Tuesday, 24 March 2015


So the Dogs in the Vineyard game has been progressing at a steady but fairly civilized rate. So far we have had some church business to attend to, some families to split up, some preaching that needed to be heard and some very harsh conversations. But as we have been approaching the outskirts civilisation we are now well and truly in bandit country. To be fair we are trying to get to the bottom of some kidnappings so we are on the lookout for trouble but the issue is that we scouted two riders with someone tied up on the back of a horse.

At first impression we had simply moved the plot along a bit but whether we have worried ourselves into our own little paranoid corner or not is yet to be determined. The point is, how many people are in fact wandering around out there with tied up people on their horses ? - nervously sitting in some scrub, spying on the pair of would be bandits suddenly raised the question of whether in fact this was not a particularly unique occurrence, or in other words were we about to spring on a bounty hunter in the pursuit of court business or worse still a deputised officer who had arrested a wanted criminal. As there were only two of us at the scene, one of us wandered back to get the rest of the group as we wanted better than 50/50 odds at a chance of parley. Then the real fun started, with only one character left watching the suspects, they started breaking camp. Poor James, and gawd bless him as its only the second time at the club, had to make the call and for a moment we were all holding our breaths.

So cut to 1 minute later and on the good side we have two dead bandits. On the bad side we have 10 other bandits closing in who have presumably worked out that the echo's of gunfire fire around the valley is not the result of a casual fishing trip. On the really bad side we have 10 bandits, 2 dead law enforcement officers and a criminal to look after. We shall see what next weeks episode will bring...

On a more upbeat note GM Jon has started mutilating his players. In true literary style I shall immediately copy and paste his game update:

"It occurs to me that the group at large may like to know that the Achtung! Cthulhu game is finally generating casualties... Despite their best (well not really) efforts, Weber has lost an arm (amputated after a serpent-man bite) while Professor Doktor Fischer and Bogdanovich are well on their way to becoming one with the vast unthinking depths of the universe (primarily as a result of overly coveting an ancient Atlantean artefact)..."

Well done Jon! :-)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It is a Sunless Sea

Ordinarily I do not do many game reviews here as it s a log of club comings and goings really; when a game review crops up on this tome it will be because it we ended up playing it or someone has expressed it as being the best things since sliced waybread. Moreover I tend not to appreciate on line games as, for me, they subtract from the imagination for the most part and of course are heavily bounded by their mechanics, though I appreciate that there are roleplaying initiatives in an awful lot of the MMO's despite their genre. I have wiled away many man years I daresay on single player roleplaying and fantasy computer games from Gauntlet to Guild Wars.
But for every rule there is an exception and this is one to make...
Welcome to Sunless Sea..
Before anyone is totally hyped on the idea and forks out £15 on something they are not into, it falls into the formal category of a dungeon crawler or 'Rogue' like game, where a lot of time is spent moving around and staying alive by the skin of your teeth. In the case of Sunless Sea though its the back narrative in all its Victorian steampunk prose that delightfully compliments the nerve wracking exploration of the world and the tense music. I would refer to it as a Cthulu crawler.
On the surface the game mechanics are somewhat baffling and full of curious and confusing descriptors for your ship and crew that steam around in a dark and unforgiving world. But when you start to realise that 'fragments' are experience points 'irons' are strength 'pages' are wisdom etc one can start to get a handle on things. You pilot a steam ship across a subterranean lake discovering islands and communities from the surreal to the downright scary and in a story book way you are then offered various choices which come with various risks, rewards and consequences. Outcomes vary from gaining trust, trading, carrying out missions to being manipulated or outcast. As sanity is a component, knowing too much can also cause problems. But at each stage the rich story is successful in drawing you into an experience rather than a problem solving exercise.
On progressing through the game one makes money, 'echoes', in various ways and can accrue assets that are conceptual and abstract in in nature. For example you can gain one of a  'Move in the Great Game' or 'Memories of a distant Shore' along with the more physically obvious items. These conceptual tokens are to be accepted at face value and are not sub plots, but to be traded or exchanged as is to advance the plot.
As the world unfolds you very gradually gain stats, money and fight larger battles, both mechanically and narratively which, a bit like Minecraft, give you a sense of accomplishment based on considerable effort.
On the down side I would say the world is not that large eventually, although the islands are randomised between games to offer a different experience each time. But to be fair the world is easily large enough, so once the exploration phase is over then survival is still an issue and the plot phase keeps rolling. There is a lot of going back and forth but it is somewhat nail biting as you are often down to your last barrel of oil, ration of food or sliver of hull.
Don't ask what happens when your crew run out of food.
So here are some links to the trailers, purchase at your own risk.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Are you Mad ?

Insanity is a slippery subject. It is often heard between vexing party members in the depths of a planning discourse that one will shout "You must be mad!". Now its reasonable to be prone to a little exaggeration in the heat of an argument and I have heard my fair share of 'crazy' plans but it is never wise to throw caution to the wind in a roleplaying game where medical conditions extend into the supernatural.

Possession has roots in the real world but only as a symptom of delusion, schizophrenia or personality disorder. In an RPG you could argue that exchanging minds entirely is a also a case of possession, though not being nine tenths of the law, would be considered more akin to squatting.
Cthulu is of course a defining RPG in terms of madness management and Mythos exposure can lead to any number of phobias from the lighter end of the scale to wholesale evacuation of any and all faculties. So for those with an interest in the gradual fracturing of a human mind then I suspect most GMs would point you in this direction for a grand tour of the insanities. [Achtung! Cthulu currently running, though not sure of the average sanity rating at the moment..]

I have, before now had the chance to play a psychopath, probably one of my most enjoyable experiences. To be unbound by empathy can really create shocking circumstances but of course being on the one end of the scale gives you the freedom do what you want but the vulnerability of not knowing whether you should be concerned whilst sawing off the limbs of people who are still trying to use them.
Being sensitive to alternative realities can be a problem but often seers and clairvoyants are blessed with enough insight to cope up to the point that they encounter disturbing entities in one of the realms. Whether this characterises madness to is unclear to me; I think not as its a power but is the inability to cope with a supernatural gift actually a mental illness ?
I shall finally touch on Genius. When the cognitive faculties are pushed beyond the norm or augmented with technology do you become an exceptional member of society or are you driven off into the shadows? Either way if you an illness that is being celebrated or an infection that is being quarantined, it may be a case of Hero or Villain.
"Protect and Serve" or  "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow".


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mass destruction

Its one thing to lose a character but entirely another to lose a whole army. I don't mean as in "I put it down somewhere and cant find it" I mean the sort of entrenched fight to the death, the last order, the pre posthumous promotion to Field Marshal.
To be fair these are the trials of war and often or not a commanding general is left with no option but to defend with his honour after the bullets run out. Nevertheless spare a thought for the following chap.

34-YEAR-OLD Norman Steele has been left traumatised after his army of space marines was wiped out during a tabletop wargame.

Unemployed Steele could only look on in horror as his miniature battalion of spacesuit-clad Imperium troops was pinned against a fortress wall by six-limbed aliens.

He said: “They were using venom cannons and spore mine launchers. Not real weapons obviously, but scale models vividly painted to look very realistic.

“Anyway we were hugely outnumbered and there was nothing I could do. Everywhere you looked space marines were getting wiped out.

“Since the battle I’ve been unable to look at a picture of any futuristic alien or monster without experiencing flashbacks.

“Worse still I cannot go near a table of any kind without hearing the ominous clatter of dice and the gloating voice of a middle-aged man in a Sepultura t-shirt.

“I just want some professional help to get back to being the quiet, shy man who I used to be.”

We do have a Warhammer Fantasy running as  a home game at the moment so should the worst come to the worst I do hope that GM's are forewarned and have counselling to hand for traumatised players.
This Thursday the Dogs in the Vineyard continues with GM Rob. The party have a new town to repress after concluding our last issue by sending the protagonist away for 're-education' and ensuring that he will never see his son again.
GM Jon will continue his Achtung Cthulu and all the slime and monsters that entails. I cant go into further details as your mental health could be seriously compromised.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Staying Alive

Having recently been goading the current GMs to let me know who kills the first character it does occur to me that I may actually be tempting the fates by encouraging our professional and most honourable game masters to off my comrades before their time. I'm not sure of the Buddhist principal at work here; whether dead roleplaying characters are reborn in another game elsewhere or not, but I would doubt that would appease. Actually, if that was the case and  said character was reanimated in its original game, what would happen to its reincarnation ? I would suppose Karma would hold the universe in balance and take a souls from elsewhere..
Nevertheless, I digress. I do have a lot of respect for Buddhism especially when roleplaying it but in order to balance my previous post I had a quick whip round for the best tips on staying alive. So you definitely have no excuse to blame me when you do something monumentally stupid.
Here are some top pointers form our most learned contemporaries:

1. Don't spilt the Party -Adrian
2. Don't argue with the GM -Adrian
3. Never summon anything bigger than your head -Jon
4. Don't open the box -Jon
5. Don't attack the blind, crippled beggar... -Jon
6. Don't say, "this should be easy " - Julian
7. If the GM asks "Are you sure?" then you should be afraid -Mike
8. Never make assumptions. The obvious usually conceals the devious. - Jo
9. Never call your character 'Hugo', or you'll be taking all the risks -Chrish
10. Once a d20 has rolled 1, it should be removed from play -Chrish
11. Always pass saving throws -Rob
12. Seduce the GM. -Rob
13. Melt dice that failed you down in front of your other dice. -Rob

I sense that they are talking from bitter experience in previous lives.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Not dead yet

OK, The Achtung Cthulu game was full last week and despite this I hear that GM Jon was still unable to kill any of the characters. Here's hoping for some headlines next week but in his very own words his game report read:
"Anyone die last week Jon?"
'Fraid not! They searched a murder victim's lodgings (and noticed some of his books were missing), disturbed (and recruited) his neighbour and fellow historian, then consulted a dodgy bookseller. Having been passed a message containing an equation for entropy they somehow realised that Boltzmann's tomb would be significant. They visited the cemetery, determined that something had been recently buried near the tomb and were planning to return after dark.
Meanwhile, the British spies received a message from HQ directing them to Rome and we discovered a disturbing element of MI6 tradecraft, when Professor Fischer got hold of some of their cover cafe's "special" brownies...
There could be bloodshed this week though! Jon"
I should really be taking bets on this.
And in another world completely GM Rob's Dogs in the Vineyard is tightening its grip around family values with the party trying to convince a young man that rushing off to university is in fact borderline blasphemous and he really should consider staying at home doing his chores for the rest of his life. Honestly, you cant tell kids anything these days.
Which game will claim its first character...? Tune in next week folks..

Thursday, 12 February 2015


OK, I have completed all of the quests, killed all the dragons and stolen all of the Hobbits and am now back from my adventures in Skyrim and am very happy to share all of my photos with you. As fascinating as I know you will find it, I will distil them down to one gem of a shop in the Gamla Stan for those who may venture that way.

As a hark back to the days of the Forbidden Plant and Virgin Megastore I found myself cast into the past and surrounded by real physical books and no virtual shopping cart. I wasn't sure what to do at first but as I understand it one can wander around the establishment, pick up the items of choice, flick through them as necessary and actually take them along to a human being who will exchange them for your money and put them in a bag. You can then leave if you are still a little confused.

By way of a competition with absolutely no reward at all, see how many systems you can identify behind the particularly handsome chap on the left.

It is heartening to know that Roleplaying is a truly international passion and I didn't get a chance to play alongside our resident Swede whilst he was in the country, sorry Nils, but you come from a beautiful computer game and hopefully you too are acquainted with the real shops in your capital city. I did procure some more dice and am relieved to say that D10s do have the same number of sides abroad as they do in this country.

I tried to get an autograph from Han Solo but there was a queue and he wasn't being very responsive.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Ready, Steady, Roleplay

Last week saw the 5e game go on pause now as the party returned to Neverwinter to assess their situation and count some recently acquired loot from a Dragon, though I wouldn't be surprised if it would be wanting it back at some point. There are some other choices to be made but that is for another time.

GM Johnathan will begin preliminaries for the Achtun Cthulu with the aim of starting the week after so grab a character if you are about; I'm in for that one.

And last week GM Rob did some Dogs in the Vineyard prep - I suspect there will be a little more to do as players settle in for the first time but basically it is under starters orders for a good Bible bashing.

And finally I myself am formally on pause for a week as I have booked some annual leave to see Santa in Skyrim, in other words I am going camping in Lapland. In Winter. Where it is very cold. If I come across any Zombie Nazis I'll let you know. Or not, depending on what happens, but if they find my camera then my last photos of chomping undead will probably get posted here.

Next post in 2 weeks...

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Achtung Dogs!


New games are afoot , though I think there may be a final 5e session before the Achtung Cthulu kicks in. GM Rob will be doing the prep and character generation for the Indy game Dogs in the Vineyard.

If you fancy an opportunity to tell people you are right at the point of a shotgun then Dogs in the Vinyard is for you. If you have ever been one of those knockers of the faith and put up with the usual 99.9 of door slamming, this is a great opportunity to let off steam and realise a world where you are subsequently allowed to kick in aforementioned door.

 From Wikipedia: The game is set in "a West that never quite was"—loosely based on the Mormon State of Deseret in pre­statehood Utah, Players are "God's Watchdogs" (Dogs), who travel from town to town delivering mail, helping out the community and enforcing the judgements of the True Faith of the King of Life. This may involve anything from delivering new interpretations to the town's Steward to executing heretics. Dogs have absolute authority within the Faith, but not within the laws of the Territorial Authority, and so their actions can lead to conflict with the government in the East.
"Sometimes it’s better for one to die than for many to suffer."
"Sometimes, Dog, sometimes you have to cut off the arm to save the life."

On another plane of existence GM Johnathan will be summoning a game of Achtung! Cthulu beginning February. ­A fusion of Call of Cthulu and Savage Worlds where the heroes find themselves in the secret B movie occult subculture of World War II. Think Raiders of the lost ark on a much lower budget. From the publisher: Achtung! Cthulhu brings you a two­fisted wartime roleplaying game setting packed full of fiendish Nazi scientists, terrifying ancient mysteries, legendary German war machines, desperate partisans, gun­toting paratroopers, determined investigators, and enough writhing tentacles to pack ten Reichstags. Discover the secret history of World War Two ­ stories of the amazing heroism which struggled to overthrow a nightmare alliance of science and the occult, of frightening inhuman conspiracies from the depths of time, and the unbelievable war machines which were the product of Nazi scientific genius ­ and how close we all came to a slithering end!
Zombie Nazis, insanity, no hope of rescue and humanity's inevitable and terrifying end..­ count me and my trusty, soon to be eaten alive npc sidekick, in!

 See you there in one guise or another.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Dragons and Sombreros

The end times are upon us once again.
In the DnD5e the party have, remarkably, managed to chase off a dragon. This surprises me given the large number of scales and teeth they generally have but I take their word for it, though I suspect it may suddenly have realised it had left the gas on at home.. there is some work still to be done by the party as I understand it but the end of this chapter of the game is in sight.
In another reality entirely the 13thAge adventurers almost put down an evil Wizard just in time for tea before a portal to the demon world opened and a Dragon presented itself along with a shuffling possey of undead. Whilst we are chipping at the dragon, I'm a little concerned that the portal is more like a monster generator out of Gauntlet - not sure what the priority is as we are in the middle of combat. Do we chip at the dragon, slay the undead or try and close the portal ? This I think actually will be the life or death decision for us as 'Paladin is about to die'. If only we had a magic potion...or some spare change.
Nevertheless, live or die, we have a couple of new games on the cards and I'll advertise them in more detail next post but one is a Western RPG. Think the characters are in fact all Mormon hard liners but it did get me wondering as to the genre. I'm leaning to ward either playing a Clint Eastwood or possibly a Mexican bandit but I don't think the characters will work in a Mormon party. It also raises the question of how large a sombrero can get before looking ridiculous. The other game on the cards is Achtung Chtulu - basically think Zombie Nazis and you're half way there. An opportunity for plenty of classic B movie action and on balance I think I may sign up for that one.
Either way, if you are thinking of coming along then now is a good time as change is upon us!


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Useless Christmas presents

So its that time of year, 358 days until Christmas. A good month to expend any accrued gift tokens and to return any useless shit so thoughtfully gifted by loved ones. Its the thought that counts, even if those thoughts have been sucked out by malevolent undersea tentacle gods. For my part I attempted to buy some roleplaying friends the most useless dice I could possibly find. At some point I bought some stuff from thediceshoponline.com , some ridiculous prices but I had the money and needed to share my passion for finely crafted pointless things.

Perhaps you would disagree:
The D2 - I would suppose there are actually quite a lot of 50/50 decision to be taken in a typical game but tbh never really needed a dedicated dice for that and I have always been wealthy enough to own a 2 pence piece. The D3 - No idea. The D7 - Thought I was being clever but then realised of course there are 7 days in a week so perhaps let myself down on that one. The D18 - 2 less than a useful 20. The D22 - 2 more than a useful d20. The D24 - 2 more pointless than a d22. And finally the infamous D60.

As for club business, well we will restart the games this Thursday (The 13th Age and Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition) but there are some new games due soon so if you have a new years resolution at all then come back and play with your favourite geeky friends! We miss you and you know who you are, and if you don't have any geeky friends then now is the perfect time to get some.

Happy new Yarballs


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Happy Roleplaying!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Good 'Ole Book Burning

I get the impression that our 13thAge game is starting its end soon, partially because we are getting beaten up within an inch of our lives but GM Jack is also asking us some tell tale questions. I have enjoyed playing a Paladin enormously and am now just trying to squeeze a few more things onto his bucket list before I have to put him down for a bit. To be honest, despite the fact I think the GM has occasionally felt a little bad about the beatings we have been getting, I have no complaints, particularly as we are still only 1st level characters. Oddly enough it really doesn't seem that way; I have 48 hit points, some magic items as well as some spells. The point is that I try not to get too attached to characters in general and particularly not low level ones; the occasional demise does keep a healthy respect for a game. Anyway, having exposed some undead trafficking in a crypt by an as yet unapprehended cultist, we took a brief break by burning some of his books we found.
The grounds of this particular Cathedral are somewhat of a Hyde Park corner, or religious shop window for recruitment for all of the major religions in town. A veritable extremist shouting match, but nothing raises interest levels more than a good old book burning. The extent to which burning knowledge for the Greater Good is concerned is a fun topic - not sure whether you can call it specifically censorship as opposed to aggressive editing but where there is right there is wrong and is an ignorant lawful citizen better than an educated neutral one ? I feel a Judge Dredd ethics approach coming on... I am a little curious if my character would extend this to burning witches and the like - I wouldn't want any creature to suffer for the sake of it but some heinous characters do need to be made an example of and people need to know where evil will inevitably lead. Sort of fighting fire with fire.
Book burning has a long and esteemed history but I am a little perturbed that the Wikipedia article doesn't cover book burning in a particularly good light so I might try an make a case; more so as there isn't an option to burn web pages.
I suppose we will find out where this will go in due course, but for now we believe our arch villain to be a member of the Lamp Lighters Guild. One of those invisible but ubiquitous professions suited to serial killers and leafleters. The bastards.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Great Dalmuti

Its on occasion when a GM can't make it for some reason that people pull out various weird and wonderful board and card games. A couple of weeks ago for example we played Zombie Fluxx and Love letter. Zombie Fluxx is a wonderful chaos where there are so many cards in play its madness just trying to work out what is going on and, just when you think you are about to win, they are all collected in and reset. I would suppose panic and chaos are essential ingredients in any Zombies apocalypse. Good fun but I won my first game without even realising it; like a lot of rule sets its a matter of getting to know the cards. Love letter, however, is a much faster paced game of deduction whilst trying to discard all of your cards - much more amenable to a round of drinks.
Nevertheless, my favourite by far is The Great Dalmuti, more so as you can actually roleplay if you have able bodied people who are prepared to be shouted at and scorned for being plebs. Basically its a game of social standing and everyone is arranged in a circle, playing a particular ranking character. We have a Great Dalmuti, a Lesser Dalmuti, various Merchants/middle men, a Greater Peon and, the lowest of the low, the Lesser Peon. The lesser Peon is responsible for collecting in the cards, re-dealing and general tidying up in as miserable a way as possible.
I prefer to add some spice and arrange the room appropriately. The nicest chair, usually a comfortable  office swivel one with arm rests is for the Great Dalmuti, the lesser Dalmuti gets perhaps a fixed chair without armrests, but very comfortable nonetheless, the merchants can have nice big pillows to sit on or optional bean bag if available, the Greater Peon, perhaps a folded bath towel and finally the Lesser Peon, nothing at all - or maybe a flannel if its Christmas. I also like to give the Great Dalmuti a seal of office such as an umbrella and/or hat; something to poke people with is fine.  Just like the Stanford Prison Experiment, given the right tools, its wonderful to watch the game roll.
The game is a bit like gin rummy, and there is a race to lose your cards each round to retain your standing. The first to lose their cards becomes the Great Dalmuti, the second the Lesser Dalmuti and so on. Unfortunately for the Peons, the deck is always a bit stacked against them as the Dalmutis tax them a couple of their best cards at the beginning of each round but there is sometimes the option of Revolution when the kings swap places with the beggars.
During play idle chat is fine, provided it goes through the proper channels. Everyone should be polite and reverential to the Dalmutis, though they should always ask permission from the Lesser Dalmuti before addressing the Greater Dalmuti directly, laugh at their Jokes and generally tell them how wonderful they are. Merchants can generally be agreeable and self affirming whilst people should talk down to the Peons and make sure that they are getting on with things. The Lesser Peon should always go through the Greater Peon before addressing anyone or be beaten/poked with an umbrella.
One for the family at Christmas if you don't mind not talking to them for a week....