Jun 272013

cogsThis review has been far too long in coming. This is down to several reasons; I’ve just been busy with my day job working odd shifts so I haven’t had as much time as I usually would do to absorb something like this, and the time I have had has been spent on getting some ideas down for my own Steampunk RPG before I forget them all. And then there’s the fact that I just don’t think that this RPG was designed with me in mind. This isn’t saying that it isn’t great – I’ll get to the good bits shortly – but there were times when I found myself flicking past pages at a time because there wasn’t much to interest me.

It is a very light system, and all the rules – including character creation – take up so little space, it made me wonder what Ms. Hardy was going to do with the rest of the pages. A lot of the space was very well used, with some cracking adventures in there, running from the kind of intro game that a group could get through in a couple of hours, to a much more involved multi-scene set up that begs to be explored in detail. There was plenty of background about the game world too, with time lines mixing up some real world events with the fantastical happenings of the Empire of Steam. I could honestly go back and read them again, just for the fun of it, to enjoy some top notch writing.

But then there was a whole bunch of pages explaining to me what a role playing game was, and how to GM. I don’t mind these sections, but even in bigger games they don’t seem to make up as much of the page count and make more sense. Everything about this game screams to me that it should be picked up and played in less than an hour after purchase, with people who have never role played before. In my earlier review of the game I said that it reminded me of the Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The core of this game still does. You could still have a great deal of fun playing this with friends whom have never rolled a dice outside of a game of Monopoly, as long as you don’t let them read the rule book.

For experienced gamers, there’s a lot that night not necessarily be relevant, and for people who are joining a game of Steampunk silliness, they could be a little bit intimidating. That much information for a light hearted and system light game (seriously, the entire thing comes down to a D6 roll and some explanation as to why it will work, and you’re done) is a tad unnecessary. Does all of this mean that I didn’t like it though? Hell! No!

It looks an absolute riot, and I will totally be running it for our new season Freshers come the end of summer. It is a perfect example ofcakes how little is required to get an idea across of theme and genre, and tack that onto a system that anyone can understand. The look of the book is remarkable, with layout and artwork of a very high professional quality. I know I mentioned this before, but the artwork is a huge win. Cartoony, but not so much that it detracts from the feel. The best way to describe it would be Steampunk caricature gone mad. With a system as light as this is, you need to take every chance you get to highlight the setting and the feel you’re trying to achieve, and every bit of art used is perfect.

And I cannot commend Lynne Hardy enough for her writing in this. Everything from the character creation, through adventure writing and back ground on the Empire of Steam is pitch perfect. I have no problem at all giving her a huge bunch of the credit for inspiring me to start writing an RPG of my own, as I would love to be thought of as even half a good Steampunk creator as she clearly is.

The thing I look for in any system is that in compliments the setting, rather than being just a mechanical way of working out random events. There are three attributes in the game, and you already know what they’re called: Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks. That’s it. And you basically have two different levels they can be, so making the decision about balance takes less time than it does to brew a proper pot of tea. The only bit that you’re going to have to put some thought into is how your attributes are applied. Rather than having full skill lists, you just pick an area of specialty for each attribute, and as long as you can apply it to the test, you get a bonus.

This is a great idea, and another one that I’ve found myself incorporating into the way I play other games, as it gives me a much better feeling of being involved in the narrative. This is a boon to all players; the more experienced will relish the challenge of bringing in their specialties as often as possible while new gamers will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into a character as much as they like.

In conclusion, I think this a grand old game, full of cracking writing that jumps off the page. I can’t wait to run this game for some people to see what they take away from it, but I think someone new to the hobby might be put off by the sheer bulk of the text about gaming that may not ever apply to them. If you fancy some kick ass, light-hearted fun involving some alternate Victorian silliness, then this is very much for you.

Jun 252013

A bit of a cross post this one, as I know that this blog gets more traffic than the fledgling site I’ve set up for the RPG itself. I’ve spent the last few days putting together a first draft of the character creation system for my Steampunk game, and I’d like to see how well it works. Now, I have plans this evening to take it down to my local gaming society weekly meet up and run a handful of people through it, just to see if it works how I want it to, and see how easy it is to break.

This is all well and good, but I’ll be there to help out and make things clearer if my writing has so far not been up to the challenge. What I’d like to know as well, is if people can just run through it without me, and still end up following it. For that I will need the help of the wider gaming community. If you have the time and inclination, I would love it if you could take a shot at creating a character, and letting me know how it all goes. Any problems you come across now will help me iron them out to make it better as I move forward with the project. I’ll give anyone who helps out play tester credit, and if there’s any bloggers out there who want to lend a hand, I’ll do my best to send as many people your way as possible as thanks.

All the info is in the following post, but this link will take you directly to the character creation document that’s sat in my Dropbox account. And if you have fun with it, please feel free to tell others who might get a kick out of it. I know this is still very much early days, but starting word of mouth early shouldn’t do any harm at all. Thanks in advance, and I hope you like what I’ve got done so far.

Jun 242013

The short answer will be a resounding “no”, but that would make for a very dull blog post indeed, so allow me to go into more details. If I pick up an RPG set in a fantasy world, I would expect the game play to be a bit more than the generic, cliched, predictable fantasy. One of the many things that the TV show The Big Bang Theory gets wrong about role playing is when the guys are playing Dungeons and Dragons, and when they go into  a dungeon they encounter a dragon (don’t get me started on the horrendously inaccurate talk about girls playing D&D at all).

One character complains, saying that “it’s a little on the nose”, and is rebuffed by the line, “if you’re playing chutes and ladders, do you complain about all the chutes and ladders”. You know what, if I was playing any board game, I think I could go in with an expectation based on the name, or maybe a quick descriptive bit of text on the back of the box. Role playing games aren’t board games though. The stories they tell aren’t limited by the genre they fall into, and even traditional gamers in the mood for a dungeon crawl would almost certainly expect something a bit more exciting than crawling through a dungeon. Preferably something a bit more unexpected than a dragon.

So with that in mind, how do we apply it to our own games? To help, I’m going to invoke the literary hero that is Joe Abercrombie. So far the chap is six novels into his genre fiction career, plus I’m sure a whole bunch of short stories that I have yet to discover. The first three – The First Law Trilogy – were great, but were in terms of story and style, fantasy at heart. They quite rightly get compared favourably to the works of George R R Martin, as they can be read almost as works of historical fiction based on medieval politics, with a hint of magic rubbed on for flavouring. Do not take this as a negative; they’re amazing books, and he is a consistently impressive author.

What he does remarkably well though, is to take genre conventions down unexpected avenues. The three books he has had published since the first trilogy have all been set in the same world, and have even had recurring characters (I don’t want to spoil anything for readers, but when a familiar face turns up in the latest book, it gave me goose bumps!). What they’re not, is a continuation of the theme of epic fantasy. The first was a story of revenge that would have worked fantastically well had it been directed by Chan-Wook Park. It was down and dirty, and you just knew that come the end of the story, no one was going to be happy, even if they managed to get everything that their stained little hearts desired.

Following on from that, we were given a war story. Next to no hint of magic or fantasy elements in this bad boy, but some of the best written depictions of war your humble blogger has ever read. The chapter that jumps a narrative shift as each previous narrator is killed by the next until we finally land on a character we know and hope to hell doesn’t die is a true pleasure to read. Along with a rather excellent TV show, this book played a massive role in inspiring me to run my next campaign; an original Deadlands campaign where all the players are part of the armed forces.

And finally, we have a western. Although it is true that a lot of western movies have similar tropes to that of revenge flicks, this does stand on its own, as it also explores themes of exploration and the importance of family, and a past that will always catch up with you.

All of these ideas would work perfectly in any genre role playing game that I could think of, so next time you want to tell a certain story, don’t worry about fitting it to a system, or setting; instead you should find a game you love to run, and use it to tell the story that you want to, rather than the narrative that is expected.

If you’ve already done this, and had some success/failures, then please share them below.

Jun 172013

I live in a large town in the north of England that used to be known for its woolen industry. These days we seem to be little more than a net importer of students, but that’s not a bad thing, as it keeps us fairly well stocked on new recruits for our gaming society. One other thing my home town does pretty well is places to grab a drink. True, a lot of the pubs I drank in as a teenager, and even in my early twenties, have long since closed their doors, but there is still a huge array of choice for the discerning drinker. This is how it should be in any large settlement, but in most fantasy settings, pubs are either bawdy taverns or gentile gathering places. I’m going to show you some other options.

One of my favourite watering holes. Click for pub website.

One of my favourite watering holes. Click for pub website.

The Adventurer’s Rest. This is what i think of as a typical tavern in fantasy settings, and even in some cyberpunk and sci-fi worlds too. It tends to be run by someone who used to make their living in much the same way that the player characters do now. There’ll be a board with adventuring opportunities, and plenty of shady corners for people to smoke pipes in. All much of a muchness, so lets move on.

The Student Bar. Most large cities have some form of higher education institute. Just think about Ankh-Morpork of Discworld fame. Although the Unseen University is by far and away the most famous – and in other fantasy cities, a Mage’s college is not too difficult to include – each guild could reasonably have a training college. So imagine a city of thieves in a fantasy world. There would almost certainly be either competing guilds, or one large one in charge of most municipal affairs. Having a college devoted to teaching anyone who can afford it the finer arts of sneak thievery and cut-pursing would be a great way to make more money. And the moment any kind of institute of education opens up, local publicans are quick to cater to young people with spare cash and a far from restrictive schedule.

Adding such a watering hole to a campaign world is pretty easy then, but why would the characters go there – unless students themselves, in which case; job done – for a pint. Hiring a student to a do a job is far cheaper than bringing in professional help, although risky to say the least. It is also not unheard of of faculty to share a drink with the students, and could be a way of getting an informal audience with someone whom has no desire to converse with adventurers.

The old man’s pub. I’m half way through my thirties, and have been a fan of this kind of pub for a very long time. I like being able to chat with friends rather than shout over other noises, and the choice of ales that are available are usually top notch and more varied than the more popular watering holes. In a game world, this will be about as far removed from the bawdy taverns and nightclubs as it’s possible to get. I know it doesn’t sound very interesting in role playing terms, and using this may get differing mileage for different GMs, but it can be quite good fun.

Seething resentment can be well hidden in such venues, with cliques that have existed for decades still sharing the same 12 foot of bar with their bitter enemies. New people coming into the pub are treated with suspicion, and if you’ve ever seen an American Werewolf in London, you’ll know the kind of thing I mean. There are usually bar games to play though, and I imagine that a lot of retired adventurers are much more likely to be found in such a pub. Not everyone likes having it rubbed in their faces that they’re too old to do what they were great at only a decade or so ago.

The Sports bar. They exist in any world that enjoys organised sports, even if the GM has totally made them up himself. Decorated in local team colours, with prints on the walls of famous players, and maybe even a trophy cabinet. The atmosphere will certainly seem jolly from the outside, but team affiliation is key in some of these venues. Walking in wearing the wrong colours can be enough to ensure you don’t walk back out, in the rougher class of drinking houses. They do have their uses though, as mobs can quickly be formed from their patrons, and famous folk from around the city like to call in to show their devotion to a team.

In some worlds, it’s far from a stretch to imagine that organised crime cartels would have something to do with such establishments too. Book making and contest rigging are sure fire ways to make money, and if a sport is very popular indeed, it can do a gangster’s credibility good to be seen with such respected public figures. Hell, maybe the characters are just fans of the sports team, and fancy a drink in friendly pub, what happens after that is up to the GM.

So there you go, just a few examples of how to change your drinking holes into something a bit different. I hope some of it was useful, and feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section below.

Jun 142013

That’s right, I’ve been at this blogging lark for a whole year! This post by its very nature is going to be a bit self referential, but there is something interesting coming up. If you want to, just skip to the end, I don’t mind. Seriously, I’m going to be talking about numbers later…

tumblr_lmmlc0C0OZ1qzd83tWhen I started this blog, I had some definite ideas about what I wanted it to be, and where I wanted it to take me. It took me less than a month to totally change almost every bit of that original plan. I was planning on a general geeky blog, covering all of my hobbies and interests, instead of just focusing on the role playing. It turns out though, that I have way more to say about gaming than I do any of the other things that interest me. And the times when I do talk about them, I still look at them as a gamer. I talk about computer games in terms of what they can tell us about role playing, and what we can steal from them at our table top sessions. I look at movies that I enjoy because I can see the cross over potential of running a game based in the same universe. And don’t get me started on how much I look at historical warfare and weaponry, just to steal things for games.

The blog has helped me realise that I have a whole bunch of creative energy that I was only really using when I was sat around a gaming table with friends. It found several outlets though, but none of them as satisfying as what I have done since I started the blog. I would write long and in-depth character diaries for the PCs that I loved, but only my gaming group ever really read them. I have a great time creating worlds and stories, but only the players sat in front of me would ever to share them with me. Hell, on occasion I would sit for hours sketching tattoos for fictional criminal cartels, but they would just sit on the forums they were created for. As a side note, as soon as I have the spare cash, I’m totally getting this one inked on me.

These days though, I write adventures, a weekly column, my own RPG, and even freelance for a kick ass British RPG company. My stuff is getting seen, and it’s fantastic! Now for the boring bit I’m afraid, as I wonder at just how many people get to see my stuff. In one year, there has been 34,227 views of the various pages I blog on. This does not include sites that I don’t manage, so I imagine there’s at least four or five people out there who check out my other stuff too. The thing is, I have no idea if that’s good or not. It averages out at about 94 views per pay day. I know a lot of bloggers get that before lunch, but they’ve been at it a hell of a lot longer than I have. Regardless, I’m pretty damned pleased with that level of traffic to this site.

I have a Twitter account with over 120 followers, and my Facebook page for the blog has over 50 likes. Through that in with a good couple of hundred people who have me in circles on G+, and I think I do OK. If you do like what I do though, please tell your mates about me. Well, the ones who game anyway. It would be a bit weird of you were trying to get someone who has no interest in the hobby reading this.

OK, that’s the boring stuff out of the way! Lets talk about something new. Some of you may have noticed recently that I changed up the look of the blog recently, basically adding a few bells and whistles to it in an effort to make it look a little bit more professional. So far the response has been mainly positive, although I’m still having issues getting the new theme to look good on mobile devices. What I could really do with though is a better logo. The one you see above this post was hastily drawn by me in about an hour, and coloured by a mate of mine who added the text too. It’s done it’s job well, but I think that it needs a change.

So, if there are any artists – graphic or traditional – out there amongst my readership, why don’t you take a shot at designing something that will be on the top of every page of this blog, for the foreseeable future. I have very little to offer in the way of prizes, but I will pimp the crap out of any site your other art can be found on, linking to it every chance I get, but what little else I have to offer is also going your way. I promise that for one whole year, anything I put up up on DriveThru will be yours for free. This will hopefully include a brand new RPG system, along with any adventures, or other RPG stuff that I write. Hell, I’ll even through in the stuff I already have on there too. As I say, it might not be much, but it is all I have to offer.

If you do want to enter this competition, just send me your submission to shorty[underscore]monster[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk or throw a link to it in the comments section below and I’ll pick my favourite one month from now. Oh, and if you were ever thinking about sharing this page, then now is the time. To get as many entries as possible, it would be great if people could could give this post some online love.

So that’s that, and with the exception of the contest, everything should carry on as usual from here on in. Big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to pop onto this blog, especially if you have taken the time to join in a discussion, and even more so if you’ve helped me out by talking about me on your own blogs and social media worlds. It’ because of of the people who come here that I’ve kept this thing going!

Jun 132013

Not too long ago i was pimping for votes to try and win a coveted site of the year contest. I knew that the competition I was going up against was fierce, so I was very happy that anyone took the time to vote for me. The site that was running the competition was actually pretty close to my heart anyway, as I’ve spent the last few months writing a weekly column over there.

The site itself – Stuffer Shack in case you were wondering – is going through a few changes at present, so I thought I’d draw your attention to what’s happening over there, while also sending you off to read some of my other bits of writing. Pretty much from day one of this blog, and were are rapidly closing in on that anniversary, the head honcho at Stuffer Shack has been nothing but supportive of me. Heck he even pays me a bit for my column, which is more than most sites do. He has always been very up front about the kind of content he wanted from me, and it suited me down to the ground, as it’s very much different to what I do here, or on the Rise of the Automata site. I get the chance to be as creative I like, writing plot seeds, characters and even unique items, none of which needs to be system specific.

What he also does though is run another site, much more similar to what I do on my blog; general RPG chit chat and opinion, with a healthy mix of advice. So, if you like what I do here, and want the chance to take a look at a much more professional looking outfit, written by a whole bunch of talented creators, then head on over and check out the Gamer Effect too.

As to my column, well at the moment I’m having an awful lot of fun re imagining some characters that I’ve either created in the past, or seen played by others. To make sure I can claim it all as my own work though, I have been changing plenty of details, and sometimes keeping nothing but the name or a physical description. I’m currently in the middle of re-writing an old adventuring group I was part of. We were a bunch of con-men and thieves, but only one of us was dedicated to the life. the rest were mostly nice people just making ends meet. So I have been taking the time to create them again as true blue villains, wondering just what it would have taken in their past to drive them to wanton criminality. Lucius was the first, and the character I created. He is pretty much as he was played, but check out the other entries after that to see what I’ve done with the rest of the gang so far. If I’ve worked it out right, this time tomorrow, there should be a fourth member of the crew gone live on Stuffer Shack.

Jun 102013

I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now, and I’ve had a whole bunch of fun doing so. In fact the more time I’ve spent on it, the more I’ve realised that I have way more creative impulse than I ever imagined. I have written a few things for my own little DriveThru account, but I know they have limited appeal. It’s great fun writing adventures, but if no one gets to play them, then it seems a bit of a waste of time and energy. Sure, I’ve had some pretty positive feedback, but I did some market research, and when people buy into a pre-written adventure, they do so because it should save them time and energy as games masters. Everything I have done has been purely system neutral, simply because I have no ties to any system that would allow to me to charge even the smallest amount that DriveThru recommends.

Choose-Your-Weapon-Dice-TabletopAfter a conversation on an RPG forum, I decided to see if there was anyone out there who owned a system that would be happy to let me play around in their sandbox. I tried a few avenues, but got a very quick response from the guys over at 6d6 Fireball. After a hugely successful Kickstarter – the first UK based RPG to make use of the crowd sourcing website – they were on my radar in a big bad way. After a couple of quick meetings I was on the job, writing an adventure for their modern horror setting, Rebel Flesh. Because they’re currently in the middle of a complete system overhaul – moving away from card based character sheets to save money on printing the game – it’s a great time to be involved. I get to join in on the play test sessions, and get the skinny on how things are progressing as the weeks go by and they get ready for a full relaunch.

As I say, it’s been great fun, and I still have a long way to go until my project is delivered, and in no way am I stepping back from the commitment I’ve made, but playing in someone else’s sandbox has its own disadvantages. I’m playing with toys that don’t belong to me, and if I don’t use them correctly, I might break them. This isn’t to say that the lovely chaps over at 6d6 have been anything but welcoming; it’s my own worries about doing something wrong that has me nervous about trying new things out. Rebel Flesh is a fully fleshed out world, with a back story and characters that I find myself treading carefully around.

So, if I want to be able to write things that I have total control over, the best course of action seems to be to make something of my own. I have toyed around with the idea of putting some work in front of the fine people over at Pinnacle, and that’s still something I have on the horizon, but there’s a whole lot more I need to learn with regards to consistent writing style – luckily 6d6d has similar ideas about pacing and language, so that’s going to be great practice – and professional looking layouts. Putting something together myself that I expect to sell will be a great way for me to hone these skills.

It will also give me the opportunity to think about a lot more things than just the next plot point. Since I’m creating the whole thing from scratch, that means I need a system of my own too. There are some great systems out there in the creative commons that can be used towards what i want to do, but I’ve found that the games I enjoy the most, are the ones that marry system and setting well. Not just a dice mechanic because it’s needed, but one that adds to the feel of the world I am playing in. And since I’m making the whole world myself, and hopefully managing to tread some new ground, I really do need a system all of my own too.

A few of my regular readers my be a bit worried that my writing will now be devoted to game design. Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen on here. I know that there are game design blogs out there, but Shortymonster isn’t one of them. It will continue to be a sounding board for ideas, and tips to GMs and players on a whole range of subjects, with information on my new game living on a blog all of its own. If something big happens, I may very well link to it on here, but general day to day stuff won’t clutter up this page. Although the page has only just gone live, feel free to head on over. I’ll be adding some basics to it over the next couple of days, and making it a bit prettier too.

Just in case you’re wondering though, the game will be called Rise of the Automata, and takes place in a Steampunk universe ravaged by a war between humans and robots.

Jun 042013

I know that you’ve all been sat on the edge of your seat waiting for his one, so perch no longer. Sit back, have a nice warm/cool beverage and enjoy.

Following on from yesterday, there’s one other thing that I think can be done with the numbers on the character sheet -  if you are still playing such a game that is – spend some time thinking about where they came from. As mentioned about a bazillion times, I love the game Unhallowed Metropolis, and one thing they did in their first edition was to include specialties for skills. For each level in a skill, you get to pick a certain area of expertise that gives you a bonus if it is used when attempting a skill check. As a quick example, someone is trying to shift some dodgy goods at a profit, so the GM asks for a streetwise roll. The person making the roll has two points in streetwise, but has picked Fences as a specialty, so they get a plus one.

Click for source.

Click for source.

Nice and simple, but it adds an extra layer to the character, and when I create characters, it makes me think about the kind of person I want the character to be, as well as what kind of person they were before I started playing them. When exactly did they start hanging around with people ready to buy stolen merchandise? How did they get good enough at it to be able to promise a better deal than most? This applies to almost every skill in the game, although not all of them give as many ideas for a character back story; a burglar specialising in new locks for instance would be pretty standard, but specialising in old locks makes me think about their age, or the types of property they choose to target.

The current incarnation of the UnMet rules does not have specialties though. They keep stunts – these just allow for special things to happen in the right circumstances, and manage to never get into the territory of making cool maneuvers impossible for the characters who lack them – which is nice, and still offers a certain something, but in a much more limited arena. My significant other is going to be running a short form game of UnMet this evening, and is using the Revised rule set. She has however specified that if a player can justify why they should have a bonus here or there depending on their character’s background, she might be inclined to allow it.

This to me seems a beautiful way of encouraging players to think about the history behind the numbers. The Aristocrat is a skilled tracker, but learned his trade in the wilds of Africa, not the rookeries of London, for instance. I heartily encourage all GMs to allow for this kind of thing in their games, and for players to take the time to figure out a few more bits of information about who their characters actually are, and where they come from, even in one or two session games.

And if you’re looking for a system set up to encourage this kind of game play, where everything on the character sheet has multiple uses, and one must work how best to apply any that might fit, then look no further than 6d6. The more time I spend poking around that system, the more I grow to love it.

Jun 032013

This post comes on the back of a conversation I recently had with my better half about what you should take from a character sheet, and how that changes with experience. Since an awful lot of this hobby is based on a random number generator, the numbers are usually pretty damned important, but I am always happier looking at the story behind the numbers. When I started gaming, most things that happened to my character, that I instigated, began with pretty much the same sentence, “can I roll *blank* to do something”. Instead of thinking about what I should be able to do, and allowing the GM to set up an obstacle, I put everything down to the roll of a dice.


Just, wow…

As time passed, this lessened somewhat, but I was still very reliant on the numbers and the dice. I would bemoan bad results as if I was somehow owed success because I had a high score in an ability. These days, I try to think about things differently. Thinking ahead to what I’m about to write, this may very well come across as a touch pretentious, and maybe even a bit big headed; as if I know what makes a good gamer. This isn’t true in any way shape or form, as I know a bunch of people who would hate to game with me. Instead, think of it as some advice to gamers just getting into the hobby who want to look beyond the numbers, or just a quick bit of insight into the type of role playing I enjoy myself, and also enjoy seeing in others.

Firstly, the numbers are far from the be all and end all. They don’t make the character who it is, all they do is provide a basis for a roll and give you a vague idea about where they fall on a scale of competence. As an example, I have seen players come up with an absolutely amazing idea in game to solve a tricky problem. And just as they’re explaining it, have looked sad for a moment, and said, “Actually, my character is nowhere near clever enough to have come up with that idea, never mind”. I mean, what the hell? The score the character has in the intellect stat is there for the GM to help with random number decisions, and for you to role play when it’s needed. It shouldn’t be there to hinder. If you’re determined to stick to the role playing of an idiot – firstly, don’t buy down your intelligence if you’re actually quite clever; you’re just making it hard on yourself – then just put it down to a moment of rare insight, and once you tell people the plan, leave it to them to put it into action. Your moment has passed, and you can go back to sharpening your sword/brass checking your weapon. Just don’t keep hamstringing yourself because of a number on a sheet.

Oh, and worth remembering that all of these numbers can be modified by the way you act in character and the way you respond to a situation. Taking combat as the best example of dice rolling over role playing, there is still a mountain of options open to you that aren’t covered by the rules, or dictated by the numbers. From my own experience of playing in a very tactically minded group rocking some D&D 3.5, there were a couple of us who did more than work out ranges, attacks of opportunity, and getting a better bonus for surrounding our enemies. Since we were in darkness at the start of the fight, but I knew roughly where the bad guys were, I stopped thinking like Shorty, and instead like a slightly unhinged viking. I dropped the tip of my sword onto the stone floor, and dragged it along as I charged in roughly the right direction, trusting that the sparks would give me enough light to get a half accurate swing, and maybe even keep the rest of the group aware of where I had gone.

There’s no skill for it, no numbers to use and no real way for a random number generator to make a difference, but I gave it a shot anyway. It may not have drastically altered the flow of the combat – or even the result – but it was a fun thing to do as it just came off the back of me playing the character. And it looked pretty cool too, let me tell you!

This has turned into a longer post than I had originally planned, so I will continue it tomorrow, rather than bury all my readers in an avalanche of text. If you have any thoughts on what has been talked about so far, please feel free to share them below.

Jun 012013

Every once in a while I come across something in fiction that just jumps out at me as being perfect for role playing. Sometimes it’s just an idea that would turn into a great game, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, and Supernatural. Every once in a while, you come across something that looks so much like a role playing game that you wonder if the activities taking place have happened before, around a gaming table accompanied by the noise of clattering dice. The one that springs most obviously to mind here is the first book in the Gentlemen Bastards sequence – The Lies of Locke Lamora – by Scott Lynch. The protagonists of said story are a group of con-men and thieves with such a wide array of skills that they really do look as if they are the product of an evening’s work of half a dozen gamers trying to come up with a crock squad of rogues to steal all the money ever.

Another that caught my attention a couple of years back was the often underrated horror flick, Outpost. (If you want to know just how much I like it, it gets a hell of talk up in the first episode of the podcast I co-host.) True, it’s a bit more gun-ho than you’d expect a movie inspired by a gaming group to be, but the make of the group of ex-soldiers turned mercenaries looks a bit too well thought out to me. Exactly the kind of group that a bunch of players would bring together for just such a mission. What struck me about the film you’re about to see the trailers for is that it’s an idea created by a GM. maybe not a great GM, as the main goal seems to be to kill all of his players off one by one in a variety of gruesome ways, but it still struck me as such a role playing friendly set up, that it might very well be inspired by a game.

Take a look below, and see if you agree – you may not, but I hope you still enjoy the trailers. For me, I really like the look of this, and think that Outpost 3 now has a lot to live up to. First we have a lovely atmospheric teaser trailer…

Followed by a much more visceral full trailer. Be warned though, this is   a red ban trailer, and probably best avoided by the faint of heart.