#RPGaDAY 31: Favorite RPG of All Time

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Dave Chapman tasks me. Oh, how he tasks me. Over the course of #RPGaDAY, the topics have circled around the idea of favorite a lot. Different flavors of favorite — rarest, never get to play, favorite rules — but generally the idea that one candidate wins the title. And I’ve found that the same names pop up again and again when I consider what I will nominate: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mage: the Ascension, Ghostbusters and the other usual suspects you’ll find figuring prominently in the Held Action tag cloud.

While that’s fine, I’ve generally tried to make my picks more varied than calling out the same names over and over again. Finding that variety has also reminded me how many different games I like. I don’t know if I could pick a single favorite role-playing game from among them, and I don’t know that I want to. They all achieve something a little bit different, which I’ll admit when I’m not in the mood of denying that rules matter and insisting that by and large, whatever rules you prefer will do just fine, regardless of the officiality of an adaptation.

So how do I choose? The game I want to play the most? The one I see myself running the most? The one that brings me the most actual, real fun, as opposed to dwelling on the fun I could have if I ever got around to making it happen? The favorite premise? The favorite rules to support a premise? Hell, I can’t decide. Let’s just go with the obvious choice:

Ghostbusters RPG box cover.You’re all astonished. I can tell.

The format of a team of coworkers from various backgrounds being assigned problems has just the right mix of structure and flexibility to make it playable, in one form or another, for many, many years. Ghosts have haunted humans for almost as long as there have been humans, so you can flash back and forth along the timeline to any time in history when spiritual turbulence is on the rise. A 1920s campaign frame focusing on the restless dead of the Great War and the aftershocks of such carnage among the living has a lot of promise. It’s archetypal. It’s extensible. It’s timeless. Ghostbusters will always be my favorite, I guess.

#RPGaDAY 5: Most Old School RPG Owned

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Before we go any further, I need you to brace yourself. We’ve already covered that the first role-playing game I ever played was third edition Dungeons & Dragons. That’s a simple defect, though, one that could be rectified by any right-thinking GM with their copy of the red box handy, right? Maybe someday, sure, but not yet. I’ve never played or owned an edition of Dungeons & Dragons prior to third. The vast majority of games I own date from the 1990s or later. I’m a true third wave player. That said, I do own a couple games that come from the old school, or at least grew up listening to stories from the good old days.

Ghostbusters RPG box cover.It should not surprise anyone that I treasure the original Ghostbusters box set from West End Games. I found it for a steal on eBay, misfiled in the art supplies category, or somewhere weird like that. Still in the original shrinkwrap, with pristine manuals inside, the equipment cards unpunched and, the most treasured of treasures, the ghost die — scroll down a bit to see Dungeon Mistress showing her die off. It’s old school in that it sprang forth in the heady days when anything seemed possible, and nothing had been done before, and it’s the prototype system that went on to power countless Star Wars campaigns.

I’ve never actually used it, mind, because I’ve always gone with GURPS and, more recently, Cinematic Unisystem for my Ghostbusters convention games, but I love going to the plot seeds section for ideas and characters to adapt to my needs.

Playing Labyrinth Lord with Lasoleg the Elf, Gringo the Halfling, Bob the Cleric and Pope the Dwarf. Fittingly, Dingus the Thief cannot be seen.

Left to right: Lasoleg the Elf, Gringo the Halfling, Bob the Cleric and Pope the Dwarf. Fittingly, Dingus the Thief cannot be seen.

The other old school title in my library is Labyrinth Lord. It’s a retroclone, rather than a vintage, but I maintain its heart is in the right place. I once ran a game of Labyrinth Lord, far longer ago than I realized until I dug up that post. It was . . . fine. Crunchier and fiddlier than I would want to deal with in a game system, but fine. And I say that recalling how Neil, the unpictured Dingus in the picture, remarked that style of rule set was really too simple for strategically interesting decisions. Neil is a 3.x/Pathfinder guru who published his own rules supplement, so you can make your own call on that.

The Games of 2012

What did I play in 2012? Well, according to my log over at Boardgamegeek/RPGGeek.com, in 2012 I played:

  • Role-Playing Games
    • 36 sessions of Carrion Crown
    • 11 sessions of Skull & Shackles
    • 1 session of Fiasco
    • 2 session of Call of Cthulhu
    • 1 session of Qalidar / True 20
    • GMed 1 session of GURPS Ghostbusters
  • Board Games
    • 9 rounds of Betrayal at House on the Hill
    • 6 rounds of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game
    • 9 rounds of Dominion — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 4 rounds of Android: Netrunner
    • 4 rounds of Give Me the Brain!
    • 3 rounds of Pandemic
    • 2 rounds of 7 Wonders
    • 2 rounds of Arkham Horror — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
    • 1 round of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
    • 1 round of Castellan
    • 1 round of Chrononauts
    • 1 round of Chupacabra: Survive the Night
    • 1 round of Clue: Harry Potter Edition
    • 1 round of Cthulhu Fluxx
    • 1 round of Dungeon Petz
    • 1 round of Fealty
    • 1 round of Frag
    • 1 round of Guillotine
    • 1 round of IceDice
    • 1 round of Jungle Speed
    • 1 round of King of Tokyo
    • 1 round of Ligretto
    • 1 round of The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game
    • 1 round of Lords of Waterdeep
    • 1 round of Monty Python Fluxx
    • 1 round of Nefarious
    • 1 round of Small World Underground
    • 1 round of Smash Up
    • 1 round of Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation – The Next Phase
    • 1 round of Tales of the Arabian Nights
    • 1 round of Talisman
    • 1 round of Tobago

Carnage Noir

Carnage Noir happened over the weekend. It was, in short, good. I ran my Ghostbusters adventure — more on that in a later post — played Igor in a Discworld game with a lisp deemed incomprehensible, hooted and hollered during the Cube of Death geek trivia game show in the theater, caught up with many friends I hadn’t seen in a while and generally had a very, very good time.

2012 was a little bittersweet for me. Carnage is leaving the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee to take up residence in Killington come November 2013. So all weekend, I had little “this is the last time” moments: the last breakfast at Gilman’s Diner, the last sprint through the hotel’s warren-like halls with its inexplicable nooks, zigs and zags, the last pick-up game in the lounge and many more. Conventions move from hotel to hotel all the time and I recognize there will be some new lounge in which to hang and play games, but Lake Morey will always be special to me.

The prospect of going to Carnage came completely out of the blue in 2005. Days beforehand, a friend asked, “Hey, do you want to go to this?” I had no idea what it was, but signed on. I’ve gone every year since, as a player, as a GM, as a staff member. Clearly I am stuck in deep with the Carnage culture and community.

And that’s where Carnage shines. It has an air of conviviality, the feeling of a far-flung clan of kindred souls — now flung as far as Arizona and British Columbia, thanks to Monk and Munk — gathering for three days out of which everyone’s going to wring what they love best. It’s not just about playing games. That’s the vehicle. What that vehicle transports is community, shared joy and a good time.

In my eight years at Carnage, I’ve watched lasting friendships form and children grow up. The kids playing in the pool a few years ago are now playing games and running them. The newest generation of Carnage GMs stepped up this year with Dungeons & Dragons and Clay-O-Rama. A couple of adults hovered nearby, but you know, they weren’t needed. Those young GMs knew exactly what they were doing. And that’s pretty awesome.

Here’s to Carnage on the Mountain at Killington next year. We’re going to help make it exceptional all over again.

My Carnage in Wonderland Schedule

Despite knowing for months now what I want to run at Carnage this year, it took me way too long to come up convention book descriptions. That (embarrassingly minor) task is done, though, so now I turn to the great work of pulling together the many disparate threads to weave into two different wholes.

For the curious, Friday night you will find me continuing the saga of Ghostbusters International-Boston in GURPS Ghostbusters: The Girl in the Looking Glass. This one is based on my own starting premise and ideas gleaned from that game of InSpectres back in June:

There’s strange doings at the Fleming Museum. A phantasmal cat has been spied stalking the premises. Students attest to long, involved, ultimately unrewarding conversations with a giant caterpillar sucking on a hookah. The lead curator has gone missing, last seen walking into the newest exhibit: a recreation of Charles Dodgson’s study. Suit up, Ghostbusters! Characters are provided and no experience is necessary for this frightfully cheerful role-playing adventure.

Saturday night is a rather bolder move on my part, returning to the world of the Cabal I only got to skirt last summer in a stalled campaign. Martense College and its surroundings have lurked in the back of my head ever since then and lately I’ve gotten a lot of interesting ideas to inject into the setting. Travel with me, if you will, into GURPS Cabal: Eye of the Qlippothim:

Looking at sedate Martense College, hidden in the rolling green hills of New England, one would never guess at the secrets lurking beneath its liberal arts exterior. (Most of the time) out of sight of the unsuspecting public lies the black school within a school, the scholomance of the Cabal, educating the next generation of wizards, vampires, faeries and more.

And if a lively student body weren’t enough, reptoid hunting parties stalk the night, redcaps make mischief in the village and the hill clans of Luke’s Notch strike pacts with entities not seen in Creation since before the Great Flood. The lodge members of the Wheel of Ptah have their hands full. Join the fun! Characters are provided and no experience is necessary for this adventure, which uses a variant magic system from GURPS Thaumatology.

Yes, it’s that variant magic system. I’m really going to do this and I’m really going to make it work. August is my month to design and playtest of Eye of the Qlippothim, as I’d really like to give it a runthrough at Fall-loha.

Carnage in Wonderland Wrapping Up Submissions

Carnage in Wonderland‘s staff draw close to wrapping up game submissions in preparation for mailing the convention book all across New England.

Everywhere, GMs feverishly bring together scattered ideas for adventures to compose that pitch-perfect description, launching the plot hook right into the brain of the potential player, firing their imagination with promises of derring-do or dark dealings such that they have no recourse but to list it as their number one choice on their registration form.

I find myself in a similar boat. I have a general outline for my two role-playing adventures, but I don’t yet have the fine detail in place. I’ll bash out some snappy ad copy to catch the reading public’s attention, then work from there to make the reality meet the promise as much as possible.

Right now, all I want to say is that one will continue the saga of Ghostbusters International’s Boston much put-upon staff, who again find themselves sent forth to the Green Mountain State, and my second ever foray into the world of the Cabal — this time with a complete refit of the magic system, no less! I will probably toss in a board game for good measure, likely Frag as I do enjoy it and find it easy to teach.

Plot Seed Medley

Writing plot seeds is tricky. It’s easy to let yourself become repetitive. I find myself writing and rewriting them to stand out as unique. That’s why I so easily stalled on Plot-Seed-a-palooza. I do mean to get back to that someday.

In the meantime, enjoy revisiting some previously published plot seeds.

  1. Beastmen of the North Country lurk in the dark, silent woods.
  2. The Ghost Writer finds herself compelled to fulfill the authorial aspirations of the long-departed.
  3. Lincoln’s Blood proves a turning point for secret histories and wars.
  4. The Roxbury House is a spooky old house inspired by pictures taken by a friend of mine.
  5. Slayers and ‘Busters brings together two monster-hunting franchises to amuse the spectator in the incongruities and similarities.
  6. Something in Lake Champlain Uses Bio-Sonar is a highly suggestive thought about the sort of marine life lurking at the edges of human activity.
  7. Starless takes the contracting universe seen at the end of season five of Doctor Who and adds archaeologists of true history to the mix.
  8. This Man draws on an urban legend to create an ally or antagonist based in the dream world.
  9. Turn Me On, Dead Man presents an alternate history in which the star-crossed fates of two Beatles puts the world in jeopardy.
  10. The Voynich Manuscript is one of those archetypal plot seeds that everyone takes a stab at.

Spilled Milk

Geek Mountain State just posted this: a Ghostbusters fan film, called Spilled Milk. Made by the Ghostbusters of New Hampshire costuming group, it stars the same as paranormal exterminators on their home turf, dealing with a pesky ghost in the local convenience store.

The thing that tickled my own brain about this short is a lot of it is how I picture GBI-Boston looking: the modernized Ectomobile with arcane equipment hanging off the top — though I still prefer the look of the Subaru wagon — and contemporary-styled people hauling the old school proton packs.

It’s a good chuckle during your lunch time.

The Spirit Typewriter

Sunker Abaji Bisey's spirit typewriter.

Here’s an interesting gadget for ghost hunters: the spirit typewriter. As related by Phantoms and Monsters, the spirit typewriter is a variation on the Ouija board designed to remove the possibility of human interference.

A ring of blank typewriter keys is placed above the arm mechanisms. The ring can spin freely, so the user doesn’t know which key imprints which letter on a paper tape. In theory, whatever messages a person is compelled to type out on this machine should be more believable than anything received via a traditional spirit board, the output of which could be a result of the ideomotor effect.

This channeling device reminds me of a character I came up with a couple years back, the ghost writer. Jenny’s automatic writing talent — or affliction, depending on your perspective — assumes she writes in longhand, but the spirit typewriter could be an interesting prop for her. Perhaps a team of paranormal investigators insists she use it to prove her talent is genuine; it would probably flummox any aspiring author from a premechanical era. Or maybe it’s the only way her talent works; that would make more sense in a context where it’s a boon, rather than a duty or intrusion on her life. If Jenny made her living selling dead people’s work, needing the typewriter to do it and overcoming its loss or damage would work for her needing a favor from intrepid occult experts.