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.

Apr 162013

SOTY-Shield-2013-1By the time you’re reading this, the next round of voting should have begun, and that means you can vote for yours truly. Because of the draw it also means I am up against my own site’s sponsors, and all round good guys, G*M*S Magazine. This presents you with an interesting option; do you vote for me, the humble underdog, or a massive site full of amazing writing and podcasts, and allow me to bask in the reflected glory I will get from being a part of the G*M*S Magazine network?

Now it’s true to say that the amazing and attractive people over at G*M*S totally deserve your vote – and I’m not just saying that due to a contractual sponsorship arrangement – but they have a legion of fans who I’m sure are currently being mobilized to storm Stuffer Shock with a barrage of votes. So instead, why not show some support to the new kid on the block, and a blog that you’ve been visiting now or almost a year.

So what are you waiting for, head on over and show me some love!

Apr 152013

That’s right, I’ve put myself forward as a contender for this one. I fit the criteria: I’m an RPG blogger and I’ve been at it since the start of the year. Do I think I’m going to win it? Probably not. There’s a ton of great sites out there that are competing for this one, and today I’d like to talk about a few of them that you should go and check out, maybe even vote for. I would love you to throw a vote or two my way – I’d hate this to be a total annihilation – but only vote for the site that you think deserves it the most.SOTY Shield 2013

Nearly Enough Dice. A site mainly dedicated to a podcast, and one I listen to whenever I get the chance. Although I have recently started to podcast myself, it rarely touches on the hobby that defines me so much. For that kind of thing, there are just two places I go: Nearly Enough Dice, and…

G*M*S Magazine. Yes, I know they sponsor this site, and I refuse to let them forget how amazing they are for doing so, but I would be pointing you in their direction even if they weren’t so generous. As a budding games designer myself, their podcast is one of the best out there, with interviews with professionals who’ve put in the hard work passing on nuggets of wisdom and amazing stories.

Geek Native. Not strictly speaking an RPG blog, but since it covers every aspect of geek and pop culture, it’s be foolish not to include it. A site I end up at daily, to read about fun things that interests me. For instance, did you know that the Doctor was in an issue of the Avengers? I didn’t until I checked them out.

So there you go, three other sites that totally deserve your vote, just as much as I do. For a full list though, you should totally go and check Stuffer Shack. Not least because if you poke around on there long enough, you’ll come across my weekly column.

If you like my blog enough to vote for it, and thank you so much if you do, then Tuesday noon (GMT) for a whole 24 hours is when you need to do it. So head on over and vote.

Mar 142013

Hello gentle readers. I have been promising something special for a while now, and with the big weekend almost upon us, I present my Student Nationals Special. Well, I say mine. I’ve been lucky enough to get a very special guest to write something for me on the topic of role playing to win. If you don’t know who this gentleman is, I will assume this will be your first visit to the student nationals. In which case, please, prepare yourself. If, like me, you’re an old hand at this, then the man needs no introduction. Please, enjoy the thoughts of the legend that is BBJ.

COMPETITIVE ROLEPLAYING : A Roleplaying Game (RPG) where upon it’s conclusion the Games Master (GM) would judge which of the players brought the most fun, excitement, teamwork and other objectives to the game, and declare them the winner.

Got that?

Easy enough, isn’t it?

Yeah, I thought not.

When you’re playing a wargame, or a cardgame or most boardgames it’s easy enough to work out who the winner is. They’re the person with the most armies standing, or most tricks taken or in the most extreme of cases they’re the one that spilled Tizer on the table, flipped the board onto the floor and run out crying.

Not so with roleplaying games, though the Tizer manoeuvre is always worth a shot.

In a roleplaying game the players are working together as a team, albeit with interpersonal frictions, to defeat a bad guy, his minions and his plot as portrayed by the GM.

So where does the competition come into it? You win or you lose as a team, right?

Yes, absolutely right.

Aaaaaand also no.

See, for a few instances, and one particular convention I attend every year, the games are competitive and so the GM at the end has to work out who was the best roleplayer of the party.

He has to work it out. It’s not obvious, in fact, it’s purely a judgement call on their part. So it’s really about how the GM decides who is a good roleplayer and who isn’t. This is fraught with danger if nobody gives the GM guidelines as to what might be a good idea for them to look at.

For example, in previous years I have encountered GMs who thought it would be a good idea to base their judgments on such things as dice rolling, character longevity or even accents.

Yup, you rolled a six more than anyone else that day?

Have a cookie.

You character didn’t die in the final encounter?

Three gold stars.

Your Russian accent is flawless, and you come from Moscow originally?

Go to the top of the class and take a bow.

Reasonable ways of judging a roleplaying game?

Not even close.

I am fortunate enough to have written a few guides as to how to mark and judge a competitive RPG and I know that some of those are followed each year so you’ll have to accept the fact that I’m not just making this up for shits and giggles, or shiggles as we shall never call it again.

It’s easy enough and I can boil it down to a couple of simple questions.

You know the guy at the table that’s annoying, stinky, self obsessed, overly loud and patronising?

Yeah, you do. Well, they’re not going to win.

You ever sit at a table that gets really into the character and spends more time talking in character bantering with other characters than the GM? Who’s quick and funny and helps his fellows along the way, even if they’re not in charge?

Yes, them. They’ve got a good shot at winning.

You’re looking for someone who helps the plot along without claiming all of it for himself.

You’re looking for someone who can get into character, even going for the accent, no matter how badly they mangle it.

You’re looking for the player who makes it fun for everybody to play, rather than spending all their time looting their pockets and stealing all the glory.

Someone who you would want to play with again and again no matter what the game or the situation.

The best way to become that player is to completely forget that you’re playing in a competitive game in its entirety and get on with playing a fun game with friends. It’s not your job to try and judge the game, so get on with playing it.

All you should watch for is not to mark yourself out as ever being ‘That Guy’.

[NOTE TO ALL FEMALE READERS : I have, and often do play a great many games with girls of all ages, stereotypes and beliefs, they’re great to play with. But since I hate writing articles with clumsy “he/she” bits clogging up the text you should now go back and replace every ‘Guy’ with ‘Girl’, ‘he’ with ‘she’, and still educate some of your own sex to use shampoo and soap occasionally, it’s not just blokes.]

Of course there’s always something else you could try that I’ll never rule against.


Mar 042013

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

To Paul,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Feb 232013

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

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

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

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

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

And now for some stuff you might not know about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 222013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 202013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 192013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 012013

myfarog-adventure1-front-page1I announced that I had applied to join this play test on the Facebook page for the blog a few days back, after getting the tip off from wonderful blogger – and fellow extreme metal fan – Cirsova. I jumped at the chance, but with a hint of nervous apprehension. You see, the game has been created by someone who is considered controversial, even in Black Metal circles: Varg Vikernes. I really don’t feel like listing here the reasons for this, as I spent a lot of time doing so for my one of my final year projects at university, but if you feel the need, it is easy to search for the information on Google (other search engines are available).

Suffice to say, ‘controversial’ doesn’t quite do it justice. Why then am I writing about this man, and doing so in a way that is going to be supportive? Do I agree with his politics and religious views? Absolutely not. What I can do though is differentiate between the man and the art. For instance, I adore his latest re-issues of the old Burzum material, as well as his later stuff. I also know that he is heavily inspired by the work of Tolkien, taking on a stage name of Count Grishnackh for a time, and even the band name ‘Burzum’, means ‘darkness’ in Black Speech. His personal background also included paying war-games and RPGs, something that I’m sure those people who oppose our hobby would be more than happy to tout as a reason to stop impressionable youths from doing so.

So, with all these things considered, I thought I had nothing to lose from just registering my interest. And Last night my mobile beeped notifying me of a new email, and lo and behold, it was the play test packet arriving in my inbox. It was a bit late for me to get into it by then, but I was very excited indeed and jumped online this morning to take a look. This post is not going to detail what I have found out so far, other than to say that it all looks good, and professionally put together. I had to a nondisclosure thing when I signed up, so there actually be big bits of the game that I won’t get the chance to go into detail on, we shall see… I’ve also been going back through the game’s website to download a couple of extra things to get myself prepared.

Now, as followers of the blog will know, I’m in the middle of reviewing Kuro, and will be finishing that review before I get too deep into MYFAROG, so have no fears there. But expect occasional updates about how I’m finding it on any of the social media channels I use, such as the aforementioned Facebook page, my Twitter account, or even on Google+. Let me know what you, my dedicated readers think about this, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.