Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Summer recess

Though we are a most wise and lumiable council of role players, games architects and live action artisans, we do talk a lot of bollocks occasionally. Some of the more astute subscribers to this tome may have deduced this already but formal gibbering has now begun regarding the upcoming cycle of new games.  Out of respect to mad geniuses here is a link to a review of Heroquest that must be forceably shown to everyone interested in tabletop sports, even sabbuteo (Do they do subbuteo DnD miniatures ?)

All hail BardicBroadcasts
Sir, you are a Legendary Artefact

GM Bill may have another session to round off his 13th age and there are a couple of us on holiday at the moment so stray role players may just have to cope with wacky board games for a week or two. Last week we thoroughly enjoyed a game of Skulls which is a sort of cross between poker and voodoo. Many of these modern fringy tabletop games are enormous fun and are ideal to pass the time in a bar between adventures.

Upcoming I believe we are gaining traction in bullying GM Rob to open a Numenara game; a kickstarted and uniquely imagined world of SciFi that will appeal to anyone intrigued by unconventional narratives. I hope the gameplay is as stunning as the artwork.

Equially GM Jon has offered a Savage Worlds filler, which if it is anything like his previous games will be great fun. GM Kryzs has put forward a Changing breeds and GM Bill has a bag of Indie options also including a 13 Age. I also poked GM Jack who I think could be blackmailed at a push to run something. So all told lots of options depending on who turns up but just like selecting a new pope, there is a lot of smoke and dagger at first, out of which will arise a new order of gods and demons.

So come along and join a cult of your choosing!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Last chapter

The MERP has now ended in a style of its own. Whilst I had thought the session would be a 30 minuteish round off, most of the hard work having been done, the party still managed to faff it out for the full two hours. Unbelievable. They had just entered the Ancient Kingdom of Angmar where the Witch King presided over affairs during his reign. As corruption devoured him, he had constructed a Nexus between the planes of the living and  the dead for his work as a necromancer, where the party simply had to turn left and burn the book. However our Tom Cruise Mage, interested on who the book liked the most, decided to simply throw it off the side of a mountain to see where it would teleport back to. Unfortunately, it decided not to teleport anywhere.
Off we go then. Two more Golems were on their tail made their presence felt, although to be clever about it I made them flying bone Golems rather than clunky stone Golems to stop this incessant use of stone to mud. Sadly for me however our mage had sneaked a peek at the book earlier and had picked up some nice evil Flesh Destruction spells on which lists he managed to find Break Bone, literally disarming one of them. Very clever I suppose. However the fight started to turn into a bit of a sit com as the Golems were after the book and not the players so they tried to fly off down the cliff. Panicking, both the mage and animist managed to climb aboard a golem each and a sort of unearthly merry go round/ frogger game ensued as the Golems went flying back and forth with magic users on their backs. Cut a long and bizarre story short, they did eventually dispatch their mounts and get to where they were supposed to.
Sadly they had faffed me out of time so a few surprises didn't happen but I did get the chance to offer them unlimited immortal power and a kingdom of their own, rather then burn any books, but sadly, they did stick to their quest and the peoples of Middle Earth can once again get on with their 4th Age.
A mightly enjoyable adventure I would say more so because of some considerable off roading plotwise but as its a club game I had to draw down the curtain eventually. If it was a home game then I suspect that they would be riding those Golems off into the distance. In fact I suspect they would never have left Minas Tirith in the first place, being duly sidetracked by a particularly interesting piece of cheese. Anyway, here for whoever may find it is a glorious freeze to mark our adventures in Middle Earth etched by our very own Fade.
GM Bill is also putting his Bronze Age Mythological 13th Age game on timely pause so more news on the new GMs later, but if you have been out of the club habit for a while then now is the perfect time to put it back on again so come along and have a drink with your favourite geeks!


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Necromancer Slippers

The game is afoot in the MERP as the players finally  encroach on the lair of the Witch King. As mighty and feared as the Nazgul were, as a GM one has to address a significant amount of detail in order to maintain a certain level of ambience and context. It consequently means that I have had to give some thought as to the layout and décor of the habitat of said undead. Now I get the impression from the Lord of the Ring books that the Nazgul were trapped in the very throes of death yet sustained in unlife, tortured, with no choice but to scream in torment to enact the will of their Dark Lord. But in all of this melodrama would they not have had some respite in the little things? A comfortable throne to sit on or perhaps a nice pair of slippers for the evening. The point is that I have had to determine the living arrangements of a long dead and forgotten King. But of course the clue is in the question as not actually being alive does mean that living arrangements are sort of missing the point somewhat.
So Nazgul habitats exhibit the presence one would expect from former Mage Commanders of  great evil armies and also the regal but wasting décor of long lost palaces; their bodies having long since corrupted away reflects in their now abandoned fortresses and the lands over which they governed.
The party have thus entered the ruins of Minas Ithil and whilst the stone tower and battlements have remained standing, the interiors have all collapsed. Our party worked their way up an immensely long winding stair to the summit of the main watchtower. From here stood four doors; two leading West and South outside to a viewing balustrade, one magical but closed to the East and one open to a glowing corridor to the North extending beyond the physical limits of the tower itself. Our mage did attempt to open the door to the East as he had accidently been reading evil books earlier in the day that he shouldn't have and picked up a very powerful 'undoor' command. But like anyone wielding great power that is suddenly thrust upon them quite late in the evening, mistook undoor for unlock and vaporized the aforementioned gateway and its lintel, the tower roof groaning structurally in reply.
Still, building regs notwithstanding they party have skipped down a magical rabbit hole and are now somewhere else entirely....

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bathtime is definitely over

OK, so, correct me if I am wrong, but last week I blogged about the curious obsession our Mage had with sailing and other associated water based activities. Obviously he was something like a fish in a previous life, and, depending on the enemies waiting in the rest of the plot, may have that experience again. However this is not Spelljammer.
To be fair despite his passion for sailing, snorkelling and demolitions, last week did see the sinking of a pirate ship. I had hoped that the party would go head to head with the bad guys in swashbuckling style which would have ended in a face off between good and evil mages. However, in the special forces world of underwater wizards, the ship and crew were first deprived of their point guards, then their ship, then their wits, then some of their loot and finally in many cases their lives. Once the pirates had nowhere to float due do to repetitive mystical hull failure then there was no option but to abandon ship, gather what loot they could an bugger off. Alongside other harassments, the bottom line is that once a pirate has no ship then technically he is really just an unshaven thug looking for a panto.
However, as I felt the party were getting away with far too much subterfuge, another couple of Golems turned up to hassle them. It was at this point that our other mage decided that of all things, going sailing was the best idea. Unbelievable. So off we go, other mage jumps on the party boat and launches into his apparently true calling. Five minutes later he is covered in rope and the ship is gently rotating away with the tide, and despite protestation of "Surely I know something about boats" we start random anchoring procedures, almost ripping the bow off. There was a method in the complete madness though as whilst one golem was taken out quickly, the other waded out towards the mage and, as it swam as well as any other brick, couldn't really do much other than position itself directly  below the hull on the river bed. So there was a sort of underwater Mexican standoff. Eventually the boat was brought back into shore, followed by a golem unceremoniously splodging through the silt, at which point the other mage cast mud to stone in true mafia style and left a flailing construct stuck in concrete to watch the ebbing and flowing of the tides for all eternity. Perhaps we should have called this a 'plan' in retrospect but I'm still not clear on whether to award experience or take it away.
Either way, bathtime is now definitely over.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Plane Sailing

Yes, forgot about this one until everyone reminded me last week; the road to the negative plane is paved with good intentions they say. More to the point, it is one thing to have a good idea but it is quite another in having the skills or charisma to carry that idea out. Take for example our Tom Cruise/Mage character class player who, not being content for the party to adventure along a river bank with their horses like any other party decided it would be a much better idea if he teleported himself fifty miles back up river to fetch a boat whereupon the party could then presumably take their time, enjoy watching the scenery drift past, perhaps do a bit of fishing and quaff the occasional Riocha. Not really fully absorbing this the rest of the party shrugged their collective shoulders and off he popped.
Now mages are traditionally brought up within stone towers, bent double squirreling over ancient books and straining under dim candlelight for many years- exactly what boat handling and navigation skills they would acquire during this period I am unsure. In fact I would go as far as to say I was a little sceptical. So here is a GM's perspective on the events.
Mage teleports, makes his casting roll and doesn't end up inside a brick wall. Ok so far.
Standing in the docks at Osgiliath. he asks 'OK, so can I see a boat?'
Mmm ok player makes a perception roll and finds an old boat on stocks in a warehouse. GM rolls to see if the boat is seaworthy, smells of prawns or will instantly sink. Made a reasonable roll so it will float but the rigging is not set. However as the Mage is in fact a Mage, he has no idea about this.
'Cool! Teleport the boat into the water !'
OK, makes his teleport roll so the boat doesn't end up on the opposite bank and hey presto boards as its shiny new captain.
'Off we go then!'
Nick rolls his seamanship. This is where the issues begin - not a great roll, which is mostly irrelevant as having spent no time on anything even resembling a boat, the roll is versus a sheer folly modifier. In other words if he randomly plays with stuff is there a quantum chance it all starts working. No is the answer surprisingly.
So Nick makes another roll to see which side of the Osgiliath bridge he is on. Makes it annoyingly enough as we could have been looking at some sort of wonderful docking attempt with a stone bridge, however he is on the right side of the seaway as it happens. Off we drift. And drift is the correct word. Having failed all attempts at rigging, navigation and boat handling, the boat gently moves out into the river and rotates slowly as it meanders down river. A couple of days later he eventually floats past the point where he left everyone, but of course its the middle of the night and he hasn't the faintest idea where he is. The other mage in the party thinks he saw something on the river so wanders down to the bank and whispers "Is anybody there?". A quarter of a mile away, Captain Mage happily journeys onwards counting the stars. Getting towards dawn, the coastal relief start to look very unfamiliar at this point and so remarkably he gets the boat to the shore, secures it and walks his way back upriver to the party, all of whom now decide that its probably a good idea to keep using the horses.

What a delightful waste of time.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Disdyakis Triacontahedrons

From time to time I do review the tools of the trade, principally dice of course as there is, to be fair, quite a wide opportunity for creativity in the market and occasionally beautiful sculptures bordering on artwork.
Let me say now that the D120 is not one of these items. What in gods name needs a D120 ? The manufacturers are of course not stupid and are producing to demand but I cant think from my addled memory what mechanic involves 120 in any system I have come across. I do know I roll a ot of dice for things like fireballs, falling damage and scalar multipliers for when a Deathstar shoots a hobbit but nothing consistently in the D120 range. The sales pitch reads:
"The ultimate fair dice allowed by Mother Nature (i.e., mathematics)! The d120 is based on a polyhedron known as the disdyakis triacontahedron. Each face is an elongated triangle. These dice are perfectly numerically balanced, with the same sums for numbers around vertices of the same type. The dice are available in white, black, red, blue, and green.
 The d120 can be used as a dn, where n is any proper factor of 120, including all of the dice in a standard seven-dice polyset."

 Good luck to them I say.
I have also come across the occasional player with metal dice and given the passion I have for gaming I would consider splashing out on something a bit special. Beyond a certain weight of course other factors come into play as I wouldn't want to damage equally expensive roleplaying systems by rolling pointy steel over them. Also it has to be said that I am not getting any younger but there may come a day where I will struggle to lift something made from cast iron. Might be a case of getting nurse to roll for me. There is a kickstarter actually at
What is interesting about this, and their products do look great I think, is that they say that they use processes that date back 5000 years! I do know that Pythagoras must have been a role player in waiting circa 500BC as he was theory crafting his perfect platonic solids well in advance of the D4 as well as being heavily into mysticism, so unknowingly did much to lay the groundwork for the RPG systems of today. Shame he never played Age of Empires. However I am not sure what roleplaying options there were over 5000 years ago, other than to play additional caveman modules but perhaps the foresight of our ancestors caused them to create the dice ahead of their time without knowing what they were for; which came first, the D20 or the RPG ?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

What's your favourite Golem?

Always an easy filler for someone running a game; when an argument starts to get out of control with a particularly ardent player a GM can have the last word in may ways; my favourite rebuttal is always "Oh, you seem to hear heavy footsteps...". Actually its not often I have come across Golems but they are in post modern terms the 'tank' of an attacking or defending party. The principal idea is an entity made of a single material that is basically a huge hit point sink and often their size and mass leads to an overwhelming attack bonus also. This is all supposed to be balanced against a low or even mechanical level of intelligence and specific vulnerabilities inherent in their construction material. Additionally the basic or the literal commands they are given can cause them to exhibit odd and often amusing behaviour. They are great fun for some party bashing without having to think too much and often party members are in the mind-set of detailed planning and outwitting cunning opponents which can lead to misjudging events where brick shithouses are concerned.
In the last MERP, the party were rudely interrupted by a couple of stone golems attempting to retrieve an item stolen from their overwatch. By deftly jumping around a lot, out manoeuvring them, hitting them repetitively and a mage transmuting them using elemental spells, the party eventually returned them to the dust from whence they came. Touch and go for a bit as the Dwarf suffered a serious blow to his back.
Reminiscing on Golems of note I was originally enchanted as a child by the stop motion action of the 70s as pioneered by the late Ray Harryhausen. Despite the animations clear limitations his clever use of choreography did as comparable a job of immersing a viewer as the special effect itself. Great stuff. More recently, though arguably are the Angels from Dr Who which I have a fondness for and whilst I am worn very thin these days by the constant barrage of people in lycra hitting each other, The Thing could be considered as having a thick skin I think and also the rock monster from Galaxy Quest who just wants to be left alone.
As for best advice ?  Perhaps just stay very still and don't say anything..

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Roleplaying Community

GMing at a public facing club is a very different experience than the traditional home games I am historically used to. We are a very laid back organisation, if indeed I can call it an organisation, which is a good thing really as organisations tend to make opinions which lead to rules which lead to empires which lead to anger which lead to fear which lead to Sith Lords, which is no good unless you are running a Star Wars. I cant remember my point, but given that we can get variable membership as players come and go and also that we roughly try and finish multiple games at the same time for players to mix and get more choice, it does mean that GMs are faced with crowbarring certain things to happen at certain times.
At a home game things can ramble on in a much more natural and open world fashion and its not unusual for  a GM's game plot to be completely re-written on the fly. Clubwise I prefer something a little more linear which has its pros and cons but when players want to go in completely different directions, I cant always spend the time running subplots for them as attention can be split too much in shortish sessions. Like all wizened approaches, its a balance really and still great fun.

As a community people often tend to hook up at the club and, like spores from the mould, float off and start new colonies. Or perhaps the jukebox just winds them up too much, but either way there can be turn over of players within a particular adventure which is not always a bad thing as a characters can immediately be re-delivered with some history if a regular player drops out for any reason.
Interestingly there is a seasonal pattern when people and possibly larpers like to enjoy the good weather and warm evenings and we can often see a surge back again as the nights turn cold. We should run a sub text for our club media of Winter is Coming...

As for the last MERP, well there were a few crap rolls involved so best gloss over it really. As for the 13th Age, it continues to be a mystery out of the game to me as well as in but I shall press the relevant players to divulge bloggable embarassments for next week.

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


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'


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!