Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.
In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.
Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.
Recently two new Bundles of Holding started featuring products from 1997’s Trinity roleplaying game and 1999’s prequel Aberrant respectively. In both games you play super-powered individuals in a 22nd century setting.
In Aberrant you’re a nova, a group of people who suddenly developed superpowers. These powers come from the nova’s ability to manipulate energy at a subatomic level. Unfortunately these powers come at a price. Novas suffer from the Taint, which is ultimately a side effect of their quantum manipulation which causes physical and mental defects. The game mostly focuses on the conflict between the super-powered novas with each other, the effects of the Taint, and how society reacts on people with quasi godlike powers.
Trinity is the direct sequel (even though it came out a few years earlier). The novas have caused tremendous destruction on Earth and eventually left Earth into deep space. While still recovering from the trauma of the war caused by the aberrants, which the novas are then called, new technologies were developed and a new breed of super-powered individuals emerged. These “psionic” abilities have to be awakened through a technological process, are much more limited in scope and power, and don’t seem to come with the Taint afflicting the novas. Six Psionic Orders have formed which focus on one aspect of Psionics each and they are at the forefront of defending Earth and exploring space.
Both games use a modified version of White Wolf’s Storyteller System. I’ve run Trinity back in the late ‘90s and while the system has quite a few fiddly bits, things ran pretty smoothly. Onyx Path currently working on a new edition of the Trinity Universe games, but these two Bundles of Holding are a perfect opportunity to pick up these two classic if underrated game lines for a very reasonable price.
Without a doubt, Matthew Mercer and the rest of the Critical Role team has had a huge impact on how many people perceive roleplaying games in general and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Their show is wildly popular, watching others play D&D has suddenly become more mainstream, something a lot of people enjoy tremendously. What sets Critical Role apart from many other groups posting their actual play sessions to the internet is that they are all professional voice actors who have played together for many years now. Their particular skills and their particular gaming style help to make their game sessions interesting to watch.
People are obviously inspired by the show and try to emulate what they are seeing. There’s nothing wrong about that and even veteran GMs like me might be tempted to go that route. My attempt to take a few pages out of the Matthew Mercer handbook pretty much ended in disaster but that was not their fault but rather me biting off more than I could chew at that moment. I also realized that while D&D 5th Edition is a game I enjoy playing, it’s not a game I am comfortable running at the moment. But I digress.
Things become complicated if people think that Critical Role’s style is the only way to go. There are as many gaming styles as there are gaming groups and no way to play D&D is the wrong one. Some groups focus on player interactions, others revel in tactical combat, others are suckers for a good mystery. For some sandboxing is the way to go, while others prefer a more GM-guided experience (what some might call railroading). But I understand if players or GMs feel threatened that they might be forced to emulate a professional voice actor and GM of 20+ years and his merry band of players which are also professional voice actors. (Check out this post by a Reddit user asking for help to beat the “Mercer effect”)
The most important goal of any game, D&D or not, should be to have fun. You can have a lot of fun even if your game doesn’t meet the standard set by Mercer et al. On the other hand, if that particular gaming style is your thing, it’s definitely achievable. I have personally played in games which were definitely as epic and as intense as any episode of Critical Role.
Without any doubt, shows like Critical Role which expose our hobby to a wider audience are a boon to our hobby and the RPG industry. But we have to make sure that people don’t get the impression that the only fun roleplaying game is D&D 5th Edition or that Matt’s style is the only valid one. What are your thoughts on the Mercer Effect? Please share your thoughts below!
After taking an extensive break over the holidays I am back at work. This is also a good opportunity to give you an update what I have been up to lately. Without further ado, let’s get started…
Forbidden Lands and Shipping Woes
In December Fria Ligan’s latest roleplaying game called Forbidden Lands was finally ready for shipping. It’s a sandbox fantasy roleplaying game which I backed on Kickstarter in 2017. When the game finally was done it was already a bit delayed but that’s something you get used to when you regularly support projects on Kickstarter.
Sometimes things don’t work as planned. Unfortunately, the shipping of the Forbidden Lands boxed sets quickly turned into a total disaster. Backers started to get grumpy when it turned out that the books and boxed sets were already done, but the distributor had to delay shipping because of another Kickstarter fulfilment. Continue reading Happy New Year–Plans for 2019 and A Look Back→
A Roleplaying Games blog
If you leave a comment on our site you may opt-in to saving your name, email address and website in cookies. These are for your convenience so that you do not have to fill in your details again when you leave another comment. These cookies will last for one year.
If you have an account and you log in to this site, we will set a temporary cookie to determine if your browser accepts cookies. This cookie contains no personal data and is discarded when you close your browser.
When you log in, we will also set up several cookies to save your login information and your screen display choices. Login cookies last for two days, and screen options cookies last for a year. If you select “Remember Me”, your login will persist for two weeks. If you log out of your account, the login cookies will be removed.
If you edit or publish an article, an additional cookie will be saved in your browser. This cookie includes no personal data and simply indicates the post ID of the article you just edited. It expires after 1 day.