RPGs

by Thom Kiraly

Lately, my dormant interest in RPGs has had a violent resurgence. This is mainly to blaim on a few games and a lot of podcasts. So… This will be a post directed towards gamers and others interested. If you’re not a gamer and thus don’t understand what I’m talking about here, I just don’t think I give a shit.

I’ve been a dedicated gamer (and we’re talking non-electronic games here, folks!) since I was around twelve years old. My first game was a kind of low-on-rules fantasy game my mom got for me. This was before she knew that RPG’s were Satan’s games.  I played it with my new classmates and we did what any normal bunch of twelve-year-olds would have done with a tabletop RPG: some fucked up shit.
That old guy stuck under a tree? Pretend to help him so he tells us where his magic sword is hidden and then kill him. Another PC not following your lead? Curse him to attack himself until death occurs and let the looting commence! Come up with skills and make a huge hassle of being thorough in it, as long as the skill is not pertinent to what you’re playing… at all.

Of course, we can do this now, but it would be done with a motive or as some kind of tongue-in-cheek thing. Back then, we were twelve and that just makes it weird.

Later I, of course, moved on to D&D and Swedish equivalents. But growing out of these games I found myself drawn towards the more free-form kinds of games. The ones where the exploration of the character and the group was the focus got my attention and still do.

This summer, at a con, I got a hold of a copy of Luke Crane’s ‘Mouse Guard’, an RPG based on the comics by David Petersen. I had been told that it was unlike most of the games you’ll find on the Swedish RPG scene and that many Swedes would have trouble playing it. I know a challenge when I hear one (even though it might just be in my head) and I checked it out.

Since I’m a podcast/audiobook/lecture junkie I gathered together some RPG podcasts, primarily those featuring Luke Crane talking about Mouse Guard (and those podcasts nominated for an Ennie), and started walking, started listening. The last few years I’ve had some trouble with broken rules and broken groups sometimes taking the fun out of playing, but with these shows I came to remember what I actually like about RPGs. The exploration, the investigation, the questioning, the social aspect (RPGs are, after all, a social acticity and just because we don’t want to play with YOU doesn’t mean they’re anti-social as has been claimed in the past). They also opened my eyes to some stuff I’ve never even bothered thinking about before; RPG theory, social dynamics, play styles, agency and how the story comes about.

Before I give you some links I’d like to thank these podcasters for this pleasant curse of addiction they’ve put on me.

The following links are written in no particular order so just feel free to check out all of them according to your own strange systems, follow the tide, count the days until the next full moon, use kabbalah… I don’t care.

I’ll only bother writing about the three shows I’ve been listening to the most and find most enjoyable. The other ones will just be links. Ok? Go!

Theory From The Closet – Clyde L. Rhoer

A podcast focusing on the theoretical parts in RPGs. Clyde walks us through GNS (Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist) theory and things related to the Big Model. Mixed with a lot of interviews and a relaxed punk attitude this makes for a great show. At first I was put off by the slow pace of the host, but that does not bother me at all anymore and I kinda like the almost cautious and humble tone Clyde uses.

Master Plan – Ryan Macklin

A very hands-on podcast on game design. Ryan talks a lot about designing his own games and also does some great interviews.

Have Games, Will Travel – Paul Tevis

HGWT does not only revolve around theory, but also includes reviews, general thoughts on RPGs and, of course, interviews (No waaaay? Way.).

Narrative Control
The Independent Insurgency
The Voice Of The Revolution
The Walking Eye

For an extensive directory of RPG podcasts check out: RPGpodcasts.com

Some games I’ve come into contact with because of all these shows:

Dogs In The Vineyard
Kill Puppies For Satan

Polaris
The Drifter’s Escape
Mouse Guard
Burning Wheel
Burning Empires

Don’t Rest Your Head
Death’s Door
Prime Time Adventures
My Life With Master
Zombie Cinema
Breaking The Ice
Shooting The Moon
Under My Skin
The Mountain Witch
A Penny For My Thoughts
Silence Keeps Me A Victim

Lastly, If anyone writes “TLDNR” as a comment, I’ll find ya, and I’ll kill ya…

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