Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Prettiest RPGs You've Never Read

There are so many RPGs out there that one can never really be sure where to begin, when deciding to branch out beyond the game or games that initially brought you into the hobby. In my experience that usually means some flavor of Dungeons & Dragons, or White Wolf's Vampire series. It definitely seems like most people enter the role playing hobby through one of these two gateways. It was the D&D Basic series for me, first the Moldvay books, then the Mentzer colored box series. I remember fondly looking at my teenage bookshelf to see all five boxed sets sitting there in their glory. I only wish now that I still had them, for both nostalgia and collectors value. A quality non dented box is really tough to find these days. --And now I think I'm starting to sound like a comic book or action figure collector, so I'll go ahead and stop right there.

Back to the real topic - other games. In the course of my own inter-game explorations, I've come across many systems. One of the properties I have seen vary the most, but consistently improve over the years is the production value, also known scientifically as the "prettiness" of the book. A hard cover with pages that didn't fall out would have been considered great production value 15 years ago. My how things have changed since then. Nowadays, if you aren't pimping it out with full color, non standard sized glossy heavy paper stock, it seems like maybe you just aren't trying hard enough. Or perhaps it is the books that are doing that that are trying too hard? Tough to say. I have seen many beautiful, nay absolutely gorgeous books hit the shelves in the past few years. Several of these have even hit my own shelf. But unfortunately many of them have seemed to meet with no commercial success, and others have not even found critical success, outside of the acknowledgement of their design and production efforts.

It is with this in mind that I present to you some of the prettiest RPGs you've never heard of - all of which are sitting on my shelf right now.

Alpha Omega

http://www.alphaomegathegame.com/
A dice pool based primary game mechanic and a free form magic system taking place in a kitchen sink, post apocalyptic earth, in the years just preceding an alien v alien war in which Earth is the central battleground. For me the magic system, and the capability of the game engine to simulate Matrix-Like sequences, in which some actors are immensely faster than others, makes it worth taking a look. The system isn't for everyone, and is definitely on the crunchy side, but I don't find it to be bad crunch.
The monster manual for the game could easily function as a coffee table book of fantasy and sci-fi art, and is worth its purchase price for the inspiration it can lend, if nothing else.
Example Art:
This piece really highlights the tone of the game, showing the remains of Eiffel Tower set in front of the new Arcology, with wild growth all around outside of the fortress of civiliation that is the Arcology.

The Game book: 
The Encountered (The monster book)



Eoris Essence

http://eorisessence.blogspot.com/
I first discovered this one at GenCon about 5 years back, and preordered on the spot. They had an interested world idea, in which relative morality would be explored. The meta plot set the forces of god (in this world, a young girl) against well, itself. The idea was that god wants to die. But if she does, will the world cease to exist? "What is more important, god or her creation?" the text wonders. Another home grown system runs this game, focusing on the mental physical and emotional status of the PCs, trying to mechanically enable stress and demeanor along with the players' own role playing.

As with others in this post, the books are simply gorgeous. Set into 2 volumes, one for the game rules the other as a world book, they are both full color, glossy pages, and like Alpha Omega, laid out in hardcover landscape fashion, setting them apart from other books, but also making them handy at the table, since they fit a little better. The books ship in a slip case to contain both volumes as well.

The Books:

Example Art:

Nearly every third page contains a piece of art similar in quality as this!

Hell, even the character sheets are pretty:


Shadows of Esteren

http://shadowsofesteren.blogspot.com/
This game may be one you have heard of if you are a Kickstarter junkie like myself. They have launched 2 KS's, and been wildly successful with each, far exceeding their goals. The initial game book is available to all now and in distribution, I believe. I bought a copy directly from the studio at GenCon this past year. A system focused on mystery and terror, and unease is what the creators have tried to create. The game is set within a world of gothic, medieval style horror, enemies and monsters that are equal parts folklore and reality, the games are set are mystery, intrigue, and exploring the areas of the world that men were not meant to see.
The Book:

Example Art: 

Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard is based on the David Petersen comic, using rules based on the cult favorite system The Burning Wheel. Its ideas surrounding a character's beliefs and what they fight for is about as perfect a match you could find for the game of valiant guard mice, who range their lands, standing against nature and enemies alike to protect their realm and those within. A square shaped volume with thick, earth toned colorful pages, it is among my favorites. 
As if the book were not already pretty enough, it is also available as a boxed set with dice, the obligatory GM screen, cards, and tokens to round out the package.



What these games all have in common beyond their beauty is that they are all built on their own unique and independent game systems. The originality of the auhors' vision for their games presentation seems to also come out in their expression of the game rules. I won't pontificate on whether or not the rules are good, bad, or otherwise, but I will note that these games have all had limited success thus far. There are far too many factors to consider as to whether or not rule design takes away from its success, but for the same reason, we cannot say whether or not the games' beauty contributes much to it either.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

GenCon Panels for the GM Workshop are Approved!

That's right folks. That means that the GM Workshop will be bringing you 4 seminars this year. Well, only 3 of them are part of the GM Workshop series, with the fourth being a Dungeon Word 101 session for both players and GMs.


Here are the titles, descriptions and event numbers for you:

GM Workshop: Game Mastering 101
SEM1341378

Keeper, Dungeon Master, Game Master…there are many names for the job. Thinking about taking the reins at your game table? This seminar focuses on the issues and concerns common among new Game Masters.
We'll talk about what works and what doesn't. We'll talk about common traps to avoid, but most important, we'll get right to the heart of why its great to GM a game, and how you can have a blast doing it. The GM's Workshop series is always interactive. The wall between presenter and participants is torn down as we explore these topics together. With the speaker acting as moderator and guide through the topics, you are sure to learn, laugh, participate, and have a great time.


GM Workshop: Maintaining Drama in the Face of Relentless Dice Rolling
SEM1341379

Dice towers at the table - in the middle of the big scene! Why is no one interested?. Let's explore what makes people care about RPG stories and how to get your table as excited about it as you are.
We've all been there. It's a climactic moment in an epic story - or at least we thought it was. What went wrong? Where did the players excitement and interest go? This session of the GMs Workshop digs into ways of keeping everyone, player and GM alike enthusiastic and in the moment during game time.


GM Workshop: GM Cross-Training
SEM1341380

Come join a discussion in which the presenter explores how playing different RPG systems, including many 'independent' systems can contribute to a better command of GMing and better gaming in general.
Cortex+, FATE, Dungeon World, Fiasco, and other smaller press and Indie games have been making a lot of buzz in the hobby the past few years. Having played and GMed many of them has contributed to a new insight into my own GMing style and skills. Let's spend an hour discussing what be learned by widening your horizons, and how you can bring the many pieces together to make for better gaming

Dungeon World 101
SEM1343396


New to Dungeon World? Come learn how to play and run the Golden Geek 2012 Game of the Year - Dungeon World - A Game with Modern Rules & Old-School Style.
Based on the revolutionary Apocalypse World game engine created by Vincent Baker, Dungeon World takes the story driven game style of AW and brings it to fantasy adventures in lost dungeons and ancient kingdoms. Easy to learn, fun to play - Dungeon World is an award winning RPG blending the old a new schools of thought into a game that is stirring up the gaming world. Come find out what it is all about, learn to play and GM the game, and have a good time while doing it. --The GM's Workshop series is always interactive. The seminar wall between presenter and participants is torn down as we explore these topics together. With the speaker acting as moderator and guide through the topics, you are sure to learn, laugh, participate, and have a great time.


I will add the links when those go live for general browsing. Right now they are in event owner only mode, sorry.

Update! - All seminars will be help IN the ICC, thats right - you heard me correctly. Now you don't have to walk as far for even more awesomeness.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

GMs Workshop: Dungeon World 101


New to Dungeon World? Come learn how to play and run the Golden Geek 2012 Game of the Year - Dungeon World - A Game with Modern Rules & Old-School Style.

Based on the revolutionary Apocalypse World game engine created by Vincent Baker, Dungeon World takes the story driven game style of AW and brings it to fantasy adventures in lost dungeons and ancient kingdoms. Easy to learn, fun to play - Dungeon World is an award winning RPG blending the old a new schools of thought into a game that is stirring up the gaming world. Come find out what it is all about, learn to play and GM the game, and have a good time while doing it.
--The GM's Workshop series is always interactive. The seminar wall between presenter and participants is torn down as we explore these topics together. With the speaker acting as moderator and guide through the topics, you are sure to learn, laugh, participate, and have a great time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

GMs Workshop: How playing new systems made me a better GM

Come join a discussion in which the presenter explores how playing different RPG systems, including many 'independent' systems can contribute to a better command of GMing and better gaming in general.

Cortex+, FATE, Dungeon World, Fiasco, and other smaller press and Indie games have been making a lot of buzz in the hobby the past few years. Having played and GMed many of them has contributed to a new insight into my own GMing style and skills. Let's spend an hour discussing what be learned by widening your horizons, and how you can bring the many pieces together to make for better gaming.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions in advance of the seminar. I'm looking forward to seeing you in August!

GMs Workshop: Getting players into in the Game AND the Story

Dice towers at the table - in the middle of the big scene! Why is no one interested?. Let's explore what makes people care about RPG stories and how to get your table as excited about it as you are.

We've all been there. Its a climactic moment in an epic story - or at least we thought it was. What went wrong? Where did the players excitement and interest go? This session of the GMs Workshop digs into ways of keeping everyone, player and GM alike enthusiastic and in the moment during game time.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions in advance of the seminar. I'm looking forward to seeing you in August!

GMs Workshop: Game Mastering 101

Keeper, Dungeon Master, Game Master…there are many names for the job. Thinking about taking the reins at your game table? This seminar focuses on the issues and concerns common among new Game Masters.

We'll talk about what works and what doesn't. We'll talk about common traps to avoid, but most important, we'll get right to the heart of why its great to GM a game, and how you can have a blast doing it. The GM's Workshop series is always interactive. The wall between presenter and participants is torn down as we explore these topics together. With the speaker acting as moderator and guide through the topics, you are sure to learn, laugh, participate, and have a great time.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions in advance of the seminar. I'm looking forward to seeing you in August!