Tuesday, 24 March 2015


So the Dogs in the Vineyard game has been progressing at a steady but fairly civilized rate. So far we have had some church business to attend to, some families to split up, some preaching that needed to be heard and some very harsh conversations. But as we have been approaching the outskirts civilisation we are now well and truly in bandit country. To be fair we are trying to get to the bottom of some kidnappings so we are on the lookout for trouble but the issue is that we scouted two riders with someone tied up on the back of a horse.

At first impression we had simply moved the plot along a bit but whether we have worried ourselves into our own little paranoid corner or not is yet to be determined. The point is, how many people are in fact wandering around out there with tied up people on their horses ? - nervously sitting in some scrub, spying on the pair of would be bandits suddenly raised the question of whether in fact this was not a particularly unique occurrence, or in other words were we about to spring on a bounty hunter in the pursuit of court business or worse still a deputised officer who had arrested a wanted criminal. As there were only two of us at the scene, one of us wandered back to get the rest of the group as we wanted better than 50/50 odds at a chance of parley. Then the real fun started, with only one character left watching the suspects, they started breaking camp. Poor James, and gawd bless him as its only the second time at the club, had to make the call and for a moment we were all holding our breaths.

So cut to 1 minute later and on the good side we have two dead bandits. On the bad side we have 10 other bandits closing in who have presumably worked out that the echo's of gunfire fire around the valley is not the result of a casual fishing trip. On the really bad side we have 10 bandits, 2 dead law enforcement officers and a criminal to look after. We shall see what next weeks episode will bring...

On a more upbeat note GM Jon has started mutilating his players. In true literary style I shall immediately copy and paste his game update:

"It occurs to me that the group at large may like to know that the Achtung! Cthulhu game is finally generating casualties... Despite their best (well not really) efforts, Weber has lost an arm (amputated after a serpent-man bite) while Professor Doktor Fischer and Bogdanovich are well on their way to becoming one with the vast unthinking depths of the universe (primarily as a result of overly coveting an ancient Atlantean artefact)..."

Well done Jon! :-)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It is a Sunless Sea

Ordinarily I do not do many game reviews here as it s a log of club comings and goings really; when a game review crops up on this tome it will be because it we ended up playing it or someone has expressed it as being the best things since sliced waybread. Moreover I tend not to appreciate on line games as, for me, they subtract from the imagination for the most part and of course are heavily bounded by their mechanics, though I appreciate that there are roleplaying initiatives in an awful lot of the MMO's despite their genre. I have wiled away many man years I daresay on single player roleplaying and fantasy computer games from Gauntlet to Guild Wars.
But for every rule there is an exception and this is one to make...
Welcome to Sunless Sea..
Before anyone is totally hyped on the idea and forks out £15 on something they are not into, it falls into the formal category of a dungeon crawler or 'Rogue' like game, where a lot of time is spent moving around and staying alive by the skin of your teeth. In the case of Sunless Sea though its the back narrative in all its Victorian steampunk prose that delightfully compliments the nerve wracking exploration of the world and the tense music. I would refer to it as a Cthulu crawler.
On the surface the game mechanics are somewhat baffling and full of curious and confusing descriptors for your ship and crew that steam around in a dark and unforgiving world. But when you start to realise that 'fragments' are experience points 'irons' are strength 'pages' are wisdom etc one can start to get a handle on things. You pilot a steam ship across a subterranean lake discovering islands and communities from the surreal to the downright scary and in a story book way you are then offered various choices which come with various risks, rewards and consequences. Outcomes vary from gaining trust, trading, carrying out missions to being manipulated or outcast. As sanity is a component, knowing too much can also cause problems. But at each stage the rich story is successful in drawing you into an experience rather than a problem solving exercise.
On progressing through the game one makes money, 'echoes', in various ways and can accrue assets that are conceptual and abstract in in nature. For example you can gain one of a  'Move in the Great Game' or 'Memories of a distant Shore' along with the more physically obvious items. These conceptual tokens are to be accepted at face value and are not sub plots, but to be traded or exchanged as is to advance the plot.
As the world unfolds you very gradually gain stats, money and fight larger battles, both mechanically and narratively which, a bit like Minecraft, give you a sense of accomplishment based on considerable effort.
On the down side I would say the world is not that large eventually, although the islands are randomised between games to offer a different experience each time. But to be fair the world is easily large enough, so once the exploration phase is over then survival is still an issue and the plot phase keeps rolling. There is a lot of going back and forth but it is somewhat nail biting as you are often down to your last barrel of oil, ration of food or sliver of hull.
Don't ask what happens when your crew run out of food.
So here are some links to the trailers, purchase at your own risk.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Are you Mad ?

Insanity is a slippery subject. It is often heard between vexing party members in the depths of a planning discourse that one will shout "You must be mad!". Now its reasonable to be prone to a little exaggeration in the heat of an argument and I have heard my fair share of 'crazy' plans but it is never wise to throw caution to the wind in a roleplaying game where medical conditions extend into the supernatural.

Possession has roots in the real world but only as a symptom of delusion, schizophrenia or personality disorder. In an RPG you could argue that exchanging minds entirely is a also a case of possession, though not being nine tenths of the law, would be considered more akin to squatting.
Cthulu is of course a defining RPG in terms of madness management and Mythos exposure can lead to any number of phobias from the lighter end of the scale to wholesale evacuation of any and all faculties. So for those with an interest in the gradual fracturing of a human mind then I suspect most GMs would point you in this direction for a grand tour of the insanities. [Achtung! Cthulu currently running, though not sure of the average sanity rating at the moment..]

I have, before now had the chance to play a psychopath, probably one of my most enjoyable experiences. To be unbound by empathy can really create shocking circumstances but of course being on the one end of the scale gives you the freedom do what you want but the vulnerability of not knowing whether you should be concerned whilst sawing off the limbs of people who are still trying to use them.
Being sensitive to alternative realities can be a problem but often seers and clairvoyants are blessed with enough insight to cope up to the point that they encounter disturbing entities in one of the realms. Whether this characterises madness to is unclear to me; I think not as its a power but is the inability to cope with a supernatural gift actually a mental illness ?
I shall finally touch on Genius. When the cognitive faculties are pushed beyond the norm or augmented with technology do you become an exceptional member of society or are you driven off into the shadows? Either way if you an illness that is being celebrated or an infection that is being quarantined, it may be a case of Hero or Villain.
"Protect and Serve" or  "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow".


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mass destruction

Its one thing to lose a character but entirely another to lose a whole army. I don't mean as in "I put it down somewhere and cant find it" I mean the sort of entrenched fight to the death, the last order, the pre posthumous promotion to Field Marshal.
To be fair these are the trials of war and often or not a commanding general is left with no option but to defend with his honour after the bullets run out. Nevertheless spare a thought for the following chap.

34-YEAR-OLD Norman Steele has been left traumatised after his army of space marines was wiped out during a tabletop wargame.

Unemployed Steele could only look on in horror as his miniature battalion of spacesuit-clad Imperium troops was pinned against a fortress wall by six-limbed aliens.

He said: “They were using venom cannons and spore mine launchers. Not real weapons obviously, but scale models vividly painted to look very realistic.

“Anyway we were hugely outnumbered and there was nothing I could do. Everywhere you looked space marines were getting wiped out.

“Since the battle I’ve been unable to look at a picture of any futuristic alien or monster without experiencing flashbacks.

“Worse still I cannot go near a table of any kind without hearing the ominous clatter of dice and the gloating voice of a middle-aged man in a Sepultura t-shirt.

“I just want some professional help to get back to being the quiet, shy man who I used to be.”

We do have a Warhammer Fantasy running as  a home game at the moment so should the worst come to the worst I do hope that GM's are forewarned and have counselling to hand for traumatised players.
This Thursday the Dogs in the Vineyard continues with GM Rob. The party have a new town to repress after concluding our last issue by sending the protagonist away for 're-education' and ensuring that he will never see his son again.
GM Jon will continue his Achtung Cthulu and all the slime and monsters that entails. I cant go into further details as your mental health could be seriously compromised.