Back in the Library

Tinkering with my essential gaming bookshelf. On reflection, I think I could break it down into two groups. One is the absolute core, the books I need to reference at a moments notice. The next shelf can be a Favourites one where I can put the ‘readers’, the ones that might not get played too much, but I can’t bear to not have nearby.

Core Shelf:

  • D&D Players Handbook 5e
  • D&D Dungeon Masters Guide 5e
  • D&D Monster Manual 5e
  • Traveller (Mongoose edition)
  • Savage Worlds Deluxe, with the Fantasy and Sci Fi Companions.
  • Fate Accelerated Edition

And over on the Faves Shelf:

  • Over the Edge
  • Apocalypse World
  • Marvel Heroic RPG
  • 13th Age
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
  • Earthdawn (Redbrick Player and GM Compendium)
  • Star Wars Age of Rebellion
  • Mage: the Ascension
  • Castle Falkenstein
  • Shadowrun 2nd ed

Now, in a couple of cases I only have PDFs, which once I’ve settled on my final list, I’ll rectify with hard copies. Then I’ll shelf them up, see what they look like, and stick every single other thing on eBay. Honest. 

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Failing my Library Use skill

I’ve got way too many games. Probably in excess of 100 systems with loads of supplemental material. I’ve been in the process of thinning down my collection for a while now, but without a clear goal in sight. Some things are clearly of no further use to me (Traveller: the New Era) whilst others will have to be pried from my cold dead hands (Moldvay edition Basic D&D). The rest exist in that grey space where they might get used or read in the future, but probably won’t. To help, I’m constructing a list of essentials that I will always have at the core of my gaming library.

  • D&D Basic (Labyrinth Lord, plus the Advanced Edition)
    D&D 4e Essentials
    13th Age
    Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
    Traveller (Mongoose)
    Earthdawn (Redbrick compendiums)
    Star Wars (FFG trilogy)
    Savage Worlds, with Sci Fi and fantasy companions
    Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
    Apocalypse World
    Fate Accelerated Edition
    Over the Edge

Everything else is non-core, and therefore up for disposal! What’s missing? Loads of supplements, adventures, magazines… stuff. I want to drop all that kit because it’s become a bit of a millstone. I’d rather prep my own stuff going forward, or lean on improv to get gaming done. From a genre perspective, there is no horror in here (not my thing), and no cyberpunk, which is my thing so I need to fill that gap. Perhaps Shadowrun 2nd ed. Which will bring it to 13 games, and that’s surely enough for anyone right?


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Patreon and the Smart Party

Baz Stevens:

So here is where I spend my time and you should spend your Patreon dollar/pound/nuyen. What Would the Smart Party Do? is getting rave reviews and this is your chance to get in on the ground floor of the Patreon deal.

Originally posted on The Smart Party:

We are 12 podcasts in now, and we are not letting up. We believe our podcasts are good quality conversation, with insights and humour aplenty. If you think we are on to something then please do head over to our brand new Patreon account and give us the cash based encouragement we desire. For less than the price of a coffee you’ll get to be one of the good guys. Yeah, we can talk about rewards and all that shizzle, but really you should be clicking through with your wallet in hand because that’s what the smart party would do, right?

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Savage Insight

I’ve been browsing the GMing chapter in Savage Worlds of late. I like these things. Easy to overlook if you consider yourself a veteran, but I like to see what spin they out on old topics. Sometimes I see a brilliant way of putting things, or a clever insight. This one popped out at me today:

Characters don’t engage in revealing small talk like real people do.

Oh so true, and oh how I wish they did. Often a game will have examples of play, or you’ll see something online that would suggest a bit of banter is happening alongside the combats and skill rolls, but at the table? I think that quote is bang on. 

A goal of mine when I play is to verbalise aspects of my character to the others during the game. All that really means is taking every chance to speak as one in which to colour in my place in the setting a little bit more than just by taking action. If I can mention a tattoo, or the way I always give a little shrug when I’m asked a question, or the colour and texture of my boots, I will. Often it’s just restating the same material that I spouted in the two minute “tell me about your character” intro, but sometimes it’s fleshing it out. Turns out this is rare in my circles and experience. 

I often wonder how much players really know about the other characters at the table? If there were a quiz at the end of the session, how good would the score be? I see it as my job to ‘advertise’ my character, so for me, that small talk mentioned in the Savage book is actually pretty big. 


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Hunter and Hunted

RPG session for two players and one GM? Further thoughts.  How about having one PC as a notorious criminal and another as a dogged bounty hunter? Sounds like a candidate for a card game, but I’d like to play it with RPG tools if possible. I think playing it ‘open’ would be fine, perhaps even desirable (as opposed to taking actions in secret). Taking a leaf out of Gumshoes book, the pursuer never really loses the clues, it’s how they deal with them that matters. I’m thinking give the Quarry first action, and perhaps ten minutes of air time to get going. Then alternate back and forth nice and snappily so no one gets left out. GM plays all the NPCs as usual. Basically, use your favourite chase rules, but stretch them right out and put the players on both sides.

The whole thing ends up in a massive combat, one on one. I think that could be quite satisfying actually. 

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Quick Draw GMing

So here’s a thing that happened yesterday. As usual on a Wednesday with our group, the e-mails start doing the rounds about what game we will be playing that night. We usually have something on the front burner for when everyone’s available, and a stock of other games for when we’re a man down. But on this occasion there was just myself, Steve and Dan. It turns out we don’t have much in the way of 3 person games to simply pull off the shelf!

I suggested we play an RPG, as we’ve been in board game land for a while, so why not just to freshen things up? (spoiler alert: in the end we went with a side mission from our main game of Imperial Assault. Which ruled.) I had the afternoon off, so if the guys wanted I could rustle up something for two players. No problem. While I waited for their answer, I went out for a run, which is where I do my primo game thinking. Which is when I realised just how hard this project might actually be.

See, I have dozens, if not hundreds of RPGs. Out of all of those, how many could I run without refreshing myself on the rules? a handful. If I was to generate a couple of characters as well? fewer again. At that point I wouldn’t have scenario either. Yes, I have hundreds of adventures, but in a totally ready to play state? Not so many.So I’m running along, getting increasingly annoyed with myself for not having a selection of totally ready to plug and play RPGs from a few genres with characters ready to rock.

Too much to ask?

My candidates were: Fate, specifically Fate Accelerated, where if i could get a couple of character sheets printed I was fairly confident I could get something going with no prep. I’d probably riff off the idea of Marvel Team Up and ask the guys to stat out a hero from fiction and see what came from their Trouble aspects. Not bad!

D&D. Now, there were still choices to be made. Anything from the Basic era and we could do characters on notepads and still be playing in 15 mins. Fahfyrd and the Grey Mouser? Tempting! Still need a sceneario though and Keep on the Borderlands is right there on the shelf. Or, having just digested Whitehack I could use that to improv our way through something, though it’s leaving a lot to inspiration on the night. Even 5e was a possibility, but I’d have snagged the starter PCs from the Beginner Box and then needed a scenario as Phandelver has already been done.

Apocalypse World. Again, just read it, and I liked the idea of printing off the playsheets and going for it. I don’t know if it flies with two players? I imagine it’s better with more people to build conflicted relationships out of. Too new and untested really.

In a similar vein, Blades in the Dark, again, just read with the latest updates. Haven’t internalised the rules in any real way yet, so perhaps not the easy ride I was looking for.

Of course there are loads of quality candidates out there with resources already available. Things like Savage Worlds and One Sheets. But crucially that would have involved me doing some book pulling or downloading and some frantic reacquainting myself with some material. And I had two or three hours at best.

In the end it wasn’t an issue, but the thought has stayed with me all day. If you get a snap chance at a game for a couple of guys in a couple of hours for a couple of hours, what would you do?


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Listen up!

Things have been a little quiet round these parts in recent weeks and months, but fear not gentle reader! I have in fact been busy moonlighting as a podcaster with my good friend Gaz. We produce a weekly cast called What Would the Smart Party Do? where we chat about a single RPG topic for about an hour and squeeze out advice, good stories and a couple of funnies. We’re into double figures now, so there’s a decent back catalogue (start with the most recent and work backwards if you like, the first couple are great for content, but the audio isn’t 100%). Please do check us out, and fire in your requests for topics, or let me know if you’d like a guest spot.

You can reach the Smart Party site at

Or email us at


p.s. I’ll be back here a bit more frequently in the near future I hope. Thanks for bearing with!

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