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Todd’s 2011 RPG Shopping List

Posted on November 25, 2011 by spikexan

Flames Rising game reviewer Todd Cash has some suggestions for those looks to buy RPGs as a gift (or even pick up a little something for themselves). Most of these are items he has reviewed this year, so we’re going to link back to those reviews so readers can find more in-depth information if they wish.

Buying for Your Favorite Gamer 2011

It’s that time of the year again. Everyone’s wish lists are being compiled while retail stores scramble to offer the same crap they did last year only without making it seem that way.

Maybe this year it’s time for a new tradition, one that involves sleeping in on Black Friday. One that involves shopping for everyone while remaining in your pajamas. One that involves buying that gamer friend something they actually want. Of course, buying for gamers isn’t as hard as it used to be. Once upon a time you had to figure out what the Hell Junior actually wanted and then figure out where the Hell to buy the weird thing Junior just asked for. I can’t tell you what Junior wants (mainly because he isn’t real), but I can tell you about the coolest games I’ve seen in 2011. With helpful search engines finding these games are tons easier!

Let’s get started!

We’ll start small, if you can count the whole of the multiverse small. John Wick’s Flux ($5.00 for PDF) is an amazing idea for knocking the dust off your gaming collection. Players make their initial character for X setting while Flux lurks beneath. At some point in the campaign, the characters flux into new (GM-created) characters that recall the previous character…and can sometimes tap into that previous character’s mojo in order to do some truly fantastic stunts. Who wouldn’t want to become a superhuman speedster during a High Noon gunfight?

This is a brief (16 page) gem that has so much potential for gaming mileage. Available in PDF. A collection that includes this and other short games is also available in print.

The folks at have two excellent releases for gamers who aren’t committed to a specific setting. Their two releases–Eureka and Masks–offer setting-neutral scenarios and characters to populate any fantasy, sci-fi, or horror games (most other genres too). Eureka is a book of short stories (about two per page on average) designed with themes (betrayal, honor) and genre (horror). It’s an excellent mix of ideas that work especially well for the thirty-something GM who just doesn’t have time to plan out on a one-shot or filler session on short notice. Masks does the same thing, but with the NPC side of things (you could use ‘em as PCs too). These books are just all kinds of fun. They come in PDF and print.

Agents of Oblivion meets my Savage Worlds fix this year by offering a sexy mix of espionage and horror. Written by Sean Preston and Ed Wetterman, two veteran writers for the SW line, Agents of Oblivion lets directors play from many sub-sections of the espionage genre. The Bourne Identity is just as feasible as Get Smart. Who doesn’t want to see what happens when James Bond happens upon a villain seeking to stir up Things That Should Be Left Alone? These writers have both written material for 12 to Midnight, my favorite of the Savage World extended families. Their games show love for the hobby and attention to detail (heck, the copyright on the book suggests it was started in 2004). Available in PDF.

Hoodoo Blues is one of my favorite games at the moment. It’s not for the beginning gamer. The system is challenging and the subject matter is quite mature. In dealing with the sometimes troubled history of the American South, the game sometimes (as respectfully as a textbook) shows images and uses phrases that are painful to some. This aside, the game uses the folklore of the American South as its backdrop and they couldn’t have picked a stronger one. Know your gamer before you buy this one. Available in PDF and print.

Finally, I’ll throw in the Dresden Files two-book collection because, well, they are the sexiest books I’ve seen this year. How do I phrase my admiration for Evil Hat’s product? I am not a fan of the FATE system. I didn’t like it with Spirit of the Century; I still don’t like it. While I felt cheated with Spirit’s light setting material, I knew the collaborator’s on this project would not let me down. So, knowing I would not like the system, I threw down my ninety bucks and LOVED both releases. In game heaven, where I will go when I die, these books are the new standard in how game books are supposed to look. They work both as great gaming material (Your Story) and also as source material for the successful Dresden Files novels (Our World). Available in PDF and print.

Yeah, so that’s me this year. Lots of great releases hit the bookshelves (digital or not) this year. White Wolf and Pelgrane Press had lots of great products. Tastes vary greatly in the hobby, so doubtlessly my suggestions won’t go far; however, I hope they offer you a stepping stone in the right direction.

Happy Holidays!

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