Crit Fail Ate my Character: Let’s Talk Tabletop!


I’m not a huge fan of Roll20 but it definitely works. Online RP stuff is definitely doable, though I prefer text to voice because I am much better at text RP than vocal improv.

Traveller is, sadly, at its most fun when you’re making characters rather than playing it, for the most part.


I use Roll20 and like it. It isn’t perfect, with a lot of good stuff hidden behind a paywall but it is otherwise completely functional, and has a built in LFG function.


All of my tabletop has been with roll20. It’s perfectly serviceable for long-distance stuff with some nifty features, such as piping in youtube links to play as background music with it. And with Discord becoming the new hotness, it’s super simple to just make one for your group, decide on some times and dates and throw an @ at anyone who forgets.


Roll20 has been my (incredibly sporadic, recently defunct) group’s go-to ever since we got sick of MapTool and the complicated shenanigans to get a stable connection. It’s got a pretty solid feature set, though there’s definitely room for improvement. Added to that, a lot of people have made some really pretty good character sheets for a wide variety of systems (as well as some not-so-great character sheets filled with bloat and auto-calculation that does more harm than good) so there’s a lot less worrying about keeping track of physical sheets or losing your character sheet due to a technology failure.

As far as the systems you talked about, Pathfinder is okay (It’s good for what it is, but very crunchy and has a lot of power creep. Some people like that though, and there’s nothing wrong with that.), Traveller I have no experience with (It always seemed a little too hard sci-fi to me, but I never gave it the deep look it probably deserved), and Shadowrun I want to love, but really dislike because of its balance issues and the fact that I never did figure out how to make an effective character without hyper-specializing.


You don’t. Shadowrun is absolutely riddled with bad design choices and atavistic mechanics and subsystems that refuse to die.


If there’s interest in multiple threads for different tabletop RPG systems, would it make sense to have a Tabletop Games subforum?


I suggested one already, we’ll see if we get one.


Yeah, I figured as much just from playing with its character creation. Anarchy is supposedly better, but I couldn’t get anyone in my group to bite on that and seeing some people going over the rules it seemed a little too loose for me. I’ll have to give it another look later on. It’s a shame, I really like the idea of Shadowrun as a crunchy game, but if there’s such a thing as “elegant” crunch, it most certainly doesn’t hit that note.


Good idea for our own part of the forums for tabletops! Hopefully we will get it so we have a bigger space to huddle around and exchange war stories about games we played.

It’s already been hinted at by my misadventures of reading FATAL (don’t do this) I have the habit of reading tabletop books just for the hell of it. During one of my trips I stumbled on Pokemon tabletop called Pokemon Tabletop United. Me, being excited about possibly making Pokemon game with a Fairy-type gym full of buff dudes with cute little pink harbingers of death loaded it in and started to read it.

Holy mother of Pikachu, I don’t know if my dyslexia was kicking in high gear but it was so overly complicated I barely understand what it was trying to explain to me. Anyone who ran in to this game have the same problem?

Whoops I think I doubled posted?


There has literally never been a good or coherent Pokemon-based RPG, with the possible exception of Monsters and Other Childish Things.


Elegance in design and mechanics is my white whale. Dread, mentioned upthread, is a great example, as are some other games like Ten Candles. The holy grail of a game mechanic to me is something that implicitly informs how you play the game, or intended tones, narratives, experiences and themes, without actually requiring an explicitly stated connection. A lot of games have elegant pieces like this, but finding a large game that completely nails every piece is like finding Bigfoot.

Edit: a short example from Vampire is that everything you do that costs Vitae/blood mana is by extension measured in human lives and violence against others, but is successfully disassociated enough to make people very casual about using it, reinforcing the intended slips into unwitting (or sociopathic) detachment from the effective cumulative death toll you rack up by existing.

Not that stops me from doing goofyass shit in vampire from time to time to lighten the mood.


Ruling is in. For now, no special subforum.

I suggest y’all just make threads for specific games you want to talk about, so that crosstalk doesn’t make conversations impossible to follow. WoD thread, Pathfinder thread, D&D thread. Hell, make an Exalted thread, though I couldn’t guess why you’d want to.


It’s hard to wrangle, because of a couple of factors:

  1. If Pokemon are as powerful as they appear to be in the anime, then any player character is going to break the universe over his knee by the end of the first adventure by making weird power plays that nobody in the fiction would do.

  2. Every trainer consists of a self-contained party with 6 NPCs. How do you make those NPCs actually interesting and keep them from just being a big menu of superpowers that lives on your belt?

2-A: How do you differentiate pokemon from each other without bogging the game down with 6 statsheets? How do you decide what happens when a pokemon interacts with a human? Do they have the same type of character sheet as humans?

It’s very difficult to find a balance there and have it still feel like Pokemon, especially if you are trying to portray the type of world that they have in the anime or manga, where Pokemon have humanlike intelligence and considerable superhuman powers.


Have you checked out Blades in the Dark? I think its design is surprisingly elegant. The whole game is focused around balancing risk vs. reward, both short term and long term, and it’s designed that way because it’s about daring criminals operating on the knife’s edge.

In the short term, you’re encouraged to take risky or desperate actions during scores (missions) because that’s how you get XP to advance, and while risky actions don’t increase the difficulty of the action (the target number stays the same), failing has harsher consequences. This also ties into the long term because the game has a stress system. You can take stress to get an extra die to roll by pushing yourself or to perform special actions that your class allows. And you can take stress to have a flashback during a score to explain to the GM and the other players how you planned for this exact circumstance (which also helps to avoid spending hours planning your heist–you’re supposed to skip that part and use flashbacks to fill it in when it’s relevant).

But you can also use stress to resist the consequences of a failed action roll. It’s up to the GM if resisting the consequence means the consequence is lessened or outright avoided (the book suggests modulating that to change the tone of the score or the whole game). If your stress meter maxes out, you gain a permanent psychological trauma, and the only way to reduce stress is to indulge in dangerous or addictive vices in between scores. The players are constantly on the edge both in the short term and long term and it’s awesome.

And then it all ties into crew advancement. All the players have their own character sheet, but they also share a crew sheet. You want to take on risky scores to get more resources to buy things for your crew, like a better hideout, training facilities, access to better equipment, and other things; and you want to take on organizations bigger or more powerful than your gang because it’s how you gain reputation and increase your standing in the city. But doing all of that incurs heat from each score, which builds up to increase your crew’s wanted level, and it costs quite a bit to remove (including sometimes requiring one of the player characters to take the fall and do jail time).

It’s a really cool game that developed very well around a couple of core ideas.


Huh, I never thought about it in depth like that. But then, I don’t get to play a lot of Vampire. Next time I get to play I’ll definitely go into it with that perspective though. Thanks!

That sounds hella cool, as well. Thanks for the writeup!


Yeah, I’ve actually gone through a few of the Fate books, and it’s an option that I’ve considered, but Aspects are complicated when involving people which have a tendency to minmax or question the rules to an extreme degree. I’ve played a variant of it once at a con, but I think I’ll need to chose a more gradual mix to acclimate some of the players slowly.

I ran into this game and horribly hated it. It failed on so many aspects of what Pokémon is that I think I almost suffered physical whipsplash.

Okay, rant time:

The problem I find with most of the Pokémon fan tabletop games is that they miss how Pokémon works at its core:

Pokémon has numerical complexity, but it has no numeric confusion.
Pokémon has adaptability and choice but it never has tables.

With this I mean that at its core Pokémon works by displaying a very small subset of options to the player ( a battle has 4 buttons, which respectively lead to 4 attacks, 5 other pokémon and 2/3 other options(because you only ever use a super|hyper potion, antidote or parylz heal) +1(running away) ) to a total of 13 options which are disguised on a menu which never shows more than 5 at a time to the player, and creating a highly dense rulebook is the antithesis of this in my perspective.

I remember that when seeing Pokémon Tabletop United, it had individual stats for each of the 100 levels of each Pokémon which is stupidly ridiculous. In the game every pokémon gets something different every ~5 levels or so? Then only create 20 levels. Every level up should bring something new.

In the same vein to keep things simple, just grab the very core option of Pokémon and use d6’s. Every trainer can only have 6 Pokémon, so use a d6 for everything. To roll speed, to damage, to take a secret action hide the d6 under your palm. Every round, you must move and attack and nothing more. No bull rushes or anything else, just keep it accessible.

Similarly just create spellcards for the moves, with a simple damage formula for combat and a bigger description for out of combat interaction and special moments at GM description. That avoids a huge rulebook and makes everyone feel like they can carry their team in their hand(even if not on a character sheet).

If everything is done simply enough then it maintains flexibility for quick games, it allows for medieval/cyberpunk stories, it allows for “edgy” battles where Pokémon damage humans and (my personal objective), crafting stories like The Origin of Species fanfic.

If one wants to emulate a simple system, then it needs a simple philosophy, and every tabletop version of it I see completely ignores it. I have accumulated quite a lot of feelings about it along the years due to that.

/rant over

On other themes, has anyone checked out Blue Rose here? I’ve been very tempted to explore it, even if only to look at the gorgeous art.


I have been waiting to pick it up once its finalized because of how often it changed in development, but that sounds amazing and way better than early previews.


I have never heard of it but DAMN that’s some nice cover art. Also big kitty freind!


I have played in a Pokemon Tabletop United game. Leveling up was hell, but the core system functioned surprisingly well.

I also own a physical copy of Blue Rose. It’s still basically D20 mechanics with nothing extremely exceptional or unique. It’s a beautiful, well-produced book though, and the setting, while not mind-blowing, is fairly interesting.


The original Blue Rose, right? I have the playtest of the new system they’re working on, it seemed pretty neat.