Tabletop Gaming on a Budget

Happy New Year! I wish you good health, success and fun in 2018. Let’s start off with RPG Blog Carnival for January 2018 which is presented by Renaissance Gamer and the subject is Tabletop Gaming on a Budget.

Tabletop gaming is one of the cheapest hobbies that I know of. You get hours of entertainment from a small monetary investment. Still, there are times when your budget is tight and you wish to game. I shall explore some of the cheaper options that I know.

First, if you don’t have a game to play and no budget to acquire one, you can still play. There are lots of wonderful free tabletop games out there like Lady Blackbird by John Harper, Lasers & Feelings by John Harper, Love & Justice by Senda Linaugh, Fudge rpg by Steffan O’ Sullivan, and many others. You can also get some good games for Pay What You Want through Evil Hat Productions like Fate Core by Leonard Balsera, Brian Engard, Jeremy Keller, Ryan Macklin & Mike Olson, or Fate Accelerated by Clark Valentine, Leonard Balsera, Fred Hicks, Mike Olson & Amanda Valentine. You can also find a variety of other products in the Pay What You Want section on DriveThruRPG. If you wish to venture into the more experimental realm, you can download some draft games from Game Chef and try them out. You can still play a wide variety of games with little to no expense.

So,you’ve found a game and now you wish to expand upon it.. Usually, games should be playable with just the core rules, but maybe you’ve  played it extensively and are looking for more options. Look around online for the game’s community. If it’s your favourite game, there are bound to be many other fans who play this game as well, and they may have created their own shared material which you can bring into your own games. If you wish to do something which the core rules doesn’t easily allow, talk to the community and see if you can figure out a way to make it work. Tabletop gaming is a creative endeavor.

Now, if you still need that extra product for your game, talk with your group about it. See if you can pool your money to purchase it since it will help improve the group’s overall experience. If it’s a physical product then you would have to determine where the product will be kept. I would recommend that whoever needs it at the time gets to keep it and read it. If it’s a digital product then it’s easily shared  amongst your closed group. It’s also a great idea to keep an eye out for deals. DriveThruRPG holds frequent sales of their products, and Bundle of Holding is an excellent website with great deals on rpgs.

Conventions can be another place to purchase games for low prices. Most conventions have a second hand store where folks try to sell their old used games. However, most conventions have an entrance fee which you should take into account before shopping. CanGames, the gaming convention which I help organize, only charges if you wish to sit down and play a game. You can come visit the convention, look around, and even purchase items at the various vendors at no charge. CanGames also has a booth which sells used games that the attendees brought to sell.

Another resource part of a budget that few consider is time. We live busy lives and if your money is tight, there is a chance that you may work several jobs so your time is limited.. So, while you’ve found and enjoy gaming, you don’t have the time to dedicate several hours in a night to play. One option then are play by posts. These games go at a slower pace than live play since the sessions are stretched out over a much longer period of time and players participate at their own rate. In this case, you can just spend a few minutes typing your character’s actions when you have the time, as opposed to playing for several hours straight.

There you have it, a few ideas on places to acquire and ways to play tabletop rpgs for cheap. Where do you acquire your tabletop games for low prices? How do you get the most bang for your buck?

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It’s in a book!

This month’s blog carnival is about literary inspirations for rpgs as proposed by Pitfalls and Pixies.

Most rpgs use literary inspirations. Whether it is the classical Lord of the Rings for D&D, Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Night’s Black Agents, or La Morte d’Arthur for Pendragon. You can easily find inspirations in literature for characters, scenarios, etc. What is the state of literature in your fictional settings? How are books, authors, and stories presented in your fictional world?

There are several known fictional settings which have their own fictional literature. Forgotten Realms has the chapbooks. Call of Cthulhu and other Mythos games use several fictional works within their own setting. Even though, I read a lot I find that I’ve never represented literature in any of my games. I find that idea fascinating and a missed opportunity on my end. Let’s see how we can fix that.

Most fictional rpg settings are fantasy based and assume a western european medieval period where literacy is rare. Why focus on books when most individuals can’t read, right? Yet, you have your wizards, clerics, and bards who can read spellbooks, prayer books, and songs. This brings to mind several questions like what do adventurers do during their downtime? Do they always go to the tavern for drinks or would they go to their room at the inn and read their favourite novel with the help of their reading light spell?  What do scholars do to relax in between their studies?

To add depth and character to your game, you should include story books. You can add classic folk tales like those of the Brothers Grimm or strange tales which are rare but probably true in your fantasy world. Imagine a dragon’s hoard which has several novels in amongst all the gold and other treasures.. Maybe its a series which the dragon enjoys and they are missing a volume in the series. Now you can’t have that now can you?. So the dragon scours the land searching  for that one missing volume. Additionally, if adventurers happen to go explore the lair and interact with the dragon then that opens up an opportunity to have a conversation. Maybe one of the adventures has that volume the dragon is looking for (or knows where to get it) and will exchange it for some gold, information or perhaps a favour. There are plenty of opportunities about for incorporating fictional books in a fantasy setting.

How about your far future setting with space ships? I suspect most stories would be distributed in a digital format or whatever future technology you come up with.  Say for instance a genetic strand which lets you experience a story after you’ve ingested it. Lots of information can be stored in genes so a genetically modified animal/plant that is bred to both nourish and tell a story would certainly add another meaning to the term dinner and a show. Perhaps the smell of the feast could bring to mind a trailer or a blurb of the story. The actual story itself would show up after a bit as digestion sinks in. Maybe you can get flashes of the story through your taste buds while you eat.

In general most physical books would be luxury items in  distant future settings. Whether it’s because the world was destroyed and people are now scavenging for resources or because there are cheaper or easier means of producing a book, physical books themselves would be a rarity.

Literary sources will change over time as the story gets told and retold by different people. When using literary sources for rpgs, you don’t have to be beholden to accuracy. Put your own spin on the story and adapt it to make a neat twist. For ex: In Dracula Dossier, Kenneth Hite et al adapted Bram Stoker’s Dracula to be a spy thriller. This adaptation puts a neat spin on the story and keeps it fresh.

Right now, I’ve had an ongoing side project of making a Terra Incognita campaign with the animated series Nadia: Secret of Blue Water as the inspiration. Nadia itself is inspired from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. I’m also adding in a healthy dose of Plato’s Critias since I’m digging deeper into the Atlantis question. I’ve read many other Atlantis books to use as inspiration and guide me as well. At the moment I’m still debating on when to place this campaign. Right now, I’m thinking either during or after the Great War (World War I).

The main takeaway though is to have  fun  with your inspirations. Grab what excites you about them and make it your own. Let your passions guide you.

RPGaDay: Gaming advice

Welcome to the last day of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon, where we answer: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?

RPGaDay 2016

I read one piece of advice early in the hobby which I’ve applied to most of my games. I found this advice  in the first rpg system I ever owned: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by Erick Wujcik.

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In the book, they describe how the GM role is like being a director for a movie with a significant change. You have an unlimited budget. You want Leslie Jones and Bruce Lee to show up in your game then bingo, you have them. You want a special effect of an immense volcano which will spew out armies of demons? You describe that in your game. You want the antagonists to steal a five-story bank vault using a dragon? You ask yourself, how many dragons will you need and then when the protagonists are in the bank vault for their own heist, you start playing with their sense of gravity.

Knowing that my budget was unlimited, I unleashed some far fetched and strange things in my game. When I babysat kids at as teen, I ran TMNT and 2 kids were playing mutant poodle body builders. I recall a scene where the army was trying to capture then and tanks were sent. The mutant poodles jumped on those tanks and started punching holes and dents. In a movie, this could prove expensive but not in a rpg. I love that aspect of rpg where you can let your imagination go wild.

As a side note, I met Kevin Eastman this year and got him to sign my TMNT & Other Strangeness book. I have many strong feelings with that game as it formed my core of GMing. I was doing it while going to babysit. If you are considering babysitting, I highly recommend you bring a game and offer to run it for the kids. You can practice your craft. Also, kids can have fun and you’ll probably get repeat business. I did as kids wanted to tell more stories with their characters.

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten or given for any game? How do you apply it for other games?

RPGaDay: Ideal game room

Welcome to the penultimate RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon. Today’s question is: Describe the ideal game room if your budget were unlimited.

RPGaDay 2016

With unlimited budget, I can easily go wild with my ultimate game room. I’ll definitely go into the fanciful. This game room will be to give an eclectic gamer like I a wide experience.

The game room will have a library with every book and game product for all the games that ever was and ever will. I will have them in various formats. I’ll have the original physical format, the digital format, and a format which makes the book either easy for reference or to learn depending which the original lacks. This library will be constantly organized with a GPS system to direct you to the right play to get the game you wish to play.

The size of the gaming space would be fully and utterly malleable. You could fit a small group to having a huge convention within the space. Additionally, the space could be modified to fit the group’s taste and needs. If you are holding a convention and a group wishes a private space for their game then the location can provide it. The group requires accessibility tools then the location generates it. All the needs of groups would be provided.

The space would an inclusive space but won’t include everyone. Those who hate or wish to discriminate folks or even bully then won’t be invited. The hater will be excluded. This is meant to be a place to play games and have fun. A place where if there’s a game you enjoy, you will find it. On the slim chance that the game you wish to play has no one who wants to play then you will get highly advanced artificial intelligences to play with you. Mind you, the game will will try to bring you to a group to play the game you want. How does it it do that?

This ideal game room will occupy all points in time in a simultaneous and individualistic way. When you enter the room, it will bring you to the temporal point where others who wish to play. You can play as long as you like and when you get out, no time has passed for you since you are brought to the same time as you left. What about your own personal time? The room moves very fast in space to be able to occupy everywhere so everyone’s personal time is slowed to a standstill. Thus you are practically immortal while within the room. And due to the timing to play games, you may play with your past or future self.

That would be my ideal and fanciful game room. What is yours? Is yours more grounded in the current reality? Will it allow you to play ALL THE GAMES?

 

 

RPGaDay: Location, location, location!

Today, on day 29 of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon, we look at locations: If you could host a game anywhere on Earth, where would that be?

RPGaDay 2016

My first instinct is wherever my friends are. They are a fun group and we can have fun times. Now, let’s make them mobile and move them to anywhere on Earth.

There’s a popular Canadian line from a TV show known as The Friendly Giant which says “Look up! Look way up!” but for my location, you’d have to reverse that. You’d have to look down but not underground rather under the surface of the water. You’d have to look in the ocean for one of those underwater locations with a large mirror in the back where you can see the ocean life.

I enjoy underwater life. As a youth, I was fascinated with Jacques Cousteau and his undersea adventures. I loved looked at the undersea pictures. As I grew older, I still maintained this attraction to undersea life. One of my favourite anime is Nadia: Secret of Blue Water which involves Atlantis, Captain Nemo and his Nautillus. For rpgs, I’ve run and enjoyed Terra Incognita where you follow the NAGS (National Archaeological Geographical and Submarine) Society where they travel underwater to various locations to resolve issues of the secret world.

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I’m still fascinated with Atlantis. In fact, I have notes for a Terra Incognita campaign where Atlantis and their descendants are involved. I would love to run such a campaign in the a large chamber with a glass ceiling and windows with a Geek Chic table. Maybe one day but for now it shall be a dream.

Where would you host a game? What game would you play?

RPGaDay: Friendly surprises

This is day 28 of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon, and the question is: What film or novel would you be most surprised that a friend had not seen or read?

RPGaDay 2016

Honestly, I can’t think of a film or novel which I’d be surprised one of my friends hadn’t seen or read. We have a variety of tastes which coincide in certain aspects. I don’t feel any of the stuff which I enjoy is required reading or watching.

My favourite TV series if Babylon 5 and I know it has a cult following. For a over 20 year old show, I know it isn’t as well known as Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Star Wars. When my friend’s boyfriend stated he has a bunch of pirated science fiction TV shows on a computer and wanted to be tested on his collection, I said “Babylon 5” and he said that’s unfortunately not one he has. I found it hilarious based on his earlier proud claim. If I have a friend who hasn’t seen Babylon 5 and I feel they may be interested, I’d recommend they watch it.

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For rpgs, I may have some recommended reading or watching in a game we play. This is to help get the feel and theme of the game. I don’t believe someone is required to watch or read a product to enjoy it. Honestly, if there is a game IP which I’m passionate about and I can’t convey it to other players, I’d feel defeated. I wish to show my passion for an IP and make my friends interested in it and enjoy it. I wish they go see or read the movie, tv series, or novel after we’ve played the game.

How do you treat IPs for your games? Do you have required reading or viewing for your games?

RPGaDay: Unusual locations to play

Today, on day 27 of RPGaDay, we answer: Describe the most unusual circumstance or location in which you have gamed. RPGaDay is hosted by BrigadeCon this year.

RPGaDay 2016

The strangest location I’ve ever played a game was on a stage in front of an audience. When did this happen? In April 2016 during Capital Gaming Expo.

I was contact by the organizers of the event to be co-GM to a celebrity. One of my friends, Jason Pitre, was an organizer of the convention and suggested me as a good candidate. The celebrity GM was the legendary Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Forgotten Realms. He was going to run an adventure for lucky group of donors through Skype. The need an assistant who knew the rules of the game system, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, and would be able to take over as GM if there was technical difficulties.

I found it fascinating experience. I had met and spoken to Ed before either randomly or through interviews for the Tome Show Book Club. I never actually played with him before. Also, I was on the stage with others which was interesting experience to have.

We got a small crowd in the audience. I answered rules questions from players. We even had one player who never played a rpg before and was a fan of Ed Greenwood’s books. Most players had never played AD&D 2nd and I gave them a quick overview. The game didn’t require a detailed lesson of the game. Ed likes to run his game light and this event was just 2 hour long.

Luckily, there were no technical difficulties with the Skype connection. Ed managed to run a wonderful game and kept the action flowing. It was fascinating seeing him work. Due to the short time slot, the adventure had to be linear and one of the players was great of jumping and leading the party on this adventure.

What wonderful and unusual times have you gamed before?