Apr 112014

If anyone from the law is reading this, we are totally not drinking on route to the nationals. We have had some fun discussing what it takes to win in competitive role playing. The consensus seems to be that winning matters nothing when compared to having fun. There are too many criteria to be judged and no way of knowing what they will be, so just have fun.

Hell, if you’re having a bad game, don’t even feel like you have to stick around. Just be polite and do what you need to do to have fun.

Jun 042013

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

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

Click for source.

Click for source.

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

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

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

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

Jun 032013

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


Just, wow…

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 012013

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

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

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

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

May 302013

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

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

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

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

May 302013

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

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

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

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

May 272013

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

Click for source

Click for source

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

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

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

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


May 212013

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


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

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

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

May 162013

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

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


May 152013

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

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

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

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

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