Thursday, 22 March 2012


Battleship's alien invasion is apparently based on the perfectly sensible space science of Goldilocks Planets.

Having just seen two trailers for it this week (the second one, where most of the footage here comes from, makes it look fairly fun...) I'm looking at it as a plot thing. From an RPG point of view, not a boardgame one. (Clue remains the high watermark for boardgame adaptations, since it adapts a boardgame with a plot of sorts and keeps it.)

A big loud Alien Invasion (as opposed to a Secret Invasion) can be a lot of fun to play through.

The Stars On Fire (trailer) was one of those, but set in a Halo-y BSG-ish future. With rescue and recovery missions, diplomacy shoring up shaky international alliances, and fighting on planetside and in space, it ran for an academic year.

A modern-day game gives a less varied setting, but more immediacy, as well as answering questions like "what kinds of weapons do we have?" and "can't we just fly away?"

The trick is to allow a variety of characters and adventure types, so it isn't just an entire story of running gun battles against the same monsters.

Battleship is mostly about the Navy, but looks to have room for related civilians as well as scientists, and maybe more as the chaos goes global.

Independence Day remains the gold standard for gameably lighthearted modern alien invasion, of course.

Or we can wait a few weeks and see how The Avengers handle it, if more powerful PCs appeal more.

Something like this would also be possible in an ongoing game, although it could change its tone, especially in a low-key game. A full-on demon invasion would make The World Of Darkness or the Buffyverse pretty different, unless it was forgotten after being defeated. But even having a few dozen characters band together to defeat a potentially city-sized monster makes for a rousing season finale.
On a related note, Ralph McQuarrie produced concept art for Battlestar Galactica as well, which is of course gorgeous and evocative.

One gets ideas in the strangest places.

When I were a lad, I had this toy.

By the power of Google, I find he was one of Star Team, a range of Star Wars knockoffs rushed into stores in late 1977. They may not have been the real things, but the real things didn’t come out until summer 1978.

Like the real things, Marvel did a comic for them. Unlike the real things, it didn’t run for years and continue to count as EU material.

But I got him after Star Wars figures came out, making him doubly puzzling. I never saw the Knight of Darkness (who had a face like a Dumbo Pink Elephant on the box art) or the R2 lookey-likey until now. And I got him for Easter, as I recall, which didn’t set a precedent of non-chocolate Easter presents but might well reflect his “yes, this is a weird knockoff we got in a bargain store” origins undeserving of a birthday or Christmas.

But I remembered him today while thinking about a Star Wars game. A green and silver protocol Droid with a slightly less startled expression than C-3P0. He could be the start of a whole team of knockoffs, like a roguish pilot played by Dirk Benedict or Robert Vaughn.

Or classing things up a bit, unused character names from earlier scripts, with unused designs from the Art Of Star Wars books. Clone Wars has been making good use of them, after all.

Prince Valorum pursues Princess Zara across the Granicus System. Datos and Quist lead Valorum’s Legions of Lettow away, seeking to buy the Princess time to reach Aquilae and warn her father of the Starkiller....
Ramsey Campbell writes on the 75th anniversary of Lovecraft's death. Is the BBC Online mag getting geekier by the day? He doesn't mention Call Of Cthulhu, which was what got me and doubtless others reading the stories and improving our vocabularies with a variety of synonyms for "icky".

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"The fate of all life depends on your actions!"

Makes the PC in Mass Effect sound pretty important. How true is it? Not true enough for many people as of the ending of Mass Effect 3, but how many endings can you fit onto a shiny disc anyway? Still, the endings are apparently not varied enough, or well enough grounded in the previous events, for a lot of players.

A stumble at the end of a story can sour memories from then on. Of course, we have the unique advantage that any ending we can think of can get dropped in as we think of it, and the players can be as much writer's room as audience.

A game where everything important rests on how the PCs react needs players who want that much power and responsibility, as well as a GM who can go with the odd curveball. There are times I'd love to have that big a role in things, and other times I want to sit back and snark on the sidelines. And there are certainly times I don't want to have to come up with convoluted plans to deal with every eventuality.

And in the end? I definitely want a chance to find another way. That's one of the reasons I love tabletop RPGs in the first place.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Anybody out there able to help Cardiff?

Due to unforeseen circumstances I am not GMing at the Nationals this year, and a month after I told them this they're still short a GM for my category. And ten others. Half of which I could also do. Damn it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Who's Laughing Now?

Happy 25th anniversary to Warhammer 40000, and more importantly to Evil Dead II. Both share brutality, absurdity, demonic possession and chainsaws, but some people don't get the joke in the first case.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Your Character: The Action Figure

Only really suitable for an "action"-related game, but it's certainly a way to think about what defines your character.

The Action Figure Test at the ghost of laid it out for comics characters ten years ago, emphasising their visual appeal and presuming a limited number of clearly relevant accessories in a box or card.

Since then we've seen a widening of live-action-based figures from the obviously toy-friendly Star Wars and Star Trek to the plainclothes stars of Buffy and Doctor Who as well as their monsters (insert grumbling about lack of Rory figure here) among other things (both Sherlock Holmes and Hannibal Lecter have reached geek store pegs) and also an increase in accessorisation, especially in the big-ticket larger figures.

By way of example, what got me thinking about it this week is Big Chief's version of Amy Pond who comes with (among other things) different hands, some of her childhood toys, a mobile phone, a marker pen on a lanyard which she presumably had during the opening two-parter in 2011, and an apple with a smiley face cut into it. Compare to the standard Character Options version who comes with, er, nothing.

Of course, I've already considered this in the case of The Watch House: 1 2 3 4 5

And also miniatures, of course. Like so. And so. Even though we only used maps twice in seven years.

So what would you character need in a standard toy shop release, and what limited-edition extras would they have in a premium format boxed set?

The Writer Speaks: Adventure Edition

The three-way talk that created Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and big chunks of Temple Of Doom and The Last Crusade.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Buffy celebratory thing, part one

So there are 30 games up for perusal at Conpulsion (not yet including mine, or Gar's) and that's the traditional magic number for a random list to base adventure hooks on. So...

30 Buffy Hooks Named After Conpulsion 2012 Adventures

Part One

Friday, 9 March 2012

Of interest to Vampire-y readers, A Ken Meyer Jr art book on Kickstarter. Cheap too!

Hulk Is Fifty!

Hulk issue 1 came out March 1st, 1962!

Marvel not make big thing of Hulk's birthday. Marvel have many fiftieth birthdays in the next year or so. Hulk not mind.

Hulk very private sometimes.

Still, Hulk would like cake.

Hulk appreciate wellwishers.


How do you mark birthdays, anniversaries and things like that in your game? Do the PCs have parties? Does their culture even note the passing of years? Is there a party in Elysium for the Prince's Embrace night?

Can any PC's birthdays suck as reliably as Buffy's?

Do you note the anniversaries of the games themselves? We went out for a meal one year for TWH.

And what would an adventure about organising a birthday party for the Hulk be like?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Buffy Vs... Suggestions?

My Buffy game for Conpulsion was going to be about a ghost-hunting reality show, but I see the Dead Of Night game is about a ghost-hunting reality show.

Therefore, thinking of changing it, but what to?

For reference, last year's winner was Evil Buffy, following the previous year's silly-as-possible easy-to-run Godzilla.

Other options considered include Ragnarok, Arthurian Mythology, Pirates, Predator, The Hulk, The Mummy, and The 1960s.

Doctor Who is already up against 2012, so that's taken...
It's International Women's Day, celebration and call to action for an often oppressed majority.

I'm not going to try and discuss every possible game's treatment of various groups, but I will ask you to think about representation.

For a more entertaining article about a specific game, try the Whoblog.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Art and artefact theft

The patron saint of Dublin's heart has been stolen from its cathedral.

It's enough of a problem that the same police who recovered stolen pieces of the True Cross last year have been called in.

The theft of priceless and irreplaceable items - art, museum exhibits, or here religious artefacts - is a foul thing, actively lessening our heritage.

And I mention it here because it's also a great adventure hook.

PCs are often the thieves, of course, but they can also be the trackers. The high-end black market and theft to order are often connected to international organised crime, and could make for great real-world thrillers, even before factoring in ideas like the stolen objects having supernatural powers...

Conpulsion 2012: Craig Oxbrow's Pub Quiz

.. really is how it's being billed.

So no pressure there.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ralph McQuarrie has passed away

The defining artist of Star Wars, and so much more, has died, aged 82.

I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a visionary artist and such a humble man. Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'Do it like this.'
George Lucas

He did so much to illuminate fantasy and SF for my generation and beyond, he will be fondly remembered all over the world.

Friday, 2 March 2012

What you think when you hear "Spy RPG"

Things you want to do in a spy game depends on the kind of spy game.

I've run Bond/Alias style superspies using Adventure! and Bourne/Q&C style action thriller agents with uncinematic Unisystem, and played the former back in the day with Top Secret / SI.

The former is certainly easier to do, being a modern SF superhero adventure story with tuxes instead of costumes. The latter needs rather more thought, a coherent-ish plot and some knowledge of real locations and the like. It's probably closer to Vampire without the, well, vampires.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Enemy Within

WFRP 3 to revisit/remake/reboot The Enemy Within Campaign.

Graeme Davis is on board for the new version, so while it may be heresy it isn't out-and-out blasphemy. ;)

This is one of the great campaigns, and the one closest to my own heart as I ran it on and off as it originally came out, and the first four releases are genuine classics.

On the other hand, if they come up with a stronger ending for this version, I'm all for it.

Playing Dungeons & Dragons in front of people

I heard about this from artist Pia Guerra: "Dungeons & Dragons live @RioTheatre tonight was a great show! Moar!"

So I looked it up.

I've seen kinda-similar improv-and-theatresports-people-do-generic-gaming before (in New Zealand) but that was just a twenty minute thing, and not advertised so in-your-face-look-it's-D&D.

See, I've acted, I've presented, and obviously I've played and GMed (although never DMed, call me a DM like it's interchangeable and I will Tut Disapprovingly) but I ge a bit antsy about having spectators at games. That said, I suppose my antsiness increases with how involved and absorbing a game is. If it's a casual dungeon bash I'm less likely to mind. So... huh. I dunno.

It's World Book Day

Read a book!

Here's a Warhammer short story by James Wallis to be getting on with.