Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Pumpkin day

Following on from last weeks post, I duly note that Call of Cthulu is suddenly available on Steam. With only a couple of hundred "Mostly positive" responses its not something that leaps out at me and whilst computer based horror games are tangential to role playing its interesting that they are leveraging the brand as I am aware that the 7th ed table top did struggle financially in the first instance.

Of note, there is also the re-release of Helmgast's "Kult" now under the Modiphius brand. In a more ironic and seasonal twist, its history began in Sweden in the early nineties but gained controversy as it was actually mentioned in a parliamentary bill to remove funding from youth groups involved in role playing. This was due to the murder of a 15 year old by his slightly older friends who allegedly were influenced by the game. Either way, new copies are now finally reaching their very patient backers.

I also own a GURPS "In Nomine" for some reason. A Steve Jackson creation, players embody the eternal cold war struggle between angels and demons as they fight over the souls of humans. Oddly enough the system appeared in 1997, the same year Buffy kicked off, ushering in an era of supernatural TV series. Sporting a wonderful D666 mechanic, three D6s are rolled for resolving actions; the first two are added to gain a success or failure, the third indicates the extent of the particular result.

Other than the Chill, which I am particularly fond of, my horror rpg experience ends there really bar the B movie system "It came from the Late Late Show". A system that is more horrific for its hammed up acting and bad quotes than the steam powered zombie robot Nazis that chase the players around. Bring on The Blob.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Vale Greg Stafford (1948 - 2018)

The Grand Shaman of Gaming as he was called passed away this month and it is appropriate to make a brief mark of respect here in this tome.

As gamers we are often blissfully ignorant of the many trailblazers who are responsible for the millions of hours of play across an entire globe of adventurers. We revel in immersive game play across often decades of memorable moments and Greg Stafford would have been responsible for a large proportion of them. Founder of Chaosium in 1975, arguably one of the greatest contributions to the industry was their reimagining of H P Lovecraft's work embodied in Call of Cthulu now in its 7th incarnation. If you have never played it then it's highly likely you know someone who has. A classic to the point of a formative work, the system is emblematic of Victorian mythology and the horrors still lurking at the edges of a pre industrial mind, though the Lovecraftian Mythos narrative has detail and world building that rivals even Tolkien's legacy.

In addition you may well be aware of his Glorantha novels as well as HeroQuest but as for myself, it was the RuneQuest system which has absorbed several years of my life set within the Glorantha world. As a percentile system I always found it quite accessible though it was always teased over specific hit point locations which technically meant a reasonable probability of having arms and legs lopped off.

Overall its hard to imagine other gamers who have made a larger contribution to role playing but as with all of the greatest works, his creations will outlive him for years to come. Here is a brief inspirational  clip from one of his workshops.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Humble Fumble

So do you make your own luck is the question ? Having played poker for many years I sort of get the statistical approach to good fortune - make a hundred correct probabilistic decisions and you'll tend to win more often than not over time; the long run as it is called. Yes there are swings in fortune and intuition where gut feelings are concerned but being able to interpret the details of peoples behaviour will also result in calling more bluffs and avoiding traps. Fundamentally then, discipline and common sense does seem to keep people alive for the most part given that you have to take some knocks on the chin.

Whilst some of the current 5e players are new to role-playing, and I have been very sensitive to this, even I almost wiped them out using nothing more than a simple corridor. Investigating a keymaster's residence, a long thin building, a portal opened at the end of a very narrow corridor - enter stage left a Barbed Devil shrouded in mist.  First down the corridor is the Mage entering hand to hand combat. Brilliant. Next is the cleric, followed by the ranger, fighter and thief at the back. Merrily chomping away with my Devil, the entire combat basically involved people shuffling back and forth in a queue like a new iPhone release on black Friday.

Whilst I could have merrily got carried away PacMan style it was conversely the case that the devil would not have survived trying to fight through half a dozen characters one by one, which sort of resulted in a retreat by both sides, but it was basically an hilarious session akin to playing twister on an aeroplane. Its easy to judge of course but its all part of the learning experience.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

In the flesh


Hacking ones own role playing game can be a weird experience. Whilst perusing the monster manual looking for the most disgusting creature to ambush the Planescape party with I had to somehow lever it into a running game in a way that doesn't violate the rules of the environment. To be honest, this isn't a particularly difficult problem in principal but as they are in Sigil, one has to respect certain unwritten rules, though ironically the rules are very precisely written down in the module guides of course but nevertheless, lateral thinking was required. A bit like the finery on the interior of a garment, it can never be appreciated by the casual passer by but its crucial for holding the experience together. 

So the D&D lot were investigating the disappearance of another party and I decided to send them down into the world of the Dabus; the caretakers of Sigil. Diligent and industrious yet autonomous and troglodyte, the Dabus clean the streets, maintain the buildings and cut back the razor vine. They are the silent servants of the Lady of Pain and enjoy her protection. Their warrens are generally off limits to the inhabitants of Sigil who never become aware of the gigantic service mazes below their feet.

The party were in fact invited down to the warren as the Dabus were having a problem disposing of a body, a solemn and grisly duty they share with the Dustmen's Guild but as the gates to their world are magically protected how was I to get an enemy down there to engage the party ? Well, the answer of course is to send it down there in pieces. Introducing the Flesh Golem, a master stroke of modular manufacture - bits of body scattered about a Dabus Gate will be dutifully taken down below for disposal but using a variant regeneration rule, the golem could slowly re-assemble itself before engaging on its grisly task. With a challenge rating of 5 and 2D8+4 slam damage we came quite close to taking out a couple of players. Like I say, no more Mr Nice guy.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

All that glitters

There is a somewhat spit and sawdust feel to our club, a sort of dusty comfort one associates with an old battered leather sofa. Indeed the Belmont is probably the least pretentious place on the entire planet sporting original bar billiards, a fake baize pool table, somewhat dangerous darts and a glitter ball of unknown origin. Pre industrial beer is dispensed with occasional medieval service and what once passed for a selection of mostly defrosted pies has been quietly dealt with.

But there is a dilemma if  truth be told. Whilst we enjoy extremely cheap beer and an unusually large social area, the rooms that we have for gaming are boarder line acceptable. I don't mind wobbly tables and retired chairs as such but the damp is particularly bad downstairs and some furnishings have suffered from years of biological warfare.

So last Friday Jules kindly invited me to "The Skiff", a laid back set of hot desking tech offices in Blackburn St - a possible alternative venue. After leaving I was struck with a number of conflicting feelings. Whilst you couldn't ask for a cleaner and more laid back designer environment re-pleat with comfortable playing spaces, large high quality tables, loungy sofas and even a glitter ball in the kitchen, it did at the end of the day feel a bit professional; a bit like visiting a google office.

I do feel for new visitors to the club sometimes with its occasionally dreadful rooms but what the Belmont loses in hygiene, it sort of makes up with character. Not sure I got that feeling from the Skiff and re-tasking a well established club would be very painful but perhaps we would take our character with us. As always, time will tell but we have to face the reality of an expanding club at some point.