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Old 06-05-2016, 03:14 PM
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Default Talking about indie RPGs

We've got a lot of threads about various RPGs on this forum, especially D&D and Pathfinder, but other than the "I Read RPG Manuals" thread, we don't really have a spot to talk about games that aren't in that family. So now we do!

In the past few months, I've gotten really interested in reading about and playing RPGs. I had no idea that there had been so many cool ideas and games to come out in the past ten years or that there was such a good community around them (which is weirdly concentrated on Google Plus).

A few weeks ago I started GMing a campaign of Dungeon World , one of the many, many games derived from Apocalypse World. The imagery and language is straight from D&D, but the structure of play and the mechanics are much more fiction-focused than recent D&D stuff. It's really good! I don't have a ton of practice as a GM, so it's been a bit rough going and the campaign hasn't really hit its stride yet, but I (and my players) are enjoying it nonetheless. Highly recommended, especially if you find yourself daunted by the amount of prep more traditional games demand of you.

One of my players couldn't make it to our Dungeon World game last week, so instead we played a session of Lady Blackbird. I think if I were to pick a game to introduce somebody to RPGs with, this would be it. It's simple (every rule you need is on your character sheet), with a pre-made setting, situation and characters. It really encourages getting into character too, since the way you earn experience is by following your character's "Keys"; basically, things that character cares about. For instance, if you're playing as Naomi Bishop, Lady Blackbird's bodyguard, you get an experience point whenever you protect the Lady and two if that put you into danger (which it probably will.) It's a great way to encourage players to put themselves in interesting situations.

Also, a few weeks ago I played Microscope, a really awesome, GM-less game about creating a fictional history. It's kind of tough to explain, but really really good.

So, has anybody else been playing any interesting RPGs lately? Anything coming out soon that has you interested?
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:48 PM
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After getting really into Friends at the Table, I've become really interested in Dungeon World and the games of that style. One of these days I want to run something using one of those systems, though I also feel a little scared by feeling that I need to be much more on top of telling a story then I would be playing any D&D-style game.

But maybe that's more a factor of the community of players I'm normally surrounded by, who tend to enjoy mechanics over story. Though that's not to say that they also don't like telling stories at times, either.
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:54 PM
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Friends at the Table is also what introduced me to Dungeon World!

There's a bunch of other Powered by the Apocalypse games that I want to play. There's the second edition of Apocalypse World itself, obviously, which comes out soon. The Sprawl, which is played on Season 2 of Friends at the Table, seems like a really fun cyberpunk game. But I think the one I want to try the most is Masks, a game about playing as teenage superheroes in the style of Young Justice, Young Avengers or Teen Titans.

I get what you mean about the nervousness, but I think it's less about telling a cool story than about describing things as clearly and vividly as possible, so that when the players do something, you understand how it will affect the moment/scene/world.
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Old 06-05-2016, 06:36 PM
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Wow, I love indie RPGs so much! Right now, just on the list of "indie rpgs to play as soon as possible", I've got:
  • Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World (obviously)
  • Vincent Baker's (get used to that name) The Sundered Land, a collection of one-page games about specific types of scenes in "the ruins of the future", e.g. "Night Watch", in which your characters tell stories about their pasts around a campfire in dangerous territory, or "Doomed Pilgrim", intended to be played on Facebook or Google Plus or whatever, where there's one player and many GMs (all trying to kill the one player). (We played a round or two of that last one here!)
  • Epidiah Ravachol's Vast and Starlit, a business-card-sized game about finding new worlds and new civilizations after breaking out of space jail.
  • Vincent Baker's Rock of Tahamaat, in which one player is Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant, lord of what is essentially a bronze age space empire (think, like, slave-rowed space barges), and the other players are people chafing under his rule (whose names will never hold his attention). I've played once before but would like to try with another Tyrant player.
  • Jenna Moran's Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, which is a weird esoteric slice-of-life game about godlike anime figures and hapless kids, maybe? It's got some really neat ideas.
  • Ben Robbins's Microscope (also noted above)
  • John Harper's Lasers and Feelings (or one of his other neat one-page games)
  • Philippe Tromeur's Wuthering Heights Roleplay, a surprisingly brilliant game about some self-involved jerks who rapidly self-destruct. I have some specific notes on how I prefer to fill in the gaps in the game, but overall this is one of the most successful light RPGs I've played, particularly with "non-rpg-players". I've also got a playtest version of "Fruity Rumpus Asshole Factory", an adaptation of this ruleset for games about a group of Homestuck trolls.

And I'm sure I'm missing some.
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Old 06-05-2016, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by willcoon View Post
[*]John Harper's Lasers and Feelings (or one of his other neat one-page games)
Like the aforementioned Lady Blackbird! (Although that's a bit longer than one-page).

Speaking of John Harper, I'm also really looking forward to his upcoming game, Blades in the Dark, and the dozens of hacks for it that are already planned. I'm also looking forward to whatever else John Harper does, because he's the best.
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Old 06-05-2016, 08:02 PM
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I'm a big fan of Lady Blackbird as well.

I'll also put in a plug for Luke Crane's stuff, though it's a bit more well known. Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, and especially (though Thor Olavsrud is the primary designer on this) Torchbearer.
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Old 06-05-2016, 08:07 PM
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Yeah, Burning Wheel is high up on my list of games I want to try. I watched a bunch of the campaign on Roll20's YouTube channel and I love the way that Beliefs and Instincts work.
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Old 06-05-2016, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Karzac View Post
Like the aforementioned Lady Blackbird! (Although that's a bit longer than one-page).

Speaking of John Harper, I'm also really looking forward to his upcoming game, Blades in the Dark, and the dozens of hacks for it that are already planned. I'm also looking forward to whatever else John Harper does, because he's the best.
I hadn't put those three together! I'm also looking forward to Blades in the Dark, and I'll need to put Lady Blackbird on my list.

Last edited by will; 06-06-2016 at 08:19 AM.
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:16 AM
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I don't have a group these days, so this is quite old, but I've always loved InSpectres, which lets you play a team of ghost-busters. Just an elegant, simple rule-set that always ends up with hilarious stories, although it does put a lot of the story-telling heavy lifting on the players, so it's not suited to all groups. It's great if you want to play an RPG without a lot of investment or set-up, which makes it good for one-off sessions if there's an unexpected absence in your regular group.

Another older indie that I'm quite fond of (but never really got to play as much as I'd like) is Dogs in the Vineyard, where players get to be cowboy paladins. Those last two words combined together is usually a sufficient pitch to get it to hit the table, in my experience.
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:24 AM
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Dogs is a mess, mechanically, and runs on the assumption that no one will game the... game?????? to ensure they win conflicts. Also it came from the Suicide Squad Jared Leto era of Vince Baker's personal brand
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:31 AM
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wait what the fuck somebody made an RPG about being Porter Rockwell.

that's weird as hell.

is there a module about hunting down the guy who gave one of Brigham Young's kids a tin whistle?
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:37 AM
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I've never played Dogs, but I really want to. AV, I've never heard that complaint before and I'm not actually familiar with the specific rules of the game. Care to elaborate?
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:04 AM
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wait what the fuck somebody made an RPG about being Porter Rockwell.

that's weird as hell.

is there a module about hunting down the guy who gave one of Brigham Young's kids a tin whistle?
Man, you didn't know? I figured all former LDS knew there was a game about being Mormon Secret Police.

----

As for playing the game - I've only played it once and had a great time. But I've also heard of people playing it and having poor experiences. If the complaints I've heard are the same as what AV is suggesting, basically the game assumes that your character isn't a complete sociopath. Sure, sometimes to get the job done, you have to step over the line and make a hard decision that may go against what your holy text says but it solves the situation. But underneath it all, you still have principles. If you play a character without, the mechanics allow you to basically keep retrying until you've "won" the conflict, potentially burning down an innocent village in the process.

tl;dr Dogs is a good game, but the players have to be willing to lose conflicts.
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:27 AM
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Yeah, I've also enjoyed Dogs, and I've read a fair amount on the subject of "gaming" it, ages ago. I think the upshot of what I've read, beyond that it's not as mechanically tight as some of VB's later work, is that the obvious ways of gaming the system are anticipated and accounted for (as in, they'll "work", but with consequences), but that there do seem to be other ways to min-max. But all that typically relies on playing it as a dice game rather than a role-playing game. It's from early in VB's career, so that's not as strictly enforced by the rules as in later games, but it's still there.

Incidentally, I understand that Apocalypse World has a more abstract "trap": if you want to make a hardholder with "a plan, a gang full of guns, some walls, a vision and an iron fist" to enforce order on the post-apocalypse, and you're not willing to rely on and defer to people who don't mesh with hierarchy and authoritarianism, it's not going to work.
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by willcoon View Post
Jenna Moran's Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, which is a weird esoteric slice-of-life game about godlike anime figures and hapless kids, maybe? It's got some really neat ideas.
I got a copy of Chuubo with last year's Secret Santa, and it seems really interesting. I'd like to dig more into it!

Another game I want to try to dig a bit more into, come to think of it, is Downfall, by Caroline Hobbs, which I Kickstarted. The structure reminds me a lot of when Friends at the Table did a short bit using Kingdom, but it feels like it's meant to be faster, something you can do with a couple of friends in an evening instead of turning it into a larger thing.
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:34 AM
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The other thing about Dogs is that a lot of the good gameplay/roleplay is also going to be dependent on the tension between what the player finds moral and what the character/not-Mormon church says is moral and figuring out how your character is going to deal with that crisis of faith. Granted this is more from a reading, since I haven't had a chance to play it yet, so it might not be the actual case.

Lady Blackbird is great, as mentioned, and I loved the one game I got to run of that. I really should try to do another play of that at some point.

One thing I like about Rock of Tahamaat is that it's also a game that was made to express a point about game design as well. I'm not exactly itching to really play it, but it has an interesting point. Basically I recommend reading all of Vincent Baker's stuff on game design, even when he whiffs or misses, he usually has a great point somewhere.

I think the best designed Powered by the Apocalypse game is probably Monsterhearts, though it's not a game I'm too interested in playing since the genre isn't really my thing, but its whole design does a really good job of emulating the supernatural romance genre/supernatural creatures as metaphor for being a teenager, that it's probably the PbtA game that I admire the most.

Ribbon Drive however is a game that I really want to give a try, where the resolution of conflicts/obstacles/etc is mostly based on what traits are in play, and what song is playing from mixes that each of the players make.
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:41 AM
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Evil Hat just dropped Bubblegumshoe, and it's pretty fantastic. If you know Gumshoe, it's more Gumshoe, but really well-tuned for Veronica Mars / Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew teen mystery shenanigans.
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:47 AM
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I think the best designed Powered by the Apocalypse game is probably Monsterhearts, though it's not a game I'm too interested in playing since the genre isn't really my thing, but its whole design does a really good job of emulating the supernatural romance genre/supernatural creatures as metaphor for being a teenager, that it's probably the PbtA game that I admire the most.
One of the things that excites me the most about the upcoming Masks is that it seems heavily inspired by Monsterhearts, but with a theme I find more appealing (superheroes).
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Old 06-06-2016, 09:48 AM
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Evil Hat just dropped Bubblegumshoe, and it's pretty fantastic. If you know Gumshoe, it's more Gumshoe, but really well-tuned for Veronica Mars / Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew teen mystery shenanigans.
pair it with Kate Beaton's Mystery Solving Teens.
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:05 AM
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a hardholder with "a plan, a gang full of guns, some walls, a vision and an iron fist"
I played a hardholder with the explicit (stated) expectation that it would end in flames. It didn't! It ended underwater. And it was wonderful.

Uncle should not have constructed a hardhold in the ruins of the Hoover Dam.

Burning Wheel is my favorite RPG system but I feel like I've talked it up enough in the past - you should play the Burning Wheel at least once.

Check out Blades in the Dark for a really cool Locke Lamora meets Dishonored game (we played half a dozen sessions during the playtest and it was already pretty great). It takes the campaign-level mechanics from Apocalypse World and gives them a bit more mechanical weight. Viewed another way, it takes the campaign-level mechanics from Burning Empires and makes them digestible.
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:35 AM
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Incidentally, I understand that Apocalypse World has a more abstract "trap": if you want to make a hardholder with "a plan, a gang full of guns, some walls, a vision and an iron fist" to enforce order on the post-apocalypse, and you're not willing to rely on and defer to people who don't mesh with hierarchy and authoritarianism, it's not going to work.
I believe this is on the list of things for the new edition to fix, or at least make more interesting.
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Old 06-06-2016, 01:01 PM
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Yeah, I've also enjoyed Dogs, and I've read a fair amount on the subject of "gaming" it, ages ago. I think the upshot of what I've read, beyond that it's not as mechanically tight as some of VB's later work, is that the obvious ways of gaming the system are anticipated and accounted for (as in, they'll "work", but with consequences), but that there do seem to be other ways to min-max. But all that typically relies on playing it as a dice game rather than a role-playing game. It's from early in VB's career, so that's not as strictly enforced by the rules as in later games, but it's still there.
It's been, fuck, a decade since I tried to run it but IIRC the best way to handle conflicts is to have a buttload of small dice to throw at them. Eventually the other side runs out of options and you win with like "allergic to beans 1d4", which is hilarious
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Old 06-06-2016, 01:14 PM
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Oh, right. I would also be remiss, as both a person who is trying to write his own mecha RP system, but also as a good friend of the artist, to not at least mention Fullmetal President, which is a game based around letting you play your own version of Metal Wolf Chaos.

I mean, it's a system where one of the actions you roll for is just how much something explodes, and higher numbers makes the American people support you more. That sounds about right.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:04 AM
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Oh, right. I would also be remiss, as both a person who is trying to write his own mecha RP system, but also as a good friend of the artist, to not at least mention Fullmetal President, which is a game based around letting you play your own version of Metal Wolf Chaos.

I mean, it's a system where one of the actions you roll for is just how much something explodes, and higher numbers makes the American people support you more. That sounds about right.
This sounds great!

Does anyone know of a system that would work well for dumb shounen anime super power fights? Where you reveal esoteric techniques and hidden powers, get forced to use stronger moves when you're pushed to the edge, and win by cleverly maneuvering your weirdness to take advantage of gaps and weaknesses in the other person's weirdness? A la bleach, etc.?
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:13 AM
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Does anyone know of a system that would work well for dumb shounen anime super power fights? Where you reveal esoteric techniques and hidden powers, get forced to use stronger moves when you're pushed to the edge, and win by cleverly maneuvering your weirdness to take advantage of gaps and weaknesses in the other person's weirdness? A la bleach, etc.?
Exalted 3e kind of manages this, but very abstractly. The combat system's based around initiative and two different kinds of attacks - "withering" and "decisive". Withering attacks steal initiative from your opponent, and decisive attacks are harder to land but cash in that initiative for Real Damage. Then there's a layer of magical "Charms" built on top of that that give you various ways of breaking the baseline rules...

Generally, though, the media's pretty tough to game for the same reason a lots of sports fiction is very tough to game. It winds up being less about the specifics of the attacks themselves and more about winning because you believe in the me who believes in you believing in yourself.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:50 AM
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This sounds great!

Does anyone know of a system that would work well for dumb shounen anime super power fights? Where you reveal esoteric techniques and hidden powers, get forced to use stronger moves when you're pushed to the edge, and win by cleverly maneuvering your weirdness to take advantage of gaps and weaknesses in the other person's weirdness? A la bleach, etc.?
There's a game called Valor that's supposed to mirror that sort of thing as well. I haven't played it/picked it up yet since $25 for a pdf is a little steep for a gamble on an unknown system, but I'm pretty tempted to give it a shot.

EDIT: You could probably also do a few modifications to Double Cross to get that feeling as well.
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:51 AM
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Exalted 3e kind of manages this, but very abstractly. The combat system's based around initiative and two different kinds of attacks - "withering" and "decisive". Withering attacks steal initiative from your opponent, and decisive attacks are harder to land but cash in that initiative for Real Damage. Then there's a layer of magical "Charms" built on top of that that give you various ways of breaking the baseline rules...

Generally, though, the media's pretty tough to game for the same reason a lots of sports fiction is very tough to game. It winds up being less about the specifics of the attacks themselves and more about winning because you believe in the me who believes in you believing in yourself.
I like what I've seen of Exalted 3e! I'm going to be more interested once the other exalted types start coming out, dragon-blooded especially. The sort of thing I'm thinking of, though, would probably be fiction-first, assuming "power-level" homogeneous fights not featuring a Protagonist. But maybe it's too general to be satisfying and it'd need a more sharply defined scope... hm. I guess I'm probably looking for something closer to Nobilis, maybe? I should probably take another look at Mythender, too.

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Originally Posted by kaisel View Post
There's a game called Valor that's supposed to mirror that sort of thing as well. I haven't played it/picked it up yet since $25 for a pdf is a little steep for a gamble on an unknown system, but I'm pretty tempted to give it a shot.

EDIT: You could probably also do a few modifications to Double Cross to get that feeling as well.
Hm, I'll check those out!
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Old 06-08-2016, 12:04 PM
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Hm, I'll check those out!
Since you want a more fiction-first RPG those choices might not actually fit your needs, both are pretty heavy on the crunch when it comes to the actual fights. I love the heck out of Double Cross, and it can be more about the fiction about everything, except the actual fights.
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Old 06-08-2016, 12:05 PM
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Generally, though, the media's pretty tough to game for the same reason a lots of sports fiction is very tough to game. It winds up being less about the specifics of the attacks themselves and more about winning because you believe in the me who believes in you believing in yourself.
Speaking about sports games, the World Wide Wrestling RPG is supposed to be really good. It's Powered by the Apocalypse and seems to be as much about the performance and relationships of wrestling characters as it is about fighting. I don't care about wrestling, so I'm not that interested in it, but it seems cool.
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Old 06-08-2016, 12:15 PM
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Since you want a more fiction-first RPG those choices might not actually fit your needs, both are pretty heavy on the crunch when it comes to the actual fights. I love the heck out of Double Cross, and it can be more about the fiction about everything, except the actual fights.
Well, that's not a hard-and-fast rule, it's just... that's my intuition about the path of least resistance to get the proper effect. If there's a good crunchy way of doing something similar (or something else good!), I'm still happy! (Though there is the unfortunate side-effect that more crunch probably means a reduced likelihood of getting a group of players together...)
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