Wednesday, 16 October 2019

High Roller

Not sure why this question hasn't come up before now but in all the years I have been throwing dice I have never thought about the largest number I have ever rolled. There is a certain meta issue here as a big part of the suspense in gaming is that moment which hinges on a critically important result. It's the gambling fix that grabs the whole table's attention at either a plot point or an event that could permanently alter a character arc.

Whilst its fun of course it is in essence an appeal to fate; we all spend so much of our lives creating order out of chaos its just nice to have a break and let the God's take over for a bit. Indeed, I have come to understand that a large part of the high roller's presence at the gambling table is that besides often a huge ego, the little gambling tokens on a casino game board are the only things in their lives they don't have complete and utter control of. Whilst it would be interesting to invite a multi billionaire to a role playing game my main question is one of mechanics.

A few systems of late have what we term as an 'exploding' quality, such as the Walking Dead Thing - if you roll a 6 then you roll again and add it your score. Whilst this process continues, it does get to a point where an overwhelming success cant get any better. I prefer the MERP and Rolemaster percentile systems where if you roll 96 or above you roll again and add it to the result which is a necessary target for harming super large creatures such as Dragons or Balrogs. Tangentially there are the damage rolls and to be fair, in high level games I have rolled hand fulls of D10s and come to think of it, letting off explosives must be a fist full of fun. I haven't let anything off as large as a nuclear weapon or starship reactor but I know those who have so perhaps I should be talking to them.

Either way, spare a thought for the poor bloke who rolled a natural 756,000 on the state highway which I think must be a very special sort of fumble..

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Ice and Dice

I am dimly considering starting a D&D shortly and seeing who I can suck off the internet. Whilst that sounds incredibly inappropriate it did sort of work last time and whilst a couple of the players went on to pastures new, most of them stayed to enjoy the pizza, sarcasm and other RPG systems - it's often the case that a D&D newbie will settle in for the long haul once they break the ice and dice for the first time. At present the existing 3 games are running strong but when we are a couple of players over I am aware that some of us are left in the bar chatting over a few pints for a couple of hours and whilst I'm very  happy to do so we should be playing really.

Of course existing GMs are always welcoming by way of offering to squeeze people in but I have the opinion it leans against them as whilst its possible logistically to run with several players, their experience does not translate well from their perspective as they can just be left for too long before being able to act, effectively disengaging them. To be fair a group of experienced role players will wait their turn but our sessions are short and the bar is quite tempting.

So regarding an extra game it plays well as the students are back at uni and if its a D&D it will get traction and I don't have to sit downstairs clawing at peoples faces for want of something to do. All I need now is some inspiration, a cunning plot and the tough love to kill of argumentative players.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

What have we done ?

When does history become lore and lore become legend ? It was a few months ago we celebrated out 10th anniversary as a blog but of course the club has been going longer than that before nesting at the Railway Club. Our legacy is growing though in terms of the systems we have played and I know that the Discord server users are leaving the chat groups in place now as the games come and go. This will start to preserve our culture in one digital format and the Blog tends to hold details of rotations as well.

Indeed its a common question when we get new roleplayers in and also when I go down to the Craft Beer company - "So what have you played". The half drunk response is always D&D but as the passionate people stay on then we begin to appreciate the diversity of our pastime so in this vein here is a list of what we have played at the bar...I think:

Star Wars, Cthulu, Warhammer Fantasy, Song of Ice and Fire, RuneQuest, 13th Age, D&D, Achtung! Cthulu, Dogs in the Vineyard, Blades in the Dark, Eclipse Phase, Feng Shui, Changing Breeds, MERP, Strike, Numenera, Earthdawn, Chill, Star Trek, Shadowrun, Phoenix Dawn Command, Exalted, Part Time Gods, The Strange, Stars Without Number, Sentinels, Mutant Zero, Warhammer Heresy,  Torg, The Walking Dead Thing, Nameless Land.

Bar the fact I have probably missed something - that is a lot of mucking around. Either way I sense we have hardly scratched the surface of some people's collections...

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Art and Spiders

Sometimes universes are just too screwed up. Sure, virtual reality systems will tend to bend the sense but that's sort of a given when you put on the headset. Last Saturday we got in another of GM Warren's TORG sessions which was really the start of the main campaign as the precursor sessions were just an introduction really and covered the events of the Great Invasion in the "near now". The characters have bedded in somewhat although we did have the option to select a new one - Jack went for this but the danger of having a new character around that its tempting to Martyr it off. I say this specifically as there is a Torg Martyr destiny card that allows the successful outcome of an action at the expense of the death of your character. Indeed GM Warren had brought about 20 or so pregens along so I think I see where this is going.

For reasons the party found themselves in Copenhagen - still relatively untouched as a still preserved core environment but we were investigating a raid on an art gallery buy a party of Vikings who subsequently captures some of the guests and drove off in a white van. Having pursued the clues we eventually ended up rescuing a few of them from an underground cavern which was experiencing a mass invasion of spiders. We managed to get out alive but it doesn't sound good.

With universes and dimensions colliding and alien civilizations mixing with humans it's a volatile environment for sure but the issue with such systems is that they do need a very carefully thought out structure otherwise players will have no feeling of control or interaction. As I have said before I am unsure of whether TORG is just too random as without some reasonable expectations then the characters are just adrift in a sea of crazy events. This is where established narratives are helpful and TORG is an old system to be fair but for me the jury is still out as I am struggling to cope with a Viking raid, missing art dealers and giant spiders. Perhaps we are still playing Feng Shui and I haven't noticed yet..

Monday, 16 September 2019


Last week as GM Dave was away we decided to take a break from Arctic Zombie attacks and play a Feng Shui one shot set in the Arctic where zombies were attacking us. A break is as good as a rest they say and  in this respect we have coined the phrase Non Player Zombie or NPZ given the number of undead we seem to be dealing with at the moment in various games. Feng Shui is designed to be instantly ridiculous and with that in mind its sets the scene for the players right from the start. To be honest we spent a few minutes role playing before the subtitles and guns came out and from then on wards it was pure badly dubbed pulp.

GM Jack actually gave me my old character from a few years ago, 'Walter', who is an ex-military PTSD afflicted pizza delivery guy. In fact it was the smoothest character introduction I have ever had as whilst the party were operating from a secret base they decided to order a takeout. Having immediately compromised their location when I turned up with a pizza the only options were to shoot me or hire me. There was a brief discussion I recall but happily enough I was conscripted.

Whilst the game is instantly fun I am not a great fan of its mechanics. Whilst I do like the exploding D6 I am unsure as to why they designed the rolls around a positive and negative result - basically roll a D6 and subtract one from the other to get a result and apply modifiers. With an average result of zero of course it comes across as somewhat of a coin toss but for a B movie narrative I suppose it might be appropriate. Also there is a rather contrived initiative ladder where a token for each player is placed down on each rung and as actions are consumed, the tokens are then moved down appropriately - when all tokens have dropped off the ladder, its reset again. The system allows scope for more mechanics in this area of course but at the end of the day I do believe simple is sensible particularly where a fast action games so I think it interferes from the atmosphere overall. Nevertheless we succeeded in staying alive for the next scene and no one stormed off set.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Scene

There is a Chill in the air and whilst this could be either the ambient Autumnal onset or a indeed GM rule book being thrown at a player, either way, the kids are back to school and the gamers are back to their dice. We are entering student season again and whilst I don't mean to imply that they should to be hunted with Labradors we can expect some to wander in soon looking for warmth and pizza.

For our part the Warhammer, Nameless Land and Walking Dead Thing are all going strong and numbers are stable if not a bit bloated on a busy evening. I may well fire up another D&D soon depending on circumstances but we'll see how the month goes.

A brief radar sweep of the scene in general also seems to be picking up plenty of activity. The now regular open drop in D&D sessions at Dice Saloon on Wednesdays from our own Mark and Jo and seem to be very popular with Mark posting regular reports on Facebook.

Last Saturday also saw the annual BURPS Reunicon also at the Dice Saloon and whilst these are the great old ones from my university days they do still make the annual pilgrimage back to their roots and also sell tickets to anyone else wishing to join their rituals.

The Craft Beer Company base is holding another Entmoot this Thursday and I may well attend before dashing up the hill to our own club. These sessions are a bit odd as its a massive community that never seems to be there but the meeting tends to be either packed or empty depending on random factors.

I'm not sure what other satellite games are going on as a whole from the Railway Club crowd but I know we have another TORG session coming up soon from GM Warren so I will report back if we survive.

All in all it seems that the RPG train shows no sign of slowing down any time soon..

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Libris Arcana

Dice are not enough.. Sounds like a James Bond film to me. Over the last few weeks I have become dimly aware of how many people have been buying themselves pretty presents over the summer. There was a time in the good old days when gem dice were frowned upon, when real role players used heavy solid plastics and D10s had twenty sides, but as manufacturing technology has exploded and gem cutting artisans have quickly moved into the shady world of epoxy dealing, everyone can have a numeric niche thsese days.

As the hobby has exploded so have the dice offerings and also as our resident startup entrepreneur Nick will tell you, there are always interesting packages rolling in on KickStarter. He is somewhat like Norway in that he seems to own five percent of every random number generator on the planet and has his own Michelin Star system for ridiculous t-shirt designs. Whilst I am unsure of how much return one would expect from an investment in a dice company, I suppose its true to say that people will always need numbers.

To be fair though, I recently grabbed a black and white D10/100 from Krzys who was handing them out in rather good spirits but I am suspicious that he may have in fact filled his home to the point that his older dice are falling out of the windows. But this is in no sense a criticism as I myself picked up a few keepsake boxes of Chessex dice at a comic convention and I recall the hoards of fans frantically digging through their huge dice bins in some sort of speckled D4 gold rush.

The point is that whilst I initially chortled at the fact that there are now dice subscription services from companies such as LibrisArcana where you can select from a number of options to receive a new set of choice dice each month, I actually think that there may be enough multi facet addicts that now need a regular sided fix. Well I'm not proud and I try not to judge. After all, you only live dice.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Arms for the poor

I have heard it said that you do what you have to do to survive. There have been tales of ships adrift at sea where starving crews are faced with short straws and records of plane crashes where surviving passengers have had to stomach difficult choices to see themselves through a winter stranded at altitude lost somewhere in the mountains. Antarctic teams will consider compromising their transport if necessary and possibly worse when the situation demands it and for those wandering in the still unexplored New Guinea forests they will be expected for lunch.

However in GM Alessio's post apocalyptic Nameless Land its more a choice of which sauce goes with what buffet really and anyone you can't eat you could probably wear depending on the quality of their skin. 

It was great fun to sit in on the Nameless Land but as always there is a bit of a culture shock when trying to work out how the universe functions in a reclaimed shopping mall, but the system is quite unapologetic and leaves no room for doubt. As I wasn't familiar with the tech, I decided to play a priest as a good dose of fear and religion seems to gel well with primitive societies, and as I managed to get some good critical roles in founding my little gang of zealots for the New Church of Pain, I was very satisfied with my first go.

On the tech side it was confusing at first watching Elena's character go scavenging around in debris fields for metal and then refine and trade it all up. Eventually it transpired she was saving up to have her arms removed and mechanical ones installed. Whilst this is the sort of thing I expect in cyberpunk worlds it did remind me that there is still a lot of fun to be had with leftover tech in devastation scenarios as well. I wouldn't expect more than a 30 day warranty on new arms in such a world tho and customer complaints may well leave you in rapid need of other body parts - I suppose its more like e-bay than Amazon when civilization collapses.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Hive Minded

According to National Geographic there are six types of cities - Global Giants, Anchors, Gateways, Factories, Knowledge Capitals and Middleweights. However I don't think anyone at National Geographic has been playing Warhammer recently - there certainly didn't seem to be any columnists from the Galacticus Geographicum at GM Alex's game last week as I had the pleasure of sitting in the Dark Heresy adventure for the first time. 

I have had my eye on the 40k  universe ever since I have become dimly aware of the scale of its content as there seem to be endless opportunities for exploration and adventure but in GM Alex's incarnation we are a gritty team of contractors investigating some illegal bioengineering or possibly even chaos tainted modifications that have been found in a corpse. It all sounds Heretical to me but the overall portrait of life at the bottom of one of the great Hive Cities in the back waters of thousands of Imperial Worlds sets a scene of vast rat infested slums and a forgotten populous trying to stay one step ahead of starvation.

Hive cities are immense structures stretching from the subterranean squalid underhive warrens up to the airy and elite echelons of the spires, the entire city holding some billions in population. It's curious that any detailed interest that the Imperium suddenly has in such a disposable populous must mean that something important is going on... or perhaps we are all operating off a postit note found underneath someone's desk at the Adeptus Administratum.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019


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

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

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

Monday, 5 August 2019

RPG Recon

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

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

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

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Cold Confusion

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

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

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Circles and Cycles

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

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

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