Tuesday, 11 August 2015

RPGaDay2015: The Writening

11. Favourite RPG Writer?

Tricky one. I wanted to take a little space here to talk about this subject at length, because writing is something that I take very seriously, and there are a number of writers in the industry that I admire and will enjoy singing the praises of.

Two names spring up immediately, when I think of good writing and RPGs. One is Greg Stolze, a guy whose name alone is enough to make me purchase just about any roleplaying product. The other is Jonathan Tweet, whose 90s games EVERWAY and OVER THE EDGE hit me like a thunderbolt. Until I read OtE, my experience of roleplaying games was very narrow - mostly D&D and VILLAINS & VIGILANTES. I had dabbled in other genres, but fantasy and superheroic action were what I always came back to. Tweet not only showed me the possibilities of playing a game that was modern (but not necessarily married to horror, for example) and - most of all - focused on the player characters. EVERWAY brought this focus to the fantasy genre, and introduced me to diceless games. Although I still don't play diceless games frequently, the overall simplicity of his games were transformative for me; I was never again to accept that a game had to have a lot of complicated rules and tables to be deep and rewarding.

Greg Stolze and Jonathan Tweet actually gamed together, for a time, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they share some things in common as game writers. Stolze contributed to sourcebooks for both OtE and EVERWAY, in addition to stuff like FENG SHUI and UNKNOWN ARMIES. Although Greg's game systems tend to be a little heavier on the system side, they tend to be clean and concise. The One-Roll Engine that appears in games like REIGN and WILD TALENTS and GODLIKE packs a lot of power into a relatively small set of mechanics. Stolze's games are imaginative and full of the same kind of power I find in William Blake's poetry: they are full of ideas that set your brain ablaze, make you wonder, make you want to explore them in play. One day I hope to be up to the challenge of running a proper UNKNOWN ARMIES game.

I enjoy the work of many of the guys in the Evil Hat crew, especially Rob Donoghue, but the Hatter I wanted to compliment here is Mike Olson, whose ATOMIC ROBO is the cleanest, slickest implementation of the Fate system yet. AR is full of clear examples and lively prose that bring the game to life. It's true, I was perhaps the perfect target audience for the AR game, being a fan of pulp adventure in general and Robo in particular, but without someone as good as Mike at the helm, that game could have gone badly awry or simply reskinned a lot of standard Fate Core mechanics with some colourful artwork. This game is so good that is transcends the source material, and the source material is GREAT. It's a terrific game all on its own merits, and that's saying something from a guy who likes a lot of different flavours of Fate.

There are literally dozens of writers I could talk about here whose stuff delights and inspires me, but let me last mention Kenneth Hite, a fellow whose name is well known to anyone who's been in the hobby for a while and cares anything about horror games or GURPS or podcasting. Ken's games are always a pageant of delights, full of strange bits of historical ephemera, and brimming over with love for the genres he writes in. Ken gets the Cthulhu Mythos like nobody else, and he's explored and exploded them in games like TRAIL OF CTHULHU and his HIDEOUS CREATURES series of articles in ways that unfailingly make Lovecraft seem fresh and full of possibilities. He loves pulp adventure, and his DAY AFTER RAGNAROK is full of so many tasty adventure morsels that I often leaf through it, just to soak up the fun.

As a GM, I don't often go to a game book for instructions on how to run my campaign, I go to them for inspiration. And Ken never disappoints on that score.

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