Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Santa the Sleigher

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

In the Grim Darkness

It was a pleasure to sit in on the Dark Heresay last week and GM Alex's vision of the crushing life led by the dregs of humanity choking in the underworld factories of the great Hive Cities delivered a very authentic experience. Whilst we are on mission from the Inquisition there are, as always, politics in place alongside the truth and I sense there are corporate factions that have had a hand in our murder investigations. Nevertheless, whilst the Imperium's thirst for resources will determine how tolerant it is on a planetary basis it is of course the little man that ends up being pulped in the cogs of the Imperial Bureaucracy.

Despite our sacred duty, I couldn't help but feel the gulf of empathy between me and my character. Whilst on the trail of what appears to be a ritualistic murder, albeit a likely distraction, we had the unenviable task of interrogating the victim's partner. Confirming all the baseline facts, habits and last whereabouts of her husband, the sheer oppressiveness of leaning on a desperate widow and her now fatherless child clinging to a dilapidated one room bloc habitat was harrowing. Yet still the Emperors will prevails.

Whilst dehumanisation in Sci-fi realms cuts a little too close to the mark, we have all been warned. Somewhere in a role playing game the future has already happened.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Priests of Pain

It was a while ago I had the pleasure of diving into the Nameless Land game but at the time I did have the opportunity to stand in for Andras and his post apocalyptic pain priest. There is actually a sort of library of faith based archetypes where the collapse of civilisation is concerned. This is not surprising as armageddon aside one generaly speaking associates religion with poverty and a lack of resources - after all what use is a God when you already have everything you value ? Nevetheless there is always a great opportunity for character development and I am reminded of Denzel Washington's character from The book of Eli wandering the nuclear wastes beng the last curator of the Bible.

More in context there are the Priests from the film of the same name curating the devastated planet folowing a war between vampires and humans. The human cities are ruled by The Church but in the wastelands people fight for liberation against their theocracy. There are the Grammaton Clerics from Equilibrium who enforce the Big Brother opression across all of society but of course the danger of such highly trained and trusted clerical power means that any that turn aganst their masters can be devestating.

There is the aptly named priest "Shepherd Book" aboard Serenity as part of a wonderfully balanced group of characters bringing a moral and pacifist dimension to the Firefly series in the post reaver devestated universe and I am also reminded of the Long Walk of the retired Judges from the Dredd series who take the book of law and a gun out into the cursed lands when their time in Megacity is done. Arguably there are the devout from the post apocalyptic Matrix believing in The One and the constantly challenged priest from The Walking Dead. There are the Inquisitors from Warhammer and one can even go back as far as the War of the Worlds and poor broken Nathaniel whose faith becomes delusion and denial.

I've always got the impressoin that the cleric is the last character to be chosen in a D&D game just because it has a well trodden utility but there is a huge lineage and always an off beat option somewhere between fanatically devout to insane.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Oil and Water

Scenariowise over the years I have generally preferred to roleplay the fantasy enviromnets which as I write strikes me as a little odd as I am a hard core science fiction fanatic at heart. Bar Tolkien the rest of the fantasy landscape seems derivative to me but I am also aware that this is a somewhat disparaging view where art is concerned as there are always avenues to express ideas, beauty and truth within any medium. But my Kindle would stress my former point as its laden with SciFi classics and completly void of anything with orcs in it. Void however does remain an interesting point.

There have been a significant number of classic sci fi authors who have transited into fantasy writing and there are more than a few RPG systems that combine both fantasy and scifi mechanics into the player experience but I have never felt it has worked very well really. More to the point, historically, one tends to discplace the other - where civilasation rises, science and critical thinking secularises culture. Where civilisation collapses people often only have their religion and superstitions to turn to and power structures quiclky rise based on ceremony and magic. The two facets of philosophy have always seemed mutually exclusive to me.

However talking to Jack last week regarding the Dark Heresy game, he was recounting a rather ugly fumble on his psych skills after which he detonated a void bomb damaging players and foes around him. As far as I can tell a psycher has to open and control aceess to the void in order then to focus its power with ethereal effects; though the system emphasises psychic skills over magical effects, I actually think its quite well done. Despite the void being the home of Demons it is also the medium of travel for starships so whilst this is a good example of a clash of genres it always offers the description of horrific and powerful entities living in a seperate part of the universe rather than expicity magical and supernatural realms inhabited with Gods. Conversely for the Imperium of Man, the Emperor is often revered as a God but his existence necessitates the use if technology so his rule always has a cultural context, not a divine one. Far be it for me to sound heretical but before the inquisition arrives for my latest mind wipe I'd just like to say I have made my peace with the Demons in this system.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Statistics of Dominoes

Now its not the first time I have had dominoes at a roleplaying game. In fact Pizza is somewhat of an optimum choice in my opinion as it can be wielded one handed, shared with friends and can also be thrown. As a projectile weapon it does do extra damage if it impacts your foe cheese side first as the adhesion of liquid mozzarella has a severe burning effect akin to napalm along with a slight savory aftertaste.

Having said all this, I was genuinely surprised and intrigued as GM Dave's continued theory crafting introduced a resolution system using actual dominoes. Not only had I never seen this before, it would never even have occurred to me. Players draw a number of dominoes from a pool and play continues clockwise. As in the original game, players must place their domino corresponding to the numbers already in play but of course there are choices in doing so that will affect the next players. After having being placed, damage totals are counted back along the line and summed to get a total to resolve action.

I'm not sure I can think of the all the bizarre things I have seen in life that have sort of worked but this qualifies really although akin to all mad geniuses in their basements experimenting well in to the night with dead bodies, one can go too far I suppose. I mean I wouldn't want to be ducking for apples that have numbers on them or utilising any variant of Russian roulette. Perhaps I'll just stick to dice and Thunderball for now.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

One Shot

Unbelievable. Look, I know that in the great genre of scifi horror its really only the cat that survives but honestly, two characters in two sessions! The familiar call of "Hand me Brian" went up in the previous Walking Dead Thing last Thursday as I had to play our stand in Dog once more due to a sudden increase in my characters lead content.

To be fair to GM Dave, my last character was a deliberately infected bit part so I was on the clock anyways but just like some sort of rollover Karma from a previous life Nick's character only went and bloody shot me. Well, I say me, I do actually mean Pietro's character but its one of those awkward moments as we'll see the expression on his face this week when he finds out.. perhaps he can jut carry on with a zombie instead and with a little luck he wont notice but really, this isn't going to do my reputation any good. And its not like we had plenty of bullets to spare either, any old blunt instrument  would have been fine to get a zombie dog off of me, even a doggy biscuit or did anyone think of throwing a ball, but no, Nick pulls out a gun and then pulls out a fumble. Well, woof.

I think we need some sort of green cross code for the club when it comes to shooting at other party members; it was the same in the last D&D I ran.. Remember kids, look both ways before closing your eyes and firing in random directions. Think that's going on Nick's next T-shirt.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Techno Tables

Does Baldurs Gate have an Ikea ? I wouldn't be surprised. Perhaps flat pack furniture would be considered as some sort of  arcane magic and I am already imagining a scenario where the Wizards of Ikea residing in the Tower of Laminated Chipboard, command a party to seek out the long fabled Alan Key of turning. The point is that the increasing popularity of RPGs have given birth to a whole range of role playing specific furniture and whilst the mansions of the rich and criminal would sport a billiards room or perhaps a poker lounge, its fashionable now to add a role playing table to the west wing.

I have spoken about tools of the trade before and barring a pencil and rubber there is, in principal, not much else needed. In fact I still don't understand that long standing players still tun up to Thursdays and have to borrow graphite. I wonder if it stems from trauma related to old arguments with GMs, after all, pencils can get very sharp indeed and I can imagine that after community service, a reforming role player would not be permitted to carry anything pointed for a number of years. However if you are going to splash out then do it in style.

Technology now seems to be a regular player for some GMs and  DM screens have given way to lcd screens on occasion. I don't mind it so much but as technology dominates our lives I enjoy a break from it for the most part but I wouldn't judge others. Neverthless, as the latest technology can be artistically crafted into the most traditional of designs, why not enjoy the perfect fusion of woodtech for the perfect atmosphere; woodpunk by any other name.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019



One persons terrorist is another persons freedom fighter. Its also true to say that there is more plot in that one sentence that many of the less reputable games I have played in. That's not not to criticize GMs out of hand as parties will immediately go off road given the chance but its easy to unwittingly sabotage ones own plot by gleefully following off characters into the distance.

But as we are already speaking of plots, treachery and sabotage, today's celebrations  remind me more of Blades in the Dark than knives in the back and you could do a lot worse than blowing up the government and starting a revolution provided you make sure you are on the winning side.

Everything is political on some level where intentions are concerned but whilst politics is a rather dry subject natively there is plenty of scope for intrigue and adventure for GMs. The best native political system I have played is probably Song of Ice and Fire as Game of Thrones just says it all. Starting your characters as part of a house vying for power you also maintain a homestead and power base as experience and wealth are gained - all the character objectives and scenarios are framed with this in mind. Blades in the Dark comes a close second I think as the entire city world is carved up into little power bases and your overarching aim is to establish and grow your faction which, like GoT, has its own stats. Political failure in either system is paid for in blood.

Strangely enough I was pleasantly surprised with the D&D Planescape political structures as Sigil has a deep history of ancient factions along with a revolution and then another layer of factions arising on top of that. More interestingly they are not all orientated towards power as some are just plain nihilistic, some are charitable and some are existential - this really opens up the plot landscape and I will go back to it. Only thing is, if you have a revolution in a floating city, just be very careful about blowing things up...

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Carry on Turning

Its been a long time since I have passed a note to a GM but in last week's Walking Dead Thing it was a pleasure to see the paranoia going up a level. I had gratefully been given a guest NPC to play that had been hiding in a small hanger following a zombie attack on an arctic base. Having been deftly liberated by the rest of the party I dutifully handed on some useful information but they had neglected to see if I had been infected. Honestly, as if Halloween season wasn't enough of a clue. 

For my character's part, she was unaware that there was a zombie situation at all having been hidden away for three days - her presumption was that there was some sort of human rabies going around but as ludicrous as that rationalisation was, once bitten, twice shy - at least where sanity is concerned..

My note to the GM read "When can I turn ?" , the answer was "When you like..". I picked my moment well but unfortunately whilst I managed to isolate a victim, it was the fighter of the party and despite clawing at Jack's face (always a pleasure), we left it with him about to blow my brains out.

I have to say, I quite like GM Dave's home brew mechanics as I don't have to think too hard and whilst one can be a little unlucky on the rolls it feels fair. However I very much suspect the zombies will be rolling extra dice for Halloween...

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Childhoods End

Soon our ancient and venerable comms system will close with the cessation of  Yahoo Groups that has been faithfully propping up our worlds since June 16th 2003 when the very first post was made by Sam Willcocks. In respect I have preserved a message in time from forgotten players who adventured long before us. I shall leave it here for whoever passes through so they can read it.

Nov 10 2005

Hey Shaggy,

I don't know if the Y-ster's let you loose again, but I hope the old man will let you read your mail at least.  (And I haven't forgotten he can read it too.  Hi Yves, how's it hanging?)  Hope your punishment wasn't too painful, but hey, these things happen if you only Fall halfway.  Discipline sucks.  I guess it won't help any when you hear that Abidah, Cabbon and I all got rewarded: nice new attunements and other goodies for all three of us.  Too bad Providence isn't fair, but maybe He's trying to tell you something, ever thought of that?

You must know by now that our helpful friend turned out to be a Serpent all along.  Should have twigged, really, cause he didn't murder anyone.  Far too nice to be a Malak, let alone a servitor of Laurence.  But he's a very useful guy, can't trust him of course, but then the same goes for most Archangels, eh?  You'll be seeing him again, and the rest of us, don't worry.  My handle's Meonoiada now, by the way, Jehoiada was just too brown-tonguey.  And Abidah is now Abidad, but he's the same dependable ally, I'm glad he's on my side.

I can't deny it feels good now, being on the side of freedom.  It's a pity you're still a slave to Destiny, but you've got enough time to come to your senses and free yourself before we kick off Armageddon.  It's the mortals I feel sorry for: they only have a few decades to shine, and you're trying to manipulate them into throwing it all away.  God meant people to do great things and fulfil themselves, not bow down to Him and do all the things He would do Himself if he wanted them done.  I understand that now.  Kronos understands it.  Lucifer understands it.  God understands it too, and that's why He allows our influence to grow (by our own hard work, of course).

I reckon Yves understands it too, he's the only AA who seems to appreciate that Adam's children have grown up, they don't need nursemaids, or nannies, or even teachers any more.  Now it's the time for leaders, and that's where we come in.  Perhaps it's harder for you, because you could never love people the way I do, but if you're brave enough to rise to the occasion you'll discover that leadership has its rewards, both spiritual and the more worldly sort.  You know, the kinds of pleasures you're not allowed to indulge in a host - well, not until you pick up the courage to change sides anyhow.

See you soon, hope you won't force us to damage any poor hosts of yours,


Wednesday, 16 October 2019

High Roller

Not sure why this question hasn't come up before now but in all the years I have been throwing dice I have never thought about the largest number I have ever rolled. There is a certain meta issue here as a big part of the suspense in gaming is that moment which hinges on a critically important result. It's the gambling fix that grabs the whole table's attention at either a plot point or an event that could permanently alter a character arc.

Whilst its fun of course it is in essence an appeal to fate; we all spend so much of our lives creating order out of chaos its just nice to have a break and let the God's take over for a bit. Indeed, I have come to understand that a large part of the high roller's presence at the gambling table is that besides often a huge ego, the little gambling tokens on a casino game board are the only things in their lives they don't have complete and utter control of. Whilst it would be interesting to invite a multi billionaire to a role playing game my main question is one of mechanics.

A few systems of late have what we term as an 'exploding' quality, such as the Walking Dead Thing - if you roll a 6 then you roll again and add it your score. Whilst this process continues, it does get to a point where an overwhelming success cant get any better. I prefer the MERP and Rolemaster percentile systems where if you roll 96 or above you roll again and add it to the result which is a necessary target for harming super large creatures such as Dragons or Balrogs. Tangentially there are the damage rolls and to be fair, in high level games I have rolled hand fulls of D10s and come to think of it, letting off explosives must be a fist full of fun. I haven't let anything off as large as a nuclear weapon or starship reactor but I know those who have so perhaps I should be talking to them.

Either way, spare a thought for the poor bloke who rolled a natural 756,000 on the state highway which I think must be a very special sort of fumble..

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Ice and Dice

I am dimly considering starting a D&D shortly and seeing who I can suck off the internet. Whilst that sounds incredibly inappropriate it did sort of work last time and whilst a couple of the players went on to pastures new, most of them stayed to enjoy the pizza, sarcasm and other RPG systems - it's often the case that a D&D newbie will settle in for the long haul once they break the ice and dice for the first time. At present the existing 3 games are running strong but when we are a couple of players over I am aware that some of us are left in the bar chatting over a few pints for a couple of hours and whilst I'm very  happy to do so we should be playing really.

Of course existing GMs are always welcoming by way of offering to squeeze people in but I have the opinion it leans against them as whilst its possible logistically to run with several players, their experience does not translate well from their perspective as they can just be left for too long before being able to act, effectively disengaging them. To be fair a group of experienced role players will wait their turn but our sessions are short and the bar is quite tempting.

So regarding an extra game it plays well as the students are back at uni and if its a D&D it will get traction and I don't have to sit downstairs clawing at peoples faces for want of something to do. All I need now is some inspiration, a cunning plot and the tough love to kill of argumentative players.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

What have we done ?

When does history become lore and lore become legend ? It was a few months ago we celebrated out 10th anniversary as a blog but of course the club has been going longer than that before nesting at the Railway Club. Our legacy is growing though in terms of the systems we have played and I know that the Discord server users are leaving the chat groups in place now as the games come and go. This will start to preserve our culture in one digital format and the Blog tends to hold details of rotations as well.

Indeed its a common question when we get new roleplayers in and also when I go down to the Craft Beer company - "So what have you played". The half drunk response is always D&D but as the passionate people stay on then we begin to appreciate the diversity of our pastime so in this vein here is a list of what we have played at the bar...I think:

Star Wars, Cthulu, Warhammer Fantasy, Song of Ice and Fire, RuneQuest, 13th Age, D&D, Achtung! Cthulu, Dogs in the Vineyard, Blades in the Dark, Eclipse Phase, Feng Shui, Changing Breeds, MERP, Strike, Numenera, Earthdawn, Chill, Star Trek, Shadowrun, Phoenix Dawn Command, Exalted, Part Time Gods, The Strange, Stars Without Number, Sentinels, Mutant Zero, Warhammer Heresy,  Torg, The Walking Dead Thing, Nameless Land.

Bar the fact I have probably missed something - that is a lot of mucking around. Either way I sense we have hardly scratched the surface of some people's collections...

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Art and Spiders

Sometimes universes are just too screwed up. Sure, virtual reality systems will tend to bend the sense but that's sort of a given when you put on the headset. Last Saturday we got in another of GM Warren's TORG sessions which was really the start of the main campaign as the precursor sessions were just an introduction really and covered the events of the Great Invasion in the "near now". The characters have bedded in somewhat although we did have the option to select a new one - Jack went for this but the danger of having a new character around that its tempting to Martyr it off. I say this specifically as there is a Torg Martyr destiny card that allows the successful outcome of an action at the expense of the death of your character. Indeed GM Warren had brought about 20 or so pregens along so I think I see where this is going.

For reasons the party found themselves in Copenhagen - still relatively untouched as a still preserved core environment but we were investigating a raid on an art gallery buy a party of Vikings who subsequently captures some of the guests and drove off in a white van. Having pursued the clues we eventually ended up rescuing a few of them from an underground cavern which was experiencing a mass invasion of spiders. We managed to get out alive but it doesn't sound good.

With universes and dimensions colliding and alien civilizations mixing with humans it's a volatile environment for sure but the issue with such systems is that they do need a very carefully thought out structure otherwise players will have no feeling of control or interaction. As I have said before I am unsure of whether TORG is just too random as without some reasonable expectations then the characters are just adrift in a sea of crazy events. This is where established narratives are helpful and TORG is an old system to be fair but for me the jury is still out as I am struggling to cope with a Viking raid, missing art dealers and giant spiders. Perhaps we are still playing Feng Shui and I haven't noticed yet..