RPPR Episode 127: Mistakes are Inevitable – Learning New Games

third-wheelNews: RPPR Tabletop Tales is up and running! Check our newest podcast of campaign actual play. Our first campaign, the Dresden Files, is currently on its first season. Also, be sure to check out Thrilling Intent on Youtube. Caleb and I will be guests on their livestream on April 30th at 5 pm EST when Faust runs Delta Green. Watch this video for more details.

Synopsis: A lot of gamers get stuck in a routine of only ever playing a few of their favorite systems. Bill, Dan, Faust, and I talk about the joys and challenges of learning and running new RPGs. We talk about new systems that aren’t even out yet, like Upwind and Red Markets, and published systems like Feng Shui 2 and Dresden Files. We also have shout outs and anecdotes!

Shout Outs

Song: Interlude (Lost in the Freezer Section) by ???groceries

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  1. This topic is the constant dilemma I have with my live group. As I have become opened to a variety of systems of late to play and want to try running, they just want to use the same system we’ve played since we started. I’ve lured some away from that stagnant thinking but some are just stuck in their ways. I cant fault them for it, but Im glad this topic is getting voiced and discussed.

  2. I’m looking forward subjecting my group to Base Raiders (Sycophancy!) Also 13th Age, Blades in the Dark etc, etc.

    The Sprawl is great if the two sessions I ran are anything to go by.

    I can’t help that feel that if Caleb goes near Bubblegumshoe it immediately becomes Brick or Chuck Wendig’s Atlanta Burns stories (My own little shout out there).Though I fear I may have pushed the stereotyping too far. Sorry it’s late and I’m trying not to think about a talk I have to give.


    I run a meetup group so I have to learn new systems on the regular (to the point where I kind of wish I could have some time for system mastery of a game). I find the best way to learn a game is to listen to someone else play it such as your good selves. Though bingeing on Know Evil actually makes it harder to read the core Eclipse Phase book because you feel like I know a lot of it because of how comprehensive it is.

  3. @Adam – Concur with APs as a generally good way to learn systems – that was a point I intended to make a little more strongly in the episode, but I was talking enough as is. πŸ™‚

    More generally, something I meant to say but didn’t get to: along with running a pre-written scenario or one shot to get a feel for how/what kind of stories the system creates, you (the hypothetical GM) owe it to yourself and your group (and the game) to run it without house rules at least that one time.

    I find we (gamers in general) tend to create house rules that make systems act more like the systems we’re familiar with. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but it does tend to homogenize our games. I look at it this way: whoever designed that game put much more effort into designing the game than we can hope to put into the design of our house rules (insert aside citation in the direction of Malcolm Gladwell here), so don’t we owe them and their game the chance to meet on their terms? I just feel that by approaching a new game humbly – something most of us (including me) in this hobby sometimes struggle with – we stand a better chance of learning something new about this wacky group narrative construction hobby we have.

    Apparently this is a hobby horse of mine that I did not know I had?

  4. One of the other channels from PBS online is Space Time. All about space and physics and cool stuff like FTL. They have a great episode on colonising Venus. And I’ve pulled a lot of Eclipse Phase ideas from the stuff they discuss.

    I’ve personally found RPG systems are easier to learn the more of them you have learned to play previously. And I suspect that’s because you eventually get to point where you a familiar which a bunch of rules in game because they have been in other games you’ve already picked up.

  5. I think it was RPPR that first helped me vocalize that central rule that a GM (or a computer game designer) shouldn’t call for a roll unless failure would be interesting. it came up during the “is a player cheating” discussion. the problem with cheating isn’t the cheating itself, it’s that you don’t trust your GM to make failure interesting. it’s a huge deal in branching vidya game design, because so often the consequence of failing is “doing the encounter over.” it’s much more interesting when there are colors of success and failure. tabletop RPGs are great for that, with their semi-improvisational style.

    I just recently watched all of Idea Channel! as short as it is there’s almost no reason not to watch it at least going forward. I don’t even know that I find Mike especially insightful, but he talks about interesting things, which is worth a lot. …maybe it helped that I watched it while playing Fallout 4, when my entire cerebral cortex would’ve otherwise been shut the fuck down.

    I should go on record again as a massive Faust fan and am so, so looking forward to the Red Markets campaign he’s in (that’s the one Caleb’s a PC in too, right? IT’LL BE A LITTLE BIT LIKE HAVING THAD BACK). when was that likely to be posted? as preview eps for the kickstarter campaign?

    also SOOO EXCITED that Dracula Dossier is the next game on Tabletop Tales, that first episode of Dresden left me a bit cold [sorry, I like GM conspiracies and a coherent structure more than player-driven and pop culture characters; can understand how that’s fun to play, but it doesn’t work for me].

  6. @Crawlkill – It’s Armitage Files, not Dracula Dossier. Same structure, different villain/force of nature. And WRT Idea Channel, you’re right that insightful might not be the right word, but it certainly keeps the higher processing going when I’m writing my hundredth vlookup column of the day. Anybody willing to make a concise series of videos on common logical fallacies gets my attention!

  7. @Bill I agree system matters.

    I’m looking forward to the new APs I got the Trail bundle but I haven’t looked at Armitage yet and I haven’t got Drac Doss. Yet. But I am intrigued by all the talk on KaRTAS.

    I die a lot in Gungeon. Am having trouble with the first set of Bosses.

  8. Bill’s saying about buying new games thinking it means buying the time to play those games is the truest truth spoken truly in the name of truth.

  9. I’m also caving to my need to own Hyperlight Drifter because of this endorsement

  10. I can’t wait for the Only War game, just to complain about all Ross gets wrong. Like in this episode. Players are not part of the Imperial Army, they are part of the Imperial Guard in Only War. The Imperial Army as an organization was disbanded after the Horus Heresy.

  11. Or the Astra Militarum if you keep up with GW copyright shenanigans as I have to.
    You can be an in universe special snowflake if you allow your players to be any of the classes from the Schola Progenium (Commissars, Stormtroopers).

    I’m hoping for Ross to be doing a Penal Legion. Who doesn’t enjoy entire regiments of the A-Team/ Dirty Dozen with Battle Royale style bomb collars.

    For added fun dig out the Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer:


    I look forward to this if only because Ross’ view of 40k seems to super absurd and I like seeing alternative interpretations of things. Also being English and having mostly grown up with Dan Abnett books I’m probably just to used to it’s Baroque Skull Grimdarkness (Probably because a lot of our comics have a similar feel, says a lot about us Limeys I suppose).

    PS) Those NPC cards sound great because the “silly voices” aspect is one of the things I need to work on.

    PPS) I look forward to more Faust in general his reckless glee when things go wrong is strangely refreshing.

  12. “Toxic Comments was the name of my high school ska band!” Maybe, maybe not. But I’ve decided that these “high school ska band names” will make great writing prompts. So I’m writing a story entitled “Toxic Comments” magically-tainted internet comments driving people to do terrible things. Troll-omancy, perhaps.

  13. I’d be interested to see what RPPR thinks of Numenera / Cypher System.

    We found the balance between Glaive, Jack and Nano to be heavily biased in favor of the Nano, to the point where our resident min-maxer couldn’t find a way for the Glaive to be useful compared to the Nano – at least for starting-level characters.

  14. This episode I learned that faust says things funny!

    but really, I completely agree that easing into a system with prequel games is an excellent idea. I’m currently doing the very same thing with Call of Cthulhu since I wanted to run it but I have a group of completely fresh newbies to tabletop gaming. It’s been a really good experience so far for everyone involved.

  15. @uselray, on learning new systems getting easier the more you’ve learned: it’s like the philologist Erich Auerbach, who taught himself fluent Russian on a train ride from Berlin to Moscow, using only Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He said that after he had learned his first 15 languages, every new one was simple.

    @Sinanju: that sounds like an incredibly nasty Adept school in Unknown Armies. Yeesh.

    @Astro (and @Faust): for many years my wife knew the word “facetious” in both spoken and written form, but did not realize that they were the same word. She always thought the written word was pronounced differently, and the spoken word was spelled differently, and that they were synonyms.

    I think we can all blame English for being a horribly inconsistent language for spelling and pronunciation.

  16. @Ethan Karrin Murphy from the Dresden Files says the same about martial arts in one of the short stories. They get pretty easy to learn after you master the first 3.

    I had a friend who took a really long time to realize Segue and Segway were pronounced the same.

  17. Gotta reiterate that AP’s are a fantastic way to learn a new system when you’re otherwise bereft of free time and/or friends willing to play. I found RPPR searching for resources to learn Call of Cthulhu, you all were/are my teachers. My gaming group thanks you RPPR crew.

    Made me laugh hearing the honorable mention regarding my Dresden Files archery wound comment, I’ll have to chime in more often.

  18. Thanks again for going into a topic I wasn’t expecting yet found it excessively enlightening & informative. So thanks RPPR for getting me hooked into even more RPG systems πŸ™‚

    While avoiding anything closely associated with Rifts, and after hearing the RPPR podcast on it, I’m drawn at least to the settings so I’m curious on the Savage Worlds ruleset fix to it if it ever comes out. The existing Rifts rules just scare me to where I would just go the better route & flip a coin if anything works in the Palladium system instead of looking at rules.

    For the Gumshoe rules from how I know them, and future reference if possible considering the backlog on the Armitage Files, to me it could go either way with being a weapons skill roll or athletics. I need to GM more of Trail of Cthulhu (and many others like Call of Cthulhu 7th ed), but to me what it sounds like in the episode with the basement shenanigans, an athletics skill roll could work (as it is a catch all on many untouched general abilities) but it sounds like the end result mentioned in the episode seems very appropriate & fits the story. Can’t wait to hear it as the Armitage Files & the hellmouth/ground zero campaign builder for Esoterrorists 2nd edition are the first things I want to run in Gumshoe after a few one-shots.

    Also completely on board for more on Steal Dracula’s Gold & been looking for the book after the RPPR AP as it sounds like a fun yet hard to find book.

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