#RPGaDAY 21: Favorite Licensed RPG

#RPGaDAY prompts.

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

The Day After Ragnarok cover. A muscled man wielding an automatic firearm and knife poses aggressively in front of a rearing serpent.We’ve gone over the prime candidates for favorite RPG license in previous #RPGaDAY posts: Ghostbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Allow me, then, to split hairs and introduce The Day After Ragnarok, HERO edition. Yes, it’s an original setting by Kenneth Hite licensed to use the HERO system in this particular printing. Systemistas can also find it in savage and fated flavors.

When the Nazis summoned the world-spanning Midgard Serpent and it began devouring Atlantic convoys whole, President Truman ordered the Trinity device flown into the serpent’s maw. The colossal thing died, crashing across Europe. The far-reaching consequences of Serpentfall wrought havoc with the global climate, atmosphere and more.

Basically, it’s post-apocalyptic fantasy in 1948, and the apocalypse is only a few years behind. America and Europe have been trashed. There are holdouts of western society trying to keep on as before, but the infrastructure just isn’t there anymore. Sorcery is on the rise, as well as ultra-weird science as the adventurous mine the Midgard Serpent for unearthly materials with bizarre properties.

Regardless of your rules preferences, Day After Ragnarok is a very cool setting for mixing up the modern day with sword and sorcery fantasy. I talked more about the game with my friend Joe on Carnagecast.

The 10,000 Year Clock

The clock will run for ten millennia — at least, that’s the plan. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is building a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. It’s a monumental undertaking, to be housed in a 500 hundred foot shaft drilled into a mountain ridge, incorporating massive metal gears and other elements of equal stature. The project is “a symbol of the power of long-term thinking. [Bezos’] hope is that building it will change the way humanity thinks about time, encouraging our distant descendants to take a longer view than we have.” You can read more about the clock at its own web site.

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[Green Mountain Game Days] Summer Game ‘n Grill 2011

Chuck (standing) checks in on the crew of the Burlington InSpectres franchise: Suri, Siobhan, Frank, Charlton, Joe and Andy (left to right).

Last Saturday at the Summer Game ‘n Grill, we got to play two, count ’em, two role-playing games. And I didn’t have a brain fart as embarrassing as at Lyndonville, so I’m counting the day as a complete win.

The early morning was spent setting up the grange — stocking the fridge and snack stand, shifting tables — and then waiting for a critical mass of role-players to arrive, namely the crew from central Vermont.

Once they rolled in, we got to business.
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Exploring Gamma World

Two months ago, about mid-November, I got a funny bug in my brain. See, Held Action has had a Twitter account for a while — @heldaction — which for the most part just relays notifications of when new posts go up here. But ever since I discovered my favorite instant messaging client, Adium, had Twitter functionality, I’ve been much more predisposed to watch the tweets go by. And since most of the people I follow are somehow involved in role-playing games, it’s not surprising one hears about new games and supplements as they hit the market.

What does surprise me is that tweets about playing Gamma World at Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington, D.C. got me to look at some reviews for it, like Dave Chalker’s, which then got me to want to try it. At first this was going to be a private one-shot thing, but with the holiday season underway that seemed infeasible. The next opening was the Winter Weirdness game day in Barre, so I leaped on that as the place to try it. I think this was mostly me trying to justify a purchase of a new shiny with the excuse that it was in the name of a good cause: building the role-playing scene at the Green Mountain Game Days.

As things actually happened, and lucky for me they did, I got in a test run well before Winter Weirdness with a different group of people. We played through the adventure included in the core box set, “Steading of the Iron King.” And that was for the best, because this was my first substantive encounter with the fourth edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons — and that’s an interesting thing about this new version of Gamma World, in full it’s branded as D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game, the implication to me being it’s positioned as a short-term alternative or supplement for full-bore Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Continue reading

The Acquisition Imperative

Periodically, I get a yen to buy a board game or role-playing game. It’s a strong enough yen that I’ll fixate on it for some time. A couple years ago, for reasons I still can’t fathom, it was a general impulse to buy HERO System books. I gave in to that one and wound up with two or three feet of shelf space given over to books pushing a system I wasn’t entirely sold on. I think I’ve run precisely one session of role-playing using HERO, the sole session of an ersatz Spelljammer campaign I called Known Spheres. That game actually died for scheduling reasons rather than a dislike for HERO, just for the record.

Anyway, I get on these “want it all” or “I want that so much” kicks. For the most part, I keep on top of them, mostly by waiting myself out. Sometimes I will actually get to try the game without buying, usually discovering it’s not something I want. And there are the times I make mistakes.

Lately, the game I’ve fixed on is Talisman, the old fantasy adventure offering from Games Workshop. I will admit that Talisman is not a good game by any means. You roll a die, move your character and, most often, draw at least one card. Even the direction you move along the board doesn’t always matter, as you’ll draw the same card regardless of whether you go right or left. Nevertheless, I do find the game entertaining. The art evokes a simple, parochial sort of fantasy world that’s miles closer to how I envisioned The Hobbit on first reading than the design of Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films or the dungeonpunk aesthete that’s percolated through role-playing games since the launch of Dungeons & Dragons‘ third edition.

Right now, I get to play Talisman once every couple of months whenever Nonny happens to bring it to Tuesday night at Quarterstaff Games, which is probably just enough to keep me from getting tired of the game. But I do find myself thinking “I could easily pick up Fantasy Flight’s new edition of the game, which is widely available and has a steady stream of new content coming out.” (This sets aside the question of whether I need a steady stream of new content; being disappointed by weak Arkham Horror expansions contributed to the lessening of my ardor for that game.)

Recently, the promotion of the new Gamma World happening on Twitter has gotten to me. I really would like to try this, because it sounds like a goofy good time, which is about the only way I want to deal with the premise of “after the Mega-Whoops.” It’d also be a chance to take a good, long look at the rules underlying Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, on which this iteration of Gamma World is based.

Here’s my conundrum: I’ve always — more often than, fairly frequently, a bit, when it suits me — said it’s better to use the stuff you’ve got than buy yet another set of rules for role-playing that are ultimately only slightly different from the dozens one already owns. But the point of trying the new Gamma World is one’s trying the new Gamma World, not mimicking it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or whatever else. So the usual tactic of “use what you’ve got” doesn’t work, partly for the system involved, but also because I don’t have any role-playing materials about a wacky post-apocalypse.

My first tactic is to mitigate the risk of a non-utilized purchase. If I actually play this one, unlike the many, shamefully unplayed role-playing games on my shelves, I can better rationalize the purchase — which is probably still a logical fallacy given past behavior and the extent by which similar decisions have changed notably in their outcomes. To this end, I’m trying to find some people to commit to playing Gamma World at Winter Weirdness on January 8th.

At what point does a $40 box set become worth it? One play? Two? Six? A dozen? In dollars per hour, if we play a four hour session at Winter Weirdness, that’s $10 per hour of play, not counting tax. If one considers preparation time entertaining and it takes ten hours to absorb everything in the box, it’s less than $3 per hour, but I don’t really hold with that perspective.

Again, though, I think this is an expression of my recurring “Ooh, new. Want!” impulse. I could just ignore it, stick with Ghostbusters and Fiasco for Winter Weirdness and go on my way. That honestly makes the most sense and saying “We’ll have Gamma World to play!” isn’t really going to make a difference in who turns out, will it?

What would you do?