Friday, 31 December 2010


Primeval is back as of tomorrow (and here's fifteen minutes of webisode preamble) and has an RPG on the way, adapting the Doctor Who AITAS system.

While it doesn't have the anywhere-and-everywhere of Doctor Who and most of its villains are animals, there's enough to run a few sessions there, I reckon.

Probably more on the backstory than the dinosaur MOTWs, which are a great visual element but would probably be less cool to hang entire sessions on at the gaming table. (Although bringing out one's old toy dinosaurs is always tempting.) Because there's skulduggery in the present (as focused on in the previews), a disastrous future to prevent, parallel timelines which the PCs themselves might be responsible for altering...

And the still-hanging mystery of where the anomalies come from, why they're popping up so frequently here and now. Is time itself about to break down completely?

And dinosaurs.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


The president of the local game soc posted (on Christmas Day, no less) about how some games have fizzled and some players have moved and so on, so looking at new games and spaces in existing games.

Given that I missed the start of the academic year and the traditional Grab New Players Day, so couldn't get two players to rub together for anything... should I bring along my previously unsuccessful ideas, or something else?

This is partially my traditional "why don't you just run D&D like a normal GM?" problem where not all of my ideas will appeal to the majority of potential players. But, eh, I dunno.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

So, did you get anything gameable Christmas-wise?

My most remarkable gaming-related Christmas present ever would have to be this.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

How would you model the common cold?

Stamina type check, maybe buy a Willpower type check for "I don't have time for this!" determination, with failure resulting in a negative modifier to all rolls for bloody days?

Thinking a bit wider, there's a vast spread of normal diseases that player characters are never in any danger of. I don't recall ever seeing a Call of Cthulhu character with TB, or a Werewolf with lockjaw. If characters get sick, it's A Big Deal, and probably a curse or an alien bioweapon or something.

Mundane illness is generally ignored, left to the players, or maybe the GM could discuss it with them. I can see suggesting something like Buffy, Killed By Death where our hero saves the day while hospitalised with flu.

Monday, 20 December 2010

I can't find what came in at 1 or 2. So presumably actual toys.

D&D is the third best toy ever. According to an online poll. An online poll conducted by Channel 4, and a normal opinion poll as well, but an online poll nonetheless.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Stargate Universe was sufficiently different from the setting's happy-go-lucky norm (and probably also sufficiently expensive) that it has been cancelled after two seasons, compared to SG-1's... ten? and Atlantis bumbling along for a fair while as well. This is a bit of a surprise because Stargate is one of the most TV-friendly - and RPG-friendly - notions in serialised SF.

As John Tynes explains here, it's a setup where four or so modern people (with optional weirdo PCs) walk through a door from our world out onto another planet. The basics of Star Trek but happening right now. Narnia with P90s. Doctor Who early on when the Doctor wasn't so uber, playing as UNIT but the monsters aren't usually bulletproof.

They have an adventure and go home. Bish-bash-bosh, job done, expand from there to include arcs and Earth-based conspiracy plots and other stuff if you want to but you can run just that for yeeeears.

My direct experience of it comes not from the Tynes d6 version, but initially from the Alderac d20 version, and after the second week of a single firefight another player demanded we go no further without changing system so at my suggestion we moved to the Cinematic Unisystem conversion and it went fine. I also ran it as a PBP, still fine. So, yeah, not quite yeeeears but not a bad showing.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sleep-deprived superhero GMing advice

I wrote this at 4.37 a.m. but I think it still mostly makes sense. See what you think.


Unless you're writing an adventure for general use, tailor it to the PCs and their power level(s). Put in villains and situations that these particular PCs are equipped to handle better than someone else might be. If one of your PCs is The Fastest Man Alive, some of the problems you throw at him should definitely involve doing things really quickly.

Crank the villains up. Generic goons are fine, but give the villains showoff names, catchphrases, visuals and power effects. These don't have to be good, either - the players in a long-running Marvel game I played in remembered Paste-Pot Pete more fondly than most of his gang.

Include escape routes for the villains. Let the PCs catch some and put them into the unreliable supervillain prison, let others escape due to taking hostages, let your mastermind fall into his own death trap which "nobody could have survived"...

Bear in mind the reactions of the public. Unless the PCs are "plain clothes" supers or "urban legend" characters, they should be on the front page of their local newspaper (run by a larger-than-life eccentric editor) frequently, booed or cheered by the crowds depending on their actions and other issues.

And they're not alone. Unless they're set up as the only superheroes in the setting, have some of the other heroes appear in crossovers. And if they are set up as the only superheroes in the setting, keep that status quo long enough that they'll be surprised when someone else manifests powers like theirs.

Decide if you're going kitchen sink or not. Even in a shared universe, Blade tends not to meet the Hulk or go to the Shi'ar Space Empire. (Although the former would be awesome...) And either way, ask the players for what kinds of future "issues" they'd like to see. You can add your own ideas and interpretations, of course.

And remember, above all else... everything's better with a monkey.

Monday, 13 December 2010


Watching Macbeth last night spurred on a few ideas, as it always does. Mostly visual ones in this case, as the production is heavily stylised and riffs on the Russian Revolution and Stalin's reign of terror, but it's as good an alternate setting for the events of Macbeth as any.

So, what else could we borrow from the Shakespeare tragedies?

Usurpers: He was fascinated by usurpers, rightful heirs exiled and all that. A good hook for any plot with people in power and people expecting to inherit or claim it afterwards. (A bit inconvenient for the classic power-politics game, Vampire, of course.)

Crimes so dreadful that nature rebels: Signs and portents, storms, horses going mad and all that business. Caused by regicide in Macbeth but these days largely reserved for supernatural activity that draws a supernatural response.

One murder is never enough: As also seen in the work of the Coen Brothers, the killer's best chance to get away with murder is to keep killing people who know too much or ask the wrong questions, and this can spark off a few other motives for killing as well, and eventually the rest is silence.

Prophecy: Being able to write what he will without the players going off in different directions makes it easy to weave in prophecies and have them pay off. A GM generally has to have at least a couple of possible meanings for a prophecy. (And even then, Macduff obviously spent a few Drama Points to "reveal" he was born by C-section. J.R.R. Tolkien so disapproved of this unguessable un-foreshadowed twist that he restaged the final battle with Eowyn, after having the wood come to Saruman's castle much more literally too.)

Ghosts, or possibly not: Most of the time, only the haunted character sees the ghosts... Hamlet's father appeared to other people to begin with, but later only to him, so maybe some of his appearances were just in Hamlet's mind. How to do that with a PC? Talk with the affected character's player away from the others?

The sympathetic monster: There's nothing like a bit of extra time on stage to let us sympathise with the villain. If all we see is the results of his actions, and then meet him at the final battle, we aren't going to see his point of view. Of course, this needs players who don't roll initiative at the first sign of an enemy, like Macbeth and Macduff only have that one scene together.

The unsympathetic sympathetic monster: So, having set things up so that the players spend time in-character with the villain, you have to make sure they still know he deserves stabbing/poisoning/beheading when the time comes. So he's a regicide, he steals his late brother's wife, he spends all his time telling the audience how clever he is...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Further thoughts on Non-Urban Urban Fantasy

Having now seen Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 it does in fairness have a couple of standout scenes of the mystical world interacting with the Muggle world - a Star Wars style broomstick chase and battle drops down to earth and carries on along a motorway, and a wand battle in central London - along with long-to-the-point-of-avant-garde periods in isolated wilderness and a chase in a chilly blue-tinged woodland that wouldn't look out of place in Twilight.

Which is another interesting example, viewed from a safe distance. The vampires have divorced themselves from city-based undead society and gone off to a small town in the sticks, keeping their heads down to avoid being smashed to chunks of quartzmeat by the local werefolks. Since it never goes beyond those two monster types AFAIK, the town never needs more areas than a regular small town to contain them credibly.

Unlike, say, Sunnydale, which expanded Springfield-like to become a university town because it needed more room for everything magical and bad to happen there.

Trivia: Twin Peaks has a small-town feel and was apparently originally meant to have a population on its sign of 5,120. This went up by a digit when the show aired, but the town still felt small, despite all the creepiness going on in it, because everybody knew everybody.

When starting a new Buffy PBP, I set it in a semi-real location with a population of 35000. Hopefully, that'll be sufficient.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Well... huh.

Blade: The Series just finished its belated Freeview run last night, and... yeah, it could reasonably be described as a damp squib. Obviously they didn't know that they were going to get cancelled, but Blade not killing the Big Bad when they get into a (very short) swordfight was particularly galling.

On top of the fact that Blade himself was the central character in, what, three of the thirteen episodes, while the rest of the show was about Krista the sad vampire and the Ventrue House of Chthon.

I could also make snarky asides about the Prince boss being an Evil Brit called Marcus Van Sciver, where "Skiver" in British lingo means "habitually workshy", or the fact that the doors make the same sounds from Bloodlines, or that the Geoff Johns episode features the gratuitous impaling death of a minor character, or the assassination of the elders at the Concl- no, it actually is called a Conclave...

Still, there were nice ideas tossed out through the run, the odd nice fight, one of the Bladecentric episodes (the one where he's trying to get a pregnant girl across Europe) is a great example of a "make your Lone Wolf PC look after someone" adventure, and the bit where we see a vampire explode only as reflected in Blade's sunglasses is nice.

And it's a closer adaptation of Vampire, particularly Masquerade, than its own TV show was. Inevitably.

(Also late night, we had the season finale of Merlin. Much better swordfights all round. Great Smallville game using Pendragon as a sourcebook to riff off.)