Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy Hogmanay! Or for those in the future, Happy New Year!

Superhero creators

Stan Lee recently turned 90!

365 Superheroes. Pixar character designer Everett Downing is in the process of one-upping the Thirty Days Thirty Characters challenge with a whole year of ideas.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Gerry Anderson

The creator of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Space: 1999 and so much more, Gerry Anderson has died. His work made quite a mark on me among many others.

Two months ago, Bruce Baugh noted on G+ “So while looking at this and that, it dawns on me that Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds would be a neat framework for a modern-day pulp adventure campaign.” I dug out an article from The Last Province on the idea, and found it online: here it is. So maybe next session of my game, the PCs will rescue people from a disaster...


An idea-brainstorm for the Traveller universe in particular but suitable for any space-opera-tic kind of game.

(Including a description of an alien nudie mag on page one, so may be NSFW.)

The number of toys from the first post onwards might be due to the day the thread started. It does have me wanting to do something about toys from another world... Hmm...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Once And Future King

Following along from thoughts on the end of Merlin:

What would qualify as a “time of greatest need” and deserve King Arthur returning?

The Second World War. Particularly the Battle of Britain... but how do you get him up there and involved?
The English Civil War... but who would he fight with?

I’d be tempted to go a slightly different way, and put him in an urban fantasy kind of position, fighting secret apocalypses unnoticed.

I’ve also previously had ideas about Arthurian survivors in the present (and who would they have to talk to but each other?) and even wrote a novel about the Sword in the Stone being rediscovered in the present.


The BBC’s other Saturday teatime genre show has ended (pretty conclusively) after five years, finishing up with a final scene I’d have happily seen used as a plot hook.

In game terms, it’s very much a Smallville-y soap (using Pendragon as a sourcebook, naturally) with four PCs (one of whom goes full-time antagonist) and a friendly exposition NPC and initially a quest-giver / antagonist NPC, and some knight who might be troupe-style-play temporary PCs.

The last year very much felt like “so, Morgana, what’s your evil plan this week?”

Not the most thorough examination of the legend, not the wonkiest, somewhere in the middle. I’d have loved to have seen...

(Spoilers for the final year and especially the final episode ahead...)

Merry Christmas (if applicable)!

I gave one game-related present, or will have once the collecting works itself out.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Everybody Knows

A notion prompted by Buffy Season 8 and particularly Harmony getting her own reality show...

An adventure hook for an imagined Season 8 of The Watch House inspired by this idea:

And no-one will ever know...

Ladies and Gentlemen! I know that man - that Doctor on high! And I know that he has done this deed a thousand times! But not once, no sir, not once - not ever! - has he been thanked. But no more, as I say to you on this Christmas morn, “Bravo, sir! Bravo!”  
Doctor Who, The Next Doctor

As we look back at the lack of an apocalypse our thoughts turn to the unsung heroes who save the world unnoticed. Are you characters among them?

(Best plot hook from last night: the supposedly safe haven of Bugarach closed off, so that only journalists and police and a few locals and a small number of rubbernecking visitors were in it - how would that cross-section of society cope if it had been the only town left after the apocalypse?)

Would they want to be famous?

Probably not.

See also other non-starter apocalypses, some funny, some tragic.

Visual inspiration?

The best SF music videos of 2012.

The psychic children on the run, that’s got to be a plot right there.

Also a geology lesson with Bjӧrk.

(During an evening’s speculation about who might play the Eleventh Doctor, Bjӧrk came on Spotify in the background and I said “she’d make a great Doctor” and everyone nodded.)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Once Upon A Time...

As today’s fairly insane pull-along Google Doodle attests, it’s two hundred years since the Brothers Grimm published their collected fairy tales.

A great many of these are world famous, frequently adapted, and known (in at least the basics) from early childhood. And others... aren’t.

Still, even the most familiar of the stories could make an interesting session with the right turn and the right point of view.

Who is the dashing stranger with the very white smile who appears when you’re lost in the woods? Can you trust him? Dare you not?
Who is the mysterious lady who just turned up at a ball at court and fascinated the heir to the throne so?
What is the trickster’s name? What do you mean, you already know?

The Brothers themselves are classic wandering scholarly collector types, so not much meat for a Celebrity Historical story of their own - except when Terry Gilliam tells it, anyway, then it’s a tale fit for Warhammer. Which may be apt in the case of such jolly tales as The Singing Bone.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Preregistration for Conpulsion is go


And check out the T-shirt there too!

(What will I be running? Good question, as being RPG Coordinator will I have time to sit down and GM something for three hours? I had better...)


Mummy: The Curse arises on Kickstarter.

Monday, 17 December 2012

As accidental adverts go, it's pretty successful.

This site also demonstrates one of the great dangers of archaeology - not to life and limb, although that does sometimes take place. I'm talking about prop makers.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


A different kind of time machine in a short film made as an effects reel. See also PLOT DEVICE.

The Primeval Dead

JohnK started a thread on RPGnet about how little comment there is on Primeval there - there isn't much on Doctor Who there either, so it seems mis-aimed to me. But anyway, a joke about the lack of zombies lead Gar to post this:

Actually... the Threat rules could be easily adapted to model Walking-Dead style zombies... Off the top of my head:

Awareness 1
Co-ordination 1
Strength 6
Ingenuity 1
Resolve 4
Appearance 3
Max Threat 8
Threat Threshold 4
Skills: Athletics 2, Fighting 3, Survival 2 Traits Armour 4
Headshot: A called shot to the Head ignores the zombie's armour.
Sniffer: Zombies gain 1 point of Threat if they sense the presence of a human or hear a loud noise
Really Dumb: Zombies cannot make Awareness tests without spending Threat.
Really Resilient: Zombies cannot be reduced below Strength 2 by damage.
Threat Powers:
Search (1 Threat): The zombie makes an Awareness + Survival roll, opposed by the lowest Coordination + Subterfuge roll of any humans in the area. If successful, the zombie gains 1/2/4 Threat.
Smash (1 Threat): The zombie gets a +4 bonus to Strength rolls for smashing down barricades and obstacles.
Infectious Bite (3 Threat): The zombie makes a Bite attack. If it hits, it inflicts Strength +1 damage and poisons the victim.
And on this day, a new addition to the links section, as Bruce Baugh starts a review blog.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

About ten minutes of extraneous LOTR-connection-building so far, not that much in 2 3/4 hours.

Radagast raises the setting's Weird Level by a click or two.

"The bit with the ladder!" may be the new "the bit on the stairs!" although not to the same extent.

Riddles In The Dark almost word-for-word.

Didn't spot Sir Peter, did hear the Wilhelm Scream.

Didn't see it 48fps, can't comment there, looked lovely in regular 2D.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Conpulsion GM request. Tell me how this sounds...

As seen in the email inboxes of this year's GMs, on Facebook and Google+...

Hello! This is Craig, RPG Coordinator for Conpulsion 2013.

I'm looking for people to run games.

The convention is to run Friday April 12th to Sunday 14th, with scheduled game slots on Saturday and Sunday morning, afternoon and evenings as well as room for pickup games.

I'm looking for descriptions for the website and convention programme.

Pithy One-Line Description:
Description: (around 100 words)
Number of players:
Suitable for new players:
Suitable for ages:

Conpulsion 2013's theme is Espionage - games of that type are not essential, but always welcome.

Descriptions can be sent to me here, or to with the tagline "RPGs".

The deadline for entry into the Conpulsion programme is February the 28th and inclusion in the programme and on the website definitely heightens your game’s presence at the Con.

Before that, on February 1st to 2nd, is Propulsion, 24 hours of gaming at the Pleasance on behalf of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation. This includes a chance to playtest Conpulsion adventures!

Thanks for reading,
Craig Oxbrow

10 MORE Episodes That Every Sci-Fi Show Must Have

Per SFX and following the previous ten, and including the Bodyswap and evil twin and dream, and also the Doomed Romance and the Creepy Kid.

The Western Episode
A Character Turns Into Another Species
The Bodyswap Episode
The Doomed Romance
The Jack The Ripper Episode (Other historical figures are available. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, JFK and many others.)
The Evil Twin Episode
The Creepy Kid Episode
The “It Was All A Dream” Episode
The Reset Button Episode (would you get XP? Depends who presses the button...)
The “You’re Playing A Game” Episode.
Which might be a bit much for, y’know, a game. (So I did The “You’re In A TV Show” Episode in The Watch House instead...)

Actually, TWH scores pretty low here all round. No Western (a Victorian instead), Jake turning into a vampire and a ghost, a bodyswap (plans for a second were rejected), a bit of a doomed romance in S3, no Ripper (he was scheduled for The Night Watch), no Evil Twin that I recall, no Creepy Kid, no “It Was All A Dream”, no Reset Button and no “You’re Playing A Game”. Mostly because Buffy and Angel and TNW had already hit so many of them with classics, of course.

But now I want to do a TWH Western. Damn it.
Female fighter pilots edited out of Return Of The Jedi.

Well... damn it.

And this is how ideas start.

Tonight's Cameo Cinema Film Quiz included the traditional guess-the-film-by-the-DVD-chapters round, and one was The Bishop’s Wife. These included “An Angel Sent To Help” which lead to us blindly guessing “It’s A Wonderful Life!”

And “The Professor’s Coin”... which lead to me suggesting Indiana Jones And The Star of Bethlehem.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

That's great, it starts with an earthquake...

Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, Lenny Bruce is not afraid...

How might the world be predicted to end in your game? It’s the sort of thing player characters often find themselves having to stop, usually because a) the prophecies are bang-on and/or (b) someone is actively trying to make them come true.

Unclear predictions are more common than coherent ones, with the advantage that they can be re-interpreted at later dates...

But what if someone like Newton published a very scholarly warning, and it became widely known? That might affect public policy and cause real mass concern, in a way that the magic omen-laying chicken probably wouldn’t.

(Although if I’d known about the magic omen-laying chicken when I was running The Watch House, you can bet I’d have done something with it.)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Things found in a treasure chest

I kind of want to do a dungeon bash just to use these as item cards.

... Huh.

Watching Rome: History Of The Eternal City on BBC4, I realise I was never really aware of Magna Mater, a goddess inducted into the Roman pantheon on the advice of augurs to help fight Carthage.

So I immediately checked to see who she was in Vampire: The Masquerade.

(For the record, she is indeed in there, as a 4th generation Malkavian, mentioned in Kindred Most Wanted as the sire of Alexander The Great’s mother Olympias, aka Petaniqua, and killed off by the True Brujah. Or a Baali. One of those.)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Marginalisation, realism, history and fantasy

Some fair time ago, I looked at portrayals of sexism in history, history-based fantasy and full-on fantasy. Notably Game Of Thrones, which has gone on to depict a madly sexist society partially through the POV of women breaking through marginalisation in various ways.

The Mary Sue posted on this recently, including another look at Westeros, and Assassin’s Creed III nearly having a female protagonist but then not because “The history of the American Revolution is the history of men... they tried very hard in the TV series (John Adams) to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes.” But the story of the Founding Fathers (note the term Fathers) also essentially a history of rich white men, and the protagonist is a poor outcast of Mohawk ancestry. As well as a member of an Arabic secret society most active in Renaissance Italy. Sure, it’s harder to tell ethnicity than gender at a distance in a battle with your hood up, but still... Which marginalised group do you represent and why?

In gaming, of course, you can receive instant feedback (and angry glares from players of marginalised groups definitely qualify). It’s a highly sensitive topic, and one to be considered and discussed before bringing an unpleasant society to the table, real or imagined. Some players might enjoy wrecking it in-game, or use it as a way to trouble their characters, but some might equally not want to deal with problems they face in reality in their gaming.

Finding the villain? There's an app for that.

Remember my post on technology in Vampire and horror in general?

Is technology in Modern Day settings interfering with story? asks Labmonkey-XL on ye RPGnet. And I say:

It depends. The my phone isnt getting any reception! scene is so ubiquitous in horror and thrillers because they rely on isolation and uncertainty. Its become a groan-inducing trope of those genres, and we've seen a rise in period genre pieces set in the 70s and 80s as one way of getting around it, but varying the reasons it wont work, or wont work well, can go a long way to help. As well as the various real-world options suggested above, consider a setting where magical or psychic powers can work over the phone or online. The Ring is essentially an update of Casting The Runes with a video instead of a scrap of paper, and its most recent sequel puts the video on YouTube. 

I also discussed this here yesterday, as part of general GM advice for modern games in particular.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Getting started early

Its Teach Your Kids Gaming Week. Matt McFarland has released FirstFable free as a way in.

As Ive mentioned before, I started about twelve with such an entry-level game (the original Fighting Fantasy, based on the gamebooks, and my knackered old copy now signed by Steve Jackson at this years Dragonmeet) and no grownups around the table, just my brother (then all of fourteen) GMing the published adventures for myself and our five cousins then living around the corner (the eldest a venerable fifteen) and then stopping, so I started making up my own adventures and proceeded from there.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Ten Rules Of Space Opera

I think this is something of an exaggeration, but might give you some ideas.

The symbol of your series

A new poster for Star Trek Into Darkness is in similar style to The Dark Knight Rises and to a lesser extent all of the Nolan Batman film posters. (The one for The Dark Knight reminds me of a scene from The Crow, also aped in Daredevil.) It shows the Starfleet lopsided arrow cut out of a smashed building.  (In London...?)

Does your game have there a defining image recognisable as a silhouette? Something like the hint of a TARDIS in the current Doctor WhoDW logo, or Vaders helmet or the lightsaber on its own in Star Wars posters?

In which I admit to getting a joke after twenty-one years.

For twenty-one years now, the name Sullivan Dane for the religious monster-hunter in Vampire: The Masquerade has vaguely bothered me, because Im British and have never met or heard of anyone British with Sullivan as a first name. Why is he called that? Then looking at Matt McFarlands new book Dust To Dust this afternoon, I realised (and RMB has now kindly confirmed) that...

Its a reference to Solomon Kane.

I have never read the stories, but I saw the film when it came out a couple years ago, and have been at least vaguely aware of the character since something like 1986.

So, yeah... I feel real smart right now..

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Dragonmeet event booklet is out and there I am... I should really get the character sheets done.


The Guide To Glorantha is well and truly Kickstarted already, but still time to get in. And if you're not interested in Runequest, the page his a video interview with Mark Rein-Hagen about its influence on his work as well as interviews with Glorantha creator Greg Stafford.

Jimmy's End

A new half-hour film by Alan Moore. Probably not gameable, but perhaps of interest anyway.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

TSR casts Resurrection?

Via Bailey and Abranson:

The Gygax family bring back TSR, and a print magazine called Gygax. Which seems maybe a legacy reference too far, but still - a print magazine! A magazine in print!

(No idea what's in it though...)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Wraith: The ICONography

Bruce Baugh has been looking at ICONS lately. I made observations about its random chargen, approximate power level of the characters it makes, and how much damage attacks do versus how much damage characters can generally take, and he thanked me and checked that out and agreed. Which was nice. :)

And then he converted Wraith: The Oblivion to it. Which I was not expecting. 8o

The Aspect conversion of Passions and Fetters certainly works, emphasising their importance with a big place on the sheet for a game with less stats and skills. The different ghostly powers are largely covered, but there are gaps. And of course, how to play the Shadow is still a question...

(Wraith: The Iconostasis? Wraith: The Iconoclasm?)

(Edit: Iconoclasm)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Overheard through a dungeon door...

"Dammit, nearly forgot to reset the trap! ... there, that's it. Now let's get clear!"

Inevitably some answers to this idea session are more amusing than atmospheric.

"But why do the humans hate us so much?"
"I blames lack of cultural exposure, me. If we just sat down an' talked, really TALKED? I think they'd see we're pretty much the same. You gonna finish that?"
(Sounds of conflict)

- Greg Stolze

V20: Hunters Hunted 2

Available for your perusal in its entirety in near-final edit text form along with the outline for Anarchs Unbound.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Journey's End

Today I saw the end of not one, but two shipbound SF series from the SciFi (SyFy!!!1one) Channel.

Stargate Universe ended quietly with a “the journey goes on...” pause before a third season that never came, but provided a kind of closure in its continuity.

SGU was pretty openly influenced by Battlestar Galactica, which provided such an ending in case the 2009 Writers’ Strike went on too long, but then came back for a final flourish complete with half an hour of quiet, bittersweet LOTR style codas and a final WTF moment following on from the season three cliffhanger WTF moment. I know it outraged some people, but compared to the end of, say, LOST, it was pretty good at tying together some wildly disparate threads (several of which I was less than keen on, but never mind) so my only real issue with it was one of staging which I found rather distractingly amusing.

There’s a lot to be said for having your characters ride off into the sunset - just as there’s a lot to be said for a clear finale.

I find the most reliable method is somewhere in between, a lesson taken from Buffy. (Many of my lessons come from Buffy.) Every year they provided and completed a seasonal arc, in case the players didn’t come back the show was cancelled, before a really really final one when they decided to go out on a high. Which has since been followed by a season and a half so far of comics, but hey.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Ten Episodes That Every Sci-Fi Show Must Have

Ten Episodes That Every Sci-Fi Show Must Have (if they last long enough).

Like the Six Staples or the other genre standard, but SFX’s Jayne Nelson takes it a bit further. Some overlap (although there’s no ascending to a higher plane) and some are likely to happen in any show that goes on long enough regardless of genre, but it’s still something to look at.

Good and bad examples are considered equally. There’s a lot to be said for trying at least one bad example.

Alternate Universe
Someone Dies
The Quirky Self-Aware Episode
Outsider’s POV
Good Guy Goes Bad
Groundhog Day

Sunday, 11 November 2012

If Onyx Path released a tenth anniversary edition of Demon: The Fallen, it would be called D10.

And what kind of dice does it use?


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Thrilling Adventure Hour!

Why am I just hearing about this now?

And why am I not able to actually hear it?

“A recent show introduced the Algonquin Four; basically, Dorothy Parker’s coterie if they’d been bombarded with space radiation and turned into superheroic freaks, a la the Fantastic Four.”

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Want to play Primeval? As a PBP?

Here - in RPGnet's PBP forums, so only registered forum users can see it.

About a year since my last PBP died ignominiously, as most of them do, and here I am offering to GM for someone who just joined RPGnet. Wish me luck!

Currently with one, maybe two players, so I would welcome a couple more...

Monday, 5 November 2012


The follow-up to the follow-up to Brick, Looper sees Rian Johnson stray out of writing and directing thrillers into a half-thriller half-thoughtful SF movie. Still plenty of slang and inappropriate machismo, but then it slows in pace dramatically, some of the worldbuilding pays off, and it becomes sort of a thinking person’s (time-travel action movie redacted as spoiler).

The worldbuilding is a nice balance of the totally necessary and the there just for style, and while you can make some educated guesses you might not spot which is which to begin with.

The mechanics of time travel (rare and a closed shop, and it affects memories as well as retro-affecting bodies) are interesting and consistent, even if some of them seem a stretch to my way of thinking how it “could” work.

You too can interview Gar Hanrahan!

Via Dan Davenport: #rpgnet welcomes Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (Doctor Who, The One Ring, Laundry Files, Primeval) 11/5 19:00 CST / 11/6 01:00 GMT!

To join #rpgnet chat: go to , select your nick, log in, and type "/join #rpgnet"."

As Gar himself puts it:
I'm doing a chat on the rpgnet channel this evening. Well, this unearthly hour of the night, more accurately. Come ask me questions and/or watch me fall asleep on Mr. Keyboard.

Edit: the link did not work for me, so I missed it. The log is here.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Hurricane relief download bundle

Red Cross Hurricane Sandy relief RPG bundle on Drivethru.

$20 for $438.64 of downloads. Complete list and link in the RPGnet thread which also links to direct donations and other charities DriveThru supports.

Adventures, sourcebooks, novels, floorplans, map packs, and entire RPGs.

Contains three things I’ve actually heard of, and (ew) a game by Postmortem, but I’m sure we can find something useful or interesting in there. Among other things, four adventure-hook-y planets for Traveller and two horror adventures illustrated by Storn Cook.

Also available: a smaller bundle from Point Of Insanity Games

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

One of those "that's pretty good" moments

Emphasising horror in Vampire.

Most of my suggestions are classics, but this one came up while I was typing:

Another idea would be to start every session with a short recap of what happened previously - but instead of framing it as a neutral "previously on..." sequence, emphasise all the horrific things that happened, especially the ones the players' characters did. You could also bring this into the ongoing chronicle plot, with a pair of homicide detectives investigating crimes that the players know the Kindred - possibly including their own characters - were involved in. It might keep the players on their toes and careful about the Masquerade, and also remind them of what happened in the previous sessions, as well as showing the mortal view of what they and their contemporaries did.

So I've now added that to the section on mortals for my next possible Vampire game.

Need some spare freakouts?

Cracked have you covered.

Ancient Roman poltergeists, turn of the century killer dolls, B.C. zombie apocalypses...

Archaeologists in the Yucatan have found something interesting: the literal entrance to hell.” (Warning: so many photos of mummies and skeletons it’s not even funny.)

Happy Hallowe'en!

In case you needed reminding, there’s a rather lovely Google Doodle for the day.

Have I not done a big post about Hallowe’en? Well then, this is as good a year as any.

Hallowe’en has long been a favourite holiday due to its combination of horror and sweets. It goes back to a tangle of old beliefs, All Hallows' Eve put on top of the end-of-summer fire festival of Samhuinn and a bunch of others piled on top. These days it's mostly the straightforward American version (trick or treat rather than guising, pumpkins rather than turnips because they're much less of a pain in the arse to carve) but the roots, some local, are still there. Particularly nice because it's often far too bloody cold around here to enjoy going out.

It's a geek national holiday because of all the game-friendly things going on:

Monsters. (Duh.)

Costumes, masks, disguises, pretending to be a monster. Or not to be.

Occult rituals, both rooted in ancient traditions and totally made up.

The thinning of the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Dios De Los Muertes.

Horror media. New and retrospective.

And special Hallowe’en episodes.

Depending on Weird Level, an ongoing game can get away with a slight spike in Weird for the season. e.r. had a ghost story one year, of all things. It turned out to be nothing, but still... Of course if you have the required Weird, you can aim for seasonal kinds of Weird. Buffy had a Hallowe’en episode every other year. One of the handful of adventures for the Ghostbusters RPGs was Pumpkin Patch Panic.

It’s probably a bit late to start planning one now unless you have a weekend session coming up, but of course a sudden outbreak of scariness might work better when the players least expect it.

Heh, heh, heh...
Among this year's Hallowe'en programming, BBC Four had a history of depictions of the Devil in art. The first possible example was a blue angel, but the first definite Devil mentioned is this charmer. In the basilica in Torcello, the longest inhabited island of Venice.

Is that you, Augustus Giovanni?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Star Wars: Episode VII

Thanks to a four billion dollar deal with Disney, it seems those four long-imagined words might really roll up screens in just three years' time. What could it involve? Hell if I know.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Setting and horror

West of Arkham the hills rise wild... "From the deserted strands of MR James to the Danube of Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows", there seems to be a deeper resonance to those stories in which location is a junction between the mundane and the weird."

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Angel Vs. Cthulhu

I'm sure that exists as fanfic somewhere (I’ve run Buffy Vs. Godzilla as a one-shot before, with the Big G as the magical summoning of a pop culture icon by an angry sorcerous nerd, following opening Season Five of The Watch House with the more traditional Milli Vs. Frankenstein) but WHEDONesque links to an article in which the existential and humanist subtext of Angel in particular relates to Lovecraftian horror’s cosmic indifference to humanity.

How much of a setting’s underlying philosophy does a reference, an influence or a full-on crossover bring to the table?

I’d say it depends how much the GM and players decide it does, and how much the effect matters to the game as a whole.

The “home” setting probably wins out, if only because that’s the one the players have signed up for. As the old joke goes, the answer to “who would win in a fight...” depends on whose comic the fight happens in. Or Batman.

It might take it in as an adaptation, be troubled by it as an influence, repudiate it (Angel proves, like the investigators in Call Of Cthulhu, that we do matter, even if “if nothing we do matters... then all that matters is what we do”) or casually shrug it off, depending. Particularly if it breaks one of the fundamental rules of the setting.

Mythos monsters guesting in Doctor Who are just another bunch of pseudo-occult aliens, because the Whoniverse has plenty of those already and has proved repeatedly that humanity absolutely matters. As noted before, the Whoniverse can swallow entire settings whole and solve their fundamental problems in a single episode.

Whereas time travellers are powerful and dreadful things in the Cthulhu Mythos with at most academic interest in humanity, and a mercurial, capricious, charming alien who looks human is probably Nyarlathotep. Although then again, it was always the odd one out among the major Mythos players anyway, because it does take an interest in humans... even if only on the level a cat does with a toy. Hmm. Is the best way to defeat Nyarlathotep to distract it with shiny things?

To explore strange new worlds

A poster depicting every major character and just about every significant guest star in the original Star Trek. It’s big. Because space, the final frontier, is big.

Friday, 19 October 2012

LARP mainstreaming

A Guardian article partially about LARP but partially about the run-from-zombies offshoot that doesn't require character sheets and the like, but the horror LARP with the lake monster grabbing an NPC off the boat sounds awesome.

Delusion: The Blood Rite - a hybrid of a haunted house event, a play and a murder mystery party? Hmm.

Villain Audit

Via Patrick O’Duffy: Peter Ball on Running A Villain Audit

- in superhero series in particular but suited to other games with varied and potentially recurring enemies.

“It’s easy to get stuck into a rut when it comes to bad guys. As GMs we have a natural inclination towards certain times of opposition, usually because they’re either statistically easy to prepare and run (in complex game systems) or the kind of antagonist who resonates with us in more traditional narratives. Either way, in the back of our brain, GMs have a short set of Ur-villain archetypes that they reach for out of habit. So when I started looking the combat problems in my superhero games, I figured this was one of the culprits...”

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pushing at the edges of a format

One thing using published settings teaches you to do is look at their boundaries and the plot possibilities those suggest.

What works in the Old World doesn’t necessarily work in Ravenloft, but could it be tweaked to? Running Buffy and The World Of Darkness I’ve gotten (I hope) a fair sense of the differences as well as the overlap. There are some things I would do in one but not the other, and some that would feel different just by the change in the setting.

And doing this for so long means I tend to do it to all kinds of things...

For example, wanting to find a good shot of a body bag going into an ambulance, I’ve been looking through Tru Calling, the Eliza Dushku vehicle where she plays a med student working at the morgue - who discovers she can hear the newly and prematurely dead call for help, and then goes back in time to when she woke up, to save them from dying. Once she’s done, her life carries on so she can go to bed, wake up and it’s a new day.

It’s pretty good at ringing the changes on that format. Sometimes her mission is to help them do something important before they die. She finds four at once - all with no I.D. so she has to figure out who they are before she can help them. An undiscovered body calls to her from the woods. Saving one life leads to another death and she has to relive a day over and over. And someone else can do this... and has a very different perspective of what needs to happen.

But I immediately think... “does it have to be only as far as when she woke up?”

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Cutscenes: A GM’s Guide

Cutscenes are one of those narrative tricks that a story-heavy GM like me enjoys.

The WEG version of Star Wars pushed them in published adventures, and they tend to pop up in media-emulating games in particular. So how do they work, beyond going “meanwhile”?

Keep it short.
Actually, keep anything non-interactive short.

(One option for a really big meanwhile sequence would be to make it interactive - hand out temporary PCs. Not all players like this, though - they’re here to play their characters, not a parallel team or a previous group of victims or the assassins out to hunt down the regular PCs. Sound them out in advance about the idea.)

Consider how much mystery and how much spoiler you and your players want. Err on the side of caution.
Too much can really affect future events, unavoidably, even for players highly adept at separating IC and OOC knowledge. As for mystery, I can manage the occasional clever plot twist, but I’m often bad at showing my hand too early. I’ve never managed a “no... I am your father” moment. (And consider how the prequels totally change the effect of that moment on fresh audiences.)

Consider genre as well.
In a pulp adventure game, revealing that the villains are laying a trap should encourage the players to send the heroes straight into it. In a horror game, the reaction would be rather different. A horror game might stick with the PCs’ point-of-view almost entirely... perhaps with the occasional cutscene of the PCs being watched by something out in the dark... A mystery game should probably not reveal things ahead of time - it turns a whodunit into a howtoproveit, and only Columbo really makes that work.

An example:

Cutscenes and Metagaming, Mystery and Secrets

Raised by Chris Jarvis here, and addressed on the DWAITAS forum afterwards:  

Where does IC knowledge end and OOC knowledge begin?
Hopefully this should be obvious, but you never know.  

How good are you at separating IC and OOC knowledge?
Hopefully pretty good, but nobody’s 100%. I’ve seen more honest mistakes than active cheating here, thankfully.

When would a surprise or mystery be more fun than a spoiler?
marnal suggests when the player gets to work something out and gets a sense of accomplishment as a result. Likewise, I’ve had players request less spoilers so they can react more naturally in-character.  

When might spoilers be necessary?
I’d consider things like game premise here - few players appreciate a “bait and switch” campaign once, let alone again. The characters might be surprised to be whisked off into space, but the players better not have been looking forward to an Earthbound game with lots of contacts and connections featured strongly.  

When is metagaming a good thing?
The classic example is “letting a new PC join the party” but there’s more to it than that. In the discussed example of mysteries and cutscenes, a player knowingly sending a PC into danger is a kind of metagaming which may well be encouraged, and indeed may be vital.

How do you construct a cutscene?
Click here for my ideas.

Playercharacterons - UNITE!

A new UK genre show called Switch started last night on ITV2. Back in the day, “a new UK genre show” would be the mark of a freak conjunction of the planets, but nowadays we have a few scattered about here and there. This one in particular is not built with geeks like me in mind, being a light comedy-drama about sisterly bonding for a coven of four twentysomething witches where magic appears to be a way to cause amusing misunderstandings.

One thing I’ll take away from it, though, is that the four “elements” (building on ideas of power multiplication seen in The Craft and swiped by Charmed) apparently can’t do anything magical unless they’re all involved and in agreement.

Which would be an interesting complication for the Big Gun of a setting, as long as the players were willing to play fair with it and kept to character conflicts. You can only shoot fireballs if everyone thinks it’s a good idea. Or if everyone holds hands. Or...
A Tragedy In Five Acts by Matthew McFarland, nearly Kickstarted.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Conpulsion 2013

Conpulsion 2013: Espionage. 12th-14th April.

As RPG coordinator... anybody want to do something with an espionage theme?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Short horror

Looking over previous years’ Dead By Dawn award winners, there are some that are game-friendly... which aren’t online. Drat.

The Ten Steps is wonderful, although not relevant to gaming at all. No gore, rather amusing, but... brrr.

On the other hand, we’ve probably all had horror games that ended up like Demonitron: The 6th Dimension. Accidentally or on purpose.


Google Hangout game of Vampire The Masquerade with Mark Rein-Hagen among the players.
Dear Esther - But is it art game?
Horror Theatre outlines some tricks that would also befit LARP and even tabletop RPGs.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Video editing woes

Hmm. Need (well, want) two-second clip of closeup of just a vampire's mouth showing fangs, possibly smiling.

 I'm sure such clips exist, but have yet to find them in Being Human s1 or 2, Blade 1 or 2, the BBC's recentish Dracula, Underworld, Sangre Eterna, Interview With The Vampire... And I used the one from Queen Of The Damned last time... Buffyverse vamps are too likely to show bumpy foreheads. Don't have all of True Blood handy.

 Current leading contender is Kelli Ali in a Sneaker Pimps video...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Of Gods And Men trailer

A year after I considered actually running it, I finally finished the trailer for Of Gods And Men.

Footage from The Day After Tomorrow, Transformers, Independence Day, Stargate, Superman Returns, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, Percy Jackson, Heroes, Highlander (TV), Angel, Fellowship Of The Ring, Reign Of Fire. Music by Murray Gold.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mayan Supreme Warrior’s Tomb Unearthed.


Hunted: Spies Like Us

Hunted from the BBC and HBO is set in the world of private security contractors - spies for hire. All the complexities of modern espionage, and not even the comfort of knowing who you’re working for.

“Never ask who the client is. Speculation leads to assumption. Mistakes can get you killed.”

Mercenary PCs tend to be the straightforward go-in-and-shoot type. So do spy PCs, really - espionage RPGs tend more to Bond than Smiley. But there’s plenty of room for shifting allegiances, moral ambiguity and doubt in games, if the players and GM are so inclined. See Cold City for an example of multiple agencies working together... badly.

(I was there for the screening this interview preceded, and asked series creator Frank Spotnitz “is it a nice change having a hero who can solve problems by hitting people?” He laughed and said “Absolutely! Of course, the trick is keeping her hitting people interesting.” I assured him that he was off to a good start.)

Orcs in the Senate!

Political candidate tries to suggest opponent playing WOW makes her a bad choice.

Via Steve D: For a game that isn't generally played LARP (although it can be) Call Of Cthulhu has the best props.

(Archive has the odd pulp rocket pack, Space Marine helmet and illuminated Silmarillion as well.)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Weird bragging rights of the day: first edition Mage: The Ascension developer Satyros Phil Brucato liked my suggestion for a playlist for it.
Via Angus Abranson: Silver Gryphon Games looking for adventure writers.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition Kickstarter is nearly at its first goal having gone live this morning.

A shopping suggestion that is in no way biased.

Maelstrom: Tales Of Madness And Horror. A new collection of Lovecraftian stories, in aid of victims of Hurricane Irene. Two stories by friends. I am in no way biased.

Boldly go for variety

Ron Moore considers what a new Star Trek series should have.

Agents Of SHIELD

Casting call sheets for SHIELD.

Our very first hint of what the house of Whedon's new show will look like. And yes, it sounds like it could be a group of player characters.

Want a copy of deluxe V20?

Justin Achilli has a spare. I imagine the bidding will get a bit high though.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Where No One Has Gone Before

This one from Ian Watson:

Happy 25th anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Indiana Jones And The Buddhist Meteor

An 11th-century carving from Mongolia of the Buddhist god Vaiśravana was fashioned from a meteorite fragment... It was apparently brought to Germany in 1939 by a Nazi-backed archaeological expedition to search for the roots of Aryanism.” 

Giving it more than a second’s thought, “Indiana Jones And The Stone Of Heaven” is probably a better title...

Vaiśravana is one of the Four Heavenly Kings. So what are the other three in a set made of, who has them now, and what happens if you bring them together?

"Big shiny hole in the universe. Spits out dinosaurs."

A succinct description of Primeval from the trailer for new spinoff New World.

Lessons of a variable adaptation

The Mary Sue’s advice for the future of the X-Men franchise makes interesting reading for a superhero GM, an adapter of source material, or anyone looking at any setting’s Weird Level.

“Use your badasses sparingly” is largely up to the players, but can also apply to NPCs. Obviously, a big superhero story with no action would be strange (but doable) but there’s definitely such a thing as too much.

“Stop making everyone into teenagers” relates to adaptation in particular, but also to the setup of Xavier’s as a Wizard School for mutants and how that relates to a wider world.

“Not everyone wants to be an X-Man” concerns NPCs, mostly, assuming the PCs have chosen a side in the main conflict, if your setting has a defined conflict. If not, they may well want to make their own way. In either case, having more options for allegiances, shifting alliances, betrayals and places to run to when things go wrong can add a lot to a setting.

“Crack-A-Lackin': How Realistic is Your Universe?” - set a Weird Level and pretty much stay there. Something this series has failed to do.

“Stupid Human Tricks” is about the stakes in the setting’s conflicts. What’s the point of fighting for humanity when humanity doesn’t just hate and fear you but is also nothing but trouble? What have the Rebel Alliance done for me lately? Why bother saving Arkham when all the police do is arrest us? Personalising a larger conflict (or a big organisation like the PCs’ patrons or enemies) can make everything count more, and making the NPCs involved interesting - and the allied ones actually helpful - can help too.

“Build inward, not outward a.k.a. Less really is more” is about NPC bloat, something I’ve been guilty of in the past. Who is vital, who can fill multiple roles, who is there because they’re there?

 “Use the metaphors in the material” is targeted at the X-Men movies in particular, but can also apply to any adaptation. What do people love about a setting, what is key to it, what is interesting but nonessential and what can go?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Vampires can see in the dark, right?

Seeing In The Dark says that yes, they can in the Requiem revision The Strix Chronicles.

Playtest! Go!

Having had games (particularly Dark Ages games) where I had to handwave this, its nice to see it in rules form.

And they can smell blood better than anything else, as well...

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

A new graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks, adapted from a YA novel by Prudence Shen.

Readable online free until the book comes out.

Nothing genre-y at the moment, really - by the end of the initial preview of Hickss previous book Friends With Boys we had met the ghost - but it may get there. And even if not, high school politics is horrible and amusing from a safe distance enough to check out. Also I said free, right?

Dragonmeet tickets on sale

In London December 1st, or able to get there? It’s worth the trip.

And check out that new logo by Paul Bourne too.

3D Printing Guns

That's a bit more cyberpunk than I like my reality.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Happy 25th anniversary to The Princess Bride.

Also, little-known facts.

Vampire: The Ma(scratched out)de

What happens when the masquerade breaks? A lot of vampires are in a lot of trouble, obviously.

Although as noted, it depends how and why the omnibreach happens, and how all-encompassing it is. “We know vampires exist because it was on the news!” is different from “We know vampires exist because every human can now sense them!”

Smashing a fundamental of a setting should be a big deal, the game before and after should feel very different. After Darth Vader dropped the Emperor down that vent, what was there to do in Star Wars? See the Expanded Universe for various answers, none of them very satisfactory. Better to move to another part of the universe, like Knights Of The Old Republic.

And do you (can you) leave a reset button? Hard to do in this case, which is why the idea was only really discussed in Gehenna and Mirrors. A smaller change that still affects the PCs heavily can change the game as much but be more reversible.

Stranding the Doctor on Earth with his TARDIS broken altered the format of Doctor Who for a couple of seasons, but then it was off again through time and space. Of course, a series all about time travel makes retconning very easy to excuse anyway.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Six-Gun Gorilla!

Thanks to Kickstarter bonus success, Jess Nevins puts pulp legend and Remake/Remodel star SIX-GUN GORILLA online.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Rite Of Passage 2012

Well, that’s Stand In Front Of Society Pitching Game Ideas Day over for another year.

 I cheated by collaring a few folk for the afternoon session in advance - had to, as I hadn’t actually gotten to the point of preparing an actually ready-to-start game. Going with Space Opera NOW! and provisionally using Adventure!

 Dunno about the evening. I have some maybes for V20. Not ready to start right away either, as my hardback has yet to arrive. No, I’m not trusting gamers with my deluxe edition...

I am a nerd with photo editing software. Fear me.

There's now an Onyx Path tumblr. So I redid my Gehenna cover manip to put on it. EDIT: People on RPGnet said nice things about it too. And then Mr Teapot posted about Dan Cetorelli's custom leather RPG bookbindings and whoa.

It's a... memorable title, certainly.

James Hutchings, of the New Death And Others, has started a superhero crime prose series with The Case of the Syphilitic Sister. First chapter up, free.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hang on, travelers!

Happy tenth anniversary, Firefly!

I was there soon after the start - just after the end.

I was there for the world premiere of Serenity. Yes, I am still bragging about this seven years later.

 May we one day see yer like again.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"Home is now behind you. The world is ahead."

The Hobbit 1 trailer 2

"What the Black Pearl means... is freedom."

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, one of them memes that runs a bit longer’n most, because talkin’ like a pirate be something geeks like to do anyways. Savvy?

(And to celebrate, DriveThru are giving away PDFs of the deeply strange Classic WOD book Blood-Dimmed Tides and Exalted's Savage Seas!)

As recently discussed in an epic thread/shouting match on t’RPGnet, pirates get romanticised in a way many other murderhobo types from history don’t. There were civil pirates as well as vicious pirates, so there’s at least some room for the romantic view to be accurate. And they all went for a life of freedom, living by their wits and skill, rather than working for someone else. And of course they looked really cool.

Mythos Tomes, from a Mythos tome

The Case Of Mark Edward Morrison from The Unspeakable Oath issue 3. That's before the print copies made it to my then FLGS.

They Fight Crime! We'll work out why later.

SteveD asks Where do stories in different genres begin?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Paul Cornell on SF and the future

(From his Twitter account)

Exam changes: pandering to a UK who can't believe its children are getting smarter, that things could get better.

SF shouldn't be a genre. It's a moral imperative. A way of looking. To look to the future, not the past.

But these days, SF is a genre, and often deals with old visions, with what the future was.

SF seems to have given up on the future at the same point the mainstream did.

These things are connected in the UK: a country that can imagine a better future for its children would have real SF.

Monday, 17 September 2012

I have returned! Which is nice.

And I might run Vampire. See who I get...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Primeval is out!

The physical books for the Primeval RPG are making their way out into the world. And I’m not just saying this because of who’s in the Special Thanks section.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

curse the darkness

curse the darkness has also arrived, complete with ominous dark logo on the mailing box. (Which is handy, as I got the complete kit with specially printed cards, laminated character sheets and resource marker stones.) I'd like to take a crack at running it sometime...

Dispatches from the front

Greetings from the land of no internet. (Well, greetings from work, where there is internet, obviously.)

Still not 100% sure what to run this academic year, as an evening slot on the regular day is the best option. That, and the time of year and recent arrival of two sourcebooks, has me thinking of Vampire again...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Your GMing: a retrospective

Starting tonight, one of our local art cinemas is doing a full Tim Burton retrospective. As they put it in the listings, “yes, Planet Of The Apes as well!”

How would your games stack up to such scrutiny? Which are worth revisiting? What themes and styles recur? How much is the “auteur theory” applicable to GMing? (In my style, not much.) And could Tim Burton blame his players for how Dark Shadows went?

Poor Ensign E

Whoa. Google went all out for the 46th anniversary of Star Trek. I wonder if they saw the 45th go by and thought “oops”?

Chibi Game Of Thrones Toys

Um... no?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Want to feel old?

It was twenty years ago today
Timm and Dini taught the Bat to play -

Happy 20th birthday, Batman: The Animated Series!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Worldcon London is go

Loncon3 - the science fiction and fantasy Worldcon is coming to London in 2014. Not a gaming event, but at the AussieCon in Melbourne there were a few gaming bits and bobs and a games room. Something for the UK games types to consider in the almost two years we have to go.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Agents of SHIELD

SHIELD TV pilot from the Whedon House Of Ideas!

And there was much rejoicing.

And immediately, here, there was some thinking about how it could work as a game. Secret agents in a superhero universe? Sure thing.

I ran an Alias-style superspy Adventure! game, and played an agent of SHIELD in a Silver Age Marvel SAGA game, and their lives can be plenty complicated and dangerous all round, as seen in the Spy-fi subgenre of action with a hint of the impossible.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain

Ian Livingstone on the 30th anniversary of Fighting Fantasy

“In many ways paper and pencil role-playing creates a much deeper gaming experience than many video games. The narrative is made up as the game is played out rather than along a predetermined arc written by the games designer. This unstructured format of role-playing on the big screen of the imagination can’t be bettered in terms of unique user experience.”

Batman: The Scroll Of Destiny

A slightly confusing mix of abstracted martial arts cartooning and classic pulp and Batman

Relocating to 1930s Shanghai, because 1930s Gotham isn’t enough?

I did like Catwoman’s outfit though, and the at-one-remove fight scene.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Space Opera NOW! may be the answer to the question of "what are you GMing this year?"

Now to find a system...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Look up.

Neil Armstrong has died.

Of course, people like Neil Armstrong don’t die. They go beyond, they become more than we can imagine. Legends in their own lifetimes go on long after, forever.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Star Trek Phase II episode guide

Always interested in things that almost made it to the screen, I recently acquired a book on Star Trek Phase II. Big pictures, some in colour, of the designs by the likes of Ken Adam, Ralph McQuarrie and Matt Jeffries, the full script for the pilot which turned into The Motion Picture, and a copy of the series bible, containing time capsules like this:

“How much science fiction terminology do you want?”
“The less you use, the better. We limit complex terminology as much as possible, use it only where necessary to maintain the flavour and encourage believability.”

GMs will probably be most interested in the plot breakdowns of each of the unmade episodes.

In Thy Image became TMP (with a different ending, and more synthetic probes in the form of Earth animals) and The Child and Devil’s Due were adapted to The Next Generation, The Child removing much of the panic and freaking out (and being remade, with panic and freaking out, by the Phase II fan series) and Devil’s Due making the female Devil figure make a move on the Captain (shockingly not included in the Kirk version) but other than that...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Bradbury Landing

For what would have been his 92nd birthday, NASA have named the Curiosity landing site after Ray Bradbury.
I’ve been asked three times what I’m GMing this year. Twice tonight. This may be a sign that I should reach a decision of some kind about that.

There are several possible answers, but for various reasons none of them go “THIS!”

I should see what the three or so likely holdover players would like. One has already said “I trust you to run something cool” which is lovely but doesn’t narrow it down none...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hell Is A City

Vampire: The Requiem and the new World Of Darkness are eight years old tonight. So...

Notes towards my 2011-2012 chronicle Hell Is A City Much Like London.

Not using the Cull as mentioned here and there in the sourcebooks, but looking sidelong at it, at how vampire societies don’t last...

Actual Play coming soon. Not a full-bore transcript, but enough to follow.


RPG Team-Up: The Played And The Rolled

An idea from Siskoid about famous canon characters as PCs, inter-setting crossovers and other such breaks from the norm.

Magic system 101

A fantasy author asks twelve questions about what magic can, can’t, does and doesn’t do in fantasy settings.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Getting the party together

RPGnet thread of relevance

Many RPGs and many groups have an implicit code of “all the PCs should be able to function as a party, usually”. Sometimes, this has to be explicit.

Vampire’s focus on personal storytelling often gets sufficiently personal that some has to be put on hold to focus on the things the coterie members are doing together. There are better places for extensive one-on-one play than surrounded by other players waiting their turn. Believe me, I’ve taken it too far in the past.

And then there’s the decision of whether to keep OOC secrets, or play the dramas out at the table. Each depends on the preferences of the players, and each relies on everybody to play fair. I often find that players will cheerfully throw their PCs into more trouble...)

My GMing style has evolved to accommodate splitting parties, intercutting (often aiming for dramatic cutoff points) and cross-party communications. With modern games I now assume the PCs have phones. However, I’ll also set out ways for the characters to work together to at least some extent.

How serialised or episodic a game is can be a factor as well. The Lord Of The Rings and Mission: Impossible are both about a group of specialists trying to accomplish vital missions, but one keeps the same party for three books while the other trades PCs in and out weekly. Something like this may be decided due to external factors like player availability. The IMF would suit a large society with players popping in and out better than the Fellowship.

And where and when do you start? If the characters are already running from an angry mob when the game starts, it creates a different feeling than if they’re gathering at the inn where adventurers might hire on.


With Adventure! on the Onyx Path, they marked its eleventh anniversary today:

“Adventure! was released 11 years ago today. Time flies! What have you been doing with it in that time?”

I covered plenty of what I’ve done with it in the 10th anniversary post a year ago, but I didn’t mention using it as an Alias-style modern superspy game, modernised by adding Computers to the skill list.


Patrick O’Duffy has wise words on challenging the Man of Steel, and as a result other characters of high power levels, and latterly any character.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Boba Fett: A consistent look across the multiverse

Need some strange Boba Fett redesigns? Of course you do.

Star Wars: Edge Of The Empire

First clear word on FFG’s Star Wars RPGs comes from GenCon.

They combine the “one power level per book” design of the 40K games with the lots of different kinds of custom dice used in their version of WFRP.

Oh well.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Onyx Path

The question of “What is The Onyx Path?” has now been answered.

Quoting Richard Thomas: “Well - at last the news is out: my new company - Onyx Path Publishing has been explained as official WW tabletop game publisher. Yeah!”

Licensing on the new and original Worlds of Darkness, Exalted, new owners for Scion and the Trinity universe.

There are some pretty happy fans out there today. Speaking as one of them.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

In Diana Jones news

This year's Diana Jones Award for excellence in gamer fields of any kind goes to Nordic LARP, a book about the Scandinavian live-action scene. Previous winners include Fiasco, Boardgamegeek and Irish Conventions' Charity Auctions.

(The pun is where the name comes from.)

Person Of Interest

... is the breakout hit of the US TV year, apparently. From JJ Abrams’s production company, with Jonathan Nolan on pilot duty.

And it’s... apparently very straightforward. Apparently.

Creator of system to track major threats by all electronics to public safety decides to deal with minor threats (to one person per episode) which the government overlooks because they want it to track major ones, so he recruits an ex-superspy to be his Equalizer by proxy.

Could get much more involved as it goes on - it already has flashbacks to our hero’s tragic past, and advertising here points out how scary the constant monitoring is, even as the heroes apparently use it just for good - but it could also stay as POI-of-the-week more often than not.

Is it gameable?

Sure. Recruit a small team of experts rather than a single agent. The only hard part is making the POI-of-the-week and their life complex enough to sustain a session. Multiple reasons they’re in danger, or someone close to them is, including a red herring or two. Locations for the PCs to surveil, people for the POI to meet with. Throw in complications from the PCs’ lives and their director’s agenda, and add headbutts and leg shots to taste. Plenty of suitable action-hero systems are available.

More generally, “mysterious source sends you to look into a problem without quite enough information” could describe... oh, about a fifth of all RPG adventures?

In this case, there’s basically no information at all, even less than Angel Investigations had to go on with short headache-inducing visions. So it would make for a very investigation-heavy game due to the initial near total blank.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Alien in-visiting-for-some-other-reason

Some Key Signs That You Might Have Misunderstood An Alien’s Intentions with hilarious/tragic/apocalyptic consequences.
Harry Harrison has died. Guardian obituary by Christopher Priest.

An SF writer on my bookshelf from early on (thanks to The Stainless Steel Rat, also adapted in 2000AD) which helped my lifelong affection for shifty people still being around in bright futures, suspect Galactic Heroes and Galaxy Rangers, crime capers and complicated stings and more.

During the height of the gamebook craze, he wrote You Can Be The Stainless Steel Rat, which looked askance at the idea, and always had me wondering what other writers could do with the format.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Olympics

Right then. The 2012 Olympics are now over, so I can casually discuss them as a source of plot hooks. (As opposed to the opening ceremony, which could fuel a game with a suitably high Weird Level for months.)

I’ve done so already a little, and resisted the temptation to comment on the cyclopean duo of Wenlock and Mandeville (lest they see me) so what else might I observe?

A big event like the Olympics, the New Year countdown, Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Festival or the like brings together hundreds, thousands of people who might otherwise never cross paths. There’s room for all kinds of drama there from Die Hard In A Stadium to a more public than usual monster attack to a romantic comedy of just-missed connections. (Why hasn’t somebody made a romcom set in a music festival? Think of the soundtrack sales!)

The Olympics in particular started in Ancient Greece (although there was quite a big gap until 1896) so they’ve seen the rise and fall of great nations, scandal and horror, courage and fellowship, that time when a guy tried to win the fencing by putting a fake sensor in his sword...

Characters proving themselves in contests of skill and strength is one of the ancient plot hooks, slightly behind the less voluntary version where the characters are forced to be gladiators. As a player, I’d love a chance to do that bit with a combat character.

But even if they’re not in the centre of the stadium themselves, they could still get caught up in a big event going on all around them.

What kinds of events might another world have?
Joe Kubert, comics artist, teacher and inspiration, has died. Take a look at the gallery of just 25 of his covers, and come away with at least one great idea.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The unmade movie of your series

100 Wonderful And Terrible (genre) Movies That Never Existed

From multiple Star Trek prequels to several Doctor Who adaptations to The Tourist to Guillermo Del Toro’s At The Mountains Of Madness there are plenty here to mourn - as well as a few to breathe a sigh of relief over, like the grossout comedy Green Lantern and the 80s Spider-Man that probably would have made the 70s TV series look spectacular.

As well as a source of unused plot hooks and the odd link to great shelved concept art, the idea of a radical reinterpretation could make for an interesting session in a suitably narrative-y game, where the players are happy to mess with their characters at an authorial distance. In a game with a sufficiently high Weird Level, it can even happen in continuity.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The New Death and others

Following on from this request from the author James Hutchings, I did indeed take up the offer to look at “The New Death and others”.

I’m tempted to suggest you get it just because he asked, and it’s really rather good value at just under a penny a page for the price of a can of cola, but I’ll do as he asked review its contents anyway.

I’m not going to try and cover every piece, because it’s 94 pages in pdf and the works vary in length from shorter than this post to several pages, and it’s a grab bag of fiction in various styles, new and revised fairytales, poetry, and quick jokes. So I’ll focus on the areas of gamer and otherwise geeky interest.

A new (extinct) human species

Homo Rudolfensis

How many of "us" were there?

Thursday, 9 August 2012


A new adventure for Ashen Stars by Robin D. Laws

Characters "who know enough not to touch the gooey stuff or take off their helmets in an untested biosphere investigate the demise of a survey crew doomed by the above mistakes".

I feel like this blurb is referring to something. I wonder what...

Perhaps this is a clue of some kind? Hmm...


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Monday, 6 August 2012

Mars Curiosity


Favourite bit (apart from the achievement itself, of course) must be the unstuffy geekiness of modern-day Mission Control.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Seeing both sides

It’s a strange experience to play an adventure you came up with.

(I once found myself playing a published adventure I had run before, and that was strange enough, but anyway. Fortunately I happened to be playing a precognitive...)

This time I had sufficient warning, having discussed the idea with the GM and having suggested running it myself during a session when the GM was unavailable.

(Not something I offer often, but this was for Distant Stars, a Star Trek like space opera setting with an episodic structure, where a great variety of possible one-shot adventures can happen and have no major effect on the series continuity. The idea was recycled from The Watch House as the Buffyverse is similarly flexible: since one of the PCs is a runaway from an alien noble family, shunt her and the other PCs into a timeline where she didn’t run away and is now princess of a solar system, with hilarious consequences.)

I did my best to provide helpful nudges only when the rest of the players were stuck, and suggested a couple of complications (and simplifications) to throw in. There were inevitable moments of thinking “I would have done that differently” of course, but it was entertaining to see how it unfolded, and most importantly the other players had fun with it.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Let's try that again, shall we?

It was twenty years ago today... that the original Buffy movie came out.

Have you ever had a game go so off what you wanted that you would try it again with a different group?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Crossovers and canon

So, is the Olympic opening ceremony canon for James Bond, or the Queen, or both? Probably not, due to Churchill. But it probably is for Mr. Bean.

(Sadly, a celebration of British TV was cut due to overruns, so we didn’t get to see what they’d show while playing the Doctor Who theme to four billion mostly confused people.)

When considering a ("proper", not faked) crossover or a “guest appearance” by characters from elsewhere in the game’s setting or another bit of popular culture, you should consider whether it counts as canon for the PCs or not - and indeed for the other side of the crossover. In-universe crossovers are more likely to “stick” but not always - Warren Ellis once killed off a Wildstorm superhero team during an Aliens crossover. And a bigger setting can absorb a smaller one - Sherlock Holmes being real in the Whoniverse transforms the former but is no big deal for the latter.

So then we get multiple continuities and connected-but-not-integrated universes and the way John Munch exists in all timelines, even ones which are explicitly fictional in his prime universe and in one case meeting the real person he was based on.

An adventure which you flag up as “an imaginary story” without adding “aren’t they all?” may or may not appeal to the players - it can be freeing not to worry about ongoing character and setting consequences and do something clearly different, or it may feel like a waste of time playing an adventure that “doesn’t count”. Something to consider and perhaps discuss beforehand.

Of course, the question of canonicity is easily answered if your players do this...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Re: Reboot

A year on, DC’s New 52 strategy has paid off in sales terms for many of the bigger books, although there have been casualties along the way, and they’re still trying some weird niche books as well. But the partial reboot of the setting still bothers many. Hardly anything changed for Batman, Green Lantern or the Legion, while Superman and Wonder Woman are as different as Ultimate versions might be.

So what changes, what meshes, what doesn’t fit? When the different imprints already bring in multiple continuities, why not run with that?

(Here’s a random example - the Superman of the last iteration of the universe fought a Predator in a licensed crossover. So is this guy an homage, or is this a Predator from the New 52 universe? ;) )

Something to think about when restarting a game with some or all of the original players around the table. If everyone else is new, you’re free to use the old series as a “sourcebook”, to retool slightly or consider it all canon or to ditch it entirely, but what if someone wants to play a favourite character, or a variation of one?