Tabletop RPGs in 2022

Thanks for the rundown!

And as Polygon noted, the bundle includes this gem:

I’ve read good things about AGON which is in this bundle as well.

I ran my Hope’s Last Day session with the second group today of volunteers. It ended… well? There were 2 survivors at least. :D

One awesome thing: Of the 5 players at the table, only one had ever played a TTRPG (my wife, 2 years ago). All the others were new to them. The agendas are such a great bit of design. Even though they had never roleplayed, I saw all the players use that as guidance to dive into those characters and think of how they would act. It worked so well. I had a blast just watching them.

The final part also had many twists and turns and “You didn’t just do that!” moments. All the while with the characters constantly on the verge of panic.

The best part is that they were all up to play more RPGs together. A game which can bring together people who don’t know each other (at all or well, depending) and make them want to play more is pretty fantastic in my book.

Hope’s Last Day is a very simple cinematic. It’s all Act III action, none of the build up of a good movie. It’s made me even more eager to start running the 3 interlinked cinematics with a group though (Chariot of the Gods, Destroyer of Worlds, Heart of Darkness). I’ve got a good grasp on the system now. All I need is to read the scenarios and get prepping.

I think I would happily use the classic sheets for players used to the system. I love their design more. But this one is plain black and white, things are grouped together players get all the weapon range modifiers in place.

Masks of Nyarlathotep sounds awesome. So much so that our regular Call of Cthulhu Keeper has offered to run it for our group every other Sunday. We’ll meet up in person in London and play through it. Needless to say, I can’t wait. I hope you have as much fun running it. It’s like a 2 year commitment, isn’t it? Not sure what the prep is like. Props to you for jumping in!

This tweet is thoroughly accurate.

This bit brought some real joy to my soul!

Spent today on a call with five close friends talking about revisions to the PbtA system I co-wrote to run our current home game (we’d mostly been in person, but I went to a concert last night and a couple of them are immunocompromised or living with someone who is, so videochat today, alas).

It was a little deflating to hear about frustrations people have had, of course, but generally, it was a really, really good experience. They’re all super smart and invested players in a variety of ways, so their perspectives on what is and isn’t working and why are fascinating and genuinely valuable. We arrived at several good fixes for a bundle of related recurring issues, and I’m feeling really excited about the second arc of our campaign.

Mind, this will involve making a bunch of mods to the system that I think make it better for the particular group of friends involved w/ it (we’re all a bunch of emo RP-lovers who want all the characters to be sad and dramatic but maybe also get dates) but possibly less appealing as a finished product overall. . . or it might just be that we’re approaching a different kind of game situation than the system in question (PbtA) normally handles well in its more common iterations. In any case, once it’s more thoroughly fleshed out, I’ll def share a version of it here :)

Me too! Especially as a new GM. I felt pressure to get it right. And I loved that the players ended up having as much fun as I did.

Interesting that you are modding Pbta. I know little about it. But my outside impression is that it gets used for many different games and settings. So it would sound like it’s quite suited to hacks and mods?

Anyway, I hope you end up with a result you all like and come back face to face soon-ish. It’s so great to share a good time at the table with friends.

The plan is just to run the new prologue, since its fairly stand-alone. It takes place 4 years before the main parts of the campaign, and seemed an interesting locale (Lima, Peru 1921) and an interesting storyline, that didn’t escalate too quickly.

The Call of Cthulhu one-shots I have run before, all go from 0 to 100 very quickly, and I would like there to be a bit more unease, and guessing, than just getting to the gory and horror parts too quickly.

Right now, the family group I am running games for, is just being thrown around in different game systems that I would like to try and then we’ll see if anything sticks, and we’ll get a real campaign going, instead of these one-shots.
While fun, they are also limited in that you never really get to bond with your characters, and I think thats a big part of the fun of TTRPG’s. Thankfully, CoC games have great pre-defined characters with great backstories, and pictures, that makes them work kinda like agendas in Aliens, without being as specific.

I would REALLY like to hear of these adventures, if you get them going. I don’t have any other than Chariot of the Gods but it seems so damn cool!

This is great! Loving it! You must be doing great!

Oh, Masks of Nyarlathotep? Is that the warm up campaign for Horror on the Orient Express? (Haha, jk. I ran about half of Orient Express in high school after it came out, but have never played or run Masks. Now that I think about it, I ran about half of Beyond the Mountains of Madness, too. So many promises unfulfilled!)

The following is a wildly overcomplicated answer, but it honestly helps me to type it all out. Read at your own peril!

Yeah, strictly speaking, PbtA is more of a design philosophy than a discrete system, which can be applied to many kinds of gaming. Vincent Baker has a fascinating, in-depth, and thoroughly mind-numbing analysis on it up on his blog.

That said, much to his mild chagrin, many people quickly latched onto a handful of mechanics he used to express that philosophy in his first major PbtA release, Apocalypse World many years ago and basically just glom those onto whatever vision they’ve got with little to moderate thought given to the deeper philosophy he espouses. In fairness to all those creators, most of the games they made as a result are still very fun, so, I don’t really mind adopting the broad public awareness of PbtA as something like “2d6-based game system with success bands for die rolls, no GM rolls (only responses to player rolls), broad fiction-first ‘moves’ to generate most die rolls, and playbooks in lieu of classes.”

And, well, that’s sort of what JC and I wrote in the first draft of Hopepunk: Cosmica, though we both tried to both be good students of the right and proper way of things where we could, hah.

In my case, what I’ve run into is that some of the particulars of what might make a “good” game in a broader sense are rubbing the particular sensibilities of my players (and, sometimes, myself) the wrong way. For instance, a lot of PbtA “experts” will exhort you to let moves like, say, offer someone support from Thirsty Sword Lesbians quickly move the current scene past a lot of small details of how the support happens, straight to just achieving the broader results and move on to the next scene. And, for what it’s worth, the PbtA model doesn’t handle, say, super granular combat with every single person taking one action per “round” well at all. It thinks in broader strokes than that.

But my players really like the very in-depth rp scenes and don’t want to just handwave past the “good stuff” of having big ol’ feelings once our game’s version of that, fix what’s broken would reasonably trigger – normally in PbtA, once you’ve done the thing in-character, the move is rolled, the results are adjudicated, and you move forward. So, in our case, whenever someone “attempts to mend or tend to something or someone (a piece of tech, a person, a relationship) that’s damaged or has lost part of its essential nature with either patience and forethought or with intuition and fragile hope,” the roll would theoretically just happen, the fixing would occur, and the next scene would arise. But the dang ol’ softies wanna cry on each other’s shoulders in-character for many long minutes, and I have no real desire to stop them :)

Not just that, though. PbtA really relies on a roll economy driven by mixed successes to produce the moment-to-moment fictional drama. The GM really shouldn’t be preparing much ahead of time apart from some NPCs and their broader agendas. When a move hits a mixed success (the mathematically likeliest result), you might wind up with complications like a character getting “Your poor planning has drawn unwanted attention or put you in a dangerous spot” (result from our go all out move of firing off half-cocked when your dumb teenage hormones make you Do The Thing) or “On a 7-9, the GM will explain how your actions would leave you vulnerable, and you can choose whether or not to go through with them. If you don’t, remove 1 Cosmica from the pool as your heroic resolve falters momentarily” (result from our take the high road move of doing the right thing in the face of serious consequences).

PbtA thrives on stuff like that generally. What dangerous spot they find themselves in after acting rashly, or what way they’d end up vulnerable from trying to do the right thing, can be made up on the spot in response to the action at hand, leading naturally to the next life-or-death situation the characters find themselves in.

My players, on the other hand, are 2 years deep into a pandemic that’s thoroughly shifted the baseline assumptions of their lives in awful, painful ways, and as silly as it might sound, having a 60% chance to get “yes, but” from every roll they make is really frustrating for them right now. Sometimes, they just wanna be able to say, “I succeed at the heroic good thing and everyone is happy,” and a lot of PbtA games don’t build in a mechanic for that. Without mixed successes generating new complications (and without fails providing XP), things might grind to a halt if you obey the philosophy to the letter of its law.

So, we’re shaking some things up and tweaking some of our rules to run this in a way that lets them have their big sappy heartfelt moments run as long as they want and to be able to get those big victories when the real people at the table genuinely just need a win to feel alright with their lives, hah. If I ever publish this sucker, I might walk back some of the revisions we’re making as we head into Arc 2 of the home campaign, but for the people at my table, my highest priority is their fun :)

Heck, maybe I could just include the “soft and fluffy mode” rules as an optional playstyle in an appendix. . . `

So, I am doing what all the great companies are doing, and making a teaser.

This is a teaser for a post I will make, probably tomorrow.

Damn - should I have made an announcement for the teaser first? I suck at this!

Ha! Hype levels rising!

Based on a bit of a map which might belong in Middle Earth, I’m going to wildly speculate that you are going to run a full Middle Earth campaign covering The Silmarillion all the way to the appendices. It will have guest star appearances by Stephen Colbert, Matt Colville and real life hobbits.

Am I close? :)

I meant to say that what you described of the broad public awareness of PbtA is exactly what I know of it. :)

I’ve watched a short session too. And I thought those partial successes were partially the point and strength of the system, always pushing the story forward.

So reading what you are trying to update and why was fascinating. Thanks for writing it down!


Some of it is also on me. While I’m a very heavy improv-style GM, sometimes I think my reactions to those “yes, but” results were undercutting the players’ goals in frustrating-to-them ways. My brain would just kinda lock up and provide some variation of “congratulations you get a shitty win” instead of an “interesting complication arises despite your success.” It’s something I’m trying to get better about.

Here’s an example from the rules revisions doc we have going on right now, talking about a rule we have where one of the Conditions players can mark when they get hurt is turning one of their Heroic Abilities (their stats) “Excessive” – e.g., Caring becomes Obsessive, or Inventive becomes Inhuman. When they roll with an Excessive ability, they always face a negative result, regardless of how well they roll, and I was going to that “shitty success” well way too often and causing frustration.


TBH, I’m loving our back-and-forth in the doc on top of our long chat on Sunday via

Turns out, game design is a lot of fuckin’ work!


Haha, thank you for the excitement @ArmandoPenblade and @Wendelius , but I only wanted to share that I recieved my latest rpg kickstarter, finally, 4 months overdue and it looks very, very good. As is par for the course for Free League by now, but its still awesome to see the presentation so well done!

Anyways - to the pictures of The One Ring!

This is one of the two cloth maps, which are way to expensive, and I now feel a bit silly purchasing. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome, but…the game comes with a fold-out map, albeit a quarter of the size, but still! (Ps - the GF refuses to mount the cloth maps on the walls for some reason!)

And the second one

This is the core rulebook - and it feels awesome, and is cool to touch and use!

The kicstarter came with the starter set box, which includes 9 pre-made characters - all hobbits, tailor made to the adventure it came with. They are, and I know I am in danger of repeating myself, exceedingly beautifull and well done!

Besides the front, with the picture and the description, they of course have their statistics on the backside.

The starter set contains three books, which are the Rules, The Adventure, and The Shire.

I am not really the biggest fan so far of The Adventure, as I think I’ve mentioned earlier, because its very low-stakes and has no real danger of any kind in it - at least, the first 3 parts of it. But, I haven’t played it yet, so maybe it will work out once I get to play it.

The starter set also contains a series of cards and adventure guide to help facilitate new players, making it a cross between a board game and an RPG. This has worked quite well for Free League before, in the games I’ve tried (Aliens, and Symbaroum and Forbidden Lands), as it makes it a lot easier for new players to understand and envision what is going on.

Anyways - that was what my big announcement was about - I just wanted some decent light to take the photoes, especially of the Cloth maps, which really ARE beautiful!

Now, I just need to finish up my current Masks of Nyarlathohotep prologue, and then we can try this one out :-)

Man, I’m a sucker for a cloth map. I loved when the Ultima games included them.

That cloth map looks awesome. And, like you, I love the quality of Free League’s physical books. They all feel great to page through.

I’ll be looking forward to your impressions after a session!

I notice that you might have slipped a little extra in your order. Or did Mork Borg just happen to be lying there? :)

Now that’s one rulebook I don’t get along with. I’ve paged through it. But it’s too chaotic. My brain runs away screaming, like the denizens of that doomed world…

Didn’t Vincent Baker say in Apocalypse World that he designed the game for his game group? I think that’s a good legacy for you to keep your version that hits the table front-and-center in the rules.

Thanks for the tantalizing glimpse into the process of a group taking a system and making it theirs.

Yeah. Truth be told, we’re emulating a fairly “soft” kind of fiction here (heavy inspo is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Steven Universe, etc.), so a balance that reflects that isn’t totally uncalled for. I’m curious to see how the updates will go, tbh.

I also keep wanting to push for a more heavily TV episodic-inspired game structure, but the current player group are also really craving unguided downtime chats with NPCs they want to date, so, I won’t be implementing that just yet, haha.

Ha! Its the Free league commercial ad that always comes with their games.

But I DO own Mork Borg, and…I am flabbergasted. I’ve tried reading it, but I just don’t understand what is going on, or how what I am reading translates into any kind of game that can be played by sane human beings.

That said, I kickstarted Cy_borg, because man the presentation looks good, and I am really intrigued!

Here’s a weird bit of TTRPG news.

M.A.R. Barker, linguist, creator of the Tékumel universe and one of the first TTRPGs (Empire of the Petal Throne), a guy that was dubbed “the forgotten Tolkien” by the press, was secretly a Nazi. He wrote a pro-Nazi novel for a white supremacist publishing company, “Serpent’s Walk,” and served as a longtime member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Journal of Historical Review, an advocate of Holocaust denial. Ironically, this was discovered by members of his own Tekumel Foundation in his papers after his death.

“The good guys win sometimes. Not always, of course. They lost big in the Second World War. That was a victory for communists, democrats, and Jews, but everyone else lost.” It continues, “A century after the war they are ready to challenge the democrats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Americans, who have begun to have their fill of government-enforced multi-culturalism and ‘equality.’”

Despite being originally published at the same time as D&D, and even later being officially published by TSR, Tékumel never caught on with the public like pseudo-Tolkien works did in the early years of TTRPGs. This was likely mostly due to the M.A.R. Barker’s creation being a pastiche of Mesoamerican, Middle-Eastern, and Indian influences which were wholly unfamiliar to most American gamers’ tastes at the time. Unfortunately, with this new information, the small core of Tékumel fans are understandably in a tizzy.

Here is the statement from the Tekumel Foundation:

The Tekumel Foundation Board of Directors wants to acknowledge that our research shows Professor M.A.R. Barker wrote Serpent’s Walk , an anti-Semitic novel that was published under a pseudonym in 1991. We have done our due diligence to ascertain the facts regarding Serpent’s Walk and Professor Barker’s affiliation with The Journal of Historical Review and we believe this needs to be recognized as part of Professor Barker’s past. While nobody today is responsible for the odious views Professor Barker presented in Serpent’s Walk , we are responsible for recognizing this book as part of his legacy.

That this acknowledgment was not done earlier was and is a mistake, and we apologize for that. We have been reaching out to several Jewish organizations to express our outrage over our findings and make our priority to work with them through this issue.

What Professor Barker did was wrong and forever tarnished his creative and academic legacy. As stewards of the world of Tekumel, we reject and repudiate Serpent’s Walk and everything it stands for and all other anti-Semitic activity Professor Barker was involved with.

The Tekumel Foundation has never been involved with or profited from the publication, distribution, or sale of Serpent’s Walk in any way, shape, or form. All of the proceeds from sales of Tekumel-related material have gone and will continue to go to the Foundation and its work, and not to any racist or anti-Semitic organizations or causes, in any way, shape, or form.