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.

Feb 052014
 

When I was a young(er) man, I came across a movie with a title that resonated with me. That movie was Mutant Chronicles, and although my thoughts on that film are less than congratulatory, I actually watched it a couple of times because I really liked the post apocalyptic setting. I later found out from friends down at my local gaming society that it was based on game, and so tried to get hold of a copy. Sadly, it proved pretty damned hard to do, with a new copy being almost impossible to lay my hands on – at least in my part of the world – and the friends I knew with their own copies weren’t keen to part with them.

And so I gave up my quest and hadn’t thought about the game for years. Until a couple of days back, when I got a message from the lovely people who sent me a review copy of an Achtung! Cthulhu module a while back informing me that they were relaunching the game with tighter cinematic rules and were also working on bringing the whole setting in line with their new system. I can’t wait to take a look at this one, not least because of how long I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a copy, as the previous work this company has put out has been tremendous! For now though, I think I might just go and hunt down an old DVD.

At the time of writing, the Kickstarter has already funded so if you want to join in, it’s just about how much you want to get for your money and hitting some stretch goals. Head on over and check it out, but if you want a bit more information, the following comes direct from Modiphius.

 

The team that brought you Achtung! Cthulhu are unleashing the Dark Legion again with brand new content & cinematic rules. The Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter is a re-boot of the amazing 90′s techno-fantasy roleplaying game under license from Paradox Entertainment

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/mutant-chronicles-3rd-ed-rpg

Modiphius have already funded the core book in gorgeous full colour hardcover, adding a Player’s Guide softback and are well on their way to a long series of stretch goals. Modiphius has re-designed the rules with a new d20 / roll under eight attribute based cinematic system, playtested with over 400 groups. They plan a re-write of the setting guides and supplements to include brand new material alongside the existing storyline. Supporters can expect the usual high quality production values seen in Modiphius’ Achtung! Cthulhu project.

Awesome new art will reveal never before seen parts of the Mutant Chronicles universe alongside the existing fantastic images by Paul Bonner, Peter Bergting and Paolo Parente. There will be huge campaigns, fantastic accessories and miniatures produced in conjunction with Prodos Games (who successfully re-launched the Warzone miniatures game) specifically for the roleplaying game. See below for more information on the world of Mutant Chronicles and new plans for the game.

Mutant Chronicles was one of the bigger names in gaming in the 1990′s with the Doom Trooper collectible card game translated in to 16 languages, three boardgames, two video games, the massive Warzone miniatures game and the Mutant Chronicles 1st and 2nd Edition roleplaying games with more recently a Hollywood movie, Fantasy Flight Games pre-painted miniature game and last year the reboot of Warzone by Prodos Games. The Mutant Chronicles story took you on this full throttle dieselpunk sci-fi ride through a solar system beset by corporate intrigue and the invasion of a terrible dark alien force. With technology failing due to the insidious effects of the Dark Symmetry humankind must fight back against the Dark Legion hordes whilst dealing with in-fighting and conspiracy from within.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/mutant-chronicles-3rd-ed-rpg

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.

Nov 112013
 

The Marvel Comics way that I’m referring to is in fact pretty old news at this point, but in how it pertains to the way campaign worlds can be managed, I think it still has some relevance. You see, way back in the dim and distant, DC comics was an unstoppable juggernaut, crushing everything in their path, but they would tell stories about their main stable of characters in a way that would seem odd today. The Batman who appeared in Detective Comics, for instance, was not the same Batman who was in the Justice League, or who joined forces with Superman in the Brave and the Bold. Each comic book line was in fact  self contained universe, with no need for anyone who wanted to read them to have to pick up a bunch of ancillary comic books to get the full story.

Then Marvel comes along, and decides to do things a bit different. First, they did away with the idea of fictional cities as homes for their heroes. I’m not saying that they’ve never made somewhere up, but they certainly didn’t go to the lengths of creating Metropolises and Gotham Cities, just to give a main character their own distinct playground. They set their stories in the real world, mainly new York, and this gave the readers something they could recognise. It’s true that Gotham is a distinctive city to the legions of Bat-fans out there, but not so much as the New York skyline is.

This is part of one of my idea; don’t worry too much about making up towns and cities if you’re setting your game in the real world, either historically, contemporaneously or even in the future. When it comes to the past, there are countless online and real world resources out there to flesh out a city that actually exists, and although the research time will need to be spent, it will be probably be quicker than making an entire working city from scratch. At least in my experience. Your players can also do their own research, and although you may have had to change a few details to make your plot work, it will give them the chance to get under the skin of your setting a lot more than they could do if it only exists in your head.

The second thing they did differently, and this eventually had an impact on DC, and lead to them running the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, was that all of their heroes, be they mutants, superheroes, or masked vigilantes, all existed in the same universe. This meant that Spiderman could tangle with the Punisher, and the X-men, if you wanted to get totally crazy, could battle the Avengers. Although this spawned one of comic book’s greatest travesties – the multi-comic title crossover event – it meant that consequences could be felt throughout the entire marvel universe, because of the actions of one hero/villain.

I know that most of the awesome GMs out there on blogs and forums already have a pretty good handle on the way that consequences of actions should affect the game world, and the characters within in, but I thought I’d try and go a bit further with that today. Like at least a few others out there, I have a couple of favourite settings that I keep going back to. One of which I am revisiting for the first time in many years the next time I GM, and the other is a lovely little Neo-Victorian horror game called Unhallowed Metropolis. I’m not even sure how many campaigns I’ve ran in this world, but they all take place in the same continuity.

This means that if a group of players needs to find a fence to get rid of some stolen items in one game, then they find their fence with a simple streetwise skill check, and I get to play some kind of lovely cockney rogue for a while. Some months later, a player who has created a consulting detective character needs some info on a heist, so finds a fence he can trust. I have one ready, and can flesh out some details by having him refer to things the other party may have done. In a certain game, I went even bigger.

The plan was to run a very long campaign with a three act structure involving a serial killer, and unknown plague, some ghostly goings on, and an undead horde. It was going pretty well until a fight broke out between the player characters when they were on route to a location in them middle of the wastes with no one around for miles who would care what happened to them. There was one survivor who made his way back to Hull, but was so traumatised by the events that he was sent to an asylum. The thing was, I’d put a whole bunch of work into the adventure, and didn’t want it to go to waste.

So the employer of the first group tried again, using a different recruiting process, and about a year after the failed mission, another group set off. They succeeded – as much as they could do in the circumstances – and saw several shadows of the last attempt. the stories of a lunatic in the sanitarium screaming the name of their employer for one. And my personal favourite, finding the burnt out camp of the previous expedition, complete with rotting corpses of those that came before them.

This added a whole lot to the experience, for myself and the players, and I think if you have a game world that you love, you should try something like this yourself.

Nov 072013
 

Combat is on my mind of late, and it’s mainly down to what I was up to on Tuesday. Our first week of playing Orbis Terrarum started a bit late as we were waiting on a couple of chaps who weren’t part of the group when we generated characters, so we dropped into the second game with a fight just about to happen. I will be doing part two of my PC diary soon, to give you a blow by blow account of my heroic exploits. For now though, lets just take a look at how the system works, and what it does well, and what it might not do quite so well.

To begin with we have initiative; each person rolls a D10 and adds their reaction modifier to the roll, to give them their place in the initiative order. The reaction modifier is calculated during char gen, and is usually a low number, probably no more than 3-4, so most of this comes down to random chance. What doesn’t is the situation when combat starts, and what the metier of the encounter is. We discussed metier briefly during the last part of the review, but it applies to more than just people, and can have a distinct bearing on the game play throughout. Since this was an ambush, it meant that most people would be taken by surprise – I never did find out what the rest of the combat’s metier was, but ambush was bad enough – unless they were used to being in combat situations.

This meant that the warriors and fighters amongst the party don’t get the surprised modifier of minus ten, and can respond regularly. Everyone else reduces their initiative by ten points, so unless they did pretty well, won’t get an action this first turn. After the first turn, they lose the surprise modifier, and if they’re back into positive numbers, get an action. Once that’s sorted, we move onto the actual fighting. Combat is a back and forth in Orbis, but still manages to maintain a simplicity of dice rolling that I appreciate. You choose the attack you wish to make and roll against the relevant skill. Different attacks are based on different attributes, and have a base in either brawl, melee, or ranged. You then specialise in a weapon, getting ranks in it, and increasing it further with advancement points.

Getting below your score with a D100 roll means you will have hit, but your opponent will certainly be trying to stop you. They have several options in how they do this, but they all work in pretty much the same way. If they have a weapon that allows it, they may attempt to parry. Usually the parry score for a weapon is half of its attack value, but can be modified based on size and after market modifications. A shield is designed to block blows though, so your score in it is equal to your parry, and your attack is halved. The other option is to dodge out of the way of the blow, which means just using your dodge skill level instead of your parry. Whichever skill you use, you apply the level in it as a negative modifier against your opponent’s attack score.

This might seem a bit complicated, but once the combat begins, it gets really easy, with a one roll being made to determine the hit, and a number against it as a modifier. If you do manage to get through your opponents defenses, you need to know where you’ve hit, and how hard. The ‘tens’ result of the attack roll gives you your level of success, and the ‘ones’ your location. The level of success is used as a modifier added to how much damage you do, and can be increased depending on how you fight. Fighting defensively for instance means you get a bonus to your passive defensive skills, but will do less damage – rolling a smaller die, and doing less per level of success – whilst fighting aggressively grants you a bonus to attack, and the chance to do more damage, but severely limits your ability to avoid being hit on the counter attack.

When all that’s done, you just roll the necessary die for damage, adding the level of success plus strength based modifiers, and apply it to your opponent. Hitting in various locations doesn’t make too much difference unless they’re armoured in certain places, but not others, or if you’ve succeeded in a critical hit. If they are wearing armour, then it all comes down to armour type versus attack type. Slashing a knife across the chest of someone wearing plate armour for instance, won’t really do much, but stabbing a rapier through someone’s mail might just hit home and cause them all kinds of problems.

So there we have the combat system in a nutshell, we’d better get to grips with the intricacies. The aim of the combat system is to make it dangerous but heroic. If you’re no match for your opponent, you will either flee, die, or be spared, but will certainly still offer a challenge to them. If you’re the one with a higher skill one opponent will be little challenge while still posing a threat, but even one more enemy could up the threat rate considerably. When fighting someone of comparable skill though, things get a bit different.

I ended up fighting two different opponents, one of whom was of lower level with poor equipment, the second was a much more equal match with a decent weapon and shield. Dispatching the first wasn’t much of an issue, although he did manage to survive one more round than I expected whilst bleeding heavily from the jugular, the second was more of an issue. The reason it’s a challenge to fight multiple opponents, is that you suffer penalties for using your passive defenses more than once a turn. Luckily I had a little bit of magic up my sleeve so I managed a distraction to stop myself from getting attacked twice in a round, but then the combat got a bit sluggish for me.

Because my opponent – Marco – had a shield and had seen me dispatch his comrade earlier, he decided to fight defensively. This meant that even if I attacked aggressively I would have next to no chance of hitting him. He was in the same boat too, which meant that for two rounds, nothing happened. On the second, I didn’t even attempt an attack as I had done the maths, and realised how risky it would be. You see, for each rank you have in an attack skill, you automatically gain a one percent chance of hitting your opponent. For me this meant three percent. What stopped me making the roll though was the chance of critical failure.

Whenever you make a skill check in Orbis, a double on the roll indicates a critical. If you pass, it’s a critical pass, and if fail, vice versa. So I ended up with a three in one hundred chance of hitting, but a 9 in 100 chance of critically failing. The GM said this was intentional as with two equal opponents, the fight should be a stalemate until a mistake is made or forced. For me though it just meant that I had nothing to do while everyone else was kicking ass. I was tempted to resort to magic again – don’t worry, I’ll get into that in a different review – but luckily one of my compatriots turned up looking like the wild eyed Celt he is, and Marco promptly saw his options were limited and surrendered.

That was the only thing that didn’t go very well based on my experience, but it was situational, and in terms of the game world and the system made perfect sense. To be honest, I had to struggle somewhat to find something negative to say about the combat system. Initiative was worked out quickly, and once everyone had got their heads around the way attack and defenses were calculated, the combat flew through several rounds over several small melees. Other people who were playing less combat efficient characters were able to bring their own abilities into play without any problems, making a big difference to how the encounter played out.

I think everyone managed to bring their personal metier into play at least once too, allowing for the character’s personality traits and background to shape the way the action played out. As well as this having an in game effect, it also made it easier for the players to bring these factors in on a role playing level too, something that doesn’t happen often in combat. The fact that there’s no separate dice rolls required to defend or determine hit location means combat flows quickly and is intuitive, with everyone picking up the essentials in just one round.

Over all, I had a damned fine time and managed to avoid getting hurt at all, even against an opponent with military training. It all felt heroic, as if we were great people doing great deeds against an evil aggressor, but also dangerous. One of my fellow players, who had earlier ripped the ground out from under two people with Earth Power, was unable to stop a teenager with a knife from slashing his chest open.

the next part of this review will either be looking at the general themes of the game and the setting, or if we get enough of it, some thoughts on the various types of magic that are found throughout Uma. Until then, why don’t you head over and check out their Kickstarter. At time of writing they were over half way to hitting their first stretch goal.

Nov 052013
 

If you’re running a game that is only likely to last a session or two, you’re probably going to get into the action pretty quickly as a matter of course. In longer term campaigns though, you have the option to take things slowly and build up the intensity as you advance the plot. This sums up pretty well how approach games, regardless of whether or not they are in a combat heavy setting, but I do also like to have at least one fight within the first session of a campaign; on occasion it has even been in the first scene.

barfight

This may seem like a bit of a contradiction, but I think there are plenty of good reasons to introduce your players to combat early on. In most RPGs, combat takes up a significant section of the rule book, regardless of how often a payer is expected to engage in it. This is because combat is usually one of the more complicated game mechanics in the rules, and where you will be rolling more dice than when compared to other encounters – if dice are involved at all that is, you could be using playing cards or tokens, but the principle remains the same.

If you’re going to be putting your characters’ lives in danger, with the most complicated bit of the rules, then it makes sense to me to drop this in nice and early, when it’s acceptable to have a small number of low level adversaries without it looking like you’re going easy on the players. Everyone will surely be expected to survive this encounter – I think we can all agree that most RPGs as they exist today have moved beyond the player versus GM paradigm, except when done in jest – and it gives the GM a chance to go through the mechanics of combat at a leisurely pace explaining the details that might get forgotten about in a more high octane combat encounter.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to be playing a very well designed system, the rules that govern combat will be very similar indeed to those used for random tests outside of it. So nice and early on in the game you get to to show them all of the ins and outs, and hopefully it will mean that they should absorb the basics of the mechanics that make up the rest of the game. In my own game I have gone to some lengths to ensure that no matter what the situation, you will be rolling the same dice, and applying them to your skill in the same manner, meaning that what is used in combat will be useful throughout the whole playing experience.

A further benefit is testing the water on who will be taking the lead in your game. This is useful for players too as they get an idea about who will most likely be calling the shots as the game moves forward. It might be a little old fashioned of thinking that gaming group needs a character to be the ‘leader’, but I have found this to be true regardless of whether it was intended or not. it’s not always one person, and it could change depending on the situation, but having someone who is prepared to make decisions that the group is expected to abide by is very useful at moving the plot along rather than letting it get bogged down by a long a circular argument about the best course of action.

Don’t get me wrong, there are games out there that thrive out his kind of role playing, and I love to see it around my table, but there should still be a point when someone has the ability to step forward and make a tough call, rather than letting the conversation do another lap of the subject without reaching a conclusion. Finding that person is easier to do if it is under a apparently stressful encounter – “apparently”, because as discussed, it’s pretty easy to keep people alive until at least the end of the first session – and doing without any idea about how they would react to harsh situations can lead to problems later down the line.

In a previous game I was playing in, one member of the party took on the leadership role from the offing, and then did everything to keep himself and the rest of us out of the action. Not always a bad thing, but since it was a military game, and we were a recon unit, it meant a lot of problems dealing with the chain of command and being able to complete our missions with the aggression we were expected to deliver. The next campaign game I will be running also has a military feel to it, and I will be dropping the players into combat from the very first moment, before even giving them too long to think about who they are or who should be in charge. It’s going to be a pretty intense baptism by fire, and I suggest you all give it a try at some point.

Nov 012013
 

“What? Two posts in one day? What madness is this?”, I imagine all of my regular readers exclaiming as they read this post. Well there’s good reason for it. Firstly, I’m on holiday so can blog a bit more until Monday, and secondly, I had such a good time with a certain project, that I have decided to run it again this year, and picked the entire month of November for it to run through.

You see, around about this time last year, I had hit a particular milestone, and decided to celebrate by doing something for anyone who had taken the time to check out my fledgling blog. I offered anyone who posted a comment a free NPC for the game of their choice.

I’m doing that again starting from today, and it’s just as simple. You don’t need to subscribe, like the Facebook page, or even follow me on Twitter. All you need to do is write up a basic idea of what type of NPC you want, and I’ll do the rest. It could be as simple as a Steampunk fighter, as detailed as a young women with engineering fluid pumping through her heart who longs to travel the galaxy while hunting for her long lost brother.

I will take whatever you have to offer and write up a prose description of said character, adding in some plot hooks and a physical description for good measure. I won’t be able to work out stats and what have you, as I cannot promise to be familiar with all systems, but I will do my research and make sure that the character makes sense in whatever game world you have in mind.

Last year I managed to get 33 NPCs done in a month, and later collated them all together and put the final product up on Drivethru for less than a buck. This time I hope to get even more, and to do that I’m going to need lots of help. So please share this post with anyone who might be interested, and if you have a blog, feel free to put the character I make for you up, with a link back here so other people can find it. I will be adding all new NPCs the original document too, so if you’ve already paid for it, you will get a whole bunch more, and if you haven’t then you there’s even more incentive.

So get to it, and let me know what you want.

Nov 012013
 

I have spent the last couple of years genuinely annoyed that I haven’t had the funds to back all of the Kickstarter projects that I wanted to, But today I popped my project backing cherry. If you want to back this campaign, click through here right now, but if you’ve never heard of the game Orbis Terrarum, stick around and I’ll tell you why I’ve pledged some hard earned money so that real hard copies of the game will see the light of day.

**Full disclaimer** I am friends with the guys who have created this game, and they’ve been working on it for at least as long as I have known them off and on. This does not mean that I’m only supporting the game because we’re friends; I have played two full length campaigns within their world as they play tested the game at our weekly gaming society meetings, and I enjoyed every second of it.

As mentioned in a previous couple of posts, I am even playing the game every Tuesday night as of last week, and I’m loving the final revisions that they’ve made. I will be continuing to detail the adventures of character as the weeks progress, but for now lets get to why I love the game so much.

The style of the game, and how it comes to life through the setting was the first thing that grabbed me. As much as I like to play games of high heroic fantasy, with orcs and dragons and what have you, I much prefer a grittier edge to my fantasy worlds. For people who have followed the blog you’ll know that when it comes to fantasy literature my two current favourite writers are Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie. Both write about fantasy worlds that have a very human feel to them, with magic being both rare and misunderstood, and the biggest threats often much more human than supernatural. Wars across borders and political maneuvering take more of a central role than world ending beasts and necromantic legions.

The guys who created the game are also fans of this style, but have a much bigger influence on their style, and that’s the work of Fritz Leiber. It runs along similar lines and anyone familiar with his work is highly encouraged to look into this game so that you can enjoy seeing the influence he clearly had.

It’s not just setting though, it’s the system as well that keeps me going back for more. As much as I like a nice simple system, what I really adore is one that has internal consistency. I know it’s a strange thing and might not be what everyone looks for, but there is something marvelous about a game that has the same rules for character generation for player characters as it does for NPCs, so that everyone is on a level playing field, at least to begin with. Add to that the magic, combat and general skill tests all work along the same lines means that there is nothing extra to learn just because you want to use some Geomancy or wield the Heart’s Fire.

I could go on at length here about the various little things within all of the above that I love, but the guys have done a great job of explaining exactly what the game is about on their project page, so if you haven’t been there yet, head over now to read all about it in their own words and then back the hell out of it! At time of writing it has been running for just over 24 hours and is already over half way there. And since the game is already complete, with layout and artwork, anyone who backs it at least the digital level will get their pdf copy as soon as it funds.

Oct 302013
 

This is the first of my weekly series of in game diaries of the character Kantrel di Gregori. These adventures are set in a game world created by a couple of friends of mine, and you can find out more information about the game and its upcoming Kickstarter campaign by heading over and checking out their Facebook page.

These stories of the beginning of my life as a duelist take place when I was but a young man, before I had bothered to better myself mentally and acquired the ability to write, so they are based on little but memories and shared stories. I will however do my best to present them as accurately as possible, with the bare minimum of hyperbole in there, just to sell myself as the hero of these tales.

By now you will know about my family background, and how mush I railed against it. You also know that I was making my way to the Margomarissi  to gain experience and coin so that when I returned, it would either be as a wealthy professional, or in a wooden box. Life does seem to get in the way though, and due to a series of errors of foresight, and not inconsiderable bad luck, I arrived as the campaign season was beginning to wind down. It had been a deathly hot summer that year and it took its toll on the combatants, meaning hostilities ceased earlier than usual, leaving me at a loose end.

I decided to supplement my income for the winter months by taking on work as body guard for anyone who had the coin and wished to slum it in the low towns with all the rest of us scum. I thought this would be dull work as there were few villains willing to take the risk against someone of my not inconsiderable height, but it turned out to be more fun that I ever imagined. She was named Toanna, or at least that’s what she told me. I think she saw in me a lot more than I ever intended, and might very well have worked out something about my breeding long before I had a chance to tell her the truth. I quickly stopped hiding such things from her th0ugh as our friendship grew into something so much more.

I never knew exactly who she was, but since I kept certain details about myself from her, I couldn’t think any less of my little Doe for her secrets. All I knew was that she was Dummoni, and from a family with money. Maybe they had gotten suspicious about our relationship, and only saw me as I meant them to – a hard up sell sword with barely a tin Parvus to my name – and moved her away before she could say goodbye. Maybe she had just grown bored of me and left? At the time though, I was young and cock-sure, and set about finding her. It took a few weeks, as these things will when you haven’t the money to bribe the right people, but eventually I found out that she had made her way to Tuthom-Pothrie.

It was a dangerous place to be with the war just wrapping up for the Autumn and before the yearly peace talks had even begun. I knew I had to find her though, regardless of the danger. My youthful vigour once again coming to the fore, along with the unshakable belief that I was indestructible, as all young men must feel at one time or an other. My luck had turned though as I easily found out about a caravan team leaving Solius-On-the-Mountain two days from then. It was too early for most of the traders to make such a risky venture, but my employer was without options.

Eduardo Skuza was a man with not an ounce of luck left to him. Once an important trader and Pelosian of note, he had lost almost everything in a very short period of time. With caravans lost to bandits, landslides or just plain vanishing, he was desperate and had just one way to return to his former glory. He would take what little he had managed to secrete away from his creditors, bundle it all into a couple of covered wagons, hire anyone foolish enough to join him in this craziness – with a promise of a share in the profit he would make – and get to Tuthom-Pothrie before any of the other traders. This would allow him to sell his wares at the price of his asking, and hopefully allow him to return to his former glory.

I was quick to accept after talking to his caravan master – a tough Pelosian known as Vitus Leale – as I understood that at least half a dozen men would be on the trip to protect his master. The following morning, as I woke with the dawn, eager to be on our way, I was to be disappointed. With the exception Vitus and myself, there was but one other trained warrior. He looked the part to be sure, with more weapons hanging off him that lice off a doxie’s bush, but just the three of us wouldn’t look enough to deter any sizable group of thugs and cut-throats. Still, if we stuck together and fought well, Caderyn – a Dummoni if the warbow slung over his shoulder was any indication – Vitus and myself might just get through it.

The others were a strange mix of of various races, including a man from New Raphelia, and hardly any of them even had a shared a common tongue with which to talk to each other. But we make do with what we have, and barring a two hour wait whilst our illustrious employer got himself bathed and powdered ready for the road, we were off in fairly good time. Sadly, the rain had started coming down hard as we were stood with  little to do but consider our genitals, and that meant I could barely see more than a dozen yards of clear space in front of the lead wagon as we made our way down the narrow cliff side path, and could hear little but the drops falling on my head and ears.

And those bandits I had been so worried about, well they obviously had seen that the weather gave them the advantage and decided to take a shot at getting our cargo away from us.