With Great Power comes great enjoyment

Cover of With Great Power (Master Edition), art by M. P. O'Sullivan

With Great Power by Michael S. Miller is a superhero roleplaying game that emulates the melodramatic, four-colour style of the Silver Age of comics. It’s uncannily attuned to the tropes of that era, and what’s more it’s fantastic fun to play.

I wanted to play a staunch defender of the people, a larger-than-life, powerful, positive character and boy did I ever get that in the Glowing Guardian! With his allies, Little Young’un and the Armoured Arcanist, he defends New York City (because of course New York City) from the plots of supervillains like Zoltrak the Cursed and the Incandescent Inquisitor!

So how does the game itself encourage such incredible stories?

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Will Cortex Prime light our darkest hour?

Optimus Prime displaying the Cortex logo matrix of leadership
It’s Optimus Cortex Prime, geddit?

The Kickstarter for Cortex Prime is currently live, and it’s doing rather well. It funded in 36 hours (I helped!), it has just passed its third stretch goal, and it still has 12 days to go.

Cortex Prime is the latest iteration of the Cortex roleplaying system and, more immediately, the successor system to Cortex Plus, which gave us games like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Leverage, Firefly and my favourite Smallville. (I’ve blogged about Smallville a lot. Have a look.)

This seems like a good time to talk about my feelings for the new game. In short, I’m looking forward to it. My last Cortex Plus game, the X-Men drama Worthington Academy, wrapped up last year. I had no intention of running another one, but just before the Kickstarter launched I was starting to get the itch for a new Cortex Plus Drama campaign, and so Cortex Prime showed up at just the right time.

But what do I think about what I’ve seen so far?

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A roll in the hay with Kagematsu

Cover of Kagematsu

Kagematsu is a roleplaying game by Danielle Lewon, based on a design by S.R. Knipe. The simplest, most obvious summary of the game would be to call it a romance game, but there are aspects to it that prevent it from being so easily pigeonholed. If you’ve heard of Kagematsu, you probably know it as the game that must always be GMed by a woman, and that’s important to its exploration of gender and power imbalance.

I have been wanting to play it for a long time, and I’m glad I have because there is so much to say about this game!

Here’s the highlight, though: I had a great time playing Kagematsu. I want to play it again. I recommend it, but there are things that I wish the game did better so I fully understand if it’s not the game for you.

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I ❤ Heroes of the Hearth

Seven Wonders cover, from Pelgrane Press LtdHeroes of the Hearth is a GM-less, diceless story game by Stiainín Jackson. In Heroes of the Hearth, you tell the story of a group of villagers, the family and loved ones left behind by the fantasy adventurers who have left home to battle evil. It is included in Pelgrane Press’ Seven Wonders anthology.

I recently had a chance to play the game, and I  it. (I “heart” it, you see, because the heart symbol stands for love and “heart” sounds like “hearth”… Visual wordplay is difficult, ok?)

Before playing it, I’d been worried whether I’d enjoy the game. The characters were all pre-generated and I was concerned they would be flat or hard to customise. The scene structure seemed paradoxically to be very rigid and yet offer little support.

Which just goes to show that you should never review roleplaying games without playing them, because my fears were unfounded and I had a great time. Let me tell you about it!

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My fan mail to Primetime Adventures

Primetime Adventures (2nd edition) cover, via RPGGeek.comPrimetime Aventures is a game by Matt Wilson, billed as a game of television drama. It focuses on the dramatic lives and personal issues of a group of characters as if they were the ensemble cast of a TV show. Pretty much any sort of TV show works.

Dramatic roleplaying games are exactly my cup of tea, so I’d heard about Primetime Adventures and I had been looking forward to giving it a try. At the most recent meeting of my monthly RPG Book and Brunch Club, I finally got my chance. So what did I think of it?

I love this game. It’s not just a cup of tea. It’s afternoon tea at the Ritz. The game knows what it is designed to do, what kind of play it is supposed to facilitate and encourage, and it accomplishes that expertly. More importantly, playing it was a lot of fun.

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Hamilton and the Hubris Box, Part 3 of 3: The World Turned Upside Down

hamilton_deliverance_by_twistedcaliber-d9p3fds

This is the third and final part of a blog series modelling the musical Hamilton as if it was a session of the (work-in-progress) roleplaying game Hubris Box, which is about the rise and fall of tragic heroes.

What’s going on?

In the first blog post, I introduced the idea behind Hubris Box and introduced the fictional characters who are playing the game. In the most recent blog post, I showed an example of the game’s first Act, in which the Protagonist wrote several cards and posted them to the Hubris Box in order to chase his ambition and accumulate power and glory.

The example game is played by three roleplayers (Lin, Manuel, and Miranda), and it set in a fictional land called America. Lin is playing the game’s Protagonist, Alexander Hamilton, who rose from humble beginnings to be a war hero and is now Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington. Manuel and Miranda are playing everyone else, taking the role of the game’s Antagonists.

You can listen to the musical Hamilton at the link if you haven’t already. Some people who haven’t heard it yet seem to think it’s a barrier, and have avoided reading the blog post. Instead, I think it’s an opportunity for you to listen to an amazing show, even if musicals aren’t usually your thing.

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Hamilton and the Hubris Box, Part 2 of 3: Rise Up!

Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his allies Lafayette, Laurens and Mulligan. Set photo from the musical

This is the second part of a blog series modelling the musical Hamilton as if it was a session of the (work-in-progress) roleplaying game Hubris Box, which is about the rise and fall of tragic heroes.

What’d I miss?

In the previous blog post, I introduced the idea behind Hubris Box and introduced the fictional characters who are playing the game. Three roleplayers (Lin, Manuel, and Miranda) have set up a game in a fictional land called America, just before the Revolutionary War that frees the country from the tyrannical British. Lin is playing the game’s Protagonist, Alexander Hamilton, an orphan immigrant with a brilliant mind and a hunger to prove himself. Manuel and Miranda are playing everyone else, taking the role of the game’s Antagonists.

Before you continue, consider listening to the musical Hamilton if you haven’t already. In this blog series I’m only hitting the beats without the melody. It’ll make more sense if you’ve heard it before.

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