RPGaDay2022 What is the 2nd RPG you bought?

I am sad to say I never played, or ran, the second RPG (I think) I ever bought. I say “I think” here because, dammit, it was 40 years ago, it all gets hazy. I might have bought Toon before this one for example. But the way I remember it, it happened like this.

I have already mentioned saving up to buy the D&D basic set. Turns out that wasn’t a game I played or ran either, as the school club where I actually started playing was all about AD&D. So that meant asking for the expensive hardback volumes of that game for Christmas from various relations. You can argued that D&D and AD&D are two different games, and yes AD&D would then be the second game I owned, but not one I actually bought.

So, cut to New York. My parents had taken me on an exciting US east coast holiday. I was determined visit a games store in New York, and to buy a game that wasn’t (then) available in the UK. The first of those was easy, luckily there was a games store down the street from our hotel! We passed the store pretty much every time we went anywhere, which I am sure annoyed my parents as I would dawdle by the windows, trying to work out what I wanted to spend my money on.

Daredevils was attractive to me because, of course, Indiana Jones, but I had also read some Marvel Doc Savage, Man of Bronze reprints. Also, it wasn’t fantasy OR science fiction, but something new, no monsters or aliens, but human vs human. I still retain a base aversion to externalised, non-human antagonists, which I have to suspend when I play games with monsters or “evil” races.

Unfortunately, upon reading, I discovered that Indiana Jones and a few appearances of Doc Savage were not the grounding in American pulp that I needed to really appreciate the game. But there was another problem too.

It was written in the early 80’s when (it seems) the dominant philosophy in RPG design (it seemed) was to better similitude physics, rather than to emulate the genre. There were exceptions of course, the aforementioned Toon for example. But as I read more and more of the slim, but dense book (this was the age of stapled books in boxes) even as a young teen I realised that the system seemed to work against the tropes of the pulp genre.

Anyhow, my expensive (then, to me) purchase was not inspiring. I made a mistake. I bought a game I knew nothing about. Luckily todays gamers, in our connect world, don’t have to make the same mistake.

I hope!

#RPGaDay2022 Who Introduced You?

I already mentioned my Mum, who handed me that newspaper magazine article. But she didn’t help me find my first game.

I has saved up for ages, and cycled to the local Department Store, when the books section was selling the D&D boxed set. I bought it, strapped it to the bike rack and cycled home. I inviting my best friend from my old school round to play. We simply didn’t understand how. I was .… disappointed.

It wasn’t until about a year later that I jo8ned the “Wargames Club” at school. There I played my first game. And to be be honest I can’t recall who was running that game and who else was playing. But I will hazard a guess that my co-host’s brother, Tony, was there. And probably John Learner, amd I am pretty sure one of the was Mick Rowe. These then are the people I will say introduced me to playing RPGs.

But I can remember very clearly one moment. The party was attacked by skeletons or something. I looked at my character sheet and noticed my characters was equipped with a Ring of 50 Fireballs. “Can I use that?” I asked “the room is ten by ten, how many fireballs do you want to use” said the DM.

I replied “Fifty?”

#RPGaDay2022 System Sunday: Describe a cool part of a system that you like

You know what I am going to say. I love the push mechanism in the Year Zero Engine.

Surely everyone knows by now. In (most) YZE games you roll a handful of d6, with the hope that one or more will come up 6. You only need one to succeed, but given that the “handful” might only be, say eight dice, the chances of a 6 coming up are not great. For that reason, the “push” is a way of rolling again, at a cost.

The cost is different for each game. And the brilliance of that is the push mechanism, and the cost, helps the game evoke the world it is creating. The most elegant example of this is stress in Alien RPG, but I love the the Banes in Forbidden Lands just as much. They keep combat short and bloody and make that world feel like, well, like it’s been written by Joe Abercrombie.

A lot of people don’t like the non-linear probability of throwing a handful of dice, twice, and still not getting a single six. But my advice to GMs faced with players demanding that a 5 should also count as a success is stay firm, only ask people to roll dice when it matters, when something interesting will happen if they fail. And encourage players to pay the cost of pushing. It’s a brilliant narrative generator.

How would you get more people playing RPGs? #RPGaDay2022

How would I get more people playing RPGs? Me?

I am seriously not wanting to sound at all smug here, but I am going to reply, somewhat immodestly, “by doing what I have been doing this last five years.” Primarily by hosting a podcast about RPGs, secondly by recording (some, not all) our games and sharing them on another podcast feed. And more recently by streaming some of them, live on YouTube (and Twitch, but I don’t really care about Twitch).

Now I am not going to argue that any of these are any good. (Well, I am quite proud of podcast.) In fact my point about the actual plays, both podcast and on YouTube, are not great. They are not entertainment. Some people are entertained by them, I hope, but we don’t try to make them entertaining for the audience. We simply share the things that entertain us as we play.

We have two principles, to play (to the best of our ability) the Rules as Written, and to edit only lightly, so we don’t chop out much of the side banter, and we never re-record anything. We want the experience of the audience to be as close to sitting at the table as we can make it.

One reason for this is, we are lazy. But the other is slightly more principled. I worry that great shows like Critical Role are too good. I want to show that anybody can play games, you don’t have to be Hollywood voiceover artists, supported by prop makers, sound engineers and costumiers. I want to show you can sit at the table, with the rule book at your side and with your friends, you can make an adventure together.

And I know it works.


Why will she like this game? Longtime readers met my wife on Day 1. I told you how I was hoping to introduce her to TTRPGs. But I also told you that the game I planned to use was not the one I recommended on Day 2.

Now I reveal that plan to use Nights Black Agents: Solo Ops. And I think she will like it because it is a 1 to 1 game, designed for one player and one GM. Sue has agreed to play a game with me because she wants to spend time talking to me. I don’t think she wants to wait her turn, or shout louder than the other players, especially if there were more experienced players around the table.

When we were enjoying those lockdown walks we had structured conversations. And what is a TTRPG if not a structured conversation?

#RPGaDay2022 Where would you host a first game?

The Social Distancing Dome

A short answer today. The last few people I have introduced to RPGs have been welcomed to our Social Distancing Dome, which my wife Sue, bought presciently just before lockdown 2020. When the lockdown was relaxed but only outside. It was the only place to play, except on-line. And it worked really well.

I know it’s hard for some people to meet face to face. And it’s been made even harder by recent events. So on-line play has probably become “the norm” now. But I would always try to enjoy face to face games. Less tiring. More fun.

#RPGaDay2022 When were you introduced to RPGs?

1977. Games Workshop published a local edition of the first D&D Basic Set in the UK, and of course backed it up with a marketing campaign. I remember we were staying my my grandparents, “Nin” and Granddad, in their cottage in Grafham, West Sussex. It was Sunday and my Dad had bough some newspapers, including the Sunday Times. My Mum handed me the Magazine supplement, open to a page which featured a quarter page article on D&D, with a colour picture of one of Citadel Miniatures’ Dragons (and some other out of focus figures). Only the magazine featured colour print in those days, and the editors obviously thought the dragon picture was worth a place in the magazine. The article was very short, it didn’t say much. But my Mum thought I would be interested.

And I was.

I didn’t get to play though, until the following year.

#RPGaDay2022 What is a great introductory RPG?

The obvious answer here is D&D, it has always been D&D in whatever edition is published at the time. Why? Because that’s the game a new player is most likely to find. It’s the game that has the most groups running. It’s likely to be the game a friend plays. And if not, a complete stranger can walk into any Friendly Local Gaming Store and sign up for a game. Until very recently I co-ordinated Adventurers’ League at my local store and every Saturday, we had five to eight tables of people playing D&D. It is “great” because it is big. But it’s not the game I have introduced new players to RPGs with.

When my kids got their introduction it was with Fate Accelerated Edition. They were arguing over a story they were inventing around a Lego town they were building, and it was getting to the “trashing the town” stage of anger. So I explained that “grown ups” setting such arguments in let’s pretend with a robust set of rules and some dice.

I was running a “Great War veterans vs Body Snatching Aliens” campaign in Fate at the time, so I explained Fate dice to the kids, and very soon, Lily’s Princess Leia was working with Tom’s Cowboy in an Ape MechSuit to rob a train. family fun for all. But Fate isn’t a great introductory game either. It uses a lot of words to explain simple concepts. It works with kids, who aren’t going to bother reading stuff, but grown ups?

No, what grown ups need is Alien. The RPG that I helped write. (I love saying that). Seriously, it’s a great introduction because even people who have not seen Alien have a “folk-memory” idea of what it’s about. And people who are nervous about “acting” a character are helped with the character’s agenda. That agenda also helps players expecting with the concept of “winning” a game get used to the idea of a game where you win only by having fun, in a setting where pretty much everyone not played by Sigourney Weaver loses.

I am not blowing this trumpet theoretically. This comes from practical experience, and from anecdotal evidence. Alien has attracted a lot of fans who had no previous experience with RPGs and even encouraged sone of them to start running games before ever playing in them. The simplicity of the system helps in that regard – as far as Year Zero Engines go, this is one of the simplest. (Not the very simplest, Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood are simpler still.) So it’s a lot easier to learn to run Alien that it would be to learn D&D.

Players like the simplicity too. Throw a bunch of dice to see of you get a six, if not don’t you can though them again adding a stress die to your pool. Watch out for ones on the stress dice. That’s all the rules in a nutshell. The push mechanism is fun possibly the most fun of any Year Zero Engine game – and feels so right for the story. Try harder and get better, more likely to succeed, until you panic.

I have recently introduced three neophytes to tabletop roleplaying with this game, and they all loved the experience.

#RPGaDay2022 Who would you like to introduce to RPGs?

I have to start by saying, I much prefer these actual questions rather than the cryptic one word triggers of recent years. I applaud their return. And while I am here, let’s give a shout out to Dave Chapman, who’s idea this whole thing was.

Anyhow, my wife doesn’t really like games. She likes Scrabble, and she is good at it (perhaps she likes it because she is good at it 🤔). She will play Illimat too, and I have found a couple of games which she at least likes aesthetically (Wingspan, and Sweet Existence) but I am not sure she really enjoys playing them.

However during the lock down she and I started taking walks and taking about our hopes and dreams. And on one of those walks she said she would let me run a one-to-one game with her. We have not done it yet. But “my wife” is the answer to the question.

As to what game I plan to run for her, that will remain a mystery for a few days. But it’s not the game I am going to talk about tomorrow.

#RPGaDay2020 – Want

This year, as I have said Dave and I were not up to doing a (short) podcast a day, as we have for the last couple of years of #RPGaDay. Instead I have been using it as an opportunity to review the podcasts that we have put out over the last three years. You might not want this, you might want daily audio content from two old geezers recording five minute conversations prompted by an RPGaDay topic.

Today it downed on me that you CAN have what you want, and we can carry on promoting old episodes at the same time. We just promote our old RPGaDay episodes. The first year, especially was pretty good. Check out day one 2018 here.