Saturday, July 31, 2021

It's time for #RPGaDAY2021

Tomorrow is the beginning of #RPGaDay2021! This is one of those hashtag events that started 8 years ago. In previous years, the creator of the event had an RPG related question for each day of August that people would answer using the hashtag on Twitter and posting wherever else they pleased. In more recent years they have moved from specific questions towards single word prompts. They are basically a good excuse to take inspiration from the prompt word and use it as a reason to opine upon some aspect of the roleplaying hobby. The creators also encourage people to use the event to broadly inspire really any kind of RPG related content, be it tweets, blog posts, videos, drawings, or any other creative endeavor that may be sparked. This year is not too unlike recent previous years, differing only in that this year they are offering alternate prompts on days, for those times when the prompt word of the day just stumps you, but you still want to participate. Here is the list for this year:

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So, I've done this in years past on Twitter and been fairly happy with it. This year will be the first year I ramp it up to full blog posts. Hopefully I'll be able to tweet something satisfactory enough that will then link to my blog here where I'll expand up on it. That means you're in for 31 days of at least daily posts, so I hope it doesn't drive you crazy! In fact, #RPGaDay is kinda what inspired me to start up this blog. I've blogged in the past, but am hoping to have launched something more consistent here at Uzis, Capes & Katanas. In addition to all the posts incoming for #RPGaDay2021, I've taken to scheduling a regular minimum 1 post a week. My idea is to bank up some posts so I have material that will come out on a regular schedule, even if I find myself in a lull for a short bit. I'm aiming for some consistent level of output, rather than bursts of activity followed by months of nothing. People leave sites like that, thinking they're dead. 

Anyways, enough about all of that. Look forward to a month of RPG posts each and every day here in August, and if you're on Twitter definitely check out the #RPGaDay2021 hashtag if you're interested in what other people have to say. It's a mixed bag of course, but every year I find a few people posting some interesting stuff and maybe follow them on Twitter or add their blogs to my RSS reader. Discovery. Ciao!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Batman - The Joker Wins Again!

Funny story. In my previous post I went on about a number of old RPGs I recently purchased on eBay. One of those was 1989's Batman Role-Playing Game. I'd seen copies of this game before, I knew what it looked like. The copy I ordered looked near mint, beautiful! Then the game arrived. Something seemed off...

It looks damned good, but... are those staples? This game is too big for that!

Uh oh, the Joker is laughing at me! Also... on the right hand side, is that the spine I'm seeing?

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That's right, it's 1989 and Micheal Keaton of "Mr. Mom" fame is starring in a new Batman movie! Are you, games retailer, ready to buy copies to sate the hoards of new roleplayers that are sure to come in the wake of this movie? Mayfair Games is going all out with promotions and cardboard stands and all the rest! Well, it turns out that what I accidentally purchased was an 8 page promotional booklet hawking the Batman Role-Playing Game. Yes, the promo booklet uses the same product code and same exact front and back covers as the actual game. It starts with a pitch to retailers, then prints a bit of an intro to roleplaying, then the very beginning of the rules as a sample. The eBay listing didn't really clue me in to any of this, but if I'd known such a promo booklet existed there is a slim chance I may have noticed that the staples were visible in the front cover shot of the listing, tipping me off that it wasn't the full game.

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An interesting thing about this is that I'm not sure I actually feel "ripped off". I mean, I immediately put in for another Batman Role-Playing Game (and it arrived and is totally as expected!), but... this is actually a weird artifact in basically mint condition from 1988/89, and how many retailers kept these on hand and in perfect condition? It's definitely more rare than the actual game. Also... something about that first page, "Cash in on the fever!", and the Joker cackling on the back cover. It's like... joke's on me, sucker! It's thematically appropriate. Yeah, you got me Joker.

I think I'll toss it in my DC Heroes 2nd Edition box, and maybe sharpen my eyes for the next time schemes are afoot.

P.S. Oh... and if you want to see this 8 page promo booklet next to the real deal RPG, here you go... (real deal on the left, promo on the right).

Good times!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

eBay and Old Games

As a fan of roleplaying games generally, I have a fairly extensive physical collection and a properly absurd electronic collection. The popularization of Print on Demand and PDF publishing has done quite a bit to keep old gems still available. The most difficult games to acquire anymore fall into two categories: 1.) Small press RPGs that lived and died before digitalization came along to keep them available. 2.) RPGs for licensed properties, where the license has now elapsed. For RPGs in those categories, there are basically two ways to acquire them: 1.) PDF piracy. Maybe someone, somewhere, has scanned this old RPG and it's getting passed around wherever RPG PDFs get passed around. 2.) eBay (or diving through hobby store used stock, etc.) I'm not above taking route #1, but I'm a bit old fashioned in that I enjoy having physical copies to hold and read wherever. What this means practically is that any game I get fond of I've gotta grab in a physical format. My interest in RPGs spans the entire history of the hobby. I kind of think of RPGs a bit like bands and music. You develop a certain taste for music, and you go back through the history to see who influenced who, and you uncover old gems and notice interesting new takes.

Anyways, all of this means that from time to time I splurge and pick up some old RPGs from eBay. I have a vague list in my head of classics that come up, or I read an old RPG in PDF and discover it was pretty great, then I start searching. Sometimes, like people do with their hobbies, I'll end up asking myself, "Hey, are you spending too much on this?" I have my limits, but usually I'll justify it to myself with something like, "Hey, you remember all of those Kickstarters you backed for games that either weren't so classic, or haven't even delivered at all?" Yeah, I think that picking up old games on eBay is a safer bet than Kickstarting a new RPG based on an exciting pitch. It's not like most of us will ever play all of the games we have as it is. Certainly I can wait to see how a Kickstarter RPG turns out and buy it through normal means later if it turns out to be the new hotness (umm, if I have to... but... maybe I just back it anyways).

All of this has been prelude, by the way. What I'm really wanting to do is tell you about some stuff I bought recently!

Marvel Super Heroes (Basic Revised)

Yeah, I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with Marvel Super Heroes, the RPG with the table with the green, yellow and red results, published by TSR also referred to sometimes as FASERIP (based on the seven attributes). It is widely considered a classic, and the original Basic Set is the first RPG I ever owned. The original Basic Set was released in 1984, followed by the Advanced set in 1986. There are a number of people who aren't aware of the Basic Revised set, which was released in 1991. I feel people focus mostly on the Advanced set, as so many supplements were published for it and people have a tendency to think of "Advanced" as "Better". Each edition of this game has its own strengths and weaknesses, in my eyes. One thing to realize about MSH is that it does not aim for some kind of firm, rigorous tactical balance with every detail of a character's abilities statted out. The game is unusual in that "character modeling" seems to be the preferred default character generation method. Basically, that means, "Describe your character. You and the GM work out the stats." It almost seems like the random character creation method is provided as a fallback. As something they had to provide because other games provided it. In fact, I now see the random character generation method as akin to GM tools in other RPGs, like Star System Generation in Traveller, or tools to stock hexes with content in OSR RPGs. It is there to spark your imagination, and that's it. If it helps, great, if it doesn't help, ditch it.

So, regarding the different editions... I do consider the original '84 Basic set as just a touch more basic than I prefer. I do like its open approach to magic (with the Personal, Universal and Dimensional Energies, and how they each work differently) perhaps better than any of the later editions. It might benefit from a little more formality, but I like it. The '86 Advanced set has a lot of fun things going for it. That bit about building your own base was evocative. They had stats for everybody in the whole Marvel Universe! Clearly it expanded on the Powers and Talents, adding some good stuff. If I had anything bad to say about the Advanced set is that it added crunch here and there inconsistently. Especially if someone was dedicated to random character creation and had to include "Ultimate Powers", things quickly went to wacky town. Certain power descriptions detailed rules that led to some brokenness that simply leaving things at "Yeah, this power does Power Rank in Damage, add special tricks by using/adding Stunts" would have avoided. Also, the Ranks being a range of numbers added fiddliness to the game without being worth its cost in additional fun. That takes me to the '91 Basic Revised rules. Basic Revised keeps what is good about the Advanced Set, while simplifying and rolling back the added details that didn't pay off in more fun. I think Basic Revised actually has more Talents than any edition of the game, though it has fewer Powers than Advanced. It still covers all of the bases though. 

Anyways, I already owned physical copies of the other two editions. I had to grab this one to complete the set!

P.S. If you dig the whole d100 chart based resolution style used in Marvel Super Heroes, TSR got kind of obsessed with it for a while and tossed it into some other games such as: Conan (David "Zeb" Cook, 1985), Gamma World 3rd Edition (Jim Ward, 1986), Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space for Star Frontiers (Kim Eastland, 1986). Maybe I missed some?

P.P.S. If you're wanting some more Marvel based RPGing, multiple games have been released since the TSR "FASERIP" version. They include Marvel SAGA, also released by TSR in 1998, using a card based system. In 2003 Marvel themselves would publish the Marvel Universe RPG using an interesting, if not fully baked, system using stones and power pools, with no dice or other randomizers. In 2012 Margaret Weis Productions would create Marvel Heroic Roleplaying with a bit more of a story-game flavor. Most recently, it has been announced that Marvel themselves will be at it again with the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game, with an initial release slated for 2022 using the "D616 system". We don't know what any of this means yet, but Matt Forbeck is said to be heading up the effort.

The Batman Role-Playing Game

Mayfair Games released this game back in '89, it is said, to capitalize on the release of the Keaton Batman movie that came out that same year. For those that don't know, this game is part of the DC Heroes lineage, using what was called the MEGS system (Mayfair Exponential Game System). The original DC Heroes was released in '85, 2nd edition was released in '89 (after the Batman RPG was released), and 3rd edition followed in '93. Mayfair eventually folded as a company and the ruleset would be picked up again to make a game called Blood of Heroes (around 2000). DC Heroes 2nd edition, 3rd edition, and Blood of Heroes have rules so similar that you can essentially use the books for them interchangably. DC Heroes 1st edition was released before Crisis on Infinite Earths and the power scaling is a little different than in later editions. The Batman game is considered by some to be a somewhat simpler "1.5 edition" of the rules, closer to 2nd edition than 1st however. It's a good bit slimmer than other editions of DC Heroes (a game that packs a ton into its already reasonably slim page count). Both DC Heroes and Marvel Super Heroes are widely considered to have withstood the test of time in the world of Supers RPGs, 35-ish years after they first came to us. That's pretty great. 

Likewise... I already own physical copies of the other DC Heroes editions. I had to grab Batman and round it out!

P.S. If you like the MEGS system, maybe check out Underground. It also uses a version of the MEGS system, not quite compatible with DC Heroes, portraying a somewhat comical dystopia full of abandoned military vets and other craziness in a cyberpunk-like near future.

P.P.S. If you like some DC comics super roleplaying, so far 2 more RPGs have been created using the DC license. One is DC Universe from 1999 by West End Games, using a variation on their "d6 system" (Ghostbusters, Star Wars, d6 Fantasy/Adveture/Space, etc.) The other is DC Adventures from 2010 by Green Ronin, using the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition rules (a ruleset that evolved out of Open Game Licensed d20 material, from the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition era). Another RPG for Batman in particular is rumoured to be in development by Monolith, based on some late 2020 articles, titled Batman: Gotham City Chronicles - The Role-Playing Game. As the company is mostly known for producing board games and news has been sparse, rules details are unknown.

Chill 1st Edition

Chill 1st Edition was released by Pacesetter in 1984. My first exposure to Chill was in its 2nd edition, published by Mayfair Games in 1990. Back then, I remember liking the 2nd edition for covering a lot of classic horror and monster material in a pretty traditional way. It wasn't trying to rework our understanding of monsters in a White Wolf kind of way. It's all haunted houses and creaking doors, and I'm totally down for it. I guess there was even a 3rd edition of this game created coming out by another publisher in 2015. They do share at least some rules and are recognizably different versions of the same game. As for the Pacesetter 1st edition, my interest in it was sparked out of interest in another game. See, Pacesetter had a bit of a house system they used in their games that I first got exposure to through a game called Star Ace, a rollicking space opera game I really dug the vibe on. Character creation in Star Ace amounted to "Roll up some stats, assign, choose which of these 4 types of Star Ace you are, choose 3 skills, play", and it had a breezy seat-of-the-pants thing going on. The system does use d100 and a chart, not entirely unlike how Marvel Super Heroes does, though they are quite different games. Chill 2nd edition was created in a time where charts had become unfashionable, and so it removes the chart while also mildly increasing crunch at the same time. 

Anyways, based on the breezy vibes of Star Ace's take on the Pacesetter house system, combined with liking the traditional spooky monsters vibe of Chill 2nd edition meant I had to grab Chill 1e!

P.S. If you like Chill 1e's system, as mentioned it was also used for the space opera game Star Ace, and also a time travelling game by Pacesetter called Timemaster. In modern times, Goblinoid Games and a new Pacesetter have released Cryptworld, ROTWorld, and I hear some other game material that also use these original Pacesetter games as the core rules inspiration.

The Star Wars Rules Companion

This is a supplement for West End Games' Star Wars 1st edition from 1987, the supplement coming out in 1989. The WEG Star Wars game was most people's first exposure to the "d6 system" that actually was used for their Ghostbusters game a year earlier in 1986. After the 1987 Star Wars a 2nd edition was released in 1992, followed by a "Revised & Expanded" 2nd edition in 1996 (and a fan created "Revised, Expanded & Updated" version from around 2014). A notable thing about the West End Games Star Wars RPG was that supplements for the game served as raw material used by a number of novelists writing books that were basically what the Star Wars fandom had to tide them over until the release of the Prequel movies starting in 1999. Anyways, like a lot of RPGs, Star Wars grew slightly more complicated with each new edition. In its first edition the game did not even have a formal initiative system in combat, as most people expected at the time. The rule was basically that, if timing mattered, whoever rolled highest had their thing happen first. The Star Wars Rules Companion added a number of rules, bringing the game up to something like a Star Wars Edition 1.5. Especially as I get older, I tend to prefer earlier, lighter editions of RPGs. I have the 1st edition due to the recent Fantasy Flight Games 30th Anniversary reprints, and considered the Rules Companion to be the only essential supplement to pick up!

P.S. If you dig the d6 system used by this game... boy, are there a lot of other games that use it. Rather than list them here, I'll point you to Wikipedia for a mostly comprehensive list (that misses some of the later indie games to pick up the now open system for use in their own games). 

P.P.S. If you dig some licensed Star Wars RPGing, alternatives were to be had. After WEG, the next publisher to get a shot was Wizards of the Coast with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game in 2000, which they then followed up with a slightly revised edition in 2002, both based largely on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rule set. Wizards of the Coast would then release the Star Wars Roleplaying Game - SAGA Edition in 2007 using a more streamlined rule set that feels like it falls somewhere between Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and 4th edition. Starting in 2013 Fantasy Flight Games would produce a Star Wars RPG in the form of a number of core books based on different types of characters - Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (for playing smugglers, bounty hunters, pirates etc.), Star Wars: Age of Rebellion (for playing rebel soldiers and freedom fighters against the evil Galactic Empire), and Star Wars: Force and Destiny (for playing the last Jedi Knights under the Empire's rule).

Yeah, that's what I've picked up lately. As it now stands, I think I'm caught up with every classic system I want except one. I'd still like to grab the original Ghostbusters RPG whenever I can find it for a reasonable price. I already have some other classics picked up from eBay, including games such as Victory Games' James Bond 007, Golden Heroes, and even some other editions of the games mentioned above. I'm sure I'll dig up other oldies to want eventually. Another nice thing happening now since the OSR resulted in a bunch of retro-clones of older D&D editions, is that other non-D&D games are receiving their own retro-clones, keeping out of print games alive in some form into the future.

The Year of Absence

Oh man! It happened. Any of you still around may vaguely remember that my last post was about some minor progress I had made on a "Game...