Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Inner Space

When asked for spare change from strangers my short answer tends to be no but in the famous words of the overpaid hot dog salesman, change only comes from within. Whilst most of us still inhabit a somewhat claustrophobic social space, the lack of three dimensions are still not enough to keep us constrained as a roleplaying club and GMs are forging ahead with what would be the usual game rotations; change is upon us with no room to spare apparently. The onset and shock of the covid crisis saw us retreat rapidly to our virtual castles and peek at each other through the embrasures. Having said this the zoomers and discordians among us have adapted quickly and just being able to interact with real people in two dimensions does relieve the anxiety of social withdrawal.

And social distancing is not quelling the rush for places in our new upcoming games as we still sport three full tables of players. To summarise GM Krzys is returning to his sentinels comic universe and last time I spoke to him about this there were expansions available that I suspect have found their way onto his shelves by now. Building on a previous one shot the setting takes place in the recently rebuilt city of Megalopolis.

GM Jack is going back to his Warhammer Fantasy tomes and whilst I have very little knowledge of the backdrop I do recall it as an enjoyable D&D like experience albeit somewhat grim. If I remember correctly some of the earliest blog articles were about our WHF at the time regarding  the disposal of a possessed dagger. It was problematic.

GM Jamie is inviting his players into the Tomb of Annihilation outside Balders Gate within the Forgotten Realms. Sounds inviting to me, what could possibly go wrong in a D&D world of low level characters ? Everything I suspect.

With GM Jules's Warhammer Fantasy and GM Jon's Star Trek Adventures running as satellite games, things seem to be very vibrant at the moment with no shortage of adventure.

So there we aren't and there we have it. Tradition is triumphing in the shadow of our plague and we can all just keep calm and carry on although I suspect calmness will quickly be replaced by the bloodshed and usual the haggling over magic items.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Captain's blog

These last few weeks have seen another episode of GM Jon's Star Trek Adventures broadcast back to us and unlike every other Star Trek episode I am very pleased to say that I haven't seen this one before. I'll be the first to say I have a slightly chaotic neutral leaning to my role playing characters no matter their alignment which I think must be an overhang of being very bored  as a child. One of the quickest ways to relieve monotony is to poke something and see what it does. Problem is as you grow up, poke can escalate into provoke but a healthy imagination does temper the soul - better to lose yourself in your thoughts than lose the people around you.

Now this sojourn may explain why I am enjoying the STA so much. Whilst studiously detailed by Jon of course, the quasi military Starfleet culture naturally promotes responsibility and carries a bond with your crew mates by its nature. Basically actions have consequences. As in the last game, something as simple as a risky descent through a volatile atmosphere in a shuttle can really focus the mind when something suddenly goes wrong - in our case a power system failure leaving the entire party not more than a couple of rolls away of being wiped out. It concentrates the mind and although we managed to land, the feeling of risk from then on is palpable - set the scene in the context of threat and it never gets boring. Indeed threat is actually embodied in GM tokens that are played against us - we in turn earn momentum to counter. I like the way this works - we can see threat tokens waiting to be spent and like the tension at a gambling table each token spins the wheels of fate and escalates the tension. 

The narrative of the brand is expansive which is captivating to the trekkie of course but more than that when our shp's decks are being detailed and rolled out to us down to the seating arrangements of our departments somehow it makes the universe just that little bit larger. Our continuing mission engages again on August 8th. I don't know the Stardate.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Byte me

On my role playing radar this week is a new d8 based RPG system called Byte. It's an interesting approach to narrative  and specifically uses a modular construction process for generating the environment. It's what I would describe as a systems approach to game generation which is less common in my experience. In general I would say that narrative captures the imagination and naturally we often get RPGs as part of a larger production line of resources off the back of other media - usually a set of films or a best selling series of books. Our evolution is steeped in culture and narrative is its  scaffold so naturally creators get excited when they imagine new worlds and the dilemmas within them.

Conversely I tend to feel systems approaches are somewhat uninspiring as they just tend to mix archetypal components into a bowl and whisk but this may be missing the point somewhat. In reflection I think a modular approach to game creation is not necessarily an end in itself and perhaps more of a writing tool. Art comes in many forms but perhaps there is nothing wrong with a join the dots system if indeed an interesting portrait emerges.

Byte's creators have not held back on thoroughness though with a 400 page rulebook containing 20 thematic modules that can connect in a number of different ways. Basically the GM selects a tech level from 1 to 10 from stone age to space age then ancestries get connected being the racial components and on top of that skill lists are then connected and finally overlaid with one or more thematic modules - from the Kickstarter there is one example construction of "Space Wizards with Swords". Its crazy enough that it just might work...

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Aegis of Hope

Liquid crystal technology has a prestigious and revolutionary history. Invented in 1964 it is now in fact in its 11th generation with the introduction of flexible displays over the last year or so. This is going to be an interesting tech and may well be a milestone on the path to fully blown e-paper - a single portable sheet that can change its surface detail all the way up to fully blown animations. With a sheets of extremely large e-paper there is the possibility of replacing wall paper to give an emergent if not perhaps nauseous experience of something akin to virtual reality. I very much suspect there will be implications for the usual role playing tools - books and modules certainly but also for interactive maps and playing surfaces.

Nevertheless, as interesting as all this is, it transpires that the acronym now has another derivation - namely Liquid Crystal Dice. I always think I have seen it all every time I post a dice review but yet again there is seemingly no end to the mesmerizing craving that role players have for their plastic jewelry. Metallic Dice Games have carved out a niche for themselves in the high end production of rolling polyhedrons and the panache of their website https://metallicdicegames.com/ purveys the air of quality and artisan finery.

Their latest 'Elixir' product range consists of precision cut crystal gem dice, which I have seen before, but they have managed to seamlessly seal the plastic around a liquid core so that as and after they roll the contents continue to swirl causing light to continue dancing off the suspended metal fragments. The kickstarter was funded in under an hour and with an initial goal of about 7k has now surpassed over a third of a million dollars!

The different product lines have names befitting their pedigree such as Aethar Abstract, Mana Extract, Vanishing Oil and Aegis of Hope. With an eye popping $20 for a single D20 and close to $100 for a full set we are now far off in the realms of retail Narnia....but they are sooo precious and I wants them.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

History and Psychos

I'm going to make a thin excuse to co-opt this week's article but I think I am going to get away with it. These are poignant times in the real world with both high temperatures politically and high stakes constitutionally with the foundations of the free world on the roulette wheel of revolution. However, whether you bet on black or red is not my question but why we didn't see it coming? To be fair our plight has already been shared and is often fated to the casual contemplation of historians or the adjustment of economic theories; civilisations rise and fall after all and whilst Rome wasn't built in a day neither did it fall over a weekend. Revolution or evolution aside the burning question on the square one on which we always seem to find ourselves - are we blind to our future or is there another way ?

From a roleplayers perspective we have perhaps improved tools since the reading of entrails or divining of runes. For our part we play unreserved in our fantastical simulations and experience the cause and effects of our actions on the communities, cities and empires in which we roam. There may well be a light in the future darkness with scale-able simulations but can we imagine a better way? Well, amazingly in recent articles, I have touched upon my nostalgia for the Golden Age of Sci fi and as an Asimov fan I have followed the Foundation epic based on the unlikely wheelchair bound mathematical hero Hari Seldon and the predictive power of his Psycohistory models. Spanning thousands of years his models were not used for avoiding the inevitable fall of the shining Galactic Empire but rather to shorten the darkness for the generations left starving and crawling in its wake.

For such a passionate and nostalgic fan of Asimov imagine my heart missing a beat when I  just discovered the commissioning of a new series based on his Foundation novels. Whilst sci-fi fans will love this, the Asimov fans can savour the detailing of Chris Foss's artwork in the trailer with the thick bands of contrasting colours on the ship decals. here you can compare the 70s book covers with a clip from the trailer.

As excited as I am to visualise what I could only imagine as a teenager reading these novels born thirty years before me, I am going to literally explode if a role playing system comes out of this and I think it will.