Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Anniversary Specials

As I look back at 2013, a recent entertainment highlight stands out, mostly discussed over on that other blog. The Day Of The Doctor, the 50th anniversary special for Doctor Who, brought together multiple Doctors and eras in a way the series is uniquely suited to.

But plenty of settings have a high enough Weird Level that you could cross several eras to call back a previous series in the same continuity.

Time travel would obviously make this easier, but there are other options as well, from visions of other times to suspended animation.

This idea was spurred on by this suggestion in a belated (and sweary) rant about the end of Star Trek: Enterprise, imagining a celebratory final story uniting all the series in the setting (and adding a new one, in the style of Peter Capaldi’s special guest eyebrows in Day). It would let them tie up the Temporal Cold War loose ends (and reveal who Future Guy actually was) as well.

Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics managed this without time travel in Vector, featuring a character introduced in the Old Republic era and placed in cryo-stasis for centuries - and prophecies and visions as well.

Immortal characters like vampires are obvious candidates to pop up long after their original starring roles. As I noted in my 30 Day Challenge, I’ve seen the same Vampire: The Masquerade character in games set in the 1940s, the 1990s and the 1970s, and he looked more out of place in the 70s than the 90s.

What about your games? What elements might pass from one to another, and allow PCs to meet their predecessors and successors?

Have your fantasy heroes trapped an ancient evil, and then the GM had it reappear in another game set centuries later? Could a warrior from a forgotten age return from the afterlife to save the modern adventurers battling his ancient enemy?

Dragonmeet 2013 seminars

Via the GMS Podcast, and starting with Women In Gaming.

Under the sea...

Names for aquatic superhero and supervillain groups including heroic mermaids and the like. Mythology and oceanography, and throw in a few which do not directly reference the ocean as well, and that should be enough for a few sessions visiting Atlantis at least.

I imagine Riptide, the fastest mermaid alive! being young, brash and punky and wearing goggles, to distinguish her from the other mermaid heroines, like the regal leader, Princess Syrenka.

And I might have to borrow Cold Blood, a Deep One style assassin or order thereof, for something. Maybe Doctor Who...

Monday, 30 December 2013

Demon: The Descent lands and Onyx Path gives

And big and hefty and thorough (looks like you could run a mortal-only game with it) it is too.

Also this week, one-day-each free rulebook PDFs, starting with Exalted 2 and then Dark Ages: Vampire. Watch this space!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Getting started with roleplaying games

If you're reading this, you probably know this, but I just whacked together a list of popular games and interesting quickstarts so I may as well put it here!

A lot of games have advice on how RPGs work, but a good (and free) non-game specific example comes from game designer and author Greg Stolze, How to Play and How To Run Roleplaying Games, at the bottom of his download page.

Check out free demo or "quickstart" sets for genres you're interested in. These often contain sample adventures as well as cut-down versions of the rules (They usually have no character generation system, for example, providing ready made pregenerated characters instead.) They should let you try out gaming in general as well as the specific systems.

Fantasy is dominated by Dungeons & Dragons - quickstart and learn-to-play adventures for the current edition here - and its variant/rival Pathfinder. D&D has the advantage of name recognition and a lot of sourcebooks and adventures, including many downloadable free from here - the ones not marked the the red and white "subscriber only content" icon. Pathfinder has no quickstart, but lets you look at the whole basic game online here.

There are many other options, though. I started with the much simpler gamebook-based Fighting Fantasy - there's an Advanced version which is still a lot simpler than D&D in any form - quickstart here. There's The One Ring, based on Middle-Earth and designed to create adventures that feel Tolkienesque. There's Warhammer, from the same world as the wargame - demos for the current version here - and Warhammer 40,000 games as well.

The classic horror game is Call Of Cthulhu, based on the H.P. Lovecraft mythos - and its demo adventure The Haunting is a classic too, worth checking out even if you don't like the system or setting.

Modern horror, and supernatural PCs, feature in The World Of Darkness settings. There's the Classic WOD which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the "new" WOD which is almost nine years old and undergoing a major rules update. A Nightmare At Hill Manor is the most recent nWOD mortals quickstart, a one-session "haunted house" adventure, while Reap The Whirlwind is the preview demo for the new Vampire: The Requiem core book Blood And Smoke: The Strix Chronicle. The cWOD quickstarts don't come with adventures (and use a heavily modified version of the actual rules).

For zombies, the market leader is All Flesh Must Be Eaten - demo PDF here - which covers different genres with added zombies in its various supplements. A typical one-shot zombie movie style of game, where the players' characters aren't likely to see another adventure next week. will also work with other horror RPGs like Dead of Night (no demo, but it's a small self-contained book).

The biggest current post-apocalypse RPG is Gamma World, which runs on a variant of the current D&D.

Steampunk has quite a variety as well, as demonstrated in this thread from earlier in the year. I don't really know them myself.

SF has about as wide a variety as fantasy, from licenses like Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly and Doctor Who to original settings running for decades across multiple editions. The biggest is Traveller. Shadowrun - quickstart for the current edition here - mixes cyberpunk and fantasy to make a very gamer-friendly hybrid.

There are also games for superheroes, pulp adventurers, urban fantasy, historical fiction, comedy, romance, crime capers gone horribly wrong... Hopefully you can find something that catches your eye. Good luck!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Do ghosts have civil rights?

The Atlantic Weekly republishes their cover feature on the Ghostbusters as seen in the film of the story.

The Watch House season three and four credits

Our own small contribution to the Buffyverse, circa seasons three and four.

Closer to the made-at-the-time S6-7 credits, as the characters are a year or two older and the special effects got better as they went on.

This basically leaves S5, for which I'd have to almost completely recreate the S6-7 credits... and then I'd want to edit those to properly letterbox them and leave the dragon out until S7...

Thursday, 26 December 2013

She saved the world a lot.

Buffy ended here on the Beeb ten years ago. Radio 4 gathered Joss Whedon, Anthony Head, and also Neil Gaiman, Rhianna Pratchett and more to talk about the show, the legacy and the Slayer, and how to write a “daughter of Buffy”?

MP3 for download and keepsies.

“Is that a threat?”
“No, it’s a spatula. Yes of course it’s a threat, I totally just threatened you!”
Joss mangling a cliché while demonstrating how the writing team mangled clichés.

“Thank you. All of humanity is doomed Annnd that’s good, so, enjoy the rest of your day, lovely to be here.”
“Death is inevitable.”
“Yes, yes, well, that’s the least of our worries...”

Machine Age Help Bundle

New Bundle of Holding, in aid of and mostly by David and Filamena.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Tractate Middoth

A slight further thought related to the retelling of stories. Mark Gatiss gave us a M.R. James adaptation The Tractate Middoth, which greatly expands the story - most of the story itself happens in three minutes in the middle.

Well-known stories

Season’s greetings!

Between food and Doctor Who I watched a couple recent Disney movies for the first time through the medium of them being on the TV.

The Princess And The Frog is okay, and cartoon New Orleans is rather weird, but the villain’s motivation is a bit weak and the thing with the firefly is just odd. Referencing the original story as an existing thing is a nice idea. (Of course, an accurate adaptation takes about three minutes, and the film includes that too.)

Tangled - I can see why it gets the geek love. Takes advantage of CG to do the big action, Shrek-ly comments on Disney fairytales throughout (the pirates in particular could be straight out of that side) and has an awesome horse. Also pretty thoroughly dismantles the original story of Rapunzel.

The BBC’s Atlantis is gearing up for its first big finale - a show about a modern guy dropping into the time of legends and finding he can’t generally rely on the legends to help him solve the weekly threats. (Although he also totally blanks tricks from the stories that someone else then brings in and that do work. Which is less good.)

The Doctor Who special is about being in a story you know the end of as well.

So, how to deal with well-known storylines where it would be perfectly fair for characters to know them as well as players? Of course, observing changes things...

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Doctor and the vampire ballet of Christmas

The Doctor Who Christmas special starts ten minutes before the end of the BBC2 showing of the ballet Sleeping Beauty, newly adapted by Matthew Bourne to feature duelling vampires.

In related news, the Tenth Doctor reading classic vampire stories. One of which bears more than a passing resemblance to Sleeping Beauty.

Sleep well... if you can.

(Edit: my request to Santa and/or Auntie Beeb has apparently been answered, Sleeping Beauty starts early! ... Not that I’ll actually be able to watch it.)

Christmas giftage 2013 (subject to updates)

So far, from my gaming group: The Sarah Jane Adventures series three and an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. T-shirt via wishlist, The Black Beetle book one and a Batman ski hat not via wishlist. I do like pleasant surprises.

(Given: The Skinner for Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20 as I gave my former Werewolf GM W20 for a big birthday last month, Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures, Behind The Sofa second edition, Hawkeye volume 1 and Dark Horse’s Star Wars: KOTOR v1, my favourite of a great run of Star Wars comics.)

As you can perhaps tell, bit geeky.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Ashen Christmas Stars

Holidays in the late 25th century, by Gar Hanrahan.

Machine Age Productions

David Hill and Filamena Young, writers and in one case an OP colleague, had their computers stlen right before moving to Japan. Machine Age Productions games are available here and they have a funding page here. Off to buy Maschine Zeit and a couple adventures...

Alcatraz (2012)

Alcatraz held my interest for its twelve-episode run, mainly due to being on Sundays after I got back from gaming. (I prioritised its JJ Abrams stablemate Person Of Interest on the Thursday showings.) Still, it has issues.

And some are sorta relevant to gaming, so here goes.

All kinds of spoilers ahead, as I assume this is okay with a year-after-its-run showing.

Spoilers for future plans as well.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Black List

The annual roundup of the best unmade film scripts of the year, chosen by Hollywood writer rep agencies, is always an interesting cross-section of current concerns in entertainment. And usually has at least one weird high-concept thing in the top ten. Topping the list this year is a comedy-drama about infidelity, followed by a history of MI6. We also have political chicanery, teenage rebellion, a wise tree monster and a killer spaceship.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Blood And Smoke

Blood And Smoke is out in PDF. Books to follow. Early adopters to get a discount when PDF+POD becomes available. (Note: you must have your account set to receive email updates from White Wolf.)

(Now it’s out I might start putting up shortish Actual Play reports for my test game, as they feature some characters in the book. (No, not Walker.) And I might start focusing on some of the changes a bit more.)

Likewise, the new MET Vampire: The Masquerade standard (not-all-Bradstreet) PDF is with backers.

Big day.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

If you ever want a demonstration of what effect a different GM can have on a game...

Starting with Sir Peter Jackson’s most obvious cameo following concerns his last one was invisible, this rampages entertainingly through a mostly familiar story, throwing in subplots and new characters and tie-ins and gags.

Bonus: A sneak preview of C7’s Hobbit Tales storytelling card game.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Vampire's Christmas

I stumbled across this graphic novel a while ago while thinking about (a) vampires and (b) Christmas, and finally got a copy by the power of online shopping. It’s by the creator of Cry For Dawn but less pin-up and almost not porny, and fairly amusing, particularly when (as on the cover) the vampire Esque breaks realism and pulls a Wile E. Coyote expression. The other vampires behind him are not actually featured, so it includes less world-building than the cover suggests. (I’d love some Vampire: The Requiem wrapping paper.)

Santa Claus - The Session

Following on from this bit about Santa Claus (or the lack thereof) in The World Of Darkness, I found this Comics Alliance article about his DC and Marvel guest appearances. And inevitably this came together to get me thinking about having Santa at the gaming table...

I have yammered on at frankly unnecessary length about Christmas specials for Doctor Who already. Seriously - 1 2 3 4 5 - but not really about Santa. (“Or as I call him, Jeff.”) Probably because the show’s done so much else with various bits of Christmas imagery, and the TARDIS solving the all-the-presents-in-one-night question is too obvious. Anyway, some is Who-ish but the first at least is probably of general use for those considering a Christmas adventure. Although, as noted, no Jeff. Santa.

Here are Santa’s official D&D stats in PDF. They may not be edition-current.

Santa’s Buffy stats by SteveD seem to have fallen off the net. Anyway, like any self-referential superhero universe there’s room for charming tributes and twisted adaptations, as is generally the case for holiday episodes. One example I remember had Buffy and gang rescuing Santa from corporate demons who had kept him captive for years, and Christmas-hating grinch Spike getting the toy train he should have received as a boy. If your game can go cheesily heartwarming, now is probably the time.

I once has Santa clash with the rival Santas from the free White Dwarf boardgame Sleigh Wars in the skies above my Ghostbusters game franchise HQ. I’m not proud.

Well, maybe a little.

Ultimately, will this push the game too wacky? Or just wacky enough?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

One million public domain pictures

Need handouts or other art for something ancient, mediaeval, Victorian? The British Library has your back. As explained here.

You are here.
You meet these people on the road. They seem wary.
You find this map...
Looks safe...
Come at me, bro!
On the left, my next player character.
I will find a suitable game. I will make one if I have to.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Superheroes and childhood wishes

Warning - I’m about to surface analyse a bunch of stuff and may be stating the obvious. I has cold.

Superman is at his core a combination of several obvious childhood wishes. “I wish I could fly!” “I wish I was really strong!” “I wish I could see through things!”

So is Batman. “I wish I could catch all the bad guys!” “I wish I could run around all night!” “I wish bullies were scared of me!”

Monday, 9 December 2013


Lovely day, lots to see and do. I spent most of the time in the seminar rooms, and they were all interesting. Also got to meet and get my first Lone Wolf book signed by Joe Dever!

So very tired. Trains are bad.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


It’s easy to play one. Hard to be one.

Real heroes are a rarity, an inspiration. Of course, the heroes we imagine can inspire us as well. Hope is a precious thing, something we have to share.

Be good to each other, folks.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dragonmeet and blatant namedropping

GMS Magazine podcaster Paco Garcia Jaen talks with Dragonmeet convener, Pelgrane Press production manager and TWH producer Cat Tobin about Dragonmeet 2013.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A home from home

The new and improved white-wolf.com is up now, with a somewhat classic black-and-borders look and links to all the necessary places like The Onyx Path and By Night Studios.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 30: Best Storyteller You've Had

And finally...

To complete the Challenge, the best Storyteller I’ve had...

Well, here I point out I’m almost always the ST, not a player.

But I can kind of cheat.

This is me with Vampire: The Masquerade lead creator Mark Rein-Hagen, shortly before I got to play a demo of his new RPG I AM ZOMBIE.

But that wasn’t Vampire, so...

Friday, 29 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 29: Favourite Supplement

I’m more than a little tempted just to link back to the Favourite City/Setting post, as Chicago By Night and Damnation City are both classics. But I may as well use my soapbox to speak up for something else while I’m up on it.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 28: History

Where do vampires come from? (And where are they going?) Was Caine real? How about Longinus? Who were your characters’ sires’ sires? And who was in charge of your chronicle’s city before the current prince?

As a big history and mythology geek, this kind of thing tends to interest me.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 27: City Design

City design is sort of a follow-up post to Favourite City/Setting - especially since my favourite Requiem city is a city design book.

So go check out Damnation City, whatever game you prefer. Come back when you have. ;)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 26: Favourite Discipline

Janet makes a strong argument for Protean in her post on this topic - it’s a classic, straight outta Dracula, everything in it is cool. I’ve seen Gleam Of Red Eyes used to destroy the morale of entire gangs.

Doesn’t really fit my general Near Dark side of low-key creepy Vampire, though...

Monday, 25 November 2013

The stuff that dreams are made of

The Maltese Falcon sells at auction for three and a half million dollars.

The film prop. Not an actual 16th century artefact.

Which seems more likely.

Vampire Challenge 25: Broods And Coteries

Or, Player Character Groups And Other Groups Of Vampires.

One thing established early on is that vampires are solitary, but they maintain some social and political connections to one another. Without that there wouldn’t be much room for a group of PCs. But do your NPC Kindred follow suit?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 24: Favourite Background

Backgrounds in Masquerade (mostly folded into Merits in Requiem) are things that provide PCs with help but aren’t directly part of them, from people they know to the contents of their bank accounts. (Apart from Generation.) Backgrounds keep them safe, help with hunting and provide a variety of ways to react to plot hooks.

They are often used as plot hooks themselves - sometimes more than they should be, as Mentors and Allies and Retainers the players have paid for should be helpful more often than they need helping, or it gets a bit like “stop hitting yourself” bullying from the Storyteller. This is where loner PCs with no friends or family come from. Backgrounds are designed to key the PCs into the world around them, so should not be abused...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 23: Virtues And Degeneration

Humanity caps certain behaviours, discouraging the most pragmatic and ruthless solutions as letting the Beast take sway, punishing acts in Frenzy as much as any other as a constant reminder not to lose control.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Siats meekerorum is the kind of dinosaur discovery that the news likes best - Like A T-Rex But Bigger!

That name is not gonna cut it, though. “Syats Meeker Or Um”?

Vampire Challenge 22: Feeding And The Hunt

And here it is - the thing that makes Vampire, Vampire.

And it’s so easy to skip over.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World

You’ve probably seen this by now if you wish to, but I’ll put in a jump for spoilers anyway.

Darkness falls across the land... the midnight hour is close at hand...

Another entertainment anniversary you may not have noticed in the runup to Doctor Who turning 50 - the 30th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, directed by John Landis, which went a long way to making zombies mainstream.

Vampire Challenge 21: Harpies And Social Games

As well as human society, Vampire characters have to deal with their own. And their own society is not a healthy one.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Oh no, I've been snatched by a troll! Again.

Pretty and annoyingly difficult Chrome browser minigames for The Hobbit.

Transmissions from the Descent underground

Darker Days podcast talks Demon: The Descent, GMC and Dark Eras with Rose and Matt.

“You are an angel who defected to the human race.”

The Elizabethan Vampire: The Requiem chapter is set the year Christopher Marlowe dies...

A quest for members!

The trailer for the RPGnet membership drive is unnecessarily exciting.

Vampire Challenge 20: Princes, Primogen, Prisci And Power

When Todd composed this list, this post argued for the original Masquerade use of Primogen as whoever advises and (theoretically) supports the Prince, rather than the later standard of a representative body of elders from each clan. Kindred: The Embraced has an example of this kind of board, complete with a clan leader who really can’t be said to support the Prince at all.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 19: Boons And Social Obligations

Even in the largest city, vampire society is small enough that it can rely on a barter economy, and mortal money and goods are easily acquired (although not so easily acquired consistently, which is where the Resources Background comes in) so favours are of value. What can you do that will bring some in, what can other Kindred do that you may need, and how can you avoid ending up in someone’s debt for hunting on the wrong block?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Make Your Story Legend

Someone at Wizards just came up with a really nice pitch for D&D, and RPGs in general. Good work, Wizards.

Vampire Challenge 18: Favourite Story Archetype

When in doubt, have a vampire screw up.

Mix this in with plots that should be attributed to malice rather than stupidity, of course, but not all your NPCs should be super-competent all the time.

You probably have several vampires who are liable to screw up at the table, but you have a cityful of potential screw-ups waiting to happen. Botching that Hunting role isn’t just for PCs.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 16: Favourite Theme

This may not be a big shock to those reading up this point...

By becoming a monster, one learns what it is to be human.
Vampire: The Masquerade

Friday, 15 November 2013

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 14: Favourite Alternate Setting

In the original D&D Challenge this meant things like Planescape and Ravenloft, published settings that changed the game substantially, something Vampire doesn’t really have - just Masquerade, Requiem, and the historical settings for each. Although there are a few exceptions, like the four versions of Gehenna and the suggestions for radical changes in World Of Darkness: Mirrors and The Danse Macabre.

And of course the different editions, notably the way the Sabbat moves in Masquerade from a shadowy unknown threat to a playable supervillain horde to a realpolitik sect not so different from the Camarilla. Groups resembling all three styles appear in Requiem: VII, Belial’s Brood and the Lancea et Sanctum.

What else might you change?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 13: Favourite Chronicle Concept

The basic shape of a Vampire game tends to change with the number of players, moving from the personal and emotional to the political and practical. Were I to pick one, I’d probably go for the former, as it’s more unusual among RPGs. There’s room for personal plots and big emotional scenes in bigger groups, but not as much.

The night has its price.
Near Dark

So that’s my pick. Throw a small number of neonates, or a few mortals as well, into the mix and see how much trouble they can get into. Which is usually “a lot”. Throw in an autocratic Prince, an asshole Sheriff, some hunters ready to pick off the weak, and some human loved ones, allow to come to the boil, stand well back.

Maybe just a tad influenced by Never Let Go.

Credit cards at the ready...

Demon: The Descent deluxe edition - already Kickstarted.

Cthulhu Britannica: London boxed set - nearly there.

After The Storm bundle for Doctors Without Borders going to the Philippines, containing Esoterrorists and BASH! and Candlewick Manor and more.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Monday, 11 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 11: Craziest Thing That’s Happened That You Saw

Craziest Thing That’s Happened That You Saw (to party/character/your players etc)

I hear stories about Vampire and other World of Darkness games sometimes and wonder how these things happen. Ask a New Bremen player about the Godzilla Incident sometime...

But here’s one example which is crazy in a cool way and I can recite pretty much verbatim over fifteen years later.

Don’t you hate that? 
Hate what? 
Uncomfortable silences. 
Pulp Fiction

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 10: Favourite Character You Haven’t Played

Hmm. A character I have and have never had a chance to play... or a character I’ve seen someone else play?

What the heck, let’s do both.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Answers on a postcard...

The Cthulhu Britannica London box set approaches, and in advance of the Kicking Starting, asks that we advise Neve Selcibuc what she should do in the Capital after her recent travails up here north of the Border. I am sure a trip to the Museum or a rummage around an old bookshop or two will do no harm at all. Ahem.

Vampire Challenge 9: Favourite Character You Have Played

Wait... I’m supposed to be a player?

Okay, I have actually played various Vampire games over the years as well as running them, but I may have to sneak an NPC in here too.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 5: Favourite Dice / Merchandise / Props

This was originally Favourite Set Of Dice / Individual Die. Which I have very little to say about. I don’t have many superstitions about dice, and only rarely buy them for the ooh, pretty factor. I got a set of original Vampire: The Masquerade dice (with a rose instead of a one) but never really used them, going for plain black with white lettering by default so I can generally tell which are mine.

So I’ll run off in a slightly different direction and talk about merchandise and props in general.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Panem Tours

A nice bit of satirical worldbuilding for The Hunger Games, glossy travel ads for the twelve Districts with a subtle (or not, in the case of District 2) hint of their dystopian wrongness.

Vampire Challenge 4: Favourite City/Setting

I’m going to presume published settings here - I’d rather you check out some books, which helped me define my settings as well. One very old school, one bang up to date and useful for either Vampire game, or a good guide for any city-based game.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 3: Favourite Non-Camarilla Clan / Bloodline

Clans for Masquerade, Bloodlines for Requiem. With six Clans and dozens of Bloodlines to choose from, I’ll cover all of the former and not all of the latter...

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 2: Favourite Camarilla / Core Clan

In which I ramble a bit about the idea of clans in Vampire: The Masquerade, and Camarilla versus other ones, and compare the clans for Vampire: The Requiem too, before I choose favourites.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Vampire Challenge 1: How You Got Started

As it happens, I already have an article on this very topic here. Having gotten into gaming via the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf gamebooks, first GMed when I was eleven or so, preferring less hefty systems and being a bit of a gothy-vampire-y-stuff nerd already, I was near the middle of the target for Vampire: The Masquerade from the start...

But since you can read that over there, some added content about that first game I ran.

Vampire 30 Day Challenge

As started here by Todd Rokely after the equivalent D&D challenge, and popularised by Classic WOD writer Janet Trautvetter here, a month-long challenge to write a bit about Vampire: The Masquerade (not the World Of Darkness in general) and Vampire: The Requiem as well, along the following lines:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The War Of The Worlds

Via Shawn: Tonight marks the 75th anniversary of the Orson Welles radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, a hoax news broadcast that some listeners, missing the start, took to be real. Check it out at Mercury Theater (and quite a few more, including Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and A Christmas Carol) to see how it worked, and how well it worked.

Also tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of the one and only showing of Ghostwatch on BBC One, for the same reason.

And see a brief history of Midnight Ghost Shows for added period context. May have to set an adventure around one of those...

How to use hoaxes in games? The characters discovering one would be straightforward. Although that might end up a bit Scooby-Doo it would be one way to introduce out-of-context plot points into a game for one night only, like a haunted house in Cyberpunk for example. More trickily, the hoax could be aimed at the players - but bear in mind that, unlike Orson Welles, you are within range of having things thrown at you...

Trick Or Treat

DriveThruRPG and its affiliates have their annual Trick Or Treat treasure hunt up now. Excuse me while I go try and find the right pumpkins for free PDFs of PrometheanStreets Of Bedlam and Profane Miracles. :)

The Jane Austen MMO

Via io9, Ever Jane concerns the building and increasing of a reputation in Regency society, with gossip as the weapon of choice. The graphics aren’t up to much but it’s certainly trying something different.

And as I load the page I get an explosion-tastic ad for Battlefield 4 playing on the side. I think this says something about gaming...

Things are getting strange, I'm starting to worry...

These could be a case for Mulder and Scully. Or your own group of paranormal investigators, monster hunters, innocent people unfortunate enough to live in a World Of Darkness. And so could these.

“Cops Stumble Upon Exorcism” is the episode I most want to see happen.

The Northampton Clown, not so much. I suspect in that case most groups of PCs would shoot first and consider asking questions later.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Need a terrifying future special forces unit?

Taiwan has just the thing. Although they really should have revealed them last month for Friday the 13th.

Perhaps not quite as insane as the Judge Dredd cosplayers in the Peruvian riot police but still...

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Watch House season one

Give or take a week, it's the tenth anniversary of The Watch House, that Buffy game some of us didn't shut up about for six and a half years. So... Season One credits.

And Season One itself.

Maaaan I feel old.

The BRAIIINS Of The Operation

First World Of The Dead Problems

Intelligent infectious zombies are rare because they can dilute the horror of the shambling mindless mass, being a lot like vampires with a solid diet and no problem with the sun.

That said, intelligent zombies keenly aware of what they’re doing can still be pretty horrific. I still vividly remember an All Flesh Must Be Eaten thread on RPGnet where the zombies would beg forgiveness and explain that they couldn’t stop themselves...

AFMBE also had a setting idea for intelligent and playable zombies, rare among the classic shamblers. Watching the world of the living fall, maybe trying to change things.

I AM ZOMBIE is based on this as well, with the nagging fear of becoming a shambling Skag always there...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Templars: the conspiracy theory that keeps on giving

On the subject of history going a bit WOD, Osprey launches the Dark Osprey line with The Knights Templar, a secret history by WFRP co-creator Graeme Davis. And coming soon, The Nazi Occult by Kenneth Hite.

Gamers vs Hellfire

I had never actually heard of Rapture, an SF game about the titular Biblical event happening on Earth after humanity colonises space, but the Gamers vs Hellfire bundle is $50 of stuff for it for $10, going to support the victims and fire-fighters of the Australian bushfires. I know people who had to evacuate their house because of the fires, so I bought this bundle sight-unseen. Rapture looks interesting, which is a bonus.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

History at its most World Of Darkness

Pope Innocent VIII, who had the Malleus Maleficarum written and gave Tomas de Torquemada his job running the Spanish Inquisition, was the subject of a medical experiment on his death bed that had him drink human blood. Where all that blood came from is lost to history.

It's a small World of Darkness after all

LARPers run the MET Vampire: The Masquerade preview in Croatia. It looks... pretty much like a Vampire LARP. I find that oddly kinda touching.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Good games, good cause

Red Cross Colorado flood relief bundle on RPGnow includes Mutants & Masterminds, Icons, Broken Shield, Achtung! Cthulhu...

An empty bed still waits for him...

Crow’s Bones, by Becky Unthank among other people, is an evening of supernatural folk songs, new and old. One of them has surfaced in its entirety on Vimeo (with a video featuring roadkill...) and it’s... well, it’s an old story that World Of Darkness people might want to listen to. Sadly the recording isn’t the clearest for catching the lyrics.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Read and feed

The DriveThruFiction Feeding America Bundle. $178 of fiction PDFs for $20 for a good cause. Includes the first Vampire: The Requiem novel by Greg Stolze, a Paranoia novel by Gar Hanrahan, short stories by Eddy Webb...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Primeval Companion

Oh yes.

More characters, more creatures, more conspiracies, more campaign designs, more adventures.

I wonder if the inclusion of Message In An Anomaly will get me a playtest credit. :D

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Friday, 4 October 2013

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Need a heroic fantasy score the players won't know?

Apparently Graeme Revell composed part of a score for The 13th Warrior before Jerry Goldsmith got the job.
3D printing for wargame armies is becoming A Thing. Which is nice.

Crunch and Fluff. Grrr.

This is wargaming slang that has moved over to RPGs in the last couple years - and it bugs me every time I see it.

Crunch basically means “rules” and fluff means “setting info”. In a wargame, “fluff” is really not important, hence the dismissive nickname. In an RPG, the “fluff” is the whole point of many books.



Monday, 30 September 2013

Dr. Strange!

Dammit Cracked, now I want to run a Crappy 70s Urban Fantasy TV Show game.

(Mostly because of the opening scroll and credits full of creepy paraphernalia, which suggests something more awesome than delivered.)

As noted in the article, changing the premise somewhat is a time-honoured tradition in Doctor Strange adaptations and restarts.

(In this case the decision to keep him working in a hospital, and on a psych ward so he would have a good reason to meet people who have been possessed or are being followed by monsters only they can see, is a solid call for a low-budget TV version.)

Indeed, I did it myself.

When Marvel ran an open call for its relaunched Epic imprint (which oddly produced comics almost entirely by professionals and then folded) I sent a proposal for Dr. Strange in the style of Angel. Nice coat, fights with monsters and all...

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Blood And Smoke

Running Vampire: The Requiem - Blood And Smoke at GEAS.

(Also, oddly, we have another Requiem game, and a Masquerade game. And Orpheus, and a zombie apocalypse.)

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

... has now started here, and will be back next week and the week after, so now I can temporarily un-cross my fingers and look at its RPG playability.

Pretty damn high.

Small group? Check. Eccentric specialists? Check. Neat mix of high tech and making it up as we go? Check. Option to bring in superhumans on both sides? Check. Wide remit which mostly boils down to dealing with “weird crap”? Check.

I have a faint idea what happens in the next couple, but am purposely avoiding spoilers, so for now here’s what I would put in a season of such a setup...

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Sharing the spotlight

850 posts, and happy Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. day!

It won’t show here until Friday, so watching Avengers (Assemble) again to mark the occasion.

One of my favourite details is that all of the heroes each beat Loki in various ways throughout the story.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The imaginary casting game

I sometimes “cast” actors as PCs and NPCs, borrowing some of their signature tics for the characterisation and possibly using pictures for handouts, particularly in media-based games. The Watch House was full of this, and I’d even worry about the budget of the imagined TV series when looking for regulars and guest stars. It was also amusing when we predicted a few actors’ future roles here and there - James McAvoy as a psychic, Emilia Fox as an Arthurian witch, Henry Cavill as a superhero based on his having auditioned to play Superman in 2005 before getting it in 2012.

Sometimes it happens the other way round as well. SFX magazine makes this a part of its regular Wishlist feature - often with specific roles in mind in adaptations, suggesting fan casting, but sometimes with a totally blank slate.

At the moment, rumours are flying around the geekosphere about potential casting for the new Star Wars trilogy. I just saw that Saoirse Ronan might be reading for a major role, which could be a hero (possibly Han and Leia’s daughter) or a villain. Who would I cast her as in Star Wars? Probably something that showcases her sad, wistful wise-beyond-her-years quality, like the leader of a lost people, although she’d also be great as a villain who appears to be one of the good guys...

It could be an Iron GM style ingredient - what role would a particular actor take in a given setting? Who would Benedict Cumberbatch play in the film of your classic fantasy game, or Steve Buscemi in your urban fantasy series, or Lena Headey in your space opera? Do you cast them very much to type or go against it? (I’d love to see Lena as captain of the next Enterprise, an idea I had after seeing her as Sarah Connor but before Cersei Lannister.)

It Be Talk Like A Pirate Day!

That it be!

Are there pirates in your game?

Well, why not? 

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I love it when a small-scale conflict erupts en masse in a sequel. I want a scene like this in Star Wars for reals.

The Jedi Parkour works for me too.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The League Of Extraordinary Draculas

Kim Newman on appropriating characters and plots, particularly vampires but plenty of others, in his Anno Dracula series and elsewhere.

I’ve talked about using Dracula or a similar fictional superstar before. Of course, at the moment there are four or five spins on Dracula coming to TV and films - enough that everybody at the table could play a version of him.

Obscure gamer footnote - Newman’s heroic vampire Genevieve is also lifted from another text. She first started out in Drachenfels, a Warhammer novel he wrote as Jack Yeovil. Which is itself full of odd references.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Via Rose: eight reasons to care about the Onyx Path NWOD revisions. Some fine, fair, some facetious (Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Really?) but cool to see coverage in the wider geekosphere.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Prequels, preludes, prologues

JK Rowling returns to the Harry Potter universe with her first film script, about Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, set in the 1920s starting in New York.

So that’s Roaring Twenties Monster Hunters. Okay. Fingers crossed for Tommy guns versus dragons.

It’s a pretty distant part of the setting to pick up - nearly a century ago, in a country barely covered in the canon so far (of course also the country the studio is based in) and possibly a shift in genre from a largely serialised epic to monster of the week (or monster of the film) adventures. And will she write the novelisation? She’s always been wary of other people writing in the setting, which is the cited reason there’s no Potter RPG.

What would a similarly out-there bit of backstory for your setting be like?

Who wrote the Watchers’ VAMPYR book? Who invented the lightsaber? What happened to the seven rings for the Dwarf lords? There are answers in the various settings’ spinoff novels, but never mind.

What was Sigmar really like? Is Caine real? Who killed Slider? - And if you’re playing Aberrant, this is like running an Adventure! session mid-series to give the players a different perspective on Divis Mal.

Who was the first superhero in your setting? How did first contact between your main alien species go? Who founded the city-state the PCs hail from? How did the War begin?

The Holy Grail

This is essentially the reverse of what this film does to Pendragon...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


The Guardian has assembled a panel of TV writers and producers to hear pitches from anyone. I kind of have to try it, don’t I? And as I do, look at the categories and consider how they would work for pitching games.

A 20-word hook – also called a “log line”
This is a short description of the overall idea, and sets out what you want to convey.

Comparative pitch
“The aesthetic of Mad Men meets the pace and action of 24...”

Your most beautifully crafted 50-100 words about your idea – words that will make the panel immediately want to hear more.

A quote from the main character

Create (or find) an image on Instagram or Vine that best represents your work and link to it here

Friday, 6 September 2013

Go get this

New Bundle Of Holding collection of indie RPG ebooks for charity includes 3:16 and Our Last Best Hope.

Possible games at GEAS 2013

Edinburgh University’s gaming society.

Sundays. (Also meeting Wednesdays, but I generally go Sundays.)

Either afternoon or evening, not trying to do both.

Vampire. (Probably evening for obvious reasons. Probably V20, as Blood & Smoke isn’t out yet.)
Either set now for simplicity, or the 1920s for style. Now obviously has more general appeal and gets right to the personal horror side of things, but I like the idea of Kindred with tommy guns and flappers with fangs, depending on where it falls on the Boardwalk Empire to The Great Gatsby sliding scale of violence to decadence...

Something lighter. (Lighter than Vampire? I know, right?) (So maybe afternoon.)
Current idea, influenced by Afterlife Inc. and TechXorcists, “top men” fighting monsters for an underfunded government agency in a humorous urban fantasy game. A mix of Buffy and Parks And Recreation.

It’s about two weeks too early for Agents Of SHIELD. Damn it.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Everybody in the game in one room

What kind of event would bring every PC and remotely friendly NPC in a given setting together?

What would it look like if every major not-immediately-hostile character in the setting met in one room?

The Council of Elrond in The Lord Of The Rings and assorted councils of war in various epics, the ball at Netherfield in Pride And Prejudice and The Prom in Buffy, Friday night at Rick’s in Casablanca, The Five Doctors, Poirot calling all the suspects together to reveal who the killer is, one of those mass superhero crossover meetings that you really need someone like George Perez to draw...

One-off salon-style LARPs such as convention freeforms like Blood & Betrayal tend to focus on such events, but this has me thinking about such big social and/or political events in an ongoing tabletop game. Social events and political gatherings will have different feels, but both have plenty of room for multiple agendas, feuds and conflicts, and ways for the PCs to get in trouble.

Vampire: The Masquerade starts with one of these. Baptism by Fire in the first and second edition rulebook puts the PCs and all the vampire NPCs in the sample setting in a room together for a party at the prince's request/demand. This is admittedly only seven NPCs, but it sets a significant precedent, particularly for the live-action version.

The hard part in a tabletop version is keeping all the NPCs straight. If there’s a player you can draft in to play some of them, that would be a big help, particularly when you have two or more NPCs in a single conversation...

One important question for such an event is who the PCs would want to avoid. And whether the players would want them to be able to. If Ilsa had managed to avoid Rick, Casablanca would still have some great jokes but not much of a plot.

Blood & Betrayal

And on the subject of ship-based LARPs, sadly I will not be attending LA By Night but I’m watching news about it with interest/envy. Its big draw is the launch of the new edition of MET Vampire: The Masquerade LARP rules, with a special premiere game, Blood & Betrayal, which is then going to be made available as a scenario for other events.

It naturally looks pretty big (tickets have run over two hundred) but should be scalable easily enough, as the outline includes several subplots as well as the main in-character reason for the gathering. (I’d drop at least one of them if I were running an adaptation myself, but never mind.)

The central plot hook - hunters are targeting vampires in the area suspiciously well, someone could be selling them out - is nice and solid, with plenty of opportunities for investigations, accusations, framing and witch hunts. In a tabletop version, I could easily imagine the PCs being the only group actively seeking the truth while almost everyone else uses it as an excuse to settle other scores...

Mary Celeste, the classic contained LARP

The Final Voyage Of The Mary Celeste

... the ship is found, abandoned, its cargo untouched. The crew is never found. Over the years, many bizarre theories have arisen to explain what happened on that fateful night, from aliens, to sea monsters, to time travelers... But what if they were all true?

Now available in a pro-quality ebook, free, as seen on this RPGnet thread. Nice, con-friendly, just about ready to run if you have a couple folks spare.

Note: silly.

Afterlife Inc.

The comics pitch Faith Erin Hicks has had rejected most often about an office dealing with what dead people need to move on, starring a dead person who has no idea what she needs.

I immediately see amusing possibilities.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

What aren't you telling me?

Secrets and how to use them in fiction... and life... by John Ostrander.

What secrets do your characters keep? Does the GM know them, or the other players?

Who is the man behind the mask? Why is the name of the Doctor a secret worth dying for?

Dead Men Tell No Tales

And then there was the time I maybe made the Gangrel Mariner bloodline from Vampire: The Masquerade seem like they could be scary.

Nothing that doesn’t seem obvious, really - waterlogged corpses + pirates = The Fog - but still a bit proud all things considered.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Via Adrian Barber: RIDERS - Research in Interactive Drama Environments, Role-play and Storytelling.

I'll have to go along to the Storytelling Centre event and have a look.


Mind-to-mind interfacing is now an actual thing.


Via Stuart Boon and Matthew Knighton:

Miniature brains developed in the lab for neurological study. And possibly Tru Blood for zombies.

How would you advertise an RPG?

TSR ran this Dungeons & Dragons ad in the early 80s. Some nice animation, and a dungeon and even a dragon, but...

Not as bad as the legendary Shadowrun promo, of course.

Vampires ruined forever.

Happy 200th anniversary to the word “vampire” in the English language (to the year, not the day) and to vampires being ruined forever.

1813: Lord Byron introduces “vampire” to the English language. Vampires ruined forever.
1819: The Vampyre. Vampyres ruined forever.
1828: The Skeleton Count, or The Vampire Mistress. Vampires ruined forever.
1845-47: Varney the Vampire. Vampires ruined for 667,000 words.
1872: Carmilla. Sexy vampires ruined sexily forever.
1897: Dracula. He has hairy hands. Vampires ruined forever.
1922: Nosferatu. Vampires’ ability to go out in the sun ruined forever.
1931: Bela Lugosi. Vampires’ accents and dress code ruined forever.
1936: Dracula’s Daughter. Vampires ruined by the Hays Code.
1954: I Am Legend. In a surprising development, zombies ruined forever.
1966–71: Dark Shadows. Vampires ruined for mid-afternoons.
1969: Vampirella. Sensible costuming ruined forever.
1971: Count Chocula. Teeth ruined for breakfast.
1972: Sesame Street. Obsessive-compulsive vampires ruined forever. Ah-ah-ah!
1972-79: Tomb Of Dracula. By Marv Wolfman. Wolfmen ruined forever.
1976: Interview With The Vampire. Interviews ruined forever.
1979: Bunnicula. Rabbits ruined forever.
1979: Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Vampire-themed party playlists ruined forever.
1987: The Lost Boys is more successful than Near Dark. Best Of lists ruined forever.
1991: Vampire: The Masquerade. Kindred ruined forever.
1992: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Accents ruined forever.
1992: Buffy ruined forever, until 1997, when she ruins vampires forever.
2000: Darren Shan tries really hard to ruin vampires forever.
2001: Sookie Stackhouse’s reputation in Bon Temps ruined forever.
2005-08: Twilight. Vampires and werewolves ruined forever.
2006-10: Vampire Academy. Academies ruined forever.
2009: The Vampire Diaries. Diaries ruined forever. Also doppelganger plots.
2013: Jonathan Rhys Meyers will attempt to ruin vampires forever. We wish him well.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Maybe Cthulhu has a sniffle?

Via Kit Kindred: a sad-looking Cthulhu by Harry Potter and Pacific Rim artist Wayne Barlowe. I mentioned he looked bummed, and Kate Kindred notes: “Yeah, like it’s a sad, rainy day and he’s cuddled up in his favorite chair with a nice blanket and a good cup of tea. Even evil Elder Gods get the blues.”

Do your PCs and NPCs have good and bad days? (The dice can have a big effect on this, of course...)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Do you name your PC groups?

This conversation is about Vampire: The Masquerade in particular, noting that it’s standard practice to name Sabbat packs but not Camarilla coteries, but it includes some thoughts on group naming in general.

And in general I don’t do it or see it unless a setting actively encourages it. The problem of coming up with a term that sums the group up means it hardly ever happens.

In twenty-two years of various World Of Darkness games I’ve been in two where it happened, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Changeling: The Dreaming, where giving things significant names is part of the culture (and often done on a whim in the latter case).

Superhero groups need names because superhero groups in existing universes have them by default, but superhero game groups often come up short on inspiration. There are only so many good ones - hence the Avengers vs. the Avengers, and how many different Justice Leagues there are. We ended up being called the Super Squad in one Marvel game because we hadn’t come up with anything else after three months and we never did come up with anything better. And there was another Super Squad in the Marvel Universe (not to be confused with the Super Hero Squad) and of course it’s one of the names The Mystery Men rejected. In the game I’m currently playing I came up with a name for the villains we’re pretending to be (the Public Enemies, which I also think of as the title of the series but that might just be me) but got stuck on a hero team name.

The only Buffy group I’ve ever seen named, or even strongly nicknamed like the Scooby Gang, was a band. Because, again, bands need names. And a band name doesn’t have to have great significance when adventuring, like a starship name in a space opera game it doesn’t define the PCs as strongly.

The group in The Watch House was occasionally referred to as the Prentices (their proper title), the Watch or the Watchers, but no “team name” was ever proposed in six and a half years. This continues in other Actual Play games, using game-specific versions of “the party” but no real names, so the PCs in a Doctor Who game are “the travellers” and in Call of Cthulhu it’s “the investigators”. Specific named groups like the Theron Marks Society exist, but I’ve never seen the PCs set one up. Pendragon has a few orders of knighthood other than the Round Table, with the suggestion that the PCs might form one... but surely most PC knights would want to be on the Round Table too.

But, as noted in the thread, some players do this and expect it - a D&D game at Penny Arcade included a Wizards writer, who brought up the subject of a party name early on.

So, how about you?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Blood And Smoke Trailer

Blood And Smoke: The Strix Chronicles trailer to mark the ninth anniversary of The World Of Darkness rulebook and Vampire: The Requiem.

Same pieces of music as my original Requiem trailer, to show how much this is a new core book.

Now idly pondering doing two different trailers for Vampire: The Dark Ages and Dark Ages: Vampire. Or just a V20 Dark Ages one...

Demon: The Descent and the Onyx Path

The schedule with bigger previews of Blood And Smoke, Mummy: The Curse and Exalted 3...


Demon: The Descent quickstart.


Via Benjamin Baugh - “This is an almost perfect game pitch right here. I’d play it.” A space opera without a ship, where one character (or at a pinch a small party) has to explore a planet alone.

Men Of X

Fantasy/mediaeval X-men by concept artist Nate Hallinan. Not unlike Marvel’s own 1602 by Neil Gaiman, but so pretty it’s worth a look.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Adventure! is twelve.

Elmore Leonard

Author Elmore Leonard has died, aged 87. Known for Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Rum Punch (aka Jackie Brown), the original 3:10 To Yuma and Justified, he worked in genres I don’t generally touch on here, despite Justified being my favourite thing on TV at the moment. Its mix of a smart, charming and totally badass hero with Mr. Leonard’s mostly dense villains gives regular doses of bad guys amusingly underestimating the good guys. A fight you know you can win can be a lot of fun.

Mr. Leonard also provided the following rules for work in his style:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”... he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

There are times and places to bend most of those rules. But not Rule 10.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Soon He Will Know

A trailer that doesn’t say what it’s actually for from JJ Abrams and co. at Bad Robot.

From the tone I would guess not Star Wars despite the opening shot.

As I’ve established before, I like a good trailer, including a good disassociated or fake trailer, so before we find out what it’s actually for, some not-entirely-serious speculation, since it’s fun to spit out random ideas it could be before the observer effect shuts that down. 

An amnesiac hunted by creepy people...

“Men are erased... and reborn.”

I imagine if you gave this to ten GMs you’d get sixteen game ideas.

A World Of Darkness RPG at JJ’s office, perhaps? ;)

I started a Demon: The Fallen game like that once, with a demon PC with no memory of his Fallen self. Maybe something God-Machine Chronicle related now? 

Sunday, 18 August 2013


I’ve been avoiding mentioning this, but now it’s visible in public... I’m in the process of writing a potential chunk of modern setting information for the Trinity Continuum core rules.

Don’t worry, I’m not writing the rules. ;)

Choose Your Own Adventure - for kids. As a cartoon.

On the Kickstarter.

Get ’em while they’re young, I says.

Presumably with the target age range there will be less “open the door - YOU DIE” endings.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Onyx Path 2013-14

The schedule features new classic World Of Darkness, new new World Of Darkness, new edition of Dark Ages, new Exalted, new Scion, new Trinity!

Humans! Run!

Seriously, from an outside perspective, humans could be rather scary. This is why God-Like Aliens are so keen to get rid of us. We can be bargained with, we can be reasoned with - maybe - but we Absolutely Will Not Stop.

What if a totally average D&D game came true?

You’d wish you’d played someone really fun, as seen in this bemusing short film by fashion line Rodarte.

Not quite Exalted miniatures

But certainly in the direction of that kind of crazy OTT fantasy, Wrath of Kings by CoolMiniOrNot. Super-martial-artists, armoured vampires and werewolves, gratuitous magitech and partial nudity. No idea how well the game will play, but this is a “cool mini” company above all...

Story Games

Story Games are now a thing that io9 will discuss including card ones as well as RPG ones.

The ENnies

Winners and silver announced. Always nice to see work I like (and work friends were involved in) getting recognition.

Super-Random Visual Inspiration

The protagonist in this CHVRCHES video dies of a broken heart and then regenerates and short-circuits the Matrix. Or something. (NSFW due to F-bomb. Would actually fit Vampire better musically. And they may be a bit geeky.)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Consider the potential long-term effects of your MacGuffin

Universe-shaking developments that are pretty much never mentioned again.

Time travel is a particularly significant example, because genre series love one-off time travel episodes and don’t always tidy up afterwards.

“We’ll never make it!”
“Uh, Captain. We have a time portal. Should we maybe use that?
“... Nah...”

I’ve used time-travelling MacGuffins now and then in not-about-time-travel series, and always take care to smash them at the end of the episode.

Pick up a pinta like Peter Cushing

Via Kim Newman: The Milk Marketing Board made a series of 70s adverts by visiting film sets and having cast and crew drink milk. One of them was The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires.

If you’venever seen this late Hammer classic, imagine it was the time someone substituted Wushu for The Hunters Hunted in an ongoing campaign.

But the most amazing bit is that they managed to resist any jokes about pints of blood.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Top Ten Superhero RPGs

Or the first half thereof anyway. Annoyed your favourite is there? Glad it isn’t yet? Worried it won’t appear at all? Interesting viewpoint on Aberrant in particular.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Alas Vegas

The Major Arcana for James Wallis’s Vegas-based supernatural drama miniseries game Alas Vegas, by artist John Coulthart, is online here. And is beautiful.

800 posts and...

... I’m a bit into a writing gig. More after I’ve gotten some first draft feedback.

The cat in the box and the elephant in the room

Today is World Elephant Day, as well as Erwin Schrödinger’s birthday. Can you put a cat, or an elephant, in your next session? Maybe. Which in the case of Schrödinger’s Cat is entirely appropriate. Elephants tend to be rather more obvious.

I realise now that I’ve never, even once, had the PCs on an elephant, or in the path of one. Rhinos, sure. Hippos, absolutely. But no elephants. Given their uses by Hannibal, Sauron and Indiana Jones, this seems like quite an oversight on my part.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Since the World Of Darkness MMO is to use the character creator prototyped by EVE Online, it was suggested to use the 14-day trial to test it.

This is how I look. The weight slider needs a few more clicks...

For comparison, Milli from The Watch House looks like this, her hair being off-shade due to limited options. (Cat suggests “Hmmm... maybe the orange is a more mature mid-twenties look?”) But attractive young people with piercings and leather jackets seem to be the system’s forte. Which will be good for Vampire, of course...

Anyway, it’s a great toy, which could be handy for making NPC portraits, with no real use in the game it’s currently attached to as it’s about flying around in a spaceship...

Friday, 9 August 2013



The Storm God enters the sky.

Still possible to find huge, stunning Mesoamerican art even now.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Super group or super team?

I’m currently playing Marvel Super Heroes and we’re undercover heroes pretending to be villains called the Public Enemies, or the Go Team when acting as heroes in public. And the night after this week’s session the GM and one of the players headed off to see Alabama 3. Who aren’t from Alabama and there are more than three of them. But they sound like a gang, or possibly three people stuck in a miscarriage of justice... either way there’s an implied story there.

Which got me thinking, what kind of superheroes, villains or teams do other band names suggest? (Not counting characters who exist, like Ash or Ladytron.)

Bill Haley and the Comets were obviously a squadron of pulp adventure airmen.

Blur is London’s fastest boy.

The Fun Lovin’ Criminals are a laid-back super-gang who steal things to enjoy. Their most famous caper was stealing the London Eye.

Scissor Sisters are terrifying twin stylists, who will make you look good or kill you trying!

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are probably bad guys.

A suggestion from that very GM: I believe the Flying Pickets were a famous Yorkshire super-team, before being defeated by Mrs T.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Enter, stranger...

YouTube Geek Week brings back Knightmare with special guest Isy Suttie (LARPer Dobby in Peep Show) in case it wasn’t postmodern enough.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Little Wars

HG Wells published the first formalised miniatures wargame system a hundred years ago today.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Need a creepy shtick for a villain?

Via Rose: He spouts Motivational Poster quotes.

Just imagine a villain looming over a minion, or about to seize an artefact, or taking a punch from a hero, and saying...

That which I manifest lies before me.
Today I will be the bigger person.
I can watch the drama unfold without becoming part of it.
I remain gracious and kind when my patience is tested.
Humour and joy contribute to my overall well-being.
I choose to be happy.
I forgive all past experiences.

Lois Lane: Best Reporter Ever!


Lois Lane is a the classic example of The Plucky Reporter in superhero-y settings, but seems to spend most of her time getting into trouble due to what she's reporting on and needing to be rescued, and it would be great if they treated Best Reporter Ever as a heroic shtick in and of itself more often.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Sorcerers Hundred Years War

One of my favourite things about the internet age is game writers and designers offering ideas to GMs directly on forums. Today’s example is Phil Masters suggesting plot hooks for Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Seriously. Leave it alone.

Adventurers in a setting where curses are real:

If you find something like this, LEAVE IT ALONE.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

I want to play THAT guy!

In a licensed setting, do the players get to use the canon heroes as PCs?

(Inspired by this RPGnet thread, and related to this previous post about canon NPCs where I discuss this in passing.)

In many cases, the answer is “only in a one-shot” but the PCs should equate to the stars of the show, so if the players are interested and would keep the characters about right why not at least consider it?

Burka Avenger


Pakistan’s first animated series, showing there in Urdu, about a female superhero who fights fundamentalism with books and pens on behalf of equal education.

Wayward Manor

Neil Gaiman Makes A Game Excited Muppet Flail. A video game, but still.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Royalty in a setting

Right then. Royal baby. I’m glad to hear that mother and child are both reportedly doing well.

Nice easy plot hook, innit? There’s a reason “rescue the princess” is just behind “an old man has a map” in the Old Adventure Hook list.

It feels slightly fresher outside the medieval fantasy milieu - Star Wars has staked a claim on the archetype, while The Prisoner Of Zenda still works because it mixes the kidnapped heir with 19th century European politicking.

Of course, in the medieval fantasy milieu it carries most weight because royalty aren’t largely figureheads, they can raise armies and start wars, and in some cases have actual Divine Right and associated superpowers. Kingly power is cool if one of the PCs happens to have those powers, but might be a bit Mary Sue if it’s an NPC, especially if this is the monarch the PCs are expected to follow. Being Prince of Atlantis is just a superhero origin unless the PCs are also from Atlantis.
Must be a king.
He hasn’t got shit all over him.  
- Monty Python And The Holy Grail is a perfect Warhammer movie but deadly to attempts to run Pendragon
Of course there are also games entirely about royalty and other rulers and their courts, whether they’re leading nations into battle or getting tangled in webs of intrigue. Game Of Thrones is also rather Warhammer-y in its outlook but from a top-down perspective. It draws from various points in history which provide enough bad behaviour in royal courts to fuel decades of political gaming, while also presenting heroic characters who care about the connection between sovereign and subject.
... “the land and the king are one.”
“One what?”
- Sir Terry Pratchett asks a perfectly reasonable question, Wyrd Sisters

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Conpulsion Art Contest

And a reveal of the 2014 theme to boot!

I quote:

Calling all Artists!

Conpulsion, Scotland's premier gaming convention, is on the hunt for an artist to draw this year's gryphon mascot.

If you've got the artistic talent, we've got the prizes for your hard work and effort. The winning entry will enjoy a Conpulsion VIP Package for two :- a full weekend ticket and con t-shirt each, plus a meal for two, special early pre-registration for games, and the unfathomable glory and bragging rights from having the winning design.

To enter, simply draw a gryphon based around the theme of Innovation and send it to conpulsion@gmail.com.

Please note, though, that your design must be simple enough to use on our t-shirts and flyers.

The closing date is the 20th of September, so be sure and get your entries in before then!

Baby Teeth

An anthology of child-related horror mostly from New Zealand, featuring our own Morgan Davie, in aid of Duffy Books In Homes, an NZ literacy charity. Bound to be something good for Little Fears in there...

Friday, 19 July 2013

The World's End

Like S P A C E D? Like Shaun Of The Dead? Like Hot Fuzz? Like Scott Pilgrim? Like the quiet English village SF apocalypses of John Wyndham and their influence on Quatermass and Doctor Who? If the answer to one or more of the above is yes, you’ll probably like The World’s End.

Its heroes are certainly player-character-level in their mix of quick-witted improvisation and bloody-minded stupidity and extreme violence. And it’s definitely a one-shot.

It also has a fantastic example of how to create a slyly meaningful retro soundtrack. Which is in no way terrifyingly accurate to my own high school years. And life since. Nor is anything else in the film. Yikes.

The Masquerade doesn't take a night off...

Prompted by a request for ideas for a filler session of Vampire: The Masquerade about the ruling vampires of a city, I came up with the following. Other great ideas have been pitched in since.

Most would apply to any group of Kindred, or indeed any group of PCs stuck with a secret they have to help keep.

My first thought would be “a night in the life”, a session with no particular driving goal, giving the PCs time to get themselves into trouble. As Prince and Primogen, there are plenty of things they’ll have to deal with regularly that can go horribly wrong:

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Who is the Death Dealer?

The Death Dealer by Frank Frazetta, the anonymous red-eyed warrior of a series of fantasy paintings.

Inspired by this RPGnet thread about how the official biographies in spinoff books and comics are a bit meh so Jackleg asks for suggestions across various genres. Not much to go on except a cool look including a closed helmet - worked for Boba Fett for years.

I offered five suggestions, two straight, one throwaway, one inspired by that huge statue of him in Fort Hood army base, and one a gag. I resisted more insane ideas, like a Terminator sent back to Viking times, but that would be one example of him intruding on a less obvious genre. The ancient vampire from the dawn of time would work in Buffy, for instance - less so in the World of Darkness because he’d be a bit conspicuous...

What might another piece of character art inspire?

Bundle Of Holding 2013

A pay what you want charity bundle of one-shot focused RPGs, including Psi*Run, Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne and How We Came to Live Here, with an option to also pick up Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, Monster Of The Week and ViewScream, “the first tabletop RPG optimized for online video chat” with a theme Ken Hite describes as “doomed starship crew”. This is a fine selection, especially for a minimum of three dollars.

The End. For your PC. Or is it?

After ten months, I was pleasantly surprised by the return of Mightygodking’s I Should Write Dr. Strange, and with a plot hook where you could substitute Strange with Who again.

It’s an example of the classic “happy future or alternate world as a trap” - or is it?!

But it also raises the possibility of a full-time crusader like a Chosen One retiring. The Dark Knight Returns has been ruled out as the true final chapter of Batman’s story several times over. Marvel Comics have a series of The End stories for various characters, but I don’t think any of them are counted as canon. Buffy has a prophesied Final Battle which she still hasn’t gotten to (as seen in the future spinoff Fray) but even it wasn’t as final as all that.

“Always in motion is the future.” (or “always emotion...” One of those... maybe both...)

A nightmare future gives the PCs an obvious fight on the way, and maybe the knowledge they need to win it, but a happy ending will probably lead to a mystery of how it could possibly happen. There’s a cheery thought...

So there’s always room in a game with enough Weird Level for a prophecy, portent or visiting time traveller to present a flashforward to an ending the characters would or wouldn’t want and then snap back to the present and see how they react, which might well change the future right then and there. Or a definitely non-canon one might be pure speculation, to be played as an isolated one-shot and only known by the players, not the characters.

Setting this up could be guesswork, or you could discuss it with the players, either in vague terms like “what does your character plan for the future... and what do you plan for them?” or in more detail if they’re going to play their PCs’ future selves while a few of the PCs play the current selves seeing the future.

It’s easiest to build a future where the turning point is known - for example, if the PCs fail to stop this season’s Big Bad, the future will probably be rather grim. Alternatively, a far future avoids the “my character wouldn’t do that!” factor. If it’s seven thousand years later, the history people know of the heroes could easily be inaccurate.

Consider why the portent happens. Is it a warning, a temptation, an attack, an accident? These would all lead to a different version of events being shown.

And of course, even the tempting happy futures allow you to kill off lots of characters in the interim, suggest events that probably will happen in the near future, introduce NPCs (and even PCs) who the current PCs have yet to meet normally, and of course give future characters badass scars...