Anita Murray is the Contribution to Irish Gaming winner 2013 and the Irish National Game Writer Award winner for 2012. As well as organising design Playstorms for London Indiemeet, she’s also the founder and editor-in-chief of The Gazebo (an Irish and UK-based online RPG ‘zine).
Becky Annison is the designer behind When the Dark is Gone, a game published in the Seven Wonders Anthology by Pelgrane Press. She has also recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for Lovecraftesque with her co-designer and partner Josh Fox. Becky is interested in how we can better understand and experience emotions in role-playing from the joyful to the cathartic and she is passionate about inclusivity and diversity in gaming.
Joanna Piancastelli is a London-based indie game designer. Her superhero freeform larp Unheroes won the 2014 Golden Cobra Challenge, and hew new tabletop game Before the Storm has just been published in the Seven Wonders anthology from Pelgrane Press. Her upcoming game Headcanon will feature in the London Indie RPG Meetup Group anthology next year.
Robert Carnel discovered roleplaying through the world of the Warlock of Firetop Mountain and has been going left at t-junctions ever since. He began reviewing rpgs in 1993 with the zine Carnel and he’s currently the editor of the webzine Thee Rapture in which he reviews many new, experimental games and writes about the techniques and theories of roleplaying. He’s also one of the most prolific GMs in the London indie scene.
Episode Eight – Vast & Starlit (40 mins) Download Vast & Starlit is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Epidiah Ravachol.
Ric & Rob talk about Vast & Starlit (2013), a game of interstellar renegades exploring the galaxy.
00:23 Why are we talking about this game?
00:51 An epic game on a business card
02:30 Who do you play?
02:56 Where did it come from?
04:30 What was the designer’s goal?
04:52 A weird inspiration
06:02 A crew without hierarchy
06:53 One-shot goals: designating a captain
07:19 Keeping the crew together
08:02 Mechanics – character creation
09:10 Playing low status characters
09:57 The significance of the ship as home
10:59 Scene-framing assumptions
12:46 Dangerous or difficult or both
13:41 Resolving by cutting away! Compression / Decompression
16:57 Integrating the resolution and skipping forwards
20:02 Creating alien cultures
23:05 Does it work?
24:37 The danger of disappearing into your backstory
26:29 Material for plot
27:04 The danger of creating through questions
28:43 The resolution mechanic
30:35 A lack of structure?
32:21 Why play this game?
32:57 A subversion of the classic RPG party
34:24 Is it part of our canon?
38:35 Another game to look at Swords Without Master (2014)
Episode Seven – Monsterhearts (37 mins) Download Monsterhearts is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Avery Mcdaldno.
Ric & Rob talk about Monsterhearts (2012), the game of the messy lives of teenage monsters.
00:19 Why are we talking about this game?
00:51 How does it reach out beyond the usual rpger crowd?
02:24 How the game started
02:41 Getting the teen experience from the Apocalypse
04:07 Playing with your character’s sexuality
06:10 Exploring an unpredictable situation
07:09 The monstrous analogy
08:35 Lots of monster… not much people
10:02 A kind of emotional roleplaying
11:28 Is the appeal entirely in the genre?
12:04 The liberty of playing as a teenager
13:32 Design differences from Apocalypse World
14:50 The innovation of Darkest Selves
17:44 Does it work?
19:10 Safer play
20:25 A lack of support for the genre to emerge?
24:51 The Shut Down move
25:28 Using Volatile for Run Away
29:55 Menaces and external threats
31:34 The cost of triggering the mechanics
32:56 Could it be improved in a revised edition?
34:47 What should designers take from this game?
36:11 Another game to look at Apocalypse World (2010)
Episode Six – Kingdom (39 mins) Download Kingdom is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Ben Robbins.
Ric & Rob talk about Kingdom (2013), a game of communities facing a crisis and a choice.
00:27 Why are we talking about this game?
01:25 A great gateway game for traditional roleplayers?
02:47 What’s the designer’s intent?
03:58 The concept of the crossroads
04:38 Playsets and threats
05:42 The roles: Power, Touchstone, Perspective
07:07 A model of how communities work?
08:41 The characters
10:00 Central vs marginal characters and changing character
11:33 Crossroads, Time Passes, Crises
13:20 Switching roles and empty roles
15:57 Does it work?
17:13 A game about characters not community?
17:44 Why this is a great game about communities
19:37 A faceless community?
20:30 Exploring through experimenting on the community
22:54 A game that could be played for any community in any time
24:06 Does it hold together?
25:48 Overthrow duels and resistance to change
28:32 Disclaiming decision making
29:38 Why play this game?
30:20 A pick-up game at a traditional rpg con
30:41 Ending the game
32:23 What should designers take from this game?
36:32 Is it part of our canon?
37:51 Another game to look at Intrepid (2013)
Episode Five – Durance (28 mins) Download Durance is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Jason Morningstar.
Ric & Rob talk about Durance (2012), a game of authority, savagery and servility set in prison on an alien planet.
00:21 What is this game?
02:32 Historical background
02:58 Following the success of Fiasco
03:54 A powerful game with a dark sense of humour
04:45 A low chance of survival?
06:36 The character sheet
08:17 A symmetry of power
10:00 Rooting for the underdogs
10:42 The dice mechanic
12:07 Playing characters of different status
15:02 The purpose of the design?
17:13 Oaths and breaking them
21:29 Scene-framing and questions
24:48 Exploring different tones and stories
25:47 What happened to Durance?
27:20 Another game to look at Dog Eat Dog (2012)
Ric and Rob were crowdfunding backers of Durance. The designer also won the Designer award in the London Indiemeet Darling awards in 2013 and 2014 which were organised by Ric. The designer also gave Ric permission to use another of his games as a basis for a game Ric helped to design.
Episode Four – A Taste for Murder (38 mins) Download A Taste for Murder is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Graham Walmsley.
Ric & Rob talk about A Taste for Murder (2010), an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery game set in the 1930s.
00:28 Why are we talking about this game?
02:32 A polite veneer
03:11 A GMless investigative game
03:33 What was the designer’s goal?
04:40 An exorcised investigator
05:42 Everyone has a secret
06:24 Mechanics and Structure
07:50 Influencing others
09:23 The murder
10:22 Moving into the second half
11:02 Revealing motives
15:52 Where did it come from?
16:48 The White Die/Black Die
18:10 Cthulhu thinking
19:24 Emulating the setting
21:36 Using a different setting?
23:04 Do the mechanics support the genre?
27:02 Relationship dice pools
27:56 Why play this game?
29:32 What should designers take from this game?
29:50 Hand signals
30:05 The switch to detective and flipping status
32:49 Is it part of our canon?
36:50 Another game to look at Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne (2012)
Episode Three – The Quiet Year (32 mins) Download The Quiet Year is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Avery Mcdaldno.
Ric & Rob talk about The Quiet Year (2013), a community game charting a year of peace in a post-apocalyptic land.
00:25 Why are we talking about this game?
01:19 An unsuccessful game?
02:40 Exploration and colonial themes
03:40 What was the designer’s goal?
04:33 Exploring the idea of an inclusive community
06:27 A quiet game
09:46 A scientific experiment
10:44 Discover something new
13:42 Does it work?
16:34 A sense of community?
17:24 A comparison with Dog Eat Dog
18:33 Responding to community problems
20:05 Why play this game?
21:34 What should designers take from this game?
21:43 The card deck
23:18 Restricted communication
23:22 The map
23:29 Mechanics that don’t do anything
29:56 Is it part of our canon?
31:09 Another game to look at Ribbon Drive (2009)
Episode Two – Microscope (30 mins) Download Microscope is a tabletop roleplaying game designed by Ben Robbins.
Ric & Rob talk about Microscope (2011), a game of building a history in an afternoon.
00:29 Why are we talking about this game?
00:53 Unlike any game before it?
01:17 More than just a game?
03:11 Where did it come from?
04:25 The bookends
04:47 The lens and the focus
05:57 The legacies
06:57 Periods, events and scenes
08:24 Importance of the bookend limits
09:22 An elastic chronology
11:30 Does it work?
14:33 A roleplaying game?
15:11 Scenes, scene framing and different play styles
18:22 Why play this game?
20:34 A self-recording game
21:30 The creative hot-seat
23:32 What should designers take from this game?
26:45 Is it part of our canon?
29:13 Another game to look at Fiasco (2009)
Ric & Rob are Kickstarter backers of Microscope Explorer (a series of expansions by Ben Robbins) and were part of the open beta playtest.
Ric & Rob talk about A Penny for My Thoughts (2009), a game of amnesiacs undergoing an experimental procedure to recover their memories.
00:23 Why are we talking about this game?
00:56 A scary game?
02:08 Real stories from a ludicrous premise?
06:45 The designer’s intent
08:36 Powerful emotions and safety
09:56 How it brings players to play together
11:12 An extended form of character creation?
14:19 Player agency over the character
16:45 Better and safer play?
22:11 Where is the game coming from?
25:35 Does it work?
29:33 Does it hold together?
30:00 Dealing with gonzo
31:44 The pennies
32:30 Why play this game?
34:48 What should designers take from this game?
39:55 Is it part of our canon?
42:18 Another game to look at Psi*Run (2007)
Episode Zero (17 mins) Download Talking about how to talk about tabletop roleplaying games.
Ric & Rob talk about some particular aspects of reviewing rpgs.
00:15 The problem with reviewing an rpg
01:53 Who’s the audience for an rpg review?
03:17 Review scores
06:07 Games as objects
07:48 Value of different rpgs
09:33 Do you have to play an rpg to review it?
10:46 Do you have to have run an rpg to review it?
11:46 How can a reviewer add value?
13:26 Comparisons with other gaming disciplines
16:23 Design matters