If you don't read the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog, Zak's in the first round of something called the Thought Eater tournament where two anonymous people get assigned a topic and write about it, blog readers vote for the best one, and the winner moves on to the next round. So far there have been some pretty good entries. There will probably be more. You should read it and vote for the ones you like. I bet some of those anonymous writers would appreciate your vote.
As you may have heard, Netflix has announced a reboot of the ground-breaking TV sitcom, Full House. Since that makes Full House kind of topical, and since my brain is fried and I can't think of anything to write about, this seems like a good time to repost my review of the Full House board game from an old incarnation of The Death Cookie:
I usually don't pay a lot of attention to the dealer's room at conventions. For the most part, it's the same crap you find at every game/comic shop in the world. So I usually take a quick walk-through, decide there's nothing there I need, and go about my business. Lucky for me, Hex Marketing Director Carter Newton is more thorough. He's the one who first noticed that the dealer across the aisle from the Hex booth had a NEAR MINT copy of The Full House Board Game.
After sending Ross Fulton over to inquire about the price, I was amazed to find that the dealer was willing to part with the game for a measly five bucks. Though I felt a bit guilty paying such a low price for such a sought-after game, I realized that if I didn't snatch it up, someone else would.
During the game you travel around the board to places like the movie theater, the school, the park, and the TV station. At each location, you draw a card. Some have instructions that move you to other locations, or allow you to take cards from other players (how rude!). Most, however, feature pictures of members of the extended Tanner family: DJ, Stephanie, Danny, Michelle, Jesse, Becky, and the Twins. The object of the game is to get character cards for all six family members and "bring them all home for a Full House."
If you're a fan of the show like I am, you'll notice that Joey is conspicuously missing from the character cards. Don't worry--while the instructions don't make it explicit, it soon becomes clear that you're playing Joey. The most obvious clue is that some of the spaces instruct players to "Tell A Joey Joke." Don't worry--the makers of this game realize that not everyone can be as funny as Dave Coulier, so they've provided a set of Joey Joke Cards. If you land on a joke space, you draw a card and tell the joke. The set includes such classics as: "My uncle stayed in college so long, when he graduated they gave him a gold watch." Funny, Funny Stuff!
Try as I might, I have yet to convince someone to play the game with me, so I can't really comment on gameplay, but the basic design looks good. There are, however, a few problems. For one, some cards allow you to take character cards from another player, which goes against the spirit of the show--if you've ever seen a single episode, you know that it's wrong to take things that don't belong to you. Also, eventually someone's going to win the game, which could make the other players feel bad. They could have solved both of these problems by letting all the players take turns moving the same game piece and sharing whatever cards get collected. That way, everybody wins! If the designers insist on a competitive game, they should have at least included a "Winner Hugs All" rule.
While I have a few minor complaints about the game, I'm going to give it 5 stars. The designers made the best board game they could, and that's all we can really ask. The Tanner family taught me that.
When we were working out how the songlines work in Hobomancer, we sort of unintentionally started playing with the idea of what you might call "the power of place." Basically, the songlines are areas of especially strong magical energy, and that magic is fueled by the power of the stories. The railroads aren't built along songlines, they create them by virtue of the number of stories that happen along them. Bad stories (we give the Trail of Tears as an example in the book) create corrupted songlines that can warp the people, the landscape, and especially the magic used along them.
Either shortly before or shortly after we released Hobomancer, I read Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire, which is a hard-to-describe novel where Moore's home town of Northampton is kind of the central character. The book articulated some of the sorts of ideas that we'd tried to pin down with the songlines and really got me thinking about the idea of making place a more integral part of game settings. Just like Serenity is the 10th character on Firefly, I like the idea of a game where the setting is vital to the story rather than just something that provides a little flavor. The new edition of M-Force that we're working on devotes a fair amount of space to developing the setting, but there it's more about discouraging murderhobos than making setting an integral part of the story.
Anyway, somewhere in all this thinking about place, I came up with an idea that I'm probably not going to get a chance to run any time soon (it wouldn't really work as a one-shot con game), so I'm throwing it out here in case anyone wants to give it a try. The idea is basically Quantum Leap meets Danny the Street. The PCs live in a neighborhood that periodically transports itself to other cities, other points in time, or even other realities (depending on how far you want to take it). Most of the people in the neighborhood don't even notice--they think they've always lived in whatever place they're in right now--but the PCs do, possibly because they're important in some way to whatever's causing the neighborhood to keep moving around. If I were running the game, I'd probably disguise it as something else (probably a paranormal investigation game) and keep the city in one place for the first few sessions. That way you can establish a sort of baseline of what the neighborhood is like and who its inhabitants are so the changes mean something. Once the neighborhood starts moving, the players need to figure out some basics about what's going on pretty quickly so they have a reason to either help (if the neighborhood is on the side of good) or interfere (if the neighborhood is evil) with whatever the neighborhood's goal is. Don't ask me what that is; if I knew, I'd be writing this up as a game supplement.
30. Favorite RPG playing celebrity.
31. Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing.
I'm torn between two answers, so I'll give them both. The first is the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. It started shortly after I discovered D&D, and while I was still young enough to watch cartoons without it being considered weird (remember, this was in the dark times before The Simpsons). I watched it every Saturday religiously. A few years ago, I picked up the DVDs, and it actually holds up surprisingly well. The other strong contender is Dark Dungeons. Part of that is my weird fascination with Jack Chick, but having a Chick tract about gaming kind of made it seem like the hobby had arrived. It's sort of a twisted version of a song getting a Weird Al parody.
Bonus Question: Weirdest non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing.
When I was 10 or 11, these showed up in my local grocery store:
I don't remember the box with the red dragons here, just the yellow one and a red one with, I think, a dracolich on it. The candy was basically Smarties shaped like little wizards and fighters and possibly monsters. The really cool thing was that on the back of each box there was a card that either described a character class or a monster. Even though it was basically all stuff that was in the rulebooks I already had, I made sure to get a box with a different back every time in hopes of getting a complete set (without actually knowing how many a complete set contained). I'd cut the backs off the boxes and keep them with my dice and Monster Cards. I'm don't remember what I ended up doing with them.
I'm going to do two questions today and then finish up the last two on Monday.
28. Favorite Game You No Longer Play
I'm going to assume that "game" here refers to specific game worlds rather than systems or genres, since the main differences between Deadlands and the weird west games I run using QAGS (or for that matter, the weird west Boot Hill games I ran before Deadlands was released) are matters of world design. Using that definition, I miss the massive multi-year campaigns that my gaming group played in college (one of which I GMed). For published games, I guess I'll go with TORG. It's one of the few games I've played that managed to do a multi-genre world that didn't seem dumb.
29. Favorite RPG website/blog
This one, of course. For blogs written by other people, I don't really have a favorite, but here are the five I read most regularly:
Favorite idea for merging two games into one.
M-Force meets World of Darkness. It's not just that M-Force is about monster hunters and World of Darkness is about monsters, it's that in a lot of ways M-Force is a response to some of the convoluted assumptions of most modern supernatural games, especially the idea that monsters could be lurking literally everywhere without humans catching on. Probably the dumbest thing in most of those sorts of games is that the people who find out about the weird stuff in the world (often by seeing people they know personally becoming victims of supernatural forces) inevitably decide to keep it a secret. Doing so goes against both human nature (visit any "true believer" site about ghosts or monsters or conspiracies if you don't believe me) and basic common sense (by keeping the monsters a secret, you're entering into a conspiracy with the monsters that's more likely to benefit them than you).
Anyway, the idea behind the M-Force/World of Darkness game was that a group of M-Forcers would somehow get transported to the World of Darkness and proceed to completely destroy it, in part because they would do sensible things ("As you saw on live TV yesterday, when we drug Congressman Jones out into the sunlight, he immediately burst into flames. Combined with the hidden camera video of him drinking blood and other evidence, we feel confident in our assertions that he is a vampire.") and in part because, compared to their M-Force counterparts, vampires and werewolves in the World of Darkness or incredibly easy to kill. The idea of a bunch of action heroes gleefully destroying hordes of angsty vampires is just beautiful. We finally got to play the game after years of tossing around the idea, and it was a lot of fun even though we didn't actually get around to staking a vampire on the floor of Congress.