Tactical tabletop RPGs are having a moment. I want that moment to stop right the fuck now. Lancer’s tactical mechanics ruined an otherwise brilliant sci-fi game. Then Lancer’s publisher made a fantasy counterpart, ICON. Now the creator of the beloved and very not-tactical Wanderhome has thrown their hat into that terrible ring with In The Time Of Monsters.
All this dudes-on-a-grid nonsense has forced me to come to grips with my own past sins. Many moons ago, before I knew better, I once liked a heavily tactical RPG. And I am ashamed.
“Tabletop games are exposed engineering: they don’t just let us see their nuts and bolts, they let us touch them; rearrange them. Change them.” — Brett J. Gilbert
Absolute certainty is unknowable. People can be 70% or 90% certain of a thing, but anyone that’s 100% certain of anything other than physical phenomena, like gravity, is either lying or just wrong. That said, the want for complete certainty is what sustains business book publishers. So here we are.
FRAUD, n. The life of commerce, the soul of religion, the bait of courtship and the basis of political power.
— from The Devil’s Dictionary
A few years back, researchers ran a series of social experiments involving Monopoly. Some players started with twice as much cash, while their unlucky opponents started with the standard amount. The Poors were further hobbled by being limited to rolling only one die instead of two. You’d think that when the advantaged players inevitably took the lead, they’d chalk it up to those advantages. That’s not what happened.
“Final report, the commercial star-ship Nostromo. Third officer reporting. The other members of the crew — Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas — are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier within six weeks. With a little luck the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”
— Ellen Ripley, “Alien”
To the first-time or newly-minted gamer, D&D is considered the default RPG. That shit needs to stop. As I’ve said many times, Dungeons & Dragons is the conservative oligarch of roleplaying games.
Wargaming Experiences has a lot going on. It’s a book on designing serious games. And it’s a design diary for the author’s scenarios. And it’s the personal story of the author’s journey to enact useful wargaming within NATO. The early chapters detail the author’s framework for developing useful wargames. The rest of the book examines the scenarios the author designed and facilitated. The scenarios range from assassination response to getting local leaders to cooperate. Within each wargame case study are lessons learned and personal insights from each experience.
Those are the basics. Here are the important bits.
Chapter 5, Methodology…
Last month a gamer with the screen name ‘Ocule’ posted a ‘TTRPG Guide to Woke Companies’ on The RPG Site. The post categorized RPG publishers by how socially aware their products or marketing appeared to be. This list was later turned into a Google doc and expanded upon.
The following is based on the document as of 9/6/21. Publishers on the Green list were considered “Not Woke or Indifferent”. Publishers on the Yellow list were considered “Sort of Woke”. Publishers on to Red list were considered “Woke”.
To call Labyrinth’s rules a “system” is laughable, and that’s a good thing. The player characters have no stats. Just Traits and Flaws, which improve or hinder rolls, and you only start with one of each. Each kin (species) adds a little more variety. Humans start with an extra Trait. Horned Beasts (what Ludo was) can control one kind of inanimate object. Etc.
Technically it’s a 1d6 system, but you often roll two dice and take the higher or lower result, depending on your Traits and Flaws. Occasionally the situation itself can also improve or hinder a roll.
When the Kickstarter for Avatar: Legends launched, a good chunk of the RPG scene shat a brick because it didn’t attribute the Powered by the Apocalypse system to its creators. It mentioned other PbtA games as examples: Masks, Monster of the Week, and Root. But nowhere did it mention Apocalypse World itself, which all of the above games owe their existence to. This was fixed a few weeks back, but attribution is not what the RPG community owes Apocalypse World.
They owe it awe.
Specifically for three of my favorite things: Language, Sex, and Violence. Strong language is used liberally…
In Lancer, you play a lancer. There are other mechs pilots in the galaxy, but lancers are the best of the best at piloting weapons of last resort. If lancers are deployed, shit is about to hit the fan or it already has.
Mechs in Lancer are less like walking tanks and more like wearable spell books in a Clarke’s Third Law kind of way. Except for the starter model, the mechs lancers use vary dramatically. Between 29 Frames with 30 Core Bonuses, 77 Weapons, and 126 Systems, the number of possible configurations is staggering. …