Spotlight: Zach Best

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post.

If I recall correctly, I first met Zach Best when I was doing the Solo Engine RPG Battle Royale Week. During it, Zach gave me a request to playtest his own engine, which you guys may remember as the Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator. I fell in love with the easy to understand rules, it’s simple resolution tables, and creative twists that resulted from it.

As a result, CRGE became one of my go-to Engine, eventually overtaking my previous go-to, Mythic. The result was me taking some materials from Mythic to create CRGE Kai. And I enjoyed solo playing with not just that, but also BOLD and UNE, which contributed a lot to several games, even without CRGE as the engine.

Thus, when I read that Zach Best, the creator of CRGE, BOLD, and UNE, had terminal cancer, I felt horrible. I haven’t really been keeping up with my solo RPG gaming, but I do tend to pop my head in the solo RPG community, so hearing that we might lose one of the nicest people I’ve seen in that community, I was pretty sad.

I may not have known him all that much compared to some of the others, but Zach Best left such a huge impact on my Solo RPG Hobby that, looking at it, I realize just now how huge it is.

Over at my Solo RPG Voyages Stats, I have used either CRGE or CRGE Kai in a combined total of 15.2% of all my current RPG Voyages. Although it translates to about ten games, keep in mind that I have about sixty-seven voyages under my belt, making it a hefty number. It makes CRGE the third most used Engine next to Tiny Solitary Soldiers with an 18.2% (12 Voyages) which I use mostly for wargame-based RPGs, and Mythic with a whopping 24.2% (16 Voyages). Like I said, Mythic was my go to before CRGE graced my presence. That’s how much I loved the system. If I had no other idea of what to use or I didn’t feel like going random, I’d go with CRGE or CRGE Kai.

Had I never been asked to beta test CRGE, chances are I would have stuck with Mythic, but possibly not enjoying keeping up with the Chaos Factor or the Threads as I had keeping up with the Surge Counter and where those Threads are heading.

CRGE was also the engine that was used in my favorite RPG session I have ever done: A Flower For Mara. The RPG gave me a lot of memorable moments. The story behind this was that I wanted to play the game, but because of it being meant to play in live-action and requiring people delving into their actual pasts, I had to get creative.

BOLD, the Book of Legends and Deeds, was used to flesh out the stories of Mara’s family, including Mara herself. This would allow the characters to have their own backstories without me having to go personal. Thus created my first memorable moment: I ended up having a character with “Harsh Power Play”, which implied they had ulterior motives. And so, after being given control of that character, I wrote that they were the villain in this story, which was kind of baffling considering how A Flower For Mara had no heroes or villains.

UNE, the Universal NPC Emulator, was used to make the conversations pop. Mainly to figure out what each NPC said to my character. It led to my second memorable moment. One of the NPCs, Thomas, was freaking out over the ghost of Mara. My PC, Ajax, confronted him on this and, soon, the two formed a pact to help people move on from Mara’s death, as it was obvious that her ghost had been appearing to several people.

Finally CRGE contributed to what may be my most memorable moment. Long story short, Mara’s daughter Zoe was actually Ajax’s daughter. The villain ended up discovering this and went to tell Zoe this. This leads to an Unexpectedly (CRGE’s version of a plot twist) so bizarre, that it remains my go-to quote for why I love using Engines to dictate the plot.

Limelit. The rest of the scene goes great for the PC’s. The estranged daughter of my character’s old flame just found out he’s her real father after all these years, is about to beat the snot out of him, and the rest of the scene goes perfectly for him.

Let me repeat that. My character’s about to get beaten up by his own daughter. And yet it goes great.

I was able to spin a devastating conflict into a moment where Zoe feigns attacking Ajax so as to fool the villain, as she found out about her true father prior to the event. This led to a complete 180 where Ajax, once a single person grieving for his role in Mara’s untimely death, now having support from her grieving family as they try to stop the matriarch from tearing them apart.

CRGE, however, gave me another surprise. Just when I thought Naomi, the villain throughout the story, would have Ajax trapped by exposing him as the indirect cause of Mara’s drug overdose, it turns out that she has no idea of Ajax’s role. However, a critical fail leading into Limelit caused what could have been a tragic ending into a more bittersweet one about forgiveness and redemption.

It felt less like I was playing an RPG and more like I was watching a made-for-TV movie unfolding. This feeling I never had with any other game I played. And it’s all thanks to Zach Best and his creations.

However, not everything in this post is sad and gloomy. There’s a way we can help Zach. On DrivethruRPG, there is a bundle in which all the proceeds will go to support Zach and his family during this difficult time. The bundle contains a lot of RPGs, some of which, like Kaigaku, I’ve heard nothing but good things about.

Let me put it to you this way: for the same price you pay for just Kaigaku’s Premium Edition, you’re essentially buying three RPGs, a 13th Age Supplement, a sandbox adventure that can be used for any RPG, a 5E supplement, two Numenera adventures, and a small book regarding Alex Yari and Jacob DC Ross’ remembrances of Zach’s work. And more stuff are being added along the way, making it a mutual gift that keeps on giving.

Before you ask, I have checked. The bundle becomes free once you purchase it, so if you bought it before new items have been added, don’t fret.

It’s a good deal that can also help out someone who gave so much to the community.

Thank you Zach, for all the support that you have given to all of us.

Stat It: Call of Cthulhu

The Cthulhu mythos is perhaps one of the more well-known mythos in classic literature. If you’re an avid role-player, chances are you’ve come across something akin to Cthulhu. Even D&D has some Cthulhu influence as seen with the Mind Flayers and how you can even have a Warlock archetype in 5th Edition where you can have your powers come from an eldritch abomination.

However, not a lot of games tend to get the gist of Lovecraft. Most board games based off it are focused on you beating the horrors that lurk in the night and some of the games that don’t focus beating them up just use it as an aesthetic. However, there’s a good reason for this.

Not a lot of games can capture the feeling of Lovecraftian horrors. The most they tend to do is throw in tentacle monsters. It’s akin to how horror movies nowadays just resort to jump scares instead of create actual horrifying moments.

That and it’s very satisfying to find a monster that is beyond our comprehension and punch it in the face.

Oh God, that’s actually horrifying actually saying it. The implications of that sentence.

Screw it. I’m gonna play Call of Cthulhu for the explicit purpose of befriending the elder horrors and not blowing them up to kingdom come while O Canada plays in the background. Just to prove that we don’t always have to fear what we don’t understand.

Doesn’t help that I got some Call of Cthulhu Keeper Cards that I’m dying to use. Well, let’s begin with a Stat It! Continue reading

Pinball Heaven

I’ve been interested in playing a Gamebook for quite a while ever since I laid eyes on this video. There’s plenty to go about, but I decided to go with the Random Solo Adventures series by Penguin Comics, since they’re easy to get and easier to play.

We’re gonna do a quick adventure based off everyone’s favorite past time: Pinball.

Yes. It’s a Gamebook that is based off pinball.

Alright, let’s begin. I have three balls, a D6 to roll with, and an imaginary score I have to win. Let’s start with a soft plunge. Continue reading

Short Order Session

So in the midst of the hiatus I’ve placed upon myself when it comes to both Chainmail and Fabletop, I’ve got myself some cards to try out: Short Order Heroes. It’s a hundred and eight card deck that has illustrations detailing singular traits. While this can help generate characters, it can also be used as a standalone game, which is what I’m going to be doing for this session.

Opening the box, I have to say I really like how the cards are sorted. First by their score (0-7) and then in alphabetical order. There are only two cards that have a 0 and a 7: Jinxed and Lucky. Which make a lot of sense respectively.

But alas, I will need to shuffle this perfectly arranged deck… Continue reading

Stat It: Testament 2: Egyptian Boogaloo

I enjoyed D20 Testament immensely and concluded that I would definitely need to do another session of it. I’m not gonna continue the adventures of Zerubabel since, as far as I can see it, he’s already fulfilled his quest. Now we shall focus on another adventurer… Or rather two. Keeping in tradition, I’m gonna make two characters for this game.

Like with the last one, my main character will be a Setting Exclusive class prestiging into another class. In this case, a Khery-Heb becoming a Ren-Hekau… Don’t worry, I’ll explain what they are shortly. The two are Egyptian classes, and unlike Babylon, they have involvement with a majority of the Old Testament. In particular, the Book of Exodus.

However, the history of Egypt in the book doesn’t seem to bring that subject up. It brings it up in a side box, but doesn’t go into detail about how the Ten Plagues devastated Egypt or what happened to Egypt after the parting of the Red Sea. Instead, it hypothesizes on which Pharaoh was the one that had been “blessed” with Moses’ presence.

Granted, Exodus was brought up in the Israelite section, but again, Egypt has minor mention. So, I decided to set the game during the forty years of exile that Moses took, sometime after Ramesses, the popular vote for who the Pharaoh was during Moses’ time in Egypt, ascended to the throne.

With that in mind, I now begin to create my character. And fortunately, these rolls were not piss poor compared to last time. Continue reading

My Christmas Vacation With An Alolan Ninetails

For this year’s Valentine’s Day special, I realized there was a Solo RPG that everyone seems to be raving about that seems almost perfect for this kind of day. However, the premise actually turns me off. Well, the game admits that it is unsettling…

Fortunately, I found an alternate to The Beast: Holidays. It’s basically The Beast, but instead of boning some sort of alien creature, you’re instead spending the holidays with a partner. It’s nicer, lighter, and softer than The Beast, so that’s my compromise.

Who’s the lucky partner? Well, I figured I’d pick out a character and have vacation with them. The problem is deciding who. Do I use a fictional character from a comic book or cartoon? Do I make one on the spot or use one of my old characters? Eventually, I compromised with creating a Kitsune.

Long story short, Pathfinder Generals on 4chan have a tendency to use fox-girls as their opening image. So I figured the story would be that I would be alone on Christmas until I came across…

Eh, screw it. I’ll come across Alolan Ninetails. Continue reading

[SGAM 2016] Let’s Play Chainmail! Part 2 – Don’t Give Up The Ship

Alright, so let’s be blunt right now. Trying to play the game with the original Chainmail rules was just confusing. A lot of cross referencing would have to be done and in the end, it wasn’t exactly as clear cut as I wanted it to be. So, I spent a good chunk of this month working up some new rules for the game.

Unlike with Braunstein, Chainmail did come with its own rules, but the problem was that I couldn’t comprehend them in a way I could easily put it into practice, and thus, I decided to create a new system while keeping the spirit of it in check. Perhaps this is history repeating itself, as Chainmail was originally adapted from some rules as well.

When we last left off our commander, Robert, he ended up taking over Bodenberg with the help of some pixies that might have ended up being necromancers. So yeah, Robert’s first action is to confront the Gnome on that, since he owns them. Continue reading