New Year, New GameOkay, here it is – my belated (but better than be-nevered!)  New Year, New Game post.

For those of you just joining us,  New Year New Game is a challenge to roleplaying enthusiasts to try a new roleplaying game every new year, to help inspire us, broaden our horizons, and keep our hobby from getting stale.

A few new RPGs have really caught my attention, and I thought I would make a list of five that will try my best to play in the coming year. I figure making a list of five will increase my odds of getting at least one of them in. So, here goes:

1) Macabre Tales (link) – I reviewed this one a little while ago – It’s a one-on-one RPG (one narrator, one player) that is the most faithful tribute to the stories of H.P. Lovecraft that I’ve ever seen, and it uses dominoes instead of dice. Very intriguing.

2) Toypocalypse (link) – This is another that I reviewed recently. One could call it a mash-up of Toy Story, Small Soldiers, 9, and Lord of the Flies, if one were so inclined – sentient toys living in a human-free post-apocalyptic world. Oh yeah, I’m so there.

3) Cosmic Patrol (link) – This one is in my to-be-reviewed pile. Two-fisted Golden Age science fiction GMless roleplaying that looks like it would be a blast to play. And speaking of GMless games…

4) Fiasco (link)  – Nope, I haven’t played it yet. Yeah, I know it’s awesome. I kn… I KNOW, ALL RIGHT? I KNOW! I’M GONNA! JUST STOP, ALREADY!

5) Lost Days of Memories and Madness (link) – Their teaser text has me very interested – “A storytelling game of intrigue and insanity at the end of the world. The immortal elves of the Eternal Court are masters of the world, enslaving the lesser races so that their most precious possessions – their memories – can be harvested for the pleasure of the decadent elven lords. The greatest fear amongst the immortal elves is madness; the greatest taboo is the mention that the stolen memories of others is the path to insanity.” And I just noticed that it’s GMless, too. Honestly, I don’t have anything against GMed games… it just seems to be working out like this…

So there’s my list. If I get to play and/or run one of them, I will consider it a success. Two will be a critical success, three will be an outright miracle. I’ll check back in when January 2013 rolls around and file my report.

Now, about those new gamers…

I’m happy – and very lucky – to say that I have a lot of opportunities to play with new people right now, and by “new,” I mostly mean folks who have never tried the RPG hobby before, along with one experienced gamer who wants to try a game he’s never played before. And unlike the above list, I’m going to do my very best to check ALL of the items off of this one in the coming year:

Mr. Hudson is a long-time friend of my partner Paula and mine. I used to call him “Dave” (that’s his first name) until the day I bumped into him while visiting a grade school and learned that he was a teacher there.  Now I call him Mr. Hudson. Anyway, Mr. Hudson and I got into a conversation late last year in which he mentioned that his son expressed an interest in playing Dungeons & Dragons – so I told him that if he would like, I would be happy to run a game for him and his son someday. He said he would like. So I’m going to. I’ll probably run a retroclone like OSRIC, which while technically counts as D&D, I’ve never run before. So it’ll count as a new game!

Allie is a theatre friend. She and I have been in many different stage shows together in the children’s theatre group that we are both a part of. In our first (The Frog Princess), I played the storyteller and narrator, and she was a barbarian princess. Currently, we are working together on a new show (The Golden Goose) in which she is playing the storyteller/narrator, and I’m playing the king. She has heard us talk about gaming during our backstage discussions and late-night after-rehearsal dinners at Applebee’s, and mentioned that she’d like to give it a go. For this, I may use Blue Rose – simple rules, and since I’ve never run it before – cha-ching! New game! (Does Blue Rose have barbarians in it?)

Jeremy is my oldest daughter’s boyfriend. He already enjoys console RPGs, so trying out a tabletop version won’t be all that new to him. During one of their phone conversations, I overheard my daughter say to him “You’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons? You can’t truly call yourself a geek until you’ve played D&D! My dad can run a game for us someday!” He has agreed to do so – but it’s likely that his real agenda is to have that much more face-to-face time with my daughter. Regardless, I’m making him chuck some dice, probably in the same Blue Rose game with Allie.

Jenn is another theatre friend who has three energetic and highly imaginative boys. I’ve thought about asking her if I could run a simple RPG for them someday, but she actually popped the question before I could. I’m not sure what I would run, but I did just get a review copy of RAWR!

My friend Chris is someone I’ve gamed with for years, who recently told me that one of his other friends (whose name I cannot remember right now) inquired about giving the Call of Cthulhu RPG a try for the first time. “There’s only one guy I know who can do Cthulhu justice,” says my friend Chris. (Aw, shucks.) Now this doesn’t really count as a new game on my end, but it would on his! Ca-ching!

And there we have it – my big RPG plans for the year. Check back with me in 2013 to see how they went!

wjw

Macabre Tales is a Lovecraftian pulp horror role-playing game, geared for one-shot adventures for one player and a narrator. From the retro-pulp cover to the story-driven rules to the discussions of theme and mood in Lovecraft’s stories, the whole game looks and feels like a loving tribute to a favorite author.

The game mechanic involves two sets of double-six dominoes with a few pieces removed. The player keeps these as a pool to draw from during the game, and draws three face up as a hand. When an action requires a check, the narrator assigns a challenge level, then tells the player which stat (and possibly which aspect) will be necessary to complete the task. The player then plays a domino that they hope will cover the challenge rating. The outcome is based on the level of their stat, which determines which end of the domino is read (low, high, or both), and the aspect is added for a result that should meet or beat the challenge rating. Doubles and blanks get special treatment, but I’d rather not spoil all of the details of the mechanics – it’s simple and elegant, and I would love to see it become the engine for other RPGs in the future.

I should point out that there are alternate rules that allow for more than one player, but they require a LOT of dominoes – two sets for each player (If you’re not particular about quality, you can find cheap dominoes at your local dollar store*.)

In lieu of traditional take-turns-bashing combat rules, Macabre Tales uses Tension Scenes, in which the player gains and loses Momentum Points that determine how well (or poorly) things are going for them, with the Momentum Point goal getting higher as the story develops. The player is rewarded with Genre Points for appropriate actions, cleverness, and evocative narration, which can be used to help them in future checks. It’s a solid story-driven rule system.

Included are a list of sample supporting characters, stats for most of the well-known Lovecraft creatures (Deep Ones, Mi-Go, Shoggoths, et al), a list of abilities to create your own horrors, and a sample adventure, “The Cursed House.” Macabre Tales is not only an excellent Lovecraft RPG, it’s a great resource for how to run any Lovecraftian horror game, with tips and analysis of the themes, mood, and settings of his stories.

I often wonder, when reading, running, or playing an RPG based on the works of an author, what that author would think about how gamers are treating their creation. Reading through Macabre Tales, I get the feeling that is the RPG that Lovecraft would give his Elder Sign of approval.

Now, if I can just find a few sets of Cthulhu Mythos themed dominoes, I’ll be a very happy cultist.

Check out Macabre Tales at DriveThruRPG.

(*TIP: After writing this, I found sets of double six dominoes at Dollar Tree. They’re a bit smaller than typical dominoes, but they should do the trick nicely, and for not a lot of money.)