Mar 112013

This thought came to me on the back of reading a rather excellent series of posts over at Reality Refracted dealing with death in RPGs. He has several fine points to make, but to me it boils down to two very distinct character deaths I’ve had as a player. In fact, these are pretty much the only two character deaths that have stayed with me, and that I continue to talk about. The first, because I was genuinely let down by the nature of the character’s end, the second, because it could not have been any better.

I’ll touch briefly on the first. A cyberpunk edge runner, that had at least two years of experience points under his belt, gets into a fight that has nothing to do with the plot. Some random gangers causing grief, and the players have a reputation to uphold, so step in to save the day. Very much an average day for Blaze. After the fight is over, I seek medical attention for a bullet would that was suffered to the leg. One critical fumble later, and I end up taking enough damage to require a death save, which of course, I fail. No problem though, Trauma Team are swiftly dispatched, and arrive in plenty of time to attempt a recovery. Another critical fumble is rolled, and I start to get nervous.

We make it to the AV ambulance, and another shot at saving my life. No fumble, and I think that I might be out of the woods. But sadly, the amount of damage I took from the first fumble means the roll wasn’t enough. One last try says the GM, and the whole room hushes as we watch the die tumble. Another ‘one’ is rolled. And the character is in the bag…

Died due to a random encounter, and bad luck, in such a way that nothing bar GM fiat could have saved me. And even though it was a sucky death, I’m glad that no rules were bent, as that would have left me feeling cheated, like I didn’t deserve to still be playing Blaze, although that might be better discussed in a blog post all of its own. No awesome death scene for Blaze then, and that’s exactly why I remember it, because his death meant so little in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward a good handful of years, and I find myself playing Amaruq, stood at the top of a burning flight of stairs, with the woman he loves – and who was currently pregnant with his child (I didn’t know this at the time, or what follows might seem needlessly harsh). The rest of the party had either fled in fear, or were lying dead behind us as we fought our way out through an army. We were both so badly injured that the stairs themselves could have been the death if either of us. And we still had enemies coming at us from behind. I had no other option.

Taking my beloved in my arms, I hugged her tightly and kissed her one last fierce time. Then I pushed her from me, hoping that the fall down the stars wouldn’t kill her, as it certainly would have done me. She fell, tumbling for what seemed like an eternity, before coming to a rest, smoldering from the flames she rolled though. After several epochs – or so it seemed – she lifted her head and looked up to me. There was no way she could come back for me, but at least she was safe. I turned my back on her, hefted my axe in both hands, and walked back into the ruined building, hoping to kill as many villains as I could to buy her time.

She survived, and is still played to this day, and Amaruq’s son is almost two years old. That was a death that mattered. And I will remember it as long as I game.

Now, GMs won’t always get the chance to tweak their game to make every death impressive, but if there’s anything that can be done, to stop the player feeling like it didn’t matter a jot, then go for it. Dramatic licence was pretty much made for this kind of thing. Trust me, they’ll remember it for a long time, and talk kindly of you to others. And years later, when hanging out and having a laugh, getting to hear your name mentioned as the GM who pulled off that amazing character death, well that’s got to feel pretty sweet…

Mar 062013

I saw this the other day, and the image has just stayed with with me. This isn’t going to be a regular feature or anything, but something about just makes me think about adding something that looks this sinister to a role playing game.


Mar 042013

This article comes on the back of a conversation I seem to have every once in a while when reminiscing about gaming when I was younger. You see, I’m still in contact with a lot of the people who were there when I first threw down some dice. Whenever we talk about my first forays into gaming, I always inwardly shudder. I was a bit crap you see, for a variety of reasons. To put it bluntly, I doubt I would be happy in the same room as my seventeen year old self, let alone in the same game. So presented here is the letter I would send the younger me, with bits of advice about his life with regards to the hobby that would take up so much of his time, and create not only lasting friendships, but opportunities, and even occasionally love.

To Paul,

Firstly, don’t get too used to being called that. In a matter of weeks, someone is going to forget your name, and when they introduce to someone else, they’ll just use the name of the character you’re currently playing. Don’t bother trying to change it. Shorty is a good name, and over the next couple of decades, it’s going to become pretty well known in certain circles. Don’t worry about trying to explain it either, just tell people it’s a long story, and move on.

So, with regards to role playing, I have a few things you should be aware of. Mainly, calm the fuck down! The people you’re gaming with right now are being bloody wonderful, and very patient indeed. You don’t need to impress them. They’re geeks just like you, so trying to be cool will win you no friends. And they’re better at being geeks than you, so just pay attention and learn what you can. They’ll almost all become great friends, so just carry on with what you’re doing, but take it down a notch or five.

Oh, and don’t worry about fitting in with anyone else too much. You’re out of school, and about to move out of your Mum’s place. That means you can make your own friends, and these guys and gals are gonna be great for that. They like the fact that you read comic books and fantasy novels. A whole bunch of them are into heavy metal and sci-fi movies too. The fact that you can quite the Evil dead films is something in your favour right now!

Stay interested and curious about things; keep asking questions. The fact that you know a massive amount of almost totally useless facts is going to be very useful for conversations in pubs later on, so keep absorbing knowledge. But for the love of god, stop asking your GM too many questions! And really stop doing shit like that during games. You deserve every bad thing that happens to you if you piss off the GM, and when it’s your turn, you’ll see why it was so bloody annoying.

Don’t rush into GMing though. There’s no pressure for you to do that, apart from what you place on yourself. Wait until you’re ready and run a damned fine game. You may not have too many of your own ideas right now, but rather than nicking other people’s stuff, wait until inspiration strikes. When it does, it’ll all be worth it, and people will keep coming back for more.

In this hunt for inspiration, play every game you game you can, with anyone who wants to play. Not every game will be amazing, and I promise you that you won’t like every gamer you meet. But if you don’t take some chances, you’ll get stuck in a rut. The guys you’re gaming with now are great, but in about ten years, you’re going to start playing with ‘the Birkby Lot’, and wonder why the hell you weren’t doing this sooner. A phrase that’s been going through my head a lot lately is one that you should keep in mind. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. So suck it up and take a few more risks, you’ll be amazed how many of them pay off.

And when you do end up in games with people you just don’t gel with, don’t take shit so personally. Especially in character stuff. You look like a douche when you get wound up over stuff like that, and people will talk. Sure, it might not be fun, but it’s at times like that, that you have to remember that it’s only a game. You let that crap slide right off you, and get on with enjoying the game. That’s what they’re there for.

There’s a bunch more stuff I’d like to tell you about girls and careers, but this letter can’t actually travel through time, and is in fact just a post on an RPG blog, so I thought I’d best keeping it on topic. Oh, but just in case: invest in Facebook.

Peace, Asshole! (don’t worry, that’ll make sense later)


Mar 022013

If you’re seeing this post from my home page, then down there on the right, below the big thing that’s really subtly trying to get you to Like the Facebook page, you’ll see a new widget. For a long time now I’ve been hosting the GMS magazine podcast, and for my money, it is still the most informative RPG podcast out there. Full of interviews and industry news that’s of interest to casual gamers and budding games designers alike. Two groups I consider myself part of.

That new widget is for my new podcast though. One that I co-present with my best friend, and social media guru, Rich. Although we are both gamers and geeks, the podcast is actually not focused entirely on that part of my life. In this first episode for example, we spend a long time discussing just why neither of us has much interest in watching the movie Warm Bodies. Someone attempting to make love to an ambulance also gets mentioned. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it is far from safe for work

If you’re not at my home page, and have made your way here from one of several links that I scatter all over the internet, then you can just click here to go to the podcast’s very own web space. If you take the time to listen to it, and like what you hear, then please spread the word. As a new podcast made by two guys with more time than money, the only way we’re going to reach an audience is by positive word of mouth. And if you have any questions or things you would like to hear us talk about, just drop me a line and let me know.

Mar 012013

Today’s article is by a long time friend of mine who is looking to dip his toes into the waters of self publishing. This is just a little teaser he’s written for a product that will be available soon on DriveThruStuff. As soon as it’s up there, Ill update this post and let you all know. For now, take a read of what Ian has to say. As a point of interest, I was in the epic RPG finale he mentions below, and can attest to how much fun it was to take control of a ship in a full sized naval encounter.

I wrote the first version of the “England Expects…” Naval Wargame Rules back in 2005 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and also to demonstrate them at various war games shows up and down the country.

They have progressed and developed through three versions over the years, to suit my requirements at the time; a hex-based system for ease of instant participation by novices, multiple dice and single dice systems as the whim took me, even as a multi-player three-ship finale to a pseudo-historical action and adventure RPG that I was running at the time. Now in their fourth incarnation and ready for promotion and sale to wargamers and Role-Players alike.

This is a fun set of ‘fast-play’ rules that allow you to re-fight larger size naval battles of the late 18th and early 19th century from six to thirty-six ships, or even more!

The rules are specifically designed to highlight the dilemmas of the higher echelons of command rather than deal with the complex intricacies of sailing such vessels, as faced by their crews. Nor are we concerned with the specific accuracy, ranges and size/type of ammunition used in cannon fire.

There are plenty of rule systems on the market which can provide you with this level of detail, but I feel it simply slows down the game thus deadening the ‘feel’ of a fraught and hard fought battle between huge wooden ships and iron men upon a harsh sea shrouded in the smoke of cannon fire, littered with floating wreckage of hull and sail, and the shattered bloody bodies of the dead. No, mine is a game for the imagination, not the slide-rule.

Each player will take command of a Squadron of at least three ships. A number of squadrons make up the Fleet, which the main player would ultimately command in the role of the Admiral.

Game play uses both dice (multiple regular d6), and a tailored sets of cards, in order to determine such aspects of the game as initiative, the results of broadside fire, boarding actions and crew morale, etc.

The Appendices to the main rules provide all of the ancillary components – counters and cards – required to play the “In the Spirit of Trafalgar” scenario which is a smaller version of the actual Battle of Trafalgar, using the derived statistics of half of the ships present on that day.

Examples of how the squadron/ship Log is filled in and marked off during the game as damage is accrued are also included within the text of the rules.

The Fate Cards were introduced to provide some additional degree of uncertainty (and control in some cases) to the game, beyond the Initiative Cards. Players may create their own tailored to suit specific nations and battles or events.

A series of Naval Expressions can be found at the end of the rules as an option to add fun and flavour to the game!

These are my own set of rules, used at my various club meetings, and were publicly demonstrated at the Pudsey Recon Kerriemuir Targe, and Newark Partizan wargame shows over a four-year period, using balsa and paper ships supplied by History Alive ( I have recently also used metal castings from the 1/1200 Navwar Napoleonic range available from Spirit Games, for play-testing purposes, which also work quite well with care. 

Here are the sections covered in the rules: Scales & measures, Game Set-Up, Random Encounters, Squadron Log Sheet, Officers, Warships, Crew, Basic Ship Data, The Game Turn, Sailing & Tacking, Broadside Fire, Officer Survival, Crew Morale Checks, Grappling, Boarding Actions, Prize Crews, End of Turn, Winning & Losing, Naval Expressions, Basic Markers, Commander Markers, National Flags, Fate Cards, Scenario Order of Battle, Scenario Battle Set-Up, Scenario Initiative Cards, and the Wind Direction Marker.

Thanks for your interest.

Ian F White