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.