Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Year, New Games (and Old too...) - State of the Blog III Part Two

Well... I did not expect my first post for the 2017 New Year State of the Blog to devolve into a 4,000 word screed... Apologies to all who suffered through that...

A photo posted by Zack Schwartz (@thatwordyguy) on


So... I ran 11 different games in 2016, got to play in 4, but what are my plans for 2017?




I'll start with the quick hits, the continuity, as mentioned previously I plan on continuing to

So, what new games do I have planned?

Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone

  • I've had this one at the back of my mind since reading about it a few years ago. The article talks about the Fate Core version, but they also produced a Powered by the Apocalypse version, which is what I'll be running for my Wednesday group.
  • The game has gotten some mixed reviews and compared to other PbtA games, the game master sections are fairly lacking but I think I've got enough PbtA GM experience to handle the lack of that material and the pitch was just too good... Dwarven Mechs battling Berserkers controlling the bones of dead giants? But what really sold me is that before making characters the players collaborate to make a holdfast where their PCs are based and I'm hoping that helps set up a strong and interesting party, maybe even a Voltron style party...
  • The other thing I really want to play with is the saga building embedded in the game through the concept of Ferð which is used to heal wounds and expended for journeys, but to regain ferð you need to return to the holdfast or use the Recite your Saga move...
    • When you tell your story to a new audience, recite a section of your saga and refresh one Ferð.
  • So my goal will be to make sure that all the PCs have enough excitement and adventure each session that they can add a line or two to their saga each time.
  • I'm waiting to see how my players define the holdfast tonight, but I've got some schemes thought up to toss in from sources as diverse as
    • Voltron (natch)
    • Beowulf
    • The Saga of Erik the Red
    • Pacific Rim
    • Blade Runner
    • Headlopper
    • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Eyes of the Stone Thief - 13th Age

  • The 13th Age Megadungeon, which I was on the fence about running for a while, thinking I'd offer it as a choice to my group but not force them to play, but then running Corpse Chewer pushed me over the edge, rekindling my love of 13th Age. The book treats the Stone Thief, a living dungeon that burrows through the earth, as a Moby Dick like figure that will hunt the PCs as they hunt it, which I'm really looking forward to running. Here's the pitch...
    • Can you kill the dungeon before it kills you?
    • In 13th Age, living dungeons slither up through the underworld and invade the surface lands. The Stone Thief is the most ancient and cunning of its kind; a vast monster that preys on the cities and structures you love, swallows them, and remakes them into more deathtrap-filled levels inside itself. Now, it’s hunting YOU.
      • Embark on a saga of madness, revenge and giant monsters
      • Aid or thwart the schemes of the Icons as they battle for control of the dungeon
      • Slay, loot and survive deep in the bowels of the earth
      • Destroy this age-old threat forever
  • This is going to be my Sunday game, and I plan on pitching it to the group as a play the quintessential fantasy RPG character you dream of/enjoy most and then come up with a reason why you'd want revenge on the Stone Thief or something or someplace precious that your character loves for the Stone Thief to devour early in the campaign so that you have a reason to swear everlasting vengeance upon it. Since all the PCs will want to gain revenge on the Stone Thief it will let me have an epic campaign without the fuzzy motivations and goals that have plagued some of my other long-term games.
  • I've been been reading and re-reading this book a bunch since October and it definitely looks much easier to run than Out of the Abyss. 
Those are the two big games I'll be starting. Like I said in my previous (and long-winded) post, I want to run more Shadow of the Demon Lord, and I've been dreaming about swapping the setting for something more inspired by Vornheim or Lankhmar, but that would be for a floating pick-up group and not sure when exactly I'll find time as I have two regular and two irregularly scheduled games I'm already running (thought Apocalypse World is irregular in date and less in frequency and I do hope to get a Red and Pleasant Land onto a more regular schedule as well).



I also picked up a copy of The Sprawl, a Powered by the Apocalypse Cyberpunk game, that I've also been itching to test out. It's got some interesting mechanics, and I'm intrigued by the way it handles cyberspace and meatspace, as well as how a mission has distinct stages that are all ripe for good roleplaying...
  1. Get the Job
  2. The Legwork Phase
  3. The Action Phase
  4. Getting Paid
  5. Retaliation
  6. Lie low or fight back?
From reading it a few times, it looks like the Sprawl will be able to handle heist and other mission-y but not a string of combat encounter type scenarios really, really well. Plus, part of setting creation that is done by the players is coming up with the various transnational corporations that will be employers or enemies, or both. But, like Shadow of the Demon Lord, this is another one that I'll just have to find time for.


The last game in the maybe I'll run it pile is... Into the Winter Woods, a Powered by the Apocalypse game inspired heavily by Over the Garden Wall that I started to dream up while on honeymoon in Iceland. I've got rough first drafts of three of the five base playbooks which right now are called the Teenager, the Child, the Woodcutter, the Animal, the Changed and the Fiend. I've been reading some fairy tales to see if I'm inspired to toss in another archetypal playbook or two, but mostly I just need to start sitting down and putting in an hour or two of development into the game. I think my goal now is to have play test ready by my birthday in July. Expect a post in early August with lots of excuses for why that didn't happen.

2017 Gaming Resolutions

  • Take better GM notes

    • This is one I always struggle with, but I think I've got a decent strategy now of having a small cahier style notebook for a game and keep all my notes in that. Plus, having better notes will make my play reports that I hope to write more of.

  • Draw more maps

    • Last fall I discovered I could get broad tipped wet erase markers, which I intend to put to good use.

  • Encourage Players to take more notes and draw more maps

    • What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Plus I hope that it might keep them from zoning out on their phones. I do want to encourage them to have some out-of-character roles more defined though, like who is responsible for the group inventory and stuff like that.

  • Blog more

    • This blog goes through long droughts and I'm hoping that I can do better in 2017. I did at least one post each of the last seven months of 2016, but I'd like to aim for more like 3 blogs a month at minimum. 
    • But sometimes putting up these posts does feel a bit like screaming into the empty night. I get the occasional comment from Thomas or the Ginger Giant, but honestly, whenever I talk to either of those guys, there's a good chance that I'm talking games. So if you're a reader and you want to see more of something I did before (like gussying up 5e D&D monsters, something that I probably won't return to without prodding) or want me to talk about how I handle x issue or such, let me know. If you don't want to comment you can also email antagonist.relations(at)gmail(dot)com.
    • Right now my only thought is to try and do a weekly table, but they might start as pretty specific to my various games until I get a crazy idea and/or requests from readers.

  • Play more

    • This is probably the hardest for me to accomplish... Aside from al-Qadim church I just really don't have a ton of opportunities. The Ginger Giant offered to run some actual play podcasts, which was generous of him, but I also want to get A Red and Pleasant Land back onto a stable schedule before I start skipping it to have a different actual play. The AD&D/OSRIC game I played in a few years back never really clicked for me, where I didn't feel like I clicked with the group and the pace plus the two-three hours on a Friday evening meant giving up a full evening with my wife for a two-three hour game.
    • Once the year settles down, in February or March, I might have to see about finding a Roll20 game online that I can play. There is a part of me that wants to get out of my bubble and see what it's like to play with a new GM. I've been playing in Thomas' games for over 20 years now and playing in Ben's games since 2011. And for the other games I played in 2015, some Shadowrun and Dungeon World, both the GMs for those games were players in my group for at least 5 years, as is Dave, who ran the D&D game I played in last year.
And as I zoom past 1500 words, this is probably a decent place to wrap up. Hopefully next week will be crammed with blog posts again as you'll see a write up of the first Iron Edda session with Holdfast and PC creation and my commentary for session 7 of A Red and Pleasant Land as I'm running that next Friday. Plus, by the fearsome claws of Ragarra, I swear that by the end of January 2017 I'll write up my review of Shadow of the Demon Lord.

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