On The Shelf: RPG Thursday Reads

These are not the cutting edge of released last month games, but they are a random selection of games I’m reading—or reading again. My criteria for selection was to grab the first fistful of gaming books on the far right of my currently being read/to read shelf that would not cause an avalanche of literature that would break my foot. I escaped unscathed with four books to tell you about.



2009. Bully Pulpit Games. Author: Jason Morningstar. Editor: Steve Segedy.



Truer words were never spoken.  Fiasco is not a campaign game—though I suppose if you’re crazy and/or inventive enough for sequel games, more power to you—it’s a bloody adrenaline soaked cinematic roller-coaster you play in a single session.  I find the rules are always simple to explain if using the play map, and anyone who grew up watching movies can follow the narrative beat, including the full-throttle oh-shit moment of the Tilt, and the fast downhill trip to the Aftermath. There’s a bevy of playsets at the Bully Pulpit site for whiling away a night with your friends, dreaming big, losing hard, and leaving a bloody smear on the cutting room floor.




The Fiasco Companion

2011. Bully Pulpit Games. Authors: Jason Morningstar and Steve Segedy. Editors: Steve Segedy and Amanda Valentine.

The Fiasco Companion is geared towards making your Fiasco games better—advice on writing Playsets, hacking rules, playing with new Tilt and Aftermath tables, and four new Playsets to tool around with. With a foreword from Wil Wheaton and the encapsulated advice of some of the best storytellers you’ll run across, the Fiasco companion sits right next to Fiasco on my shelf. I bought it to add to my Fiasco experience, I kept it because it confirmed what I’d felt the first time I played Fiasco—it’s a game, sure, but it’s also one of the best lessons on pacing and improv most of us will ever get outside of a conservatory.




2011. Cellar Games. Author: Jeremy Keller. Editor: Will Hindmarch.

Being a character in Technoir strikes me a lot like being poor, overworked, and stuck in a job you probably hate. It feels light on noir aesthetic but a good turnout for the moral crapstorm present in the genre of people doing very bad things for revenge, personal profit, or the girl. If you simultaneously sex up our world with more neon and slick flash, while bringing your A Game of corruption and technology, the world we know now could be a little taste of Technoir’s world to come. The big draw for me is Technoir’s rules, and the GM approach. The push dice, descriptive nature of stats, and a focus on giving characters an honest-to-Betsy story, not just a tech-draped dungeon crawl, appeals to me greatly. Technoir’s been a hard read for me in terms of grasping all the rules, but the promise shown by the rules is keeping me going.





Shelter in Place

2011. Galileo Games. Authors: J.R. Blackwell, David A Hill Jr., Filamena Young. Editor: Brennan Taylor.

If you’re unfamiliar with one of the most classic terms in disaster response, to shelter in place is the directive for individuals in an affected area (pandemic, disaster, zombie outbreak) to confine themselves to an area, seal off the HVAC, and try to wait whatever problem is on the other side of the door.

Shelter in Place is a cinematic game that expands on the concept in a deeply disturbing and visceral way. The Director (GM) helps coordinate the game, which at its basest of points is a story of survival. Just like any good horror movie, the humans only hope for survival is managing the resources they have, and depending on each other in a world where everything has gone to Hell. The rules are clear for me even on a first read, which makes Shelter in Place an unusual gem for me. As someone who has taken disaster response exercise design (read: drills and game writing) Shelter in Place should be on the list for disaster-response teams to play.

As for a more usual consumer of games? You might want to go to the park this weekend and play Frisbee.

Or you could bring a few extra friends, and see who would survive the zombie outbreak instead.




Have any RPG books you want to recommend as summer reading? Have a new—or old—game you’re reading or reading over again?  I’d love to hear about them! Leave me a comment or find me on Twitter.

About l

L is a freelancer currently working as a writer, editor, journalist and game designer. She hauls a suitcase decorated in stickers as she blogs, travels, and tours. She makes her home in Washington, California, and wherever the tour stopped last night. You can follow L on twitter (@lilyorit )

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