Tabletop RPGs 2021

I figured I’d start a new thread for this years Tabletop games, seeing as quite a few of us got into the hobby (again) last year.

I’ve recently purchased a few new RPG’s, both because I really enjoy reading them, but also because for the next six months, my youngest daughter is living with us, until she moves off to the university, and the eldest lives close by, so it was a great way to have some fun time together.

Speaking of fun times, I’d like to start this years Tabletop rpg discussion with the latest RPG I purchased, namely Alien.
I didn’t really know what to expect, other than a semi-horror, exploration, spacethemed rpg, but man - The presentation here is something else. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a slick package as the Alien Starter Set.
First off, it comes with a rulebook, and an adventure, named Chariot of the Gods. (The glare is me not turning down the lamp intensity, sorry!)


And they look GOOD! The feel of the paper print is amazing - slick, coated surface,which is what enhances the colors of the books images, and the black colors in particular.

The setup of the books as well is amazing - spacious, generous with imagery and gorgeously crafted. Its clear that whomever was the graphics designer on this, loved doing it!

The game also comes with five premade characters for the adventure, a deck of cards and two sets of dice AND a large map of known space, with the spaceship the adventure starts off in, mapped out on the other side. There’s also a sheet of push-out tokens to boot, making this a rather substantial beginner set - especially compared to the ones I’ve tried from elswhere, that felt a little cheap.
If anything, this feels like a deluxe edition of a game!

I haven’t started digging into the game itself very much yet, but on the surface I see there are two campaign types - Cinematic, which is one-shots I guess, where the story is the high point and you aren’t neccesarily expected to survive (The game likens this to the Alien movies experiences) and Campaign, where you are more likely to survive, and lets you build on you characters over several sessions.

All in all - Can’t wait to start up!

Whats on the menu for everyone else for 2021 re Tabletop RPGs’?

(A few more pictures of the stuff from the box)

I got that one in the post on Tuesday. It’s slick. I have watched part of a playthrough of another adventure last year and the stress mechanic seems really fun to play. Also, the dice with the chestbursters on them are suitably ominous. :)

My daughter is younger and will not play horror. So not sure yet when I’ll get to play it. But I’m looking forward to it too.

I’m about to run the first playtest game of Seek the Stars!, Season 4, with my fellow GMs acting as the playtesters. They’ll be playing as some of the core NPCs in the campaign setting, so they’re all used to embodying those characters by the time we start running for real with our actual players. Over the next three months, we’ll run 9 of our 18 total sessions together, and we’ll squeeze in at least three more during the campaign season itself in April - June between running for real every other week. We’re trying to cover the two major plot arcs that intersect this year, to the best of our ability.

One of our GMs even put together an awesome little “murder board” style plot tracker!

It’s always a little stressful getting this going each year, especially since I’m theoretically the boss of this campaign. We’ve been working out the meta plot and going over basic and advanced GMing techniques since we finalized this year’s GM team in October, and we’re STILL tweaking final mechanics (we’re moving from Fate Core to Fate Condensed this season, and reworking our space combat rules AGAIN, lol) and individual player character story arcs. Pretty sure we’ll finish before Session 0 on April 4…maybe!


It might be that I’m a little paranoid because I just wrapped up my second year as a co-GM on our group’s teen superheroes campaign, New Guard. While this was Year 5 (the space season), I had to link the OP for seasons 1-4 cuz the showrunner made a new OP for Year 5 that’s super locked down, d’oh. And while we’d planned for seven seasons, ending in 2022 (after starting in 2016!), with a truly epic and inane conclusion that wrapped up a couple dozen PCs’ stories and the grand narrative the showrunner had been spinning all along, this wound up being the campaign finale, cuz our great leader got insanely burnt out.

The level of detail, personal attention, and intricate subtle hidden meaning he wove into every single element of NG was mind blowing, genuinely. I played in it for three years and have never experienced anything else like it. We LIVED in that superhero high school, and the sheer amount of player write ups, art commissions, and hours long Discord in character role plays it spawned was awe inspiring.

Unfortunately, it took a superhuman effort to produce a campaign of that level of quality, which swiftly burnt out all of the co-GMs who joined in to help run it. In fact, I only gave up being a player in the first place to help it survive several GM exits after year 3. None of us could really write sessions, embody NPCs, craft stories for players, or just run the system at the level the lead guy did, and while he did his best to pull us up to where we was, in the end, it caused him a ton of frustration…and nevermind the players, often so whiny and demanding, sending him dozen page write ups to approve each week, constantly wanting up retcon their character builds, flaking out of commitments, and generally, often, just ignoring the core spirit of the game. Part of why season 5’s wiki is private is cuz he dumped about half a dozen players to focus on the folks who bought in most.

Obviously, if all that sounds crazy unhealthy and unsustainable, well, it super was. It was getting to the point that the stress was damaging years long friendships and literally making the guy vomiting blood level sick with stress and anxiety. So…we fast forwarded some stuff, revamped the last third of the season to be as absurdly epic as possible, and went out with an insane bang that left us all gasping for air.


Needless to say, I’m striving to be sure that my campaign doesn’t become so onerous. We’re lucky, as a comedy campaign, that nothing is taken as seriously, and people aren’t expected to buy in as much. And hell, Fate is a hell of a lot less complex than M&M 3E! But still, I gotta balance doing the things I need to do to ensure my GMs are prepared and able to run great games without worrying themselves sick…with making sure I don’t work them so hard it stops being fun.

Wish me luck tomorrow…my shit’s not even half written, lol!

Hehe, I see you are like me these days? Buying all sorts of games because its fun, and maybe like me, you are home from work again ? Buy yeah, the presentation here is simply amazing - and hopefully we will get to try it out in a few weeks.

By the way - there is an english word that I really like, “Evocative”, and the title for the adventure in this beginner set is just that, Evocative! It brings all sorts of feelings and emotions with it, set in its theme and setting.

Man, your games and campaigns sounds amazing, but… I already struggle a bit with prep-time for our small weekly D&D sessions with mapmaking and ideas - What you guys are doing sounds extremely impressive, but also rather scary. How much prep-time is it before a session? Or do you prep more yearly/monthly? Its interesting that it sounds like work to get ready, but once you get going, its often quite fun as well!

Your plot tracker, is that for the NPCs to follow, or the players?
Say - do you record your sessions, like I see some do online? Could be really cool to see :-)
Although - that stress level you describe sound horrible!

All in all, a lot more “professional” if that can be applied here, than what I do! I make somewhat detailed maps, but most text isn’t that much beyond a few basic descriptions. I also tend to change things from session to use, based on what happened and ideas I’ve come upon during gameplay.

He he. Yep. I’m not working from home again though. I’ve been at home since last March. And we are now in full national lockdown until end of February. No meeting anyone allowed. To say I need some distractions would be an understatement. :/

I also was very close to getting the Cyberpunk Red rules. But, again, not sure when I would play it.

If you are planning to run horror and would like some tips, I recommend watching some of Seth’s videos. He plays mostly Call of Cthulhu and Cyberpunk and has a soft spot for spooky stories. He recently published this video:

By the way - there is an english word that I really like, “Evocative”, and the title for the adventure in this beginner set is just that, Evocative! It brings all sorts of feelings and emotions with it, set in its theme and setting.

So true! I opened it and I immediately felt transported to the Alien universe. It’s really well put together.

@ArmandoPenblade, I don’t even know where to begin on your post. You operate in a different RPG plane of existence entirely. Having to run and manage what you describe would scare me to death no doubt. But I love getting glimpses of your evolving storylines and seasons when you post about them.

It sounds awesome.

That reminded me of what I had to do for the current Call of Cthulhu campaign I’m playing in. It involves some time shenanigans (a spell allowing to send letters from an apparently bleak future. Can they be trusted?) and multiple strands converging to bring about woe and destruction.

It’s gotten so involved that, not including strands of the investigation already closed, I had to put this together to remember who is who and how they relate.

Fun times.

We played Alien last year, good game that captures the genre well.

I am looking forward to running Broken Compass, a fantastic pulp action RPG from Italy. Have been looking for an Uncharted/Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider RPG for years and this looks like it nails it. The quick start is almost the entire game except chargen and GM section.

That seems like a fun system. And who doesn’t want to be an adventurer in a serial?

The successes system is interesting as well (get X dice showing the same number, whatever it is).

I’ll be curious to hear how your game goes if you get to run it. I think I would enjoy doing so too, but I don’t really have the time to come up with my own campaigns. One limiting factor of more indie RPG systems for me is finding good adventures to run.

I’m finishing up a weekly campaign of Monster of the Week which has been a good time, while running another group through an NDA’d project I’m excited about.

I’ve been getting to play Lancer which is just a disgustingly good game when it comes to tactical combat, online tool integration (seriously, comp/con is nuts for what’s functionally a free tool), and the setting is great too. Altogether a fantastic time, and it’s another one with an absolutely beautiful hardcopy book to boot.

I have the urge to do something hex-crawl or West Marches-esque soon, so maybe once Monster of the Week has finished…

I’ll start a low prep campaign in about 3 weeks and plan to use the Lazy Dungeon master as a template. The full game is all about including the PCs in decisions and world building. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Thank you!! And you’re not wrong, it is super over-the-top. GM burnout’s been a serious issue in our organization for awhile now. But we keep insisting on trying to top each other, hah. It’s not the wises thing to do, but in a global pandemic, what else can we do but hone our gaming, uh, game?

The Semi Organized Play Campaigns I describe above typically have 3-6 months of planning ahead of the actual 3-month season each year. Mind, that planning can skew lighter or heavier. New Guard was rife with complicated player storyline charts, relationship dynamic matrices, massive pools of NPCs, etc. It was several hours a week a lot of times, especially as the season drew nearer.

Seek the Stars! genuinely strives to be lighter; we do a couple of meetings a month for 3 months, 3 hours each, without a lot of “homework” between, and keep in touch via group chat when needed. The playtests do require folks to start really writing down and fleshing out the ideas we’ve developed in the planning meetings, and then, obviously, the time to playtest 2-3 4-hour sessions each month for a few months.

During the season itself, the work does ramp up, though. No matter how much prep we do to complete storylines and mission write-ups and NPC stats ahead of time, we always find a bunch of stuff we neglected to get done and have to rush to finish, and then we try to do brief, GM-centered write-ups of what happens at each of our tables each game-week (since we run 2-3 tables at a time each week, the only way we know how the other GMs actually advanced the shared plot is to communicate!).

Mind, at that point, we’re also, well, running sessions for our friends in the group, having after-parties at the local bar (well, on Zoom this year, of course), and chatting away in the big group Discord server about people’s goofy ideas and jokes, so it’s pretty fun, too!

The plot tracker above is more for our (GM) purposes right now, to keep track of which tables advance certain storylines. We’ll reveal a more general kind of storyline info the players each week when they sign up for tables (since they can bounce between GMs each week, it’s good to include some info, so they can follow a particular thread if they want). Here’s mine for the game I’m playtesting today:

"Oh boy, pups, try not ta get too exciterated, but gosh, yer gonna be workin’ with tha most famous of all tha Plodnars, Sadie Earwin – ya know, from The Cryoscale Hunter ‘n’ all dem other real good shows on tha Tri-Vis. Acourse, plenty of you’s already done worked with her before on other missions, but gosh, this one’s real important!

“Ya see, thanks ta some of tha intel we’ve been gathering up from the big fight with Fuzbie, we think we’ve done traced down one of tha first big fights anybody ever had against them Artaxathingies. And we think it might be just fulla datas to get! But it’s also a real scary place. That kinda place that Sadie’s a real expert at gettin’ into. So she’s gettin’ into it – with alla you!”
— Commodore Fetcher, Leader of Expeditionary Team Delta of the Systems Accord Space Patrol

Storyline: The Artaxian Cataclysm

Session Expectations: Spooky Mysteries, Mysterious Spooks, Investigating the Unknown, Living History!, Future Death!

Sadly, since the RPG group encompasses about 25-30 core members (and about as many other folks who show up more infrequently for our one-off and mini-con events), it’s hard to get the okay from everyone to record our games, but if the other GMs are okay with it, I can try to record some of our playtests this year :)

Dude, I’m not all that great with VTT stuff, but that looks awesome to me!! I’d love to get to explore that map. And hah, I recognize me some TokenTool tokens, I think :-D

Though I rarely run the kinds of games Seth does, I adore his channel. Like his advice a fair bit more than a lot of Matt Colville’s, too, hah, though I doubt I’d play at either of their tables.

Oh my god, I love that! Lord, a time travel horror mystery? Your GM is a crazy person!!

Oh man, I adore MotW. I got to play in a short campaign of that last year and had a blast with it. I love how it can really up or tamp down the campiness as needed. And I feel you on the hexcrawl thing. . . that’s been my gaming white whale for years now :(

I’m pretty sure it’s this published campaign:
https://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/the-armitage-files/

But it’s designed to be an improv-y semi-sandbox, so the GM would still be doing a fair amount of legwork.

You know your Cthulhu adventures. You are correct, sir!

It’s crazy. It’s very sandboxy and I would bet we have been taking the investigation to places it was not meant to go. Really, anything goes. The GM asks us what we want to do next week and, whatever we come up with, she takes it in stride.

Our characters wanted to know about the events of “Shadow over Innsmouth” recently, as some evidence was mentioned in passing as bearing some resemblance to samples from there. We ran with it so much that she created a 4 session flashback adventure where we were Marines raiding Innsmouth with the FBI 8 years earlier. We got to see what happened there with our own eyes (and my character is the one who ended up in a local asylum, the source Armitage later used to record information about the place). Quite a change of pace from the main adventure. I can’t know for sure. But I think that was her humouring us and finding a fun way to do exposition.

The Armitage Files must be a challenge for any GM. It’s great fun to play though.

Been playing Alien online with a group. I’m really enjoying it. The hardest part for me is knowing separating what I know about the films and making decisions that I know are dumb.

I’d never heard of this Alien tabletop RPG. Thanks, @Razgon! I’m picking up a set now.

Nice! Let us know how it goes if you will :-)

The hardback arrived for the Alien RPG. Very nice book. Well laid out, nice graphic design, and the text is all very readable. I obviously haven’t played any with a group yet, but I very much like what I see for the Stress and Panic mechanics as it gives a nice risk/reward option for players.

But… I should’ve remembered this is an officially licensed product, so of course the garbage Prometheus stuff was going to be part of it. I’m going to ignore all that crap which should be easy to do since it’s mostly fluff.

Edit: Not sure about the D6 system they use, but I’m excited to see it in action.

That was quick! Sounds great, and I love that it seems just as well done as the starter set.

I can’t recall - does it include any kind of adventure also?

The D6 system, from the video I saw about it, seems rather elegant actually. While all the different dice are great and fun in D&D, I do find they add to the confusion, especially for new players.

It’s interesting. I like how they do handle success and failures. If you miss your role you try one more time but you also end up using dice which will give you more stress. Stress is awesome as it helps you pull off clutch saves. Stress is terrible the more stressed the more likely you’re going to die.

It does. It comes with a section for a “cinematic” adventure. Hope’s Last Day.

As for the dice, I’m not sure. The crazy shaped multiple dice in D&D are weird, and for my family there was a bit of “which is the D8?” in their initial runs, but reading the results is pretty straightforward. The number is the number. My fear here is around the way the D6 is rolled and read differently for various things. I’ll see. My wife was pretty jazzed to see the book since she’s an Aliens fan, so I know we’ll be trying it out.

But again, I like the risk/reward mechanic, at least in theory. Looks interesting. Even if we hate the gameplay, at the every least the book is very handsome.

IMO, the dice results are, if anything, easier to read in Alien. No looking for the correct die for a check. Every 6 is a success and you only need one. Added successes might give you a cool added effect (stunt). All other dice can be ignored… unless it’s a 1 on a stress die. I think it’s simple and elegant. It also racks up the tension before you roll with your 2 stress dice or decide to push a roll.

I’m a third of the way through the core set rulebook and am really enjoying the layout. Very clear. Logical. And you can feel the atmosphere oozing out of the setting and game systems.

I do appreciate that all the canon universe is in there, whatever I thought of the movies. We don’t have to use it and we don’t have to do it in the same way the movies did either. But they are core themes and elements when it comes to living in that universe.

The rule books take some space to emphasise what the key themes of the game are. And I agree. They deliver that Alien feel for me.

Finally, I have to say: the art in the book is gorgeous. Those sketches are evocative, and the glimpses of the Xenomorph suitably scary.