macchiato monsters

End of September report

Life still slowly goes on, even with that disaster of a presidential debate last night. I don’t even have to get political to say that I got really tired really fast of watching the impeached president act like a petulant child. It doesn’t matter whose side I’m on (which is a dumb way of putting it anyway), but that was really embarrassing, and I’m embarrassed on behalf of my entire country. Also, I hate this your side, my side kind of stuff. On the internet (which I recognize is not a good representation of the real world), I saw someone complaining about the impeached president only pay $750 in taxes, and someone from the other side said something along the lines of, well, I’m sure the husband of the speaker of the House does the same, and I bet would wouldn’t care about that, right? Actually, wrong. My side, your side, our side, their side, I’d like the same standards to be upheld and I love when people call out hypocrisy, and I’m not afraid to call out my side. Because my side is me and my values, and my side is whatever leads to a higher quality of living for the average American citizen and for every American citizen, and that’s based on facts and science and also feelings. Everyone thinks that’s their side, but it’s not. Because I said every. I want better things for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, the Green Party, black persons, white persons, latino/a persons, gay persons, straight persons, asexual persons, bisexual persons, persons with depression, persons with pre-existing conditions, persons living in poverty, persons living on the street, persons with diabetes, communities with less support than others… I really mean everyone. And that’s not radical. It’s not radical or even political to care about everyone, even and perhaps especially the people that I don’t agree with about certain things. Wanting to take care of people doesn’t mean I support the ideas that those people has. It means that I hope they will come to be more compassionate and understanding if I show them care. At the same time, yes, I agree—to be tolerant means being intolerant toward intolerance. I am not preaching tolerance. I’m preaching care and education and stopping the abuse. Racists and homophobes and bigots don’t appear out of thin air. They’re taught by people and by our system. So, we need to fix that.

Wow, okay, I tangent-ed hard. I’m not exactly thrilled about life right now. But I am really starting to recover from my surgery, so there’s that. And, in my more private life, other small good things seem to be popping up, so I’m holding on to the things for which I am grateful. Everyone knows it—it’s been a year. The trials I have faced are real, but they pale in comparison to all of the misfortune around the world this year. And some of it was very preventable.

Let’s… keep going.

Conlang report

Alright. It’s been another slow month. And I also haven’t been a good member of the LCS. I believe my membership has actually been lapsed for a while, but I’ll fix that. And the annual meeting is coming up, which I’ve never done before because I’ve been so out of touch with community stuff, which means—like I said—I haven’t been a great member. I’ll remedy that.

I’ve also been watching some crash course linguistics with my partner for fun, and that’s been whetting my appetite for conlanging as well.

RPG stuff report

I continue to run MÖRK BORG, and I even made a little bit of income from two short pieces of material that I wrote for the game, which you can find on my itch.io page. I’m working on more content. I don’t have any intention of trying to make this my dayjob (though, it is something since I don’t have a dayjob right now), but it would be kinda cool to at least make my hobby financially self-sustaining, and it also really allows me to give back to a hobby and a community that has given so much to me. Oh! And I’m finally a player again. I’ve played a couple of sessions of Macchiato Monsters in the Post Humans Orbital Structures setting with the setting creator and some other cool people over on the PHOS Discord. I missed it so much!

Writing stuff report

Yep, it’s a month until NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually thinking of dropping my writing project from last year and using the month to work on generating tabletop RPG content. I still want to write a novel, and I think starting with smaller projects is even better for helping me get there. I’m learning a lot in the process, and just being able to say I’ve published two very short pieces has really bolstered my self-esteem (which means I may just barely be at almost-normal levels).

Tabletop RPGs other than GURPS and diving into the OSR scene

What a hefty title! As I type this out, I’m listening to Mörk Borg by GNOLL—that’ll be important a little bit later. As I’ve talked about in at least one of my monthly updates (including last month’s in which I shared a link to a thread about alternatives to GURPS), I’ve been experiencing GM fatigue, burnout, whatever you want to call it; but I also think I’ve been experiencing some kind of GURPS fatigue. (Maybe I just need to put more points in HT.) As much as I love the system, I think it might be too much for me—at least, for right now. The way that my group plays (and I tend to GM) is looser and more narrative and more focused on what feels right even though we all so much adore that GURPS is so great at simulation, which is really cool, but it kind of begs me to overthink things a lot. At our core, I think my group is more of a Fate group, but that’s not the right system for us either because it’s too loose and things start to feel very same-y after a while. (And I’m only talking about our experiences, of course.)

So, what do I want? Well, it would be something a lot like Fate (flexible, narrative, player-focused), but it would feel less like a toolkit, it would put a greater emphasis on equipment, it wouldn’t be so narrative-focused that it kind of waves away magic, and it would scale well in size and power level (which is why I thought “Knowing Your Own Strength” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV was such a good start at this for GURPS). I really enjoy not having HP (which is why I really like “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V), classes, and levels.

Well, what else is out there? As I said, I have some experience with Fate, which I really do like. For a party-ish pick-up-y game, I’ve played lots of Everyone Is John, which is also fun, but is obviously not the kind of game I want to play for anything more than a session or two. Of course, there’s always Dungeons & Dragons, and I’ve dabbled in 3.5e, 4e, and 5e. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to find Eberron, but even D&D feels like too much while also feeling restricted. (Again, to me. I’m definitely not saying it is, and your mileage may greatly vary!) I’m not a fan of classes and spell lists, and I really think that there are just better alternatives even if I want that same D&D feeling (without going full Dungeon Fantasy RPG, of course). I also tried out the first edition of Pathfinder way back when, and that gave me similar feelings.

Now, as we’ve recently been playing Deadlands in my group, I know that Savage Worlds exists. As I’ve read over SWADE, it seems like it wants to be what I want: fun, fast, and furious. Better yet, PK has some great house rules and gives the system a nice recommendation: “Despite its quirks, Savage Worlds may be the best universal system when it comes to balancing groups of wildly disparate abilities and power levels.” That really speaks to me, and I even reached out to let PK know that said review convinced me to give it a go. Which I haven’t yet. But I’ll surely get there! Now, Savage Worlds still has a spell list of sorts with its powers, but they’re much more generic and there are guidelines on how to reflavor them, which is great. Plus, there’s a wonderfully-made Eberron conversion for SWADE, which means I can play Eberron without D&D and also without doing the heavy lifting of converting Eberron to a more palatable system (for my particular tastes).

Some other options I’ve found:

  • Numenera and the Cypher system in general seem pretty promising, and I’d definitely like to actually give it a go at some point. Numenera was actually the first tabletop RPG that my partner played—thanks to some random frat party.
  • Call of Cthulhu and the Basic Roleplaying system also seem interesting. If our group was more into horror, it’d probably be a higher priority.
  • Big Eyes Small Mouth and the Tri-Stat dX system, the Hero system, and Mutants and Masterminds are all recommendations I’ve been given, but they feel so close to GURPS that I’d rather play that instead (though, I will say that all three of them handle powers and balance quite a bit better).
  • Powered by the Apocalypse feels like an okay narrative system, but I don’t think we’d like it.
  • Genesys seems really popular for this kind of play style, but I don’t like the funky dice.
  • Cortex Prime also feels promising. It seems like it falls somewhere between Fate and Savage Worlds, which sounds right for us. I’ll definitely be giving this one a try.
  • Blades in the Dark is relatively new (to me, at least) tabletop RPG that I know very little about, but it seems like people on the internet really like it. Industrial fantasy sounds up my group’s alley, so this one has to get a try at some point.
  • Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is another game that I’ve heard about only recently, and, while our group doesn’t ever really do the whole slice-of-life thing, we all enjoy Studio Ghibli movies, so it seems worth checking out for that feeling.
  • The Fantasy Trip is supposed to be something like GURPS 0e, and it has gained a fair amount of support and popularity since its revival in 2019. So, of course I have to check it out.
  • Everywhen just popped up on my radar, and I’ve seen a lot of reviews talking about it as if it’s the middle ground for other people who have likewise pendulum’d between GURPS and Fate—just based on that alone, it seems like it’d be worth a try.
  • Mörk Borg then showed itself to me. (Really, I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it even though it was just a few days ago. Perhaps it was the will of SHE.) A rules-lite over-the-top doom metal fantasy game that leans into itself while simultaneously not taking itself too seriously that hasn’t been out for long but already has a great community? Fantastic. Now, I’m not usually a fan of d20 systems (as I’m a true believer of the 3d6 bell curve), so that says a lot. Plus, the game is gorgeous. It feels like someone tried to turn in one assignment both to their art and game design class. Now, the art (and the dozen fonts) can detract from the experience of reading it, but it has a handy more-easily-readable guide toward the back of the most important rules. I judged a book by its cover, and it has already paid off.

Let’s leave the bullet point and talk even more about Mörk Borg. (I love the colors, and my site is currently pretty much themed for it.) It’s fun, fast, and furious—so, watch out, Savage Worlds. But what exactly is Mörk Borg? Like, what makes it tick? Where did it come from? Why does something like that even exist? What had I been missing in my GURPS-centric world? It turns out I had been missing a growing community filled with indie tabletop RPGs and zines. Why let Wizards of the Coast or some other big company have all of the fun if indie hobbyists can do it better? A big part of this seems to be OSR, which is Old School Revival (or Renaissance or Roleplaying). I am just a wee baby, so I would rather let Questing Beast explain what OSR is. Now, I guess Mörk Borg isn’t actually “true OSR”, but it is definitely OSR-ish or OSR-adjacent or whatever. (And I guess that would make The Fantasy Trip something like GURPS OSR.) Still, the spirit of OSR tends to capture what I’m looking for, especially those that focus more on narrative and eschew classes (and, yes, I know that Mörk Borg has optional classes, but it also has an optional non-class-based feat system).

So, I stumbled into a whole new facet of my tabletop RPG hobby, and I hope this mania simmers and leaves me with a steady rekindled flame of passion. Especially because I’m going to be running Mörk Borg in about a week and a half.

Some games that I’ve stumbled upon so far (not all OSR or even adjacent):

  • The White Hack (a streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • The Black Hack (a more-recent streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • Macchiato Monsters (which is like a fusion of The Black Hack and The White Hack, and it is very high on my to-play list)
  • Beyond the Wall
  • The Legend of Zelda: Reclaim the Wild
  • Legend of Zelda RPG (which was made by 4chan, I guess)
  • OSRIC
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  • Maze Rats and also Knave (which are made by the Questing Beast, look amazing, and are very high on my to-play list)
  • Into the Odd and also Electric Bastionland
  • Jump the Shark (another silly one-shot micro-RPG)
  • Over Arms (which is inspired by JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Persona—count me in!)
  • NUMA (which is about frog samurai—count me in!)
  • Pacts and Blades
  • Into the Bronze
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • OSE
  • Prole and also Tunnel Goons
  • Acres Past (the game formerly known as Acres Wild)
  • Night Yeast (a cool zine)
  • Dissident Whispers (a great BLM-supporting anthology)
  • Troika
  • Torchbearer
  • Swords & Wizardry

Really, I can’t vouch for any of these too terribly much, and this list is likely way more helpful for me (to keep track of all of this stuff) than it is for you. Still, there’s some kind of lesson in here about how I’ve been into the tabletop RPG hobby for over a decade and have only just now stumbled across these games thanks to chance and GM burnout. I’m excited to do something different. Well, more than something… There are a lot of games on my list. The good news is that I’ll probably never burn out on a system again. Oh, but—one last thing—I can vouch for Mörk Borg. I ran a quick one-shot duet with my partner, and we agreed very quickly that it feels nice and fun.