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What was I thinking?

I just had 14 people sign up to play a game I've never run, in a system I'm not familiar with, in a setting we just made up over the weekend. And Cthulhu help me, I think I'm going to go ahead with it.

It's a play by email game it not like I'm going to have 28 eyes staring at me. But it's still a lot of stuff over track of, and it will be impossible to keep everyone engaged with something to do. And because we'll be waiting for so many people to respond, we could be waiting ages between posts. So why am I considering going through with this?

Am I nuts, agreeing to do this? Should I have just cut the group off at 5, 6 or 7? I'm so bad at saying no...

I'm considering splitting it into 2 parties, which will make it more manageable, but then I will basically be running two games. Even if I run them through identical, mirrored scenarios and reuse as much material as I can, in a setting like this they're going to quickly wander off into their own directions, so I'm going to have two groups no matter what I do.

Any other advice from anyone who's run a group this big? Especially a play-by-post type of game? I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed at the moment.

For reference, this the game we're trying to play.
Art by DarkMatteria


I am terrible at ending campaigns.

To be fair, this one did have a pretty good bang before the whimper. For reference, this is what I had as an outline for our final adventure (which I didn't know at the time would be our final adventure):

1. The party has to protect the actor during the performance. Hopefully some of them have to get on stage and take part.

2. The will be attacked by assassins trying to kill the actor, and wild mountain men on the way to the performance.

3. After the performance when they leave with their pay they will be attacked by pirates.

That was it. I thought it would take a couple of weeks of real-time and be a short and hopefully fun little scenario. I had no idea it would blow up into the huge drama that it did.

It turned into a major political insurgence. A king was killed, a princess kidnapped, a religious revolution instigated. Lost family members returned. One of the party betrayed his friends, and another died trying to be a hero. Yet another nearly died and lost an arm when he sacrificed himself to save the others, but survived because the remaining party members actually went back for him. I wasn't expecting that after all the other shit that happened.

Sounds pretty impressive, when I put it like that. The issue was that after all that cool stuff happened, with the group split and no immediate next course of action obvious, the game kind of fell apart. I could have forced the narrative along and rushed the party into the next adventure, but I really wanted to see where it would go, what the players would do when left to their own devices. Unfortunately I think they felt a little lost and overwhelmed.

"Hero-ing is getting old, man. Wanna go somewhere and get drunk and high and eat chicken fingers?"
The thing is, which I don't think the players realized, was that they had created all the awesomeness that transpired. As I said, I had a fairly bare-bones script to go by. Everything else that happened was in response to their actions, so I was waiting to see what next crazy thing they would do.

The political uprising came about because the players (rightfully) questioned why the assassins were trying so hard to kill their target, even being willing to kill themselves in the process. I determined that they weren't simply trying to kill the actor, but to destabilize the government, and had the opportunity to wreck havoc because the king and numerous important nobles were attending the performance.

The increasingly stupid conflicts in the theatre scenes were my (poor) response to keep the tension up during a lull in everyone's writing.

When all else fails, blow something up.
The religious revolution was in response to the cleric helping some of the survivors and then preaching about his god. Because the desperate refugees were so despondent and replied favourably to his promises of hope and salvation, he continued to stir the pot until he started a riot (a well-timed divine "sign" provided by the party's illusionist didn't hurt, either).

The tension with the party's patron was because they thought he was a bad guy, even though he was way more honourable than they were and was actually trying to do good things while the players subverted him at every step.

The character that died did so because he chose to save the princess all by himself without seeking help, and refused to retreat despite several opportunities to do so. While on the surface this seems incredibly stupid, it made sense in character because he was not only developing feelings for the girl but he had a long history of distrusting the rest of the group due to the stupid decisions he felt they constantly made.

The long lost relative showing up was in response to a throw-away couple of lines mentioning how one of the character's uncles may have been a PC from a long, long ago game. The player was pretty excited about this, so I decided that the pirate who was lying in wait for them would turn out to be that uncle, long thought dead. Unfortunately, when two of the PCs stole the party's ship and took off on their own (in-character they were fleeing the riot, out-of-character it was meant as a joke), they were woefully unprepared to do battle with the pirates. They made some very poor tactical decisions and had their asses handed to them, but ultimately surrendered their valuable cargo and threw in with the pirates.

"I think he's bleeding to death, dude."
"Fuck off and let me finish my coffee, then I'll
think about casting cure light wounds."
- This actually happened in the game.
And that was it. The two guys who fled are now sailing away with the pirates while the others are stuck without a ship or a clear direction (though I did give them several clues to what happened, as well as a couple of options of how to follow them). I guess it's as good a place as any to stop, and we're planning to start a new game in a different genre soon.

After writing this out I realized that maybe the game didn't end as badly as I thought. If this was a fantasy novel series this would be a pretty good cliffhanger ending for book one. The Fellowship is broken, the world is turmoil, and the future is uncertain. Maybe one day we'll come back to write book two. How will the heroes get out of this one?

The more I think about it, though, the player characters in this story really aren't the heroes...

Oh, and one last spoiler, for the players who were left behind: After Ulrich and Wicket gave the cargo to the pirates, they burned and sank the Stardust Memories.

Just thought you should know that.


I've been considering running a couple of new RPG games, one as a PBEM, and one with a live group.  I've mentioned in the past that I know I'm better at running PBEM's than live games, but I'm hoping they both work well. 
But that's putting the cart ahead of the horse.  What I need to do first  is find a system, a world setting, and a campaign.
While I have a bunch of 2e and 3.5e adventure modules, I know I prefer unique worlds in the games I play.  My usual GM has an extensive world he has created and sets most of his games in it, which I really enjoy.  I hope to be able to give my players a similarly satisfying experience.  I know I don't want to go the extreme route of creating my own system the way C.D. has with Splatter-Elf.  However I am considering adapting one of the systems I know well to a unique world.

Likely the system will be 2e or Advanced Labyrinth Lord (hooray for free!), or with a bit more work, I can make my ideas work with 3.5e.  The worlds I'm considering are:

1) Robin Hobb's Farseer series.  I've read a bunch of these books over the past year, and I think they would make an ideal setting.  The bulk of the characters are standard fighters and magic is sparse.  The types of magic that do exist are subtle, with even the magic users relying heavily on physical skills.
The first magic is the "Skill."  This is the more powerful of the magics.  Skill users can speak to each other telepathically.  They can also influence other's thoughts subtly, confusing them or amplifying doubts they already may have.  Stronger (higher level) characters will also be able to use special stones located around the world to teleport, and they'll be able to look through other people's eyes.  Skill users are highly revered and are often related to the royal line.
The second magic is the "Wit."  This allows players to sense animal motivations, potentially calm hostile animals, and to be aware of other living creatures in the immediate vicinity. As they level up, they will be able to bond with a single creature and gain the use of the creatures senses, as well as fairly sophisticated communication with the animal.  The strongest users can influence the mood of other people and calm people as well.  The wit, or 'beast magic' as it is also known is feared by most of the population.  Most wit users hide their abilities to avoid being hanged, quartered and burned.
The third magic is for the only PC's that will not be fully human.  The race is known as Elderlings, and they are humans that have spent time with dragons and taken on some dragon aspects.  They are able to speak to dragons, look through a dragon's eyes, resist the charm of a dragon, and have basic telekinetic powers.  Elderlings are extremely rare, and both revered and feared at the same time.

2) Steven Erickson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  The books are based off of gaming the author did, so translating it back should be fairly easy.  Erickson created the game he played as a push-back against the D&D machine, trying to make characters that are not defined by alignments, and parties not built around a specific goal.  There are rumours of an official d20 Malazan RPG, but for now I would be happy to cobble one together.
It is a high magic world, where mages can wreak huge destruction.  Soldiers have multiple classes to choose from, as cavalry, light infantry and marine "heavies." It should be easy to adapt the spells, weapons, and races to fit a d20 game.
What makes this world more than just a different D&D background is that the adventure would be more character based than adventure based.  Rather than following a set alignment (I HAVE to be good, cuz I'm a Paladin!), characters are driven by their motivation, and follow their own moral compass.  This will be harder to run as I'll need to build the story based on character background and motivations.  I'm wary of trying this with my live group as they are newer to pen and paper RPG's but I think it could work well for my PBEM group.

I would also be very open to running a sci-fi game, but I don't know how to make one that doens't get bogged down in flight / ship to ship type combat.

Any other suggestions of settings or systems I should investigate? Thoughts on making the above ideas work?


Why? Short answer: Because I can.

Long answer: Because I'm still learning FATE and the best way to learn a new system is to tear it apart and make something new with it. Of course, the cool thing about FATE is that's the whole point - you're expected to tinker with it and make it your own.

I chose Thomas specifically for a number of reasons. First, a cursory glance shows no other Thomas homebrews out there. (This is a pretty awesome list of other FATE hacks, though)

(Fun aside - someone tried to make a Thomas video game RPG on Kickstarter a few weeks ago, which was quickly shut down for copyright reasons. +John Williams - I apologize in advance Gullane Entertainment shuts down Rule of the Dice for this)

Secondly, I've been watching a lot of Thomas with my son lately so it's at the front of my mind. The trains of Sodor live in an incredibly detailed and expansive world (a world with an insane amount of railroad on an island only 60 miles across). Plus, Thomas seems to have a lot of dedicated fans - The Wiki is expansive and exhaustive, and a great resource for anyone wanting to play this game.

Anyway, here are my first thoughts on how to make a Thomas the Tank Engine RPG for FATE Accelerated. This is a work in progress, so suggestions and comments are welcome.


The Game Master

The GM should be referred to as Mister (or Missus) Conductor. If he or she can speak with a British accent, all the better.

The players (the trains) should however also be encouraged to call Mister Conductor "The Fat Controller" at every opportunity.

The Players

Each player should play one of the anthropomorphic "Trains With Faces" that live and work on the Island of Sodor. Alternately, they may be able to play one of the other vehicles (like Harold the Helicopter or Bertie the Red Bus) but for simplicity I'm going to stick to the trains.


Each character's High Concept should include what kind of locomotive he or she is. The engines of Sodor are very concerned with class, and your engine's type not only affects his strengths and limits, but also strongly affects how the other locomotives will act toward you.

Engine Types

Tank Engine - A tank engine is a steam locomotive that carries its water in one or more onboard water tanks. It may also have a bunker to hold combustible fuel. The advantages to this configuration is its compact size, faster accelaration (due to the water being closer to the boiler and constantly heated) and the ability to run at full speed in both directions. For all of these reasons tank engines are favoured for industrial tasks such as shunting cars in a trainyard.

Tender Engine - A tender engine is a steam locomotive that carries its fuel in a tender car behind the engine. It is much larger and generally more powerful than a tank engine, the larger fuel supply allowing it to travel longer distances at greater speeds, but of course its size limits its maneuverability on tight turns and it is far less useful for shunting.

Diesel Engine - The more powerful diesel engines have not overtaken the railways of Sodor like the rest of the world due primarily to Sir Topham Hatt (the owner of the North Western Railroad) and his preference for the "old ways" and the "cleaner" and more traditional steam locomotives. The steam engines of Sodor are particularly distrustful of diesels, calling them dirty and lazy. This distrust has led to the diesels being argumentative and downright hostile toward the steam engines.

Tram Engine - A tram engine is a steam locomotive specially built or modified to work on a street tramway. They are governed to low speeds, do no emit smoke or steam, and are required to keep machinery concealed and to run as silently as possible. This results in obvious advantages and drawbacks. On Sodor, tram engines are not common and are considered old-fashioned and quaint.

Other Aspects

I don't think this is supposed to be scary. Why is it so terrifying?
Here are a few other sample aspects, just to get you started:

  • Arrogant
  • Vain
  • Boiler Issues
  • Hard Worker
  • Tree-Hugging Engine
  • Worrisome
  • Bad Steamer
  • Built From Rejected Plans
  • Pompous
  • Express Engine
  • Strongest Engine on Sodor
  • Proud
  • Hates Pulling Trucks
  • Prejudiced Against Silly Steamies
  • Prejudiced Against Dirty Diesels
  • Career Shunter
  • Stoked by the Devil Himself
  • Keen-Eyed Driver
  • Shabby Paint
  • I’m Not Very Useful


The standard approaches for FATE Accelerated work well, except I renamed two of them to better fit the theme:

Cheeky (flashy) - Your engine is a boisterous jokester that solves problems with a laugh and a wink
Chuff (forceful) - Your engine is tough and powerful and solves problems with grit and determination
Clever - Your engine is smart and shrewd and solves problems with logic
Quick - Your engine is speedy and agile, and likes to outrun problems
Sneaky - Your engine is a sly conniver who solves problems through trickery or outright dishonesty
Careful - Your engine is cautious and solves problems by taking taking time and limiting risks

Stress and Consequences

Handled normally. Consequences will be injures and damages to your train, such as busted wheels, over-heated boilers, an injured fireman, etc. Appearance is very important to the trains of Sodor, so something as simple as scratched paint or muddy bumpers could be considered at least a Mild Consequence.

Being "taken out" is a derailment, of course. While derailments on Sodor are frighteningly common and usually spectacular, they are rarely life-threatening for the trains. The will be back in an episode or two, more or less as good as new, though it is common for a rebuilt train to have a few bugs that must be worked out. Even after a train is repaired/rebuilt, any Severe Consequences should remain for a few sessions, a lasting reminder of their failure.

Campaign Setting

The way I see it, there are two ways to run Thomas the RPG:

Version One: Classic Sodor Stories

The sessions of the game are run just like episodes of the television show or stories in the books. Mister Conductor gives the player characters a task or series of tasks to complete, and they must either work together or separately to complete them.

Tasks will usually involve moving objects or people from one part of the island to another, possibly with a time limit. There will of course be complications to the task, such as damaged tracks, or farm animals blocking the route, or the object not being ready (or in the wrong place) at the appointed time. The players will have to decide how to get around these obstacles and complete their job.

The important thing to remember in this version is that Usefulness is the most important thing in the world to these engines. They exist only to be the best they can be at their jobs. This creates competitiveness between the engines, as each of them strive for Sir Topham Hatt's approval as well as the honour of being the most Useful Engine on Sodor.

Failing a task is a huge mark of dishonour on an engine, and should be considered at least a Major Consequence that the character must live with until he redeems himself through hard work and determination. Fear of failure is so great that even engines that are normally friendly will sometimes leave an ally behind if it means the difference between succeeding or failing at their assigned duty.

Version Two: Sodor Wars

This is a gonzo version of Thomas the Tank Engine where the steam locomotives and the diesels have finally engaged in a full-fledged war. The Government of Britain has kicked Sir Topham Hatt out of power for his backward ways and ordered the diesels to take control of the railway. The players could be the steamies, fighting for survival, or the diesels, finally seeking revenge for years of mockery and subjugation.

While wildly inappropriate in normal circumstances, in this version you would be encouraged to mount machine guns and rocket launchers on your engines.

Usefulness is still important to the engines, but it means something different now. For the Steamies, being Useful means being able to keep your friends alive. Sometimes sacrificing yourself for the greater good is the most Useful action your engine can hope to achieve. For the Diesels, Usefulness is completing the orders of your superiors and fulfilling the ultimate task: conquering Sodor. Again, if you must sacrifice yourself to fulfill this goal so be it - your Usefulness will be honoured and remembered for generations to come.


That's the game and setting in a nutshell. I still need to compile a list of sample stunts and some sample characters. I've also considered making "Usefulness" a full-fledged mechanic (or maybe renaming Fate Points "Usefulness Points" or something like that). Something to really make it a living and important part of the system.

Again, this is just for fun, and any comments and suggestions are welcome.


Simple has worked for Vin Diesel - this is some of his best acting.
I've been introduced to some new games in the last little while that I've really enjoyed, and they have one thing in common - They are incredibly simple.  Rather than a lot of the Euro style games, that are already quite accessible with rules like "Do 1 of 4 things on each turn" these come down to "play a card, pick a card."  With such simple instructions, they are great for introducing new players to the world of gaming, yet they are detailed enough within each move to hold the interest of seasoned players.

The first game I'll mention is Guillotine.  12 "nobles" are lined up to be beheaded, and players try to collect the more valuable cards.  Using rules on the cards themselves, and on the cards in their hands, they play with the order of the line to aid their own score, or to try to prevent other players from getting a good score.  After 3 rounds, the points are totaled.  The cards have simple actions to them, like "move 2 forward" or "move any 1 noble back 1."  Concepts that are easy to grasp and play with, but that can also allow for planning more than one move ahead.

The second game is Poo, the Card Game.  It's a ridiculous premise that just adds to the fun.  You are all monkeys in the zoo, and you fling (imaginary!) poo at each other.  Players covered by 15 pieces of poo are eliminated.  Players always have 5 cards in their hands, and take turns either throwing poo at another player, cleaning poo
"Not in the face!"
off of themselves, or modifying the rules in a simple way.  As a 2 player game, it is an entertaining time-waster, but in a larger group is where the game really shines.  The unpredictable actions of the other players redirecting poo, choosing different targets for their poo, etc. make it a wild ride.  Players can come back from the brink of being eliminated, or a leading player can have a run of bad luck and be pooped out in one or two turns.  I admit that the mechanic isn't particularly clever, but the artwork and silliness of the subject matter keep it entertaining.

Finally is a game that has sky-rocketed in popularity over the last 18 months or so.  Cards Against Humanity.  For those who don't know, this is a game where players take turn asking questions off of the black coloured cards, ("Why am I sticky?") and the other players answer with their best, most appropriate, funniest, or most inappropriate white coloured card ("Surprise sex!").  The player that asked the question chooses the answer they deem best, and the player who supplied it gets a point.  There are multiple expansions, but in one of my groups, the best
answers are the ones that are home-made.This game is great at parties, and is enjoyed by people who aren't necessarily traditional gamers.  The only drawback is that the subject matter limits who you may be willing / should play with.  Friends? yes.  Children? No.  Coworkers? Parents? In-Laws?  Maybe...

I know a lot of hard-core gamers will scoff at this blog post, but I promise, sometimes the most fun is when you're not bogged down in strategy and instead can be social and fling poo at each other.


Seriously, it's been out for over 10 years, someone should have pointed this out to me.

It's not like I was completely unaware of FATE. I knew it existed, I had heard of it, knew it won a bunch of awards. But in my "lalalala" land of blissful ignorance, I had no idea I was letting such a brilliant gaming system go by unmolested.

Since I know there are a few non-gamers and casual enthusiasts who read this blog, here is FATE in a nutshell (those of you who already know about it can skip this part and hang their heads in shame FOR NOT TELLING ME):

5. Cool Dice
This is not incredibly important in and of itself, but I always appreciate games that have something a little different that makes them stand out. Instead of using the numbered polyhedron dice you're used to, it uses FUDGE dice, which are 6-siders marked with two "+" signs, two "-" and two "blanks," which are considered Zero or even. All of the actions - absolutely everything - is resolved by rolling these dice and adding the appropriate bonuses (based on your character), trying to hit or beat a number.

4. Character Creation is actually "Creative" and SO Much Fun
The game is open and flexible. You don't make characters according to pre-set rules and templates. You make whatever you want, based on how you want your dude to react to the story and the world around him. If you want to make an acrobat thief, you don't have to pick through the rulebook and choose all the proper classes, races and feats to make an acrobatic thief, and then roll and hope you do well enough to actually be graceful. You write "Acrobat Thief" on your character sheet and *POOF* that's what you are.

3. It's Incredibly Story-Driven
Relationships to other characters, events and locations are important. You're not simply rolling dice to kill the next monster and determine how much treasure you get. Success is great, but failure is also an important part of the game as it determines how you and the world evolves. It's not that there's no strategy - you still need to roll well and choose your moments to succeed, but sometimes it's better to fail to give you bonuses for later on.

2. It's Generic and Endlessly Customizable
This one is so important. It works equally well with D&D-style fantasy as it does with pulp noire detectives or westerns or sci-fi or superheroes. Because it's about telling a story and creating dramatic conflicts and scenes, it's not so important if your character has a "Swordfighting" skill or a "Computer Hacking" skill. Well, actually, those things are important, depending on the game, but you get to decide which you need because...

1. Campaign/World Design is encouraged to be done together between the players and game master
There are hundreds upon hundreds of fan-created FATE hacks out there, in addition to some awesome official stuff, but the best part of FATE is creating or modifying your own world. There are even rules and worksheets in the book for this. This is so simple and I'm sure other games have done this before, but I've never seen it so concise and obvious. Everyone has a say in the game. Everyone can put their fingerprints on the world setting. The best games are the ones where players are truly invested in the world and how their actions affect it - what better way to do this than if they helped create it in the first place?

Not even counting those 5 great examples, the main reason I'm excited for FATE is that I see so much potential for PBEM (Play-By-E-Mail), which is how most of my games are run. In PBEM, finicky, nitpicking rules are a pain (I really learned my lesson playing 4E via email). I can see FATE working so, so much better, because the rules leave so much freedom for the powers and abilities of the players when they're writing in more detail of what their characters are doing.

I'm sure there are people out there who are not fans of FATE, and that's cool. I can understand if you want something with better defined rules and more structure (though to be fair, you can totally ramp up the rules and complexity of FATE if that's your cup of tea). But the fact is, this is just the kind of game I love, for all the reasons I listed above and more.

Now I just have to decide on what style of game to play. FATE would work perfectly for the Orange is the New Black game I envisioned a few months ago. It could be used for Splatter-Elf. It would work with a Walking Dead/Zombie survival/Horror setup, but I've always wanted to run a western-themed game, too. Watching my son's cartoons, I bet I could even come up with a bitchin' hack for Thomas the Tank Engine (there's some serious race wars going on in that show that would make for some great conflict and drama).

I suspect the next one will be a Sci-Fi space opera. My players love playing in universes they're familiar with. But will it be Star Wars? ROBOTECH? Battlestar Galactica? Serenity? Wing Commander?

Or maybe some unholy combination of all of them....


(No actually, that would be terrible. Any suggestions on what to play are welcome. As are gushy love letters to FATE.)


I've been pondering this question the last few days. I never really considered it in the past - it was always whatever seemed appropriate in the moment - but lately, spending more time in discussion online has made me realize that some people have strong opinions on this one way or the other.

First of all, let me state that I hate how "sex" and "violence" are always lumped together discussing the appropriateness or maturity of content, because they are completely different things that should probably be handled in separate conversations. The only reason I use them together in this scenario is because I suspect the biggest sticking point for most people will be the area where "sex" and "violence" blurs.

So how much violence is too much? For some players, just saying "You do 10 damage. He dies." is all the violence you need and they don't even think about it. For others, they want it to be really graphic, with descriptions of severed intestines spilling blood and feces onto the floor coupled with the sounds of ribs popping and tendons snapping. Does that turn you off from a game? Is it the responsibility of the GM and players to decide, or should the level of gore be suggested by the game itself?

As for sex, I know it's a touchy subject with many people. How much loving and boning do you want in your games? I posed a similar question a few years ago and most of the feedback was "we just fade to black and hand-wave the details." Yet from what I've been reading lately, there seems to be a market, or a least a sizable niche, for games that aren't afraid to shy away from sex.

I am fascinated by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and I know there are a lot of fans of that game in the circles I frequent. When I first checked out the free (no-art) basic rules, it seemed like a really cool, streamlined retro-clone. It wasn't until I started digging a bit (and saw the actual art!) that I realized how incredibly dark and horrifying it is. There's a lot of sex and violence in there and the two are intrinsically tied together. On the other hand, it's still not as explicit or obscene as some of the stuff I've read from White Wolf. The LofFP modules (at least the ones I've read) mentions and implies a lot of sexual violence but doesn't spell it out too explicitly. It's kind of like it passes the buck to the GM, expecting them to take responsibility for putting that stuff in the game, even if the module kinda assumes that you will. It's a fine line that I think is brilliantly played even if no one in their right minds can argue that LotFP is isn't set in a dark, sexual world.

Full disclosure for bringing up this topic: I'm trying to find a sweet spot for the game I'm tinkering with. I know I want gore, blood and guts, but I'm wondering how much "tits and ass" should go in there along with it. To clarify, the violence in my game is so over-the-top that it's almost cartoon-y. Should the sex be the same? Should it be dick jokes and high school toilet humour? Should I steer clear of it altogether? I feel like it should be broached in some fashion.

I know I don't want to go that deep down the rabbit-hole, but how far is too far? Magical chainmail bikinis would fit perfectly in my game, as would giant crab lice and +1 magic wands of vibration. Should it just be left at that tongue-in-cheek kind of level, and leave the rest up to the player's and GM's imagination? That would be my gut reaction, but dark stuff seems to be all the rage these days. Do folks want this included in their games?

As an average RPG fan and gamer, what level of sex and/or violence are you comfortable with/want in your games?


Up here in the Southern Ontario portion of Canada we have a tradition called "cottaging".  It's very different then what the urban dictionary says it is.  What we do is pack up the car on a Friday, drive 2 to 5 hours in extreme traffic, hang out in a small building with limited amenities, and then drive home in the same ridiculous traffic 48 hours later.  Sounds crazy, right?
But there are some up sides.  Most of the time you are in a beautiful setting on the water somewhere, with lots of toys to play with, and with lots of fun friends and family.  And in the evenings, there's not much to do besides play games. So here are some of the classics that come up often with my friends and family at the cottage.

Sorry, wrong Bauer...
1) Euchre. This is a trick collecting card game with 24 cards, which can be made from any standard 52 card deck.  It is most often played by 4 players in pairs, though there are 2, 3 and 6 player variants. Trump is called by a player and that player's team must collect more than half the tricks in that hand to gain their point.  The full rules are available here.  This game has a fair amount of strategy to keep it interesting.  It also helps to know your partner and their playing style as you must trust them to help you and no table talk is allowed.

Betty White has always been awesome.
2) Password.  This game has many other names, but this is the most common as it is based on the 1960's TV show.  There are many versions of this as a board game, but we play a simplified version that requires nothing to be bought other than some paper and pens.  In our version, we cut paper in to small strips, and each player gets a set number (usually 10 to 15) of them.  On each strip they write a word or simple phrase.  All the strips are then folded and put in to a bowl.  Players are divided in to teams.  One player from a team takes a piece at a time from the bowl and attempts to get their teammates to say the words on the paper by describing them, but without saying any of the words themselves.  They do this for as many as they can in 1 minute.  Play is then passed to the next team.  One point is scored for each word correctly guessed. Any passed words go back in to the bowl and are counted as a negative point. Once all words are guessed, points are totaled and a winner declared.

Not sure these ones are
in the official dictionary.
3) Scrabble.  A classic game for 2 to 4 players that never gets old in my opinion.  Players make words with letter tiles and score based on the value of each letter plus modifiers on the board.  There are official word lists and Scrabble dictionaries.  It is up to the players to decide what words will be accepted before the game starts.  I prefer some of the older word lists that don't accept some foreign words.  The best part of this game is that it is always a learning experience, and a chance to expand your vocabulary.

With friends we also play a ton of newer games; Euro board games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassone, and many of the others I've mentioned on this blog, and Cards Against Humanity is becoming a great favourite - but not when I play with my parents...