Feb 272013
 

1845710As a lot of my audience will know, this blog is set to start actually making me some money soon. Well, to be clear, not the blog per se, just the fact that I have built up an audience that includes a few people willing to pay a little bit for some of my writing. That being said, I still lack the kind of money that will allow me to go in on kickstarters that look amazing. What I do have though, is the aforementioned audience, and a willingness to tell every last one of you how much I like a product when I come across something that’s this rad (yes, I’m taking that word back from the late eighties).

Today then it’s time to turn our attention to Modiphius. A company that dropped onto my radar with two very intriguing words; Achtung! Cthulhu. Although I’m not a big Second World War aficionado, my interest running to military conflicts considerably earlier than that, I am a huge fan of horror gaming. That means that not being a fan of everything Lovecraftian would be a bit if a sin. So I had to take a closer look at this Kickstarter, and the whole line up of products. Before we get into the review, I want you all to head on over and check out the kickstarter. It’s already funded, so you know you’re going to get something out of it, and the rate they’re nailing stretch goals means that for putting up a bit more cash, you’re going to get some pretty sweet loot out of it. Are you back? How cool is all that swag? And now, on to the review.

Three Kings is the first of the Zero Point adventures, and apart from needing a core rule book, you have everything required to play the adventure within its pages. I personally have the the Call of Cthulhu version, although it is available for other systems, notably Savage Worlds and Trail of Cthulhu. All of this is a very good idea, as it quickly became clear that for most people, the game will be a lot more action oriented than the slow, more cerebral investigations CoC players may be used to. The fact that it’s set during one of the largest – and most defining – conflicts of the twentieth century should give you an idea that more than a slight tussle in a library might break out. Having read the adventure cover to cover though, this never takes away from the unknowable dread that marks out Lovecraftian horror games from the rest of the crowd.

The layout and art style used for this adventure are beyond beautiful; with cryptic messages scrawled into the margins and beneath some truly splendid maps, the care attention to detail shines through with even the most cursory of reads. As you get under the skin of the adventure, this obvious love of the source material – both Mythos based and inspired by actual stories of WWII – shines through. Time is taken to talk about the real life heroes of the war, and the deprivations of its worst villains. All this while keeping the story firmly grounded in the horror I’d expect from a product with the word Cthulhu on the cover.

The adventure itself is a well written narrative chain of events, without ever making the players feel railroaded into following a plot thread that wouldn’t make sense to them. From the beginning, the writer – Sarah Newton – takes the time to set up three ways for the adventure to begin, meaning that the players control just how combat/investigation heavy the plot will start out as. Sure, it’s likely to involve a bit more combat than I’d expect in CoC game, but even the more cerebral parties should have no problem circumventing a lot of conflict if they choose to do so. At several points throughout, it is made clear that the players should be allowed to dictate pace and mood to a certain degree, with the Keeper being told to go along with any reasonably well thought out solution that the Investigators come up. This should be a lot more common in published adventures, as it does a great job of empowering the players.

Although the investigators are free to generate their own characters, there is a selection in the back of the book that are better suited to a more military themed game, and I would advise Keepers to utilize them, at lest if they are relatively inexperienced with running CoC games. The other handouts are superb too. The maps and dossier that are available are of very high quality, and would help bring this game of espionage to life.

6844859In conclusion, this is a cracking adventure, and really makes me itch to get a group together to play it. The following adventures in this series have already made their way to my wish list, and the addition of the keeper and Investigator guides would be ideal, as they then open up this wonderful world for groups to explore at their own pace, with stories created just for them. All in all, this is very highly recommended, and if you have the means, you should get on the Kickstarter while you have the chance.

Feb 262013
 

1845710This is a very basic review of a product brought to you by Modiphius. They’re kicking ass at Kickstarter right now, and with all the buzz, I thought I had better check them out and see what all the hoopla is about. All I have to go on so far are my first impressions of the Three Kings adventure supplement. I have the Call of Cthulhu version, although other versions are available. I promise I will furnish you all with a full and comprehensive review once I finish it, but due to a busy weekend and illness yesterday, I’m a day behind and don’t want to leave you all with nothing.

So here it is, based on a cursory flick through: man this book looks amazing! Everything about it makes me want to play this game, from the random scrawled notes popping up in unusual places, through the wonderful art, and onto some absolutely stunning maps. it seems like Modiphius will struggle to impress me any more than they already have done, and I’ll let you tomorrow if they manage it.

Until then, you really should go and check out the Kickstarter. Seriously, the buy in required for the basics is pretty damned low indeed, and with all the stretch goals getting nailed, putting a bit more up will get you some primo loot.

Feb 252013
 

Last week – amongst other things – I mentioned the fun that non gamers could have playing games that were at heart, role playing games. I left you with a link that attracted quite a bit of attention, and an awful lot of traffic away from the blog. This was for an event called 2.8 Hours later. This is just one of several zombie based activity I know of that isn’t really aimed at role players.

Don’t worry, we have plenty to keep us occupied though, such as All Flesh… and my own personal favourite Unhallowed Metropolis. There are even a bunch of board games out there that allow you to have fun surviving the undead hordes, either by throwing your opponents into the slavering maw of the walking dead, or working together to get as many people out as possible. Or maybe something in between. Any of the board games can be used as an introduction to get people into the idea of role playing games using this hugely popular cultural trope, as almost all of these games put you into the shoes of a character in a way that is far from abstract.

There are of course exceptions, and my least favourite zombie game falls into this category. Zombies!!! the game does nothing to make you feel like you’re part of a world that is falling apart, and every time I’ve played it, I’ve ended the game not caring one bit who lives or dies. The fact that the characters re-spawn so easily but PVP is positively encouraged has meant that after the last tile is played the game has carried on for another 2 tedious hours as players just keep killing each and re-spawning. Literally every other zombie based game I’ve played has been better than this. Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a review of a game I hate, but a discussion of zombie things that rock! Back to 2.8 hours later then…

7053168809_765bbc3e4c_oThis has become a bit of a big deal over here in Blighty, even getting a fairly big mention on the BBC breakfast news show a few weeks back. As large businesses close down, that leaves large empty office spaces, and even an occasional shopping centre (or mall  for my American readers) with nothing to fill them. This is far from a great state of affairs for a country to find itself in, but then geeks come along and happen upon a great alternative use for that space. With a big group of people who like making them selves up as zombies – and trust me, there’s no shortage of that – you just need a few rules in place. These are very similar to playing airsoft or even keeping LARP safe.

And that’s it really. You have a big abandoned looking space, and countless undead walking around it ready to eat your face clean off, and then insert members of the public. The person who introduced this to me, long before I saw it on national television, is not a role player in the slightest. He’s a huge fan of very dark horror movies, and whenever we talk over a pint or two, the topic always ends up on which highly disturbing movie he’s seen that I should hunt out. Just the thought of him being able to live through the experience himself had him hooked from the first time he saw an advert for the event. If money wasn’t quite so tight, I’d have joined him. He has since told me how much fun it was and how all the participants got very quickly immersed in the story of horror survival, and were making decisions in the same way the people tend to when role playing; what’s best for the character’s chance of survival.

unnamedThis is just one bit of zombie fun that’s out there though. On an episode of Comic Book Men a couple of the guys took part in a zombie themed marathon, with the threat of permanent undeath keeping them moving at speed while running and getting through obstacles. There’s even a keep fit app based on the idea of zombie survival that you can get for a smart phone. And if you want to know just how easy it is to find people who like getting made up to look like zombies, all I need tell you is I live in a small university town – not even a city – in the north of England, and we have no problem finding shambling corpses. I have just spent a good few minutes going through the pictures behind that link, it’s a bit worrying how many of those people I know and drink with.

What does all this teach about us gaming though? Well for me it seems that if you want a great way to introduce your non gamer friends into what it is that you do, then zombies should be the way forward. There are plenty of avenues open to you to try this, and since they have infected popular culture so much in recent years – when we get the first episode of the podcast online, you’ll see that I think it’s maybe gone a bit too far – you won’t need to work hard to get the basic concept across. If there are any other zombie based activities that you know of that I have neglected to mention, then please, share them in the comments section.

Feb 232013
 

So there we have it, the long overdue story of how this blog came to exist. There are actually a few other projects I’m involved in that I didn’t have time to share through the week, so listed below – with links for those interested – is everything I’m doing, and everywhere else you can find me online, and maybe even in the real world. I’ll start with the ones already mentioned, just to get them all in the same place.

Reviewing music for an extreme metal webzine: The Legions of Steel. As an aside, if you’re in a new and upcoming metal band, drop me a line and we’ll happily sort out an interview (Skype) or if you have a promo, we’ll rock a review for you.

I’ve released my first DriveThruStuff product, and I will be aiming to drop one new Adventure a month. The publisher page can be found here.

I also manage a stand-up comedian, and I’ll be pimping gigs and other appearances through his Facebook page.

I’m onto stage two of my first fully functioning card game, and everything you need to help me play test it can be grabbed through Dropbox.

And now for some stuff you might not know about.

I have taken up a weekly column over at Stuffer Shack. The dude who runs the site went the extra mile in offering support and encouragement when I first started out, so I’m very pleased indeed to be able to work with him. The first post went up yesterday, and you should check back each work for more.

Me and my best mate – whom I mentioned yesterday – have recorded our first podcast. Since he is a very busy man, lecturing at various universities and speaking at conferences, he hasn’t managed to get it edited and uploaded yet, but when he does, it can be found here.

The fiction that I mentioned writing also has its own home, but if you’ve been following this blog since its inception, the address should look familiar, as all I’ve done is go back to the old WordPress page to publish it. I’ll be trying to keep up with one new piece a month on here, so check back regularly.

These last two don’t have links yet, as there are more details to work out, but they are moving on at pace.

I mentioned the hobby of airsofting on a Monday, and as soon as some contract details are worked out, a mate of mine will be opening his own venue. I will not only be helping to build the arena, but also coming up with some MilSim style adventures and plots that will be run there. I will post details when I have it, as I will almost certainly be helping out with marshaling too, so you might be able to pop down and say hi, if you live relatively close.

And finally, me and another mate – guitarist in kick ass post-rock band Civil Protection – are about to embark on creating a documentary film on fringe religions. This is his baby, and I’ll just be along for the ride, coordinating as need be, but it should be fun, and once we have more details, I’ll let you fine people know.

And now for something even more ethereal. I received a message in the comments section of this very blog from another blogger, one whom I’m a big fan of as we share similar tastes in extreme metal, and have both been lucky enough to get in on the MYFORAG play test. He wants to run something by me. I’m more than a little intrigued…

So that’s that. On Monday we will return to a more sensible blogging schedule, and I’ll just pop links to my other projects on Twitter, Google+, or – and this is where most things end up – the Facebook page for the blog. Thanks for sticking with me through this strange little week, but thank you more for reading the blog at all.

Feb 222013
 

Well, if you’re going to keep coming back here, and I’m going to keep on talking! I left you yesterday with a decision I needed to make; what was I going to do to try and improve my lot in life and maybe even pay the bills? It swiftly occurred to me that the one commodity I possessed in a large quantity was time, so I just started to think of ways to fill it. I had always enjoyed writing, and thought I’d start there. I used to enjoy drawing too, but I was never excellent, and these days the most I do in that direction is a few basic tattoo designs, which were never of the kind of professional quality they’d need to be to make me any money.

Having spent a long time working in book shops I knew that the road to getting a book published was a lot longer than most people realised, but that there were ways to keep the mind busy on that long trek. I started looking into sci-fi and fantasy magazines that would take unsolicited submissions for fiction – of which there are plenty, you just need to spend the time looking for them – as this would be a great way to get a portfolio together to take to a literary agent. While doing so a friend suggested to me that starting a blog is a great way of honing your skill and testing the water for a potential audience.

I was very lucky indeed in that the friend in question was my best friend, who just happened to be a professional social media consultant. Stand up and take a bow, Mr. Richard Bassinder. (seriously, click the link for some great tips, and if you want to up your online profile, and can afford him, he’s very very good indeed) We sat down one afternoon in one of our favourite watering holes and over a few pints of ale worked out what I needed to do. It was from this conversation that the blog took shape. We are both gamers, and realised that talking about what I knew would be best, and once I got used to writing regularly I should expand the blog into fiction and other things.

Before I got round to the fiction thing though, I found myself having a great time as a role playing blogger. I quickly ended up with a sponsor, and a readership I could be proud of. All along I was also finding out just how nice a community the online role playing lot are. I started joining in a few community activities, one of which led to today’s announcement. The National Game Design Month – NaGa DeMon for short – was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I knew that I still didn’t have a novel in me just yet, and since – after a very strange dream – I had the bones of a card game idea in my head, I thought I’d go for it. So I spent all of November writing rules, formatting cards and expanding on a basic structure of the game I had in mind. By the end of the month I had even managed to play a couple of games of it.

The response was mostly positive, but I knew I still had a lot of work to do. So after the Christmas break I went back to it, fully armed with the feedback of several play tests and some ideas of my own about how to streamline the rules and speed up the play time. Yesterday I put the finishing touches to Version 2.0 of my Neo-Victorian game of Exploration and Glory, and if you want to take a look, it’s all available as .pdfs through the link. I present to you: Excitement and Adventure!

There’s a few files in there, but if you don’t have the time or printer ink to run off a full copy for yourselves, then any feedback on the rules would be great. This isn’t the final look of the cards, just a basic idea for another round of play testing. I do have someone working on making it all look much prettier, and as soon as we have that sorted out, I’ll post the details on this blog.

Well, the weeks almost up, and that does bring you pretty much up to speed. There are still a few other projects that I’m involved in that I haven’t had time to slot into this rambling history of me, but if you’ll indulge me, I’ll bring them all together for one final update at some point over the weekend. I make no promises as to when, as we have family visiting and a fiftieth birthday to attend.

Until then, I just want to say, to everyone who reads this blog, comments on it, talks about it to their friends, or just made me feel like I was part of this wonderful community I now belong to: Thank you. Deeply and truly, thank you. I don’t want to enter the realms of hyperbole and say that you’ve saved me, but you have instigated a massive and complete turn around in my life, and for that I think of you all as friends!

Feb 212013
 

Welcome back everyone to this thoroughly self referential series of posts. To keep you hooked though, there will once more be some actual current news at the end of today’s ramble. I left you yesterday as a recent graduate…

And there were no jobs. Seriously. It’s a good month if I manage to get one interview somewhere, and sadly the job market is so saturated at the moment that there has always been someone more qualified than me. I have over a decade of retail experience, including three years of management, along with 2:1 degree and I can’t even get onto a supermarket graduate scheme. This sucked, as it was pretty much the opposite of what I thought it would be like after getting a degree.

After about a year of this a chance arose to apply to join the services on the officer career pathway with the Royal Air Force. I had all the necessary qualifications, and after passing graduate level psychometric tests, I should have had no problem with the officer tests. I was slightly worried about my fitness levels as I was at the time very close to the upper age which you can apply to join, even as ground support. But I knew I had it in me to work on that so I went and applied. This is not a simple process, exacerbated by the fact that I hadn’t needed to see a Doctor in over ten years so had bugger all in the way of a medical history, I tagged all my tattoos, and spent days filling in the reams of paper work and getting various people to vouch that I was actually whom I claimed to be, and after a month found myself awake before dawn heading to the selection centre in a nearby city.

Sadly I was to find out there was one thing needed that I simply could not provide; my GCSe certificates proving that I had attained the minimum required standard in maths. I had in fact exceeded the minimum, but was no longer in possession of the certificates. For American readers, the GCSe is taken when leaving junior high, and is almost always superseded by a more advanced qualification. The only time I had ever been asked to present them was when I applied to go to college to study production engineering. That was almost twenty years ago, and at some point after that, the certificates had been lost, almost certainly during a house move. I hadn’t even noticed as no one ever needed to see them. The solution was to get replacements printed off, but due to various problems with that – my own personal finances and my old high school being unable to even tell me which examination board I needed to apply to – the RAF idea was shelved.

This hit me kind of hard. I had spent a very long time on this, and was more excited about it than I had been about anything in years. I had always wanted to serve, but there always seemed to be something that got in the way. This was going to be my chance. After that I lost interest in a lot of things. Especially applying for other jobs. My lovely girlfriend and I live together, and if it wasn’t for her career, I would have been screwed. I was still working the same part time shifts at a book store that had helped keep me afloat at university but without a living cost grant and student loans, this barely covered my half of the rent.

My girlfriend knew that the latest setback had hit me hard and was prepared to give me some space and time to regroup. What she wasn’t prepared for was just how apathetic I had become. Not even bothering to apply for jobs because I had already convinced myself that I wouldn’t get them, and only engaging in the most cursory of searching for jobs in the first place. After a few too many days of her coming home from work to find me spending a whole day doing nothing but playing video games, she sat me down and gave me the talking to that I needed. Without that kick up the arse I don’t know how much longer she would have put up with me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

So, I had a kick up the arse, but that didn’t mean that the job market was any better. I needed to make a change in myself though, and one thing I decided upon was that I was going to start seizing more opportunities, saying yes to more things, and pushing for stuff I wanted regardless of whether it was available.

This brings us to today’s bit of news. A few weeks back I was offered a job. I had no experience in this field of work, and the nature of the position meant that it would not be a guaranteed source of income. I was halfway through writing a negative reply to the gentleman in question when I remembered the promise I had made myself, and typed a swift about turn, practically biting his hand off. What was the job? Well I’m pleased to say that I am now the agent/manager of a stand up comedian. He’s a friend who enjoyed some success at this years ago and had been thinking about taking to the scene once more, but needed representation that he knew he could rely on. I had no idea how to do it, but between blogging and other writing, I’m learning what I need to know, and doing my best to get the news about him out there.

The man in question is Lou Saffire, and if you have any interest in political satire as a form of humour, then you could do worse that check him out. I’ll be back tomorrow with the story of how the blog started, and yet another fun other project I’m working on.

Feb 202013
 

I left you yesterday with possibly more information than you’d ever need about me, and I plan on piling a lot more on you today, along with another announcement about some more writing I’m doing. So far you know that I’m a massive role player, but that I also have a lot of other geek level interests too. This is the story how one of them changed my life, and with the help of a second meant I got to write a very interesting dissertation.

The story starts with me leaving school and deciding to move away from scholarly pursuits; I’m not too sure why, but looking back it was just a decision made because I had no bloody idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I am now a fully qualified mechanical/production engineer. I did not enjoy that job, and since then have mainly been working in retail, including some time spent as comic book store manager. About five years ago I was thinking about what the hell I should actually do with my life and after a wee bit of soul searching I left my full time “reasonably” well paid job as a bookseller in an international chain and decided to go to university to study history.

I had been reading history books for fun and inspiration for my gaming at the time, and realised that I could do something with this passion for the past. About a year into my studies the financial world went to hell in a hand cart, and I was stuck studying for a humanities degree with very little real world application. I stuck with it though, and I now have a degree in History and Heritage. Regular readers will no doubt be aware that I use this knowledge as often as I can, just so it didn’t go to waste.

In my final year, I took on two final year projects; the first being a heritage assignment in setting up a permanent exhibit at a local art gallery. The second being a study into how extreme metal bands integrate their history and heritage into their music, and the effects that can have. These covered such things as the early nineties Scandinavian church burnings, but also Taiwanese metal band Chthonic and how they use their music to talk about a heritage that is getting rewritten by the Chinese.

Since graduating, I’ve been struggling to find a full time job, and as such I’ve had a fair bit of spare time on my hands. And this last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to use that spare time to talk about extreme metal. A friend who runs an online metal-zine knew I had started writing and asked if I would be interested in doing some reviews. After a bit of time to think – more on that tomorrow – I agreed, and my first review has gone live. Due to the nature of the website, I can’t send you a direct link, but the Denouncement Pyre review under the ‘CD reviews’ banner is all me!

I will hopefully be able to send off one review a week from now on, and it will usually be ‘black metal’ bands that I’ll be taking a look at. So if that’s your cup of tea, you should bookmark the site, or add it on Facebook to keep up to date on reviews and other announcements.

Stay tuned for more Shortymonster news tomorrow, when we discover just how bloody lazy I can actually be…

Feb 192013
 

Thank you dear readers for the taking the time to read this little blog I write. Without a readership, I’m just talking to myself, and that’s plain crazy. Some of you may be curious why I do write this blog, as at no point in the last seven months have I gone into any details about why I decided to share my thoughts with anyone with an inclination to read them. I’m going to rectify that this week, and also fill you all in on some other little things I’ve got going on too, basically because over the last seven months, my life has changed quite a bit.

To begin with then, I’m a gamer. I often use his to describe myself more than any other word. ‘Geek’ night also cover it, but I’m geeky about a variety of things, such as comic books, history and extreme metal, but my biggest passion is for role playing games (with a side order of card/board/computer games too). So when I decided I wanted to write about something, it made sense to concentrate on the thing I identify with the most. Why then do I identify as a gamer?

For those who don’t know me personally – and based on the daily views I get, I think it’s safe to say my readership has grown beyond my friends – I’m a short, (They call me Shorty for a reason) skinny, bespectacled individual who was often an outsider growing up. This lends itself well to slightly more cerebral pursuits as I had less distractions growing up. I don’t think I had what I would think of as close friends until I was about fifteen and discovered war gaming and the social scene built up around it. Since then – with a few noteworthy exceptions – all of my close friends have been involved in the hobby in one way or another. Almost every girlfriend I’ve had has been a gamer in some way too. Without gaming, I’m not sure if I would be the socially aware man I am today, as it wasn’t until I met large groups of fellow gamers that I had to learn how to behave around large groups at all.

That last bit by the way, is a big screw you to all the people who think that gamers are socially awkward by default. It turns out that in a society that numbers 60+, there are no more than a small handful of us who have any sort of social failings; probably no more than you’d get in any group of that size. No, we’re all fairly well balanced people, who just happen to enjoy role playing.

So that’s why I chose gaming as the thing I wanted to talk about. As to why I felt the need to write a blog in the first place? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next thrilling installment for that.

I did promise an announcement though, and this one comes straight off the back of me writing a gaming blog. Some months ago I offered a free NPC to any one of my readers who wanted one; all they needed to do was give me a very basic idea of what they needed, and then I let my creative juices flow. For the last week I’ve been going back to those NPCs and doing a bit of re-writing. I’ve removed any reference to any intellectual property and made each and every one of them system neutral. Then I tidied up some language and grammar issues, and reformatted the lot into one pdf. i even added a new one, as I’ve been thinking a lot about playing a certain type of character for the last couple of weeks, and wanted to share.

That entire document of 16 pages is now available from DriveThruRPG for the low low price of $0.99. Of course, you can just grab them all for free by scrolling through the comments of the aforementioned article, but you’ll have to put up with spelling errors and some rambling thoughts between them. And you won’t get the shiny new NPC either. This is in fact my first of (hopefully) many more pdfs that I’ll have for sale at next to nothing on DriveThru. An experiment into how easy it is to get stuff up there, which will eventually lead on to a monthly product line of system neutral adventures.

I’m sure all GMs have ideas floating around about games they’d like to run, or even short adventures they have completed and would love to share. Well, I’m going to share them, and as each one goes live, I’ll let you all know where you can find it. See you tomorrow for the continuing saga, and another announcement about another project I’m involved in.

Feb 182013
 

This has been a blog that I’ve left to foment for quite some time, and it may even spill over into a second part, simply because, right now, I’ve been seeing role playing games all over the place, even though they’re not played by role players. My first example of this, is actually a role playing game, but I have had so much fun and good times playing it with people who didn’t even have the faintest clue what an RPG was, I think it stands up as a game that could never be marketed towards gamers, and still do very well indeed. I mentioned it last week when pimping a game that not everyone will have heard of, but if you missed it, the game in question was The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. 

0901K4-P111_jpgThis is primarily a game of getting together with friends to tell stories, and having a drink and getting excited while you do so, without having to worry too much about any real rules or system, instead just concentrating on having fun. I have played this game in a tent at a music festival, and at four o’clock in the morning after getting back home from a nightclub, and each time, there has been more none gamers involved than people who know what a d20 is. So what then is the appeal that this game has that other – more traditional – RPGs lacks?

First off I think it could be the simplicity of the game. In its most basic form it’s more like a magazine than an RPG, and once someone knows the rules, it takes minutes to explain them, and to get people to join in. The only flaw with that logic is that I know of quite a few RPGs that are just as easy to explain. OK, maybe easy to explain to other gamers, but even so, the most common game I play at the moment – Savage Worlds - is so quick and easy to play that its silly. Yet there are people in my life who would be happy to play some Munchausen, but who would scoff at the idea of sitting around the table with dice and pencils to play a game.

That's actually me, but I wear clothes like that all the time anyway.

That’s actually me, but I wear clothes like that all the time anyway.

This brings me onto something else that I’ve encountered quite recently: airsofting. I turned up to my first experience of this one a little apprehensive. I played a lot of laserquest in my youth, and know that I can get a bit addicted to this kind of game. Lazerquest is actually a darn sight cheaper too, as there’s no need to ever by yourself any extra gear. Something which is clearly not true of most of the people I saw at the venue. The venue I ended up at to have my airsoft cherry popped was called Halo Mill, and when we got there it was packed full of enthusiasts. I mean a good 30 guys all in full combat gear, or a variety of costumes. One dude was there as the eponymous anti-hero from the Hitman series of games. It was a little intimidating at first, but once you got into the swing of it, it’s a bloody good laugh, and I recommend anyone who gets the chance to take a shot at it.

What struck me though- maybe because I’ve been a gamer for so long, and was already thinking along these lines – was how ready the players were to assume the role of soldier/adventurer/combatant when they played. They weren’t heading into the arena as Dave the IT guy, or Phil the lettings agent, they wanted to take on the role of something a lot more exciting than they would ordinarily get the chance to.

I don’t know if they realised it, but for a hell of a lot less money – I don’t want to scare you by telling you how much a basic SMG or assault rifle costs for this hobby – they could play the roles of a future soldier with weaponry they could barely imagine, and fight battles on a scale that could never be reproduced within the confines of even the largest outdoor site. Maybe they just wanted the exercise? Maybe they wanted to really feel the weapon in their hand without the danger of live rounds? But, when this is same activity tales place with medieval hand weapons, we have no problem seeing it as role playing. OK, maybe re-enacting, but still, that’s a hobby that it is still considered geeky.

The people who I saw airsofting would almost certainly never equate what they did with what myself, and  - I expect – a lot of my readers do in our spare time, even though there are so many parallels. I’m going to be going back to this venue at some point, or if I’m lucky a new venture that a friend is trying to get off the ground, and I would actually like to talk to some of the players, and ask them if the idea of table top pen & paper role playing has ever appealed to them. And if so, why did they choose this hobby instead.

Running out of space, so I’ll continue this later, when we look at people running away from zombies, but for some reason, still not role playing.

Feb 112013
 

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300Another month, another RPG bog carnival. This time brought to us by the rather spiffy people over at Arcane Shield. It appears that February has brought out the old romantic in them, but like myself, they don’t want to spend the time doting on someone who presumably already knows that they are the love of their lives, and don’t require an extra dose of yearly proof around mid February. Instead they want us all to take the time to think about things that don’t get enough love. Those games that you just can’t stop thinking about, but seem to have passed by the majority of gamers. For me there really could be only one choice.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a gem of a game. In its first incarnation I remember it being barely more than a handful of pages, and was easily read and digested in a matter of minutes. But that isn’t why I love it so. My own version of the game is in fact a beautiful leather bound edition weighing in at a little over a hundred pages, and I still adore it. What makes the game stand out for me is two fold, and the first is its elegant simplicity, mixed with a rather wonderful layer of complexity just beneath the surface. Allow me to explain.

04-22-11-BaronMunchausen02

Click for the actual adventures of Baron Munchause.

This is primarily a story telling game with each player taking on the roll of an aristocratic explorer and adventurer. The game takes place in some mythical tavern or tent, where you have all come together to grab a moment of peace, and discuss your exploits with like minded fellows. The first player is decided by which adventurer has the highest social rank – I often choose a marquis so rarely get this honour - and then a gripping yarn is decided on. “Tell us Lord Du Ponte of the time you heroically banished Neptune from his throne beneath the waves to a small fishing lake just outside of Almondbury“. The aforementioned Du Ponte would then regale the table with this highly unbelievable tale, suffering constant interruptions from the audience as they inform him that what he is saying simply cannot have happened for a variety of unlikely reasons: “But good sir, the Duchess of Hertfordshire was at the time engaged to yours truly, and as such would be in no position to lure a horse to the Stone of Scone”, and wager money to the fact. At which point, the choice falls to Du Ponte to either accept the coin and the story continues with the embellishment now a part of it, or enter a bidding war claiming that what the other person said was untrue, and tossing a coin into the ring of your own.

The story continues until it reaches its conclusion, or until the rest of the room becomes bored and starts to throw bread rolls at the speaker. It is advised that bread rolls be procured before the game begins, as waiters can never be trusted to bring them in a hurry. Each person tells their own tall tale, and then a winner must be decided. All very simple you see, and a great way of bringing together people with the aim of not only role playing, but putting the emphasis on story telling in it’s entirety. You will notice that no dice were cast during the entire game, only money – or tokens – changing hands. For me this is a wonderful thing; as much as I like random mechanics, I don’t like it when they interfere with a good tale, and this game is all about the tale.. The complex bit comes next…

The winner of this little contest is judged by all present, and they do so by bidding what coins they have left on who wove the finest yarn. So, if you have successfully averted all claims to untruth in your story you will have received no extra coins. And if you have made certain that everyone knows how much exaggeration went into the other wild stories, you will also have no coins of your own left. This means that they will be in the hands of others, who will have to place them before someone other than themselves, thus giving you a greater chance of emerging victorious. A fine mechanic, and one that inspires more florid story telling. Telling a good story with passion and inventiveness in equal measure, also important in gaining points from your compatriots.

So, as you can see, a great game to inspire your more creative side. As to the second reason why I love his game; well that is going to be the subject of a separate article, but the short story is that it’s a great game to play with people who would never willingly join in a role playing game, for whatever reason that may be…