Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Dogsbody


So last week I accidentally attended GM Dave's The Walking Dead Thing in the high Arctic and whilst I very much enjoyed the first session, I had intended to only really make up the numbers as our three games are somewhat packed out at the moment. Whilst we had six players initially, which I usually consider optimal though opinion varies of course, as we went to play our pilot (or ex-pilot if you consider blowing up a plane a career change) joined us as we were descending to the table making a party of seven. When we started, our psychologist also arrived which suddenly meant we were at eight players.


Now whilst GMs are often accommodating and keen to have a reliable player base there comes a moment when there simply isn't enough time allocated to each person even with the best of intentions. Having said this it was a remarkably workable session but I got the impression that all the players were acutely aware of the size of the group and were all being very well behaved. In fact we got some combat in and resolved it and we are now currently hiding on our Cat vehicle checking ourselves over for zombie bites. Actually, come to think of it, I can appreciate another reason why a GM would start a zombie game with a lot of players..


Anyway, the point is that as players turned up and character sheets were running out, Dave did need to deploy the emergency party member, namely Brian, the base dog and whilst dogs are very intelligent of course, they also have a compulsive need to chase balls, lick testicles and roll in shit. Nevertheless armed with only the one word in my vocabulary "woof" I think I managed to embark on an heroic character arc of rescue, struggle and redemption. I would perhaps have preferred a base parrot for the additional vocabulary but it would be too irresistible to push the game into pirate waters.


Monday, 5 August 2019

RPG Recon


So it seems that we have three full games underway now and it will be up to the fates as to how the plots fair to their winds. When I say fates I am actually referring to the arsing around factor that players inevitably bring to an orderly and well constructed GM plot. I do note that there is no particular adjective or term of reference for this and given that RPGs are mainstream now I strongly believe that this should be corrected. Having an arsefactor seems accurate but inappropriate somehow and also not a youtube channel I would subscribe to. I do like the term Plotpirates but perhaps too reminiscent of a Goonies film so I think I would go with Timebandits which is a more faithful description of players arguing over the shape of small stones as well as a case of fantasy being more accurate than reality..


As we are in our sort of summer recess we are down a few regulars but even then our exiting games are packed so whilst I am on a self enforced spirit guided journey exiled from GMing at present I may well invoke another dungeon bash as the Autumn draws in. Having said this I note that the RPG scene is becoming well organised down at the Dice Saloon now and although there has always been a table of adventurers there of an evening there are a few resident GMs that have set up, some who were regulars at our Railway Club. Notably our own Mark Gossage has opened himself up to the general public with one shot drop in sessions which have on occasion been overrun and I can see him encouraging other GMs to prep games. My instinct is that this is another example of demand outstripping supply - as Roleplaying becomes yet more popular GMs begin to coalesce. Here is a link to the Dice Saloon's roleplaying Club and you can see Mark's write ups amongst the general hiatus. 


As with our GM Warren and his TORG, the Dice saloon fits semi irregular play perfectly and it seems that one shots are the way to go here, particular for those just wanting to try roleplaying. I have not played many one shot myself but the nature of short games and rapid plotdrops may well be the solution to arsefactor.


Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Cold Confusion


So I had the pleasure of sitting in on the first instalment of GM Dave's The Walking Dead Thing. As promised it started in classic style with the party flying in to a British Arctic Research Station in order to relieve the existing crew but unfortunately it seems that they were all absent on arrival. Except the mad one trying to kill us of course. Well, the resident rifle guy didn't last long but of course survived long enough to take out our transport which means our stand in pilot is suddenly more of a permanent feature to the group which is fine as we can help him with his rather awkward insurance claim.


So it has transpired so far that the base personnel have responded to a distress signal from another base and set off with one of the base caterpillar drives. Whilst we are all still trying to get a grip on things I can confirm as a qualified psychologist that everyone is freaking out. So do we settle in and try to find out what has been going on or do we set off in pursuit of another distress ? Well, we'll tune in next week but there is something we have noticed off in the distance...


I admit that there is something particularly enjoyable about landing in a cliche. Whether its just the fun of following along in cheesy authentic fashion or whether its the challenge of breaking the mould given a particular dilemma, its certainly an engaging start to imminent death and horror and everyone is busy with one issue or another in front of them. Hopefully whats in front of them wont be getting much closer..


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Circles and Cycles


Its been suggested that the Star Trek might finish this week, tho I am always sceptical when it comes to any sort of temporal speculation in a role playing game. However if a particularly incompetent  engineer starts playing with a warp core then perhaps a timely game could be produced but double agents aside, if the Trek does finish then it will actually be the only game to have completed on time.


In super technical terms the games run Feb-July and Aug-Jan but as this clips the academic summer holidays I completed the D&D so that the students in my game got in at the end. The Sentinels adventure did complete its plot arc but props to GM Krzys who is rolling it on in one shots to keep idle hands busy.


The upcoming Warhammer Dark Heresy game has its players completing their party composition now and I note that after much consternation, Karl has chosen to play the "Scum" character class. I suppose its a step up from the Village Idiot he has played previously but I guess its important to have goals in life. However as there is also an assassin in the group I think know who's going to get the last cookie when the munchies set in..


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Stranger Walking Thing


Last week I got my first glimpse of GM Dave's home brew horror which he has deftly named "The Walking Thing". No prize money for the Genres that this borrows from but the scenario is set in the high Arctic within a suitably remote British Artic Survey base. Already the sense of isolation and claustrophobia within a deadly environment sets the scene and is reminiscent of the atmosphere aboard the Nostromo. It will be interesting to see if the players can beat their score of one surviving member of the party plus a cat.


I'm not implying that a cat box is always the place to hide when confronted by rabid penguins or undead polar bears but a small cage with snacks would be very appropriate for someone who has lost their mind completely. I am aware that penguins inhabit the south polar regions before I get de-platformed but perhaps it would be a sinister spin to have them turning up unexpectedly being the megalomaniacs that they clearly are.


The Warhammer 40k role playing game already has five players I believe and I am a little unsure of the extent of GM Alessio's Nameless Land party but I have seen character sheets frantically swapping back and forth like a post apocalyptic stock market.


Last W/E also saw the end of the beginning for GM Warren's TORG game at the Dice Saloon, which has us finally rescuing a fair number of New Yorkers from a vanguard of Lizard men battling us in the Holland tunnel, We finally fought back the hoards against all the odds even considering that the Department of Works had coned off the entire area.






Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Hanging Around


As we are in a sort of purgatory zone as a club there is a weird bit of hanging around at present as we wait for games to close and new ones to open. Whilst we are happy to have our weird beer conversations all evening I know that the Sentinel players are rolling on one shot games at present. Sadly I don't have the time to prep anything at the moment due to reality being a real bitch but there is certainly an argument for us to run one shots much more often.


One shots have several advantages and we are fortunate to have quite a high number of GMs in the club so this also means there there will be a lot of shelves at home stacked with goodies. Plots and systems have to be considered carefully for a one or two session play so disposable characters from systems such as Paranoia are ideal. There is always the option of dropping players right in the middle of a dilemma and seeing if they can crawl their way out. Its also nice for GMs not to be too worried about the plot and particularly unworried about killing off players.


Boardgames are also another option and newer systems have become more intricate and involved. I recall play testing the Game of Thrones one club evening and whilst we only had time to play a couple of rounds, it was enough to get the gist and there are also classics like Talisman to keep us amused. As its coming up to the end of the school year at the moment it seems very appropriate to bring in board games so I will root around and see what I have at home, not sure if monopoly counts but I'd be up for role playing a top hat.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Change


The 5e DarkSun is now complete leaving only Starfleet Command now to formally finish its mission before the Great Rotation. As always there are heavy compromises to make when forcing closed an adventure at a certain point. To be fair to myself, if it wasn't for a protracted debate over how much inertia a large crowd can project, there would have been a better finale.


Nevertheless it turned out that our party never escaped their petrification since the beginning of the game. Their npc mentor, Aru, was expending his own life force to project their spirits corporeally so that they could interact with the world and restore the natural order. During the adventure, Aru researched and learned the petrifcation process keeping our heroes entombed and subsequently used this spell on some of his own people in order to preserve their future - they in turn would be protected and wake up in millennia to a better world.


Although our heroes fought back a vampire as the first night fell, the following waves of undead emptying from the catacombs may well have overrun the last city of Darksun. But as Aru said at the beginning of the adventure, there was never enough water - the city was never surviving, it was just dying slowly.


Basic advice for those new to role playing. Never argue with the GM. Whilst you may not have all the facts, the main point is that you just frustrate your own game. Reality will never care about you but your friends will, that is, as long as you don't keep shouting at them.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Feywild Familiarity


The D&D Darksun is setting and provided there isn't too much mucking around, I reckon there is one session left. With such short games, intermittent players as well as guest spots there are simply too many constraints to provide a seamless experience and pulling plot protagonists out of a bag can be a disjointed experience although to be fair, in my particular case, the ending was planned from the moment I read one of the characters backgrounds..


Basically it all comes down to ex girlfriends as millennia age our Monk had a somewhat obsessive Dryad teacher who fell in love with him and eventually agreed to let him go in exchange for a promise to return one day. Given he was turned to stone and she was punished by her kind for her feelings for a mortal, she was banished forlorn and without hope.


Dryads live for hundreds of years and in keeping with Fey tradition (Tolkien's elves and the little mermaid being cases in point), those years would be spent exiled from her woodland leaving her nothing but to wander alone awaiting her end. However where there is a will there is a way, so by taking the Vampire's curse she would then have all the time to reshape the world that turned upon her and wait for her long lost student to keep his promise. The unforeseen consequence however was that the Gods left Athas in permanent sunlight after their overthrow of the Necromancers and if its one thing vampires cant stand, it's a tan.


However as the party have now restored the natural order to the world the first night in aeons is falling and alongside it awake its inhabitants..


Tuesday, 18 June 2019

2077


Its difficult to suggest that I have been looking forward to 2077 as that would make me 108 years old and whilst that many candles on a birthday cake could be managed in principal with appropriate health and safety planning my main concern would be consuming excess levels of fire retardant. However with the forthcoming genetic and cybertec revolutions that we have all been promised my future resistance to excess aging and marzipan may well be a thing of the past.


I do very much enjoy the cyber culture, obviously such films as Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Aeon Flux and the Matrix being close to the archetypes and I have also enjoyed the more recent interpretations such as Incorporated and the incredibly faithful Altered Carbon. Whilst we have dabbled in the realm of Eclipse Phase at the club I don't think we have actually played any other game set in that genre though of course cyber enhancement does crop up as part of the more incidental mechanics of many of the worlds we have experienced.


Existentialism is hard to get your head around but does provide many unique situations for role-players, more so when it comes to the notion of identity what with multiple copies of characters running around with varying memories depending on when they were instanced let alone all the bodily augmentations - cyberpunk provides a deeply invasive as well as a highly intimate relationship with the world around you but as with access to the raw building blocks of humanity, trauma is earth shattering when it happens.


In keeping with RPG viability and just like the latest Cthulu, the new Cyberpunk 2077 is released alongside its videogame counterpart but nevertheless stems from a lineage going back to the late '80s as I was playing it back then at Uni and have since then kept it at the back of my mind, perhaps in the near future we will be playing something set in the near future...


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Term Time


One of the logistical challenges we face as a club are the large cohorts of students in and around Brighton; what with two universities and a number of colleges its quite common to get undergraduates wandering in and filling their valuable study time by signing up for a game. Whilst we are all welcoming across all species there is a corollary circumstance which means that if a GM gets two or three students in a party then they will tend to evaporate as the summer exams and holidays impact. This is one of the reasons why we get a little lighter on players over the brighter months and come the Autumn we then get more interest. It seems that in the D&D for example that a few of the younger players are suddenly not on the scene and this is no coincidence. However as we are approaching the end of our current cycle I know that at least one of the other games has broken so buy judicious use of cunning and guilt I'm sure I can draw in some other players for the upcoming finale.


All told this implies that we are probably back to three games for a while which is no bad thing as whilst there is ample room for a couple of other games it does mean running them in the bar area which I don't mind personally but one does get hassled be jukebox junkies and the occasional purveyor of raffle tickets. 

On another social note, GM Warren booked us into Dice Saloon last Sunday for another installment of TORG and it's starting to flesh out a bit both in terms of the mechanics as well as the scenario. We are in the middle of an inter dimensional incursion in New York and whilst we have just been dealing with the shock of dinosaurs, tropical forests and lizard men on the block, we have now a sense of a power structure behind an invasion and are in contact with an advanced AI from a seemingly extinct race that lost its battle against similar events. Its all getting very interesting and as always with TORG, knowing too much or too little can lead to sudden regression or evolution of ones character; its a bit like Darwinian snakes and ladders.





Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Don't Swallow


Well, it was a pleasure to have GM Max at the table last week. Whilst he lives next door to the club we occasionally get his presence by way of a quick social and when the stars converge he will bring his Viking speakers along and treat us to a game of something. Whilst he didn't intend to sit down and play I actually had an absent orc, in more ways than one, and given the chance to pick up a quick and easy character we snared him for a session.


I particularly enjoy low int characters myself as its a great chance to have a laugh, keep the plot rolling along whilst trundling from one predicament to another. It's a sort of near death slapstick but in the case of the Orc Barbarian, re pleat with trophies sticking out of him like a drunken game of kerplunk, he did somehow manage to swallow a water stone at some point. These stones generate water on a slow and steady basis and are placed inside a water skin for survival in arid climates or long journeys. Problem now is that the Orc will have to make a roll every time his danger sense goes off or he will wet himself.


More along the lines of new games coming up, the vaguest plans are forming. We have lost a few members to the summer suns and a couple will have moved on to even weirder clubs so I am unclear whether we have enough players to sustain another four games but provisionally we have a list of:

GM Alessio - Italian Vampires - Nosferatu I guess
GM Alex - Warhammer Fantasy.
GM Dave - Home Brew Horror
GM Max - Cyberpunk

This is not legally binding by far but with the success I have had on Meetups drawing in D&D players I will be interested if we can summon others from the ether to play some less D&D stuff. 


Thursday, 30 May 2019

Tentacles Ahoy


Well, in an arid world of sand, sun and silt sea, it was a slightly ironic but a strangely satisfying feeling to pit the DnD Darksun party against a tentacle or two. They have been slowly unlocking sealed elemental portals that have arrested and warped the world of Athas over millennia and as their adventure approaches its end they have come across the portal to the elemental plane of water. Given a wide amount of scope here for a challenges I was interested as to what the Monster Manual offers by way of seafood and suckers but whilst I couldn't really find a creature that suited, oddly enough I did find an appendage.


More accurately I came across the description of a Kraken but with a challenge rating of 23, our intrepid group would hardly amount to a light lunch for such a behemoth. But it then occurred to me that I don't need to use the whole creature when just one of its tentacles will do. Put that in a column of free standing water and you get a rather effective guardian of sorts. I am not sure what the best tactic is to handle such a foe but then again, I don't really care as it not my problem.


Whilst I have my gripes with the Monster Manual, I would say its really quite a reasonable reference source but when you begin to view it as a tool using the creatures as blueprints for one's own creations, then one can see it in a new light entirely; each creature can not only be augmented or treated as an archetype, entities can be combined or, as in my case, dissected to create a new challenge. This creates a refreshing experience for players already used to the tome as well as something unexpected. And one should always expect the unexpected.





Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Put yout hands up


So there are various party games involving closing your eyes and then either randomly pointing in different directions, spinning a bottle or sticking something to your head. In my particular case in the D&D we have a sort of party table that involves everyone placing their hands on, charging it up using your ones life force/hit points and finally sitting in an appropriate chair in order to teleport the entire group to a distant location of choice.


Now this works all good and well except when you're a half orc who just likes to try different things. The table draws its power by draining one D6 hit points per individual until it has a total of twenty when it can then be used. After teleportation, the table then needs re-charging and so on. Now its taken the party a few goes to work out the navigation mechanics but as half Orcs only listen half the time our intrepid Cameron gleefully gets up from one seat and sits in another one jumping the whole party back and forth between two places they didn't want to go. Add to that, everyone is sitting around in a circle, counting down from three but not quite everyone is placing their hands down.

After some tears of laughter, punches in the face and sore palms, I think we can now confidently say they occasionally know what they are doing.