I recognize that I’ve let this go a bit, I’ve been bogged down with schoolwork, my writings elsewhere, and other stuff that I’m juggling. But perhaps I can start with one of my many articles stuck in the draft stage. Since this was the one that I’ve been sitting on for a while, I figured I’d start with this one.
Whenever I go to Games and Stuff, a hobby game store in Glen Burnie that I’ve been going to for years for their incredible selection and friendly customer service, I have come to the sobering realization that there’s a problematic impulse amongst RPG writers and publishers that I call “D&D envy”.
Given the massive success of Dungeons & Dragons, especially 5th edition, a lot of publishers are looking to get a piece of the fantasy RPG pie. As a result, there’s a flood of fantasy RPGs on the market, too many for anyone to really fully invest in. Continue reading
I was inspired to write this by Suze, who left an interesting comment about the cost of tabletop RPGs in my Genesys first impressions post. In many ways, I agree with her. Tabletop gaming is an expensive hobby, as the many times that I’ve come away from my Friendly Local Game Store, FLGS in gaming parlance, having spent over $50.
I’m a college student, I’m not swimming in money. In the FLGS I go to I can easily identify dozens, if not hundreds, of game systems. There’s no way I can afford to buy all of them, let alone sit down with my players and run them through a new system every time I pick them up. So what do you do with that dilemma?
I’ve watched Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (and its director’s cut version, Advent Children Complete) more times than I can really remember, and probably more than I care to admit. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what the issues with that film in particular are. Everything in my previous post still applies, it’s clear that while the film has excellent visual flair it still has problems using that to tell a coherent story.
But I think it’s hard to really comprehend this on a simple viewing. You have to really break it down in order to figure out where the film stumbles in terms of storytelling. To that end, I’ve broken the film down into scene beats, bold indicates a scene added or altered in the Advent Children release.
There’s something that I’ve been thinking about for many, many, months. I wanted to do a post on why, for whatever reason, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children doesn’t quite feel like a movie. It was a similar feeling to Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, of which I discovered the root cause when I went to its IMDB page. Literally, all the team had experience with was cutscene work.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children possesses the technical properties of a movie, and is technically proficient in its construction. It’s the most watchable of all the Final Fantasy movie, not as anemic as Final Fantasy: Spirits Within or as fundamentally broken as Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive.
However, in order for me to really get at the heart of what the issue is, I have to answer a question that no one that I’ve ever seen has really given an answer for or even really addressed: I have to delineate the difference between a cutscene and a film.
I remember when I was looking for a setting-neutral RPG to play when I wanted to play something outside of Dungeons & Dragons. Originally, I was playing d20 Modern for a Silent Hill campaign but with the end result having so many rules thrown out for the sake of streamlined play and less searching through the rulebook that 3.5e derived systems often entail.
I was directed to a system known as Fate Core and it quickly became my go-to universal RPG system. While I still enjoy D&D, I have a particular fondness for Fate Core’s sheer flexibility and design elegance.
It took a bit of a learning curve for my d20 regulars to get used to it. I ran a single Silent Hill session which was not so well-received. Then I took it to another group and the outcome worked better. But it was when I ran two steampunk campaigns in a homebrew universe (Cloudrunner) that I was able to truly explore the system.
Much like how D&D opened up a world of possibilities within a fantasy universe, I was similarly engaged by the immense amount of possibilities that Fate Core had to offer.
A World Beyond
The system’s modularity makes it incredibly simple to tweak, it’s something of a GM’s dream RPG. The merger of mechanics and storytelling, in particular, stood out as brilliant. While a game like D&D often segregates its mechanics and narrative, Fate Core ties them together in a way that gives narrative progression mechanical weight.
The key to a character is the usage of Aspects. These are small character traits that say something about them. For example, “Plucky Airship Mechanic” can be used mechanically in relevant rolls. This allows for a more flexible implementation of characters than strictly defined class roles. Fate Core uses skills and stunts, which are like feats in D&D. Its lighter cousin, Fate Accelerated boils them down into approaches.
Fate Core overcomes the “combat first, roleplay second” nature of d20 based games by folding combat into the broader “conflict”. By making stress tracks instead of the typical hit points and by allowing those to go beyond physical, one can make mental stress attacks. Extending beyond those two is also possible, and in one campaign I portrayed a conflict between nations with political and military stress.
Character creation, normally framed as a necessary step to reaching play in other games, is instead treating as an act of play itself. It’s also collaborative and does a great job of connecting characters together to create interesting character dynamics.
The Bronze Rule, or what’s commonly referred to as the Fate Fractal, posits that anything and everything can be made into a character or have gameplay mechanics of a character applied to it. In my Cloudrunner games, airships would often be given this treatment. But you can also take mechanical pieces such as aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences a la carte.
Of course, players looking for large lists of tables aren’t going to find it here. It is not as crunchy as a system like GURPS, and it does take a slight shift in mindset to play. But it also benefits from modern design and is additionally easy on the wallet with the core rulebook costing about $25 and ends up being very portable.
In many ways, Fate Core has become my go-to RPG and it’s one that I’m looking forward to exploring more.
Admittedly, summer has been particularly slow in regards to blog content. Perhaps it’s the lazy days of the season that make writing out of reach for me, or possibly because I just didn’t have much going on that warranted a blog post. However, that has changed.
I’m going to talk about World of Warcraft and game addiction. More specifically, my own experiences with the game and what happened as a result.