Question #8: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?
There are quite a few RPGs that fall into this category, including CHILL which I talked about earlier, but I'm going to focus on one that's a little controversial here. The single best game for short sessions that I've ever played is D&D 4th Edition Essentials. With the Essentials rulebooks, and the Gamma World boxed set, Wizards of the Coast took what was a well designed but poorly executed and confusingly written game and turned it into one of the best introductory role playing games ever published. The Essentials editions accomplished what Wizards of the Coast was trying to do with their Red Box reproduction for 4e and created a new "Basic" edition of the game. The character classes in the Essentials edition were "pre-optimized" and the feats offered in the books were just enough to add flavor.
And don't give me any of that "4e is a great tactical game, but terrible role playing game guff." <Insert Cranky Old Man Voice>If you didn't get good role playing out of 4e, that's all on you and not the rules. Because role playing is about your actions and has nothing to do with rules sets. I ran 4th Edition, and especially Essentials, for two years at my Friendly Local Game Store (Emerald Knights in Burbank) with a mix of experienced and new gamers. The rules in the Essentials books were simple enough for the new players to understand and some of the best ROLE playing I've ever engaged in was with that group.<Exit Cranky Old Man Voice>
The Lost Crown of Neverwinter adventure for D&D Encounters is second only to The Veiled Society in my mind as the adventure most likely to go off the rails into it's own magnificent story line fit for launching a campaign.
Question #9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?
The quick and easy answer, also the cheap and lame one, is to say any role playing game. When you own as many rpgs as I do, the likelihood that you'll ever get to play them all is remote. Given the monolithic dominance of the D&D and Pathfinder brands in players' minds and interests, it's hard to get to game in other rule sets some times. Add to that a limitation of only being able to game once a month, and playing 10 sessions become 10 WHOLE SESSIONS! To me that's a mini-campaign. I've seen some great answers to this question online, ranging from Savage Worlds to Shadow of the Demon Lord. Since I love those games, and the Fantasy AGE game too, I'm going to keep those as D&D alternative recommendations for games to play for years when you are tired of D&D.
For the 10 session rule, I'm going to recommend Symbaroum. My reason for recommending Symbaroum for a short campaign isn't that I don't think the game can handle a long campaign, rather it's that they've written a great short campaign for the game that fits perfectly in 10 sessions or so. Symbaroum is a deeply evocative game with excellent art work. It also has a rich setting and easy to PLAY rules. The presentation of the rules in the book aren't the most intuitive, as you have to skip around a bit to get to the rules since they put a lot of the rich background in the front and put character creation just before the background section and the rules in the middle and back of the book. Yes, that's a complaint. The translation is clear and playable, but I'd have liked a more logical order to the rule book especially given how easy the game is to play. It's a fantastic system that is close enough to D&D that players can pick it up on the spot, but different enough that it has its own feel.
Speaking of "feel," Symbaroum is also that rare game that captures the feeling of fantasy literature. D&D is a great game to play, but I never feel like I'm playing a novel. There are just too many options, in part because D&D is trying to capture the feel of a genre (for the most part) and not a particular setting. In focusing strongly on setting, Symbaroum adventures feel like collaborative novels. I mean this as a very high complement. This is one of the best RPGs I've read and watching the folks at Saving Throw Show play the intro adventure is a perfect demonstration of how great this game is because they learn and play in the same session.
Day 10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?
Where do I go for reviews? Where do I go for reviews? C'mon man. I write a blog about gaming with my kids and friends and write my own damn reviews (okay, I don't do it often enough). I've even written for The Robot's Voice man...I've been paid to review stuff...(ed. note: Stop the Gamer Rage!)
Okay, snide gamer rage aside, I do have a couple of places I go. I'm friends with a TON of gamers on the Book of Faces, so I'm constantly checking out what they have to say in their posts. I read Tenkar's Tavern, and he sometimes reviews things, I also read some of the reviews on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow. Nerdist is a good place to read reviews, though they should hire ME to write for them (ed. note: I told you to STOP that.). I listen to Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws' podcast. For the most part though, I love the diversity of product offerings in the hobby so much that I'm kind of review immune. I buy a lot of RPGs and bad reviews don't stop me from buying and I often own them before a good review comes out. I wish I wrote more frequently about the games I think are great. Reviews play an important role in promoting products in this very small market and I feel guilty when I don't promote games enough.
Day 11: Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn?
Whew! All caught up. Man, this is a tough one. There are some great games out there that have been abandoned or gone out of print because they never caught on. People I follow have already mentioned James Bond 007 by Victory Games/Avalon Hill and Dream Park. A very good retroclone of James Bond 007 called Classified is available and you should track down Dream Park if you can. For my money though, I'd really like to see the Good Guys Finish Last and Villains Finish First superhero role playing games by Better Games be reborn with a new and beautiful edition with updated artwork.
The designers at Better Games were ahead of their time with their "Free Style Role Play" games. These games used descriptors to both describe what characters could do and to determine how much damage they could take. A "robust" character would have more physical damage boxes than a "smart" character, but the "smart" character would be able to take more mental damage. Those aren't actual descriptors, at least I don't think they are, but it gets the point across. The game system used a very simple 2d8 system where the difficulty of using the power and the roll needed in order for it to be successful were related. Additionally, and this is pretty genius. This particular game wasn't just a superhero role playing game. It was also an emulation of running a comic book title. As you did better, and achieved ignobles (goals in the game), you got more powerful and your comic book reading audience increased. With an increased audience came more difficult challenges, but also better art etc. I only wish that the good folks at Better Games hadn't been so tied to artists who were emulating the IMAGE style. It dated the game, even then, and I think dissuaded people from picking up a great product. I'd love to see it relaunched with high quality and thematic art.