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Cam Banks
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy

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This looks amazing.

I am already a huge fan of everything Fria Ligan create with their Year Zero system - the production values, the writing, the art, the way everything comes together. And they are really great folks - I met them this year in Sweden when i was there for GothCon. I'm a guaranteed backer. Check out what +Angus Abranson managed to learn from his own conversation with Fria Ligan's Tomas at EN World.
I was lucky enough to talk to Tomas, of The Free League, and get a sneak peek into their forthcoming new fantasy game.... the Forbidden Lands Boxed Set!

Exploring Forbidden Lands – A Preview of The Free League’s New Fantasy RPG


Life is Strange: Before the Storm

I've said before that the original Life is Strange featuring Max was possibly the most transformative experience I've ever had playing a video game, and that holds up. Now with the prequel that headlines Chloe Price as a 16 year old at Blackwell Academy, this feeling continues.

I played Episode One of this story (there's going to be three episodes in all, plus a bonus Max episode at the end) long into the night last night. I did not want to stop playing it. I'm invested in Chloe's story and loved what Deck Nine have done with these characters. It's weird to be playing something that you know has a specific outcome (the original game) but there's enough that we don't know about Chloe and Rachel Amber's past that I think there's plenty of mystery.

Without Max's time-rewind ability, the story feels different in play, but Deck Nine have improved upon the engine and design enough that it feels more like a much-better Telltale Games story with familiar LiS characters in it. There's a new element where you can enter a Backtalk Challenge with certain characters, watching what they say as you trade insults. I think it's fun to do, and not always easy. Each of these is especially good when you've done some legwork to dig around and find out more about the person you're back talking to ahead of time.

Finally, I'm really glad Ashly Burch was brought on to contribute to Chloe's dialogue as a writer. Even though she's not voicing Chloe Price this time around, the actor who's stepping in to the role, Rhianna DeVries, has nailed it. I can't imagine it's not because Ash was given the opportunity to shape the direction of a character she so fully embodied in the original game.


I don't care what you heard, or what you have seen. I don't care what roleplaying games you play or run. I am here to tell you, unequivocally, that Starfinder by Paizo Publishing is next-level gamer art.

It is an astonishing achievement and everyone on that worthy team from Lisa Stevens and +Erik Mona on down should be proud as hell of what they have done.

You really owe it to yourself to pick it up. If you can find one in stock. And if you can't? Preorder the second printing. Hot damn.

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Half-Price Books Finds

I know +Alex Mayo sometimes scores big at Half-Price Books. Here's what I stumbled across at my local one in St Paul.

That's the original three Palladium Books Mechanoid Invasion RPGs and Dragon Pass, the remake of White Bear & Red Moon. Only $30! Unbelievable.


#RPGaDay 2017 Day Thirteen: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

Running Amber Diceless Roleplaying for the first time changed everything for me. It started with the character auction, where everyone bids on their stats, and then uses the remaining points to buy up powers and other things. Already we were in new territory. Who had ever handled character creation through point buy via auction? Nobody. It was a huge deal for me.

Then, the first session of that campaign was wild. No dice, just comparative stats and GM fiat like whoa. I had to learn how to adjudicate outcomes based on yes, and and no, but. I had to think on my feet. I had to improvise and think big. I had to use the character sheets my players had argued and bid over (and made hard choices on) as guides for my situations. And I had to throw out a hundred legacy GM tricks that no longer really mattered.

I think Amber permanently changed how I run games, and how I think about games. I don't actually like diceless games now, I much prefer dice. And when I design games I eliminate a lot of GM authority, which is kind of the whole thing with Amber Diceless Roleplaying. But the ability to think on my feet and run games in reaction to the players and their choices was a huge benefit, and the lessons I learned there and later on as a player on AmberMUSH made me the GM and designer I am today.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day Twelve: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Three examples today. The first is the incredibly game-changing artwork of Larry Elmore in Mentzer's Red Box D&D. To this day it's still some of the best D&D art. There's some of Jeff Easley's in there, too, I think? Overall, a terrific product, that to me at the time felt like D&D had "gone pro."

The second is Tim Bradstreet's revolutionary artwork in Vampire: the Masquerade. Those big chapter pieces did more to sell me on that game than anything else text-wise or rules-wise.

The most recent inspirational art in an RPG to attract my attention is +John Harper's Blades in the Dark. The way John blends his graphic design with the art is just amazing. More and more I'm appreciating the use of contrast, efficiency, and yes - black and white artwork. Kind of a theme for all of these, I suppose.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day Eleven: What Dead RPG Would You Like to See Brought Back?

In this case, "dead" has many interpretations for many people. For some it means there's nothing more being made for it, like Ars Magica Fifth Edition, even though that game is still very much in print (and has over 40 products in the line you can get in PDF and print). For some it means you can't get the game from the publisher any more, only from 2nd hand or occasionally at game stores or eBay. I fall mostly into the latter group, since I work for a game publisher and I have opinions about the "no more being made" definition.

The game I'd love to bring back (I have done this a few times already, as you may have noticed if you've followed my career) is FVLMINATA. This is a game about the Roman Empire if they'd discovered gunpowder, and it is terrific. I don't NEED it to come back, because I own both published editions of the game, but I would very much like to see a new edition of the game with updated or all-new rules, with expansions and maps of the Empire and perhaps a campaign book. If I had my way, I'd grab KING ARTHUR PENDRAGON and use the rules from that to do Romans-with-guns, but many other ideas also crop up in my head from time to time.

Runner up in this case goes to games like BRAVE NEW WORLD (which +Matt Forbeck seems to be making noises about bringing back) and UNDERGROUND (which, again, is rumored to be coming back from +Ray Winninger). These were influences on my design when they first came out and I'm a huge fan of seeing what a designer does with an older game after years of working on others.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day Ten: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

I like to read reviews and actual plays here on Google+ because it's easy to skim them in my feed and open up to check them out if they seem interesting. Many folks do a great job of talking about games they're playing or have reviewed (and I think there's value both in actual play reports AND read-throughs of the rulebooks - they serve useful purposes.) Shout out to +Paul Beakley, +Rob Donoghue, +Brie Sheldon and +Matthew McFarland for going the extra mile on the regular with these posts.

I also frequent RPGnet a lot, as well as EN World. Both sites have reviews that I find helpful at least on some level, though there's never enough of them.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day Nine: What's a Good RPG to Play for 10 Sessions?

Many games actually satisfy this metric for me. I find most Powered by the Apocalypse games to be satisfying when played for 6-10 sessions. Urban Shadows, Apocalypse World 2nd edition, "Monsterhearts 2nd edition*, and Dungeon World are all excellent when you know you've got a limited run and want to tell a full, engaging story arc.

The best game of late that's designed for 10 sessions, though, and EXACTLY 10 sessions, is Shadow of the Demon Lord by my good friend +Robert Schwalb who wisely sought to level everyone up after each 1-session adventure and it totally works. I love this kind of focused design. Of course you can play SotDL any way you dang well like, but I'd strongly encourage you to give it a go like this.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day Eight: What's a good RPG to play in less than 2 hours?

I run 2-hour demos all the time for many of the games we sell at Atlas. This includes Feng Shui 2, Unknown Armies 3, and the upcoming Over the Edge (25th anniversary/3rd edition). I think of those, Feng Shui and Over the Edge are much better suited for this length of time, although my 20-minute UA3 scenario isn't bad.

I think D&D's a fine game to play in 2 hours. You can get in a couple of encounters depending on the size of your group.

I've run Marvel Heroic a lot in under 2 hours. Any Cortex-based game is a solid choice for a 2 hour window if you've got characters pre-made. I ran Leverage from no characters, no scenario, no nothing at all to a complete session in under 3 hours back in the day. It'd be faster if I had pre-gens.
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