Before I get into today's question, I've got a new article up on HubPages called "Five RPG Characters To Watch Out For," the topic of which should be obvious from the title. Give it a read, take the poll, comment, share it, like it, Tweet it, etc.
26. Favorite inspiration for your game.
I get inspiration from a lot of places. At DieCon this year, I ran a game where the characters were all alternate versions of Rob Lowe from those Direct TV commercials, I wrote an adventure (Waxman's Warriors) inspired by Jack Chick tracts, and the most successful game I've worked on (Hobomancer) probably wouldn't have happened if Leighton, Carter, and I hadn't all just read John Hodgman's first book. There are a few creators (Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Robert Anton Wilson, Tim Powers, and lots of others) whose influence is present in a lot of the stuff I do, but the single biggest influence for me is probably Fortean Times magazine and a bunch of websites and blogs that cover similar subject matter.
If you're not familiar with FT, I kind of think of it as Weekly World News for smart people. The magazine covers all sorts of weird stuff, from UFOs to conspiracy theories to crytozoology, mythology, folklore, and magic, all from a perspective that's neither wide-eyed "true believer" credulity or dogmatic skeptical disbelief. The baseline tone is along the lines of "this might be real or it might not, but isn't it damned interesting?" A lot of their coverage focuses more on the psychological, historical, and societal factors that may contribute to a weird belief than whether the belief itself is true or false. It's all in keeping with the philosophy of Charles Fort, who inspired the name of both the magazine and the way of thinking it embraces. I rarely read an issue without finding something that would be cool in a game.
The next two questions are short answers, which means I'll actually be up to date on the meme again.
24. Favorite House Rule
The only house rule that I have these days is that anyone who quotes Monty Python out of context loses Yum Yums. We've all seen it, and you're no John Cleese.
Long, long ago some of the groups I gamed with used the Central Casting books to roll up backgrounds for our characters in a lot of games. Sometimes they resulted in characters who were unplayably "interesting," but usually they added a few neat twists.
25. Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic
I'm not sure that I'd classify any game mechanic as "revolutionary." Most of the mechanics that thought they were revolutionary never really caught on and most of the mechanical concepts that have stuck around were the result of a steady process of incremental improvement. The only thing that might qualify is the introduction of bennie points, but even that was basically an afterthought at first and only changed how games are play after years of improvement on the idea.
Since it's kind of related, I will mention the best game mechanic I've seen recently. It's for the Zombie Survival board game. The inside of the box top has a picture of a zombie with a circle around its head. When you attack a zombie, you roll a certain number of dice (based on what weapon you're carrying) in the box top. If any of them land in the circle you get a head shot. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is tedious resource management and severely broken in places, but the zombie killing mechanic is neat.
Continuing with #RPGaDay2015...
22. Favorite Gaming Environment
Since the games I play usually don't have a lot of moving parts, I'm not really picky about where I play. As long as there's a place to sit and roll some dice, I'm good. My least favorite place to play games is a crowded convention center room with twenty or thirty tables. A few years ago GenCon put all of our games in a room in the convention center and it was just too loud most of the time to hear the other players. I was glad when they moved us back to our own (mostly) room in one of the hotels the following year. Those still get loud if we have multiple games going on (since QAGS games tend to get loud in general), but at least we're (mostly) only annoying one another and have no problem yelling at each other to keep it down. Archon and DieCon curtain off each table individually, which gives a little more privacy. I wouldn't like it at a con where we're trying to show how fun our games are, but at a con where most people already know us it's kind of nice.
23. Perfect Game For You
It depends on what kind of mood I'm in. My favorite games are the all-too-rare ones that happen when we're able to get all the Hex crew together to play something.
Today I'm going to answer 4 questions, which will bring me up to the question with a number that matches the current date. I'm then going to fall behind immediately by not posting on the weekend, but at least I'll be completely on schedule for the meme for 24 hours. For 18-20, I'm going to pretend that stuff published by Hex isn't my real answer.
18. Favorite SF RPG
If you count anything that falls into the broad definition of science fiction, I played a lot of Shadowrun in college and while I've only played it a few times, I've always enjoyed Gama World, particularly the edition (3rd, I think) where they played up the humor of the "everyday items as ancient mystical artifacts" idea without crossing the line into slapstick. If you mean spaceships and lasers, you'll never convince me that Star Wars shouldn't involve rolling d6s.
19. Favorite Supers RPG
Leighton's supers game, which I've talked about before, went through a lot of systems including Marvel Super Heroes, GURPS, and probably some others I'm not remembering. The ones that always worked best in my opinion were the minimalist ones like system from Over the Edge, the game where everything was resolved using a Magic 8 Ball and, eventually, QAGS. The truth is, I've never actually played a game written specifically for super-hero games that worked for me. Most of them are so obsessed with satisfying the myth of game balance that they turn into a mess of unplayable crunch (with Champions being the worst offender). I remember reading the Marvel Saga System when it came out and thinking it would work well, but I never got around to testing it.
20. Favorite Horror RPG
I talked about my love of It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show here a couple weeks ago, and it would probably be my top choice if I could only pick one horror game. I've also played some fun games of Lost Souls (a game where you play a ghost) and Ghostbusters. For "serious" horror, it's hard to beat Call of Cthulhu, though the original Vampire RPG would be a great horror game if anyone played the game that Rein-Hagen actually wrote instead of House of Cards with fangs.
21. Favorite RPG Setting
I'm not exempting Hex products here because there's just no pretending that Hobomancer isn't my favorite RPG setting. Usually when we release a game, I need to take a break from it for a few months. Two days after Hobomancer came out, I made up a character for regular campaign. If I had to pick something I didn't co-write, I'd probably go with either Lankhmar or whatever they called Burroughs Island in Over the Edge.
Favorite Fantasy RPG
"Fantasy" is a pretty broad category, so I'm going to assume the typical gaming definition of "Sword & Sorcery and/or Elves and Shit." In that case, the best family game I've ever played is the Sword & Sorcery game that the Hex staff plays once every year or two when we can get everyone together. I've written about it here and you can download an actual play recording from the Hex website. Of course, that's a specific campaign, and the question is about my favorite fantasy RPG, which suggests a published setting.
Hex's entry into the fantasy genre, Qerth, is a product I'm really proud of, but mostly because it's such a perfect satire of fantasy game; it's not really something I actually want to play very often. And, of course, most of that satire comes from years of playing Dungeons & Dragons. My feelings on D&D are complicated. It's the game that got me into the hobby and I spent a lot of time playing (or thinking/reading about playing) D&D and and probably spent thousands of dollars buying D&D books from fourth grade until a few years after I graduated from college. I always wanted to play other games and in college I finally got a chance to play stuff other than D&D regularly, but I always came back to D&D, if only because it was the easiest game to find players for.
Then at some point I just...I don't know...outgrew D&D. Playing other games and especially writing QAGS opened up so many possibilities for gaming that the idea of running another same-old-same-old D&D game just seemed kind of pointless. Except for a 4th Edition demo and a few sessions of a Pathfinder campaign I joined because it was the only game anyone was playing, I haven't played D&D since at least 1998, maybe earlier. When I started going to a lot of conventions for Hex, it felt like most D&D players were unfailingly emblematic of everything that I hate about gaming and gamers. This added to my disillusionment about D&D while also providing a healthy dose of self-loathing for my younger, D&D-obsessed self.
Of course, nearly every other (traditional) fantasy game is basically someone's attempt to write a better version of D&D (and usually failing miserably). I've heard some good things about some newer games that focus more on the American sword & sorcery tradition than Tolkien-style fantasy, but haven't had a chance to play any of them. So yeah, I guess D&D is my favorite fantasy game, but there are a lot of caveats and I don't want to join your Forgotten Realms game.