As a kid I read an illustrated version of Robinson Crusoe, and ever since I’ve found desert island questions irresistible. You know, “You’re stranded on a desert island with only one tool. What would it be?” Read more
I’ve been running post-apocalypse campaigns since the 1980s, using a wide variety of game systems. Why so much love for these games, when he idea of the world undergoing a cataclysm that wipes out most of humanity is so utterly horrifying?
I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. But there is something compelling about imagining yourself trying to survive and find hope in a world at once familiar and radically different from our own.
Many post-apocalypse games have made their mark on the RPG world. Powered-armor-wearing-mutated-jackrabbit heroic explorers represents one pole, and count-your-shotgun-shells Mad Max-style survival represents another. But some of the most interesting and unique post-apocalypse games are those that put a whole new spin on the genre. Read more
The other day I came across a post in which a tabletop RPG beginner was seriously stressed out about finding the right game. He had obviously read more than a few “this game is broken” comments and didn’t want to accidentally pick a “broken” game when introducing the concept of tabletop roleplaying to some classmates. His concern highlights a problem that pervades online discussion of tabletop RPGs, which is that we tend to confuse our quest for the ever-elusive “perfect” game with how people actually play games in the wild. Read more
I’ve run several post-apocalypse campaigns over the years, using a variety of game systems:
- Gamma World — gonzo mutant jackrabbits and all
- Aftermath! — 20 years after a nuclear war, using my hometown as a setting
- Twilight: 2000 — the default WWIII-is-petering-out setting
- Basic Roleplaying — zombies take over America in multi-generational campaign
- Apocalypse World — small, isolated enclaves eke out a living, avoiding poisoned skies and other enclaves
- NEMESIS — WWIII-has-just-ended journey across the remains of America
- Mutant: Year Zero —the NEMESIS campaign extended forward by three generations
Along the way I’ve learned a few things about post-apocalypse settings and running campaigns in them. Much of that education has come the hard way, through trial and error, and I’m certainly still learning. As with any GM advice, your game is your game, and some or all of this may not make sense for you and your campaign. So take it as food for thought. With that in mind, whether you’re already game mastering a post-apocalypse campaign or are in the planning stages hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful. Read more
Just as Kleenex has become shorthand for facial tissue, Dungeons & Dragons is the name everyone associates with tabletop roleplaying. But it’s not always the first RPG people play. In fact, an unscientific online poll I ran three years ago suggests that about 40% of gamers are introduced via other games, and it looks like that trend is increasing.
Of those, many come into the hobby by way of games based on and licensed from specific books, TV shows, or movies. This trend may also be on the rise, as the ongoing sales success of Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars beginner boxed sets suggests. Read more
The Giant at the Table: Dungeons & Dragons
D&D casts a long shadow in the tabletop roleplaying world. It’s the original RPG, it’s been around for over 40 years, and it’s the most popular. On top of all that, the OGL (Open Game License) introduced in 2000, gave rise to a huge number of games built around the core D&D mechanics, and eventually gave rise to the OSR movement. These underpinnings are usually referred to as d20, because a twenty-sided die (d20) is rolled to determine success or failure, but they also share other features such as character attributes and use of classes and levels.
There are many advantages to sticking with d20 mechanics: You’ll always be able to find players for a d20 game, because so many gamers are familiar with them. Aside from D&D you can delve into 13th Age and Pathfinder, as well as Swords & Wizardry and many other retro clones. Learn one and understanding others is straightforward.
But what if you’re looking for something beyond D&D and its kin? Where do you start? Read more
Opaque Industries has launched a Kickstarter for Song of Swords, their new fantasy/historical RPG. The Opaque Industries folks grew up in Santa Cruz, which is also my town, so I had to check it out. After giving the beta rules a quick read through I asked Taylor, the Project Manager for Song of Swords, a few questions about the game. Read more
What is the best tabletop RPG? What is the best fantasy roleplaying game? Or sci-fi roleplaying game? Horror? Superhero Historical?
A while ago I asked people on Google +, Reddit, and Tumblr when they were introduced to tabletop roleplaying, who introduced them, and which game they first played. The results of my thoroughly unscientific poll showed that while D&D is the single biggest onramp to tabletop RPGs, its dominance in that regard has declined over time. Now let’s take a look at some of those games other than Dungeons & Dragons, and the people who bring newcomers into our hobby.
An Unscientific Poll
Since the beginnings of tabletop roleplaying, it’s been a pretty safe assumption that most roleplayers got their start with Dungeons & Dragons. But there have been a lot of games over the years, and some of them have been explicitly focused on attracting newcomers. Is D&D still the point of entry for most of us?