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.

Kickstarter: Nothing Stays Forgotten

Recently Kendel Ventonda contacted me and let me know about the “Nothing Stays Forgotten” Kickstarter project. The roleplaying game has already been released in German under the name “Die Vergessenen Chronicles” a while ago. It’s obviously a fantasy roleplaying with original mechanics and a setting trying to avoid the more common tropes. Like in the (in)famous Talislanta, there are no humans (not 100% sure about that), no elves, no dwarves, etc. They are running the Kickstarter to raise funds for an English-language version including PDFs and hardcover books.

Personally I am not that interested in the project, since I have way too many unplayed RPGs in my collection already, but your mileage may vary. The artwork shown on the Kickstarter page is pretty cool, the mechanics sound reasonable (it uses a dice pool system), and it’s nice to see another German game trying to reach a wider audience. I am also sure that some of you will appreciate the non-standard fantasy setting.

The goal is to raise €16.000 within the next 45 days. At the time of this writing 16 people have backed the project so far and about €1000 have been raised. For more information, please check out the Kickstarter page.

Excited about D&D again!

I made the mistake of looking closer into Matthew Mercer’s Critical Role videos. If you haven’t been living under a rock you probably have heard about Critical Role already. In this series of videos you can watch Mercer and his friends who are actors or voice actors play in Matt’s homebrew D&D campaign. What I really love about Mercer’s GMing are his elaborate descriptions and his excellent portrayal of NPCs. The players do a pretty good job as well, and you can clearly see that this is not scripted like some other D&D shows out there, but a group of friends enjoying themselves while playing D&D.

So why do I call watching Critical Role a mistake? It triggered my “GM attention deficit disorder” again. Just when I was looking into running one of the many PbtA games, watching a couple of minutes of Matt and his friends playing D&D, made me excited about the prospect of running the game myself again. I am currently also playing in an online game of D&D (a friend is running “Curse of Strahd” for us), so this might have been another contributing factor.

This will also put an end to my GMing hiatus which has been going on for almost a year now. I actually think D&D 5th Edition is the perfect game to get back into the saddle. The fantasy genre has always been the easiest to run (at least in my opinion) and is highly popular. A lot of people know D&D or know at least the common tropes so it’s pretty newbie-friendly (especially in its latest iteration), which means finding players should be quite easy. Of course I have already asked around among my friends if they are interested, and got only positive feedback so far.

In order not to set me up for failure again, I have decided to start small. The player characters are all level 1 and just begin their first steps towards adventure. The area the game starts in will be small in scope, but have enough adventure opportunities to keep the players occupied for a couple levels. I have already thought about a meta plot which should tie all these adventures together and everything should lead towards an exciting finale. If we wish, we can stop there and move on to something else, or if we keep playing, Act Two of the campaign begins. The new act will raise the stakes and have a larger scope, while continuing the story from the first act. While Act One was focused on a small county, Act Two will cover the whole realm. Like with Act One, this act can be the end of the campaign, or things can move on to the last act which will have a world shattering events, the setting will open up once more, and the player characters will have the chance to influence the future of the whole world.

By slowly expanding the scope, the players and I can explore the world together (as I create it) and the way I’ve designed the main plot, it’s easy to stop at the end of each act and still have a complete story with a hopefully great ending. I don’t want to begin another game which eventually fizzles out without a proper finale. At this point I can either try to find a place in the Forgotten Realms where I want the campaign to be set, or I can go full homebrew and create my own world. The latter might be more work initially but in the long run it may actually be easier. By creating a totally new world I can also incorporate my players’ ideas and wishes better into the campaign.

I have to admit I am pretty excited about taking on the GM’s mantle again. I also think that I have a pretty good plan for a campaign. This time I want to do proper preparations before diving head first into the campaign. In too many games before I relied only on my improvisational skills which was a pretty bad idea. When I am at the top of my game, I can basically improvise a whole session without my players even noticing, but if I am tired or not feeling well, things crash and burn pretty quickly. So, more prep it is. I am confident that with some preparation I can also avoid getting burned out too quickly (which has been a problem in the past). Having notes, maps, plot hook, ready-to-use encounters, and NPCs ready will probably help with my anxiety issues. It’s much easier to be confident if you know you don’t have to rely on your improv skills all the time. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that you’re well-prepared.

Do you have any further advice for me? Or do you want to know more about my plans. Please post your questions and comments below!

Destiny As A Tabletop RPG?

Since it was first announced I was intrigued by the universe portrayed in the Destiny video games. It’s set into the future long after the golden age of humanity. This golden age started when the Traveler, an alien artifact/entity arrived at our solar system. It shared its technology with humanity, terraformed several planets and moons, and eventually shared its “light” (which allows all kind of magic abilites) with us. But the Traveler was followed by several alien species and a force just called the Darkness. This alien onslaught eventually led to the Collapse, which brought humankind to the brink of extinction and almost destroyed the Traveler. As a last action, the Traveler created Ghosts, small sentient machines, which resurrected people who died in battles a long time ago to protect mankind once again. These now quasi-immortal people are called the Guardians.

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In the video games you play one of these Guardians. At its core Destiny is a first/third person shooter with some minor roleplaying elements. While it has many science fiction tropes, it falls more into the science fantasy category, and it actually reminded me a lot of Numenera. Perhaps it’s because the three classes of Titan (fighter/tank), Warlock (mage), and Hunter (rogue) map almost perfectly to the three Numenera types of Glaive, Nano, and Jack. In the computer games a lot of secrets remain unanswered, and there are a few things which don’t seem to make that much sense. Why is Earth littered with remains of 21st century technology (like derelict cars) if the Collapse happened hundred years later? But perhaps that’s another mystery to be uncovered. What or who is the Traveler and why did it choose us?

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The question that has been bothering me for a while now, is whether Destiny could work as a roleplaying game. The video games are basically all combat, but the setting offers so many possibilities. Exploration is a strong theme in the game, and there are countless mysteries to uncover. I could also imagine intrigues within the Guardians as another interesting plot hook. But I am not sure if the setting itself has enough depth to support a proper roleplaying game.

I have already thought about what mechanics would be suited for such a game. The Cypher System by Monte Cook could be an almost perfect fit, but the Open D6 System should work fine as well. If I remember correctly I even found a PtbA game inspired by Destiny on the ‘net, unfortunately I don’t remember its name. In my opinion finding fitting mechanics and making some minor adaptions to make things work for a Destiny game is much easier than coming up with good adventures which are not just combat missions.

What do you folks think? Could Destiny be adapted to a tabletop roleplaying game? Or is the background too vague and too thin to make anything like this worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below!