Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Never Trust an Old GM

So I have been away for a week an my own adventure that netted absolutely no gold or  experience points. I shall pause only to point out that I walked passed  a Warhammer shop in Helsinki. Specifically I didn't go in to see if it was actually war hammers they were selling as it was closed; the owner was absent presumably because his son had been captured by internet trolls.
So piecing the week's email evidence together it would seem that GM Bill has been having some fun with our 13th Age Party and life insurance may have to be cashed in. Quote:

"Life can be hard sometimes.
You're a big fierce Ankheg, you fear nothing.  You're enjoying a relaxing day, lurking in your burrow, when a whole row of meals arrive.  Juicy soft little creatures, no exoskeletons, you can just bite straight into them and eat to your heart's content.

That's how it was supposed to work.

But then somehow they turn out to have sharp bits, and weird explosions of fire and stuff, and before you know it you're losing legs left, right and centre and really not feeling king of the hill any more.

And then, to add insult to injury, the adventurers you barely scratched get themselves utterly mauled by a mere ochre jelly.

Given the options between fighting a rather ugly, giant insectoid or a yellow jelly, I can see how guards may have been let down here. I would suppose jelly is something you have to reward yourself with after a particularly trying day or something to indulge in at Christmas.
Just remember folks, wobbly, delicious deserts are no trifling matter and can have you for Christmas too !

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Never Trust an Old Lady

In my last update, I might have asserted that we won't be using updated rules in our game... it turned out to be a falsehood. This session started with us transferring dots onto our new sheets. Other than two skills being combined into one, skill distribution changes among the classes and me losing a concealed blade for ectoplasmic ammunition, there weren't many visible changes... but let us get back to the game!

After every successfully performed job, our merry band of sociopathic thieves likes to engage in our personal relaxing activities. For some they include culling the local prostitute population, for others it's visiting their succubus friend for the night... and out Lurk prefers to gamble his money away.

Sadly, he quickly found out that his regular gambling den banned him. As such, he started looking for a new one. In the process, he noticed an obvious member of the Lampblacks' gambling his money away in one of the city's fine establishments.

Surely enough, our gang was swiftly informed of this. Offended by the travesty of their further existence, we decided to eradicate them from the surface of the planet or, at the very least, from the city we're in.

Our plan was simplicity itself: walk in under the guise of gamblers, wait for our target to appear and follow him to the Lampblacks' current lair. Turns out they set up shop right next to their previous hideout... or whatever rubble remained thereof. We had to admit the idea was brilliant. Even the Bluecoats underestimated their sheer stupidity.

The following two days, we observed their operations while the Lurk snuck past their security and had a look around inside. It seemed they were trying to regain their foothold but morale was low. Other than locating their current treasury and having a look at their badly made propaganda posters, there wasn't much else to see.

Outside, however, we noticed an old lady in very expensive gard cordially walking inside. Our Lurk informed us that she had some private dealings with Bazo Bas but could not gather any more information on the subject.

Opting for a more direct approach to information gathering, we waited for a lone gang member going out to a gambling den again and spirited him away. It turned out that he knew me, claiming I killed him. I had to mention that didn't narrow down his identity so I chatted with him about his death's circumstances while the Whisper tried to gleam some information out of him. A moment later he informed us that this person was simply an empty husk being possessed by a spirit.

Putting a spirit into a body was no simple task and our new friend was highly reluctant to tell us who helping him into this body. A few threats and some supernatural compelling by our Whisper helped change his mind.

The old lady we saw earlier was Bazo Bas's cousin and a high-level necromancer for hire. Presumably, they had some sort of deal worked out between them where she was putting the spirits of deceased Lampblacks back into their bodies. After all this information was gained, the Whisper bottled up the ghost and we went on to planning an assassination.

We knew she would have leave the Lampblacks' base at some point and deal with some other contractual work but until that happened, we had to wait. Eventually, sometime close to dusk, she headed out to see her other clients. We followed in the shadows. The Whisper warned us that some sort of spirit was following us. It did try to fly off, probably to warn our quarry, but the Whisper forced it to stay put.

Her first client was someone living in a mansion. We knew we wouldn't have much time so we prepared a quick trap. As the old lady came out the mansion, through the gate and onto the street, our Lurk ran up to her in the guise of a random passer by. Being stationary, she was a much easier target for me so I shot her through the shoulder. She staggered back... and regained her balance. It was at that moment, when she completely ignored the pain of being shot, that we realised she too was a spirit possessing a dead body.

She reached for a vial hanging from her neck and shattered it on the pavement, releasing her guardian. Our Whisper mentally wrestled with the angry spirit, I kept shooting at it with ectoplasmic bullets and the Lurk beat and cut the lady-necromancer. When all was done, the Whiper, with great effort, captured the spirit and the Lurk delivered the final blow to our enemy's exposed neck.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Leader of the Pack

So what do you do with a pack of hungry kobolds ? This isn't a joke about light bulbs as far as I can tell but our boulder trap from last week has now resolved itself into kobold trap. To be fair we did see it coming, kobols are pack animals and aggressive and dextrous in force, their bravery being cumulative. This does however give them both the advantage of rally as well as the disadvantage of over dependence on following a particular individual or pack leader. We did sadly split up and tackled the kobold hoard from several sides which was a bad mistake really in retrospect as we should have gone for the command and control straight away and cut the head off the beast before it got out of control. As usual having sauntered along taking most of our encounters in our stride we are now starting to have our first near death experiences and we are turning to our small stock of magic coffee beans and whilst I find a mocha particularly invigorating in the morning its effects are somewhat underwhelming in survival situations.
So hopefully we have managed to converge on their captain in a not too late fashion and the next few dice rolls will be critical, or so I would hope.
It is far from clear though if there are any other strategies we could have adopted for pack warfare. Anything that would sow a seed of confusion from fire, smoke or noise I would imagine would have a more exaggerated effect as the individual would suddenly be aware of their own safety rather than simply following the mob. Initially we tried reasoning with them which was interesting as I am not sure if pressing the intellect of a kobold would ultimately confuse it or encourage it to quickly revert to stabbing things...perhaps a riddle or we were thinking of using shields with sort of Christmas cracker puzzles on them.
It has got me thinking as to the demarcation between a pack and a swarm and weather there is a significant difference in how both manifestations are approached. I think in a swarm as such there is in fact no pack leader, at lest not on the field. Or is a swarm just a very large pack? A distributed consciousness would indeed make for a formidable enemy and it may just be a a war of attrition to beat it down but then again without a leadership of some sort does a swarm exhibit any desires or intentions above simply instinct ? Either way a feeding instinct or global ambition, a swarm is at the very least going to sting a bit but resistance is not necessarily futile...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A Plot-Twist Appears!

We return to our regular schedule after a two week break.
How did we survive two weeks without roleplaying is anyone's guess.

Apparently, Blades in the Dark went through some rule changes in our absence but I don't think we'll start using them just yet.

Our last job left us in possession of a significant amount of drugs and as such, our first order of business was to figure out what to do with them. Brainstorming away, we decided to not only add flour to it but to sell them as fishcakes! Of course, with hardly any cooking skills of our own, we had to turn to the recruitment of new staff in order to make use of the recent market demand caused by the previous supplier going down under... literally. We managed to find a nice old lady with an extensive CV which included such things as drug distribution and brothel management, and cooking! She was hired on the spot.

Second order of business was to set up a distribution centre. We had some problems coming up with good ideas until we realised that the nearby Church of the Forgotten Gods is in dire need of new management. It does help that the building was very nice. Our Slide went to work giving out free samples and making the local congregation realise the current management wasn't good enough for their worship and that under our management, things would change for the better! We would even introduce scantily clad waitresses to serve fishcakes during sermons!

With the congregation looking forward to the upcoming change of management, all that was left to do was to make the change. We attended an evening service and while the Slide took care of the congregation outside the church, Mercer took the main priest to the side and explained the situation to him. Sadly, he didn't agree with our views and as such, we had to turn to Plan B.

Oddly enough, a candle just happened to fall rather loudly to the ground, giving Mercer the appropriate opportunity to stab the priest in the gut... and that's when we realised he was, in fast, a demon... hiding his massive horns underneath a cloak.

In the ensuing fight we once again had an opportunity to make use of the flashback mechanic present in the system when GM Jack asked me if the bullet I shot at the demon was silver. Remembering that the Lurk had a spare downtime asset roll hanging about, I asked him if he might have procured one in the morning. Turns out that yes, he did, and he even lend it to me because he didn't own a gun himself and I was clearly interested in the ballistics of a different type of ammunition being used... but then the dice decided that no, silver doesn't actually work against demons!

Resorting to bladed weapons, it took us a while to hack the demon into pieces. It was a very stressful fight, stressful enough that I was the first to obtain a point of Trauma... a few more and my character will suffer a mental breakdown, bringing him out of the game, it seems.

On the upside, turns out demon pieces are worth a lot of coins so at the end of the evening, we managed to extend our crew's territory, created a source of income and earned a significant amount of coin and prestige.

Not many crews can boast murdering a demon...

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Preacher Heal Thyself

Last week brought and opportunity to join the Blades in the Dark conspiracy. Whilst I had heard much of the system second hand it was a delight to get hands on experience. By delight I mean the opportunity to cut throats, racketeer and generally fight murderously over turf. Interestingly enough the turf we had decided was ours this particular week was holy ground..
Now there is quite a lineage of issues in the horror vernacular when it comes to co-opting blessed or cursed real estate and the imagination does not fail here. Indian burial grounds come to mind immediately, old lunatic asylums often have quite the vibe, disused and long abandoned schools carry the haunting songs of unhappy children and faceless nurses endlessly shuffle the corridors of condemned hospital ruins.  Worst of them all though, the de sanctified church. If you want a good night out, go to a de sanctified church.
So, with a roll of the eyes, lo and behold, our last mission was to take over a church opposite our scrapyard to expand our grisly little empire. The system is well balanced in that you gain more Heat  the larger your organisation gets but of course more Coin potentially and prestige. Remarkably enough it was a fairly straightforward matter of undermining the resident priest and convincing his motley congregation that they needed a much higher quality worshipping experience that included fishcakes and wine.
Having made our play, one of us kept the congregation talking outside while the rest of us went inside for some quick de frocking. Oddly enough on this occasion the land itself kept out of it to my relief but of course the twist in the plot was always there. As we leapt upon what we thought of as a beleaguered preacher he didn't so much as turn out to be possessed but in fact a Demon in possession of human disguise. Several Stress points and Traumas later it had succumbed to a general battering but we had really underestimated the situation. Nevertheless we now have a church to soak for donations and a little more territory to squabble over.
What next then ? I'm thinking a nice tea shop to go with the church where we can funnel A class drugs through cutthroat old ladies.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Boulders gate

Its beauty is its simplicity and its real danger lies in its inevitably. I would suggest that if we were actually playing D&D I would roll to save vs clichés. Like moths drawn to a flame, the sort of flame that is very heavy and will turn you into A4 when it rolls over you, we are currently facing the classic boulder trap.
Its somewhat complicated by the fact that we have spent an entire day climbing a cliff via a thoroughly non health and safety compliant trail and deftly sidestepping oncoming issues does mean a plummet of 200 feet into a small pool. So what are our options? Well this particular theme park ride is in fact staffed by kobolds so we have decided to try and negotiate our way past the security guards and talk to the management directly. I cant even remember what pretext we used, partly as it was late but partly because I don't understand kobold but it is not going to go well.
To be fair the boulder has the same problem we do to a degree as the path we are on does in fact have a couple of bends in it and as far as I know, large rocks don't steer particularly well and this option does appeal to my action hero character but we are in parle now I believe albeit briefly. Problem is that the little buggers have the high ground so the best we can do is keep them talking whilst we climb off the path, out of the boulder zone and onto the top of the cliff. Unfortunately no one has yet had a chance to count them as they are not wearing numbered uniforms so the odds are still being calculated. Still I am unsure as to whether triggering the trap and fighting uphill where numbers abreast are limited is a better outcome than fighting at full force against an unknown number of little assailants with our backs to a sheer drop. Any advice is welcome here.
It is worth mentioning that there is a waterfall coming out of the cliff which could in theory break a fall onto the pool below - depending on how deep it is. I guess we might find out...

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

I hope everyone enjoyed the weather over the recent bank holiday weekend and half-term. Now that said weather had turned slightly grim, I would like to point you to a Kickstarter project.

Although, it's been years since I first saw The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, I still fondly remember enjoying the film. It's about a group of roleplayers starting a new game with a player new to gaming. The action switches between the group at the table and the group within the fantasy world, one reality influencing the other.

I will be extremely happy having this as a Blu-Ray on my shelf and in case any of you would like to add it to your collection, be sure to back it as it seems it will be out as a limited edition to Kickstarter backers.

Click on the widger to the right or on the link within this post.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Undead relatives

Always embarrassing at Christmas or Birthdays is that long dead old uncle in the corner. A sort of rotting elephant in the room, conversation can be circumspect and frivolous but when its time to pull a cracker with someone and put on the paper hats, certain things just can be ignored.

Its often the case with relatives and loved ones that it is very hard to 'let go' particularly when they are still sort of groaning but its a question of whether or not its always best to face facts. Honesty being the best policy, the most caring thing to do would perhaps be to nudge them in the right direction when all they are doing is shuffling around and gnawing on things. Of course where a prearranged agreement can be made then so much the better; zombie apocalypses tend to bring like minded people together particularly where buddies and bites are concerned but in circumstances where fates are less communal then one can bravely but hopelessly struggle on in a more of a carer's role when in fact its long past time for a friendly staking.
Denial is the key hear I find and the quicker one can accept situations then the better really but once again in the metaphysical worlds of roleplaying the lines can blur a bit. Systems can often define point blank when souls definitively leave the body and also beyond what point resurrection or reincarnation can or cannot occur but to be fair, from a characters perspective the 'rules of the system' are not necessarily experienced or known. Perhaps a zombie is not just for Christmas.
In our last game for example we had to deal with a father and sons who went off into dangerous territory in search of their fortunes and yet returned to their mother somewhat malnourished and with glowing eyes. To be fair in this case it was also self defence as they were about to feast on us but I'm not convinced we necessarily did the right thing as I am not sure actually what their options were.
Still, my character wont lose much sleep over it as he just deals with the world as is - a sort of action figure, but there is perhaps too much shoulder shrugging in the post modern world of undead healthcare management. We might still be at the cultural point of medieval medicine but perhaps in time we can look forward to a renaissance of zombie care and positive undead outcomes.
Remember, just because you are rotting does not mean you are bad person.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Blow Things Up and Walk Away

Our third session saw our return to taking a job for the Red Sashes to further complicate Lampblacks' operation.

This time we were asked to plant a device in the Lampblacks' Headquarters. A device that we learned would attract a great many angry/deranged spirits to cause general mayhem. We had a lovely chat with the Red Sashes' leader but after reaching the point where no more information would be gained, our group went on to scount the area and come up with a plan.

It was decided that the best course of action would be to go in from below since otherwise, the building was well guarded. Fortunately, our Lurk was intimately familiar with the lay of the underground tunnels. Although our group was lacking the heavy-hitter Mercer, the three of us managed to take out the one lonely guard and break into one of their Headquarter's storage areas.

The device was set up and we had about half an hour to get out... but we simply couldn't pass up on the chance to get our hands on all of the Lampblacks' valuables. After all, it would be a shame to see them disappear under a pile of rubble.

While I and the Lurk maneuvered ourselves from prying eyes, the Whisper gave in to his need to figure out what made this artifact tick... and so, just before we started breaking into the Lampblacks' main office, the Whisper's ghost-friend startled us, only to inform us that everything was going fine.

Unbeknowst to us, the Whisper's tampering accelerated the time on the device and the ghost was sent to warn us... unsuccessfully.

Suffice to say that what followed was a short scruffle with the Lampblacks' leader, as our attempts to sneak in and quietly assassinate him didn't work out... defenestration was involved.

Before the rest of his gang had a chance to join the fray, the building suffered a sudden and unexpected assault by angry spirits. Pieces of the roof began to collapse, the ground shook and we used the chaos to slip away the same way we entered.

We met up with the Whisper outside, atop a nearby structure with a beautiful view of the ensuing carnage. It was truly a wonderful sight to behold.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

What to do in a pinch

Recently in the 13Age we have found ourselves portalled out of Egypt as you do and into a neighbouring land called Punt. Not so bad as we do in fact have a Puntarian / Punter / Puntish ? trader within the party who has thankfully pointed us in the right direction out of the desert. And going in the right direction in a desert is an extremely important point. Nevertheless on the way to what we were assured was an oasis we had one of 'those' encounters (possibly random - we are not sure yet). I think in desert or rocky environments one should really keep a lookout under small rocks for snakes, spiders and the like as we did come across an issue with a giant scorpion along with a possey of half mummified and somewhat stop motion skeletons.

Now I have dutifully checked on the best advice on scorpion handling from The Scorpion Picture Guide which has recommendations on correct handling but I would hesitate to use the word useful here as it begins..
"Handling your scorpion is not recommended". It goes on "There is the possibility of being stung or grabbed by the scorpions pincers"..
How true.
With this in mind my character did decide to leap onto its back, with the half arsed idea of being too far under the tail for it to be effective. Despite never having had an archaeologist mounting it, I got the impression that actually scorpions have already survived millions of years by being quite adept at fending off both predators as well as dealing with prey. I can happily say I was briefly both on this occasion as with a nimble preening swipe I was precisely pincered for a following sting in the tail, and I don't mean a plot twist. Remarkably I passed my poison resistance to halt oncoming paralysis and unconsciousness but what would the correct course of action be here ?
I did look for inspiration in a couple of Ray Mears extreme survival videos but sadly they appear not to be extreme enough for our dilemma. Perhaps I will drop him a line..

Thursday, 14 May 2015

In and Out

Last week saw our band of thieves pull off a successful job, as such we went on to advance our characters. Interestingly enough Blades in the Dark does not use a standard experience system that most gamers are used to. Instead, each group of skills gains an advancement bar, which, when full, allows the player to gain a point in one of the relevant skills. These bars are gained by either using your skills during the game of spending downtime training them.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the final stage of the session: DOWNTIME... which we addressed at the start of this one.

Downtime represents time our characters go through between jobs. We relax, reducing our stress levels, and make progress on our personal projects. Although there are other options, like reducing our gang's Heat rating, we all went with personal projects. My character was busy creating a false persona to infiltrate the Bluecoats, which as I understand is a gang that acts as the local police force, while the Lurk worked on getting into their treasury. The Whisper decided to research the existence of angels, which involved casual pillow talk with a succubus. Mercer, the Cutter, started to look for an appropriate site for a temple (to the Forgotten Gods).

After the downtime, it was time for actual play. Which in our case means: breaking, entering and thieving. This time we weren't offered a job by one of the more well-renowned gangs in the area. Instead, our Whisper was approached by a contact with a favour. Mainly, to break into a competitors warehouse and disable some security measures thus giving him an economic advantage in the current marketplace... or some such... thieving was involved, other details seemed less important!

Our initial reconnaissance showed minimal security. A few guards patrolling the outside area in a predictable pattern and one inside an office. Fortunately, the Lurk managed to locate an appropriate entry point on the roof so it all seemed like an easy job.

We got in without too much of an issue (that hole was a bit tight though). The first obstacle we faced came in the form of three guards. Whilst we were setting up an ambush, me character and Mercer had an argument over the appropriate measures of murdering people, with my character explaining to Mercer he can't possibly perform a stealth kill.

Surely enough, after all was said and done, Mercer, alongside half the group, liked to remind my character that he killed two guards with a single swing of his axe while I was still struggling to stab one guard. My annoyance with the situation resulted in an inappropriate amount of dead body stabbing.

After this short scuffle, we nearly got caught unaware by an electroplasmic fence acting as a further security measure. The Whisper disabled it and we moved on to the safe.

The final obstacle was the aforementioned office guard. I had to suffer a constant string of comments directed at my murder skills. Naturally, I was annoyed enough that I needed to prove my worth. I took out a pistol, aimed through the window and, despite wounds suffered earlier, I shot the guard through the skull, the bullet ricocheted, revealing the safe, and went through the guard's heart... for good measure.

The Lur opened the safe, we took as much as we could carry and went off... all in all, a very simple job resulting in a boost to our income.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Pencil is Mightier than the Sword

Krzy has written recently on the peculiar dice stacking habits of Roleplayers. Whilst there has been the occasional article on the natural and supernatural properties of small, pretty, many faceted pieces of plastic its interesting to read the psychological, or should I say occasionally psychopathic, effects of dice management. Nevertheless my aim in this Pulitzer contender is to bring to light that most unconsidered but most essential tool of the trade, namely, the mighty pencil.
For as long as I can remember we have been inundated with the traditional yellow and black striped stalwart Staedler, that I am sure you will all recognise. To give its formal latin classification it is in point and fact a 'Noris Club 118'. Staedtler remains a shining example of what makes up the backbone of the German economic machine, namely a small company gaining global dominance specialising in a narrow range of products. As it happens, the oldest known pencil was retrieved as part of  a carpenters working tools in the 17th Centuary also in Germany so pencillation remains a Tutonic tradition. But for my part and I'd be interested in anyone else's experience, whenever I pull a random fist full of pencils out of my bag, it always seems to have one of these pencils in it.
I am now wondering if indeed there isn't something more ethereal at work; whether Staedlter have done a deal with the underworld, such that, on any given upending of a pencil container, a Staedlter will always manifest the random pictures below, including an accidental snap at work, I can see a hitherto subtle phenomena at work...

My keyboard at work...

GM Bill in his usual animated style and Crish momentarily flummoxed


Warren plotting his next move

What is going on here ? or do these entities just follow roleplayers around.?
Perhaps its time to turn over a new leaf and not be lead astray, to erase our misgivings and draw a line under protracted habits and come out of the shade, lay down a new rule, sharpen up and retract traditions. Honestly, I do birthdays and weddings if anyone is interested.
Its the future soon so perhaps we should be looking at a retractable line along the precision engineering fronts maybe..

Thursday, 7 May 2015

So... who are we betraying, exactly?

In an unexpected turn of events, last session saw our group of thieves in the middle of negotiations with the boss-leader of the Lampblacks.

Wait what? was our general reaction.

We were just offered a job of stealing the treasury of the Red Sashes, another gang vying for control over the area known as Crow's Foot. According to the scenario notes', those two gangs are in open warfare and we're in the middle.

Just when player voices started to be raising over how did any of us got into that situation, GM Jack did the unexpected by announcing a flashback scene where the leader of the Red Sashes offered us the job of stealing the Lampblacks' treasury.

Our band of thieves, going by the name of Junkyard Dawgs, now had to pick sides... and since we had better connections with the Red Sashes who follow a ruthless art collector with an obvious penchant for sharp and pointy things, it was more advantageous for us to go with the latter offer.

Our reasons established, we had to come up with a plan. We opted to split into two groups: one attempting to create a distraction and the other intent on breaking in unseen. A combination of roleplaying and dice rolling occured. The Lampblack's boss, Bazso Baz, started to suspect his old friend of some kind of treachery, Mercer (who came into the meeting prepared for war) was having arguments with the other gang members and our Whisper brought a ghost-in-a-bottle, all too happy to possess some unsuspecting individuals. All while our Hound (me!) and Lurk broke in, avoided a death trap, killed some guards and stole as much as we could carry... to the window, we had a getaway vehicle ready.

I got to insta-kill twice!
I love this game!
I expect to die next session ._.

As this is a yet unreleased Kickstarter game, allow me to say a few words about the system.

It is true what GM Jack said about the system. It alleviates the need to roll dice for the GM.
When approached by a situation that conflicts with a player's intentions, we're all too used to have the GM roll against a player's roll, not so much here. Instead, the GM creates a circular progress bar that is slowly being filled up in accordance to die results. The player rolls a number of dice equal to his stat... and then the GM offers another die for the meager price of defining what bad thing will happen in return. The dice are rolled, you take the highest result from among them and it defines how much progress has been made in the given task.

Does this mean that getting anything done is a simple matter of enough dice rolls?
Of course not!

The game has a system for Stress that works more-or-less like Hit Points...
but I'll get to that in the next post...

Rolling Dice

Just as we were sitting down to enjoy a fine evening of roleplaying, the subject of dice came up. Stories of raiding dice sets in order to acquire the necessary and appropriate amount of dice for that night's game ran rampant... before I had a chance to contribute to the conversatio, the game started...

So I decided I'll put my 2d6 up here instead!

This is how you play Exalted.
In our wonderful hobby of creating interactive stories, it is often customary for us to turn to the fickleness of the Dice Gods to resolve our disputes.

Although among the great variety of games that we were blessed with, there exist diceless games and games using cards in lieu of dice, it is hard to find a roleplayer without dice.

I suppose it's a combination of a wide variety of dice and sheer availability. Whenever I went to DragonMeet in London, I either bought some pretty dice or had dice thrown at me. I especially remember that day when I and my friends were about to leave only to be stopped by a woman asking us to take as many dice as we could carry... fortunately, I had a whole lot of pockets that day.

When I say variety, I don't simply mean a range of colours and sides. Nowadays we have themed dice, with special symbols etched into the sides. There are tiny dice that will fit inside a lighter and bigger ones... metal dice are especially dangerous. I think dice rings are an awesome idea and I am going to need one in my life. It would supplement my dice earrings nicely.

At the table, it was clear to me that we, as gamers, all have our own little quirks when it comes to dice. My main one is that I strongly believe that dice is a plural word and I shan't use it in as singular (it is the One True Way). Another is that I try to build up my dice bag to allow me to play a range of games without the need to look through my collection before each game. That's why I've got so many d10s (Exalted) and one of my d6s is of a different colour (In Nomine).

Exhibit A: Chaos
Exhibit B: Order
The brief discussion we had at the table made me realise that others treat their dice differently. Some even go to such lengths as to melt a die that rolled poorly in front of other dice, in order to prevent them doing the same. I even disagreed with Jules on the probability of dice rolling after I rolled a few for no reason whatsover and managed to get a couple 6's.

A simple bystander just needs to have a look around the table to see how different we are in our treatment of dice. I had mine in front of me in a chaotic mess, ready to be rolled, while some organised them in an orderly line with each side showing the same number. Others still will use them as protection against the wrath of the Dice Gods and their eternal need to see our characters fail despite many accumulated bonuses.

Exhibit C: Wall
I wish I had something witty to say at the end of this piece... but I don't...

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Blight and Shadow ~ Tales from Tuesdays

For those who do not know we have a Tuesday game of D&D5e running from GM Jo. Due to its eternal popularity D&D often forms the backbone of an RPG club and is never far from the table or home session. At the moment the Tuesday game 'Blight and Shadow' has a space in it for any adventurer keen to take up arms.
Latest Game report from the GM:
5e is going strong, two deaths narrowly avoided so far,

First the ranger decided to camp away from everyone else, and as a consequence got rudely awoken by green Dragon  wyrmlings emerging one by one from the earth. Deciding to fight the first one, he found it a tough proposition, and when the second one joined in, he went down and was about to be swarmed under until a dire wolf charged into the melee, seized him and hauled him along the ground then onto its back and ran. The dire wolf turned out to be a wandering druid in wild shape.
Second time, the party took a short cut into the Shadow Plane because they'd decided to rob the law after a bunch of pixies played havoc upon a passing patrol of Purple Dragons. They found themselves in the Shadow version of the Tomb of Chonus and avoided various deadly traps before accidentally dropping a rope bridge on a behir at the bottom of a ravine. Said beast starts climbing out of the ravine, the party warlock casts an illusion of himself running away into a dead end into which the party trapped it. If the beast hadn't failed its saving throw, it could have been a TPK.
They would have been perfectly fine if they'd listened to their guide, not looted the law, and not tried to get a donkey over the bridge...
In other realms our 13Age game has progressed in the sense that we have pursued a highly successful assassination plot upon the Pharaoh of Egypt back through a Babylonian ambassador to what appears to be a group of Demons. We are in the midst of kicking the shit out of them, and I am speaking literally here as they more than resemble  the excramental Golgotha from Dogma. Whatever the reward we are after it better be worth it...

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Ragtag Band of Sociopathic Thieves

Contrary to popular belief, Dungeons and Dragons (along with its derivatives) is not the only game being played at our fine establishment. For those who are tired of sword swinging and magic casting, there are alternatives.

Although my proposal for a Don't Rest Your Head game didn't gain any traction, I'm quite happy to not be the only one who backed Blades in The Dark on Kickstarter.

Last week saw our character creation session. As the game is still unpublished, the available pdfs provide only the barest essentials to play the game... but with most of the setting being up to us means we, as a group, can create the game's environment to suit our needs without any silly game-constraints.

At present, our five characters cover the five available character types. While GM Jack did mention our characters ended up being more sociophatic than he expected, I believe the general consensus was that it fit with a grim world where the Gates of Death were destroyed so ghosts of the recently deceased run rampant... unless you quickly burn the body.

I'd say that the part I found quite interesting about this system is that we also got to create a 'character' sheet for our up and running band of thieves. We've each contributed to creating our gang, either by talking things through, giving suggestions or simply putting dots on the sheet.

And so, not only does our crew consist of a disgraced nobleman and a former academic now following the teachings of the Church of the Flesh but we have our own subordinates and various relations with other gangs in the area. All this while operating from a derelict rail station turned junkyard... it's in bad enough shape that the heaps of garbage create a byzantine maze for those not familiar with it. Which is exactly the way we like it, as it allows us to hide loot more easily.

Surprisingly enough, it's actually a fairly decent place to live in...
maybe that explains why nobody looks for illegal activities there...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Belmont Revolutions

 The Achtung Cthulu has now ended as all Cthulu must. An end of game report from GM Jon:
"The team's mission ended with a trip into the Egyptian under world to face Apophis and recover the second part of the Atlantean artefact.

Unfortunately, the first attempt ended with everyone being eaten by a giant worm/slug/serpent thing... which was ok (sort of) because it was all just a dream (although it did have detrimental effects on their collective sanity).

That meant trying again the following night, this time prepared with a certain level of planning. Effective tactics eventually one the day, and somehow they woke up with a large chunk of crystal and orichalcum.

This ended that part of the adventure and the focus will switch to a different team in a different part of the world sometime this summer. The existing investigators will be retired to a nice farm in the Home Counties where they can while away the winter staring vacantly into space, flinching whenever an earthworm wriggles into view..."

Which means that we now ceremoniously hand over to GM Jack who has created a Blades in the Dark scenario. I have asked after it but in fact I have not heard anything back but this may well be by design. As far as I know the John Harper Kickstarter requires the players to create their own underground, criminal, Mafia style organisation. Players then carve out their roles, ensuring the indispensable skillset of course, and ready themselves to fight, thrive and survive in a haunted city full of other competing gangs.
I'm not aware of anyone at the club having played it before but as the game gets underway I will try and get one of the players to do a long as I don't start waking up to any severed heads, equine or otherwise.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Belmont Reloaded

New games folks. We have had our second teaser for GM Bill's 13th Age and the Great Fall. A 13th Age overlay based on an alternative fantasy history of the Great Bronze Age Collapse. Below is the creation mythology and icon background behind the overlay for those interested in playing.

Before: Formless chaos.
Creation: The gods create themselves, divide living from non living matter, define the elements, shape the world, populate it and give all things their purpose.
1st Age: Gnomes of Sumer develop magic, which spreads quickly to other lands.  Human culture advances while gnolls decline into savagery.  Osiris of the Nile valley becomes the first Emperor, his sister Isis is the first Archmage.
Dark Age: Osiris is murdered by his brother, the Orc Lord Set, leading to civil war and anarchy.  Osiris expels demons from the nearest regions of the underworld and rules there as the Dead King.
2nd Age: Dwarves perfect the art of bronze working and elves develop funerary rites to ensure a safe passage to the afterlife.  Imhotep, the first Master Dwarf, designs pyramids enabling Emperors to control traffic between the lands of the living and the dead.
Dark Age: The Fool, supreme wit of the age, tricks the Empress out of her throne, but his rule is a disaster.  A series of audacious thefts culminate in the loss of the crown itself.  Courtiers plot and generals revolt against the Fool-Emperor, leading to bitter strife and the Empire disintegrates.
3rd Age: The Tyrant Sargon allies with Zahhak the Red dragon and becomes the first Dragon Emperor.  A succession of Tyrants rule a large empire from Akkad, but are unable to conquer Egypt, partly thanks to the protection of the Great Sphinx.
Dark Age: Losing patience with the latest weak Tyrant, Zahhak embarks on a rampage, burning a village every day until he can find no more settlements.  Humans everywhere flee their homes.
4th Age: The Great Sphinx and Ammit the Green make war on the Red, who is defeated and imprisoned beneath the island of Thera.  Ammit is slain in the battle and Osiris grants her the privilege of devouring the hearts of the wicked dead.  She dines well, but her diet of sin gradually poisons the breath of all green dragons.
Dark Age: The Archmage experiments with combining mortal flesh with beasts and primal creatures to create an army of monsters.  He attacks city after city in his quest for power until he is slain by his own creations, who disperse to wreak even worse havoc and destruction.
5th Age: Engineers build strategic forts and roads to hold off the monsters and fight back.  Dwarves become the most powerful group in society and Dwarf Kings rule many lands under the direction of their Emperor.
Dark Age: The dwarves grow ever more greedy, plundering the natural world.  The High Druid summons storms and beasts to fight back.  The Elf Queen seizes her chance to rally the common people against their unpopular rulers and the Empire collapses.
6th Age: The Elf King Minos establishes a maritime empire centred on Crete and gathers the most gifted young men and women to his court.  Minoans trade peacefully with other lands, spreading culture and prosperity.
Dark Age: after centuries stoking his revenge, Zahhak the Red bursts his prison, destroying the entire island and showering the inland sea with molten rock.  Apep the Black attacks the sun and blots out its life-giving light.  The Minoans are destroyed and famine grips every other country.
7th Age: The strongest dragons assert themselves as overlords to their weaker kin, who in turn use lizardmen and kobolds to rule over humans and other races.  The Red and the Black reign as co-Tyrants.  Other chromatic dragons scheme for power at the expense of their metallic brethren.
Dark Age: The Witch Queen assassinates many powerful dragons including Kur the Blue and Python the Black.  Most of the others withdraw into hiding.  But the demons who empower her spells drive her insane before spreading madness across the world.
8th Age: The Great Paladin and the Great Gold Sphinx fight back against the demons, aided by The Inquisitor who roots them from their hiding places.  Many dragons recognise The Great Paladin as Dragon Emperor.
Dark Age: Goblins and bugbears raid the fringes of the weakening Empire, aided by descendants of the aberrations that ended the 4th Age.  Hobgoblin kings claim the title of Tyrant and lead their legions on campaigns seeking to exterminate humankind.  People retreat into fortified cities and the Dead King reluctantly sanctions the animation of skeletal and zombie soldiers for self-defence.
9th Age: The Archmage designs the first practical golems, an improvement on undead troops.  Dragons and sphinxes support human armies.  Human and hobgoblin leaders vie for the title of Tyrant until the Dragon Emperor slays the Goblin King along with every other goblinoid he can find.  The surviving goblins retreat beyond the Empire.
Dark Age: The Archmage and Master Thief attempt to rob goblins of the power of speech.  The ritual backfires, and language is instead split between races, each retaining a small fraction of their original vocabulary.  The Archmage's golems misunderstand his commands and tear down his tower in Babylon.  Later historians speculate this was exactly what the Thief intended.
10th Age: The Fool invents new words and Elves spread them through poetry and song.  Priests of Mesopotamia lead the people to greater piety.  Blessed by the gods, many kingdoms flourish.  No great Emperor arises to unite them, but the Elf King is recognised as the standard bearer for culture and civilisation.
Dark Age: Ravaging bands of monsters grow in strength: orcs, giants, and the remaining goblins.  Striking from the wilderness, they make inroads everywhere and conquer numerous cities.  Some establish themselves in Lower Egypt as the Hyksos.  Wadjet claims the title of the Green and enters the underworld, but Ammit defeats her and eats her heart.
11th Age: The pharaoh defeats and isolates the Hyksos, who submit to his authority after purging their ranks of evil driders and medusae.  His dragons and chariots respond quickly to monstrous incursions, bringing relief to all human lands, earning him pre-eminence and the title of Dragon Emperor.
Dark Age: The Four greatest chromatic dragons (excluding Ammit) form an alliance, The Thalatth, and defeat the Emperor's metallic dragons.  Some rulers try to fight the Four and others to pay them off, with little success.  The Red tyrannises Persia, while the Blue, considered the brains of the group, rules Egypt.  People flee the cities to escape the rapacious monsters.
12th Age: The Elf Queen seduces Ladon the White, splitting the Four.  Human kings reassert their authority.  The Archmage lays down magic wards to detect, repel and weaken the remaining Three and other powerful monsters when they venture into human lands.
Dark Age: The Diabolist fractures the barriers between worlds.  Osiris and his loyal dead attempt to guard the breaches, but many demons manage to enter the mortal realm.  The more subtle devils corrupt officials and incite rebellion, then powerful Lords of Hell invade in force.
13th Age: The Great Sphinx takes up a strategic position before the gateway of the worlds at Giza.  The Alchemist turns the great Sphinx's body to living gold as a stable and incorruptible base for his spiritual fight against the demons.  A New Kingdom rises in Egypt, while the Assyrian crusader dynasty wars against the remaining demon-influenced states.  When in doubt, the Crusader kills them all and lets the gods sort them out.
Now: The Orc Lord sweeps across Greece and murders the Pirate King.  Using his new fleet he invades Asia with armies of Orcs and giants.  Osiris claims his right to rule the living, and dead rise from their graves as his agents.  The Diabolist tempts the desperate with offers too good to be true.  Both the Orc Lord and the Three court the support of the Shaman.  And a mere child inherits the title of Dragon Emperor - life, prosperity and health to him!
In other mists we are considering Blades in the Dark or Strike for the next game following the close of GM Johnathan's Achtung Cthulu. More on this next post.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Great Fall

What do Achaemenid, Afsharid, Akkadian, Aksumite, Almohad, Almoravid, Angevin, Armenian, Ashanti, Austrian, Austro-Hungarian, Aztec, Babylonian, Baekje, Balhae, Belgian Colonial, Benin, Bornu,  of Brazil, Britannic, British, British Raj, Bruneian, First Bulgarian, Second Bulgarian, Buyid, Byzantine, Córdoba, Carthaginian, Chagatai Khanate, Chalukya, Chera, Chola, Danish colonial, Delhi Sultanate, Durrani, Dutch, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Fatimid, Second French, French colonial, Frankish, Gallic, German, Ghana, Ghaznavid, Ghurid, Goguryeo, Goryeo, Gorkha, Göktürk Khaganate, Golden Horde, Greater German Reich, Great Moravian, Great Seljuq, Gupta, Han, Hephthalite, Hittite, Holy Roman, Hotaki, Hoysala, Hunnic, Ilkhanate, Imperial State of Iran, Inca, Italian Colonial, Jin, Kanem, Kara-Khanid Khanate, Khazar Khaganate, Khmer, Khilji, Khwarezmid, Korean, Kushan, Kushite, Latin, Liao, Lodi, Macedonian, Majapahit, Mali, Mamluk, Manchukuo, Maratha, Mauryan, Median, First Mexican, Second Mexican, Micronesian, Ming, Mongol, Mughal, Nanda, Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Nguyễn, Northern Yuan, Omani, Ottoman, Oyo, Pala, Palmyrene, Pandyan, Parthian, Pontic, Portuguese, Ptolemaic, Qin, Qing, Rashidun, Rashtrakuta, Roman, Rouran Khaganate, Romanov, Safavid, Saffarid, Sassanid, Satavahana, Samanid, Scandinavian, Seleucid, Serbian, Shu, Silla, Siam, Sikh, Song, Songhai, Spanish, Srivijaya, Sui, Sunga, Swedish, Tahirid, Tang, Tay Son, Tibetan, Timurid, Tlemcen, Toltec, Tu'i Tonga, Turgesh Khaganate, Umayyad Caliphate, Uyunid, Uyghur Khaganate, Vijayanagara, Wari, Wei, Western Chalukya, Western Roman, Eastern Wu, Western Xia, Xin, Yuan, Zand  and Zulu all have in common ?

They are all Fallen Empires. Shortly GM Bill will be starting his alternative or, who knows, perhaps just lost history of the great Bronze Aga Collapse. Underpinned by the very popular 13th Age system the game charts the fall and descent of circa 1200BC civilisations into darkness.
In his own words:

A 13th Age campaign set in the Middle East circa 1200BC.  As you may recall (if you're old enough) this is the point when Egypt and Assyria started sliding into terminal decline - and every other civilisation in the known world was wiped from the map.  The result was the deepest dark age in history.

But hey, this is fantasy, not history.  The survivors won't have to spend eight gruelling centuries struggling to re-establish peace, roads, literacy and law and order.  The Orc Lord doesn't leave survivors.  And at least those who fall prey to orc brutality are lucky enough to avoid the ancient and refined cruelties of the Three.  Instead they can look forward to serving the Dead King as undead slaves in his war against the living.  Oh, and did I mention the demons?  The Diabolist has managed to bring them back, somehow.

So it's a good thing our defences are in capable hands:
- The Pharaoh of Egypt (life, prosperity and health to him) is Emperor over all human realms, holding everything together and organising the fight back.  He's 16.
- The Archmage is his trusted vizier, serving his master with great wisdom and learning, whenever he takes a break from his unnatural experiments.
- The Master Dwarf is the finest craftsman of Greece - and perhaps the only one, now the Orc Lord has slaughtered every human there.
- The Elf Queen of Sheba is beautiful and deadly and has no inclination to join the losing side.
- The Crusader of Assyria is fierce and ruthless, kind of like the Orc Lord except not an Orc.  So it's a good thing he's here, right?
- The Priestess of Babylon is a very nice person.  Just what we need.
- The Great Sphinx is a stalwart bastion against demonkind.  He hasn't moved since he was turned to gold hundreds of years ago.
- The Prince of Shadows is never seen, but when really important things go missing you can bet he was there.
- The Shaman of Africa is happy for demons and undead to ravage civilised lands and leave the wilderness alone.
- Then there are the PCs.

Looking forward to that one....


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Which spaceship should you fly?

For those who recall partaking of their entertainments from wax cylinders or the very radio waves themselves you may recall a periodical by the name of the Radio Times. It is heartening to realise that in fact the tome has survived into the digital era and sports a rather delightful quiz regarding ones preferred method of space transportation.


I bring this subject up as the usual Dogs of the Vineyard game is on pause for a while which does raise the question of what to play in the interim. By way of whetting the appetite someone may volunteer a space game of course but for many of those that I have played, Star Wars, Spacemaster, Traveller, Gamma World, Jorune and god forbid Paranoia, to name but a few, equipment selection with regard to spaceships is a common dilemma.

A TARDIS certainly appeals as the most fascinating ship but personally I would definitely need something more reliable. The vagaries of time travel and the consequences of accidentally not wiping the dinosaurs out would concern me.


I'd find the Millennium Falcon a handy runabout for the local star cluster but it's hot property and disputed ownership would be a potential issue in a poker game. Conversely running a Constellation class ship would entail an awful lot of red tape and just too many people moaning about this that and the other. I am drawn to the Heart of Gold as a surreal yet highly efficient motoring experience; not exactly an enjoyable ride but if you appreciate a good Salvador Dali then its an opportunity to drift through one of his pictures.

No, I am an explorer in heart in an already well charted world so for me it would be have to be the Discovery One. A small crew to socialise with, a quiet little runner, very clean and only a marginally glitchy computer to play chess.

It would be ok tho as my name isn't Dave.