Jan 022014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gods are coming. Can they be stopped?

Aug 202013
 
Click through for Cubicle 7 page.

Click through for Cubicle 7 page.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, this last month has been pretty damned hectic for me, so a few things have sadly fallen by the wayside. I have just about managed to keep regular postings on this page, but almost everything else has been put to one side until I can give the various projects I’ve taken on the time and effort they deserve.

One such thing is my attention towards the rather excellent, and massively anticipated third edition of the Steampunk role playing game Victoriana by those lovely people over at Cubicle 7. For a full disclosure and to explain why I’m annoyed that this one has taken me so long to get round to, I was sent a free copy of this book for review purposes. After hinting pretty damned heavily that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. So sorry everyone for the delay, I know it would have been better for another positive review to be out there before Gencon, but this will have to do.

To make up for it, I’ll be doing what I did for my review of Kuro, breaking it into several bits, each being about a significant proportion of the main rule book. Today then we’ll be starting with the setting and background section, The Encyclopaedia Victoriana.

As a history nerd – seriously, check out how many articles I’ve written about historical weapons – it’s hard to describe just how much fun I had reading this section. They cover things as one would expect for an alternative history book; in broad strokes. But there’s detail in there, and a lot of it is their own, but some of the stuff they’ve put in there had me breaking out in a huge grin. I don’t want to start listing them here (there were loads of them) but they were all brilliant, and impressed me with the level of research that must have been put into this section.

I do have to point out one thing that I wasn’t 100% happy about. I know that their world is very different too ours, and that there is more to the sapient races than just humanity. I think this is a great selling point for the game, and is handled with considerably more style than I think Shadowrun ever managed. Each race – not species – has a particular place within the social landscape. The Eldren sitting at the top, with Ogres usually at the bottom (links seem to go to an older wiki that may not be up to date with the current edition, and are used only for descriptive purposes). I also understand the need to change things a bit, and that there is no reason why they should stick faithfully to something when it serves no purpose. But Napoleon was actually taller than I am, so casting him as a Dwarf was a little bit strange…

The way it’s all tied together makes for a damned entertaining read too. Historical narrative can sometimes be a bit of a pain to read if it it’s written poorly, and this is some very good writing indeed. They break things down by event, and present them as mini case studies done first hand from the point of view of a character within their world. And it such a well realised world too. Page after page for the various countries and nations that exist, and even a few that don’t, at least not in our world.

What surprised me, as I haven’t played previous incarnations of the game due to lack of opportunity, was how important religion is, and how much was written about it. They go to some lengths to make sure that the readers know to differentiate between real world religions and the “fictional”* ones that they’ve created. Although there are similarities, and it’s pretty easy to see where they’ve taken inspiration from each of the three Abrahamic faiths, along with a few others, each is different enough that it doesn’t come across as a lazy pastiche.

So far then – and you may have noticed that I’ve kept actual content to a minimum to avoid spoilers – I’m absolutely loving the book. The layout makes it pleasure to read (I do like books with fully justified margins) and the writing is top notch. This is what I’ve come to expect from Cubicle 7 though. Each and every one of their games has been great to just sit down with and devour while sipping from a mug of hot chocolate.

Next time I’ll be looking at character creation, and as such a few bits of the system too. Hopefully the gap in reviews won’t be as long as the gap between acquisition and this one, and since work has calmed down somewhat, hopefully it should be within a week. Until then, feel free to pick up a copy for yourself. In fact, if you know me at all, I’d really appreciate it, as I would love to get the chance to play this game, based on what I’ve seen so far.

* Sorry, my atheistic side comes out around now, and I struggle to think of any any religion as being anything other than fictional.

Jul 172013
 
Click to download the free pdf of pre-generated characters for Victoriana 3rd Edition

Click to download the free pdf of pre-generated characters for Victoriana 3rd Edition

As mentioned yesterday, I have been working my way slowly through the latest edition of Cubicle 7‘s excellent work of Steampunk fantasy, Victoriana. This has slowed down a little due to being sent a new novel to read by Gollancz that I’ve been waiting almost seven years for. That being said, I took great pleasure today going through some pre-generated characters for the game in question.

Since I’m not that far through the rule book so far, I can’t go into too much detail, but what I have seen; I like. The little bio style write ups for each character are inventive and interesting, giving a wonderful insight into the world of Victoriana and the type of story that could take place there. Each character has its own hooks that could easily be extrapolated into a full adventure, but for now I’m just looking forward to taking a shot at some Spring Heeled Jack fun! With any luck I should get the chance to run this for a group by the end of summer, so will write up a full actual play report by then.

There’s still a little bit extra to to go, so come back tomorrow for some extra shiny. Until then, don’t forget to head over and grab a copy of the main book, which you’ll need to play with any of the freebies available so far.

Jul 162013
 
spring-heeled-menace-Cover-240x300

Click to download the FREE Penny Dreadful “The Spring Heeled Menace”.

I have barely scratched the surface of this impressive tome, and so don’t want to jump the gun and start reviewing it until I know what’s actually under the skin of this bad boy. I can tell you straight off the bat that it has my attention though. As mentioned in my Kuro review, I’m a big fan of using fiction to open a rule book. It does a better job of giving the players an idea of what to expect than any number of pages talking about what role playing is, and make for a darned sight more interesting read too. As I said though, I don’t want to jump straight into a review just yet.

Instead I’m going to be sharing with you some fun little bits and pieces and the smashing folks over at Cubicle 7 have on offer to entice people to pick up this lovely looking book. Today we have a totally free adventure for the game. The title of this one grabbed me straight away, as my favourite bit of steampunk fiction has a similar name. This story goes down a  different route, and one I’m not going to spoil for you here. I will say though that it’s a very well put together adventure, with plenty of scope of follow on investigations, and there should be no problem bringing in any group of characters to solve this little mystery.

Click the image to download it, and pop back here tomorrow for a set of pre-created player characters to hand out, just to save you the bother of making them yourself. Oh, and if you don’t have it yet, better go and pick up the actual game too. You’ll totally need it to run the adventure, and so far, I’m pretty damned impressed with it.

Jun 272013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 252013
 

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

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

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

May 242013
 

cogsSadly I find myself unable to afford the full edition of this game at present, but after thoroughly enjoying the work the did on the Lovecraft/WWII mash-up that was Achtung! Cthulhu, I just had to give this is a look. I adore Steampunk you see. To this day, the only game I have ever tried to design from the ground up has been a Steampunk card game of high adventure and exploration. My two favourite RPGs are both Steampunk inspired, being the original and wonderful Deadlands, and the gas-mask chic game of Neo-Vicotrian horror that is Unhallowed Metropolis.

This particular product took my fancy after reading the blurb on the back of the book, as it reminded me a lot of the superb little game The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchhausen. It seems like they have taken the time to boil down a lot of the fripperies of Steampunk, and just keep the basic essence that makes it so much fun. The artwork alone does a great job of this. In the few pages I’ve been able to see so far, it mixes photography of Victorian objects with caricature like drawings of Steampunk characters. Although these are simple drawings indeed, they perfectly illustrate the lightweight feel of the game.

And boy is it lightweight. Just three stats per character – with specialisations – that are reduced as damage is dealt until the unlucky PC passes out from their wounds. So very simple, and perfect for a bit of light-hearted fun over tea and cake. I would be interested in seeing the rest of the book, as I think the adventures they include would be grand old fun indeed. As well as taking Steampunk as their biggest inspiration, the storytelling style is claimed to be all Pulp! Another thing I can really get behind, as whenever I run the current incarnation of Deadlands, it always has a Pulp feel to it.

If your purse stretches to it, based on nothing but the few pages I have seen, I would advise you go pick this one up. Even the full game is still a very reasonable price indeed.

May 092013
 

This is my first real post for one of the new menus I’ve fitted to my home page. After this, each time I put something out that has my brand on it, I’ll post about it here, with links so anyone who is interested can quickly and easily find what they’re after. The aim is to put out a two page adventure seed once a week. Sadly that’s not always going to happen, as with this week. A long Bank Holiday weekend with my beautiful girlfriend, needing to put some finishing touches to my card game so it can hopefully get another play test this evening, and working some odd shifts has set me back a couple of days. Hopefully though, normal service will be resumed next week.

For now, I offer a rundown of what is available so far on DriveThruRPG, all crafted at Shortymonster Industries.

System Neutral NPCs. This one pretty much says it all in the title, but the back story is fun, so I’m going to share it with you. When I hit my first big mile stone on the blog, I wanted to thank everyone who had taken the time to head on over and check me out, so I offered to write up one NPC of their choice. Just prose, and based off as little information as they wanted to give. This ranged from “pirate character” to “Star Wars universe trader on a space station”. All of them were fun, and special mention has to go to the father who had me write up his son as a kick ass fighter in a fantasy game. While it is true that you can grab all of these for free by trawling through the comments section on the original post, I just figured that it’d be easier to collate them all together, and correct a few niggling bits of bad grammar and spelling so that they looked good, and package them up for anyone who needed a bunch of ideas in one bundle.

Death at a Funeral. This one has a slightly bigger price tag than all the other stuff, but it took a hell of a lot more work to get it ready. It is a larger adventure, with non player characters sketched out, and even includes maps. And if you’ve been following some of my other posts, you’ll know I suck at maps, and really don’t like drawing them. The adventure is inspired by a tournament game I ran a few years back using the Unhallowed Metropolis system, but since I have no working relationship with the fine folks at Atomic Overmind (yet) a lot of the specifics had to removed, and turned into a generic game of alternate Victorian horror. I think I managed it quite well, and since it has been played about a dozen times in the writing of it, and the tournament, I know the game works. If you fancy the idea of playing Victorian ladies and gentlemen on the hunt for an underground and unknown foe, as you struggle through undead creatures and humanity at its worst, then this might be just what you’re looking for.

The Midnight Priesthood. I can’t actually take 100% credit for this one, as the original idea was a game my girlfriend ran. I liked the basic concept, but thought it would play better in a standard fantasy setting though. The idea itself is of an organisation who effectively take a monthly tax of one child. The settlement it all happens in is happily complicit in this arrangement, and the players take on the role of adventurers knowing nothing of the reasons behind this barbaric practice. There is a reason for the madness, but even the people of the town have no inkling as to the actual dark and terrifying truth.

Murder Incorporated. This one is based on actual historical fact, but massively altered by the addition of some elder gods and Lovecraftian horror. It started with watching an episode of the West Wing, when we discover that one of the main characters’ Father was an hit man for the Jewish mob. I just loved that idea, and it stayed squirreled away just waiting for inspiration to hit. As I started reading more and more Lovecraft, I realised that it was a very good match, and would significantly alter the dynamic of the investigators if they were constantly questioning whether what they were doing was morally acceptable, or even if the methods they were using justified the end result. Possibly the most fun thing to have written so far, but there will be more to follow as I move forward.

Speaking of which, I have two other little bits on the go at present, that should be making a DriveThru appearance in the near future. Another long form adventure, this time in a Cyberpunk world, and a short horror adventure seed set down an old abandoned mine. For regular updates, email subscribe to the blog, or head on over and hit the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

Apr 042013
 

Just a little bit of news for all of the blog fans out there. The first of my complete system neutral adventures is now available from DriveThroughRPG. This is considerably later than I would have liked, as it turns out I’m rubbish at maps. Sure, I could have asked for some help, but since I found out yesterday that the store I work for is closing this Christmas eve, I couldn’t really justify offering anyone any money to take that job away from me.

I do owe some thanks though, Namely to the blogger known as Cirsova, who offered some tips and proof reading for me, along with my good friend Mr. White who did similar. I also want to thank a whole bunch of people who helped out by playing the game in the first place. It went from a sprawling 6 week adventure to a seven hour game ran in two halves at the Student nationals, and changed every step of the way. I’m sorry that your characters never got used chaps and chapesses, but I hope you can see where I got the inspiration from.

So, head on over and check it out, and keep heading back as I take a Cyberpunk trip for the next one. Hopefully, I won’t leave you waiting quite so long, as the next one should have less maps…

Dec 102012
 

Sorry about the delay everyone! Not only on doing a NaGa DeMon round up, but on posting this late on a Monday. Followers of the blog will know that I have been without internet and moving house recently, and today ending up pulling a longer shift than usual, so I’ve had to wait until now to get in front of my computer. Right, with the apologies out of the way, lets get onto the good stuff.

First off, I got my game played before the end of last month (pause for applause)! Not quite a full game, but I’m happy that even a handful of turns were played as it got me some great feedback. Mainly being that the rule book could do with an example of play in it. I don’t disagree either; I play a lot pf board games and card games, and was designing the rules – subconsciously – for someone with the same amount of experience as myself. Not everyone has an entire cupboard and overflow space given up to games, so I think that I need to pay more attention to the casual gamer market. Sure, the rules are a bit complex, but not overly complicated; they just need explaining in a more straightforward manner, and examples of play seems to fit this criteria. So, with that in mind, I’m starting to work on a new rule book, with those additions, plus a few other tweeks suggested by people who’ve read the rules, but never had the chance to play the game.

Other changes that need to be made include adding a few extra Excitement cards – one of which has the working title ‘Zombie Richard Burton’ – and probably dropping multiples down to two of each instead of three. The deck is just a bit too big at the moment, and it made sense to overload it during play testing so I would have the chance to look at how the various cards worked in differing situations. Out of the basic play test though, I need to be worrying more about balancing the game, and – since this is print and play right now – the size of the deck I expect people to print off to play it.

On the advise of a friend, I’m also considering dropping the word Steampunk from the game entirely. I love the genre and all of its conventions, but explaining it to the uninitiated seems wasteful, as they don’t need to know what it’s all about, and any Steampunk fans out there should get that this is a Steampunk game without me spelling it out to them. If you have any thoughts on this, or anything else about the game, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments box below.

Finally, I do have some great bits of art on the go for a lot of the cards. Some are templates only, that I can fill my own stuff in with, but the play mat is great, and sadly too big a file to pop up here.. I’m going to pop all the images below, with links embedded to larger versions.

They’ve all been done by a friend of mine named Dash. As soon as he sends me a link to his webpage, I’ll update here so everyone can head on over and check out his other work. I hope you lot like what he’s done, and I hope to see more from him soon. In the mean time, I’m still looking for people to play the game and offer some feedback before I start the re-write come the new year. If you’re so inclined, head on over and download the game to play it for yourself.

 

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