* What all are y’all hyped to play these days in small press-land? My Urban Shadows game is on extended hold (one of my players is unavailable and I really don’t want to proceed without him) so my next-play list so far looks like Fall of Magic, Blades in the Dark, Ryuutama and maybe Blood Red Sands by Ralph Mazza. I’m reading BRS for the first time and it’s interesting! More on it later.
* I’ve been thinking about OSR games a little lately, and a recent thread by Marshall Miller brought two resources to my attention: Brent Newhall’s OSR Handbook and another one called Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, which is a freebie on Lulu. I downloaded the Quick Primer and it’s kind of the nail in the coffin for me on OSR. There is literally nothing I’ve read out there — I haven’t read Brent’s thing yet! — that isn’t rife with ideological posturing. The Quick Primer is no exception: while it tries really hard to be even-handed and objective, the core problem is that every time the writer refers to “modern games” he’s referring to the most recent edition of D&D. It’s a completely unexploded perspective on where roleplaying is these days, so everything once again is couched in a strong us-vs-them reactionary way. So I think I’ll look at Brent’s next (it’s at RPGNow for $7 or something) and cross my fingers, but I think it’s gonna be just impossible to research the topic without the eye-rolling attached ideology.
* I was kind of skeered about starting up an RPG run with just two players, but as Jason Morningstar pointed out to me, that’s actually a pretty luxurious setup for certain kinds of games. I think it’s suboptimal in some ways, because the character interplay is pretty narrow, but the players get so much development and screen time. I think Blades in the Dark is gonna be juuuust fine with two. Ryuutama as well I think/hope.
* So I have this infrequent family RPG night I’ve put on a few times, right? My wife, my brother, his daughter and his girlfriend. It’s nice! Because two of them are noobs (wife and niece) and two are noobs to modern small-press game design (brother and his gf). We ran a couple sessions of Firefly, but lordy they could not get their hands around the widgets. I’ve always felt a little trapped talking about Firefly because I have both Cam Banks and Mark Diaz Truman in my world, and I think I’ll continue to be circumspect about this iteration of Cortex Plus except for this: I’m super interested in hearing what folks think is the very best iteration of Cortex Plus. Marvel? Smallville? I’m looking for like…the Platonic ideal of what Cortex Plus can accomplish, here. I feel like Firefly is not that ideal.
* Hey so anyway, that family game night. Thinking I’ll put them through an evening of Urban Shadows. Super accessible theme (esp for a one-shot, which I have to assume it may be), a little mechanically fussy, especially for my niece, but I think the game runs well even when the players aren’t carefully managing resources and economies. Maybe even better! I’ve had some Urban Shadow shenanigans crop up with my supersmart play-optimizing regulars and they don’t break the game, but they push the game riiiight to the edge of it. It can be dizzying dealing with interlocking intimacy moves, corruption, and debts.
* I made the mistake of joining the Powered by the Apocalypse Community recently. There’s a ton of talk in there about how to do a PbtA western (Keith Stetson is working on one, but there are several other threads talking about it) and it makes me so itchy. I get itchy because I know they’re talking “western” in terms of literature and film. And my New American West history studies fire off a million alarms because western literature is almost completely unrelated to the actual history of the American West. I’m also working on a super-sekret PbtA western project, but it’s a rejection of the literary tropes in favor of actual history. And it’s hard to maintain excitement for the project when I know the buying public wants gunfights and stagecoach heists more than they want super-intersectional frontier communities and brutal colonialism. Hopefully there’s mindshare for both!
Enough rambling. Y’all have an awesome and safe holiday.