All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Review: Mutant Year Zero: Gen Lab Alpha

I was never very fond of anthropomorphic animals. That’s one of the reasons why I never actually played Gamma World. I just found it too childish. When my Mutant: Year Zero GM approached us with the wish to play some Gen Lab Alpha, I was skeptical at first, but – oh, boy – I am having the time of life with my grumpy, old healer cat character called Tiberius and his motley crew of Mutant Animal resistance fighters …

Mutant: Genlab Alpha is an expansion of Mutant: Year Zero but also a standalone game. In MY:0 you play mutant humans with extraordinary abilities trying to survive in the dangerous and irradiated Zone, while in M:GA you take on the roles of mutated animals. You are the result of genetic experiments which gave animals some human traits like being able to speak, use tools and walk upright.

M:GA is a 244-paged hardcover book with a beautiful matte finish and high production values. As with Mutant: Year Zero and the other books by Free League Publishing, it’s a joy just to leaf through the book and admire the artwork and excellent layout. There’s also a PDF version of the rules which is fully bookmarked. This review is based on both the hardcover and PDF versions of the book which have graciously been provided by Free League’s Boel Bermann. Thanks again!

Continue reading Review: Mutant Year Zero: Gen Lab Alpha

Kickstarter: Summerland

Greg Saunders is currently kickstarting the 2nd edition of his Summerland RPG. You might remember him from his SF roleplaying game Exilium which I wrote about on this very blog. I also had the chance to interview him back then.

Summerland has actually been first released about 10 years ago and is IMHO a very intriguing and original post-apocalytic roleplaying game. In Summerland the world has been destroyed by a vast forest which appeared overnight. The Call lured people into the forest, where some slowly lost their will and eventually even forgot that they are human. The player characters are among the few humans able to resist the Call. But this resistance comes at a price – the demons of the past are what shield them but the player characters are also haunted by their past.

Like Exilium, Summerland is not just an adventure game set into an exotic world, it does what all good science fiction does: it asks fundamental questions about the human condition. Both Exilium and Summerland might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind some philosophy thrown into your games, both games are definitely worth a look.


The 2nd edition will be featuring full-color artwork created by Tithi Luadthong and new game mechanics based on AntiPaladin’s MiniSix. The original Kickstarter goal of £3000 has already been reached after just four days, but if you’re interested you still have about 25 days to decide whether you want to support Greg’s project or not.

I already put my money where my mouth is and decided to support Summerland 2nd Edition on Kickstarter. For more information on the project, check out the Summerland 2nd Edition Kickstarter page.

Setting Yourself Up For Failure

Over the 20+ years of my gaming career I noticed something which has led to the premature demise of many campaigns. It usually starts with me getting the impression that my players are not fully invested in the game anymore. They show up, they play their characters, but the enthusiasm for the game seems to be gone. This should encourage me to get them more excited about the game again, BUT it more often than not led to frustration. So I became more sloppy in the preparation of the following sessions which of course leads to less interest from the players. It’s a vicious circle.

Back in the day, I thought getting more feedback from the players would solve this problem. If I knew better what they were interested in, I could make the game more exciting again. But unfortunately players often don’t know what they want, and they have a hard time communicating their wishes in a way that it’s helpful to the GM.

One of the bigger issues I had over the years was that there often was a disconnect between my understanding of the game’s setting and how the players perceived it. I thought I explained everything in detail, but more often than not, there were major misunderstandings. This of course can be pretty frustrating for players and the GM alike. This often happened in cases where I was very familiar with a setting while it was pretty new to the players.

Didn’t I communicate everything correctly?  Were my players not listening, or not reading the notes I prepared for them? Were they even really interested in the game in the first place? As you can imagine being on the verge of depression for a long time didn’t really help things. In the end I took an extended break in the hopes I could return to GMing which my mental batteries recharged and my players thirsting for new adventures.

Unfortunately I am now hesitant to start a new game because I fear I might be setting myself up for failure. I also fear that any new game might fall into the same trap so many games have fallen into. My excitement gets the better of me, while my players are less than enthusiastic and confused about what the game is actually about. The feeling of having let down my players is often so strong that I feel totally paralyzed. In combination with the regular option paralysis common to GMs with too many games in their library this is deadly to any game plans – and it frankly sucks.

So I am looking for some help from my dear readers. I am sure I am not the only one with this issue. How can I get out of this vicious cycle? How can I get my players excited again without setting myself up for failure at the same time. Any advice is highly appreciated!