Tabletop RPGs 2021

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:

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.

Agreed. I love the simplicity.

I’m a huge star wars fan and my friend keeps trying to get me to play, but there’s something more satisfying to me about running and hiding from aliens. I’m sure star wars is great, but everyone is a gun toting lightsaber super hero. Don’t get me wrong thats the appeal of being in that universe and I would totally play it, but the “grounded reality” of the alien rpg is very appealing. You can’t just shoot your way out of every situation.

I’ve been trying out the solo-able RPG system Ironsworn, and in searching for mentions on this forum, I discovered that the developer, Shawn Tomkin, is Qt3’s very own @BiggerBoat!

Shawn, congrats on the success of your system. I see people raving about it all over.

I put Ironsworn on my tablet and printed out appropriate playsheets. But I can’t seem to get started. And by that I mean this: I created the world by answering The Truths questions, which in turn led to prompts/quest starters. I created a character and he has vows, and thus has goals and motivations. And then… I’m stuck.

Mind you, I have very little tabletop RPG experience. Certainly none as a DM. I do play a lot of tabletop dungeon crawls and adventures, but those are not RPGs – you’re playing a game and any role playing is mostly in my head, separate from the game system.

So, essentially, having created a character and world in Ironsworn, I’m frozen – I’m not sure how launch out into this world. It all seems too open-ended and free, and I’m not used to such freedom. I’m sure if had more RPG experience this would not be an issue.

I have watched some youtubes of folks playing, and I listened to several episodes of your own “Ask the Oracle” podcast, and those were very helpful. I know I should just imagine an immediate or short-term issue and create a quest based on that, but I am too used to having the structure of a game system directing me. What’s the best way to overcome this?

Thanks for trying my goofy game!

In terms of getting started, don’t get too hung up on some grand campaign kick-off. Introduce something interesting but relatively mundane, make it a lower ranked quest, and dive in.

Something that involves a journey is the easiest way to get started, because there’s self-contained mechanisms for resolving a journey. And something with likely go off the rails, which will complicate the quest and introduce some new story stuff.

In the immortal words of a particularly wise wizard: "It’s a dangerous business going out your door . You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The nature of the quest will be appropriate to your character, of course. But think about the sort of stuff you’d deal with in a scarcity-driven low-fantasy world.

For example:

  • Guiding an important trade caravan
  • Fetching a rare medicinal herb from a nearby forest
  • Tracking and killing a marauding beast
  • Establishing an alliance with a nearby village/clan
  • Scouting the location of some marauding raiders

If you need a nudge, try generating a settlement and make that your character’s home (or a place you are visiting). Then, springboard off what you roll on the Settlement Trouble oracle. Or generate a character and roll on the Character Goals oracle, interpret the result, and envision them as a leader, mentor, or family member who appoints you with a task.

If you are on Discord, feel free to join the Ironsworn Discord, which is linked from the community page on my website. It’s an active, friendly place.

And I’ll also take the opportunity to plug Ironsworn: Starforged, coming to a Kickstarter near you this year.

Man, that is you who made that?! Awesome - It looks so interesting. I’ve watched a few youtube videos of people playing it twoplayer, and its something often discussed in Reddits solorpg section - Thats really impressive man!

Let us know when that kickstarter is, please!

Wow, I think this has been my problem. Starting out mundane never occurred to me, honestly. Thank you!

All of this is also very helpful. Thanks again, onward!

I’ve been following that as well. Do you have an ETA for the Kickstarter?

Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking of ordering the physical Ironsworn book but DriveThroughRPG only has expensive UPS shipping, or media mail for USPS which has huge delays. Are there other places to pick it up?

Sure! Things will tend to snowball intro complications/trouble. So just be open to revealing new facets of your supposedly mundane task as you go.

Thanks! April-ish is the current target.

Unfortunately no. I’ve heard mixed things on Media Mail lately. Some folks get lucky. Average is probably 20-30 days from order to delivery, but can be as long as 6 weeks. Printing takes a week or two, and then the USPS decides how much to slow roll delivery.

Please let us know when it is live.

Our big city post office announced that they’re focusing now on delivering new packages, and stuff that has been waiting since November or so… will just have to wait.

Wow such strange serendipity. Just last night I was browsing Drive-thru RPG to pick up D100 Dungeon, but was looking at other projects and I spent a lot of time looking at Ironsworn and even added it to my wishlist.

Now today I see it mentioned on QT3 along with the creator! Pretty awesome. Congrats on the release @BiggerBoat and good luck with the upcoming KS. I will be picking up Ironsworn soon. Looks really interesting.

My Group is more sci fi then fantasy so is HYPED for Starforged! The things you show on twitter look fantastic. We all liked Ironsworn and can’t wait to get this.