RPGaDay – Days 1 to 7

By Dan Zappone August 1, 2023 10 Min Read
RPGaDAY2023 Prompts Image#RPGaDAY2023 Prompts

RPGaDAY – Day 1 FIRST RPG played (this year) – Pulp Cthulhu

Pulp Cthulhu and The Enigmatic World of RPGs

On a lazy afternoon, I embarked on an exciting journey to introduce the mesmerizing world of roleplaying games (RPGs) to a rather unique group: my dad, two of my nephews, my eldest son, and one of his close friends. We dived deep into the vibrant universe of “Pulp Cthulhu,” a variant of the legendary game “Call of Cthulhu.” For our adventure, I chose the iconic scenario, “The Disintegrator.” To many, the name evokes imagery of mystery, suspense, and heart-pounding action – and our gameplay did not disappoint!

For my father, this was an entirely new arena. He had spent years scratching his head, unable to fathom the allure and intricacies of RPGs. To see him, who had always been on the periphery of this realm, finally immersing himself in it was a joy to behold. With a brief primer on the rules, he was in the game, making decisions, plotting strategies, and fully engaged. Seeing the generation gap bridged through dice rolls, character sheets, and shared narratives was heartwarming. By the end of the session, he had grasped the essence of RPGs and became a testament to the age-old adage: you’re never too old to try something new. The afternoon was a symphony of laughter, camaraderie, and a shared experience that we’ll all cherish for years to come.

RPGaDAY – Day 2 First RPG GAMEMASTER – Basic D&D and Gamma World

Gaming Beginnings: From Wargames to the World of RPGs

D&D and Gamma World Covers Images

Back in the late 70s, I was a fervent wargamer. Those tabletop skirmishes were my daily bread until I chanced upon something new, something peculiar – “Gamma World.” To be honest, I might’ve initially mistaken it for yet another wargame. But as I leafed through the pages, I was introduced to the vast and spellbinding universe of roleplaying games (RPGs). The allure was instant, but the comprehension? Well, that was another story. The complex intricacies of this game left me somewhat befuddled, even though I was bursting with excitement. However, the universe conspired to throw me deeper into the RPG abyss. My next find was the “Basic D&D” set. My friend Tom and I, barely in our pre-teens, grappled with its rules, trying to grasp this alien yet enticing world.

Cue Tom’s older brother, Tim. The hero we didn’t know we needed. While he was older and, I’d wager, wiser, Tim took it upon himself to decode the rules of D&D for us. Under his guidance, Tom and I embarked on our first-ever RPG quest, navigating through “In Search of the Unknown.” Oh, what an adventure it was! This firsthand experience was the Rosetta Stone I needed. Suddenly, everything clicked into place. Energized and enlightened, I soon transitioned from player to game master. I revisited “Gamma World,” the game that first ignited my RPG curiosity. True, given the close lineage of RPGs to miniatures at that time, our gameplay felt a lot like a traditional wargame. But the essence, the story weaving, the thrill was a whole new world, and oh boy, was it fun, and still is!

RPGaDAY – Day 3 First RPG BOUGHT (this year) – Fear of the Unknown

A Chance Encounter with “Fear of the Unknown”

Fear of the Unknown Cover Image

As a connoisseur of roleplaying games, I’m always looking for intriguing new games that break the mold. On one such hunt early this year, while I was meandering through the stalls of GengisCon in February, my eyes landed on “Fear of the Unknown.” Now, this wasn’t just any game. Advertised with the enticing tagline of being a ‘zero-prep game’ and built on the well-regarded Powered by the Apocalypse engine, it promised a whole new RPG experience. What caught my eye even more, was its unique approach: the game wasn’t just played but crafted collaboratively like a horror film, with the gamemaster fittingly named the Oracle and the players co-creating a chilling narrative.

To add to the game’s allure, I was fortunate to meet its creator, Thomas Elliot, at the convention. Our conversation flowed effortlessly, with Thomas shedding light on his brainchild and its immersive mechanics. His passion was palpable, and I could tell that “Fear of the Unknown” wasn’t just another RPG; it was a labor of love. Since he had copies for sale at the convention, I thought, “Why not take the plunge?” and decided to add it to my collection. However, with the whirlwind that life often becomes, the game remains on my shelf, untouched and unplayed. But every time I glance its way, it beckons me, and I hope to soon gather a group and delve into the mysterious and eerie world that Thomas has conjured up.

RPGaDAY – Day 4 Most RECENT game bought – Warhammer FRP

Warhammer FRP: Delving into the Grim-Dark World

Warhammer FRP Cover Image

Ah, the intoxicating allure of a new RPG! My most recent addition to the shelf is the latest edition of “Warhammer FRP,” lovingly crafted by the talented folks over at Cubicle 7. For those who, like me, are seasoned with percentile-based games, these rules we very comfortable. Familiar yet fresh, they’re a breeze to grasp. And let’s talk about that book, shall we? It’s not just a rulebook; it’s an art piece. Beautifully designed, it transports you directly into the grim-dark universe of Warhammer, a world teetering between despair and defiance.

Now, my trysts with this game haven’t been too extensive yet – a mere four sessions under the guidance of my brother-in-law, who has donned the mantle of the game master. Yet, every session has been a rollercoaster, teeming with excitement, intrigue, and drama. The best part? While the rules provide an extensive framework, they never overshadow the story, seamlessly blending into the background and allowing the narrative to shine. And that’s precisely what I cherish in an RPG. The story, the camaraderie, the unexpected twists and turns. Our journey has just begun with “Warhammer FRP,” but I can already sense that it will be an epic ride. Here’s to many more sessions and stories waiting to unfold!

RPGaDAY – Day 5 OLDEST game you’ve played – Tunnels & Trolls

A Nostalgic Dive into Tunnels & Trolls

Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition Cover Image

Ah, “Tunnels & Trolls,” that ancient gem by Flying Buffalo! Even though I wasn’t part of its original audience (picture a seven-year-old me, likely with toy soldiers in one hand and a comic book in the other), it holds a special place in my heart as the oldest game I’ve ever played. No, I never had the privilege of owning a copy, but thankfully, I had Jose. In the shimmering days of the early 80s, Jose was utterly taken with this game, almost like a sorcerer obsessed with his spellbook. When he took up the mantle of the gamemaster, there was no debate: we were delving into the depths of “Tunnels & Trolls.”

As fickle as it is, memory doesn’t offer much detail about the game mechanics, but a few snippets stand firm. The clatter of 6-sided dice as they danced on our tabletops, for one. I also recall the magic system – distinct and different from the likes of D&D or RuneQuest – it added a refreshing twist to our adventures. And ah, the artwork! Liz Danforth’s illustrations brought the game to life, making the pages more than just text but gateways to mystical realms. Whenever I think of “Tunnels & Trolls,” it feels like dusting off an old, cherished book filled with tales of valor, magic, and camaraderie.

RPGaDAY – Day 6 Favourite game you NEVER get to play – Fiasco

Fiasco: A Game That’s Begging to be Played

Fiasco 1st Edition Cover Image

Ah, the allure of “Fiasco.” Whenever I leaf through its pages or gaze at my growing collection of playsets, there’s a touch of melancholy. It’s a game that promises so much rich narrative potential, a symphony of disastrous decisions and wild ambitions waiting to be played out. Yet, it remains on my shelf for some reason, gathering the dust of missed opportunities. I’ve got the first and second editions, each with intriguing twists and unique scenarios. The sad truth? Despite owning them, I rarely get to dive into their chaotic world.

The game’s essence is an ode to movies that relish in unpredictability and unexpected turns, drawing inspiration from the likes of the Coen Brothers. Films like FargoBlood Simple, and Burn After Reading evoke a certain visceral thrill—watching the domino effect of one bad choice leading to another. And “Fiasco” brilliantly encapsulates this essence, offering players the reins of their unpredictable narrative. What’s fascinating about “Fiasco” is its structural innovation. It dances between the worlds of board games and RPGs, blending elements from both to create a gaming experience that is as cinematic as it is interactive.

Whenever I talk about it or think of playing one potential gaming night, I’m filled with anticipation. The thrill of crafting a story where ambition knows no bounds and where impulse control is a rare commodity. Imagining the moments of unexpected treachery, poorly laid plans, and the pure comedic chaos that can ensue makes me yearn to play it even more. It’s a testament to the game’s design and storytelling potential. It still holds a special place for me, even without regular play. If you’ve played it, you’d know. If you haven’t, let’s just say it’s a fiasco you’d love to be a part of.

RPGaDAY – Day 7 SMARTEST RPG you’ve played – Microscope 

RPGaDAY – Day 7: Crafting Histories with the “Smartest” RPG, Microscope

Microscope RPG Cover Image

Day 7 of RPGaDAY has me pondering a particularly intriguing query: Which is the smartest RPG I’ve ever played? The competition is fierce, given the myriad of intelligent designs out there. Still, my nod goes unmistakably to “Microscope” by Ben Robbins. For the uninitiated, let me paint a picture of what sets this game apart. “Microscope” ventures where few RPGs dare to tread. Eschewing dice and the conventional game master role, players harness the power of simple index cards. Together, they lay the groundwork for a sprawling fictional universe, forging its intricate timeline in a refreshingly non-chronological manner. You commence with the grand epochs, the overarching eras and then delve into the more nuanced events and character-driven tales.

Navigating the “Microscope” cosmos is a nuanced dance orchestrated in distinctive rounds. Each round casts a spotlight on a particular lens or theme, offering a dynamic play between the sweeping arcs and the intimate beats of storytelling. There’s a fluidity to its progression – no dictated lengths for rounds, no constraints on session counts. The narrative sails smoothly, and the game’s end is as organic as its beginning, marked simply by the players’ consensus. My rendezvous with “Microscope” might be limited to a handful of sessions, but each has been a testament to its genius. It’s a masterclass in collaborative world-building and an exhilarating sandbox for one’s creative muscles. From high fantasy to gritty noir, its versatility is unmatched.

Robbins’ genius doesn’t stop there. His other titles, “Kingdom” and “Follow,” echo a similar philosophy, each exuding its unique charm and mechanics. They embody simplicity yet are profound in their narrative depth. An amusing footnote? “Microscope” enjoys the dubious honor of being one of the most pirated RPGs. While such a distinction is bittersweet, it inadvertently underscores the game’s allure and groundbreaking approach to storytelling.