How to Get Started with Roleplaying!

Artwork from Jason Morningstar's Night Witches

[Our header image is official art for Numenera.]

Hilary: So, you wanna play an RPG.

You’ve read the Shut Up & Sit Down reviews of Fiasco or The Burning Wheel. You’re daydreaming about a campaign of Apocalypse World. The idea of playing a baker in Ryuutama makes your heart melt.

You’ve bought the game, you’ve read the rules, you’ve gathered your friends, you’ve sharpened your pencils and now the magic happens. Well, uh, you assume this is where the magic happens. See, the rules didn’t necessarily explain how you were gonna “roleplay”. Just “then you play out the scene” or “make choices as your character” or “someone decides when the scene ends” or …hmm.

Hmmm.

It turns out there are spaces between the rules of any game left for you, the players, to fill in. Which is all well and good, but what if you have no idea what to do and you’re kinda worried maybe you’re gonna fuck this whole thing up and oh gosh maybe you’re not cool enough or nerdy enough or experienced enough or what if you forget which die is which or…

It’s okay! I’ve got you. Deep breaths. We’ve got this.

Sometimes magic just needs a helping hand.

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RPG Review: The Burning Wheel

RPG Review: The Burning Wheel

Lately I’ve had Burning Wheel on my mind.

Some friends recently started up a streamed campaign with Roll20, and I tuned in to watch all 4 hours of their character creation. I joked around in chat, explained bits of the rules and mechanics to people who asked, and generally had a great time. But I haven’t been watching them actually play. I’ve stayed away partially because the timing doesn’t quite work for me, partially because one of my roommates is in the game and I can hear him talking in real time and then again 10 seconds later via Twitch’s time delay, but, most of all, because I am way too jealous.

Burning Wheel is one of those games I’ve played just enough to fall in love with, but not nearly enough to be sick of. Or even remotely satisfied.

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RPG Review: Kaleidoscope

RPG review: Kaleidoscope

[SU&SD’s coverage of the growing, amazing story games scene has ranged from sporadic to non-existent. Introducing Hilary McNaughton, a writer and gamer from the land of “Canada” who’ll be helping us out with regular reviews! Please give her a warm welcome.]

Hilary: I don’t watch a ton of movies, so I generally assume if I’ve seen something, everybody’s seen it. But it turns out I’ve watched a higher-than-average number of weird foreign films. I’ve even seen a couple I just did not get. At all.

Maybe you know the kind? Things start out sort of intelligible, then dissolve into weird symbolism and visual effects about halfway through. Or there’s no plot, at least that you can find. Or everything seems normal, except for some reason the director shot the whole thing from a bird’s eye view and you never see anyone’s face.

Sometimes the very best thing about a film like that is picking through it afterwards with your friends. What was with the giant hand in the background of that scene at the park? Why didn’t anyone in the movie comment on the fact the sets were obviously all made of cardboard? Did everyone hate the long shot inside the revolving door, or just me?

Kaleidoscope is a game that brings you all the joy and frustration of discussing an opaque foreign art film, without actually having to sit through one. You and your friends invent the details of a fictitious movie in the same time or less than it would have taken to watch.

But how? you ask. I’ll tell you how!

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Review: Out of Dodge

Review: Out of Dodge

Brendan: Out of Dodge is a game that understands one of the golden rules of the criminal genre: a botched heist is a good heist. As four outlaws on the run from a job that went terribly wrong, there is room here for hi-jinks, comedy, seriousness and treachery. It is a short, one-shot RPG from Jason Morningstar of Fiasco fame and it has a dastardly fun set up: you arrange four seats in the shape of a car (or use an actual real-life moving car), get in and argue about what went wrong while you speed away from the crime scene with a bag of loot much lighter than you expected.

Oh yeah, and watch out for all the blood because one of you is dying.

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Review: Dog Eat Dog

Review: dog eat dog

Brendan: Dog Eat Dog is one of those rare games we come across that do not necessarily have ‘fun’ as the end goal but, like Freedom: The Underground Railroad, try to impart some wisdom on their way through your life. It is thoughtful and intelligent and just a little uncomfortable. It’s a game with a point to make and it makes it worryingly well. If I were to describe it using SUSD’s internal style guide, “Rulez, Regulationz and Ztuff” I would call it an indie RPG about the colonisation of an island and the resultant back ‘n’ forth between ‘native’ and ‘occupier’. But since I already burned my style guide when it suggested I use ‘paragraphz’, I will have to settle for this description:

Dog Eat Dog should be taught in schools.

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Kotaku Article: Thoughts on D&D 5th Edition

Kotaku Article: Thoughts on D&D 5th Edition

Quinns: While SU&SD’s Star Wars RPG campaign will continue unabated like some grimy, stuttering starship, I’ve also been playing the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Did you know how good it is? It’s Chaotic Good. Good like a +3 Long Sword of Goodness and Being Clever.

This week I filed a Kotaku column all about just how smart and timely it is. The words include, but aren’t limited to, these ones…

“You know how when movies or sitcoms depict D&D, people sit down and within 60 seconds they’re being ambushed by goblins, panickedly figuring out who they are and what they’re carrying? That’s what the beginner box offers. Printed on the back of each character sheet are instructions on how to level up, especially relevant in this version because (again, just like video games) the many and varied power trees of your character class open up gradually. Only once you’ve been playing for two evenings will you be asked whether your Rogue wants to be a Thief, Assassin or Arcane Trickster. And if you decide to pick up the Player’s Handbook for the full rules, you’ll find funny, witty charts to help players down the unsettling path of roleplaying.”

But I also manage to squeeze some sex and glassblowing in there. Go read!

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Amazing Star Wars Adventures! Pt. 3

Yes, we’re still playing the Star Wars: Edge of Empire roleplaying game! No, our intrepid gang of sob stories and space-wastrels hasn’t been arrested yet. In session #3 the gang stretch their luck to the very limits by attempting a heist at the height of a terrible electric storm. And… oh, no. Are they really … Read more

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Amazing Star Wars Adventures! Pt. 2

It’s part 2 of our entirely amazing Star Wars adventures! In this session our team of heroes arrive at a space station, kill an orc (kind of), succeed at crime (mostly) and (almost) begin working as a team. I’m calling it now. There is no way this ends well. If you missed part 1 we … Read more

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Amazing Star Wars Adventures: The Prologue

And now for something a little different. We want to provide an exhaustive review of the new Star Wars: Edge of Empire Roleplaying Game, which means we’re going to have to spend lots of evenings being crap in space. So why not let you guys in on it? Presenting… SU&SD’s Amazing Star Wars Adventures! Starring … Read more

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Review: Agents of SMERSH

Review: Agents of Smersh

[Shut Up & Sit Down is immensely proud to present the following review of Agents of Smersh, a story game, by James Wallis, story game designer. James is the wonderful mind behind Once Upon a Time, and the actually-extraordinary Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s also a lovely man. Enjoy!]

James: Agents of Smersh is a cooperative board-game for 1–4 players although it can be played by five if you want, and there’s part of its problem right there. The other problem is that Agents of Smersh is one of those children, like Carol Thatcher or Chelsea Clinton, whose parent is so dominant that it can never get away from them to build its own identity no matter how hard it tries.

What is Agents of Smersh? Agents of Smersh is Tales of the Arabian Nights given a rework and a re-skin. And at this point you are either looking slightly quizzical—’Tales of the Arabian Nights, is it that… oh I remember, Paul and Quinns reviewed it here, they dressed up, it was funny, I think they liked it quite a bit’—or you have just wet yourself with excitement. To understand Agents of Smersh it is important that you understand Tales first, so either read on or skip the next six paragraphs while you change your pants.

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