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.

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My Thoughts On Salvo! Denmark Strait

Alright, so as it turns out, Salvo also has an expansion, though dealing with the Battle of Denmark Strait. However, I’m gonna go away from the norm of how I play games and instead tell you an experience that I had. For the first time, I played a solo game with a pencil and paper.

Playing without the trusty computer to do calculations and automated die rolls was extremely different, to a satisfying degree. It helped that the game I picked, Salvo, was a quick and easy game that I could play while waiting for my D&D session to begin. Though no one managed to ask me what I was playing so I could plug the game. Continue reading

Putting A Spotlight on FATAL & Friends

Alright, so I figured I’d put a spotlight on a website that I found remarkably hilarious. This is akin to the Let’s Play archive site, except instead of playing through video games, they instead read through RPGs and give their review on it. I found the one I came across hilarious, albeit really sad.

See, during my writing of the Bliss Stage session, I ran into a bit of confusion over what to do regarding the distribution of my rolled dice. So, I decided to go read an actual play or some sort of replay to figure out how they did it and see if they explained the rules. That’s when I came across the Fatal & Friends take on it.

The reason it’s sad is because it was criticizing the game. I said before how I loved the game, so seeing what essentially is a review of it lambasting the game is was… A slap across the face sounds too strong for what I felt. It felt more like being told a very sensitive joke, but rather than being offended, you instead laugh because it was funny. I found some parts that I laughed and agreed with. Overall, I enjoyed it despite the backlash it dealt Bliss Stage.

So yeah, check the site out if you’re ever curious about an RPG and want to have someone give a brief skim of how the rules work. You might laugh at a few of them.

I’ll provide a list of RPGs that have been featured on Solo RPG Voyages that people have taken the time to review if you’re interested.
1. Bliss Stage
2. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
3. Pathfinder
4. Titan World

Putting A Spotlight on a Kickstarter for Headspace

Hey everyone. Here’s a quick update on Solo RPG Voyages. I’m going to shed a spotlight on a Kickstarter for an RPG that I have played before: Headspace. Headspace is a game using the Apocalypse World system. The setting is your usual Cyberpunk of having governments ruling over the world and corporations fighting for resources, but with a twist.

You and your party members all share something known as a Headspace, a device that links your mind with the minds of the other members. Using this Headspace, you and your teammates are able to use each other’s skills to overcome obstacles. However, owning a Headspace has some side effects. Along with skills, you’ll also share your emotions, memories, and vices.

What this results in is some pretty cool moments of narrative. For example, your character could have a memory of being a former enforcer of the government and how the one night that made you decide to leave was in fact the same night that your party member lost his wife at the hands of the secret police.

While it’s been about a year since I played its one-shot demo with Mark Richardson, creator of the game, I do remember the session fondly in how it plays out mechanically and narratively. If you want an Cyberpunk-style game running with the Apocalypse World engine, look no further than this.

And to complement the previous Spotlight I did, here’s One Shot‘s take on the game.

Putting a Spotlight on the One Shot Podcast

So, I was deciding on doing a two-parter for the Quarter Quell and I noticed that there’s one free week for me to make a post for something. So, I decided to shed a spotlight on a podcast I’ve been listening to for a while. While this isn’t a podcast regarding playing RPGs solo, it does something that I have been doing for a while: One Shots.

If you ever noticed, the only game I ever attempted to make a campaign out of is Greek Titan World with the fleshing out of lore and continuing it. Every other game I played so far was either a one-shot or a two-part one shot. The reason it’s like this is because One Shots are how I first played RPGs. It didn’t take until about another year afterwards that I began joining campaigns, and even then, the only one that wasn’t D&D or a variant of it was Vampire: The Requiem.

One Shots are a great way to learn how to play the game and get a feel of how the game works. Some One Shots are done better in person with a group of people (they don’t have to be friends, just random people) and you may even find a new RPG to adore. This is how I came across Spark, one of my favorite RPGs that demonstrates world building and character development in ways no other RPG can before.

This podcast, aptly named the One Shot Podcast, is a series of podcasts devoted to doing one shots of various RPGs. They are pretty funny and they’re all done by the same host, James D’Amato, who GMs all of the RPGs (save for, obviously, the GMless RPGs like Fiasco) and the scenarios he comes up with are hilarious. My personal favorites are the Feng Shui RPG where Jackie Chan and a magical girl take out the Cobra terrorist group from G.I. Joe, the Everybody is John RPG set in around Miskatonic University, and my personal favorite so far, the Scooby Doo/Cthulhu Mythos crossover using Call of Cthulhu.

I never have time for podcasts until recently when I began playing League of Legends. Podcasts helps you get through the dead silence that only gets broken up by fighting sounds and the voices of your champion. You can grab yourself some oneshots here. And if you don’t know which ones to listen to, I wrote up a small episode guide of them going up to their 115th episode which you can find here.

Shining A Spotlight On Two Solo Flash Games

Hey everyone. I will shine a spotlight on two free fantasy online games that are both solo and addictive as hell. The first game is Dungeon Robber, a roguelike that uses the original Dungeon Generator to create dungeons for you to explore and monsters to fight. The game does leveling up through loot. You cash in your gold pieces at the bank and it becomes 1 experience point per gold piece and as you grow in level, so too would your game, as retiring at certain levels allows you to unlock new stuff to use.

The downside being that the game can feel monotonous at times. Like, you will be exploring a dungeon and you’ll just go through crossroads and passages finding nothing but empty space. Not to mention that there’s a lack of music. However, the game gives you quite a bit to do and you can pick it up at any time. So play it if you are interested.

The next game is also a bit of an addictive game, but one you can beat in one sitting: Dark Tower, based off the board game of the same name. The idea is to go across four quadrants, take out some brigands and take their keys, then storm their titular tower. It was originally a multiplayer game, but the game is coded to be for one player. It’s a game about strategically counting your numbers. A game of knowing when to hold and when to fold. The best part is that you can see other people play the official game before you consider playing it.

While the game is more strategic than Dungeon Robber, the screechy audio (from the original game) might make you want to wish for the silence of Dungeon Robber. Though if you grew up with Dark Tower, you may find it nostalgic. Just note that there’s no grinding of gears like in the original. Both games are enjoyable. If you want a game to enjoy in one sitting, play Dark Tower, if you want a game to be played across multiple sessions, then Dungeon Robber will be your best bet.

Putting a Spotlight on someone else’s Actual Play: Marvel Heroic Roleplay

Hey everyone. This isn’t gonna be a major update, just a recommendation for someone else’s Actual Play. This is a video Let’s Play of Marvel Heroic Roleplay with Mythic GM Emulator. I absolutely love the Cortex system and I hope to one day do a few of them solo. It also uses the Flash GM Emulator, which is essentially Mythic doing things automatically for you, which is always a benefit.

Part one shows off the GM Emulator while Part two shows off more of the MHR in progress. The nice part about this all is that at one point, the player actually asks the GM Emulator a GM-related question. In other words, he’s using the GM Emulator to emulate a GM. Give it a watch if you like Mythic. There’s at least two more parts to this series, so check them out as well.

While we’re on the subject on Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, check this post out too.