RogerBW's Blog

RPG a Day: part 1 11 August 2014

David F. Chapman came up with the RPG a Day idea: one question about one's RPG experiences to be answered each day during August. That makes for short posts, though, so I'm going to group them together a bit.

1st - First RPG Played

2nd - First RPG Gamemastered

3rd - First RPG Purchased

The answer to these is all the same, though not all at the same time: Moldvay Basic D&D, in 1982. D&D was just hitting mass-market popularity in the UK, getting into non-gaming shops like John Lewis. I think someone at school had heard about it in the USA, and bought a copy when it arrived here. It was assumed that everyone would have a go at running the game as well as playing it.

4th - Most recent RPG purchase

GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier. Oh, hang on, I'm a credited playtester, so that's not a purchase. In that case Pyramid #3/69. I'm not buying a lot of RPG material other than GURPS these days; it's what I mostly play and run.

5th - Most Old School RPG owned

Not really a big fan of the Old School stuff, so I'll claim Traveller or Call of Cthulhu. I think I have an original Fiend Folio kicking around somewhere. Probably ought to sell it.

6th - Favourite RPG Never get to play

I ran a failed Pendragon campaign a few years back by email, and I'd like to do more with that, but I think email may not have been the right medium. (The original plan was to get players together in person or by IRC for the adventures, then do the inter-adventure stuff by email, but this didn't happen for various reasons.)

I've been taking other games that I liked back in the day (like Torg and Cyberpunk) and converting them into GURPS so that I can use the bits I like (the setting and/or ethos) without having to fight with clunky and inconsistent game mechanics.

Wouldn't mind playing Blue Planet some time.

7th - Most “intellectual” RPG owned

Not sure what that means, really. Least fighty? Probably Transhuman Space. But I suspect that many of my games would look "intellectual" to someone who thinks of RPGs in terms of dungeon bashes. Which is not intended as a put-down: to each his own.

I don't do the Big Important Dramatic artsnob style of game; I've tried, and it doesn't really work for me.

8th - Favourite character

Let me tell you about my character… Actually I don't do that very much. Right now probably Vajra, a Thai-built SAI in Transhuman Space which thinks it did something during the Pacific War but has had its memory edited (probably self-edited) such that attempts to think too hard about it result in null pointer exceptions. Vajra is studying Buddhism and suspects that digital intelligence is a step towards Nirvana.

Oh, and there was the lawyer. Well, judicial champion. I can't now remember his name, but this was in a Warhammer game, and he had an unshakable belief in justice. Preferably as meted out in a proper courtroom setting by sword, mace, dagger, pike, flail, etc. (The flail's for divorce cases. He hated divorce cases.) So basically once he'd won a case (i.e. beaten the other champion to a pulp) he knew that his client was innocent. This led to a certain amount of cultural confusion, and he was last seen working as a bouncer in a travelling brothel, broadly aware of the nature of the business, but with absolutely no concept that there was anything untoward going on. There couldn't be! He'd beaten up that watchman, so he was right!

9th - Favourite Die / Dice Set

I have quite a lot of dice, but recently I've taken to getting a specific set for each campaign I run. For example, for Torg under GURPS I'm using 3d6 in Chessex Gemini Blue-Red to copy the red-and-blue of the original Torg die.

I have some Crystal Caste metal d6s which are very satisfying to roll, though the gold-ish coating is quite thin and tends to come off when I hold them with sweaty hands (I have unusually enthusiastic sweat so don't let this put you off them). I may pick up a set of the uncoated steel ones for just this reason; they'd be appropriate for the cyberpunk game I'm setting up.

I haven't yet found anything suitable for the WWII campaign, possibly because the obvious candidate has red, white and blue colours with a Union Flag on one face. I abhor dice with symbols replacing one of the faces. (Yes, even the lovely Ogre Designer's Edition dice.) This is because there's no consistency: sometimes the logo replaces the 1, sometimes the 6, so one has to check every time.

One of these days I'll pick up that extended percentile set I've seen, marked in powers of ten from 1,000 to 0.001 or something similar, just to be annoying.

10th - Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction

Hmm. Guilty secret: I actually quite enjoyed Ed Greenwood's Spellfire, though it's kind of corny and I've never sought out the sequels. Some of the Battletech novels were very good indeed, but I don't think one can call them RPG tie-ins. Generally I'd much rather play the RPG of the book (as we'll talk about later, but e.g. the Vorkosigan Saga) than read the book of the RPG; I think the basic problem with going that way is that the memorable characters in an RPG-derived book aren't going to be the memorable characters from one's own games, because the author of the book was working from the baseline setting rather than one's own campaign.

(Then there's more borderline stuff. Andre Norton's Quag Keep has a game-type framing story but is mostly standard fantasy, and lots of writers followed the idea of throwing modern people into a fantasy world with more or less connection to gaming; Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series did a better job of considering the implications of being turfed into an RPG world than most. The Minnesota Scribblies' Liavek anthologies were derived from or inspired by their RPG sessions. But none of these is based on an actual published game world, which I'm choosing to take as the cutoff here.)

I'm havering, aren't I? There really aren't any about which I'm terribly enthused. Maybe Christopher Kubasik's Ideal War, which is basically Vietnam with battlemechs.

11th - Weirdest RPG owned

Probably Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century: it's the science fiction game with everything! As long as everything involves killing people. You've got your humans. You've got your psi healers. You've got your tech-dwarves. You've got your war cats. You've got your amorphous shape-shifters. You've got your haughty treacherous methane-breathing four-armed schizophrenic cephalapoids. You've also got eight primary stats, four secondary stats, a lifepath, more weapons and psi powers than anyone could possibly need… it's a confused, near-unplayable, glorious mess.

Or maybe Nephilim, but I've never played it.

See also:
RPG a Day: part 2
RPG a Day: part 3


  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:27pm on 11 August 2014

    I played Blue Planet once, under it's own rules as tinkered with by the GM (Mike Tittensor could never leave rules alone, but generally his changes made things worse not better). It wasn't a particularly successful campaign, but did include a memorable scene where Bob Dowling's female ex russian mafia mobster was napalmed and had to take her little black dress off, resulting in automatic gunfire from on top of a shipping container surrounded by flames, fired by an attractive woman wearing bra and knickers and a sharp haircut. And the player wasn't even at the session, he was gutted to have missed such a scene.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:28pm on 11 August 2014

    I own the core book of Blue Planet but I somehow feel I haven't really got much idea of what it's meant to be about. There's some Big Picture, but what are people meant to be doing before that? Still, I really like the immigration setup.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 11:32pm on 11 August 2014

    I think Blue Planet suffers from the Transhuman Space problem. It's a complex, plausibly realistic world and there are many different things your PCs can do in it. Leading to confusion over what to do. The only obvious meta plot is the ancient alien tech lying around in obscure places.

    I have both the Blue Planet core book (but there was more than one edition) and GURPS Blue Planet, which has the dubious distinction of being one of the last (or maybe THE last) 3E style world books. A shame that came to an end.

    Orbital mechanics are not Blue Planet's strong point. They theorise that the mass of the gate beyind Pluto (well beyond Pluto) was not noticed because there could be another one at the opposite side of the orbit to "balance out". Yeah right, that's not how it works. Orbits still get perturbed by that much mass.

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