Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Other universes

With some variance in club attendance at the moment caused mainly by Southern Rail's rather quantum approach to timetabling (ie it not being possible to know both where and when a train is at the same time and also the conundrum of the train driver being possibly dead or on holiday when you cant see him), there was an opportunity to grab a character in on GM Rob's Numenera. Esoteric scenarios can provide a huge playground for the imagination but provided one doesn't get disoriented with the reality, there is a lot of interesting fun to be had.

I picked up Jamie's character as he was away for the session and one the abilities is that he can create a duplicate of himself, which sounded like too good an opportunity to miss. The party were investigating a gigantic failing, floating military habitat of some sort. It transpired that aliens had portalled into its control room and started to dismantle its power source - a miniature thermo-stella fusion core - or in other words, a small sun. We had to reconnect some bits that were disengaged and rotating about the device whilst at the same time fending off the weird bad guys coming through the portal. Whilst we successfully repelled the invaders the chance to send a copy of myself back through their portal was too good to miss, so portal diving I go. There were dangers however I discovered after the event; whilst I could dispel my other self, I would suffer if it was killed.

Nevertheless, rolling my way past a sentry gun I managed to make it out of the alien portal compound and into a city? of crystal tower blocks. The aliens were themselves somewhat translucent, with their heads embedded into their chests and were ambulating about their streets. Having attracted their attention they were slowly closing on me so I dived into one of the building where some alien administration of some sort was going one. Up the staircase I rush dodging one acid spewing entity I eventually run into a large group cutting me off; there being the inevitable glass ceiling even in otherworld corporate culture.

Snapping back to our usual unsusal environment we decided to plug the base AI back in rather then try and sell it and it seems that systems were starting to come up, although the military personnel hadn't all left yet...

Well I do hope we didn't start a war as I am back in the Strike adventure now where we are chasing down a temporal prison break. Problem with building jails in prehistoric time periods is that ankle bracelets are not going to work...

On a social footnote, this weekend sees the annual Reunicon of BURPS, the 80s roleplaying society from the then Brighton Polytechnic, gathering this year at The Dice Saloon. There is an entry fee and a schedule of events on the website drinks in the Mesmerist on the Friday if anyone fancies a hangover!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Happy Birthday Howard


The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.

Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.

I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.

Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.

To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

That old Roosevelt ploy

It has to be said, time travel does keep you on your toes. Twas the night before a critical World War II summit between Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Roosevelt. Hold on a moment I hear you cry, bear with me. Our mission was to infiltrate the various security contingents of the Allies and ensure that the evil time travelling agents were neutralized so that the conference would happen when it was supposed to.

This did involve, in order, a lot of planning, a lot of spying, a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting a lot of killing, a lot of necromancy and finally a lot of hotel management. Basically you can't get the staff and when you do they're dead. Nevertheless we had the entire situation under control and were dutifully catering for Stalin's and Churchill's contingents in silver service style, when Roosevelt's party arrived we just presumed we had it in the bag with cigars all round.

Sadly however when President Roosevelt arrived it did indeed turn out to be the president in person but unfortunately the wrong one. It transpired to be Theodore, not Franklin, leaving us a problem that vast amounts of zombies couldn't fix. And this is where the large hole labelled Twap comes in as I had naively presumed that the presidents had been swapped against their wills as surely the integrity of the very president himself couldn't be questioned ? What was the point of being sent through time to ensure a meeting between the wrong presidents ? So in we charge to rescue old Theodore and return him and his fifth cousin to their proper pages in the history books. But oh no, not this Roosevelt. It turns out the politics can sink to even lower levels and the old bastard was in on whatever evil plan was being hatched. So a further fight ensued as we tried to subdue the president as well as his entourage which included a giant, automated killer teddy bear. Irony comes in several forms including murderous toys it would seem but we're now committed to a worryingly divergent timeline.

I'm still reeling and kicking myself at the same time if my character's dexterity allows it as who to trust in time travel. But of course it was the wrong question. Who do you trust in politics ? The answer has never changed of course.

No one.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Good Cop Bad Cop

As we are still in the midst's of ongoing Southern Rail transportation chaos, it has been difficult for a few members to get to the club both regularly and in anything like a normal time frame. GM Rob summoned enough spirits to continue his Numenera but GM Jack was hijacked on the buses last week  as they are taking a lot of strain locally from the rail network disruption. We did take the opportunity to have a crack at another random card game though, in this case, Good Cop, Bad Cop.

If  you like games of paranoia and allegiances then this one may appeal. Everyone starts with three random down cards that are either honest or crooked cops - the majority that you are holding determine your alignment. There is a KingPin card hidden in someones hand for the bad guys as well as an Agent card for the law enforcers and the aim of the game is to locate both of them and kill the one that is the head of your opposing faction.

Initially players can turn over one of their opponents cards and  in the investigation stages of the game - this is standard as the players slowly piece together who is on what side. Then as knowledge and possibly paranoia grow, players can then take guns instead of drawing actions or exposing cards. Among other things the action cards do things like change the order of play, interrupt the moves of opponents or my favorite 'plant evidence' when you can invert the allegiance of a player. As the guns come out then they get pointed at a someone but as people put more guns on the table as the game continues a Mexican standoff is created and whichever side's leader gets killed first (shot twice) ends the game.

Its fun and fast but to be honest its not very interactive initially as there is a long quiet stage when people mutter to themselves as they piece the picture together. You cant say anything as you dont know much for sure and nor do you know who is on your side. The play suffers from a lack of social element and the designers needed to have considered this as players share a faction, it would have been better for them to interact earlier on to increase the paranoia and build knowledge. However it passed the time quickly and even if a player gets shot and is out of the game, he still has a stake in watching his faction fight on.

I suspect we will be in for a few more weeks of travel madness so keep a card game handy just in case...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Let's Quest !!!

One of our newer questers, Alice, casually dropped into conversation last week that she had just binged watched Dan Harmon's latest series, Harmonquest on SeSo. Dan Harmon is the creator/writer of the critically acclaimed Community series the first 3 seasons of which are absolutely outstanding - the only series I have ever watched when I have literally  fallen out of my chair laughing, so it stuck in my mind when she mentioned it. There are a lot of youtube channels that explore whether a  role playing game is media viable and longstanding campaigns that have a reasonable subscriber base are on going, but the missing element in all of these is an animated backdrop.

Like the cutaway scenes in Family Guy or the Ricky Gervais Show, absurd and surreal scenarios can instantly be given depth and context to engage audiences onto a level playing field and often to hilarious effect as, as we know, role players often miss some of the little things when thrown into the fray, like, 'oh, I forgot my head is still on fire'. Not only are farcical hilarities exposed when a given session is depicted, but also the ludicrous plans that party concluded were a good idea at the time. Whilst the animation has not had a huge budget available to throw at it, it does just enough not to detract from the show.

The GM, Spencer,  keeps a constant upbeat tone in order to play the commentator and mediator as well as the npcs, which he does admirably given such new ground and whilst his presence is essential it is neither overbearing nor lackluster. Spencer frames the situations concisely and rarely intervenes except when time presses to close an episode. Given there is a guest spot each week that can vary somewhat between those people who have never played before to those who either love the genre or are from an acting background, whilst some of the guests perform bravely in an albeit bemused way, those that pick up the idea quickly are absolutely wonderful to watch, but all of them give it a shot. The rotating guest spot also means that by the end of each session the adventure must sadly lose a player, which presents its own regular mini feature to look out for.

I would say that it is a bit of a rough cut gem as it doesn't always flow, definitely experimental in places, but just like any cast in its first showing, the players start to warm to each other by the middle of the adventure and the characters backgrounds define the players actions well by the end of the series. The live audience of course dont have the benefit of the animation so they can be subdued at moments but it is clear that they know the nature of the game and cheer on the highs and lows of the adventure.

Given a tight budget and a longstanding culture to draw from, I do hope that we will see more adventures to come.