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 As the game is still unpublished, the available pdfs provide only the barest essentials to play the game...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.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ye olde casulaty department

Last week saw our first casualty in the Dogs of the Vineyard game. In one sense it is surprising that it took that long but even in less policed frontiers and outback towns people do try and support one another. Given that we are pushing out into bandit territory though it was only a matter of time before one of our Dogs was caught in a small ambush by a seasoned gunfighter. Nevertheless even a shot in the shoulder was a reasonably fortunate outcome at going head to head with guns, however given the attentions of 19th century medical technology the Dog is going to be severely compromised for a few months at the very least.
Having got back to town we decided to let the cat out of the bag and rally a local militia; the gamble being made against routing people in panic. We were not going to be able to hide a gunshot victim anyhow so faith, fortitude and the holy black powder of judgement were called upon. The town came together around us and we rode out in force.
We will see what happens in due course but I'm not expecting an even number of arms to come back.
The Achtung Cthulu continues on in form and it sounds like there are potentially only 3 or 4 weeks left for it to run. I am always somewhat concerned when a GM announces that a Cthulu game is nearing its end but I will take GM Jon on good faith that this is a professional logistical assessment and not the fruition of his evil machinations.
And on another note we also seem to have sprouted a sneaky Dungeons and Dragons game on a Tuesday early evening. There is always a strong undercurrent of D&D interest and its good to see that it can conjure itself into existence when it needs to. Interested players should get themselves onto the forum comms and ask GM Jo to write them into the adventure.