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..