Tuesday, 25 February 2020

TORG talk

Great name for a podcast but a blog will have to do, some of us have been ticking away a TORG at the Dice Saloon on an occasional weekend and had occasion to meet just over a week ago. Currently we seem to have got in to a bit of a fast an furious situation. We are on the trail of a Faberge Egg effectively stolen by Demons who dominate the Wastelands incursion just outside the St Petersberg hard point. Basically we really are in Mad Max territory and although GM Warren was threatening to introduce a flame throwing guitar into the mix, we have been managing the cliches quite well so far.

Having said this we are working for what's left of the Russian Mafia and returning their national treasure will mean receiving important information in return as part of our shady deal. I wouldn't normally recommend transacting with crime lords but my character has watched a lot of TV and is intimately familiar with the Sopranos and the general semi automatic Pizza wielding goons of the American side of the family so its a case of being more latte than white Russian.

Our task at hand is to win some form of car wars death match race - a cross between wacky races and just whacking people. As as soon as we signed up, we got a TV drone in tow and if we can dispatch our opponents before the race even begins then its just more ratings for the ads. Thing is we seem to have broken the drone and thereby broken the rules too...not sure which highway code we're using now..

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Pushing Buttons

Roleplayers have many opinions where character generation is concerned. I've seen those who are particularly invested in a system and I mean financially as well as artistically, do deep dives into the material and pull up some very interesting but also quite specific characters. As one gets more experienced then it's good to know that certain systems provide enough narrative to get ones teeth into. As always imagination is the limit, after all there are at least enough personalities for every human being on earth so you can be whomever you like but regarding the nature part of nurture, a non human upbringing is going to introduce lots of interesting traits.

For a GM, starting a new game does mean giving birth to several characters at once and that can be as painful as it sounds. Although players with some experience will do much of the work and carve out their own traits, for setting up a new game I prefer spamming the buttons on a random character generator. Now this has some implications which on balance I quite like. Firstly the characters that come off the production line will be disjointed to a degree - for example in the Planescape the available characters include a pirate Wizard, a Cleric with a criminal background, a Warlock Spy and an entertainer Paladin. Now these are of course not thought out by definition and potentially a little silly but they are amusing and provocative - they are interesting. Automatically it gets players to start thinking about how such people are possible which immediately exercises the narrative muscles even for those completely new to roleplaying which I like. It's also extremely convenient and time saving boon for a GM as well as supplying an instantly playable situation for a newcomer.

The secret of course is that characters are not set in stone, petrification notwithstanding - with a bit of negotiation they can be moulded into something a little more relevant and players can tweak their preferences into a personality they can enjoy playing. Basically its all about reverse engineering people which I am all up for. This is all with respect to fantasy characters for the most part as it gets quite existential for the scifi cyber environments where personality traits and higher functions can be swapped out mid game. I'm not saying we have any schizophrenics at the club, I'm just saying that its difficult to tell sometimes.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Locke and Key

As we seem to be struggling to patch together a sane and salient D&D game at the moment, some of us brave few are preparing backup games as a sort of disaster recovery solution for some excessive handbag wielding that has erupted. Artistic differences are inevitable where role players are concerned and I am surprised that in all the years I have been going the the club we haven't had more to be honest. But with particular players put in particular games with particular perspectives when certain combinations are unlocked the inevitable doors begin to close. Whilst I hope that people who storm out come back one day I have come to believe that evolution is a healthy thing even if it begins in contention - pain, when accepted, allows people to change. 

Without wanting to sound too much like the Shadows from Babylon 5, I'm going to gamble that fun will win out over frustration at the end of the day so I am prepping a Planescape should people feel the need to dip their toes into unknown portals. As always its a bit of a struggle to wrestle a plot down in the multiverse but I have some ideas which will be dutifully messed up by the players I am sure.

I also note that a new series has just emerged from Netflix called Locke and Key based on the graphic novels of the same name which is extremely timely given a Planescape as the mechanics seem quite familiar. Whether its a sort of Harry Potter family adventure or something more involved like The Lost Room I don't know but might well be worth a watch..

Tuesday, 4 February 2020


So, cubic volume is a wonderful thing. I mean without a third dimension everything would be just too flat and thin - sort of one dimensional really but twice. Fine if you were just playing Phoenix Dawn or Magic the Gathering but for role players gazing down upon their miniatures there are issues. Moreover there is also a room required to host the aforementioned role players and there is the rub. It seems that everyone has taken the opportunity to come out of the woodwork to grab a character at the start of the adventures and the games may be looking somewhat over full with the D&D at seven players already.

Another dimension to the quandary is that we also had a wandering spirit enter our hallowed halls having spied this very venerable tome. Since meetups has somewhat changed the visitor dynamic, passing players are fewer and further between now although the flip side is that we only need to advertise a popular system and we will get the seats filled very quickly from the real world - social media has generated a somewhat on demand recruitment system. Nevertheless there was at least one seat in the Scum and Villainy so we have managed to squeeze everyone in on paper.

Issue is that I know there was at least one player missing last week. Well perhaps our organic nature will win out as not all of us are there every week and this may bring balance to opposing forces. I myself don't have a seat in any game as I often join any game that is short of an evening but then if the opposite is true I am free to start a relief game. All are options but that fourth dimension I mentioned earlier would be very handy at the moment.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

It is done

A task only marginally less arduous than delivering a ring to a volcano has now been fulfilled - we have our upcoming games, both scribing and subscribing has commenced. Thanks to one of the many Daves for levelling up last week and herding the roleplaying cats into ther respective litter trays.

There was the sense that there was some burnout with regard to all the recent SciFi being played so GM Elena has transitioned from Cyberpuk 2020 to D&D to scratch all the dungeon crawling itching at the moment. D&D is always popular of course and the game did get oversubscribed within about seven seconds but at the end of the day there are enough good souls  among us to spread themselves out accross all of the games so we can cover enough bases if people are away of an evening. The three winners are The Spire, D&D and Scum and Villainy. 

GM Alex is running S&V in a Star Wars context from which it draws its title of course but it's not specifically designed for that universe. Its interesting to what extent a game can remain generic and yet still fill the boots of subgenres that are full of lore. Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate - just to take a few of the stars as examples - all have a deply rooted culture, are quite distinct and fans if not players will be looking for an authentic experience. This does necessitate the use of very specific equipment and interaction with iconic cultures - The Borg, The Empire and the Goa'Uld respectively for example. I guess whether you go for a more custom system or not depends on the work you are prepared to put in as a GM tho if you are a fan you could do a lot off the cuff provided you are consistent for those persistent geeky questions.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

More Roleplaying ?

As always when we rotate games there is the persistent issue of what players want to play and what GMs want to run. Now its a given that it's not possible to keep everyone happy all the time I have suggested that we have some sort of last man standing knife fight or perhaps a mud wrestling contest in bikinis. Whilst I am prepared to drop the bikinis, neither option seems to have taken traction but I do feel that people have become too spoilt with on demand TV and doorstep delivery services these days. When I was fighting in the Napoleonic wars our deliveries were done by cannon and we used stale loaves of bread as D6s.

Nevertheless it seems that some of our players have overdosed themselves on some of the recent sci-fi games and now fancy switching channel to a good old hack and slay. The games on offer however are Scum and Villany, Spire and Cyberpunk 2020 - not D&D. S+V is a game based around the Sci Fi opera and is designed to be run with archetypes and episodically along the lines of Beebop Cowboy and Firefly. It's based on the Blades in the Dark system which despite being wonderfully narrative has attraced criticism for it's mechanics and over specialisation, not that I found this an issue and I do like the ability to develop ones cirminal faction which I presume translates to developing ones ship in the sci fi realm. 

Cyberpuk is what is says on the tin, the tin in question being a cost effective and illeagal AI implant that glitches on its owner resulting in a backup intelligence occasionally taking over and wreaking havoc. It's the cookie cutter for futuristic noodle bars, off world colonies, and dodgy augmentations.

The Spire is not one I know but seems to revolve around a secret war between Elven castes - the High Elves living in the Spire and the Dark Elves tying to overthrown them. I do like the artwork as well as the take on the classes and it's an interesting perspective on Elves for sure but it does punk up a bit - I believe fantasy-punk is the correct phrase. I have managed to find an excellent review from Andrew Logan, another of our kin in the blogsphere.

So what do we do when the games dont quite fit the player base at any given time ? Well if the mud wrestling is out then there is only evolution by natural selection. Players do what players do but I wonder if we should go back to four games and encourage the GMs to post a couple of spare places on meetups ? It would beat driving around town and pickup people off the street like the Jesus Army. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Fellowship of Something

I was sad to miss GM Dave's one shot over Christmas, 'A glitch in the Christmas Matrix' but was lucky enough to catch GM Pietro's one shot last week based on the wonderfully narrative game of Fellowship by Jacob Rundolph. Initially I presumed it was a parady on the Lord Of the Rings and I may well be partly correct but on the playthrough it was readily apparent that the system could be played quite properly.

For my part I took on the Gandalf equvalent of "Harbinger" to 'remove evil from this world at all costs' and whilst the system never makes direct reference to Tolkien, all of the key narrative aspects of the characters have been distilled into specific abilities. So for example one of the harbinger traits is "Angelic Remenants" - Your people are what remains of the diving beings who created this world, and your extraordinary powers are what lingers of their gifts." This trait then allows the use of  "Speak Softly" (sort of telekenesis) with someone whos name is known. Basically its like the scene from the film when Galadriel speaks into the minds of the other characters.

Whilst there are other traits that diverge from the Tolkien context they are all faithfully narrated and offer very general abilities that can be tailored to any specific situation. Its hard to put a finiger on it but it works very well - its easy to pick up, narratively descriptive making it very immersive, flexible for experienced roleplayers and integrates roleplaying by design. I do believe it may be a work of art.

Anyways there are also additional modules and expansions still in waiting at the kickstarter:

Wednesday, 8 January 2020


The new year is supposed to start with some resolutions I gather. Whilst I have not been a huge fan of gym membership, being tidy and generally being polite (though it's not that I haven't tried)  it's just that I don't have the stats. Basically whomever rolled me up before I was born put the highest numbers into mouse clicking and science fiction. Dex and charisma was a long way down the list and I'm not sure I have ever faced a will check... except perhaps for someone's bad jokes.

However another advantage of our hobby is that we can always delegate off our existential crises to our in game characters to get that feeling of satifaction, pride and completion, so for the new year may I suggest a selection of resolves:

How about a new combat skill for January ? 4e Resolute Shield - As you slash into your foe, you pull your shield into a defensive position between the two of you, guaranteeing that it absorbs at least some of your enemey's attack.

Perhaps join the Hellriders in the Forgotten Realms.. The Creed Resolute was a set of oathes and maxims sworn by the Paladins of the Order of Elturgard and the Hellriders of Elturel and eventually all the citizens in the late 15th centuary

You could do worse that pick up the Resolute supershero game for $3  - somewhat modelled on the X Men universe its is a little incomplete regarding combat mechanics and indeed there is no formal character sheet, but its cheaper than a kebab.

Perhaps sharpen your dark side skills with the Star Wars Sage edition talent Weaken Resolve - you fill the target with terror, causing it to flee from you at top speed for 1 minute.

Or if, like me, you are not yet back on speaking terms with your large intestine after Christmas then you can just buy resolve in a box.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy Cyberpunk

Not sure if it was the future you were expecting but its here anyway and as the turkey and stuffing are finally recycled into nutrient cubes we can look forward to a fun packed year of  gaming and generally sarcastic social interaction.

Our new year is always slightly delayed as a club - whilst there is the natural instinct to fire off new games at the beginning of January, the Christmas period is always fairly volatile with respect to routine and GMs don't really have a good opportunity to round off their narratives. So we sort of aim for new games at the end of January and we already have several ideas on the table and we will ruminate over the next few weeks. 

In retrospect, last year has been a very respectable round up with D&D, Nameless land, Warhammer, Sentinels, Walking Dead Thing, Star Trek, 13th Age and Torg. We have travelled to many places so far but our journey is far from complete. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Santa the Sleigher

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

In the Grim Darkness

It was a pleasure to sit in on the Dark Heresay last week and GM Alex's vision of the crushing life led by the dregs of humanity choking in the underworld factories of the great Hive Cities delivered a very authentic experience. Whilst we are on mission from the Inquisition there are, as always, politics in place alongside the truth and I sense there are corporate factions that have had a hand in our murder investigations. Nevertheless, whilst the Imperium's thirst for resources will determine how tolerant it is on a planetary basis it is of course the little man that ends up being pulped in the cogs of the Imperial Bureaucracy.

Despite our sacred duty, I couldn't help but feel the gulf of empathy between me and my character. Whilst on the trail of what appears to be a ritualistic murder, albeit a likely distraction, we had the unenviable task of interrogating the victim's partner. Confirming all the baseline facts, habits and last whereabouts of her husband, the sheer oppressiveness of leaning on a desperate widow and her now fatherless child clinging to a dilapidated one room bloc habitat was harrowing. Yet still the Emperors will prevails.

Whilst dehumanisation in Sci-fi realms cuts a little too close to the mark, we have all been warned. Somewhere in a role playing game the future has already happened.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Priests of Pain

It was a while ago I had the pleasure of diving into the Nameless Land game but at the time I did have the opportunity to stand in for Andras and his post apocalyptic pain priest. There is actually a sort of library of faith based archetypes where the collapse of civilisation is concerned. This is not surprising as armageddon aside one generaly speaking associates religion with poverty and a lack of resources - after all what use is a God when you already have everything you value ? Nevetheless there is always a great opportunity for character development and I am reminded of Denzel Washington's character from The book of Eli wandering the nuclear wastes beng the last curator of the Bible.

More in context there are the Priests from the film of the same name curating the devastated planet folowing a war between vampires and humans. The human cities are ruled by The Church but in the wastelands people fight for liberation against their theocracy. There are the Grammaton Clerics from Equilibrium who enforce the Big Brother opression across all of society but of course the danger of such highly trained and trusted clerical power means that any that turn aganst their masters can be devestating.

There is the aptly named priest "Shepherd Book" aboard Serenity as part of a wonderfully balanced group of characters bringing a moral and pacifist dimension to the Firefly series in the post reaver devestated universe and I am also reminded of the Long Walk of the retired Judges from the Dredd series who take the book of law and a gun out into the cursed lands when their time in Megacity is done. Arguably there are the devout from the post apocalyptic Matrix believing in The One and the constantly challenged priest from The Walking Dead. There are the Inquisitors from Warhammer and one can even go back as far as the War of the Worlds and poor broken Nathaniel whose faith becomes delusion and denial.

I've always got the impressoin that the cleric is the last character to be chosen in a D&D game just because it has a well trodden utility but there is a huge lineage and always an off beat option somewhere between fanatically devout to insane.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Oil and Water

Scenariowise over the years I have generally preferred to roleplay the fantasy enviromnets which as I write strikes me as a little odd as I am a hard core science fiction fanatic at heart. Bar Tolkien the rest of the fantasy landscape seems derivative to me but I am also aware that this is a somewhat disparaging view where art is concerned as there are always avenues to express ideas, beauty and truth within any medium. But my Kindle would stress my former point as its laden with SciFi classics and completly void of anything with orcs in it. Void however does remain an interesting point.

There have been a significant number of classic sci fi authors who have transited into fantasy writing and there are more than a few RPG systems that combine both fantasy and scifi mechanics into the player experience but I have never felt it has worked very well really. More to the point, historically, one tends to discplace the other - where civilasation rises, science and critical thinking secularises culture. Where civilisation collapses people often only have their religion and superstitions to turn to and power structures quiclky rise based on ceremony and magic. The two facets of philosophy have always seemed mutually exclusive to me.

However talking to Jack last week regarding the Dark Heresy game, he was recounting a rather ugly fumble on his psych skills after which he detonated a void bomb damaging players and foes around him. As far as I can tell a psycher has to open and control aceess to the void in order then to focus its power with ethereal effects; though the system emphasises psychic skills over magical effects, I actually think its quite well done. Despite the void being the home of Demons it is also the medium of travel for starships so whilst this is a good example of a clash of genres it always offers the description of horrific and powerful entities living in a seperate part of the universe rather than expicity magical and supernatural realms inhabited with Gods. Conversely for the Imperium of Man, the Emperor is often revered as a God but his existence necessitates the use if technology so his rule always has a cultural context, not a divine one. Far be it for me to sound heretical but before the inquisition arrives for my latest mind wipe I'd just like to say I have made my peace with the Demons in this system.