Apr 162014

First off, it seems that the Leicester university grounds has a bit of a problem with 3G connectivity, and a wifi network for students and staff only. So with that in mind, I am very sorry that there were no updates live from the event.

Although, I would have had very little with which to update you all, as I ended up doing no gaming all weekend. I played a little bit of the Firefly board game with the missus when we were relaxing on our day off together on the Monday, but that’s not really what you were expecting.

Basically, a lot of fun was had, and that comes with certain drawbacks with regard to how prepared one is to spend several hours sat in a stupidly hot room with a bunch of strangers. Let take it from the top though, so you can all get one side of the Student nationals experience.

Our gaming society met up at our local watering hole and regular meeting place late morning to enjoy a hearty breakfast to prepare ourselves for a day of fun and frivolity. This set the tone well, as a few of us enjoyed our full English with a pint of ale, rather than the traditional pot of tea. What’s important to state at this point is how crucial it is to understand your limits when drinking. Not just when going to a 3 day event, but in general.

As previously mentioned, I like a pint or two, but I doubt anyone alive would say I have a drinking a problem. I know my limits, and when I drink, it has next to no impact on my life, baring an occasional fuzzy head come the morning. A few hours later, we were on the road, sipping away on cocktails and the like, chatting about gaming. One of your newest members professed her unease at what lay ahead.

She was new to gaming in general, and had never been to an organised event, let alone one that would judge her abilities as a gamer. Luckily, HUGS came to her rescue by making sure she understood that nothing was more important than her enjoying herself. If she was having a bad time, or feeling too nervous and apprehensive, there was no reason at all for her to stick around. There would always be people around with friendly faces, and most of them were a call away.

You see, although the Nationals is a tournament, only the war/card/board gamers can go in with any idea about what it takes to win. Role playing is massively subjective, and the ‘No-bad-fun’ argument really does apply when dealing with games like this. Most people have no idea what system they’re playing in, who they will be playing with, or even the exact feel of the game that everyone around the table will be expected to help create an maintain.

This goes some way towards explaining why I missed my Saturday gaming slot, but more on that to follow. You see, there were problems to deal with all weekend, to do with organisation, and they started pretty damned early. We were told which building to head to on which road to find the reception so that everyone could pick up their room keys. This was the wrong building, and lead to a couple of people getting lost, and some low level frustration for the chap driving our minibus.

This was compounded by the of effort put into accommodating the GMs that had volunteered from other societies, who had no idea about the campus layout, or local amenities. They were given no maps, and poor instructions about what needed to be done come the morning and the start of the games.

For now though, it was on to the rooms to drop gear off, freshen up after a hot drive, and in my case, get someone to shave my head. Long story.

The afternoon/evening then passed in good humour, and fine spirits. There was drinking and dancing for those so inclined – myself included, which was how I aggravated an old neck injury, and was in no state to game on Saturday – and quite rooms for pick up games, movie showings and general relaxation for those who fancied a quieter night.

It was great fun being at the nationals that night, probably more so than almost any other nationals. I have mentioned the somewhat shonky organisation of the event, but they kept the beer flowing, and the DJ was amazing at his job. At a little after 3 in the morning, I was finally ready to call it a night. I will post some thoughts on the gaming that took place my involvement on another day.

Apr 112014

Well, this has been a crazy few months. I will update later the full details, but for now it is worth pointing out that I am in the early stages of registering a business as a limited company with myself as a director. I will shortly after that be opening my own comic book store – find it here, or on Facebook - and as such, I have been massively swamped. This morning though, I start a three day break away from all that by heading to the student nationals.

If you don’t know what that is, chances are you’re not a role player affiliated with a UK university society. If you do know what that is, you’re probably getting ready yourself, and I shall see you in this afternoon!

This nationals is a strange one for me, but I ma really looking forward to it. I missed last year’s event due to a total lack of funds, and since then have been squirreling away money so I wouldn’t miss it this year. It is also my first event as a blogger – yes, I know I’ve been a bit absent lately, but I’m sure you all understand why. I will be using the event to get back into the blogging habit by posting a few times over the weekend with reviews and comment pieces when I’m able to.

The other reason it’s going to be odd, is that I’ve been cutting back on my drinking. As someone soon to be self employed, sick days with a hangover are no longer an option, so cutting right back has been a sensible move. The nationals though, is a time of drunken merriment with friends, some of whom I only see at the event. I know that getting drunk is not a prerequisite to have fun, but it is very much in the spirit of our society to cut loose for the weekend and just let ourselves get merry.

Will I be able to keep my drinking limited, or will I cut back? And if so, will I find I have less fun at the weekend? Only time will tell.

Some basics other than drinking for those unfamiliar with the event then. It is a weekend tournament of gaming, with each team fielding a bunch of gamers split into categories, covering role playing, war gaming, card gaming, and board games. Most of the time, you will know what to expect when you rock up to the event, as the categories are pretty obvious. War gamers for instance will know which army to bring, and if you select the D&D category, you know what you’re in for. This means that it’s possible to prepare and practice in advance to increase your chances of winning, and thus hosting the tournament next year.

My own team – yep, I’m president again, so it is my team – doesn’t really do this. We have a small handful of war gamers, but everyone else tends to play open categories. This means that you will have an idea of genre, but none of system. I myself am in open Supers. I’ve played this about four times so far, which means two different games over the weekend, and I have yet to play the same system twice.

I have no idea what system I will be playing, or what setting, or even character type I will have. So, with no preparation at all, I will turn up tomorrow morning – maybe a nit hungover – and have to impress my GM with my role playing skills. It is bloody hard to determine just what criteria they will be using to judge who is the best, but I will be trying my best to just have a good time.

A couple of years back I ran a Victoriana game set in the Unhallowed Metropolis universe for the nationals, and gave first place from my game to the lad who jumped into character with the smallest prompting, and kept trying out new things, rather than relying on the listed skills on his sheet. I have no idea if my GM will be the same though.

As mentioned, there are two games over two days, each lasting a healthy few hours. Each category tends to have a couple of GMs who run their game for two different groups. What’s great fun is catching up with people in the bar in the Saturday evening and trying to get clues about what game you might face, but refusing to give out spoilers to anyone about your own game. It gives people a great opportunity to seek out some strangers, and have a reason to engage with them.

Our hobby has a history of being full of socially awkward types who struggle in day to day interactions. I challenge anyone to spend time in the bar with us on a Saturday evening and still think that. Sure, some are slower at opening up, but everyone in that bar will be someone you have something in common with. I have a great time just strolling around, dropping into conversations about anything that I hear that interests me, and listening to other people dropping into ours.

All in all, a great way to spend a weekend, and if the wifi gods allow, I will post an update or two as the weekend progresses. Sorry I haven’t been posting as much – and left the duelist story unfinished, I will get back to it, I promise – but I will try and make up for that over the next few days/weeks.

Jan 022014

The title of this blog – welcome back after the holidays by the way – is a small bit of an introductory paragraph to a game idea I’ve had rattling around in the old noggin for the past couple of weeks. I’ll go into detail about it a bit further down, but for now there’s going to be a bit of a catch up, and some ideas about where the blog’s going.

This was originally going to be a New Year’s Revolutions style of post, as I have a few ideas about things I want to do over the next few months. Sadly though, even though for the next month or so I’m expecting life to return to normal, there’s still a whole lot going on that’s outside of my control. After that I will hopefully be busier than I’ve ever been, and will be playing the whole writing thing by ear.

There’s a couple of things I won’t be doing though. Firstly, I won’t making any promises on when I’ll be posting on here. I’ll be continuing my Orbis RPG game write ups as my weekly post – the game starts again next Tuesday, and I can’t wait – but other than that, I have other things to concentrate on. Because of more important things, I’m also not going be able to review games. It’s not as if I get sent a butt-load of them to begin with, but the time it takes to read the entire rule book, and the struggle to get people together to play it, just makes it unfeasible at present.

One of the things that I will be working on though is my Steampunk robot RPG, Rise of the Automata. It got put on the back burner a few months before the holidays as work was getting crazy and I had other things on my plate too. I never stopped thinking about the game though, and have a few ideas about setting and narration that I want to get down, plus some fun new bits that should allow players to have more of a say in character development and making shiny gadgets.

This is obviously going to be a big project, writing wise, and means that my other cool idea may have to sit gestating a while longer before I get round to fleshing it out. What’s odd is that when I started the blog, I found myself worrying that I would run out of ideas and things to talk about, and was amazed when I would read other people’s blogs and see how they struggled to find the time and mental energy to keep up with everything that they wanted to concentrate on.

And here I find myself without the time to get going on a pretty cool idea. Actually, it’s not so much the lack of time, it’s the fact that I really want to see the Steampunk game finished. I had to put a fairly long term hold on the card game I was working on, simply because of the problems that come along with producing and play testing  game that requires so many physical components. I still lack the finds to create a working prototype and take myself along with it to gaming and Steampunk conventions.

I have a dear friend who has lamented that I have never finished the game as he’s a keen Steampunk creator and really liked it, but life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. An RPG has far fewer necessary components that are required to enjoy it. That’s kind of the reason why I decided to to try and create one, along with having a pretty nifty idea for a base system mechanic, that works really well with a Steampunk setting.

The new game though, I have approached slightly differently. I have no system in mind at all, and only a very vague idea about how the game would work. Depending on how much I want to get it done, it could very well end up being a setting for a modular system like Savage Worlds. I hope not, as designing the system for Rise… has been a damned fine experience.

This game – so far without a name – came about because I have been thinking about running a horror game again. Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of fan of the genre, and I always like to inject a little horror into games I run; so long as it doesn’t detract from the base theme and genre. What I have never done though, although I’m a huge fan, is run something Lovecraftian.

I love the Mythos, but have never been a huge fan of any of the systems. Call of Cthulhu does a good job of handling investigations, but I would prefer a more involved combat system, and Trail of Cthulhu doesn’t appeal at all I’m afraid. Not only that, but I’ve had it my mind for a while now that there’s scope out there for role playing in a world that has seen the investigators to have already lost to the cultists.

In the final month of the year 2013, the rituals were performed, at the right time in the right places. There was nothing that those who worked against the Elder Ones and their minions could do. Strange lights were seen in the skies, and the world awoke to find harbingers of the ancient and unspeakable evils that had lain dormant for so very long.

That was two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, and still the evil has not fully returned to our world. After all, what are mere centuries to beings from beyond time and space? Their cultists stalk to halls of power, sacrifices are made in their honour, fed to the other-worldly  creatures that are said to herald their arrival.

The world hasn’t stood still though, and for most people, their lives continued much as before, but with all permeating dread and fear as constant companions. Technology has marched on, both in the hands of those praying daily for the arrival of the Gods, and also those who use to try and thwart the will of these deluded fools.

The Gods are coming. Can they be stopped?

Dec 022013

Yeah, I know, almost totally pointless title up there huh? This needed to be done though, as I know not everyone who reads this thing is on Facebook and has liked the page I have for it. It’s that page that I use for little news bits, both about the blog and on other geeky gaming related things that interest me, and I used to make a wee announcement last week. This is a bit more detail, and a catch up for everyone.

Some of my more regular fans will have noticed that I have been far from usual active self recently. This is both on the blog, and with regard to a few other projects too. My column has had to go on hold, and the game I’m designing is very much on the back burner. I’ve been unable to devote the time I’d like to spend trawling the RPG blogosphere – is that still a word people even use? – and even having the time to get into conversations with people on G+.

The reason for all this is that I’ve been devoting almost all my spare time to a rather large project. You see, since graduating university I have been struggling on the same part time wage I had to supplement my income while I studied. This is a pitifully small amount of money, and it’s been a horrible couple of years. The only way I’ve been able to survive is because of the kindness of my darling girlfriend, ebaying some unwanted items, some rare overtime and the extra bit of money I managed to bring in with little writing gigs here and there. It was very much not enough though, so a few months back I made a big decision.

I was getting quite depressed about the lack of opportunities, and each rejection for a job I applied for dragged me further down. I needed to do something to take control of my life again. Since starting the blog, it was one of the few things that made me happy and that was mainly down to doing my own thing at my own pace for a change. So, after conferring with the missus I started putting plans in motion to go into business for myself.

I have spent almost every spare moment since then doing everything I could to make this happen, and it is now getting pretty damned close to becoming a reality. I have all but secured full funding for my idea, and am just waiting to hear back from a couple of people about some final touches. As long as nothing goes awry though, I should be opening my own comic book store early in the new year.

This will still be a whole bunch of work, but most of it will happen during working hours and I should end up getting some evenings back, once I get my head around book keeping and the like. Until then, I’m afraid that the way I use this blog will have to change. Instead of writing a weekly column on whatever role playing topic crosses my mind, I will be keeping up the Orbis player diary that I’ve been writing. This is simply down to the fun of doing some creative writing that doesn’t take as much out of me, but means I still get a creative output. Due to my strange schedule at present, I won’t be able to release it on any given day however, so either keep checking back or follow me on some social media thingy. Like Twitter.

Other than that, thanks for the support everyone, and if you live anywhere near me, I expect to see you in my store as soon as it’s open.

Nov 182013

My way is not the right way for everyone. I understand this, and know that there probably isn’t a right way for everyone, but I’ve kept dozens of player diaries, and read even more that have been written by other gamers. Rather than tell you how they should be done, as I don’t think there is a correct way to do them, I’ll be offering a few things that you should be thinking about if you’re about to start keeping a record of your character’s activities, or are struggling to maintain one already in process.

Firstly, who are you writing it for? Is this something that the other players will be checking in one after every session? Is it for the GM’s eyes only, or maybe just for yourself? Are you putting it out there for the general public, to let people who have never even played the game or spent time with any of the characters involved. Firstly, lets assume that at the least, the other players in your group will be checking in on the diary.

This can present you with some problems if there’s a few things about your character that you’d rather others didn’t find out about. If this is the case, you have a couple of options open to you. You can indulge in some creative editing to keep these things your own dirty little secret, but you need to be careful about keeping the story flowing without giving anything away. If you’re playing in a game that indulges in secrets and conspiracies, you could play up to this. Write out your full character diary, including all the things you don’t want people to know, then redact the sensitive topics before sending it out to the world. Your other option is to write the diary in such a way that there’s would be no way that the players would have any access to it.

In my particular case I have written the diary from the point of view of my character as retired adventurer. This works for a couple of reasons, notably being that at the present time, the character cannot read or write. In case my GM is reading this, it has nothing to due with subtly implanting the suggestion in his mind that I’m going to survive whatever he throws in front of me so that I get the chance to retire and write my memoirs. This might explain why they are so long winded, as I also appear to be channeling the writing style of the late George MacDonald Fraser in his Flashman series of books. It has even occurred to me that they are quickly turning from a  player diary, into the first draft of a novel.

I think this comes down to another option; writing for yourself. True, other people do read them, and I’ve gotten so far positive feedback, but they’re not being written as a way for the other players to check up on for a quick summary of the last week’s adventures. I’m writing my diary because I like writing, and the stories we’re telling weekly are fantastic, and well worth taking the time to commit to page, or in this case screen. The odd thing is, although I am mainly writing for myself, I am sharing with them with a much wider audience by putting them on the blog. If you’re planning on doing something similar, prepare yourself for the challenge of writing about an imaginary world that the reader may never have encountered before.

I’m pretty lucky in this, as the game my character exists in, is in the middle of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because of this, they have been sharing a lot of stuff about their game that I can link to for people wanting more information. I still need to be careful though, and make sure I take the time to include some details that are required to give the neophyte reader a chance of understanding what the heck is going on.

If you’re looking to create a record of events that’s just there to serve as reminder of the in game activities, then you could try something completely different, and move away from the first person narrative at all. Write from an outsider perspective – I have found that newspaper stories or other journalistic forms work pretty well – and you don’t need to worry about including anything personal, and by necessity your writing should be quick and punchy, without needing to go into too much detail.

More importantly though, set yourself a realistic time frame with your chosen method. My entries are massive, but I give myself plenty of time to write them. If you don’t have the spare time, then give yourself a reason to only write shorter summaries of the action. If your finding yourself getting stressed out about maintaining a schedule at your current expected word count, then you’re missing the point, and should probably reevaluate how your approaching your diary.

Sep 302013

OK, it might be. There is some tantalising glimpses at some future posts though, so if you’re a fan, then please stay with me for the next five hundred words. First, sorry for a lame ass filler post. A few months back the company I work at started some major overhauls to its staffing, and this has meant that even though I’m on a twelve hour contract, doing six day weeks has been happening more and more. Heck, there are times when I’ve worked ten days straight without a day off. Last week we also had a major hardware and software upgrade while our senior member of staff was on holiday, at the same time as Fresher’s Fayre while I’m the president of our gaming society. All in all, not conducive to spending time in front of a computer.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t even been that active on other blogs that I follow. This is for the same reason. I tend to flick through them quickly on my mobile during breaks, or of an evening, but rarely have the time to post well thought replies. Don’t worry, I am checking you all out, you just don’t know about. Anyway, onto less creepy sounding things.

My column at Stuffer Shack should return this week, as things are getting a bit back to normal, and I’m in the mood for trying out something different. I’ve already done a bunch of plot seeds, and a large handful of character ideas for people to use. At the moment I’m thinking about trying my hand at a bestiary of some sort. I will be going through folkloric creatures from old English lore, and adapting them to fit into fantasy games, so check that out from the weekend onward.

On this blog I will be looking at what – if any – winning conditions exist for a player of role playing games, and the people who run them too. I’ts just a little something that’s been on my mind but I’ve had trouble pinning down. Work is proceeding though, so should be something on that soon.

I also have started some work researching a couple of my weapons posts too. The first comes after a conversation with a re-enactor last week about how brawling skills are way more important than you would think when it comes to a melee, and the second is on the humble spear. A question was asked on a forum when I was pimping my document about why the spear was used so often throughout history but us far from popular in RPGs. I think I’ve found a few answers, and some other little factoids too.

So there you have it, a few little ideas to keep you going, and a promise that I will try really hard to do better in future. Still, I’ve been at this for over a year, and this is the first time I’ve not done a weekly post with actual content. Depending on how the next couple of days go, I might have a review post to put up before the end of the week to keep the hordes at bay.

Aug 272013

Giveaway-300x137Yup, you heard that right, $50 in either amazon or Drivethru vouchers, and entering the contest is simplicity itself. Put it this way, I’ve managed it twice, and it’s taken me less than ten minutes. How do you enter I imagine you asking? Well just click through the following link and you’ll get all the information you need, plus a great gaming website to peruse.

Seriously, check the site out, there’s a bunch of talented writers over there doing their thing.

Aug 062013

This is a bit of an odd post from me, as I’m mainly here to point you all towards a blog written by a mate of mine. He has another, but he has recently completed a 14 part exploration of Skyrim, and written about the adventures of his character Dragonbjorn in the first person. Don’t expect much in the way of searing critical insight, expect instead a whole bunch of perfectly timed screen shots and some very funny writing indeed.

The lad who wrote this fine body of work is a friend from my local gaming society who also joined us for the latest recording of my podcast. The reason we brought him in was mainly because he just happens to be one of the funniest guys I know who doesn’t seem to realise that he is. A lot of people love being the life of the party and the focus of attention in any room – I went through a brief period like that myself – but Andy is quite and unassuming until he comes up with the sharpest replies to a conversation and stops the room dead as we as all struggle to breathe through the laughter. After that massively overblown intro, why don’t you check his blog out, and then take a listen to the latest podcast, in which we dissect movies so bad that they’re good.

Jul 082013

OK, he may actually have been legendary for ages, but since I’d never heard of him until this evening, I really couldn’t say. This is going to be a very short blog post, and only really RPG related at the peripheries of the hobby, but it still needs attention drawn to it.

I’m a big fan of geeks, being one, it’s probably a good idea. but sometimes they can be douche bags. Not all of you, but the ones I’m talking about are mainly dudes – some women too, so if you are a douchy women geek, pay attention too – who think they have a right to comment on the geek credentials of others, just because they have one less penis than you seem to think is a prerequisite for true geekhood. This story isn’t specifically about that, but touches a lot of the same bases. Cosplayers are awesome, and it shouldn’t matter one jot as to who they are, what their gender is, or what they look like; they’re kicking ass and taking names in any number of awesome ways.

Some people will fell the need to belittle them though, for whatever small and petty reason occurs to them. Matt Fraction has their number though. And I for one support him, and invite the whole lot of you misogynistic geeky elite pricks to follow his advice. Click the image for the full story, courtesy of Tor.


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!