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 the Hundred Years’ War in 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...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Shape Up!

Via Cat Tobin, who says “it’s a cracking little game” - Shape Up! - a quick card game of competitive matching, free to download.

Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

Last day to help Kickstart Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, a pastoral slice-of-life future fantasy by Nobilis creator Jenna Moran. Much talk on the RPGnets.

The reminder is that you should not know anything about this.

Do not go to welcome to Night Vale. Local news from somewhere best avoided.

“Last night’s PTA meeting accidentally opens a rift in spacetime, and Night Vale faces the consequences. Plus, changes afoot at the Night Vale Daily Journal, controversy at Radon Canyon, and our annual high school football preview!”

Want some cool space opera armour?

Alternate General Zod designs from Man Of Steel. Going in my Starfall folder...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

What does your setting sound like?

Apparently Shadowrun Online is a thing that is happening. I mention this because they are holding a call for composers and as a result have a whole lot of SF/cyberpunk-y music gathered here.

(Edit six years later: Wayback Machine link, copy and paste the Soundcloud addresses.)

Walter Machado’s work sort of fits the grindhousey Rob Zombie sound I associate with the game, that mix of Tim Bradstreet cool and Jeff Laubenstein caricature. Patrick Rose sounds more Mass Effect to me and Carlos Martin reminds me most of Bourne.

Interesting how associations build, some things seem to fit and some don’t.

I recently heard A Beast I Am, the official score album for Vampire: The Masquerade, and much of it doesn’t really fit for me. My mental Vampire soundtrack mixes bands quoted in the books, things I was listening to that have lyrics that might have been quoted, Godfather-style counterpointing classical music, and lots of kodo drumming, probably influenced by Graeme Revell’s score for The Crow. Hence the all-drums-all-the-time trailers I’ve made. Then again, I also think lots of drumming makes for a good urgent trailer anyway.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The truth is WAY out there

Cute little arcade-adventure Google Doodle today for the 66th anniversary of the Roswell Incident, the tip of the iceberg for gaming-hook-friendly Fortean and conspiracy events. See also Tunguska, Rasputin, the Arthur myth... UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis.

What a given myth proves to be can vary from game to game, of course. Primeval explains Nessie so easily they never even bothered making a Nessie episode. In one convention adventure I used the Hollow Earth Expedition setting to explain Nessie, the Lost Legion and the idea of Arthur and his knights sleeping for centuries until they are needed again.

So what the the hidden truths of your setting? What is real, what has grown in the telling and what is utter hokum? Paranormal investigator PCs will rarely accept a hoax - certainly not as often as it happened in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Still, it would be nice if someone playing the Scully type was right more than once every two years...

Friday, 5 July 2013

A lesson from history

Random plot hook from Time Team:

Digging up Sewardsley Priory, looking into accusations of various improprieties during the Wars of the Roses, which sound like the charges levelled at the Templars when they were taken out. There it was essentially an excuse to seize their goods, but here there was another suggestion:

Rich patrons had nuns praying for their souls. Discredit the nuns, discredit the patrons.

There’s got to be something in that, maybe for WFRP or Pendragon or Dark Ages WOD...

necromancer / unemployed

Nights At The Round Table - a comedy web series about a gaming group that Alasdair Stuart compares to S P A C E D. High praise indeed. I will agree it’s funny. Which puts it above a great many gaming group comedies.


Happy 65th birthday to the NHS. It’s been there all my life, I want that to stay the case.

 (Nothing like having a broken bone to make me think about healing times in RPGs. And wish I’d had a spare Drama Point for an I Think I’m Okay...)

To make this post game-relevant, a big public body dedicated to helping people could be a good base for a game. Lots of room for heroes, while of course there are possibilities for less scrupulous characters abusing the system but it would be nice to be part of a net good overall.

(A smaller anniversary here, my 750th post.)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

How an RPG rulebook is made

Physically, by printers.

The book in question being Pelgrane's 13th Age.

Happy July Fourth!

Unlike Canada, I think the US has enough representation in RPGs.

Not much for the War of Independence, though. Surprising, considering how much weird there is to go around. Like media in general, the big US historical moment for pop culture coverage is the Wild West. Which is a great setting, and a natural for gaming, but still...

I really must do that Doctor Who adventure with Benjamin Franklin sometime.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Via Gregor Hutton:

The story game of vampires’ victims (or victims of other malign forces) is currently on Pay What You Want at DriveThruRPG. Worth checking out even if you never play it for its tight rules focus (on probably-doomed characters, whose defining traits are Vulnerability and Secrets) and its presentation.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Count

The 6 most outrageous bluffs in the history of war at Cracked leads off with CIA psyops faking vampire attacks in Vietnam.

I can’t be the only one who immediately thought of Night’s Black Agents.

Darkling Plain

Stewart Wieck presents an augmented reality fantasy miniatures game with pieces represented by cards that generate animated characters when viewed through tablets and smartphones.

Technology is fast catching up with the holo-chess from Star Wars.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Convention adventures from Ireland and New Zealand

Via Gar, IrishGaming.com, a wealth of GM-ready one-shot adventures from across several big Irish cons.

And on a smaller scale, the Kapcon Scenario Design Contest (SDC) from New Zealand.

As The Spirit Of Scottish Gaming (pat pending) I feel I should do something about this...

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to Ian, Derek, Siskoid, and everyone else who may be reading, Canadian-connected or otherwise!

When not playing that other North American country, Canada in popular culture tends to unspoiled wilderness, winter sports, Mounties, Sasquatch and of course Wolverine. There’s been a upswing in series set in Canada as well as shot there recently, however, with Continuum and Primeval: New World following Being Erica onto UK screens in the past couple years.

(Looks like Canada has more than its share of time travellers. No wonder anomalies have been appearing there...)

Unlike something like Due South (which aired here in prime time on BBC1) they happen to be Canadian rather than being all about Canadian-ness. Relevant Superhero Girl story. See also Canadian Golden Age comics.

This thread about RPGs set in Canada pointed out their rarity for those wanting to game Canada (pardon the pun). The only thing I’ve ever run set there, I think, is the published Werewolf: The Apocalypse adventure Rite Of Passage. I’ve never run Walker In The Wastes for Call Of Cthulhu, for one, or set anything there myself, partially as I’ve never visited.

When I run Primeval again I’ll have to drop in for a session at least...

Those were the nights, my friend, I thought they'd never end

Holden Reads the Original World of Darkness.