Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #18 - Pendragon

Today's game just barely meets the criteria of being a game I've played, having only played a few sessions - but I loved those sessions. King Arthur Pendragon, originally published by Chaosium (and kinda sorta having found its way back to Chaosium, the long way round).

Pendragon is a game about playing knights in legendary England, as seen through the legends of King Arthur. Its biggest influence is Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. You typically build your character, assumed to be a knight, by first building his grandfather's and then father's history. The game itself is designed to follow your characters for decades - indeed it is expected your character will die in the course of play, either in battle or through old age. Every session is designed to advance your character a year. Finding a wife and getting an heir is therefore of prime importance for your character.

Pendragon uses a variant of the BRP system as seen in RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, thou…

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #19 - D&D 4th Edition

I gave a lot of thought as to whether to include the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons on my list. Of all the games on my list it's probably the one I have the most issues with. On the other hand, I really like a number of ideas that the designers of D&D 4e tried to do. They took some chances, broke a number of "sacred cows of D&D". Looking back, I think Wizards of the Coast would have been better off making D&D 4e a separate/non-D&D game. though I can understand not wanting to have products competing with each other.

What I really liked about D&D 4e was the way it gave all classes a bunch of interesting abilities - some usable at-will, some usable on a per-encounter basis, some usable daily. Characters had different roles which greatly influenced how they'd handle things in combat - some characters were great at slugging it out with multiple opponents, others dancing all over the battlefield. All the classes managed to feel interesting and ha…

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - Criteria

I'm going to be launching a "Dan's Top 19 RPGs" series of posts. I was going to make it ten but with the name of this blog I couldn't help but go for nineteen. I'm hoping to get it done in about a month - it's been pretty hard keeping to a rigorous schedule the past several months, with family health matters and me getting close to completing my Master's degree while working.

This post will lay out some ground rules. The most important is I have to have played the game in question at least once, either as a player or as a GM. This will disqualify a lot of popular games - many of which I've used in some form - some of which I've used a lot of. I'll list them at the end of this post.

The other question is how I'll handle editions. If a game changes a lot between editions I will treat them as separate games. On the other hand, games that are refined from one edition to another will be treated as one game. For example, I'll be treatin…

Developing Boston for 1920s Call of Cthulhu

While Chaosium has produced sourcebooks for many locations in Lovecraft Country (Kingsport, Arkham, and Innsmouth) as well as non-fictional cities of the 1920s (such as New York City and New Orleans), the nearby city of Boston, while being featured in many adventures, has never received its own full sourcebook.

The most common era for my Call of Cthulhu games has been in the 1920s - some campaigns have been in New York City while others have been in Lovecraft country. For those in Lovecraft Country, many adventures have been in nearby Boston. Over the years I've slowly been building up some expertise in the area and I thought it might be of interest to others gaming in the same setting - whether with Mythos horrors or a purely mundane game.

First, let us investigate those official sources. While Boston has found its way into many adventures, I can think of two sources where it has been given a fair amount of detail. First, The Unspeakable Oath double issue 16/17 has a reference o…

Actual Play: The Art of Madness Part 1

The Art of Madness is an adventure from the anthology The House of R'lyeh, written by Brian Courtemanche. Featured heavily in this adventure is the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Living fairly close to Boston, I've been to the Museum many times. It's been neat playing an adventure with a familiar place...

Setting: Boston, Mass. Wednesday, December 1, 1920


Earl Crowley - Antiquarian settled in ArkhamJordaine Furst - Strasbourg-born Great War spy for FranceFredrick Tardiff - Great War veteran, Kingsport artist
Summary: Fredrick Tardiff had been constructing a new series of contacts to assist with investigations into the bizarre, with the last of his Great War compatriots moving back to Harlem. He had begun meeting with Earl Crowley, an antiquarian who had uncovered one too many things that couldn't be explained by science. Jewelry from Innsmouth of metals unknown to science. Reviews of a French play that had made its audience go mad. He'd also made the re-acquai…

Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

I discovered Ursula Le Guin back at the University of Connecticut in my final year. I had the opportunity to take a few electives - my last year included classes like Age of the Dinosaurs and Science Fiction - and the Science Fiction class included her The Dispossessed. It was my favorite book in that class - and to this day it remains one of my favorite books. Subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, it's great science fiction that makes you think. It doesn't give easy villains but rather people trying to do the best they can.

Ms. Le Guin passed away on January 22 at the age of 88. She lived a long life and had a successful career - in my opinion her greatest works are among the greatest of the 20th century. She bridged genres and made it look easy. There was a hardness to her science fiction, such as a universe with no faster than light travel. But her stories were very much social ones, exploring ideas such as sexuality and gender roles, anarchy, capitalism, etc. Her Earthsea novels…

Some Thoughts on the Rules Changes of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

I've had the opportunity to clock in a decent amount of time playing the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition RPG since its initial release in 2014. Like the previous editions, characters from one edition are very much compatible with previous editions, though the rules themselves have undergone a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning.

So what changed?

Looking at the character sheet the first thing you notice is characteristic scores no longer are in the 3 to 18 range but rather in a percentile range. You generate characteristics in the same way - 3d6 or 2d6+6, depending on the stat, but you multiply by 5. This makes it perhaps a bit easier to make percentile rolls against abilities but it doesn't affect gameplay very much. Looking at the quickstart rules for Chaosium's upcoming RuneQuest revision it doesn't seem like this change will carry over there.

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a full difficulty system. In previous versions of Call of Cthulhu, there was no difficu…