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Cam Banks
Works at Atlas Games
Attended University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Lives in Saint Paul, MN
3,597 followers|471,877 views
Have him in circles
3,597 people
Game designer, writer, editor
  • Atlas Games
    Brand Manager, 2013 - present
  • Margaret Weis Productions
    Creative Director, 2007 - 2013
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Saint Paul, MN
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - Auckland, New Zealand - State College, PA - North Shore, New Zealand - Lawrence, KS
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Contributor to
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy
Born in the mythical antipodean utopia of New Zealand, wisely regarded by scholars as the fountainhead of cultural excellence and the only place on Earth capable of filling in for Middle Earth, Narnia, and Ancient Greece, Cam Banks was lured away by the siren call of a life with meaning and purpose. Cam now lives a quiet, pastoral existence in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with his beautiful wife, their two sons, and a cat. He pays the bills by writing and editing role-playing games. In his free time, Cam likes to read and write fantasy fiction, watch movies and television with his wife, play video games with his oldest son, and allow his youngest son to chip away at his sanity.

Cam’s work has appeared in almost every one of over a dozen Dragonlance game sourcebooks published by Sovereign Press and Margaret Weis Productions, and twice in Dragon Magazine.
His work on the Bestiary of Krynn earned a silver ENnie Award in 2004 for Best Monster Supplement.

Following his work on Dragonlance, Cam has been involved in the design and editing of licensed roleplaying games based on Universal's Serenity and Battlestar Galactica, Dead Gentlemen's Demon Hunters, The CW's Supernatural and Smallville, TNT's Leverage, and Marvel Comics.

Cam's first short story, “Chain of Fools,” appears in the Dragonlance anthology Dragons of Time; Tracy Hickman Presents the Anvil of Time: The Sellsword (April 2008) is his first published novel.
  • University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
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Cam Banks

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You open the brand new RPG beginner boxed set that you just picked up for a reasonable price at your local game store. What's in it? What isn't in it?
M. P. O'Sullivan's profile photoJames Dawsey's profile photoSteve Dee's profile photoLevi McCormick's profile photo
+M. P. O'Sullivan Important note: this might not necessarily be for a new game, but rather an established game that perhaps might benefit from an introductory or beginner boxed set.
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More Ars Magica thoughts.

Earlier editions of the game introduced the concept of troupe-style play as well as co-GMing or rotating GM. An example might be that the group all make up their own magi & companions, writes up a list of grogs, and creates the covenant together. Then, one player takes on the Storyguide role and runs a session (perhaps an adventuring season) of the game. A second player plays their magus or maga, and the rest play either companions or pull from the list of grogs. When the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the seasons turn and the group comes back together to decide who takes on what role next time.

Switching out GMs like this presents challenges to groups who are used to a single, fixed GM. There's questions of implicit trust, of whether everyone's comfortable releasing control (or taking it up), and a general unease about the breaking of what's often a fairly solid tradition. With Mythic Europe being our own history (with "imagine if what people actually believed was real" as the twist) there's at least a shared understanding of the broader setting, and if the entire group creates the covenant before play even starts, there's also a shared anchor within the setting proper.

What are your thoughts on troupe-style play, PCs with multiple players, and a shifting roster of GMs? Have you tried it? Is this how you play Ars Magica? What makes you wary of it?
George Austin's profile photoJoshua Ramsey's profile photoViktor Haag's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photo
In general, I've had much more success with rotating GMs than I've had with troupe-style elements of having multiple characters per player or a pool of common characters for all players to drawn on, but that may be from lack of trying.

About a third of the Monsterhearts games I've played in and run have featured rotating MCs. While there are some drawbacks - threats might not get followed up on until the MC that introduced them is up again; character development might get sidelined while that character's player is MCing - changing things up has worked so well that we've use the technique multiple times.

In Ars Magica 5th edition (the only one I've played), we were very comfortable drawing from the Grog pool and playing our Magi or companions as appropriate, and on the GM side of thing, we definitely had one alpha storyguide, but another player and I each ran stories and took over storyguide duties on related stuff. My friend took over SGing the lab work of a certain magus, and I took on the mystery cult stuff (and maybe the labwork) of the alpha Storyguide's mage. A third player called dibs on GMing something related to this:, but it did not came to pass before the campaign went on indefinite hiatus.

A few months back on Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, they suggested that Troupe-style, multiple character per player play is a great solution to the scheduling difficulties of adult gamers: grab appropriate characters and do a satisfying one-night story regardless of who shows up (it also reminds me of Spirit of the Century's "pick-up game" tag line and promise). That suggestion, though, reveals the biggest issue with Troupe play, especially with more traditional game: finishing stories or otherwise having a satisfactorily complete experience in a single night. +Emily Care Boss's Misericord(e) is really, really good for one-sitting stories. It also features potential character swapping - even scene-by-scene - and storyteller-swapping between stories. It's pretty influenced by Ars Magica - I describe it to people in the know as "no-prep Ars Magica," in fact - and explicitly influenced by +Meguey Baker's 1001 Nights, which I haven't played yet, sadly.

When I get myself together, I might try throwing together troupe-style rules for Cortex+ drama, since the Lead/Feature/Extra division is tantalizing similar to the Mage/Companion/Grog division. (The Smallville-ish game I'm currently playing in has been really good about having self-contained sessions (a first for Cortex plus and me) but really bad about the whole scheduling adult gamers thing).

I'm also really interested in bringing troupe and rotating GM elements to Tenra Bansho Zero, which seems ripe for loosely affiliated stories a-la Misericord(e) or characters of various walks of life or power-levels interacting a-la Ars Magica.
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Ars Magica has been around for a long time, and many talented people have worked on it and thousands of people have played it. If you're an Ars Magica veteran, I'm keen to hear what you think of the game, what you love about it, and why. If you're not, what have you heard about it? What would make you try it?
Adam Boisvert's profile photoJeb Boyt's profile photoEmily Care Boss's profile photoLukas Myhan's profile photo
When we played, each of us took multiple mages, and multiple companions, grogs, coven folks etc. It supported a lot of collaborative world development and lots of decentralized, emergent plot.

It did take high player investment, but was some of the best gaming I've ever been involved in. 
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Cam Banks

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I love the King Arthur Pendragon RPG. (Warning: Long post.)

I'm running a campaign based on the Great Pendragon Campaign but it's set in Cameliard, King Leodegrance's small kingdom on the border of Cambria (AKA Wales). We're in 502, which is smack dab in the center of the Anarchy period, and our heroes the player character knights have been witness to the rapid ascension of the Cambrian warlord Nanteleod, who aims to be high king of Britain. The past few sessions have seen the player knights attend the wedding of the teenaged Morgan le Fay to King Uriens of Gorre, which was interrupted by a siege, an attempted poisoning, and then a huge battle in Rheged against hundreds of lawless mercenary knights.

One great moment in the battle was Sir Llwyel, a vassal knight of one of the other player knights, being sent by his lord to take out the standard bearer of King Malahaut, the King of a Hundred Knights. This was a primo assignment full of Glory, but Llwyel botched it up entirely. He was unhorsed, trampled on, and separated from the rest of the unit. Attempting to regroup and rally other knights to him, he accidentally got onto the (now dead) standard bearer's horse, grabbed the broken lance with the standard on it, and rallied the enemy to his side by mistake.

While the other player knights captured enemy knights and won the day, Llwyel found himself surrounded by suspicious knights who suddenly realized he wasn't Malahaut's standard bearer. Llwyel's player Garret said he was just going to go all-out and take on all of the enemy knights, which meant he had to split his Sword skill six ways.

Normally this isn't a good idea, and it still wasn't. Although he was inspired by his Loyalty to his Lord, it was going to be a bloodbath. So I bent the rules and let him make an all-out attack with the +10 bonus from that maneuver applying to all six rolls against the enemy. When this happens, the enemy rolls unopposed first (six attacks!) and I ruled that if Llywel were knocked from his horse or killed, that'd be the end of that. Only then would Llywel have his chance to make his six berserk strikes in response.

Amazingly, one of the enemy knights fumbled, two missed entirely, and three hit without knocking him off the horse or killing him. Llywel passed a Valorous check to keep going despite hitting his Unconscousness Threshold (when he's taken more than 3/4 of his hit points in Wounds) and smote five of the six knights with his mighty sword. The sixth was the one who fumbled, so I ruled he'd fallen from his own horse and was just as out as the other five.

It's moments like this, where there's almost no chance you can succeed, and yet the outcome would be heroic and legendary either way, that I love most about Pendragon. Sure, I made a ruling about the all-out attack and sure, it's a fairly traditional combat mechanic, but the unfolding narrative was super-awesome.
Adam Drew's profile photoBen Quant's profile photoDyson Logos's profile photoKeith Mageau's profile photo
With you all the way on Pendragon - this does sound like one of those classic moments that every GM and player long for!
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Tune in to learn more about +Josh Roby & +Anna Kreider's game-changing Kickstarter, Princess Charming! 
Hear +Josh Roby talk about Princess Charming in this bonus episode of #TellMeAnother. He and +Anna Kreider are kickstarting a series of children's books with active female protagonists. Josh is writing, and Anna is doing all of the lovely illustrations.
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Cam Banks

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It's digitally alive! Congrats to +Monica Valentinelli & her entire MWP Firefly team for a job well done!
Happy Firefly RPG release day! SHINY!
Gary Arkham's profile photoAsako Soh's profile photoGaston Gosselin's profile photoMonica Valentinelli's profile photo
I received the PDF of the FIREFLY RPG the other day, and have been leafing through it slowly, amidst other Life Stuff, and I gotta say that it's awesome!

I'm just working through the series capsule write-ups, and I really like the interpolation of rules there, how the game teaches the player through those "worked examples." I don't think I've ever seen it quite that way before -- not so font-and-center. Neat concept, and I think it works well.

Please pass my kudos along to the rest of the Crew, will you?

Keep flyin'! (And drop me an email; my last to you bounced!)
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Have him in circles
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Cam Banks

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Comic book writer Greg Rucka blogs about his feelings toward that crappy "Fake Geek Girls" T-shirt on sale at a convention that compared them to coffee & then said they didn't like coffee. Oh whatever. This is just a really well-put together comeback to that misogynist ass-hattery.
E Keathley's profile photoGareth Watkins's profile photoAndy Hauge's profile photoMike Olson's profile photo
From the sound of it, I have the feeling we're talking about young teens, and young teen boys are hardly what you'd call insightfful. Socially inept when you get right down to it.

As for that school district and its magnet school lottery; I rather doubt they understand the purpose behind a magnet school.
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Cam Banks

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I asked this over on RPGnet but I'm pretty sure I'll get a different set of people here, so...

Serious Question: Why do you think people would be interested in a clone of a game that's still available? Is it the idea of getting it for free? Is it because you preferred how the game worked in a previous edition? Does it reveal something about the availability or presentation of the game or does it reveal something about the people who want the clone?

Are retroclones made because there's a need for a version of the game that the publishers of the game won't make? Are clones of games a way to get around licenses and red tape and copyright? Is there a difference between Dungeon World and OSRIC?
Tom Tyson's profile photoJoseph Le May's profile photoJohn Taber's profile photoWilliam Hostman's profile photo
The first games called retroclones came about about the same time the d20 bubble first burst (about 2004). The early ones all were based upon adapting the d20 SRD to do something more like old school D&D - but old school D&D had been out of print for well over a decade, and 2E had been out of print for about 6-7 years (but was still readily available both in backstock new, and in used). It was also about the time a significant number of older games became available in scanned-OCRed PDF, including Classic Traveller. (Note: the clone of CT came out about the same time, and was not very well done. Note also - Mongoose's Traveller is essentially a Pseudoclone being used as a new edition - the text itself is not borrowed, but rewritten in total, so that, when the license ends, Mongoose can simply rename it, pull a few paragraphs, and release it as a pseudoclone. They did the same with their RuneQuest, but there, they didn't have a license to the Chaosium rules.)
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ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT. Please support this wonderful project and see it to its goal!
Mall Adventures helps you design quests in your local mall to keep your kids occupied on rainy or hot days. Our daughter has started babysitting and this seems like the perfect thing for her to have in her back pocket. Only a few hours left to fund it!
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Roleplaying for kids might not seem like a big deal if you're an adult with no kids, but trust me - we need to promote more projects like this in order to keep the hobby vibrant and growing. Back Mall Adventures & join the progressive kid-centered gaming movement!
We're up over 30%, which is good news! Anyone has parents or parental communities to share this with, now's a good time. We're in our last week!
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That sounds amazing.
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