RPGs of 2012 Week 4: #ttrpgs2012

Don’t Walk in Winter Wood 2nd Edition
The original of this came out in 2004, an early indie storygame. This version expanded that original slightly (44 pages vs 36), adding clarifications, new rules, contributions from notable game designers, and striking art. It would be successful enough to get both a German and Italian translation.

Intended to emulate the feel of campfire stories, it is set in a vaguely defined Colonial America. Actually the A24 film The Witch feels like a great touchstone for this. In the game itself, there’s a lot of backstory, legend, and atmosphere creation before you ever get to the mechanics. You’re over halfway before you get a whiff of that.

There’s a GM, the Watcher, and players, the Walkers, who define their characters vaguely through concept and motive. Resolution is simple. Throughout the game you gain cold token for shock. When you want to find out what happens, you roll a d6 and try to get above the number of tokens you have. You’re out of play when you get your sixth token. It’s simple, but it gets out of the way of the atmosphere which is what it is really about.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game
It is wild to me that DCC is only 10 years old. It feels like such an evergreen product. Goodman had done well through the d20 boom with a line of sourcebooks and the DCC adventure series. Plus games like DragonMech, Etherscope, and XCrawl. They shifted seamlessly over to D&D 4e. BUt in 2011 they released the beta and starter for their own old-school system, Dungeon Crawl Classics, with the final version coming out the next year. This also shifted the DCC line of adventures over to the house system.

DCC has garnered a committed following, in part based the strength of the ongoing DCC series. They’ve also established a strong, distinct art style with the work of Doug Kovacs. His use of color, the pulpy images with buried references, and the way Goodman Games has put his work front and center have made this one of the most recognizable lines in gaming.

The other big concept to come out of DCC is the Funnel. Each player generates a random set of four 0-level characters. Then this horde descends into a dungeon to be slaughtered. A player can select a surviving character to advance to 1st level and make a standard adventurer. It’s a great concept which pokes fun at the genre and OSR conventions at the same time.

Dungeon World
Yesterday I was shocked that it had only been 10 year since DCC’s release. Today I’m shocked about Dungeon World. DW’s the PbtA rpg with the largest volume of add-ons, new playbooks, fan sourcebooks, and third party releases. Seriously– check for the DW system on DTRPG.

It was also a PbtA game that sparked a ton of discussion about PbtA-style play and play in general. It emulates, for better or worse, the classic D&D experience, with levels, damage dice, etc., but it allows for fast play and rich collaboration.

DW’s among the really important first gen second gen PbtA games (along with MotW, Masks, MH). And our community wouldn’t be what it is without it. The Discern Realities podcast drew in a lot of people to us years ago.

A striking and potentially painful rpg, Durance has you playing two characters in a sci-fi penal colony. But the two occupy radically different positions in the hierarchy, Authority vs. Convicts and Top of the Ladder (Colony Leader, Criminal Overlord) vs. Bottom of the Food Chain (Conditionally free convicts, political prisoners). It has a great and quick system for building the colony and some interesting dice mechanics. It all feels very modern and it’s a game that would feel modern if it was released today (with some safety discussion added).

Durance was one of the earliest rpgs I played online. It was a pick-up game from some of us on RPGGeek. I remember it distinctly because when we got close to the end, my upper hierarchy characters forced a Sophie’s Choice on one of the PCs. One of those moments which makes me thankful we have safety tools around commonly now.

I liked the game enough to write and run an X-Men hack, a kind of Days of Future Past situation set in a Mutant Containment facility. It worked OK, but not great.

Eldritch Skies (Unisystem)
A near-future humanity against the Elder Gods rpg, released after a successful early Kickstarter and the winner of a Judge Spotlight ENnie.

Now I heard a story about this particular version, which uses Unisystem (AFMBE, Buffy). This came from someone who worked with Eden Studios, created of Unisystem. All of this is allegedly and second-hand. But what he said was that the designers of Eldritch Skies had mentioned doing a game with Unisystem to them, but hadn’t followed up. The first they heard about the game was after its release and getting some attention. And at that point the folks from Eden apparently told them no.

Hence you can’t find the Unisystem version for sale anymore, though a Savage Worlds version came out a couple of years later. I don’t know how true this is. And I had a contract with Eden which they never paid me for, so I may have an axe to grind. But it’s a story anyhow.

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