The Catbird Seat, RPG Roulette

By | RPG Roulette

New for Season Two of RPG Roulette is the Catbird Seat.

Though the lifeblood of Roulette is people wagering their time to come together in the spirit of adventure, there are from time-to-time reasons to believe that there could be an exception.  Like spouses.  Or visiting friends.  Or people that want to show up and support the day but have schedule conflicts that prohibit them from prepping to run a game.  Hey, life is complicated.

If then there’s going to be a VIP seat at the table; there’s going to be a cost to it.  Hey, lunch is on you.  Literally.  Typically Roulette is two pizzas and some beer, but if you want to cook an entree and side enough to feed six people we can talk about that too.  You’ve chosen to participate in another *aspect* of Roulette.

Select One and inform your host:

  • I just won the lottery and I’m bringing two six packs of beer.  It was a small lottery.  #drinkthewinnings
  • I get my chauffeur groomed before he takes my cat to be groomed. I’ll be taking care of pizza.
  • I’m a dandy pirate!  I’m bringing a fifth of some sipping whiskey for me fellow gamers. Argh.  No, it’s not a wooden leg.


Or, you know… all three.  It’s just an option.  All of those things enrich the table and the gaming environment.   If you don’t want to run a game, you now have the option of feeding us.  Contact your host to arrange the details.

RPG Roulette

By | RPG Roulette

RPG Roulette is an attempt to address and resolve a bunch of issues that are inherent in tabletop rpg gaming:

• Inspiring new people to run (GM, Ref, etc.) games.

• Elevating everyone at the table as responsible for the “fun”.

• Exploring new games, new ideas and new settings.

Living in NYC, it became obvious pretty quickly that people move in and out of this metropolis at an alarming rate.  Coupled with families and life issues, it’s difficult to enjoy real life gaming with regularity let alone breaking out of the mold of familiarity to try new things with new people. Gamers are, by and large, a comfortable lot having long ago decided what type of “fun” they like and how they like it.  That sort of staid precept isn’t conducive promoting and endorsing the widely enjoyable plethora of gaming that is available to us these days.  The discussion of trying to break out of those norms often founders on hemming and hawing about “who does the thing”, “where it gets done” and the system that it gets done in.  It gets bogged down in a swarm of indecision and then either nothing results or everything defaults to what was done before comfortably.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this pattern repeat.

To address a bunch of these issues, I came up with the idea for RPG Roulette.  A play-date that asks everyone interested to commit to playing on a date; once the table is filled up with rsvps, two names are drawn from the attendees and each of those people are responsible for running a convention length one-shot game (3-4hour slot), for what would be a two-slot game day.  Those two people are immediately notified so that they have enough time to prepare material to run.  The other participants/players are notified only that they are players and that they are required to show up on the agreed date and play two games.  They are not informed of the other players, the selected referees or the games they will be playing.  The day itself is turned into a game.  All attendees are enjoined in a wager that they will be ‘participating’ and that they may be called on to lead an time block.

The double-blind is set up so that there is no pre-judging or pre-playing of personalities or systems.  There aren’t expectations about what’s going to be done for you.  Everyone is showing up on that date to contribute to having fun with a group of people.

“But do I have to ‘run a game?'” Is perhaps the question most asked by either novices or habitual ‘players’.  In Season 2, I invented the ‘Catbird Seat’ which is a VIP class of ticket that allows someone to buy-in to the event and bypass the roulette.  Because, it was important to acknowledge that some people may want to participate but not have time to prepare or that some folks might want to introduce somebody to the concept with a firewall of opting out.  The concept of RPGR is that everyone is participating.  The Catbird Seat attendee is participating by either bringing some refreshments or buying the pizza.  That person is a different type of contributor.  Check out “Catbird Seat” for additional information.

At present, I have completed [nearly two full seasons and counting] (4 sessions, with about 8-10 weeks between dates.)  It’s been a crazy mixture of OSR, Story Games, d20 variants, rules light and pre-release Kickstarter projects that have crossed the table from an array of very well-seasoned to novice GMs, including: Ashen Stars, Blazing Hearts, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Everyone’s a Suspect, La Puerta de Ishtar, Paranoia and Dragons (Advanced), Roughhouse demo, Storytelling, Traveller (Semi-Classic hack), Top Secret NWO, The Ward, The Skeletons, and Whitehack.

We sit down, have some fun, kick the tires on a variety of systems and ideas and help each other with the rules.  It’s not the easiest elevator pitch but so far the gaming seems to be working.  Commit to play.  Wager your responsibility, but ultimately we are all responsible.  Pull the trigger.  RPG Roulette.

RPG Roulette… good old-fashioned anonymous fun.  You can trust us.  Most of us.  Well, not Dave. (Dave not pictured here.  …typical Dave.  See?)

Kubasik presents my recent Classic Traveller and Alien Legion hack

By | RPG Roulette

Long-time Classic Traveller fan and deconstructivist, Christopher Kubasik has begun to host overviews of people running Traveller as a framework for setting and not an end result.  My recent Alien Legion hack for the season finale of RPG Roulette caught his eye and he asked me some follow up questions at the CT G+ community.  He unpacks all of that a bit at his Tales to Astound here:


Using Original Traveller Out of the Box – E. Tage Larsen’s Alien Legion Inspired Setting


RPG Roulette, s01e03: Ashen Stars w Mel White

By | RPG Roulette

As Autumn takes foot here, I’m making final preparations towards the grand finale for RPG Roulette’s first season with a three game event this coming weekend. In looking over my notes, I came across the audio link that Mel White (Virtual Play podcast) sent me of the session he ran. Myself and two other players took a long stroll through his Sci-Fi-Noir module for the Ashen Stars game system.

The file is longish. Play runs from about 0–3.5hrs. The last hour or so is part of the RPGR breakdown session that discusses the module proper and rolls off to a larger discussion about games and my somewhat overstated disdain of Gumshoe system games.

Others in the game: Dave Tee; and Ngo Vinh-Hoi (Appendix N Book Club podcast)
GM: Mel White (Virtual Play podcast)

RPG Roulette, Session 2

By | RPG Roulette

The second session of my gm-full rpg experiment RPG Roulette went off yesterday without a hitch.  We ran at full capacity with a waiting list for two game slots.  Steve Melis ran an experimental hack ‘Advanced Paranoia and Dragons’ in the morning slot; Jeff Goad ran the new DCC module ‘Gnole House’; and as that wrapped up quickly with a tpk, Dave Tee offered a cooperative scifi tv themed game ‘Hearts Blazing’.  In all, it took us to about 8 hours of gaming.  Also in attendance, Laurence Koret for the first two games.

Mr. Goad arrived late due to kitten issues but he more than makes up for it by not only being extremely genial but also for name-checking us and the event on his podcast ‘Spellburn, Episode 54‘ (7m15s), where somewhat coincidentally he co-hosts with one of my oldest friends, Julian Bernick.

The format continues to do what I want it to do: engage players with a place to promote running games, engage players with the idea of playing games not playing systems, and lastly creating an environment that promotes risk taking in mechanics, themes and experience.

‘Transatlantic’ in Print

By | Fiasco, Transatlantic, Uncategorized

I was at Dreamation the other week and it was my first opportunity to finally pick up the Fiasco playset supplement book that contains my ‘Transatlantic’.  The Bullypulpit boys did a wonderful job with the book, and the subsequent Fiasco books as well.  Happy to have this finally in my library.  IMHO, this book contains the largest collection of the most playable scenarios for Fiasco; and is virtually mandated for a swath of play.

My best to Steve and Jason.

further along “Transatlantic”

By | Fiasco, Transatlantic

I’ve rounded up some more Transatlantic Actual Play for my Fiasco playset.  Below is a link to a game at Gencon in 2011 that just found itself to me.

Some observations, now that I’ve seen it unfold a few times…

My goals with the playset was to create a scenario that was gender neutral, period, and with enough backdoors to not trap players tightly in that framework.  I used a lot of specific language to invoke the 30s.  And although the color of that vernacular helps to promote setting; players often trip over it.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.  It hasn’t hurt play by reinforcing genre but I probably could have done a better job with it rather than swinging my purple prose all over the printed word.  Let’s have at it then:


Fiasco at Gencon 2011, with Shane Ivey, Greg Stolze, Ross Payton and another at RPPR:

listen here

Here’s some Youtube AP of Transatlantic.  They don’t exactly get the Fiasco rules right but it doesn’t stop them from enjoying it one bit:

setup of game


Lastly, Analog Game Studies (Felan Parker) writes up a really well thought paper on Fiasco.  They mention Transatlantic as a sample playset.


It’s incredibly satisfying to see and hear other people enjoy something that you’ve sent out there into the world.  Thanks.  Play on!

“Transatlantic”, more Actual Play

By | Fiasco, Transatlantic

The best part about game design is feedback: that people play the things you create and enjoyed them. Because of the magic of the internet, some of these people post accounts about play sessions or recorded actual play.

Here are a few posts about feedback on my playset for Fiasco, “Transatlantic”.

*Transatlantic Terror, via Story Games:

Played a great game of Fiasco a week or so ago using the Transatlantic playset. I had never used this playset before. There are so many playsets that usually when I play one my reaction is “That was great – I hope to do it again someday after I’ve gotten through the many, many others on my to-play list.” With Transatlantic, though, my reaction was “That was SUPER great – I’d gladly do that one again anytime!” 


*Geekily Inc has a weekly podcast called Drunks and Dragons. Over two sessions in September of 2013, Tim Lanning, Mike Bachmann, Jennifer Cheek, Michael DiMauro and Sarah Tompkins (Extra credit to Sarah for the introduction voiceover) sat down for a most terrible voyage…

Drunks and Dragons Random Encounters: Fiasco “Transatlantic” part 1

Drunks and Dragons Random Encounters: Fiasco “Transatlantic” part 2

One of their comments says, “This is the darkest Willie Wonka episode that I have ever heard.”

*Also, Thursday Knights, from earlier in 2013, played a session of “Transatlantic” and broadcast it here:

Thursday Knights s02e03: A Fiasco on the Transatlantic

… love the mangled voice over and labored vocabulary, apologies for that.  sounds like you guys had a great time.


As a side comment, many thanks to Jason Morningstar for Fiasco and for Steve Segedy for his stewardship of Bully Pulpit Games.

Fiasco playset of the month “Transatlantic” available as a free download from Bully Pulpit here.