Roll Perception Plus Awareness Archives

Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Numenera by Monte Cook

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

This time out, we look at the other large-scale Dungeons and Dragons-influenced game, but one that offers a particularly different environment. That ‘sorcerer’ that fires lightning at you is doing so because she controls ancient nanotechnology to harness the power of electricity. That “+1 sword” Saladin’s character Amil found is really an ancient monofilament sword from thousands of years ago. Howard’s character Morias breaks into places and steals stuff without a sound because he carries an ancient device to draw all sound around him into it and dampen it. And just why is that gigantic amber monolith floating in the sky, thirty miles from town? Technology? Magic? Does the difference even matter?

Welcome to the Ninth World. Welcome to Numenera.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Geekomancy, Libriomancer and their RPG identities

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

This time out, we’re going to do something a little bit different and look at two recent series of ostensibly series. From a 30,000 foot perspective both Jim C. Hines’ Magic Ex Libris (so far comprised of Libriomancer and Codex Born) and Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy series (so fra comprised of Geekomancy and Celebromancy) have strong similarity. Both series tap into a fair amount of wish fulfillment and have geeky protagonists whose geekery turns out to be useful for magic. But as you dig into the series, there are two distinct personalities. They take place in two distinctly different roleplaying game universes, and this can be used as a way to critique and example the series and their elements.

Fair warning: This is a somewhat spoilery discussion of both authors’ series.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: 13th Age

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

This time out, we stay near to Dungeons and Dragons as we did last time with Monsters and Magic, taking a look at one of the two big Dungeons and Dragons influenced games coming out this summer¹.

Let me introduce you to a world surrounding a placid inland sea, an Empire run by a powerful Emperor. Powerful forces work within and without the empire. A powerful Lich amasses forces on an island in the Midland sea. A High Priestess seeks to unite all of the worshippers of the Gods of Good together. A Giant Gold Dragon keeps the endless maw of the dark Abyss from spilling its contents onto the world by bodily blocking the entrance. An Elvish Queen rules the elves and listens to their concerns-all the elves, both light and dark. A Dwarf King counts his gold, and old grudges, too, in his Mountain Hall. And there are others, too.

All are seemingly cognizant that the world is on the cusp of change. Big change that the player characters themselves can have a hand in shaping. Massive change to the world is not an unprecedented thing to the Dragon Empire and the lands around it. It has happened 12 times before, you see.

Let me introduce you to the 13th Age.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

In the endless new iterations of Dungeons and Dragons, version changes have often been an inescapable, fresh start from scratch. These radical reboots have not always been welcome, especially if beloved or appreciated aspects of previous editions get lost in the struggle, or new aspects are not welcome. Wizards get endless uses of spells now? Everyone roughly does the same amount of damage? I can just buy magic items from a list on the Players Handbook? Why do I have powers that refresh after every ‘encounter’? These changes were not always welcome.

In 2007, the OSRIC (Old School Index and Resource Compilation) was created. The stated goal of the OSRIC was to compile and bring together rules for old-school style fantasy gaming and to reproduce Dungeons and Dragons style rules from the 1970’s and early 1980’s, without the baggage, or the copyrightable elements of those old rules. Thus the Old School Renaissance, the OSR was born. As such, the Old School Renaissance has produced a sheaf of OSR games of various stripes and types. Too, if one takes 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons as your baseline, rather than 1st Edition, one might consider the successful and burgeoning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to be an example of the OSR phenomenon as well.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. For what I have for you this time out, let me set the scene:

Three X-men and a former Avenger investigate a breakout on the Raft, the maximum security prison in the East River for supervillains. There, they find that numerous inmates have escaped, with the help of Electro. Cinematic battles are fought in and on the raft. In a key moment, the Hulk, at the Raft in self and solitary confinement, proves valuable in taking out Vapor, Ironclad, Vector and X-Ray, the evil Fantastic Four-like group known as the U-Foes. And discover that there are deeper and darker things afoot, that mandate a temporary alliance to uncover.

Was this the latest issue of a comic? A motion comic on DVD? A new animated Marvel series? No, none of the above. This was a recent session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game that I participated in. Marvel is the latest roleplaying game from Margaret Weis Productions (yes, that Margaret Weis, fantasy fans).

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: #7RPGS

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. This time, I am going to tackle a meme that has been going around the RPG sphere.

#7RPGs is a meme that asks roleplayers to talk about the seven roleplaying games you have GMed or played the most and what you have learned from them. I’ve discussed a couple of these before. However, since the end of the year is a time of lists, I thought I would share my list with you.
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The 1979 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide is a milestone in the history of the roleplaying hobby. A quantum leap in terms of scale, scope and information on Dungeons and Dragons from previous offerings and editions, it was an essential volume for any Dungeon Master at the time.  The book is a folio of wonders, and is a delight to flip through, even if I have not run a straight Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game in many years.  For example, the art of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a real treat, from small illustrations like a farmer running from a giant insectoid Ankheg, to bits of humor (The mickey mouse ear wearing adventurers are hilarious, to some absolutely gorgeous full page illustrations.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide, as you might expect, includes information on an often bewildering array of subjects that I’ve used then, and now. Magic item lists? Check. Strange Artifacts (including how to roll your own)? Yep. Want to create a random dungeon? Rules for that. Random encounter table for a fantasy city? Got those, too. [You, too, can have your player characters run into a Weretiger. 1 percent chance!] How long does it take for an armorer to make plate mail? Yep, a chart for that. [90 days].

There is also some extremely weird information that never entered any game I ran or ever heard of anyone using. Saving Throws for magical and non magical items. Types of Insanity. The Humanoid Racial Preferences Table [Did you know that Trolls and Hobgoblins hate each other and your Evil Overlord should not be keeping them near each other?] The chances of your player’s characters getting a parasitic infection. [base 3 percent chance per month, before modifiers.] And much more.

And then there is the heart of the matter for today’s column, Appendix N.
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Welcome back to

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, my column here on SF Signal about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader and writer’s world. This time, I am going to tackle a writing game aimed at young adults that got its life in a Kickstarter campaign.

A temple lies in the heart of a collection of diverse worlds. In this temple, young pilgrims with the power of flight, and a desire to help people and a propensity to get into trouble await letters from those in need, be it from a child on an asteroid being swallowed by a space whale, or a resort asking the Pilgrims to make sure a contentious convention goes off with success. The Pilgrims then fly off to said world, and seek to solve the problem, and have adventures along the way. After all, they mean well!

Welcome to the world of DO.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Exalted

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

This time, I am going to tackle a game I game master, and was also put in mind of when reading a forthcoming novel from Philippa Ballantine. And even more poignantly, the game that inspired the title of this column. This time, I am going to discuss the White Wolf game Exalted.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. This time, I am not going to tackle a game, but rather a legend in the roleplaying genre who recently passed away: M.A.R. Barker.

M.A.R Barker — whose full name was Mohammed Al Rahman Barker — died last week at the age of 83. He was a professor of languages and culture at the University of Minnesota in the Department of South Asian Studies until the early 90′s, when budget cuts did away with the small department. The reason why I bring him to your attention today, though, is not because of his academic interests but rather his gaming interests and magnum opus:Tekumel.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Diaspora

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, my column here on SF Signal about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader and writer’s world. This time out, I am going to tag back to the hook in the last column, where I tackled Traveller:

Next time, we’ll tackle a recent science fiction role playing game that explicitly tries to take up Traveller’s mantle, to the point of even having the players and GM define the setting in game creation. *And* try to make it with harder science than Traveller, too. What is it? Stay tuned!

And now I can reveal that the game I had in mind is the indie RPG Diaspora.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Traveller

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, my column here on SF Signal about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader and writer’s world. This time out, I would like to tackle another of the ur-games of the genre.

If the ur-game for fantasy roleplaying games is Dungeons and Dragons, then the ur-game for science fiction, specifically space opera games, is Traveller. While probably near every reader of genre, and many who don’t read genre has heard of Dungeons and Dragons, I bet that Traveller, even though it was a formative a game in its way, is far less known to you. There are reasons for that, but let’s table that for the moment and just correct that imbalance, shall we?

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: GURPS

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column meant to introduce SF Signal readers to the world of roleplaying games. Today, I want to bring to your attention a game system I have only played as a game, once, but, like me, many gamers have taken inspiration and ideas from: GURPS.

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Ever since the Sudden Mutation Event, people have been able to fly. Phase through walls. Read minds. Shoot bolts of energy from their fingertips. Walk into dreams.

As members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, you and your fellow detectives solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. When a mutant power is used to kill, you catch the case. When it’s a mutant victim in the chalk outline, you get the call. And when it comes time for a fight, you deploy your own extraordinary abilities to even the odds.

With new human capacity has come new science. Your squad brings forensic science to bear on the solution of mutant crimes. Need to know if a suspect is the victim of mind control or dream observation? Perform an EMAT protocol to detect the telltale signs of external influence. Was your victim killed by a light blast? Use Energy Residue Analysis to match the unique wound pattern to the murderer, as surely as ballistic science links a bullet to a gun.

Does your crime scene yield trace evidence of two separate powers? Use your trusty copy of the Quade Diagram, the infallible map of genetic relationships between mutant powers, to tell if one suspect could have used both-or if you have two perps on your hands.

If chases, interrogations and mutant battles weren’t enough to handle, you also serve as a bridge between the authorities and your mutant brethren. To successfully close cases, you must navigate the difficult new politics of post-mutation society, and deal with your own personal issues and mutation-caused defects.

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column meant to introduce SF Signal readers to the world of roleplaying games. This time out, we’re going to look at a game and a system from the prolific people at Pelgrane Press: their Gumshoe investigative system, and a specific iteration of it: Mutant City Blues, as designed by Robin D. Laws.

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Something’s wrong with the world and I don’t know what it is.

It used to be better, of course it did. In the golden age of legend, when there was enough to eat and enough hope, when there was one nation under god and people could lift their eyes and see beyond the horizon, beyond the day. Children were born happy and grew up rich.

Now that’s not what we’ve got. Now we’ve got this. Hardholders stand against the screaming elements and all comers, keeping safe as many as they can. Angels and savvyheads run constant battle against there’s not enough and bullets fly and everything breaks. Hocuses gather people around them, and are they protectors, saviors, visionaries, or just wishful thinkers? Choppers, gunluggers and battlebabes carve out what they can and defend it with blood and bullets. Drivers and operators search and scavenge, looking for that opportunity, that one perfect chance. Skinners remember beauty, or invent beauty anew, cup it in their hands and whisper come and see, and don’t worry now about what it will cost you. And brainers, oh, brainers see what none of the rest of us will: the world’s psychic maelstrom, the terrible desperation and hate pressing in at the edge of all perception, it is the world now.

And you, who are you? This is what we’ve got, yes. What are you going to make of it?

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column meant to introduce SF Signal readers to the world of roleplaying games. We’ve talked about some of the heavyweights of roleplaying, the ones that you have most likely seen or even played yourself. This time out, we’re going to head on into the world of small press “Indie” games with the latest game from D Vincent Baker: Apocalypse World!

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, my column on introducing role playing games to you, the SF Signal reader. This week, I am going to tackle a game based on a media property and the underlying mechanics behind the system. I am going to talk about the award winning Dresden Files Role Playing Game (DFRPG), and the system behind it, FATE.

The Dresden Files novel series likely needs little introduction to you, the readers of SF Signal. With over twelve books in the series thus far, Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series about the only wizard in the Chicago phone book is extremely popular and is a tentpole of the urban fantasy sub genre. The Dresden Files universe is a complex, complicated hidden world, with wizards, vampires, faerie and more (including a mundane mobster with “connections”) which just out of sight to most mortals lends a rich environment for Harry, his allies, counterparts, and his enemies, to exist in. It is little wonder that such an environment would be one that many would want to set a roleplaying game in. In addition, Jim has strong connections to the roleplaying community. For example, I have role-played with his agent, Jennifer Jackson, and she herself co-ran a yearly gaming convention in the Boston area for a number of years.

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Pathfinder RPG

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about the world of role playing games. Two installments ago, I mentioned that the end of Dungeons and Dragons version 3.5 led to a reboot of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise into its 4th edition. This time, I will take a look at the other major game to come out of the end of D&D version 3.5…a game that isn’t D&D at all, but aspires to carry on the 3.5 tradition: Pathfinder.

As I mentioned in the aforementioned column, the Open Gaming License offered by Wizards of the Coast for 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons led to a proliferation of d20 products and RPG companies seeking to tap into that market. Among those companies was a company called Paizo.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness. Although I tantalizingly promised last time to talk about the alternative to Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition that some have embraced, a tweet from Kate Sherrod, and a video pointed in my direction by SF Signal’s own John DeNardo has convinced me to go back to some basics. Today I am going to talk about the Ecology of the Gaming Table.

What do I mean by Ecology of the Gaming Table? Let’s unpack the title. It refers to a series of articles that originated in the early days of Dragon Magazine. The series of articles that began woth “Ecology of the…” were articles in the D&D oriented magazine that brought a view to the various monsters that populate the game world that went far beyond the hit points and other statistics you might find in a Monster Manual. The tone of these articles ranged from chatty conversations to serious speculation about the life of these monsters, and how a Dungeon Master could use these to make a richer dungeon and game world. They were a favorite of mine, and the online edition of the magazine oriented to 4th Edition continues that tradition.

Here in this column, I am going to talk about the roles of players and game masters. Being immersed in the world of roleplaying and roleplaying games so thoroughly, I assumed that everyone had a good idea of what players and game masters do. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a bad assumption.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, my column to introduce the world of modern roleplaying games to you. On this outing, I am going to tell you about the 800 pound Gorilla of roleplaying games–Dungeons and Dragons. In the specific, the latest “4th Edition”.

If you, gentle reader, have played any roleplaying game, I would lay odds that it was probably a version of Dungeons and Dragons. From its origins in the 1970′s as a fantasy adjunct to a wargame, and through the 1980′s, Dungeons and Dragons became the most recognized roleplaying game on the market. You may even remember the short lived cartoon series from the 80′s as well. You may have tried to forget the movie in the 1990′s. I suspect Jeremy Irons is still trying to.

To understand 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons in context, let me begin with a little more history…

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: An Introduction

Roll Perception Plus Awareness is a new column by Paul Weimer designed to introduce modern Role Playing Games to the readers of SF Signal.

Many readers, perhaps like you, remember Dungeons and Dragons. You may remember the 1980′s cartoon, or the movie in the 1990′s, or even played it yourself back in the day, in someone’ s basement, perhaps at a high school or college club, or in the back of a local, small FLGS–Friendly Local Gaming Store.

Sure, the craze and phenomenon of D&D has passed its high water mark in public consciousness, but roleplaying games have evolved and changed and adapted since the days of rolling up clerics, fighters and thieves to explore dungeons. Roleplaying games today range from White Wolf’s big lines of Vampires, Werewolves and more, to independent small press “story games” that both narrow the focus and expand the boundaries of roleplaying. Heck, there are games out there that don’t require a dungeon master at all! And, lest you worry, Dungeons and Dragons itself still persists in its divisive and controversial Fourth Edition.

The first and pertinent question you may ask is, why should you, SF Signal reader, care at all about roleplaying games? You may not have picked up a twenty sided die in fifteen years, or may never have, and may have little propensity (or time!) to do so. Even so, there are good reasons, as a connoisseur of fantasy and science fiction, for you to pay attention to roleplaying games.

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