Wednesday, 30 August 2017


In GM Jacks Exalted game last week, we seem to have come across an old problem. When I say old, I mean senile. Handling people who have succumbed to the ravages of age is a sensitive affair where you cant always do the right thing but as long as you do your best with as much respect as you can then you will have no regrets. Handling the criminally insane may require a certain amount of intervention despite the context of their trauma and taking up arms against a psychopath may be a singular choice as I am unsure to what extent such people can be considered human. 'Though wise men know at their end that dark is right' to quote Dylan.

But the ravages of time take on a completely different meaning where immortality is concerned. Far beyond what would erode a mortal mind to dust, even an eternal consciousness should give way eventually as epoch upon epoch pile up like so many leaves in Autumn. And even then you have barely even begun your sentence. So it would seem that the only way to bear eternity is with a little amnesia thrown in; if you can forget about yesterday then why worry about tomorrow. 

The problem then for the Exalted players is that they need to convince a geriatric god that a long forgotten war ended millennia ago. Whilst he is shacked up in his tower too paranoid to look out of a window, every avenue of discourse can transpose to subterfuge; there is nothing that can be said that would not be indicative of an enemy spy at the height of hostilities. Quite the standoff but hopefully, if the players can somehow show the God the face of change in the real world, then perhaps progress can be made. Tricky.

On another radar entirely, this WE is the annual Reumicon of BURPS, the once mighty University role playing society, at its height, over 100 members. Can you imagine the arguments ? I can. I was there. And you can be too ~ Dice Saloon this Sat

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ambient Conditions

Its a little thing, but it is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, which is completely untrue for role players as it actually starts with an argument, passes though a rope shop stocking exactly 6 lengths of 100 feet each, turns left at shouting and arrives at one of those tourist spots with a cluster of signs pointing in different directions. Navigating and DMing the D&D rules pulls against some old habits of mine, specifically in difficulty modifiers. The advantage and disadvantage rules are fun but I am used to simply altering difficulty targets on the fly where challenges are concerned and I forget to ask players to roll double D20s as well as some other basic rules.

In the last D&D play test last week the party wizard kindly or otherwise decided to cast grease up the party together with some zombies they were fighting whereupon a weird game of whack a mole ensued as individuals stood up for some rounds and then fell over for others. Added to this that the zombies were doing the same, each round had a combination of fighters up and down. Whilst the players kindly explained the rules for this sort of encounter whereby prone characters had restriction on their actions as did players when attacking prone targets in concert with their initiatives. 

We got through it in good order I believe but I went home wondering where these rules were in the PHB as I had gone over the combat section several times. Lo and behold, it transpires, that there is a "conditions" section at the back of the PHB among the appendices and here can be found the order of rules used for all these circumstances - prone, cover etc etc I had not bothered looking at this as I presumed that "conditions" referred to environmental factors such as wind, rain, ground conditions, temperature etc. Basically if you pay a lot of money for a book, its a good idea to read it. Nevertheless it highlights the value of support from friends when learning something new.

In other games I know that GM Max ran his Warhammer and GM Jack was back with his original Exalted plot so will catch up with everyone this Thursday. I have to thank the GMs last week for being bullied to let go of players as depending on numbers, if one game has a lot of players then it can leave too few players left to play a third game, but it seems it was eyes down for a full house.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Gods Themselves

With three games of any five running in clubland at the moment there is always the tempting and readily available option of whoring oneself about. Whilst it can be useful to make up numbers if a game is a player or two short, a bit like passport stamping, its a quick way of travelling between universes and experiencing a wide variety of play. Over the last few weeks I have been juggling with the nitty grity of D&D 5e, watching the card play of the Phoenix Dawn, popping in and out of GM Max's Warhammer as well as GM Mike's Freeform DnD. The one remaining game off my radar was the Exalted which I have sort of perceived from a distance as a beautiful orrery, spinning out its fate in a mesmerizing dance, but not to be touched in case it explodes in a cloud of springs.

Nevertheless, GM Jack took the opportunity of playing a one off flashback scenario, as I was a guest player and we had the pleasure of Ian's company again who popped in from running the government to say hi. 

The world itself is an infinite flat expanse where the characters walk as Gods, Exalted, akin in some ways to a virtual reality in that many things are abstract but obey their own set of rules. For example, in this particular scenario we had to go to a casino that people were frequenting but not returning from. Basically it transpired that another God was raising stakes whereby people could eventually gamble their souls. It was a bit of a head spin but what was interesting was that the God did obey its own principals and ran fair games but in question was the morality of doing so of course, so as a character one is forced to take a view as well as action. 

A bit like a rough whisky I think it was a matter of piecing together the flavours afterwards but I would gladly give it another go to get a bit more of handle on the universe. Oddly it remind me of some of the Tolkien back story with respect to Valinor, the land of the Gods, where enormous power sloshes around the little people and it becomes a struggle for the various overpowered Gods just to keep the world in one piece purely as a side effect of their own nature. It's a fascinating scale up of issues over the usual day to day and hack and slay.

Don't remember a casino in Lord of the Rings tho to be fair.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dungeoninium Dragonus

Always a sticky point having someone on zero hit points. The D&D technical session last week saw a zombie attack take one of our elves down to a whisker. The history of zero is an interesting one and we must be fortunate that we did not inherit Roman mathematics as having to roll a DXX would be a somewhat lopsided affair given that one of the facets would have to read XVIII. The ancient Romans had this problem themselves of course and whilst they played AG&G - Advanced Gauls and Greeks - they did at least abbreviate their options on their D20s, but the zero never did add to their accomplishments.

5e is wonderfully simple in principal but this also means its quite stark in places and whilst I tried to buy a little flexibility on behalf of the character, there was little point, the rules are extremely clear. To be fair, all the party members with any sort of healing or medicine completely failed to make any positive expectation for the patient, so the tense and  necessary death saving throw was made at the 50/50 chance of getting into more trouble. Passed.

The zero is a special case as one is held at the border of consciousness or unconsciousness and if it was a proper scenario it would have been a wonderful opportunity for some visions or insights and possibly a bit of astral travelling; all hail Planescape. However it was a training session and whilst the players were patient, we went over the death and recovery rules quite meticulously and interesting to be taught about the short recovery rules where you gain a point of health every 1d4 hours which sort of worked out as by the time the party were shoveling random herbs down his throat the character was just blearily coming round.

In other games both the Exalted and Phoenix Dawn continue to go bodly which means that despite the seasonal summer lulls, we have actually been driving three games worth of players on a regular basis for some time now, if interest continues to grow, we may have to think about starting to worry about the possibility of maybe occasionally running a 4th game by the time Winter is Coming (bring back Song of Ice and Fire campaign will be printing badges soon). We shall see.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Number 6

As GM Krzys was on shift last week I had the impromptu opportunity to shuffle onward in my DnD5e training as the little module I fabricated on the back of an envelope nears its completion - I don't think it would quite qualify for a kickstarter as I feel would need a much better envelope - possibly a padded one. It was a slightly inebriated shock to me as I had though that everyone was either in the Warhammer or Exalted but an unholy 7 players piled into GM Max's game whilst I became dimly aware that there were a few others left over such that I could also run. Had I been less absent minded I would have worked all this out and not asked Max to give birth. All credit to him though for shouldering such a large group and including everyone who turned up, albeit my fault entirely.

The optimal number of players in a roleplaying game is an often touted conversation and varies between systems and GM opinion of course - whilst I can run with 3 keen players happily with an NPC, 4 is optimal with a 5th easily added. 6 is pushing it and 7 turns into a PowerPoint slide show from the late nineties when one adds too may graphics. The issue here is to always bear in mind the player experience as even with the best will in the world, not enough attention can be given to each player in a timely fashion. With even the most disciplined flow of mechanics, once you are into a round by round sequence, there is no avoiding a slow down, and people will feel the momentum suck from the play as time dilation takes effect where one can age more rapidly than those around you. My best advice for player, if you see a game with 5 or 6 people, stop, look both ways and don't be number 7. For a GM don't be a prisoner of your own mind, it may drive you insane.

As for the 5e training I feel happy enough with the system now to run proper as with the correct preparation for a scheduled game, a lot of the details will iron themselves out and the additional familiarity having run a few session have begun to round out my corners. What is a surprise to me is that I am getting quite an interest in the wider system and reading around the Greyhawk setting in general. Moreover I have fond memories of the acclaimed and original Darksun setting and although it portrays an arid and bleak world, there is a lot of inherent respect for characters that can survive such a dying realm. The temptation to migrate the system to 5e is quite compelling and I am not the only one: