Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Soul Matters

I almost got him down to less than 10 hit points for a hitherto overly confident slashing machine. The most recent MERP saw the party show down and slow down against four screaming wights. More to the point that the previously mentioned Tom Cruise/Mage (that is in fact a dual character class) went in first levitation style and lowered himself down a burial tunnel into a crypt. Very rapidly he discovered that he was both being clawed at as well as having his power points drained by non corporeal spirits.

Fortunately the Dwarf and then Animist lowered themselves into the fray, narrowly avoiding a situation where the Mage was considering ascending back through the entrance as the others were coming down. Being in a crypt this is as close to a near death experience as I have seen them in yet. With an hour of nail biting combat as well as plenty of healing spells the party have kept their spirits intact and I have to presume they are a little wiser also. It is also worth noting that the location is not yet necessarily done. The other Mage remains outside clutching the Book trying to stay out of harms way. Whether clutching an evil spell book is better or worse than fighting undead spirits in a crypt I have no idea. Guess we'll find out.

How close does death get in MERP ? Well there is a little wiggle room actually. After a character passes zero, they pass out. However they can continue to lose hits if bleeding or on fire etc, until a negative number equal to their constitution. After that, the soul departs over a 6 round period. As the soul begins to wend its way it is an opportunity for it to do other weird and wonderful things, like be captured in an item, held indefinitely by magical means, astral project or potentially be taken to the negative plane as an undead of some description. This is where Animists are worth their weight in herbs as they can preserve the body or soul until suitable animation or healing is applied. Systems vary enormously and some are a mater of fact but I like the more ethereal options in MERP.

With regard to the 13Age update from GM Bill I am informed that his NPCs are more fashionable than mine. Well I say that beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.
 

 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Tomb Raider

 
With a somewhat of an undead adventure going on in the MERP its time for a bit of tomb raiding. Our party find themselves inside a peaceful mausoleum within a beautiful clearing in an ancient forest. Dead people were presumably alive once and there's nothing more embarrassing than cracking open the wrong tomb, only to back up apologetically. Still people say that we should all talk more about death and not be so embarrassed. Not sure that means with those concerned though.
 
A bit like stealing Mars Bars, cracking open burial chambers wouldn't be considered deserving of a maximum security prison sentence but we should all conduct our selves with decorum when it comes to chambers with Do Not Disturb chiselled onto the door. Best practice is an issue here.
 
Its worth considering whether an adventuring party actually falls into a specific category on professional terms such as a corner, crime technician, priest, archaeologist or historian. By this I mean that ego massaging is often the weapon of choice where dragons are concerned so it could be useful to have an appropriate ID badge should one be challenged by a security conscious or otherwise officious Lich. Basically should you feel bad rummaging through dead bodies and exactly what should you prepare for ? Do you re-consecrate as you go or simply wash your hands thoroughly before tea ?
 
Necromancers, thieves and Victorian Egyptologists all have their own view on the matter so perhaps its down to negative plane dominion, hard cash and a better quality top hat at the end of the day.
 
 
Either way it will be interesting to see what they will do - they are on Gondor business and whilst that doesn't come with a formal warrant to search a coffin, it may help them sleep at night.




Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Naked Orc Wrestling

Last club meet I casually enquired about GM Bill's 13th Age game. When engrossed in planning and running ones own session its easy to forget that other things are going on. Whilst we were all catching up over a pint before the games I gainfully asked after the other players as to what had been transpiring and found to my delight that a fight had made its encounter with their party. Even more amusingly it transpired that some orcs had taken the opportune moment to attack the party whilst they were having a bath. Genius. Orcs are not stupid creatures for the most part but often aggressive and spontaneous, but it borders on genius to ambush  a group of people while they are wearing thongs and olive oil.
 
Now from a mechanics point of view this opens up a whole new avenue of combat possibilities. I can imagine the issues now... How much damage does a soap on a rope do - hits like a morning star but leaves you refreshed and lightly scented ? How fast can I move in flip flops ? What AC is a towel ? How many attacks a round does a loofer have ? On it goes.
 
I must admit I wish I had been there - there's probably an expansion module just for kitchen and bathroom scenarios. So it would seem that the 13th Age game is well on its way and I do hope they don't slip up any further.
 
 
On the MERP side I can report that the Animist narrowly escaped summoning a Penguin as a familiar to do some scouting for him. They have also realised that an ancient and mysterious book they have seems to be raising undead nearby - as the party are based in Minas Tirith and operating from Osgiliath it is also just occurring to them that both cities have several old, large cemeteries. I sense a country trip coming on.



Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dispatches

 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 25th March 3436 Orodruin
The great eye bears down upon our Alliance beyond the Great Gates but as we set forth we know He now has nowhere left to go. We will see it done.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 4th April 3436 Barad-Dur
Last four days in deployment after a long march. Whilst the men already carry the scars or Orodruin they bear steadfast determination to see the day out. The Siege of Barad-Dur will begin. All units are in position and we expect for our part to assault the Southern Tower at sunrise.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 10th April 3436 Barad-Dur
Heavy and prolonged fighting. This will be no short order. We have been denied all week but at the cost of the Enemies defences. Orc ranks are thin and the gate shall not stand another week, we are sure of it.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 17th April 3436 Barad-Dur
Heavy losses and full retreat. I have never before witnessed such a thing. Our banners marched forward through the shattered gates, no quarter was spared and the walls ran black. Broken Orcs lay in our wake and victory was at hand. But the bodies did not lay. As our first blow fell upon the doors of the second tower the very dead awoke about us. All rank and file arose and pressed upon us with a fell savagery. We lost half our force in retreat and even our own slain turned upon us. What can we do against such evil?
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 18th April 3436 Barad-Dur
The men did not sleep and their spirits are spent against the nightmares. Force of Arms cannot bear against such an army. I have dispatched to Alliance command. We need the Dwarves and their siege engines. We will not underestimate Him again.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 3rd April 3438 Barad-Dur
For a year gone the southern walls have withstood the dread rain of Dwarven missile but no longer. Now is our time.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 8th April 3438 Barad-Dur
Rubble now lies all about where once stood the first tower. No movement. In and about what remains we have come across a keep of manuscripts, a library of devilry and fell craft. Put to the flame we have destroyed the foul pit for all except a Tome that resists unscorched by way of our purge.
 
Field Log- Cpt Aranor 12th April 3438 Barad-Dur
Its writing shifts and its secrets it withholds. It brings me dark thoughts and vile knowledge. I cannot sleep and have ordered it secured from the field. It is a weapon wrought not for men and will not serve our means.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Do Griffins lay eggs ?

It seems that Easter got the better of us last week at the club. People were away doing chocolaty things with family or on holiday enjoying themselves so not much to report other then half a dozen drunken role-players collectively failing their "get off their arses role". Nevertheless it was a pleasant enough evening catching up with everyone. So if you cant fight international giant fluffy bunny conspiracies then I say join them so here by way of seasonal reflection are my top three choices for Great Eggs of Notoriety.
 
Clearly there is everyone's favourite nightmare;
in Spacemaster, no one can her you scream.
 
There is in fact an Aliens roleplaying game, 1991 by Leading Edge Game, and for some reason I do have a character sheet for this. It must have been a one off many, many moons ago and whilst I am not proud, its one of those things that just happen when you are young and care free. Still definitely one of an evening should a regular game not be happening, though I wouldn't rate anyone's chances - a sort of Cthulu that cuts straight to a grisly death.
 
Lest I fail to state the obvious we will all be aware of the potential party omelette that is the Dragon Egg, whilst ubiquitous I have never actually seen any stats for one - size, hit points, weight, calories etc.. From my experience, given that their primary skill is to mostly roll around in a slightly unpredictable manner, they are more specifically a plot hatching device. Dragon Eggs are often prized by collectors and more often prized by their mothers. Out of curiosity it has just got me wondering about the lineage of Phoenix eggs. Does a Phoenix actually have a parent or is it simply immortal, reincarnating over and over again. Actually I recall that a phoenix rises from its ashes rather than hatching from an egg so perhaps it is the only member of the avues that does not lay.
 
 
Finally, an egg literally after my own heart, and one I spent many teenage hours gleefully giving the run-around, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Burger Time egg
A subtle creature, not fast by any means but quite deadly when it is upon you. It has the demeanour of a gelatinous cube and lumbers inevitably like a zombie but is much more intelligent and will even coordinate with its other evil cohorts, the dredded Saussage and the fearsome Pickle. It is a latter day sunny side up terminator.
 
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Moreso I think when its trying to kill you.
 


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Flying theives


Its not the fist time I have had a mage go rogue in a game. Its often the case, particularly at mid levels that you pick up enough spells of diversity to accomplish a range of tasks and when given a small goal to accomplish a wizard can quickly piece a plan together that he feels can be executed without aid - power can be dizzying. In the last MERP for example the mage decided to do some scouting inside a formerly abandoned building on behalf of the party and even though Nick is relatively new to roleplaying, he quickly pieced together a solo plan - fly over to the roof, open a skylight, cast a landing spell to jump down safely onto the first floor, and throw up an earth wall to obstruct the corridor so his back was covered and  finally shrink himself to keep out of sight. 

This reminds me of those fiendish garden puzzles constructed for squirrels by people who couldn't get on a proper Phd to see exactly how clever nuts are. Or likewise give a crow or magpie a twig and see if they cant work out how to pick a lock, assemble a small shed or indeed set a trap for the aforementioned squirrel. Either way fortune favoured the special forces magic user and despite the fact the first floor nearly broke under the weight of a ton of earth, the day was won. What exactly they have won remains to be seen however but it can go to show what is possible when the dice roll on the upside and a plan comes together.
 
There are costs and dangers however - magic users in MERP have a fixed number of power points to spend each day and whilst one can use them to get mops and buckets dancing to tidy the tower, it can be the case that there aren't enough left when the Balrog pops in for tea. Needless to say that mages are also glass cannons and behind enemy lines, glass remains just as fragile as anywhere else.

So I have got the measure of the party now both in axes and staffs but as they are doing the equivalent of bargain hunting in Mordor, interest in their activities may well be in the rise.

It also appears the at 14th Age is on the cards as GM Bill reopens his world of bronze age myths during the Great Fall... I played in this one last time and its a shame I am running as its great fun.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Myth, merp and magic

Like many Tolkien fans who are also roleplayers its always an extra pleasure to be involved with, let alone run, a Middle Earth Campaign. Whilst I do love  hack and slay in most of its forms and really appreciate the accessibility of something like DnD the sheer scope, detail and depth of Tolkien's world give not just an enormously rich background of content but also in many cases a reminiscence to part of an adolescence buried in his books. I very much suspect I would have got into much more trouble as a kid if it wasn't for keeping my idle hands busy turning the pages of the Middle Earth. But the formality and detailing of the myth can potentially create a rather dry experience for the players, and it is the experience of the players that count. Above all a game must, by definition, be fun. In this respect I will always bend the rules and this is never more evident than in magic. I do note that Vincent brought one of the most recent sourcebooks which seemed to me to deliberately lack a lot of the fantasy side of things whereas I am happy enough wallowing in 2nd ed.
 
At about about 5th level the spell lists do actually start to get quite powerful with Mages picking up fire and ice bolts as well as levitation. Flying and teleportation are not much later in the lists and the mentalist spells of the Bards as well as the healing of the Animists can out balance against a non magic using Warrior. As such I tend to give a fighter a couple of extra levels in compensation and a magic weapon.
 
Of course hubris and power can be balanced against a party's enemies easily enough but also against the culture of the world - basically throwing spells around in towns is likely to get you burned at the steak so it good to have an inherent respect for invocation. Magic is also generally portrayed as being ultimately destructive for Middle Earth in that most magical creatures that inhabit the land are, generally speaking, not supposed to be there. This is typified by the wisdom of Gandalf; given his enormous power, it was tempered by his physical form of an elderly man and where his influence is seen it is often subtle and very gentle - with the exception of the Balrog of course where I just think he lost his temper and needed to blow off steam after a few thousand years.
 
Anyhows the initial gateway drug for the game are the films of course so I hope its accessible enough for anyone who has seen them but for anyone else wanting to scratch the surface, you can get an glimpse of the incredible depth of the world through an amateurish but surprisingly intricate set of six videos in 'The History of Arda'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JupPs_QVy0&list=PLlFZNs3eLW7phi9esFDH6uyvPVsaqOTh1

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Don't meet your maker

One of the fun aspects of our club is the wonderfully long preamble we get as role players sitting around and having a catch up before the games begin. Some of us wander in as early as 7:30 and others a little later but as often is the case in scenarios, our adventures start in the bar, literally. Now for those who are early there is the occasion when one will manage to squeeze in an extra drink to fuel the wonderfully bizarre conversations we tend to have. More in keeping, when a group of imaginative and lightly inebriated role players get together we seem to continually generate ideas for games that are clearly magnificent. Sadly much of our Gnome like ramblings have been lost to the mists of sobriety over the following week but I successfully recall that we concocted the best card game in the world yet again by the name of  "Don't meet your maker".
 
This is a game where you play an extremely old character in a nursing home and have to contend with the day to day challenges of survival, gaining privileges as you go, such as navigating short corridors, avoiding wheelie trolleys and eating all of your food without spilling it. There are boosters you can use in the way of medication and nurses to help you achieve your goals but of course Doctors, stern administrators and visiting family members, trousers and confusing toys are all foes to contend with. Life span can be given out as a reward as tasks are accomplished and the odd fall may mean you don't make it to the end of the day. Its all about getting to bed safely and on time.
 
OK, so its only a fuzzy outline like many things on a Thursday but the sheer million dollar ideas we generate should at least get us onto Dragons Den and we do know how to deal with dragons.
 
 
Anyhow, this week sees the MERP continuing and I believe GM Rob is forming a Numenera, a sci fi world of possibilities which balances our offering nicely between Fantasy and Sci Fi. Get yourself along!




Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Brave new Worlds

 
Time to turn as the Paladin says. The Feng Shui and DnD games closed last week and we are now holding our usual conclave, burning incense and reading as many goat entrails as we can to discover what exciting games to run next.
 
The club has experimented with various methods of game turn over in the past including running longer campaign type games to alternating pairs of games every other week. There is no perfect solution I think as if there is a long campaign it can be the case that the player base rotates too much for consistency and if someone is not enjoying an adventure it can be a long wait for the next one. Whereas the shorter games don't give the full immersion of a longer adventure, they can nevertheless be run in chapters so we do revisit old favourites like GM Bill's Game of Thrones or GM Warren's Call of Cthulu. The nice thing about the shorter games is that one is never far from a change and an opportunity to experience something new and we do very well running our fair share of weird and wonderful systems that I wouldn't ordinarily come across.
 
So peering into the crystal fog of our yahoo community group it transpires that we could have a Talislanta from GM Rob, I have put forward a MERP if there is interest but there is also talk of another 13th age also. Seems like the next few months may well be fantasy related but good to get back to ye ole hack'n'slash.
 
 
 
 
So its a call to arms for anyone thinking of coming back to the club or anyone looking to start a new adventure - strike now and don't fumble.
 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

World of Darkness

Well it was good to get back to the club after a brief holiday in snowland and I was pleased to have met a new member, Nathan I think, though I could of course be making that up as these days it takes me a few hundred attempts to get  people right though oddly enough I am better with character names. Either way it was a pleasure to shake his hand but with a slight reservation that the lights immediately went out when I did. Now this could be a superhero or mutant power just exhibiting it's first presence or perhaps a side effect of an evil profession but we don't judge anyone here at the club so if there are any budding Witches, Worlocks or Werewolves out there who feel they need a break from real life then do get yourself along for some games and a pint.
 
As a result of the unscheduled onset of complete darkness I did pull back the FengShui crowd to my place where we got a good session in and as I understand it the DnD game went down to The Dice Saloon. I can't think of any other city other than Brighton where if your local RPG club undergoes massive reality failure you can simply walk down the hill to another one. Anyway I hope the guys got a good session in down there and I'll interrogate them at the next meet.
 
The power outage did spur a few jokes and a conversation on the White Wolf  RPG World of Darkness; a series of fictional universes used as a backdrop to horror based adventures, most notably Vampire: The Masquerade, which is also very LARPable. Uncommonly the genre is known as Gothic Punk I think but now the games have been rebranded as Chronicles of Darkness.
 
On another tack, my recent visit to the Arctic got me wondering if there are any completely ice world scenarios I have ever roleplayed in and actually I don't think that I have. Being a polar opposite so to speak (although a polar opposite is in fact another pole) I did remind myself of an old DarkSun game I enjoyed - although if any of you have played it, is a bitch of a world and extremely hard to stay alive in. The harshness of day to day life really made an impression on me which does boost the feeling of even small successes, though I eventually lost my character to the Great Desert
 
Feng Shui and DnD on for this week -see you Thursday



Saturday, 13 February 2016

Odins Gate

Well, it appears that I am still on my hols but according to my scratchy internet comms up here in the Arctic circle it would appear that there is never an excuse to miss a blog entry. So I have spent a thorough 5 minutes trying to discern the roleplaying scene in Norway but appropriately enough its all a bit of a mystery. So all I can proffer up are some fragments on my journey so far and leave better imaginations than my own to thread an adventure together. I've certainly worked with far less in my time.

Gargoyle issues and a Necromancer's temple..



Thor's hammer and presumably his cat


An aerodynamically questionable iron angel


Odins gate. He wasn't in..

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

One round left


For the most part game mechanics should be the perpetual angelic child that is seen and not heard as far as a clean gaming experience is concerned. One cannot of course help but take note of particularly slick systems due to the abundance of poor  mechanics at the other end of the spectrum and it is an often visited subject at the club.
 
The Feng Shui system has left me in two minds regarding this. As eye wateringly fun as the content is I was left with the impression that after the last action packed episode that we had after a coupe of hours gaming only actually completed one round of play. Now to be fair, we had split the party up and were all baying for the GMs attention so this was always going to test GM Jack's sanity as well as bending the system in several directions. It is also not all that uncommon for a particular session to slow when everyone is off doing different things, more so in various combat or hand to hand scenarios.
 
However things are not all that they seem. Feng Shui basically creates a points ladder upon which every character is placed according to a starting initiative and as actions are expended by all concerned, npc's included, everyone slowly jumps down the ladder. All the GM has to do is count down the ladder until each character is encountered and an action performed whereupon they are moved down again - as characters leave the action they are removed from the ladder. As a picture is still worth a thousand words here is what I am trying to say
 
 
I did find a reddit on this so in someone else words:
 
"
Everyone rolls a d6 and adds their speed, this is the "shot" they act on. The person with the highest shot goes first. They perform an action which has a "shot cost" and their "shot" is reduced by this cost. After the highest shot goes, the GM counts down by ones and everyone whose current shot is that number goes.
Example: I rolled a 5 on a d6 and have a speed 8 so my starting shot is 13. I have the highest shot so I go first. I do a regular attack which costs 3 shots, I perform my attack and my shot is now 10. Once everyone with 12 and 11 goes, I get to go again. If multiple people have the same shot number, PCs go first and if multiple PCs have the same shot number, they go left to right from the GM.
"
 
So the upshot is that actually this isn't a round as such but a sort of collective noun for several rounds. I don't known what that is...rounders ? Either way we are now at the bottom of the ladder after which I can only presume we roll our shot dice again and like all things in life it's a matter of understanding it properly to appreciate how it works.
 
 
The rather large cave troll figurine represents the head chef in a kitchen where I am having a slight altercation. I hadn't realised he used to work for Sauron but either way he has an empty Pizza box belonging to me that needs to be recycled properly so a gunfight is now ongoing. That makes me an eco warrior of sorts I suppose. Above is a quick shot of GM Jack mid game when we are all trying to ask stupid questions.



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

X Army Nutcase

 
Last week I had the pleasure of joining the Feng Shui game which was one of the most hilarious roleplaying episodes I have experienced in recent memory. Thinking back I have been playing a lot of Cthulu, Savage Worlds and DnD in more classical settings but it was wonderful to be back in a B Movie scenario. The character I pulled out of the bag for this one was a 'Full Metal Nutcase'. Pretty much says it all there so I had to quickly contrive a character based on the Kubric movie and gave him some sexual dysfunction for a laugh to inject some more stress into his mindset.
 
It was one of the amusing plot hooks of crowbarring a character into the game that I have seen, in that he was the Pizza delivery driver who came to the party's base after the last mission and was instantly recruited presumably based on his excellent logistic skills.
 
When I was walking home with a little more time to spend thinking about it some even better X military brain frazzled characters came to mind. Initially I recall Bill Murray's Carl Spackler in Caddyshack who progressively destroys an entire golf club in the hunt for his nemesis, 'The Gopher'. This is not a pseudonym for a criminal mastermind by the way, its an actual gopher. If you haven't seen it then you need to be black bagged and forced.
 
I am also reminded of the awesome Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers animated adventures. An absolute gem of a B movie world of would be Super Villians and international crime fighting organisations all just trying to do their jobs by trying to take over the world whilst also trying to make sure they hoover regularly, get the kids to school and feed the cat.
 
But in retrospect it is Walter from the Big Leboswki that is the cliché clincher for me. Anyone prepared to go to war over the right to drink coffee and defend the constitution of his local bowling club with armed force has to be a nutcase worth knowing.
 
I'm going to see if I can get a quick character transplant for the next game.
 


 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Crystal Maze

So it appears, or rather it transpires that we have appeared, within an ancient underground complex of some description, not Dwarven though by the look of it. The archaic teleportation pads that we are using could have delivered us anywhere but more to the point it looks like this end of the transport system has been neglected for some decades; where the stone plinth isn't worn with age it is covered over with moss and fungus. Problem for us is that it is voice activated and keyed to a specific word. It has occurred to us on the other side of the jump that the word may of course be from a ancient or dead language and a pertinent occasion to make sure that the languages section of our character sheets hasn't been neglected as is so often the case. Either way we have no way back at present.
 
There being no backwards, forwards was the only option available so we mapped out what we could of an underground complex, somewhat  unstable in structure and emanating a faint evil glow. I was grateful to have de-sanctified an alter with my axe and got an appropriate level of book burning in but we are still lost in a maze full of rooms, traps and secret exits. On the plus side we did get through a physical room full of animated statues that intervened to bar our way but between our addled brains and a Tiefling that we picked up, we shuffled through unscathed.
 
Lastly we managed to get past a mystery room full of dangerous portal doors to various unholy and ghastly locations, really by trial and error and also by some hit point loss.
 
Where are we now ? Don't know, I hope we have a avoided a lock in, but I have a feeling I now know who is behind all of this...
 
 
As for the FengShui currently running, I hear that they have completed one of the chapters of their adventures by slaying a cyber gorilla. Not sure what that is but I am imagining something like a KingKonginator.



Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Dont leave the pub

When one has a little more experience as a role-player one generally tends to gloss over any pretexts as to starting and adventure. Indeed, the GM and players are always keen to get things going and sometimes a potentially amusing little preamble is lost.

GM Jo has kindly been running a Savage Worlds game whilst our DnD GM gets off his night shifts and the stop gap game did start with us all in the pub. We were called out to investigate the sewers and find out why people are going missing and why there are rats abandoning their homes en masse. I find that rats are to be respected in all of their characteristics where attacking swarms are concerned as well as generally being of the right side of providence when abandoning ships, buildings or in our case, sewage systems.

Falling to the occasion we descended into the rather disgusting medieval main sewer and then spurred off to a slimy sub junction, some of us deftly traversing a 30 foot drop into more sewage, round a couple of stinking bends to several rotting zombies. Hacking our way through these we then had to contend with giant spiders webbing us down in more filth and finally onto a room where a summoning ceremony was just completing. Fortunately we managed to take out the central character involved in this quite quickly before the minions were upon us as he was standing in the middle of a swirling vortex of his own making. Though it was pointed out that the person in question may have been a sacrificial victim rather than an instigator. Either way the greater good was at stake.

I do believe we finally made our way back to the pub, though I am not sure if stopped for a shower, we did arrived in time to finish our pints.

So if a concerned citizen asks you to leave the comfort of a welcoming inn and a legendary Beer of Repute to go down into a shit hole you may consider saying no.