Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year

The sun has set. When next it rises it will be another year. Hopefully 2016. Good luck all!

I endeavoured to post every day this year, and (looks at 2015 postcount) overdid it by about 50%. Some days had to be scheduled when I had nothing or was busy, but I got pretty close at least. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Characters and their families

It’s December 30th, the day before New Years Eve / Hogmanay. In this household it’s my mother’s birthday. Ever had a character have to shop for a parent’s birthday? Or a friend’s wedding anniversary? This kind of day-to-day activity can make an unusual feature in long-running campaigns, and is easiest in modern-day games where we can draw that kind of minutiae from real life. Making an adventure out of going to a cousin’s wedding is easier if you know what weddings are like in a given culture. It can all make a change from the common pitfall of using PCs’ families as hostages, which leads to PCs with no attachments in the first place.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Star Wars Miniatures. Why? Because.

Considering I’ve used miniatures twice in the last ten years, my interest in them is pretty much aesthetic.

Of course I’m buying the Imperial Assault Han Solo and Chewbacca figures.

This page of painting and custom/conversions and this Lead Adventure thread will just make me glare at my brushes though... (And get me to buy strange offshoot Mars Attacks figures from Mantic for a Mass Effect type RPG I will probably never run.)

Looking to see where I put my WEG miniatures.

And still somewhat irked that I managed to miss an entire short-lived licence, so missed out on the Knight Models range of beautiful 30mm (and 70mm!) miniatures. Grumble grumble grumble.

And due to a thread on RPGnet I may have just spent a few hours looking at kitbashed vehicles and scenery, carrying on the noble Star Wars tradition of building models out of bits and pieces. (See also lightsabers.)

And wishing I had bought the Kenner Micro Collection thirty-five years ago...

And downloading the unofficial 7TV wargame rules out of curiosity...

And looking at the new Millennium Falcon models and the Micro Machines playset and wondering about their scales...

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

What if the Star Wars Holiday Special was good?

Because it was not. But had it worked it could have been. It might have become a strange annual tradition, a new little story every year...

Considering the generally-not-so-poorly-received animated section, that would seem to be the way to go - a cartoon mini-movie. But that would have taken more time, I suppose.

What would the terrible Holiday Special of your game be like? Note that it need not necessarily reflect the game in any real way...

These so ARE the Droids I'm looking for

Must not buy £50 expansion for Imperial Assault just because it has HK droid miniatures.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Long Night

Tonight is the winter solstice in this hemisphere.

A good time for vampires, but what else?

Rituals to mark the turn of the year, bid the sun return?

Supervillains holding the city power grid hostage?

A really good look at the UFO lighting up the sky?

Monday, 21 December 2015

And now I want to run a classic WEG adventure

Specifically Black Ice. Because pro 3D graphics modeller Fractalsponge is making it.

I don't have the money with me...

I was going to talk about something other than Star Wars...

... then I found a Saga Edition rulebook in the window of the local Oxfam bookshop for £19.99.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Star Wars: The Bookshelf Awakens

Probably a one-stop shop for sourcebook-y material, the Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary series is full of high-quality photos of characters, props, costumes, vehicles and the like, short biographies and the like. Nothing in-depth, but enough to run a shortish game that covers as much story as a movie at least. From checking The Force Awakens book I know enough about the Republic from a two-page spread to use it in-game.

The Art Of books are full of used and unused concept art, model shots, storyboards and the like. The prequels involved so much brainstorming that major elements of the Clone Wars like Asajj Ventress came from unused designs.

The novels have less immediate “take this and run with it” use than the visual books, providing plots and descriptive imagery. The Aftermath series by Chuck Wendig is the big hitter here, big hardback novels charting the time between trilogies, while Before The Awakening by Greg Rucka covers events closer to the new film and gives a look at how the Resistance and First Order work within the Republic Senate.

The Force Awakens keeps up a glorious tradition

... of having cool toys for aliens, droids and monsters who barely appear in the film at all.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What makes a Star Wars game... Star Wars?

How do you make a Star Wars RPG adventure feel Star Wars-y?

Steve D has great answers here...

I’ll add some thoughts of my own, having just read dozens of RPGnet threads and my thoughts across a few years. I still like this bit from 2002...

Star Wars is at once panoramic and personal. There are huge battles, but there are small character moments in the middle of them. The PCs should never get lost in the general melee - they should always be doing something significant, from helping get the wounded to safety to sabotaging the main Imperial weapon. This is ideal in all RPGs (unless they're about insignificant PCs, like Paranoia) but it's vital in Star Wars to cut between the big picture and the closeup action that determines how the main event goes.

The Backdrop Is Really Impressive But Not Generally Important
The Cantina scene is the classic example here. Every other character is a member of a highly peculiar alien species, and it isn't important. It could just as easily be a Wild West saloon. I once set a battle in a spaceship tumbling out of control just to test the rules for moving while shooting. Insert background details to interest the players, even if the characters don't look twice at them. "Cast" important NPCs (Christopher Walken as Darth Bane, maybe?) and use visual cues for them if possible. The PCs might react to an assassin Droid with a blaster in each of its four telescoping hands no differently than a man in a dark suit with a gun, but the players should.

What To Follow
George Lucas lifted chunks of mythology, Samurai films, pulp sci-fi and Westerns.

And this list from a couple years ago...

A massive conflict that the PCs are front-and-centre of. At any point in the timeline there should be fleets of pointy capital ships and funky-looking fighters going at each other.
Mooks that I can blast (or sabre) my way through with abandon.
Battles that effectively boil down to what the PCs and their direct opponents are doing, with hundreds of extras fighting in the background.
Planets with one kind of scenery. Two at a pinch.
Unsubtle demarcation of heroes and villains. If a villain is "subtle" it should still be blindingly obvious to the audience.
Droids. Totally amazing technology but absolutely unremarkable to all concerned.
Plans created on the fly. Any good plans are to be created by NPCs in positions of authority off-screen.

The Force Awakens at play?

We already have a Resistance era X-Wing starter set from FFG, and now individual fighters... hoping for more. A lot more. An Armada set for the big ships seems likely. A miniatures skirmish game like Imperial Assault could be great, especially with single miniatures and vehicles. The other eras have had various 25/28/30mm miniatures lines, and the IA miniatures are very nice and look great painted up, albeit by a better painter than me...

And RPG material? Fingers crossed... and I don’t even like their system.

(Their latest RPG launch, this week, is a book on Jedi Guardians, featuring Kanan and the Ghost from Rebels.)

In other tie-ins we’ve had a lot of bridging stories, and some looking back connecting to Rebels in particular. Now I expect to see Resistance era stories start to appear. Some of our new heroes have had adventures already, so they could star in books and comics easily.

The Force Awakens spoilers

Okay, you were warned.

Yes you were.

More than once.

Still here?

Okay then...(.)

The Force Awakens

There will be spoilers. Oh, such spoilers there will be.

Seriously now.

I mean it.

Putting them in a separate post for at least two weeks.

And even then being a bit vague.

While we wait - the staff at the Cameo here were in costume, with the request not to take photos or be noisy with spoilers on the way out delivered by a pretty good Emperor... who then Force choked one of the others to underline his point.

And Oscar Isaac doing a cover of the Bill Murray Star Wars song.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Return Of The Jedi

Return Of The Jedi is probably the most “normal” sequel of the series, expanding on familiar elements, kind of the same but bigger and better. Its big innovation is emotional...

Like the rest I first saw it as a child, but being nearly nine I was old enough to have some critical expectations developed over the years of waiting. Were they met? Well, in some places...

The Empire Strikes Back

I will get to a point with these sometime, I swear. But anyway.

The guy who finds Luke and Han on Hoth gets killed. Harsh!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Star Wars

(Episode IV: A New Hope)

When I was a kid, I thought that Stormtroopers and TIE pilots were Darth Vader’s guys while the regular soldiers were Tarkin’s. Nothing about this film shows I was wrong.

Other observations - rambling alert.

Monday, 14 December 2015

World Of Darkness trailer

How vampires, werewolves and mages view humans. Not in a good light.

The Black List 2015

The Black List, the annual roundup of the best unmade films scripts in Holywood as voted by industry types, has just come out. As usual, the very short synopses hint at a variety of intriguing stories. In genre we have the aftermath of an alien war, a haunted clean room, and a teen road trip before one of the gang is exiled into space.

The Water Man by Emma Needell sounds like a Chronicles Of Darkness adventure waiting to happen: “A young boy tries to save his mother from terminal cancer by seeking out the town’s bogeyman, “The Water Man,” who is fabled to have conquered death.”

Star Wars: Episodes I-III or thereabouts

As I noted almost four years ago in a post about prequels in general, the Star Wars prequels are a sore spot for a lot of genre fans, and this remains true as Episode VII is days away.

There have been many articles about rewatching the existing films as a result. This one is mine.

I bought the Art Of books long before the films. They’re great. Highly recommended.

The timing of West End Games losing the licence after ten years of at-times-great work meant that the d20 RPG got to cover the prequels, poor misbegotten thing. (This did lead to a system where Jedi had to be balanced with non-Jedi, but it did so across levels.)

I may have fast forwarded some Jar Jar, some podracing, some committee talk, some midichlorians...

First, some positivity: If the new non-episode movies get Ewan McGregor back for more Obi-Wan adventures I’d happily go for that. His affable, world-weary, sometimes snarky performance helps immensely.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


I just paused my current game for the holidays (a month or so, at which time I may regain some players) so I built the session up to a cliffhanger. Not a huge one, but certainly an uh-oh moment, as what might have been an unfortunate coincidence becomes a dangerous trend.

As I’ve mentioned before, the best way to make this work is to make sure it really is the end of the session so the players can’t just rush to the next scene and react. (In this case I was helped by the venue closing an hour early. Oh well.)

How big a cliffhanger you can get away with probably relates at least in part to how long it will be to the next session. Imminent apparent death = next week.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Chronicles Of Darkness

The new World Of Darkness has been retitled Chronicles Of Darkness, and the rulebook (formerly announced as the WOD Second Edition rulebook) is out now in preview PDF. Hence, new tag!

The classic World Of Darkness 20th anniversary editions will continue at Onyx Path, and a new Vampire: The Masquerade edition will come from White Wolf in-house, and should be in shops, timed to connect to their first planned computer game. That could be quite a ways off, of course.

Martin Ericsson and Tobias Sjogren of White Wolf discuss their plans in the talk recorded and uploaded here.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition Kickstarter

Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition Kickstarter

Already funded at its base level after 67 minutes, and double funded as of this writing.

For the record, I have never run Changeling: The Dreaming, and have only played it in one short chronicle around the time it came out. Perhaps I’ll change that. (It’s behind Mage: The Ascension in that queue, though. Not to mention several new World Of Darkness games.)

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Travellers

Back in the late 20th century when White Dwarf was about RPGs, its comic strips included Thrud by Carl Critchlow, Gobbledigook by BiL, and The Travellers by Mark Harrison. Looking it up to reference the Star Wars joke in the background of a specific episode I found the whole lot online, digitally remastered and coloured by the artist. A few of the jokes are Traveller-specific, but others refer to other SF/F series and games, and plenty of them will be familiar to anyone who has ever approached a game table...

(And check out his other galleries while you’re there - the concept art in one makes me want to run an Aliens game...)

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Aardman RPG

As the Christmas Radio Times hits shops in the UK, following covers for Sherlock, Doctor Who and Star Wars, I find myself wondering what system to use for a Shaun The Sheep RPG... For the short episodes, TOON would probably work, with Shaun and Bitzer as the PCs and the Farmer as the one they both try to avoid bothering. By comparison, Wallace And Gromit needs a low-danger mystery game with a good chase mechanic.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Leigh Brackett

As the new Star Wars approaches, celebrate the 100th birthday of Leigh Brackett, SF author and first screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back - and who also adapted Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with William Faulkner for the 1946 Bogart and Bacall film, as well as The Long Goodbye with Eliot Gould twenty-seven years later, and wrote the screenplay for Rio Bravo among others as well. Her own SF and fantasy novels haven’t been filmed... something should be done about that.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The scariest badass of your setting

Having just watched Non-Stop, aka Liam Neeson Versus The Sky, following tonight’s Doctor Who finale where ancient legends run from him, and seeing that social media meme of “the protagonists of the last three things you read/watched/played are the members of your zombie apocalypse team” this afternoon, it all got me thinking...

Who are the scariest badasses in your setting? The deadliest warriors, the most influential political movers, The World’s Greatest Xes? Is it the PCs? An infamous NPC? A legendary figure like a mighty ruler or ancient god? The title character in a licensed game? The Big Bad of your campaign? Liam Neeson?

The PCs playing second fiddle to such a character is a common complaint about licensed games and metaplots (often fairly) but having some really badass characters around can enrich a setting, and it feels fair if the PCs could theoretically take them on without GM fiat protecting them. Even if the PCs take the place of the stars, there’s still the Big Bad.

I had several of these characters in my Vampire: The Requiem Second Edition game Nobody Wants You because the PCs were all new in town and supposed to be weak and vulnerable, and the PCs carefully avoided some, worked with others, and set others against one another before finally taking one down directly. Even the ones they didn’t tackle head-on were affected by their actions. Walker, the designated scariest badass, seemed aloof and untouchable, but he still got pulled into the conflict in the end - I had huge fun playing him for a few scenes but I hope I didn’t make him a GMPC.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Britain's first "talkie" was social SF

High Treason was released in 1929 in both silent and talkie versions, and the sound edit was thought lost until recently. Set in 1940, then eleven years in the future, it predicted aerial bombardment of cities and... not much else, by the sounds of it. I presume the rather unlikely global political blocs were created to make a point. Ever done a purposely allegorical setting?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

#Feminism nanogames

#Feminism, a collection of short one-shot games on feminist themes, currently funding on IndieGogo. Via Cat, one of the contributors.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Advent RPG Idea Brainstorm

RPG ideas for Advent. Like ye olde Iron Roleplayer, pitching ingredients and seeing what GMs do with them, but on a daily basis. And more festive.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Five Out Of Ten on Bloodlines

Five Out Of Ten is a magazine of essays about computer and video games. The current issue, on the theme of identity, includes Jody McGregor talking about Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, humanity and Humanity.

(Jody was one of the stars of The Night Watch, Steve D’s legendary Buffy game that I stole the concept for The Watch House from, so this is Very Important.)

Monday, 30 November 2015

Sunday, 29 November 2015

A city much like London

Unmade London landmarks. The arched early prototype Tower Bridge would be a good first clue that you’re in a parallel world. The gigantic Metropolis thing that could have been the new Grosvenor Park hotel would suggest Airstrip One...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

One small action

Today I joined a global climate march. The showing in Edinburgh was a mile long, not a big deal compared to the sixty thousand or so in Melbourne, but enough to be seen. It went off peacefully, so you may not have heard about it in the news.

Have you ever included something like that in a game? A peaceful protest, a march, a sit-in? Maybe as background detail for an in-game issue, like mutant rights in the Marvel universe? Or just an obstacle in a chase? And did it achieve something?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Black Friday

The Spirit Of Black Friday Past can only show you three years ago.

But the Spirit Of Black Friday Yet To Come has such sights to show you...

Your savings will be legendary. Even in Hell.

Terror is Tales From Black Friday.

The gods are hangry.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Happy Thanksgiving, to those for whom it is appropriate.

Thanksgiving has its roots in recorded history, but it’s still picking up odd sidebars. I’ve talked about weird holiday traditions and how they accrue before, like Hallowe’en for example. We’re seeing one being actively pushed at the moment with Thanksgiving, with Black Friday - it’s happening here and we don’t even have Thanksgiving to attach it to!

Which is a shame because a holiday all about communities coming together to help each other and looking at what you’re glad of in your life sounds nice.

Here in the UK, apparently we have National Cake Day. Which is nice, but...

Game-wise, does your setting have any major holidays specific to one nation? Something that visitors would find surprising, and travellers going the other way would celebrate in small ways.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Your Game: Civil War

The trailer for Captain America: Civil War came out last night (distracting Marvel fans from talking about Jessica Jones for a while) and revealed the basics of why MCU Cap and Iron Man are going to fall out. Empire talked to the directors the Russo brothers and they dropped some biggish hints here.

Two of the major players in the setting (PCs, if you will) disagree and it escalates to combat. As long as it’s PC v. PC and not player v. player, this can make for pretty interesting developments.

Hence not one but two seasons of The Watch House ending with PC heel turns - with the heel PCs set up by their players to provide a good fight and lose.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Overthrowing the setting

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II is now in cinemas, the conclusion of a YA SF trilogy/quadrilogy about revolution against injustice and overthrowing a dictatorship.

The setting has enough detail to be gameable, before and during Katniss’s revolt, with worldbuilding to spare in the little-seen Districts and the world beyond the redrawn borders.

(The 100 is I think the most game-friendly work to appear in its wake as it’s been adapted to TV with an expandable scope and a higher Weird Level.)

Have your characters ever toppled the system? And what, if anything, did they do afterwards?

CyberGeneration is an early example of YA dystopia and revolution in gaming, with the disenfranchised youth suddenly having the power literally in their hands to cause real change, and a run of adventures designed with this in mind - it starts with Bastille Day, dropping the PCs into a prison camp to rescue someone and, ideally, start a full-on breakout.

Vampire: The Masquerade started with the assumption that the PCs would be or become anarchs, the angry young vampires railing against the establishment with the storytelling advantage that the establishment was right there in the form of the Prince. Later editions focused more on the cold-ish war between the Camarilla and the Sabbat, but anarch play has seen more support in V20.

Midnight is a dystopian spin on Middle-Earth where the Dark Lord of the setting won, and a small resistance struggles against the forces of the Shadow.

And of course in Star Wars you are probably part of the Rebel Alliance.

There are also games about utopian settings in somewhat hostile worlds, like King Arthur Pendragon, where PCs are expected to support and defend the dream of Camelot, promote its ideals, and salvage what hope they can when it all comes crashing down.

Wraith: The Oblivion video interview

Ian Watson sits down to discuss Wraith: The Oblivion.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

You can't pick your clan...

An idea I’ve seen a few times - a Vampire game where players generate mortal characters and then have clan assigned randomly or by the Storyteller. It can work, as long as the choice doesn’t invalidate what the player wants to do. My example is a highly social character becoming a Nosferatu - which can happen in the Vampire: The Masquerade setting but probably isn’t what the player wanted when they filled in those Appearance dots. Most concepts can fit into most clans with work, but some are definitely more work than others.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Knights of a rusted future

What is the story behind the headline piece from concept artist Blake Rottinger? I don’t know, but I want to...

Friday, 20 November 2015

A comics anthology about and by women in gaming

Chainmail Bikini, launched on Kickstarter, is out now to all.

A Star Trek Wishlist

From SFX, these ten points are, I think, pretty good. Especially making it mainstream and non-fan-friendly. As noted, if Doctor Who can do it, so can Star Trek.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Should I rectify this...?

I realise, as I look back on Hallowe’en adventures and forward to Christmas adventures, that I’ve never run an adventure themed around St. Andrew’s Day...

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Write it down when it comes.

Woke up with a head full of small-time con artists in Vegas being snarky as they plan One Big Score. ‪#‎amwriting‬ apparently.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Where have my videos gone?

Following a copyright claim by BBC Worldwide, which is entirely fair for the video in question, I have deleted my TWH YouTube channel for fake trailers and the like. I will put some up elsewhere as and when. :/

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Deconstructing your own work

Last night I went to see Garbage at the end of their twentieth anniversary tour. (The show was dedicated to friends on the gig circuit who were with Eagles Of Death Metal the night before.) Anyway, the tour has been revisiting their first album and associated B-sides, playing some tracks pretty straight, accelerating and loudening others, significantly deconstructing others.

What was I running five, ten, twenty years ago? What would I do differently with the same plot today?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Do some good

Tonight is Children In Need here, the BBC’s annual fundraiser for good causes across the country. (See also Comic Relief and Sport Relief in the spring. Common highlights include Doctor Who scenes - CiN was the source of Ten convincing Rose who he was, and later of Time Crash.)

The most I ever raised for charity in one action was £450 to get my head shaved and an additional £150 for Liam of Black Lion to shave off his beard at Conpulsion 2004. Three weeks later, his beard had recovered...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

It's nothing personal...

SPECTRE is always beautiful, often thrilling, occasionally funny, frequently uneven and forever a continuity nightmare for those viewing the James Bond films as a single timeline, just as the Daniel Craig subset always has been. It also brings back SPECTRE, the villainous organisation from the books and the Connery (and Lazenby) films - and makes it personal. This raises the emotional stakes in some ways, but sometimes an international terrorist organisation is just an international terrorist organisation and that’s okay.

What makes personal connections work, and not? I’d say hitting it too often is a major problem, as with any idea. It might also mess with a character concept - James Bond is a professional agent, after all.

Retconning it in also tends to bother audiences (or this audience member, at least) - making the Joker the guy who killed Batman’s parents has bothered me since 1989, and I’m glad it didn’t stick in further adaptations. The Dark Knight presents a Joker who simply finds Batman... entertaining.

And it really has to bring something to the table. If the audience, or worse the players, shrug at the big reveal, was it worth it?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Must find a use for Elephant TIE Fighter Pilot

An art project by Blank William, Imperial Stormtrooper helmets for African wildlife. Also available in black. The hippo one might be a bit too cute and the rhino one suggests the Judoon from Doctor Who, but that elephant...

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Adjustment for vampires 101

And since we’re sharing short vampire films, as it popped up in an RPGnet thread about the morality of the Vampire family of games and Rose mentioned it, The Night Life is fairly light. Until the end.

Taking one adventure out of context

The Intruder is a short film inspired by a minor stealth side quest in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines which doesn’t actually reference the intruder in question being a vampire.


Running a spectrum from preschool to 18-cert, this year’s Amazon Pilot Season (UK link) includes Becky Tinker’s Everstar, executive produced by John Rogers, a kid-friendly animated space adventure featuring an eleven-year-old accidental space captain, her friend and two unhelpful AIs.

(Also of relevance: Eddie Of The Realms Eternal by Bill Motz and Bob Roth, portal fantasy played for laughs.)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Friday, 6 November 2015

Adventure Time RPG on the way!

... From Nosolorol, the Spanish company famous for Aquelarre.

I would assume an English-language version will get here faster than the translation of Aquelarre which is currently in Kickstarter twenty-five years after the original Spanish release.

Adventure Time is the creation of confessed D&D-ers and its not-so-cheerful-all-the-time posthuman future takes some cues from Gamma World so an RPG coming out is no surprise.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Remember, Remember...

Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, aka Bonfire Night, aka an excuse for fireworks with a vague connection to a failed regicide four hundred years ago and the execution of the conspirators. As reasons for celebration go it’s pretty strange - gruesome, tied up in political and religious conflicts that aren’t settled centuries later. Like Christmas its meaning and symbols have changed wildly over the years. These days a certain Guy Fawkes mask is the symbol of an international hacker movement.

Have you ever had a bit of deep background like this - history halfway forgotten and imagery repurposed more than once?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

An elegant weapon, for a more civilised age...

I don’t really LARP. I certainly don’t boffer LARP. I definitely don’t boffer Star Wars LARP. And yet... a light-and-sound LARP-friendly lightsaber... (Thanks to Artenen on RPGnet for the link.)

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Imagine if they teamed up...

Quite a day for reboots and restarts all round, with announcements for The Greatest American Hero, Mark Wahlberg on the big screen as The Six MBillion Dollar Man, and a legacy hero on SyFy called Vanessa Helsing... (And Constantine appears in Arrow in a few days, for a slightly late Hallowe’en episode.)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Star Trek coming back to TV!

A new Star Trek series starts in January 2017, in time to be... four months late for the 50th anniversary on September 8th 2016, but never mind.

Alex Kurtzman, one of the main writers of the new films, is on board as executive producer, along with Heather Kadin, fellow producer from some of his current TV series. It will launch on CBS and their streaming service. And this is about all we know. Time to explore strange new worlds.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Saturday, 31 October 2015

You deserve a parade!

This year, Hallowe’en falls on Saturday. (You may have noticed.) As a result, I’m going to two celebratory things - and missing three more, one of which is the Samhuinn Fire Festival (which my brother helped start back in the 20th Century) this year taking over the Grassmarket shopping and entertainment plaza from about 7pm. And this is still not that big compared to, say, the Village Halloween Parade in New York.

Ever have a game run into a public event this big? A tickertape parade for a superhero team, the Olympic Games, a Vampire Grand Ball, the Winter Court at Legend Of The Five Rings - something that takes over a big chunk of the regular setting for a day, a night, or several weeks? Something which is supposed to be fun rather than a big political throwdown... although politics is always there. And have you featured one that didn’t include a fight at some point?

Michaelangelo's David, Venus De Milo, the Thinker... action figures

From Figma, makers of damn good (and rather pricey) 6” scale figures of Rodin’s Thinker, Michaelangelo’s David and the Venus De Milo. They will look a bit tall next to your 5” scale Weeping Angels, in case you collect articulated replicas of statues in particular. Images contain nudity, obviously.

And Venus comes with attachable arms so you can illustrate various ideas about what they were doing...

(And now I want to do a Promethean: The Created one-shot...)

Friday, 30 October 2015

Star Trek

For post 1701, I have to talk about Star Trek really.

There hasn’t been an official Star Trek RPG since before Enterprise (an entire universe ago!) but plenty of unofficial ones like Far Trek, Lasers And Feelings and the new edition of Starships And Spacemen, and hacks for systems from Cortex+ to The World Of Darkness (for the Mirror Universe) - I’ve done one myself for Cinematic Unisystem.

With current Star Wars and Doctor Who games on the market, it’s the obvious gap. But then it’s also a massive rights issue - after all, nobody’s entirely sure who can make a TV series...

Hallowe'en Listening: Ken And Robin

Ken (Hite) And Robin (D. Laws) Talk About Stuff is always worth a listen, but the Hallowe’en special features a look at the origins of the modern holiday, and a 30s adventure hook.

They also discuss the North Berwick Witch Trials. Not my nation’s proudest moment, but the story must not be forgotten. (Warning: they pronounce Berwick as written.)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

White Wolf acquisition

I can’t say much about Paradox Interactive buying White Wolf, with a new site up already, as I’ve just heard about it.

My personal take is that I can say that their new Lead Storyteller, Martin Ericsson, is very nice.

And can clearly take me in a fight. He is Dracula, after all.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter is based on one of Vin Diesel’s D&D characters, but with the modern setting and veteran monster-hunting hero I’d use Angel. (Even though one character is introduced as a fourteenth level warlock.)

Sadly it does not feature his party from D&Diesel. Dupont Dupont, Dwarven Rogue, is sorely missed.

Bundle Of Tentacles

Eww! But such good value! Call Of Cthulhu and related books in the Bundle Of Holding.

Halo 5 concept art

Halo 5 concept art. Because so pretty.

I feel like they should be playing Marvel Heroic. Or Vampire.

Deborah Ann Woll organising a D&D game for her Daredevil castmates.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Would you go to the Yakuza children's Hallowe'en party?

Sadly, this year the Yakuza has cancelled the annual Hallowe’en event for children due to a schism in the largest gang.

This is apparently something of a tradition for the hundred-year-old syndicate. As the report notes: “The gang hosts other community events, and was among the first to distribute water and food to survivors of the Kobe earthquake in January 1995.”

It really demonstrates how differently organisations can be seen at ground level compared to their reputation elsewhere, I think. Ever had a reveal like that in a game?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Scream Queens

Oh-kay... Scream Queens was apparently too OTT for American Horror Story. Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s a guignol sitcom caricature of the Greek sorority/fraternity system at US college campuses, with added murder. While the central character is a grotesque herself, the grounded protagonists mixed up in it look a bit out of place...

The tone switches between Slasher Flick and Fiasco and sometimes full-on TOON, a chance to watch something rise and fall drastically in Weird Level from scene to scene. I have no idea how this will play out, if it will at all.

“You’re an awful person.”
“Maybe. But I’m rich and I’m pretty, so it doesn’t really matter.”

What to take away for a gaming POV?

Watch the magic pumpkin!

The DriveThru Hallowe’en scavenger hunt is on. What will you find, and what will be left of you?

Check the sale page for an easy example... and look in pages besides the sales...

Carnevale - Renaissance Venetian skirmish wargame

With miniatures for the Fearless Vampire Killers among other things. Suitable for 7th Sea, or if you happen to be running a Dishonored RPG. (Maybe skip the courtesans.)

Self-publishing advice

At VirtuaCon.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jekyll And Hyde

“The adventure begins...”

Wait, the what begins?

A 1930s sequel to Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde? On ITV at... 6.30 p.m. on Sundays?

Okay, colour me... perplexed.

Yes, Jekyll And Hyde is a bit of a puzzler. Like Jekyll, it presume inherited Hyde-ness. In tone, it’s mostly the cleaned-up family-friendly League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with a bit of Cold City horror tech in the mix. And nice hats and jazz.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

One more week to Hallowe'en

So, Hallowe’en special plans? Not long to go...

I don’t this year, as the same Vampire game has slowed due to night-to-night play being a major factor... and every night being a horror show.

Well, damn.

The Player looks likely to end with episode nine. :/

Friday, 23 October 2015

Resident Evil: The Stage (Play)

An official Resident Evil play. Slightly stranger than the official zombie walkthroughs, I think. And I would have expected the zombies to be a bit flashier.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Back To The Future

It’s October 21st 2015, the date Marty and Jennifer land in Back To The Future Part II. There are, naturally, some geeky celebrations. (How many of the nineteen Jaws films have you seen? It feels like more than four...)

What would your setting look like thirty years in the future? Or a hundred years in the past?

And how much of the epic adventures is character-centric, as in a blockbuster trilogy where the lives of maybe a dozen people are really changed except in the Biff-verse section?

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Fear and Fear Itself

Must be some sort of horror event happening sometime soon. Ahem. Anyway, the BBC is sneaking little bits of horror out on Three and the iPlayer.

The Fear presents an audience with four-minute amateur horror shorts. Why was I not informed of this sooner? And why put said audience reactions in Gogglebox style? Especially since you then flash back during the discussions... Anyways, some of them could give you a monster idea.

Fear Itself meanwhile is a full-length documentary about horror cinema. Confused yet? It takes a somewhat more serious approach, to say the least.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is gorgeous, well-acted by all around, has one bit of flinch-inducing realistic horror (two if you suffer from Torchwood flashbacks) in amongst some mildish jump scare, and is kind of thin plot-wise. I didn’t really look to it for plot, but ah well.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Scooby-Doo ending

As Hallowe’en approaches, io9 presents four paranormal mysteries with totally logical explanations, including the Amityville case being a hoax.

Ever done this in-game? It can be tricky when the players know the supernatural is real. I’ve done it very occasionally, and made sure that even if there turned out to be no supernatural explanation there was still something worth stopping. A ritual serial killer in The World Of Darkness is still dangerous even if the patterns he draws in blood don’t call forth demons.

See also the fact that modern versions of Scooby-Doo have frequently moved from debunking the supernatural to fighting it for real...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Don't trust vampires.

Today sees the final issue of Day Men, with a reminder that you should never entirely trust vampires, even if they have to trust you with their lives...

And this may be confirmation bias on my part, but this new thread on the Onyx Path forum has me wondering if general opinion on the Camarilla is swinging back to their being bad guys. When does the Camarilla intervene in a city’s problems? When it has a good reason to...

The Park

The Park is a new standalone short horror game set at the margins of The Secret World. This is a very interesting move for the MMO, a shift in game style (third person MMO to first-person single with a specific character) and genre (urban fantasy to horror). The plot is described as “every parent’s worst nightmare” so may be hard to take, but I’d be interested in seeing more standalone adventures like it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

That bit in Battlestar Galactica where they stop using their nav computers...

... is apparently happening for real.

All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by. To prevent cyber attack.

Doctor Strange is back...

... wielding an axe and wearing combat boots. It’s not quite the full plain-clothes urban fantasy version I pitched during Marvel’s brief foray into open pitching, but it’s certainly a step towards it that intrigues me.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Strain

It certainly was. Ha ha.

As Lovefilm has started sending discs two at a time I’ve also seen The Strain season one. I’ll be giving season two a miss.

It’s disappointing because the show was co-created by Guillermo Del Toro, and he directed the first episode, essentially a modernisation of the Demeter arriving in Dracula with more of the vampire biology he looked at in Blade II. (It also rather resembled the start of Fringe, but never mind.) But the pacing is grindingly slow, most of the characters don’t hold much appeal, it turns on at least one head-desking coincidence, and while some of the vampire looks are very effective, the Master is... hilarious.

Still, it starts out as a good example of how to update a classic story and nudge it into a different genre. The CDC fighting an intelligent plague is a pretty cool premise, as well.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Competence and incompetence

I just binged Justified season five in a week, after discovering that season six is about to air here... and season five never did. It’s a bit of a mixed bag - the prison sequence is grim stuff while the Crowes follow Dewey’s example and remain pretty much a joke - but still has plenty of the show’s frequent pleasures, like Raylan being casually expert at figuring out various criminal idiots’ latest criminal idiocies. The investigations usually boil down to figuring out which particular idiot is involved and coolly dispatching them.

It could be played as a game of highly capable PCs dealing with inept NPCs, or as a Fiasco style game where Raylan and his cohort coming after you is the inevitable price of bad ideas. Both could be fun, but which would sustain better? For the real feel of the show, maybe you’d have to play both...

Friday, 9 October 2015

Terrain for miniatures

I hardly ever use miniatures, but if I did I would be quite tempted by Urban Apocalypse terrain for modern games. The World Of Darkness would suit the run-down city it builds, as well as the intended post-apocalypse and urban combat games. And the firehouse would be great for Ghostbusters. (Edit: now with a Shanty Town option for Sicario adventures. Or something else. But now I want to do a Sicario adventure.)

But the current state of the art is for dungeons - Dragonlock snap-together 3D printed pieces. Just being reliably snap-together would be a big deal, but 3D printed!

The One Ring Is In The Bundle Of Holding

PDFs at a knockdown price for a great cause.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Black Death

Post 1666. Ever used the plague, or the Great Fire, in-game?


Vampires must love e-cigarettes. All the convenience of victims going outside bars and clubs at all hours with none of that inconvenient fire.

Steve D on Leverage

What RPGs can learn from Leverage, which is quite a bit as Leverage has picked up a lot from RPGs.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Justin Kurzel’s new film of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, takes a low-key approach to the supernatural while playing the battles in highly cinematic style, as well as giving most of the soliloquies lingering shots letting the cast hold the scene.

It cuts a surprising amount of the text considering the near-two-hour running time, but there is quite a lot of beautiful dramatic slow-motion. We’ll see how much of that gets into the trio’s next project, Assassin’s Creed.

Doesn’t fix the final prophecy total lack of foreshadowing that led to Eowyn fighting the Witch-King (after the Ents played Birnam Wood) but hey.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Golden Cobra LARP Writing Challenge

Via Matt M. McElroy: The Golden Cobra wants small, emotionally involving and diverse freeform LARPs. As well as the challenge running this month, it also has a number of games submitted in 2014 available to read and run.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Vampire: The Masquerade - Unwanted season two

Back at it.

A few weeks have passed in-game, and the cold war still seems cold. Until someone strolls into Elysium...

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Vin Diesel playing another of his D&D characters

In The Last Witch Hunter he goes back to a third-party 2E supplement The Arcanum.

But moving this character to the present just makes it feel like a game of Angel...

RPGs in libraries?

That would be nice, but apparently... not so much.

When I were a lad my school library had gamebooks - but the historical ones, not much Fighting Fantasy. We were expected to get those ourselves. Either that, or I already had and therefore do not remember taking them out... (They did have a couple collections of Lovecraft, picked up after discovering him through Call of Cthulhu.)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Carmilla season two

The final episode just ran, so you can now binge the whole 36-part run.

Start with season one, as discussed a little here. See also Die For You by Rose Bailey, a short story game all about who or what you’d risk your life for.

Also: Season Zero, coming soon.

Carmilla (the series) presents a Buffyish funny collegiate apocalypse in a vlog, with almost all of the action, monsters, cults and shapeshifting kept offscreen. The conversations were always more important than the fights in Buffy so it works, though this does result in a running gag of characters bursting in through the door to describe terrible events and leaving abruptly. (The Christmas special broke from the format and worked as normal moving cameras, presenting the monster directly, which provides an interesting contrast.) It also provides a great meta commentary on the urban fantasy and paranormal romance subgenres as someone hopes life turns out that way...

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

There's no place I can be, since I found Serenity...

You can’t take the sky from me...

It’s been ten years since the release of Serenity. I was at the world premiere a month earlier - about which I remain kind of smug to this day.

It’s a great example of comparing the pacing of a series to a movie or a campaign to a one-shot - and how to bring something to a definitive conclusion. (Nothing like killing enough beloved characters that it starts to look like you’re aiming for a TPK...)

The official Cortex Serenity RPG came out right about then, which is still my expectation for licensed RPGs. I was running it while the movie was still in cinemas - one session only one player turned up, so we went and watched it...

It had some features I still like - players get bennies for activating their characters’ disadvantages, and ship creation includes ads and disads like being Loved as well as regular this-many-escape-pods ones. If I were to run a game in the ’Verse I’d probably use the Cortex+ Firefly, though.

Coming soon...

Soundtrack: The Decemberists, Down By The Water

See this ancient riverbed
See where all the follies led...

The docks of the city at night, deserted, under a low yellow moon. Caroline Randall, effective leader of Clan Brujah, steps out of a taxi and moves to meet someone, who stays in the shadow of a warehouse.

Down by the water
Down by the old main drag...

A thick envelope full of money changes hands.

The season rubs me wrong
The summer swells anon...

Randall looks in on the warehouse and nods. The other strolls in.

So knock me down, tear me up
I will bear it all broken just to fill my cup
Down by the water
Down by the old main drag...

Randall watches as the other drags a coffin-sized crate outside and levers it open. Randall looks down at a man’s body.

Down by the water
Down by the old main drag...

The other wraps weighted chains around the body and throws it into the river. 

Down by the water...

The body’s eyes open as he sinks into the darkness.

Down by the old main drag...

Vampire: The Masquerade
Unwanted: Season Two

Sunday, 27 September 2015


... Nothing unusual will happen tonight really.

But still.


Gotta be some werewolves partying somewhere.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Heroes Reborn

Also starting this week, the return of Heroes after five years, now starring a bunch of new mutants and (smartly) Mr. Bennet as the protagonist, chasing a new sinister organisation after the (rather interesting) ending of the original run was apparently covered up.

Anyway, the basic premise of Heroes - plainclothes X-Men with no idea where their powers came from fighting amongst themselves while pursued by MIBs instead of huge purple robots - is absolutely solid. The show just tended to tie itself in knots after a first season where every piece fell into place neatly.

I had a non-starting game along these lines back in 2008, and would be happy to pick it up tomorrow.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Player

(The TV series, not the person at your table. Currently.)

The Player, co-created by John Rogers of Leverage fame and sometime RPG writing, is naturally a pretty game-friendly premise. The House (questionable history here) predicts crime using somewhat SFish computing and lets rich assholes bet on whether someone, the Player, can stop it. Aiding him is the Dealer, with all the information in the world, and overseeing operations is the Pitboss, who being a questgiver is called Mr. Johnson. It is indeed a Shadowrun reference. Split the Player into a group with different skills and you’ve got a campaign.

It has been noted that the small group working with advanced intel to predict crime makes it look like Person Of Interest’s jokey cousin. This is not a problem, of course - the shows address different concerns in different ways with a similar device. It also makes me think of 100 Bullets, people working in secret and outside the law at the behest of rich conspiracies who can call off the police if they have to, but stopping crime here rather than committing it - which is a big difference, of course! (I also hope it runs as far with the premise... the Gamblers deserve to be brought down.)

The pilot features a kidnapping - getting someone back is more gameable than stopping someone being taken, as I rambled about here. Presumably the House will make sure that the Player gets the call too late to defuse a situation easily... even as the Dealer tries to help on the inside...
Some people are disturbed by concept of #ThePlayer, rich gambling with people's lives. You SHOULD be. Alex did not join the good guys ... 
The question is ... what's he going to do about it?
John Rogers on Twitter

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy was born 150 years ago today. Her most famous creation is the Scarlet Pimpernel, a disguised crimefighter who uses a foppish secret identity in public. Might have had a bit of an influence on the superhero genre there... Other notable creations include Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, a female detective hero who first appeared in 1910.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Mantic's Warpath

An SF wargame featuring somewhat more techno-ish space marine types (love the jetbikes, very Destiny) totally not Squats and totally not Space Skaven. Already massively Kickstarted.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Black Mirror

Have I talked about Black Mirror? I have a sudden inclination to do so. For some reason.

It could be an adventure anthology for Shock: Social Science Fiction. The Entire History Of You perfectly shows how technology that players would happily give to their PCs could also ruin lives. Fifteen Million Merits could be source material for Paranoia run straight.

Some of it could go straight into Cyberpunk and similar games - White Christmas introduced the idea of blocking people from cybernetic vision and hearing, and creating an AI copy of someone’s mind so complete you could question it separately in a criminal investigation.

And then there’s the first one. Ahem.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Today in gaming

7th Sea with raises at 4 instead of 5 feels pretty easy. This may not be a concern.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

You want pirate plots? I give you pirate plots.

I give. Mainly I give links, but I also give Leverage joke.

Nate: So this guy’s built an empire on smuggling, stealing from docks and running honest traders out of business. He likes to see himself as a modern-day pirate.
Eliot: Yeah, I’ve dealt with actual modern pirates off the coast of Somalia -
Parker: Ooh! Did they have eyepatches?
Eliot: One of them would have needed to after -
Nate: Ahem. Anyway, my point is, he collects artefacts from the Golden Age of Piracy. He hits all the big auctions. And there’s one coming up very soon...
Sophie: So you’re thinking...
Nate: Let’s go steal a pirate’s treasure.


Parker: Can I have an eyepatch?
Hardison: Surely you of all people fall on the Ninja side of Pirate Versus Ninja?
Parker: I like to keep my options open...

It Be Talk Like A Pirate Day

And also new Doctor Who day. To celebrate, consider rewatching one of the pirate stories. Or not.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Love In The Time Of Battlemechs

Art by Simon Stalenhag, previously shown in one of these blogs with his picture of kids controlling an attack robot advancing on a police car. The aftermath of a Red Weed outbreak, organic infections of boomboxes, and robot shamans. Thanks to Alasdair Stuart for the update.

What I want more of in mecha games.

My next character. In something. Not sure what...

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Need some Star Trek aliens?

The new series of Face Off had a Star Trek themed episode guest judged by three generations of Klingon designers in two stages, retro 60s and modern reboot.

(The series has also brought up the usual interesting array of demons, zombies, witches, goblins and the like, sure to be handy somewhere.)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Short campaigns and drop-in RPGs

There’s a plan to encourage short games in amongst the big campaigns at my local games society this year. I’m happy to run short games, though I also want to carry on my ongoing Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle. With two Sunday sessions and a Wednesday one available, hopefully I can do both.

Back in the dim and distant past I wrote an article about working to the strengths of a short runtime. I think it’s still pretty good although I’ll note it came before I ran TWH for six years...

In this case there’s a specific intent to let players drop in and out, at the end of the short blocks and possibly also from session to session. So I wouldn’t try something very character-centric. (Which is fine, the Vampire game is very character-centric.)

First thought, Buffy. Well, obviously. A fairly basic premise like college kids fight monsters, so people can come and go.

Second thought, planet-of-the-week SF. Star Trek perhaps, or planet-hopping Trinity, or a hack for Destiny.

Third thought, something World Of Darkness ish for short runs which tend to end with everything on fire and lots of dead PCs and NPCs. Could be fun...

Fourth thought, something fairly light in tone like Leverage. Maybe using a Mission: Impossible style intro with someone selecting a crew from a pool of available people week in, week out. Mostly this is wanting to get use out of all those Leverage books I just got.

Fifth thought, I dunno, superheroes or something.

Final thought, our intro day had nobody running class and level fantasy. The closest we got was Dungeon World. However, I ain’t volunteering for that job.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

We now return to regularly scheduled game sessions

GEAS intro session went well, about 45 new people looking in and a good number of them staying to play. Being in the university Freshers’ Week event booklet definitely helps!

I ran a somewhat slapdash two-hour Buffy game, as I had character sheets ready just in case, and as noted I could run it in my sleep and there was that one time I did...

The plan for this year includes encouragement to run a mix of short games in with long-term campaigns, which I’m happy to do. Now to think what to run... May have printed out Leverage character sheets...

Monday, 14 September 2015

Naming Vampires

An elder vampire in Rick and Morty has opinions here. Judging by the ankhs, an elder of the Camarilla! (NSFW as his opinion is rather boldly stated...)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Playing bodyguards

Looking back at the 2012 Hunted post, I would note that for a security agency they don’t do much actual security or bodyguard work - because that only makes good drama when it goes wrong.

For a recent example here, the French graphic novel series Damocles has started to come out in English. It’s a pretty interesting story about kidnap gangs targeting the rich in Europe, and the personalities of the team working to protect a specific target, and could provide inspiration for gaming...

However, it seems to me that bodyguard and security work itself doesn’t really lend itself to long-term games. It’s essentially reactive, unlike the reverse actions in heists. If the players prepare too well, nothing much happens. Damocles concentrates on a client who goes off the grid and makes himself vulnerable, allowing for the big action scenes as the enemy targets him, but having every client being that much trouble could get old pretty fast.

On the other hand, one obvious good place for bodyguard PCs is next to PCs who need bodyguards. I’ve done this and can be a lot of fun. After all, PCs are always going to be in trouble...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Rosslyn Chapel Apprentice Pillar Stolen!

Via Nicola:

Okay, it was actually the panel of the Great Tapestry of Scotland about the Rosslyn Chapel Apprentice Pillar that was stolen... but that particular choice out of hundreds of panels makes conspiracy jokes very easy to start.

Alternatively, it really tied the room together?

Friday, 11 September 2015

DTRPG RAINN charity bundle

DriveThru has a charity bundle set in support of RAINN, the largest anti-sexual-violence support charity in the US. The RPG bundle is $25 (£16.24 right now) for almost $200 worth of PDFs, including Aberrant, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Hero Kids, a Firefly adventure, Little Fears, Night Witches and The Play’s The Thing.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Hunted (2015)

A new series called Hunted starts on Channel 4 tonight. It’s the second series called Hunted I’ve discussed on this blog... This one is a documentary/ reality/ gameshow thingy where members of the public try to go off the grid and evade capture by former police and security services surveillance personnel. If you want to see just how tricky it can be...

Leverage: The Random Generator Job

Leverage random Job generator numbers turned into fully-armed and operational episode hooks by SteveD. Just found this today.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Destiny: One Year Later

Destiny marks a year since launch today, with a major patch, a new expansion, and a new and less famous (and more C-3PO-ish) voice for the Ghost. The game definitely has a story, albeit mostly hidden in Grimoire cards. And fans big enough to cosplay it. It’s a start.

Still idly thinking of a tabletop knockoff. The optimistic post-apocalypse recovery and mix of nonhuman cultures offer an appealing mix of setting elements.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Legacy Of The Slayer

Discovered via Matt’s review, a storytelling card game whose theme and style seems... familiar. To be fair, they don’t even try to hide it.

Why I don't run Pendragon: 40th anniversary special edition

The 40th anniversary special edition Blu-Ray set for Monty Python And The Holy Grail comes in a castle-shaped box with a working toy cow catapult.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Questions to ask planning a spy adventure

From Gar Hanrahan, intended for The Dracula Dossier but useful to note in wider circumstances.
What’s the NPC’s escape route from this situation?
Public places make for safer meeting places. Pick an Establishing Shot location (p. 254) and have the PCs meet the NPC there. Look at that writeup for ideas.
What usual item or precaution has the NPC got hidden around his or her home?

Force Friday after report; They can't all be winners

A Star Wars game that DO NOT WANT.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Starting at the end

Ever done a game, probably a one-shot or at most a short, that begins in the style of The Blair Witch Project and various other ominous Foregone Conclusion foreshadowing stories?

It could work as a competitive storygame - you get points for establishing things that are declared to have happened...

Friday, 4 September 2015


Force Friday is upon us, revealing characters, ships and things like that. Those wishing to avoid spoilers best not look at this... or toy stores for the next three months...

The app-controlled BB-8 who rolls around and whose head stays in place for reals is being reviewed and freaked out over.

Be sure to check headlines in titles, because there are characters and vehicles from previous films and from Rebels as well as The Force Awakens. Yoda, Chopper and Ahsoka are probably not appearing in the new film.

No idea when we might see any of this in UK shops... yes I will be visiting Forbidden Planet in the afternoon... and yes of course I want the Nerf Blaster Rifle. (Although a Nerf Han Solo blaster pistol would beat it.)

I also like the BladeBuilders set that lets you make silly alternate lightsaber shapes. Because of course you would.

Micro Machines or the Titanium Series will do nicely until we get miniatures from FFG, starting with a new X-Wing set. Gonna want to see a scale on the character minis...

Similarly, not in that catalogue because they’re from Revell, SnapTite models!

Aieeee! FurBacca! Run!

Official Millennium Falcon drone flyer!

Looks like the classic 3 3/4” scale figures are fairly low on articulation (no elbow joints?!) but the designs all look good. Seriously, the original film toys couldn’t even manage a decent likeness of R2-D2.

Rather less acceptable in the 12” figures, especially with the 6” Black Series getting lots of articulation.

Spoiler-y observation ahead.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ripples In Spacetime

A new ESA mission is to search space for RIPPLES IN SPACETIME.

This will probably not result in time machines or warp speed.

But I can hope.

Undead Magic Sigmar Robots

Undead Magic Sigmar Robots
Undead Magic Sigmar Robots
Undead Magic Sigmar Robots
Heroes In A Golden Space Marine Style Shell
Hammer Power!

I know, I know, be positive. But the song got stuck in my head.

Also... archers who cannot see over their shoulderpads.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Seeing NPCs in different contexts

Tonight we reached the end of The Dragonlance Chronicles, after a year and a half of pretty regular sessions. This final session was the result of the final battle running slightly long, so that various villains surrendered and we ended up at the negotiating table. (Admittedly I interrupted this myself with a duel with the killer of my character’s parents and a number of other small fights were likely to kick off, and I would expect the negotiated peace to be rather fragile not least due to villains betraying each other...)

Still, it got me thinking about seeing NPCs out of their usual contexts. How do the PCs handle meeting an archenemy at a formal occasion, or finding a contact distracted by romantic troubles?

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Wes Craven

Wes Craven has died, at age 76. He started with brutal real-world horrors, then his career really took off with A Nightmare On Elm Street, the classic version of the “nightmares can kill” story. As well as Freddy Krueger (who he revisited to interesting effect in the none-more-meta New Nightmare) he also gave us Ghostface when he directed the also pretty damn meta Scream, kicking off a run of self-aware slashers where the designated victims weren’t all too stupid to live.

The characters having nightmares is an idea revisited in many series, and the Elm Street films ran with the surrealist possibilities almost as much as a setting like Dreamlands or Pacesetter’s Sandman. And for characters knowingly subverting their roles in narratives, this is one of the things RPGs are great at.

See also The Serpent And The Rainbow for a bizarre modern adventure story, The People Under The Stairs for Little Fears fans, the straight-up thriller Red Eye for a perfect one-shot hook.

Monday, 31 August 2015

You have two cows...

The political and philosophical joke about what having two cows means under various systems has, inevitably, hit RPGs a few times. This one is happening now.

My own entry was an attempt to make a viable adventure hook about what the PCs might get up to relating to two cows...


“Our client has been working on a breeding program that will revolutionise farming in deprived areas, but a multinational agribusiness just confiscated his prize specimens. Let’s go steal two cows.”

Expect the Job to include a con at a cattle market, a smallish stampede at a convenient or inconvenient moment, and the Hitter having to do an impromptu rodeo ride with an angry bull.

I freely admit it’s basically a riff on The Hot Potato Job but the practicalities of stealing the targets would be fun.

#RPGaDay2015: the complete series

Some short and straightforward, some getting essay-ish:

1: Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to
2: Kickstarted game most glad you backed
3: Favorite New Game of the Last 12 Months
4: Most Surprising Game
5: Most Recent RPG Purchase
6: Most Recent RPG Played
7: Favourite Free RPG
8: Favourite Appearance Of RPGs In the Media
9: Favourite media you wish was an RPG
10: Favourite RPG publisher
11: Favourite RPG writer
12: Favourite RPG Illustration
13: Favourite RPG Podcast
14: Favourite RPG Accessory
15: Longest Campaign Played
16: Longest Game Session Played
17: Favourite Fantasy RPG
18: Favourite SF RPG
19: Favourite Supers RPG
20: Favourite Horror RPG
21: Favourite RPG Setting
22: Perfect Gaming Environment
23: Perfect Game For You
24: Favourite House Rule
25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic
26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game
27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one
28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play
29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog
30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity
31: Favourite Non-RPG Thing To Come Out Of RPGs

Thanks to Dave Chapman for bringing this all together.

#RPGaDay 31: Favourite non-RPG offshoot


31: Favourite Non-RPG Thing To Come Out Of RPGs

I could talk about friendships here, some of them very dear to me. Or all the good gamers have done for charity. Or my inspirations, or all the books, TV and other media inspired by gaming.

I suppose if I have to pick one... the couple who met through The Watch House and are now married with a child.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

New Orleans, ten years after Katrina

It’s ten years since Hurricane Katrina hit the US southeast coast, and New Orleans in particular. The city has largely recovered, the touristy centre being spared the worst (as I know from personal experience five years back for The Grand Masquerade 2010 and 2011) but the mix of natural disaster and man-made exacerbation stills leaves scars. The stories of the days after are particularly galling.

#RPGaDay 30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity


30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity

Wil Wheaton, for the ambassadorship for RPGs and other games via Tabletop with Felicia Day and in particular Titansgrave.

Also: John Rogers for Leverage, and his D&D comic series and RPG writing.

Sam Witwer, the Secret Apprentice, and his Star Wars RPG group. Seen here with the customised action figures he had made by Sillof.

And Nick Offerman, Black Tentacle winning Cthulhu Lives! player and NPC.

And Vin Diesel, who needs no introduction.

(Joss Whedon running Traveller has never been fully confirmed.)

Saturday, 29 August 2015

#RPGaDay 29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog


29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog

Has to be for the sheer amount of content and ideas on a daily basis.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Until Dawn

May have to borrow a PS4 from somebody for Until Dawn, the CYOA horror movie.

#RPGaDay 28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play


28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play

I haven’t played or run TOON this century. Not because I wouldn’t be happy to do so, just because (a) it’s very much part of my youth, (b) takes a certain mood and (c) is well suited to running for an hour or less, while regular game sessions around here are three hours plus.

Hmm. Mental note for a future convention.

My favourite game that I’ve never played or run would be Orpheus. I’ve read the adventure series so I couldn’t fairly play when a friend ran it recently. (I could run a series that goes in a different direction, though... Hmm again...)

Edit: Dave’s video, guest answer from Cat Tobin. And, well, EEEEEEEEEEE!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dungeon Scouts

I just heard about Dungeon Scouts, a program to get Girls scouts playing and running RPGs, after a boost by Jen Juneau following her article on DMing for an all-female D&D group.

Here in the UK, they would be Dungeon Guides! (Which sounds more like GMing.)

#RPGaDay 27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one


27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one

My favourite idea here is to steal something I like from one game and insert it into another. A plot hook, a rules mechanic, whatever. As mentioned under Favourite House Rule, my V20 game has the Humanity system from Requiem Second Edition bolted in, and also has some plot hooks borrowed from announcements about the unmade World Of Darkness MMO.

If I wanted to do a heavy and roughly equal merger, I’d probably go for a homebrew setting that resembles both rather than a straight-on crossover. For one thing, I run a lot of published and licensed settings, and I’m generally pretty careful about not crossing the streams there because Daleks popping up in Star Wars would bother me as a player. That’s fine in a clearly labelled one-shot or as the start of a premise but would bug me if they popped up in an ongoing game. It’s also usually easy enough to throw in the odd expy as long as it doesn’t conflict with the overall tone. A bait and switch in genre terms, like special guest Cthulhu in a non-occult-horror game, would really bug me.

And kitchen-sink settings that can take in other settings without so much as a ripple or a handwavy phlebotinum explanation help here too. When a costumed superhero turns up in a Buffy game, a wizard did it. Likewise, the film Warlock is clearly something that happened in the Buffyverse one weekend in the late 1980s.

Okay, a practical example: When running Adventure! as a modern super-spy game, I added Computers to the skill list, limited superhuman Knacks, and didn’t otherwise change character generation. But I used the gadget list from Spycraft first edition as a guideline to building PC gadgets in a much less rules-heavy manner, and picked up sourcebooks like its villain roster Most Wanted as inspiration too.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#RPGaDay 26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game


26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game

1: The players. Listen to their ideas, brainstorm with them, get other players and GMs in as well.

2: The game materials. If you’re here to play X, play X. Look back at what excited you about it, and your players as well. And look at what you don’t like and want to change too. (Not applicable to homebrew settings and systems, of course. There, take advantage of the blank slate.)

3: Appropriate media. Soak it up. Reread the books. Watch relevant and relevant-ish movies and TV - the dark alleys and criminal conspiracies in Person Of Interest have informed my current Vampire game a lot. Listen to mood music even if you don’t use it at the table. Search for websites and forums and art. Absorb it to the point you can take a plot from somewhere else and rework it for your setting as second nature.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Dangerous Places

Interesting Places - initially for Night’s Black Agents but good for spies in general, or any globetrotting action-adventure game.

#RPGaDay 25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic


25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

Listing these because they made the games involved stand out, and their effects can be seen in later games. (I already mentioned the use of Jenga in Dread but it hasn’t affected later games substantially.)

Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP): Karma. Want to succeed at something but think the dice will be against you? Spend Karma. If you succeed anyway, lose a token amount. If you fail, spend enough after the fact to bump up to success. Never pin all your ideas on a single roll and mess up again. Beautiful.

Ghostbusters: Dice pools. Grab a bunch of a common die type and roll them. The better you are, the more dice you have. Wild swingy results get evened out.

Adventure!: Dramatic Editing. Taking out-of-game bennies like Karma a big step further, to give the players a graded level of control over the narrative around their characters. The founding of great game-specific examples like Drama Points in Buffy and Flashbacks in Leverage.

Doctor Who (Vortex): Initiative based on action. Talking always goes first, then running, then doing anything else except fighting, then fighting.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Paris 1924 Olympics

I mentioned the 125th birthday of Duke Kahanamoku over on ye Whoblog, but wanted to note here that he took a swimming silver at the Paris Olympics in 1924 after previous gold medals, losing out to Johnny Weissmuller, aka Tarzan. This is also where Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams raced, inspiring Chariots Of Fire, And a few months earlier was the first Winter Olympics.

1924 is, of course, the kickoff year for Adventure! It sounds like some of our heroes should be in attendance.

How alien are your aliens?

An forum thread on the psychology of non-human characters, No Humans In Funny Suits points out some good and not-so-good examples across gaming and related media.

Of course, ultimately all such characters will be played by humans... but it’s good to set out and think through some parameters for consistent characterisation.

Then again that’s true of human-type characters as well.

Uh, anyway, I had a point, can anyone see where I dropped it?

#RPGaDay 24: Favourite House Rule


24: Favourite House Rule

I updated Adventure! for present-day superspies by adding Computers to the skill list. I don’t really think of it as a house rule, though, as I started a series with it rather than coming to it after a few sessions. Likewise I’m pretty happy with my hack of D6 Star Wars from adding all the dice together to Shadowrun / Storyteller style counting success levels. It’s just that little bit faster, and makes partial successes more obvious. But again, I said that at the outset. At the moment I’m running V20 with the Humanity system from VTR Second Edition.

For a rule that came up directly during the game, I still have a soft spot for The Sign Of The Moose.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

#RPGaDay 23: Perfect Game For You


23: Perfect Game For You

Pretty much Buffy really. Duh. Although I’d probably do something with the Life Points being so grainy.

The perfect game would of course have to come with keen players.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

There's a storm coming...

Shawn Gaston looks at a storm and sees a fantasy world map.

#RPGaDay 22: Perfect Gaming Environment


22: Perfect Gaming Environment

Quiet. Comfortable seating. Access to snacks. Somewhere to spread out bits of paper. Wi-fi, which I can carry in my pocket if I have to. My needs aren’t terribly complicated. No need for space for miniatures or maps or anything like that, just some room for character sheets and handouts, which can be where the players are sitting. Maybe playing music.

That said, burritos are a plus.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Person Of Interest S3 ends...


So this is year-old news for those reading this outside the UK, but anyway. Person Of Interest has really ramped up what was initially presented as and could have been just backstory to explain the case of the week into a war between A.I. gods through human proxies. And the good guy just lost.

I’m very excited to see S4 when it finally reaches screens here (resisting the temptation to watch it RIGHT NOW). The possibilities showing now have been implicit in the setting since the get-go, but it’s still a pretty radical change in tone and format.

Could you get away with it in an RPG? Maybe... You’d have to lay down the possibilities in advance to avoid accusations of a bait and switch. Everything escalates reasonably, but players invested in the case of the week setup, or the crime war or other storylines, might not be happy with the new focus.