Tuesday, 31 July 2018


To say we've played a lot of games over the years is to make quite the understatement. The genres have spanned civilisations, the narratives have traversed the planes and there have been experiences from transhuman existentialism to medieval infighting. Alongside the weird and wonderful worlds we have inhabited are the even weirder though not necessarily wonderful characters that we have played. What I find interesting is that there doesn't seem to be any particular convergent set of characteristics or classes that can be said to be optimal. In other words, there is no win button.

This is a testament to healthy games and good GMs but oddly enough we now seem to have come full circle in the D&D5e stopgap currently being run by GM Bill as it turns out that drawing a couple of characters out of a hat and another couple out of the players brains we have neatly settled onto the archetypal Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, Thief. A timeless formula up there with Classic Coke, Fish and Chips and Country and Western. Its just like Stranger Things, but less strange.

In terms of stopgap games, the call has gone out to the next set of GMs but the response seems ominously quiet at present. Ordinarily RPG clubs have regular problems finding GMs but we have been lucky so far over the years and always had a glut of people wanting to try various things. This may be changing now but I suppose its equally possible people are just stuck in Netflix somewhere..

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

New Spaces

Following a couple of weeks running around the country in a heatwave I finally got a day to chill so to speak on Monday. Whilst crawling out from the comfort of my subterranean lair I had the pleasure of strolling down London road with an old friend and as he is an avid war gamer and we thought we'd pop into Dice Saloon to check stock for the next version of the Star Wars table top space combat system and associated miniatures. Tuns out that Dice Saloon have gone. But not far thankfully.

Having seen retail RPG stores come and go over the years I was always a little worried about the sustainability of Dice Saloon but so far I am happy to be proved incorrect. In fact they have moved about 100 yards down the road to what is a more industrial unit but which provides a lot more space both for stock as well as experience. One of the issues with the old place was mixing the wargamers in the same space as the role players. In addition to the noise there were rather uncomfortable makeshift plywood stalls for long sessions. Whilst the plywood sections still appends the table top area there is now an additional sectioned off set of more intimate and upholstered seating which is much more appealing. Along with extra room for the stock the entire area is much bigger but vaulted in a warehouse now rather than in conventional office space. Somewhat more industrial but who cares, a bigger space means more community and overall I vote it a pleasant surprise.

In more space news GM Jon's Star trek is cautiously drawing to a close but has a few more sessions to run. The Strange will continue until next rotation and GM Bill has graciously stepped in with a three to four session D&D5e. I think actually I have worked out that GM Jon, being the avid Star Trek fan is in fact keeping his universe alive on a permanent basis as if I remember, it was at the end of the last TV series he started his game and we are already getting the next seasons trailers for both Discovery and The Orville. Living the dream.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

House of Many Things

Mystery and problem solving are essential components to any RPG  of course but the context of any adventure does need to be painted in. There are a number of huge off the shelf universes that do the donkey work for you such as Tolkien, Warhammer, Star Trek etc where the GM instantly has reference material for the world which fleshes down to the minutest detail.

And detail is everything. A bit like a portrait, one simply cant ignore the background arbitrarily; its there for immersion and helps bring a world alive in a quality setting. This starts to become challenging for more thinly written systems or publishers that have focused too much on mechanics and GMs  need to deploy some tools. Typically for myself, societal power structures, factions if you will, provide a wonderful opportunity from the big movers at the top with all the tension you need for a scenario right down to the actions of optionally radical individuals. This was one of the misunderstandings of Planescape which was criticised for being too thin on content. But this was never the intention as its depth is drawn from over a dozen ancient and competing groups, some opaque even to their own followers.

Pushing the boat out even further, there is the option to explore impossible regimes such as Mageocracies (see Wizards of Thay), Necrocracies or of course collectives such as Mindflayers or the Borg. I suspect there is a system somewhere that has combined them all...

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

D&D Fourth Edition Version 2

Without wanting to eclipse an outstanding role playing system it's perfectly honourable in life to take a path forged by one's own mistakes. This by definition means that we all have skeletons in the closet and, necromancer's wardrobes notwithstanding, we should all judge things on their own merits by and large.

So for all the fanfare of 5e there is it's dark and twisted uncle that never comes down from the Attic; you know he is there and the bowl of blood you leave at the bottom of the stairs each evening is always empty in the morning. Ok, perhaps I'm stretching the analogy a little too far but basically 5e would not have happened if not for the curse of 4.

But this is not a D&D article. When Wizards of the coast changed the licensing for the new version 4, Paizo publishing lost the rights to its D&D periodicals. From that moment, Pathfinder was born. Released in 2008 it has not only curated the D&D tradition but spawned its own avid fan base as a sound system in its own right. But more than this, after a decade public play testing for Version 2 is underway. 

Paizo are aiming to smooth over some of the complexities of v1, speed up the play and clarify some options for higher level magic. Whilst its all understandably fluid at present, they are retaining their graphical heritage having confirmed their original artist Wayne Reynolds will be commissioned for the new graphics. Its should result in a very reassuring investment for fans whilst breaking new ground. Not something that  re-branding projects should just expect to work automatically...

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Sense and Predujice

This week in roleplaying news sees the eagerly awaited Jane Austin kickstarter hits its marks. Period drama is not something that particularly twists my melon and I am not sure how I would identify someone into late 19th century literature other than from heaving bosoms and an unrequited sense of longing. Last thing I longed for was a packet of Doritos and I was suitably sated by provisioning from my local co-operative. To be fair I did really engage with the Song of Ice and Fire with respect to its intrigue plots but whilst this is more medieval fantasy, social rankings are something to be constantly wary of both in terms of improving status and avoiding knives in the back. Faction standings crop up in quite a lot of systems and interestingly for Blades in the Dark, its important that your criminal gang also maintains its respect among competitors.

The producers of "Good Society" promise tales of high intrigue, sly glances and turns in the garden that capture the countenance of Jane Austen.

But intrigues of marriage and the struggles of juggling relationships are a bit too disengaging for me. They say that boys are interested in things and girls are interested in people so perhaps its a gender divide; these are not escapist concepts for me really unless they are on a space station....I would consider subscribing to Jane Austen in Space though provided airlocks were readily available.

I do quite enjoy the prose from Regency and Victorian works bar some of the mega novels such as War and Peace and Dickens can be a bit drab but in the right hands classic narrative can be captivating. Lovecraft springs to mind but in its most recent incarnation, the narrative to Darkest Dungeon is delightful.

"At last, in the salt-soaked crags beneath the lowest foundations, we unearthed that damnable portal of antediluvian evil. Our every step unsettled the ancient earth...but we were in a realm of death and madness! In the end, I alone fled laughing and wailing through those blackened arcades of antiquity...until consciousness failed me"
....and here is someone losing their mind