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.