The Red Box isn't *just* cashing in on nostalgia...

Hack Type: Opinion (gasp)
System: Dungeons and Dragons v4.X

I'm not saying the Red Box isn't cashing in on nostalgia at all. But, look:

1.) The basic premise of  Dungeons and Dragons has always been extremely accessible - explore this cool place, kill the evil bad guys who are in it, find cool things. Now that we have mainstream media accepting the color more readily, it's even more accessible.

2.) It has always been highly recognizable as a game, the way the term is used when we think about board games and strategy games - there is a element of competition, of mastery, of learning a skill set, etc etc Raph Koster ad nauseum. This may not matter to the hardcore rolegamer, but it sure as hell matters to that mom or dad wondering what to get his or her brainy son or daughter for Christmas or a birthday.

3.) Having all the components in one box to provide a single, yet repeatable complete experience makes it aesthetically similar to a board game and allows it to be sold in a lot of the same places. My old Red Box came from a place that primarily sold board games.

4.) As an orthogonal bonus, a self-contained game like that is among the best entry points into the hobby for someone who doesn't know what roleplaying games are. As another bonus, it does not require further interest in other roleplaying games to develop for it to continue to sell.

Accessibility, familiarity, completeness - the Red Box is, and has always been, good product design. There are good reasons to stick with the format that have nothing to do with the nostalgia factor. Just sayin'.

Random Remix Poetry Using Google Scribe...

Category: Nifty Stuff

If you're not familiar with Google Scribe, it's a Google Labs project that gives you random text suggestions based on what you type into it. It's at and is pretty much the most fun thing ever.

I used it to create a strange poem, by choosing only the first word of each line and supplying one line of my own text. I ended up with this:

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[Fate] More Compels in a Nutshell

Following up from my previous post. Go read that and this comment first: - I'm doing my reply as a new post because it got long, and because I think it'll be helpful to further discussion.

I don't think there's functionally that much difference between what SotC says and what I'm saying. Let's break it down by passage, and I'll show you where the letters fall:

"If a character is given a situation (X) where he would normally have a number of choices (Y), and limiting those choices to act in accordance with his aspect is going to make more trouble for the character (Z)..."

"If everything would be going along normally (X and Y), and the aspect makes things more difficult or introduces an unexpected twist (Z), that’s also grounds for a compel."

The only thing I'm adding is clarity, mainly for the purpose of providing a rubric for judgment, for those folks who still wonder if their compels are doing what they actually should.Collapse )

[Fate] Compels in a Nutshell...

Hack Type: Advice
System: Spirit of the Century, The Dresden Files RPG, any Fate v3 variant

Just because it came to my mind and I wanted to archive it somewhere, this is as simple as the definition can get:

1. Something relevant to aspect X happens.
2. The player chooses to respond with Y.
3. Z happens as a result.*

* = Z is something complicated and/or horrible, and is not bound by the application of other game rules (like skill rolls, etc.)

Accepting or rejecting the compel is almost always (and by this, I mean if it's not, reexamine the compel) about accepting or rejecting Z, not X or Y. 

When in doubt, applying this as a litmus test is a pretty good way to go, I think.

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[PDQ] Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies

System: Prose Descriptive Qualities (
Hack Type: Shameless Promotion

So, I know I haven't often posted to this blog, and I know that in my mission statement for the blog, I promised you I wouldn't do anything but put game hacks on here.

But there's a hack for PDQ that you need to know about, one that will be coming around soon. I had the pleasure of reading it over the course of the past few days, and it stands as one of the finest pieces of work in roleplaying games that I have ever seen.

This hack is called Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. It's Chad Underkoffler's newest PDQ game, produced by Atomic Sock Monkey Press and published by Evil Hat Productions. Okay, okay... it's not really a hack, by virtue of being a complete game. I know. It *does* present a modified version of the PDQ system, though, PDQ Sharp, which you can already pick up for free at the link above. So, see? There's a hack in it! Haha! I still have some small shred of credibility left, true believers.

Here's why I broke my blog rule to tell you about it:

* It's The Three Musketeers meets The Princess Bride meets pre-mecha Final Fantasy (like, think 1 and 2). If that sentence does not scream possibility to you, then you can stop reading now, because there is no talking to you.

* The setting is evocative and clearly presented, dense with information but never overwhelming, and every single page jumps out at you with a character or adventure idea. You're not going to find any, "The citizens of Boringland eat a kind of stew made from the pinrut, a plant that resembles the turnip," or any of that garbage. Instead, you're going to find dozens of whole campaigns that leap off the page and demand to be run, and characters that hold your imagination with a devilish grin and the point of a flashing sword. It's a deep setting, but a deep setting done right and laser-focused on producing interesting play.

* The mechanics are a vast leap forward from PDQ's normal, sometimes handwavey simplicity. It has rules for special character abilities called Techniques that add a lot of nuance without also adding headache-inducing complexity, and the expanded conflict mechanics (you know what I'm talking about - Duels! flashing swords, woot!) bring some lively variety into scenes. Hero Points have been replaced by Style Dice, a mechanism that works much better for maintaining the proper mood and also has a great tactile feel - there's nothing quite like the clattering of many, many dice getting passed around. I see shades of 7th Sea in it, but that could just be me reading in too much. Overall, it hits my personal sweet spot between providing enough mechanics to feel tangible, but not so much that it's intrusive.

* The GMing chapter is also much, much better than any of Chad's previous works (which, if you're familiar with them, is saying a lot) - clear, concise, and right on track to showing you how to run a good game of S7S. He doesn't make assumptions about what you might or might not know from running other games, and there's a killer app in there for adventure creation  that is so simple and yet so reliable, I wish I'd thought of it myself. It's basically a brainstorming / diagramming tool, but with the volume cranked up to 11. I've seen a lot of methods for structuring game scenarios, but I've never seen one that I've looked at and thought, "Man, if I just do this over and over again, it's a whole campaign." That's what I thought when I read this chapter.

* His breakdown of the swashbuckling genre is right on target and a nice bit of added material for the book. Chad's pretty well-known for spending time deconstructing whatever genre he happens to be working with in a particular game (superhero comics for Truth and Justice, fairy tales for Zorcerer of Zo), and this game is no different.

I sincerely believe that this game is Chad's masterwork. It made me feel like I used to feel about games when I was a teenager. Just reading the book made me giddy. It made me daydream, for the first time in years.

Someday soon, I will sail the Seven Skies. You should too.

[SotC/Fate] A Different Take on Phases

System: Spirit of the Century / Fate 3.0 ( or
Hack Type: Genre Mod / Alternate Mechanics

One of the things that comes up a lot on the Fate Yahoo group is how to handle the phases of Fate character creation differently than Spirit of the Century does, either because someone wants to use the system for a different genre and requires different baseline assumptions, or because they're not fond of lifepath-type constructs, or whatever. So I've had one method in my head for a while, mainly coming from jealousy at Primetime Adventures, in the way that you can go ground-up from concept to play in a single session, or sooner if you have the time.

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