picard” loses his cool on a group of fans, it will result in a negative experience for all involved.

Make sure to use your GM influence with proper intent. Be aware of your own feelings and use them to the advantage of the game. Keep them in check otherwise.

A great storyteller having fun will always attract players. I learned this watching my friends Alan B. and Mike S. pack their living rooms with diverse players repeatedly through the years.

——-

Thank you: Ben, Michael, Brett, Alan, Tyler, and the others who saw this article at varying stages of completion and helped me mold it into something I hope was worth your time. Your contributions were amazing, and any remaining silliness is just an artifact of my weird and possibly disturbed psyche.

Please share your stories of running one-shots with me in the comments or on Twitter. I’d love to see your ideas on running the format or just some fun stories from your one-off games.

Games I Need (AKA Kickstarting Now)

I’ll be brief. After flirting with a couple of random Kickstarters back in the early days, I backed my first tabletop game (Planet Mercenary) in Spring 2015.

I’ve been racking up experience/victory points ever since.

At first, I went a bit crazy with it. I was backing all sorts of new games and related products by people who’d never Kickstarted anything before. I scrolled everything in funding state and backed anything that looked remotely interesting– and to her credit, my wife and I are still married. I’ve learned to be more selective to the benefit of the bank account and my sanity. These days I don’t take many risks with unknown companies and pledge for far fewer titles overall, but there are a few companies whose campaigns I never miss.

Two of my preferred creators have projects funding right now. I recommend checking them out:

Tiny Supers by Gallant Knight Games

Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games don’t miss deadlines. When they set a delivery date for a KS, it happens by that date if not earlier. Additionally, my love of the TinyD6 line for minimalist role-playing games is well-documented. Check the archives. This one looks like a blast and the current stretch goal is a comic with stats for the characters and an adventure at the end. These games are kid-friendly, but as the line goes, they are simple, not dumb. I’ve played plenty of TinyD6 games with kids and adults alike. If you like superheroes, don’t miss Tiny Supers.

escapeplan

Escape Plan by Eagle Griffon Games

EGG is a board game company I came across almost by accident. I backed Xenon Profiteer a couple of years back because it looked cool and wasn’t expensive. No other reason. Turns out it’s a great game and it was delivered fast. Now I also have Vinhos and Isaribi, and I’m waiting for The Scarlet Pimpernel to fulfill. Escape Plan looks simply amazing if you like a big crunchy board game and have people to play it with. I can’t wait to get it on my table.

If folks are interested in this kind of article, maybe I’ll write one occasionally. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll get back to work on the Zorro RPG.

RPG Reviews and Review Copies

For Immediate Release (Heh. I always wanted to say that.)

Be it known here and throughout the realm: I do not accept review copies of games in exchange for performing reviews.

It’s not you, it’s me. I only review role-playing games I’ve bought personally. Mostly only games I’ve actually been a game master for, but I may also occasionally review games I’ve only played.

but

If you’d like to enhance the odds of my reviewing your RPG, the only recourse is to invite me to play your game with you. I may or may not accept, but if I do, odds are I’ll buy a copy, and likely write a review.

I recognize there are sites out there doing this, it’s just not me.

RPG Review – Tiny Frontiers: Revised

WILL RAMBLES

Yep.

I’m back with another TinyD6 review.

Tiny Frontiers: Revised was unlocked as a stretch goal as part of the Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition Kickstarter. As a backer of the original Tiny Frontiers, I admit my skepticism of a revision on a game that is good already. However, there were quite a few awesome new things built into the later TinyD6 games, and I didn’t mind getting those built in by default. When I heard there would be a new set of micro settings, I was sold 100%.

Now, I want to be clear, I wrote one of the new micro settings. It’s called “Bears. In. Space.” and I’m not reviewing it. If you should happen to pick up the book, I’d appreciate your thoughts on BIS. That said, this is the only section of the book I had any part of, I don’t earn any royalties, and I don’t feel biased when I write about the rules, the art, or the other micro settings.

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers: Revised the Kickstarter stretch goal add-on PDF to Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition by Alan Bahr.

Its a newly revised edition of the very first TinyD6 game released by Gallant Knight Games back in 2016.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers: Revised book is a lean and focused 160 pages. It has a new (better) art style and has several extras here that weren’t in the original, but I’ll get into that below. The layout is great, as I’ve come to expect in the TinyD6 line.

The original Tiny Frontiers is also a great game I reviewed here. I’ll get into the differences below, but the original book is still available on DTRPG as “pay what you want”. Revised edition PDF is $14.99 ($6.00 DEAL OF THE DAY as of publishing this article). At the list price, I’d buy it. On sale? Wow!

9/10


2.) Art

The cover art is dazzling as you can plainly see! The interior art is black and white in an updated and much cleaner style, and there are a lot of pieces particularly in the Heritage section. Some reuse of pieces, but very little and only when it made sense. Similar to Tiny Dungeon 2E, my lone critique is that I’d like, and would pay for, more art in the style of the cover.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

I’ll rehash some of this from Tiny Dungeon 2E because a lot of the improvements there have been brought across to Tiny Frontiers: Revised. Tiny D6 games are my favorite minimalist rules RPGs. Any 5 or 6 rolled on1-3d6 (depending on advantage or disadvantage) is a success. Simple and yet flexible for GMs. Lots of optional character creation rules like TD2E and has progression options built into the game. Some standouts: additional Heritages and Traits. Lots of them. Cybernetics and Psionics. All good stuff!

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

This section is enhanced with new rules and plenty of those random tables I like. It also now includes a small bestiary with some example creatures. Optional rules for hacking and combat are nice, as well as a fantastic and detailed reimagining of the starship rules.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

TinyD6 uses MICRO SETTINGS. The great news is, TF:R contains a whole set of new micro settings. Now, if I were scoring with “Bears. In. Space.” included, I’d have to drop the number because I wrote it. I’m excluding that one, so all I have to say is WOW. I’m honored to have something I wrote resting among this company. Setting by Tobie Abad, Elizabeth Chaipraditkul, Steve Diamond, Dan Wells, Wendelyn Reischl, and Ben Woerner all stand out as a fantastic place to start your sci-fi adventure. I’m raving. I’ll stop.

10/10


Total Score: 45/50

This one grades out just as good as the new Tiny Dungeon in my opinion.

Super game. A very nice improvement on the original. Get it.

RPG Review: The One Ring

Will Rambles

The One Ring RPG has the distinction of being the first game I ran as a long campaign for anyone other than my kids after my return to role-playing. In a previous life, my favorite RPG campaign to run had been AD&D 2e in the Planescape setting. Something about Planescape always spoke to me.

I played in tons of different systems growing up and one of my favorites while I was still in high school was Middle Earth Role-Playing (MERP). When I came back to gaming, I immediately started looking into the possibility of getting my hands on some MERP books and was disappointed to find it out of print. Luckily, someone kind and thoughtful pointed me to The One Ring (TOR), and I politely declined and continued to pine for MERP. It wasn’t until I played in a one-off session of Ring that I saw the real potential of the system.

The rest is history. I ran TOR for nearly a year meeting a little less frequently than I might have liked, but I had a great time, and I hope the players did as well.

I’ve run one-off sessions here and there for other folks, and you can rest assured when the Moria box set comes out later this year, I’ll be among the first lining up for a copy.

The Review

The original release of TOR was a slipcased version with two books. I’m reviewing the current single hardcover volume.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The core The One Ring book is hardbound and has good binding. The pages are semigloss and full color. It looks very nice with good call outs and is appealing overall. Also, at 336 pages, it feels good in your hands.

My biggest complaint about the entire game has got to be the organization of the layout. In my experience, this is not the area where Cubicle 7 games shine. Finding what you’re looking for isn’t always easy in a TOR book. In fact, since I was running this game regularly, I found myself adding more and more stickie notes, and doing more advanced note writing so I wouldn’t get caught thumbing through the book for some detail in-game.

At any rate, for $29.99 you can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG. It’s a decent price. The hardback copy is available pretty much anywhere you usually buy games (including Amazon). I recommend your FLGS (friendly local game shop).

7/10


2.) Art

I love the art in The One Ring. The core book cover is ok, but the interior art really speaks to me. Much of it is full color, there is plenty (who am I kidding though, there could always be more), and each piece is super evocative of Middle Earth.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

Fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful.

So much effort here to be faithful to the source material and create rules and mechanics that evoke Middle Earth. MERP doesn’t hold a candle in any regard except for the fact that they did have more content, but TOR is catching up fast! I won’t spoil them all, but I love the opposition of the hope and shadow attributes for characters. The adventuring and fellowship phases of the game take place over seasons of the year so the more cinematic and action-packed portions of the game can take place while also allowing for social interactions and time for travel.  In other news, TOR has the most exciting and innovative travel system I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Quite a lot going on here for a GM. While it isn’t the crunchiest game you could run, Ring does have some rules. It’s no minimalist or storygame style of RPG. The GM sections are useful. They guide you to create sessions for your players that evoke Tolkien’s world. Additionally, there is a campaign section detailing all the major event taking place in Middle-earth both before and during the game timeline. This allows for rumors and ideas to reach the characters even if they aren’t taking part in these events directly.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The Marsh-Bell is an in-depth fourteen-page adventure that’s great for starting characters. They’ll enjoy some familiar sights from The Hobbit, meet some familiar dwarves, risk danger, get to test some of their skill at fighting and riddling, and see the travel rules. All-in-all, it’s a solid introduction to the game.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is not a bad score by any means. I own (and preorder) every book in the series as they are released. My single regret is that I don’t have more time to run TOR. It’s a game and a world I could explore endlessly.

UPDATE September 1, 2018: For the next 4 days you can get the full collection of TOR PDFs currently in print from Humble Bundle for just $15. Do this, and then you can grab a hard copy of the two must-purchase books for players at your table:
The One Ring RPG
Adventurer’s Companion

RPG Review: Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition

WILL RAMBLES

First, I backed this Kickstarter.  Second, I’ve loved Tiny D6 games since the beginning (Tiny DungeonTiny Frontiers, and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters).

I’m going to stop saying “I’m not an RPG reviewer” when it’s clearly something I like to do, and these posts tend to get a lot of traffic. Fair dinkum: I was in a regular game group with the creator of Tiny Dungeon 2e for a couple years, and even though we don’t live super close anymore, we still game together from time to time.

tinyDungeon2e

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition PDF of Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition by Alan Bahr.

It’s a minimalist fantasy RPG based on the original Tiny Dungeon by Smoking Salamander Games turned up to ELEVEN. I picked up the original to play with my kids a long while back.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Dungeon 2e book is the largest “tiny” book to date at 194 pages. It maintains the art style from the original game (the same artist in fact), and the new layout is impressive, bringing the game up to standard with the newer Tiny D6 games.

The original Tiny Dungeon is also a great game and only 24 pages total! Hard to believe. I’ll get into the differences below, but the original book is still on sale on DTRPG for $2.99. Second edition is $19.99 ($17.99 as of publishing this article). If you’d like the Player’s Guide (the first half of the book without the micro settings), it will only run you $9.99.

9/10


2.) Art

The cover art is amazing! The interior art is black and white in the style of the original Tiny Dungeon, and there’s plenty of it spread throughout the book. Some reuse where it made sense, and I’m totally good with that. The critter section is fleshed out and has excellent art for tons of beasties your party could fight (including the dinosaurs). If I have a critique here, it’s only that I’d like more of that beautiful cover art. I’d pay for it.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Tiny D6 games are my favorite for minimalist rules games. Any 5 or 6 rolled on1-3d6 (depending on advantage or disadvantage) is a success. So simple. So powerful. This version has the most optional character creation rules of any Tiny D6 game and even has progression options built into the game. I’ll be getting these to the table soon with my daughters Zeep and Zook (not their real names) who started playing Tiny Dungeon when the younger one was only 7. I can’t express how happy it makes me that Tiny Dungeon is growing up with them.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

As previously mentioned, there is an expanded bestiary in TD2e. 26 pages to be exact.  In addition, there are sections with advice on running games, and the extensive optional rules. I won’t spoil them all, but there is some enjoyable stuff in here including optional combat rules and old-school adventure generation tables.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

Not the traditional pre-made adventure, but as has become the tradition with Tiny D6, MICRO SETTINGS. I’ve been waiting for micro settings for the fantasy realm since Tiny Frontiers was initially announced on Kickstarter.  If you aren’t familiar yet, these are a delightful take on creating a ready-to-go world you can grok after a few pages and create interesting and unique new adventures for. They also happen to be written by a super talented group of authors, games designers, and other highly creative people. As a GM, I prefer these to a full adventure since I almost always modify adventures to suit my tastes anyway.

10/10


Total Score: 45/50

A high score in the upper echelons of my scoring criteria.

I’d Kickstart TD2e again. Twice.