Archive for the ‘recommended’ Category


June Game Hype

June 1, 2021

Wrapped up my Uncharted Worlds game, and will be done with my Perilous game by the end of the month, so I get a break from GMing for awhile. I’ve been so tied up with stress and work that I haven’t even had a chance to look close at the last several months of game hype stuff. But… more keeps coming.

Into the Motherlands

Afro Futurist sci-fi! I’ve seen some of the streamed episodes and it looks really interesting! Cyborgs, symbiotic modded humans, and more. So far on the game stream they’ve used a variant of Cortex, but they might change systems for the full game. One benefit to having a strong creative team and play under their belt is they can decide which parts of play were highlights vs. bumpy parts and refine their system around that.

Apocalypse World

An oldie but goodie. My UW game wraps up and another friend will be GMing Apocalypse World, which I haven’t gotten to play in, in years. I highly recommend people who want to play or make Powered by the Apocalypse games to try a short campaign (8-12 sessions) at some point. A lot of what people miss is the strength in specificity of Moves and the secondary systems that push conflict together consistently (Barter, Threats, etc.).

Eyes and Hands

Eyes and Hands is a mecha RPG that mixes a bit of Powered by the Apocalypse with a bit of Burning Wheel’s “pre-pick a move” system and really plays up the Pacific Rim “partners syncing” idea. I’m intrigued because it’s such a different mechanical take, and opens up the question about stuff like party-game style mechanics getting ported into more classic tabletop game ideas.

Glitter Hearts

Another Powered by the Apocalypse game, this one does a Magical Girls and strongly shifts the character creation idea to something that looks very interesting – you get “Identities” that are basically personality/attitude choices that bump your stats and give us a good idea of who your character is. The rules cover a good overlap with sentai/superhero stories as well. I think I’ll probably run this next time for my Sunday group.


May Game Hype

May 1, 2021

This last month has been really hard on my RPG fun – both my games missed 2 weeks of sessions and work has been crushingly stressful. We’re still playing Perilous and Uncharted Worlds, and there’s not much new to report there. I did manage to do some game design somewhere in that, and have to playtest some things later down the line. My hype is pretty low right now because all I can think about is wanting to take a break when these arcs hit their end point.

The Shape of Shadows

I backed this Kickstarter, because, even though I haven’t gotten deep into solo/journaling RPGs, it sounds along the lines of weird mystical journey stuff, which was what I wanted more from old WW’s Mage series but they kept moving away from it. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how this is set up and how it works, especially with the “everyone is playing alone, but together” – which seems to be a sort of common thing for a subset of videogames these days as well.

Ironsworn – Starforged

I haven’t yet looked at the original Ironsworn, but given that this game is supposed to support both solo and co-op play, I think that’s pretty interesting and worth checking out. I guess part of the game is lots of inspirational charts, and we’ll see how well those are set up – I find people either do a good job of building great material for those things or they build mostly empty and not non-functional entries that cause more work in trying to figure out how to use it. Given the fact that this is the sci-fi version of Ironsworn and it’s doing so well, I’m going to guess it’s doing something right? It’s 3-4 games deep on my sci-fi backlog of things to play so it’ll be awhile before I get to it and can say more.

Hardwired Island

Cyberpunk that actually focuses on the punk part. I’ve just picked this up and barely skimmed the mechanics, nevermind the setting. I really like how flexible the character creation is – there’s plenty of defining roles to pick up, but a lot of things are customizable in interesting ways. The last few times I tried to come up with a cyberpunk setting it got really depressing really fast, and this game looks like it has enough balance of the real problems vs. hopeful possibilities that I think I could play or run this without it being “10 years from now, how fucked are we?” the RPG.

Hearthside Woodworks Dice Tray

I don’t think we’ll be gaming in person until next year, but I got sucked into looking at fancy dice trays. Most turned out to either be too gimmicky or too expensive for what I wanted, but the Hearthside one was small, affordable, but high quality. I like that there’s enough depth in the tray that I can add an additional layer of felt or cloth if I want to muffle the dice roll more and the forward cut out is a small ergonomic choice that makes it easier to grab the dice after you’ve rolled them.


April 2021 Game Hype

March 30, 2021

Eh. March disappeared in an instant, and while April is 2 days away, might as well do the write up now.

Uncharted Worlds

We’re a few sessions in, and, my idea of using a hex map for the issues of space travel and war is working out well. We just had a full session of strategizing and planning – the map naturally sets up the players in situations where there is, on average, 3 places they might want to go, but which one is the best choice given the enemy’s intentions and their limited capacity as a single ship?

The issue I was afraid of, that the generalized Move system would cut out the support you get from Apocalypse World’s clear stakes in most Moves is actually true, and it’s a bit sad because it is one of the key points I think a lot of PbtA designs miss out on.


We’re also a couple of sessions into Perilous. It is very light and easy to work with in terms of mechanics, but it is also very swingy in terms of outcomes. Much like Uncharted Worlds, without better stakes guidance, though the math is easy, the creative lifting is a bit harder.

That said, I’m not totally sure this would be my go to for dungeoncrawls specifically – I’d like to try some of the dungeon specific games like 5 Torches Deep as a comparison. Perilous might just work better for the more general adventure set up instead.

Amour Astir Advent

I saw someone recommend this on Twitter and I’m glad I picked it up. It’s a magical mecha game, with influences from Gundam, Escaflowne, Voltron, and more. You are rebels fighting an oppressive power, with the setting pretty much open for you to design specifics.

The mechanics are pretty much – emo drama = powering up. Relationships have their equivalent to Countdown Clocks from Apocalypse World – when they’re full, the relationship has to change (grow, shift, fall apart) and you get your advancement primarily through that. The game splits play between Sorties and Downtime. I’d love to play this and compare it to Bliss Stage, as Bliss Stage delivers unparalleled heart breaking scenes between characters, this might be a good option for a little less intensity and a little more mechanical heft.

Witch Quest

I had forgotten about Witch Quest! One of my friends reminded me a month ago and I’ve been thinking about it since. It’s basically the Kiki’s Delivery Service RPG, with the bonus that players can play either a witch or a cat familiar. I think this will probably be the next thing I run for my group. (Golden Sky Stories is also on that list, but given I have enough players who love witches, Witch Quest will probably be an easier draw.)

Since it’s been years since I had looked at the rules I only vaguely remember bits, but I do remember it’s got it’s own tarot cards, and I’d probably want to research into whether I want to print and cut up a set or make them virtually on a shared table system.

There’s about a dozen other games I ended up snagging on sale I need to look through and see what they’re doing mechanically as well.

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Lancer: Comp/Con character builder

January 12, 2020

This.  This is what I’ve been wanting TTRPGs to start doing more often:

Lancer RPG Comp/Con Character Builder

Even if you’re not interested in playing or buying the Lancer game, you should check out the free program for this.  It’s a great example of what we should have for more games that have character builds to track.

  • Easy and clean interface.  Short comments let you know what skills/powers do.
  • Free. Available for Apple, Windows and Linux.
  • Local data.  You don’t need to be online for the app to function.  You don’t need to hope the company will be still running servers 2 years from now, or that someone isn’t funneling malware through it later on.

Now, I also understand that building software isn’t a snap, but for the publishers with more money and resources, this sort of thing is basically the future for mid-to-high build complexity games.

I know a couple of years back people were really excited about D&D’s character builder, but it premium locks most of the options until you pay for that specific book, and whatever point WOTC decides to move on and shut down the servers – you basically have nothing for it.

This is such a contrasting difference in approach to Lancer’s putting the player base first – the people who buy your game and want to play your game need good design tools – money locking it just makes it harder to play your game.

(It’s a far lesser scale, but does remind me of the problem with the D20 attempt at open source design – the way in which it was set up encouraged everyone to only put their LEAST interesting stuff as free, and everything else was held behind a premium barrier – so you got a glut of material, but nothing to encourage increasing quality of design.)


Double Cross RPG

February 12, 2014

Ended up picking the Double Cross RPG – this is a Japanese rpg that hits that Shonen Manga trope of the “people get superpowers and are caught between secret organizations” genre.  My anime references are older -mostly stuff like Guyver and Baoh, but newer stuff like Towanoquan or Darker than Black would also apply.

The game has a lot of neat design tricks, but it suffers from the White Wolf problem – the game advises Illusionist/Railroading play, while much of the actual game mechanics work against it.


The protagonists all get their superpowers from “The Renegade Virus”, which, can take over one’s mind, reducing one to a mindless monster bent on destruction.

The score players will track is their “Encroachment Rate” which goes up and up – 1D10 per scene you show up in, a certain amount everytime you use powers, 2D10 if you encounter immense stress.  At the end of the game you get a chance to reduce it – if it’s over 100% at the end, your character is lost to the virus.

Reducing the virus requires holding onto important relationships – reasons to STAY human.  Also, you get more XP the closer you were to losing your character at the end of the game – you’re rewarded for risking yourself.

Lois / Titus Characters

Each PC will have a number of relationships – Lois and Titus characters.

Lois characters are reasons to stay human – friends, family, lovers, rivals.  Each Lois you have at the end of a session allows you to reduce your Encroachment by 1D10.   You can have a maximum of 7 Lois relationships, but you can only carry 3 between sessions -so that means you’ll be wanting to play up the drama and connect with other characters to get those additional Lois relationships.

The randomization also means you can’t exactly game the system – you’re risking your character between the randomized gain (1D10 per scene) and randomized recovery (1D10 per Lois).

If your Lois character dies, or your PC is distraught over them (betrayed, etc.) you can change them into a Titus character.  Titus relationships give you a one time bonus from a short list – but the options are really powerful – stuff like a 10 die bonus (when you’re usually rolling 3-5 dice), the ability to instantly recover from being brought to zero hitpoints, etc.

The funny thing is that this totally means characters who have a mess or shamble of life connections – tragic loss, or perhaps a frenzy of self destructiveness, will end up able to overpower a lot of things… in the short run.  There’s no limit to the number of Titus relationships you can carry over session to session, so having a protagonist who leaves a trail of tragedy behind them is genre appropriate AND supported by mechanics.

You can see pretty easily how this makes for amazing relationship situations in play, but also is terrible for Illusionism.

Positive/Negative Feelings Chart

For any Lois/Titus character, you list a positive AND negative feeling about them.  And you pick one that your character is actually conscious of.  You might be jealous of your best friend but also admire his determination.

What’s interesting about choosing one to be conscious is that either you end up forced to face the things you don’t like about the people you care about, or find redeeming qualities in the people you hate.

Again – amazing space for things like Narrativist play, also shitty for Illusionism.  What happens when you decide to acknowledge Sympathy for the villain and don’t capture/kill them?  What happens when you decide your mentor has actually been just using you and you quit the secret organization?


The power design is pretty smart.  All of the powers are generally designed to easily combine with other powers.  There’s no “skill tree” set up – a power either directly does something, or it stacks onto another power.

While each power might have multiple levels – it only increases it’s effectiveness or number of times it can be used – it’s not like some games where a new level in the same power unlocks extra abilities.  This means you don’t have to do deep planning ahead on your character builds.

Whereas a lot of game design, such as D&D 3.5 fails with their power set up – where you pick an optimal power/feat set and just do the same thing turn after turn, Double Cross has the Encroachment cost.  I may have an uber-combo of 5 powers I can use together to be awesome, but maybe that pumps up my Encroachment 14 points, and I’m not sure if this encounter is worth it.  So there’s an incentive to consider using less of your powers just for your own character’s sake.

There’s also the “Simple Powers” which are the non-combat powers.  These are supposed to be less powerful, but… consider the basic power every PC gets: “Warding” – you can release a virus cloud that knocks out all the non-powered humans in the area.  This drastically changes how you deal with investigations (“Oh, knock em out, let’s just get the keys and go through the files ourselves”) or fights (“Crap, the subway is full of helpless, unconscious bystanders… how are we going to get them out of here?”).  Again, stuff that can break Illusionist plans greatly.

There’s 12 “strains” of the virus, and each PC can either have 1, 2, or 3.  Each strain actually has a wide enough power set that you don’t feel cheated if you go with just one, at the same time the advantages to specializing are well balanced out with going with variety.

Other bits

Outside of the Illusionism, there’s actually functional advice also in the game – stuff on how to communicate with each other and developing listening skills, the fact that “I’m not being a jerk, My Guy (TM) is being a jerk” is shitty and actually just you being a jerk, etc.  It helps to remember this advice is from 2001 as well, and it’s been good progress in the last 10-12 years of overcoming dysfunctional behavior.

The game has a pretty light/sparse description for most powers, and the setting is also relatively light.  If you’re already familiar with a lot of “modern powers” manga/anime, this is all going to fit perfectly for you, especially the love/hate complexity of all the characters.

The layout is… not that great.  It’s not too hard to find things, but there are some rules which require bookmarking or remembering it’s mentioned in one section but not another.  The worst part is the character sheets – I hope some fans put together something cleaner and easier to read.

I’m definitely looking forward to playing this, but I’m going to have to excise all the Illusionist bits.