May 302013

Republic-Poster-e1369322501162-224x300After several long years waiting, the third book in one of my all time favourite fantasy series is finally nearing publication. That’s right, after the Lies of Locke Lamora, and Red Seas Under Red Skies, it looks like we only have to wait until October for the Republic of Thieves.

I understand that author Scott Lynch has had a fair few hurdles to jump in his personal and professional life recently, so I – along with a whole bunch of fans – have been happy to cut him some slack. It has in fact become a fun little gripe to make, because I know that I’m not really angry at all about the wait, I will be monumentally happy the moment the book comes out! Great news too is that I will still be working in a book shop when it arrives, so I might get hold of an advanced copy to read! I was able to snag a copy of each of the first two, so I know I might be pushing my luck at this point, but if you actually come across this blog post Mister Lynch, I promise you a killer review if you manage to get one in my hands.

Oh, and if you think that it must be awesome to work in a bookshop and get cool books like this, well it totally is, but it comes at a very frustrating price. Most people are just happy to wait for a book to come out, or check on websites for a date that may never get announced. Working at Waterstone’s means I get regular updates on when books are supposed to be published, so I’ve been getting my hopes up roughly twice a year for the past six years, whenever the publishers put a new date up on our stock ordering system. Not long now though.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please go and hunt a copy of each the above books down. Scott Lynch does not disappoint, and if you grab the m now, then your wait will be of a much more bearable length.

May 302013

That blog title is almost certainly enough for a lot of people to not have bothered clicking on this post. And you know what, that’s up to them. This isn’t something I’m doing to try and guilt people into helping out a mate of mine; most of you don’t know her, and a lot of you won’t even know me that well. But I do know this girl, and I know just what she’s been through recently.

You see, I’ve known Suzi on and off for over a decade, and although we’re not exactly close anymore, I was still heartbroken when I found out about her accident last year. She’s a keen biker – not to mention a goth and role player, so right up my alley – and sadly had a road traffic collision that cost her one of her legs. This sucked for all kinds of reasons that I’m sure I don’t need to bore you all with. One of the reasons though was that she was getting ready to climb Ben Nevis. For a lot of people, losing a limb would almost certainly put them off such an attempt, but Suzi just postponed. She’s now looking to get up there this year, and will be raising money as she does so for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, without whom, losing her leg would have been the least of her worries after the collision. I don’t think she’d disagree with me when I say that they saved her life.

She’s spent a lot of time recovering and getting fitted with a prosthetic, and is now almost ready to go. She has set up a Just Giving page – a great and secure way for people to show some support to this little venture – so just head on over to donate.

And really, thank you if you do give something no matter how little. Suzi has gone through a hell of a lot, and ‘Never Give Up’, has become her motto. Any support you can afford to share will be gratefully received and put to use saving more people, and showing her that she has the right idea. Never give up.

May 272013

Quite oddly, my most popular post of the last few months has been my idea for changing how one describes damage effects while playing a Cyberpunk role playing game. I think the reason for this seems to be split between people with a genuine interest in spicing up combat so that they get to talk about more than damage dice and which weapon is being used, and the fact that people are searching for cyberpunk a bit more at the moment because of the upcoming console game. While I can’t do anything to speed up the release of this quite stunning looking game, I can carry on with my idea of making the surroundings a part of the combat when describing the effects of a successful attack.

Click for source

Click for source

Like my Cyberpunk take on this, always bear in mind that weapons and maybe even ammo types will have damage modifiers that will need to be taken into account when calculating damage. After trying this out in my game a few weeks back I did find myself having to reassure people that even though I was describing the damage for a certain attack as being caused by brick fragments tearing through a combatant’s face, I had worked out the damage for the weapon and taken the ammo into account.

The following ideas are much more suited to a fantasy bar fight scene, but everyone should feel free to adapt them to fit the setting and genre they’re playing in.

  • As you see the blow coming towards you, you try and move back but a beer spillage on the floor causes you to lose your footing. You go down hard, head cracking onto a table on the way down.
  • The weapon slashes towards your head, causing you to duck. You hear the blade hit metal above you and feel a burning pain as hot wax from a wall mounted candle sconce is shattered, and burning tallow splashes all over you.
  • As the blade pushes into our leg, you stumble backwards into another patron who swiftly turns on you and swings his drinking horn into your face.
  • The brawl moves you through the room until your back is pushed with some force against a wall, on which is hung a mirror that shatters allowing the pointed shards to find the gaps in your armour and pierce flesh.
  • Holding your ground, ready for attack from any quarter, weapons up and prepared as your opponent circles you, a glass drinking vessel flies across the tavern and shatters against your back, causing you to turn unexpectedly, and leave yourself open to attack.
  • A whistle causes our attention to turn and a very attractive member of staff who obviously has your best interests at heart is throwing a long bladed weapon towards to you. Sadly, you are unable to grab it safely and the edge manages to open a wound on your arm.

So there you go, just a few ideas that could easily be expanded upon and elaborated during your games. If you need any more ideas though, just find yourself an Errol Flynn movie and wait for the inevitable fight scene in a tavern. There will be all manner of things happening around the main sword fight that will interfere with the action and cause potential harm to those involved in the violence. If you have any other ideas though, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.


May 242013

cogsSadly I find myself unable to afford the full edition of this game at present, but after thoroughly enjoying the work the did on the Lovecraft/WWII mash-up that was Achtung! Cthulhu, I just had to give this is a look. I adore Steampunk you see. To this day, the only game I have ever tried to design from the ground up has been a Steampunk card game of high adventure and exploration. My two favourite RPGs are both Steampunk inspired, being the original and wonderful Deadlands, and the gas-mask chic game of Neo-Vicotrian horror that is Unhallowed Metropolis.

This particular product took my fancy after reading the blurb on the back of the book, as it reminded me a lot of the superb little game The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchhausen. It seems like they have taken the time to boil down a lot of the fripperies of Steampunk, and just keep the basic essence that makes it so much fun. The artwork alone does a great job of this. In the few pages I’ve been able to see so far, it mixes photography of Victorian objects with caricature like drawings of Steampunk characters. Although these are simple drawings indeed, they perfectly illustrate the lightweight feel of the game.

And boy is it lightweight. Just three stats per character – with specialisations – that are reduced as damage is dealt until the unlucky PC passes out from their wounds. So very simple, and perfect for a bit of light-hearted fun over tea and cake. I would be interested in seeing the rest of the book, as I think the adventures they include would be grand old fun indeed. As well as taking Steampunk as their biggest inspiration, the storytelling style is claimed to be all Pulp! Another thing I can really get behind, as whenever I run the current incarnation of Deadlands, it always has a Pulp feel to it.

If your purse stretches to it, based on nothing but the few pages I have seen, I would advise you go pick this one up. Even the full game is still a very reasonable price indeed.

May 242013

As you are, by now, no doubt aware, myself and long time friend record a fortnightly podcast. Although we are both gamers, we only really dwell on the topic if we think the story about it is funny enough to make a few non-gamers chuckle along with the rest of us. So although my Cyberpunk game finished recently, it got barely a mention, and we spent a lot more time talking about fear. I have blogged on this subject on the past, especially with regards to how to run as scary a horror role playing game as possible, and the two of us both love scary movies and all things horror related.

We do try to inject a note of humour into things though, even when discussing the terror of finding a live spider in your bed in the middle of the night. We also finish up our horror movie remake discussion, which drifts into Hellraiser territory, and made me wonder about the possibility of an RPG set within such a world. And just which side of the fence the players would come down. Maybe a subject for another blog. For now though, either head on over, check out the Facebook page for links to all the stories we discuss, or just listen using the widget below.

May 212013

I saw this yesterday on HeroPress – I’m seeing a lot of cool things on there at the moment, you should probably go and check them out – and realised that it was something I wanted to get behind. You see, Tim Brannan is doing his bit to help out a bloghop that exists to combat homophobia and transphobia. If you’re unsure of what either of those terms means, “being a turbo powered douche nozzle bigot” also covers it. To fully take part in said bloghop, you are expected to be someone who actually writes about such matters. It should be clear by now that although this blog occasionally drifts off topic, it’s an RPG blog, and doesn’t really fall into that category.


That’s not to say this kind of thing doesn’t affect the hobby, and that people shouldn’t write about it with regard to role playing, but for me, it is rarely an issue. And this is with various members of my gaming society comfortable out, or cross dressing when they rock up to the table. The reason it’s not an issue is that we do not in any way tolerate any kind of wrong headed bigotry in our society. It still needs to be talked about though, until everyone else gets it into their heads that there are certain behaviours that are purely dickish and should not be allowed in a polite and reasonable society.

So here’s me, doing a small part, and at least directing anyone who reads this blog to the right place if they want to join in. And I really hope that if you have anything to say on the subject, that you do. If people don’t stand up in the face of such small mindedness, then we’ll be nothing better than UKIP. And that thought just makes me shudder.

One small caveat though. The Other Side blog is offering an extra prize for anyone who shares this bloghop. It’s quite a lovely little prize, written by the man himself, but I have no use for it, as I do not play any OSR games. So, I’m either going to ask to be removed from the draw, or I will forward the prize onto anyone else who gives me a good enough reason to. I’m not doing it for the prize, lovely though it is, I’m promoting this because it’s something I believe in.

May 202013

I’m a huge fan of Batman. (Fair warning, this post might not actually be that much related to role playing.) I have been ever since I was eleven years old and I picked up The Killing Joke graphic novel. I was totally sold from that first encounter with the Dark Knight. One thing that has repeatedly impressed me since becoming a fan is how often different media takes a shot at recreating the comic book in another format, and actually manages to do it well.

The Cartoon series from when I was younger was astounding, even if they really did have to make sure that it was perfectly clear that all the bad guys lived, just because it was a kids show, and they wanted there to be no ambiguity about the fact that it was all in good fun. It was timed perfectly for me as the Batman movies had just been given to Schumacher, and the neon glow reflecting off Batman’s latex nipples really killed that franchise for me. And then there was the current generation console games.

Arkham Asylum and City were masterpieces of storytelling and characterisation that just happened to have a pretty damned solid beat-em-up patched onto it. There was a whole lot there for both fans of brawler games and died comic book nuts too. So many little references that would pass most people by, but got a nerd’s heart all a-flutter. True, they weren’t perfect, and I personally think that Harley Quinn could have done without being so grossly sexualised, but these faults were few and far between. Of course there was Catwoman, but for my feelings on that, then by all means check out my podcast where me and my co-host struggle to get our heads around why Batman doesn’t just ship the career criminal off to Blackgate. It’s that thought that makes me very happy with the idea of a new Batman game coming out. The last flick left me a little disappointed to say the least, so right now I’m looking for another medium to swoop in and show us how it’s done.

You know, apart from comic books themselves. Well today we get another teaser trailer for the latest game. Sad to say, we still don’t get to see any game play, but I just hope it’s on the way.

May 202013

We buy rule books for role playing games at the drop of a hat. We buy for them for the interesting setting, the pretty pictures, and the promise of the fun we can have when we get together with our group of friends and throw some dice. What’s strange though, is that in almost every case, most of the pages are given up to something that we are told fairly early on is optional. If we don’t like the way a rule works, or if it doesn’t fit in with our style of play, chuck it out or change it. And today, this is what I want to talk about.

As the keenly observant amongst you may know by now, I’ve spent a good few months running a Cyberpunk 2020 game. I have spoken briefly about one little addition I have made, but since it doesn’t really change the rules at all, rather the way in which the outcome of a ruling is described, I can’t really include that in this larger discussion. I have changed a few things however, and they fall into two vague categories; things changed before the game began, and things made up on the fly. As for the former of those, it came down to combat.

I like my combat to be quick, involving as few die rolls as is possible, but still giving a nice range of options and probabilities. I think to this day, my favourite combat system comes from a game that a couple of my friends are putting the finishing touches onto now: Orbis. One percentile roll – modified by your opponent’s defense score – lets you know if you have successfully hit, where on the body the hit lands, and how much bonus damage you’ve done as a result of hitting stronger/more precisely. After that, you roll the actual damage dice – modified as mentioned above – and you’re done. Bloody simple, but still gives plenty of room for tactical combat if that’s your bag. I wanted to make CP2020 a bit more like that, but keeping the essence of the system.


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As it stands, the rules require a combat “roll off”, with attacker and defender trying to get the higher result. Then hit location, followed by damage. This takes just a bit too long, so I figured out a rough formula for calculating a “Dodge/parry” score based on skill sand stats already in play, wrote that on the character sheets, and combat had one less dice roll to worry about. Not the most all encompassing solution, but it worked for me, and the players seemed to like that combat was less about rolling and counter rolling, and more about trying to engineer the encounter so that their Parry/dodge score was higher than it should be. Now, that’s all well and good, but I think the harder part of the GM’s job comes about when a rule call needs to be made mid-game, and the time it would take to flip through the rule book for a long forgotten bit of trivia is time wasted.

This is when you need to be a games designer in the heat of the moment. The reason for this is that the ruling you make shouldn’t be made for that one situation. If something like this happens again, then you’re going to want to make the exact same calling, and for it to still make sense. If you’re wondering why this is so important, the simplest reason is a complicated word: verisimilitude. You want your players to know that if the world works in a certain way one day; then the next week, it’ll still be the same. So, it needs to make sense in the wider context of the system that exists, and also the way the game is currently being played.

In the past few years I’ve returned to being a GM much more frequently, and I find the challenges invigorating, but I was surprised at how often I was having to make such calls. Years back, I would have had a much higher degree of familiarity with the rules system, and would only really need to make on the spot rulings if a situation arose that simply wasn’t covered by the rules in any way, rather than because I couldn’t exactly recall something. The more I have been doing it though, the more comfortable I became, and the more I was happy to make calls, knowing that they would be consistent and fair. Even things that weren’t really rules calls, such as the price of an item that wasn’t covered in any of the massive shopping lists that are a huge part of the Cyberpunk 2020 game books; I came close to asking my player to hang on while I tried to find out the price, but then a few seconds later realised that most expedient way to continue was to just name my own price, jot it down in the book, and move on!

So, all that said, is this something that other people enjoy, or are you happier to hold off on a ruling and look it up later? I’m not going to ask if you’re happy to pause the game while you look it up, as I imagine that you all know better than that by now.

May 162013

Only found this out as I surfed through my twitter feed and saw a post from the always excellent Heropress. I’m not really going to be able to do much more justice (you see what I did there) than he does, so why don’t you head on over and take a look. Following the links through his post will also land you firmly in Judge Minty territory, one of the finest fan made movies I’ve ever seen.

But if for some reason you don’t fancy wasting valuable mouse clicking energy to visit a superb blog, then I suppose I could just pop the new trailer down here, couldn’t I?


May 152013

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300I’m a big fan of a blog carnival, and even happier when they’re hosted by a blog I already love. So Age of Ravens popping up to write about the campaign they want to run had me thinking long and hard. And sad to say, I’m not really itching to run a new campaign anytime soon. I’m at the tail end of a long game, and it’s been great fun, but I’m looking forward to taking a player role next year, and not just because it means not dragging down a whole bunch of books to the pub every week. OK, it’s kind of that.

I think that almost all GMs should take some time off every once in a while. There are exceptions to that, and some GMs seem to thrive off it, never returning to play a game except for short bursts. I already know what game I’m going to be running next as a campaign, and I’m really looking forward to it, but it’s going to be over a year until I even need to start pitching it to potential players. So instead of getting myself all excited for about a game that I’m over a year away from touching, instead I’m going to look at a mythical campaign that I have thought about, but never found the time to run.

I want to start a game where the player characters are all children. Orphans in fact in a Steampunk/Victoriana game. They will begin with next to no skill points, and only equipment that they can steal and scavenge, and that no one else has stolen from them. By the end of the campaign, I would love to see at least one them involved in national politics, with the others of roughly comparable power and influence. This is a very tall order, and I’m not even too sure just how it would happen. I do know that it would take an awfully long time to get through such a campaign, and who has that kind of time?

Maybe when I was younger, and my gaming buddies had the free time afforded to them by being feckless students and the unemployed – just kidding guys, it was great, and we all had fun – but these days, even being underemployed myself, I find my time taken up by trying to get some writing projects off the ground and do something that I’m passionate about instead of just to make ends meet. And that is the crux of this post.

The campaign I want to run is never going to happen. Not because I can’t find a system that will work – Age Of Ravens has a whole slew of Steampunk¬† games listed for me to choose from – or that I have problems finding a group. I actually role play weekly, but the confines of that are that a game can only last a full academic year, and that just isn’t long enough for what I have in mind. Maybe, just maybe, when I’m old and retired, and still gaming (of course I will be, if I haven’t given it up in the last twenty years, I can’t see it ever happening) I might go back to this blog post, get the gang back together, and try and get the campaign finished before one of us dies.