Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Cowboys and Tentacles

As new games are brewing old ones are boiling off into the fog of history and there are as always a number of options on the tables. We seem to have either an Eclipse Phase or Mind Jammer from GM Ro. If it were not the case for me being the Emergency Dungeon Master Hologram I would be in the Eclipse Phase and Im not entirely sure why. Its exists existentially on the extreme end of the cyberpunk spectrum in my view - I would call it Xenopunk really as there is little that defines consciousness or humanity that isnt up for grabs in character creation. Perhaps as a sagely roleplayer I crave the freedom that cyber genetic modifications offer, or perhaps I just like octopuses. Either way I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

GM Jon dons another GM hat alongside his Starfleet Adventures game and will roll out a Deadlands Weird West adventure. Combining the Western genre with a sprinkling of horror its an opportunity to traverse the dusty frontier plains presumably with the mandatory steampunk goggles, although GM Jon would describe it as a Gaslamp Fantasy. There are a number of possible scenarios but it will depend on what flavour the players prefer.

For my part I will roll out a 5e Planescape that worked very well last time. It has the primary advantage of being incredibly flexible as players can be portalled in and out of anywhere quite easily and it inherently contains a dizzying array of experiences that enrich any scenario. It provides additional value for the GM for moderating paranoia as digging out multiverse mysteries always seems to attract unusual and cunning adversaries.

Lots to think about for the GMs and lots of carnage on the platter for the players to choose from.

Thursday, 21 January 2021



The paradox of social networks is that they both bring people together as well as divide them and I sense civilisation is still maturing with regard to their use. There is an old Chinese saying 'Dont drink poison to quench your thirst', but whether you are a herbalist or assassin both share certain professional interests. Our club discord server has served a certain utility and whilst enabling the usual emotional abstraction it has been far from divisive as we are a small club and are based around a physical meet.

In more recent months though I have subscribed to the Brighton Area Dungeons and Dragons  Facebook group which sports 145 members and its good to get an idea of how local games are thriving. Indeed it has a slightly more familiar feel for me as a few of our old members are founders having taken some of their games down to the Dice Saloon.

But more recently a UK Dungeons and Dragons groups has appeared on my radar and having just joined it a national picture is suddenly apparent with over 8500 members. Now at this scale as moderated as it is all types of players collaborate but for the most part the crosstalk is amicable. But for me the real interest is reflecting on the personal narratives that players recount both from the how the hobby has impacted them as new players as well those  returning to the tables after many years or indeed decades; seeing people reconnect with a passion is always heart warming and I am sure they will crack a wry smile at the first GM-player argument after coming out of retirement.

So where next for the new cyber society ? Perhaps a global group - all role-players on the planet together discussing the merits of  D12s vs D20s or a hive mind of meta gamers. We are Torg.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Death Throws


It is the very beginning of the very end of our current round of games and GM Jack's current Warhammer Fantasy is showing worrying signs of a forthcoming boss fight, or more precisely we seem to spiralling in towards a necromancer altercation that we have been struggling to avoid but a lot of disruption in the local fiefdoms have come down their armies clashing with undead forces and not particularly successfully. Im not sure what you should bring to a fight with an undead lord but we will be bringing beer, attitude and incompetence judging by our party performance so far, but if he owns a skull then we will be caving it in as per our Skullbashers Direct customer commitment.

But daring to look slightly further ahead we have a couple of options for new games on the table so far. GM Ro has offered to run his Eclipse Phase sci fi which I heartily enjoyed last time, unexpectedly as it happens, as I seem to share an interest in all things existential. The game itself borrows on a number of sci-fi and cyberpunk themes but somehow presents a novel and unique universe in which to express oneself particularly if you like whales or octopuses. I will run either a D&D or Chill if no other game ideas come forward so it will depend if players want something familiar to feed the fantasy craving or if they want to risk losing their bodies and minds to Unknown forces.

As we have been running off Discord since the pandemic began it will be interesting to discuss how effective our approaches have been to date. It is extremely difficult to communicate with even a normal number of players in a game due to crosstalk and this impacts game lifespan and pace directly so there may be an argument for more games with less players. Im also unsure of digital assets like Roll20 as I would have thought that a simple visualiser would have more advantages over a complex interactive tool. So perhaps its worth experimenting a little but either way I am sure a thread will explode somewhere.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Huge Tats


The material component aspect of using magic in D&D is something I have never really seen imposed with much rigor. From my experience, a bit like auditing encumbrance and book keeping in general, its not really very interesting, narratively irrelevant and can keep tripping the flow of  game - it brings no enjoyment. There have been a number of articles over the years trying to refresh these perspectives and suggesting methods of integrating these mechanics into more relevant and exciting gameplay but to be honest, I have never really bought it.

Having said this, there is another approach I much prefer which pushes the entire magical toolkit into a passive, zero encumbrance, always available utility that is both artistic and character enhancing without the need to be narratively intertwined. We are talking about tattoos of course and much like the archetypes at the base of many of the roleplaying personas body art has it roots at the very dawn of civilisation. Whilst tattoo magic is not new to roleplaying systems, I have not much discussed it on this blog but in the vein of the new year one of the first kick-starters of 2021 is the fan made 5e Tome of Mystical Tattoos addon.

Sporting over 100 tattoes to decorate your particular species of choice I also find it engaging to browse through as if I was picking out something for myself. DnD has always been somewhat bitty as it has evolved from a lot of different versions and realms so whilst there have been some great examples of artwork it has never been that consistent compared to something like the Warhmmer universe for example. But encapsulating a visual theme into a sourcebook is an interesting way of painting a GMs world where the skin itself is the canvas. There are also mechanical implications as for example vocal spells can be inscribed on the throat area, fighting spells on the arms, agility on the legs etc etc More so it potentially raises a rather uncomfortably economy if indeed the skin can be removed and still retain the magic inscribed upon it. Seems that tattoo art can go down the generations, literally.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Calling Time


Well, 365 days until the new year and I cant wait.

Its been an unimaginable 2020, even for role-players and our thoughts have to go out to those barely surviving in the economic wastelands of the new post apocalypse. For our part we have at least carved out our own own unimatrix zero and keep friendly faces familiar as well as wage our eternal war against the fates.

January sets another timer for us as by the end of the month we would ordinarily be rotating games. As much fun as it would be to round off plots at Christmas, many people are simply not around and those that are tend to have a disrupted routines. Its also worth recognising all the hard work put in by our GMs in preparation for a new games and the end of the year can be a difficult time to assemble materials. Our discussions are due soon in this vein and we will see what systems Santa delivered.

For my part, GM Jon put in a thoroughly enjoyable Star Trek episode over the Christmas week which saw us struggling to make sense of a nebula ecosystem - having made contact with the indigenous space whales we were assessing them as a potential warp capable  intelligence whilst also encountering an entity using one as a modified transport, to what end we do not yet know.