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Like many people, I was surprised when Sony Pictures announced that Oscar Isaac would star as Solid Snake in their production of Metal Gear Solid. Not surprised at the casting, of course: Oscar Isaac is everywhere and he certainly looks like he’d make a good Solid Snake, but because it was the first I had heard that someone was making a Metal Gear Solid movie. I had only passing familiarity with the series, but from I did know about it, it was dense, with complicated lore and constant twists and turns. …


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My family joined me for a Krampus-themed quest

I was extremely lucky to get to spend time with family over the holiday this year. It almost didn’t happen, but fortunately, there are only five of us, and we could mostly work from home or in extremely controlled environments, allowing us to isolate for the two weeks leading up to our December 12th arrival time. We had groceries brought to our car and cooked in, and we didn’t see anyone else while we were there. I wanted to maximize the time I would get to spend with my family, and so I took a shot: I proposed that we play a one shot adventure for Dungeon World. …


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I was in High School when I first became aware of the Elf on the Shelf: a little elf figure that began to appear on shelves and fireplaces around the country around Christmas time. I was obviously too old to have had it invoked on me, but I immediately found the little doll to be pretty creepy. Perfectly coifed brown hair peeked out under a pointy red hat. Two pointed ears signified that it was an elf, while a toothless smile and a pair of blue eyes looking off to the side signified that this elf was up to no good. It had a hard sculpted head and a fabric body, making it somewhat poseable but, more importantly, difficult to destroy. …


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This show haunted my afterschool life, just as the incredible flash game based on it dominated all my time in the computer lab.

Like so many of us in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I often came from school, went immediately to the TV, and tossed on cartoons. After a long day of doing times tables or learning about the Revolutionary War, I needed some good old animation to decompress. At this time in my life, Cartoon Network was airing a block of shows at that time that now seem revolutionary. Toonami showed anime on basic cable, helping to mainstream a genre of animation that had only sporadically popped up elsewhere and largely lived on expensive specialty video tapes or DVDs at conventions and special stores. I remember paying $35 for a DVD at Suncoast that had three episodes of Dragonball Z.


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Like most of us stuck at home, these people don’t seem like they’ve showered in days. Courtesy Netflix

Every year I pick a pop culture area that I haven’t explored and consume as much of it as I can. Last year, in 2019, I picked JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a manga and anime series that has become the source of countless memes. It was good! It was bright and weird and over the top! Everyone looks like a model, and some of the characters have even appeared in Gucci ads! …


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Monsterhearts was my first experience with sex in gaming, but it’s far from the only example. Courtesy Buried Without Ceremony

Gaming groups take all different shapes, and there are all kinds of different relationships between members of every group. Some are family, some are friends that have known each for a long time, some groups are made of people who were strangers until their first session. Most gaming tables are probably playing as a group of characters who also may or may not have known each other prior to the start of the adventure.

Many groups don’t bother to create especially firm ties between characters during the game, outside of figuring out how to get each member to carry their weight in combat. Combat synergies or the occasional in-character debate about what to do next are the majority of character interactions at most tables. …


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Courtesy Sage Kobold

Like a lot of people, Dungeons & Dragons was my first RPG. It was the first one I had heard of, the first one I bought, and the first one I played. Even hearing about it as a kid, I was enamored with the immense possibilities it provided. I loved board games, and I still do, but here was something that provided more than any board game ever could: it felt infinite. It was expensive and complex, but it had to be to offer all that it did.

As I got more and more invested in the hobby, I encountered more and more people telling me to explore outside of D&D. At first, I ignored them. For one thing, I’d already bought all the books for 5e and found a group, and for another, I wasn’t sure what another system could give me. Then I started reading other systems, and I realized what I’d been missing out on. I still play D&D, and I still have a soft spot for it, but if you aren’t sure why everyone is telling to play another RPG, here are some of the critiques I have of 5e that are well answered by other systems. …


Logo for “Ten Candles: A Roleplaying Game of Tragic Horror”.
Logo for “Ten Candles: A Roleplaying Game of Tragic Horror”.

Roleplaying Games

I heard about Ten Candles for the first time on a podcast. It was discussed in hushed tones, with all hosts agreeing that it was really good, some even calling it their favorite RPG, but without anyone sharing any real information on what it was. Elsewhere on the internet, I heard about it again and again, that it was a definitive horror RPG experience, that it was a favorite one-shot RPG, that there was almost nothing else like it. My interest thoroughly piqued, I went to the publisher’s website, read two sentences of their description, and smashed the buy button. …


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Haunting on Fraternity Row. Courtesy Netflix

I had the house to myself for three whole days while my wife took a little trip out of town with a friend. We live in a five-hundred square foot apartment, so if anyone is doing something on the TV, pretty much everyone is going to be subject to it. That’s why I try to limit my intake of horror content to October, because my wife doesn’t always consent to walk out of the bedroom/office at 11 in the morning to see a zombie ripping into some poor fool. …


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Courtesy HBO

“Adaptation Quest” is an ongoing series of game design experiments about what certain tabletop adaptations would look like. Inspired by countless discussions in Dungeons & Dragons Facebook groups about how to adapt this or that property to the world’s most famous TTRPG, I hope to actually break down what a tabletop adaptation might be like, without having to write a 100-page document or playtest the thing. In this edition, we’re bringing Curb Your Enthusiasm to life by hacking a sci-fi Indie RPG called Never Tell Me The Odds.

I am a sucker for Role Playing Games that find novel ways to create randomness and build tension. I have already written about Dread, which uses a Jenga Tower to challenge players instead of making them roll dice. I’m also enamored with Ten Candles: a horror game which not only increases the GM’s chance at success over time while diminishing the players’ chances, but also forces the party to contend with the unpredictability of a candle snuffing itself out. I was really eager to try out Never Tell Me The Odds by David Somerville when I got it in a Bundle of Holding earlier this year. Never Tell Me The Odds (or NTMTO) is a sci-fi game about high risk, high reward scenarios. Characters are cut in the mold of a Han Solo or a Malcolm Reynolds: cool criminals with hearts of gold who are always one bad move away from disaster, or one good move away from a big score. …

About

Michael A Gold

Michael writes about video games, RPGs, history, and a little bit of everything else. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and Netflix account.

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