Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Escapist - roleplaying advocacy

I really wish there were more people in the roleplaying hobby. Folks may have any number of reasons for not getting involved in roleplaying, for instance:
  • they don't know such a thing even exists
  • they've heard stories about roleplaying which give the hobby a negative reputation
  • they don't have time to get involved in another time-consuming hobby
  • they feel that they lack the skills or imagination required to play well
  • they know all about RPGs, but they just aren't interested
  • they're interested but don't know how to get started
  • they want to play, but don't have anyone else to play with
Whatever the reasons, I still wish more people would give roleplaying a try. It engages many parts of a person's mind and stimulates creativity, among other benefits.

I'm not the only person who wishes more people would play RPGs. William J. Walton publishes a website and a podcast, both about roleplaying advocacy. He works hard to make the truth about RPGs known while dispelling myths. He sees RPGs as an educationally valuable experience in which all different types of people can and should participate.

I recommend visiting his website, The Escapist, and listening to his biweekly podcast, The Escapistcast. The amount of information Walton presents is astonishing. He seems to catch every mention of roleplaying in the news, and has a number of interesting projects he's working on for promoting the hobby.

If you love roleplaying and wish other people did too, head over to the Escapist and support Walton's work!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Spirit of the Century actual play audio

I was searching the Net the other day for some Spirit of the Century (SotC) actual play for a friend of mine who plays in my regular group. He was looking for some well-done audio. Good news: I found some.

A simple Google search brought me to a page on which houses an ample supply of SotC actual play audio recordings. Some are scenes, some are full adventures. They're pretty much all done by Mel White who records the podcast, Virtual Play.

The quality of these recordings is impressive. Most of the other actual play audio I've sampled on the Web suffers from various problems, primarily these three:
  • The mic isn't good and it's really hard to hear everything that's going on
  • There is a lack of focus and players are constantly making jokes
  • The audio isn't edited down to the interesting bits, so you're forced to sit through all the tedium
What I love about Mel White's recordings is that he solves all three problems. His recording quality is good - you can hear all players. He keeps a lot of focus, so the adventure is always moving forward. (Part of this could be that I've been listening to sessions recorded at conventions. I can see where this kind of session would be conducive to game focus, in contrast to a group of buddies sitting around the basement table eating pizza, joking left and right.) While the audio isn't edited, as far as I can tell, it's really not an issue since there is negligible downtime.

But what makes these recordings really enjoyable to me is that Mel seems to really understand SotC. He knows how the game works, and he's good at guiding players to use the mechanics well. Listening to the situations in his adventures improves my own knowledge of the system, which will in turn improve my GMing.

If you want to hear SotC in action, download some of the files I linked to above and enjoy Mel's great work.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

News: RPG Geek and PDQ#

This week, the Games on the Table News Dept has some topics of interest for you.

The new Geek in town

Don't you enjoy those times when your life is energized by the anticipation of something good? So do I. And right now, I'm really looking forward to a treat that's coming down the pipeline for roleplayers: RPG Geek.

When it comes to board gaming, BoardGameGeek is the ultimate one-stop website on the internet. They have everything you could want: community, a marketplace, a complex and comprehensive database of all the board games you can imagine, all synchronized through and through. You can track your personal collection, track plays, write reviews and articles, upload files and images - it does it all. The site is a masterpiece, meeting all the needs of people in the hobby.

Just this week, the code for BoardGameGeek was rewritten to improve functionality. Part of the upgrade to BGG 2.0 included the ability to more easily transpose the structure of BGG to other hobbies. This has been one of the constant requests from the BGG community, and now Scott Alden and his team have done it.

The first known transposition will be RPG Geek. I'm looking forward to this. Imagine one database where you can look at reviews, images, user-created files, and where you can track your own RPG collection, all the while communicating with other gamers. There are good RPG sites and communities out there, but none that do everything, especially not with the quality of the BGG interace. Get ready, my roleplaying friends. This will be a sweet site.

I'll have my eyes on the progress and release of RPG Geek. When the site is up, you know you'll hear about it here.

Swash your buckles with the new PDQ

Although I haven't yet had the opportunity to actually play or run a game using the PDQ system, I do follow the happenings of Chad Underkoffler's work on his PDQ system. The system interests me because it is rules-light, and seems to share some of the qualities I appreciate in Spirit of the Century (Fate 3.0 system). I do own Tim Gray's Questers of the Middle Realms which is built on the PDQ engine and look forward to playing it.

In late 2008, Mr. Underkoffler made available an updated version of the PDQ core rules called "PDQ#" (PDQ Sharp). This version is specifically tailored to a swashbuckling game. It is this set of rules that the upcoming Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies will be built upon.

When I first read about S7S last year, I was immediately intrigued. The idea of sky pirates and airships is just sweet to me. The airships in the Final Fantasy video game series were always fascinating, and while I didn't play Skies of Arcadia, it looked cool, and I bought the soundtrack. I love the idea of airships/sky pirates/sky sailors. (I also tried reading Paul Stewart's The Edge Chronicles, but the gritty style had me returning the book to the library before I finished the first half of the book. Still, the morsels about sky pirates were cool.)

So I was pretty excited about the concept of S7S, until I read this page in Mr. Underkoffler's blog. While the bit about "setting-heavy" isn't attractive to me, what really turns me off is this statement:
S7S has intriguing (to me) sexual politics. Each Island has a different take on gender relationships; this is intentional. I'm afraid that people won't notice it. The inclusion, here, is intended to spark intriguing thoughts: a female Viridese Warmaster interacting with a Colronan Musketeer SHOULD bring up culture-clash. I crave it.

But will other folks find it as interesting as I do?
This kind of thing would quickly spoil the good parts of an RPG for me. First of all, I work to keep "sexual" out of all my hobbies except for my marriage. But even worse is if sexuality is tied up in a world's politics. I just don't know what to think right now regarding S7S. I wonder if PDQ# would enable playing in my own world of airships and cloud islands? I have yet to read PDQ#, so I can't determine that just now. It's on my list of things to do when I get the time. Stay posted for my thoughts on PDQ and S7S in the future.

The taste of pulp

In another session or two, I'll finish the current adventure I've been GMing. It's in a fantasy setting, using the SotC rules. After that, one of the other guys is taking over as GM for a standard SotC game, by the book, with a few little mods.

In the past, I would have said, "I don't really want to play anything other than fantasy. That's part of the fun for me." I'm a big fantasy fan, hence my love for the fantasy setting in roleplaying. But now that I've been exposed to SotC, through reading the book and playing it, I've really come to appreciate the pulp genre. My tastes have adjusted to the point that I'm actually eager to play in the pulp setting now.

So, I'm psyched for the upcoming adventure, when I'll be sitting back into the player's seat. The guy who's GMing and I have been talking a lot about SotC, and how we can improve our use of it for the upcoming adventures. We've realized that we need to be much more active in our spending of Fate points and in performing maneuvers. We're also thinking of tweaking the skills system to use something other than the pyramid.

I also had a little burst of inspiration the other day and jotted down some neat ideas for the next SotC adventure I'll run. So much fun roleplaying, so little time. Drat!

So, thanks to the guys who created SotC, not only for a good system, but for writing a newbie's guide to the appreciation of pulp.