Monday, 30 March 2015

Nationals 2015

The beginnings of a post. More will follow.

Winners: Leicester. Who will not be hosting as they hosted last year and De Montfort is also in Leicester... So next year, Manchester. Only one train!

Scores for us: Indie win, Humour third.

My game: Oh, you know this by now.

I’ll detail the sessions in a while. Check back the placeholder posts in the next week or two...

Look at all the stuff for Steve Ironside’s game in the meantime. I shall ask him to explain it...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Young Adult Dystopia

The Dystopian YA SF subgenre has now reached the point of:

(a) glorious parody

I hate to say it, but as the Chosen One, I'd actually think more than two boys would be interested in me.

Dystopian YA Novel

(b) newspaper think pieces on what the trend means

(c) baffling adverts
Welcome to your fascist dystopian young adult future, ruled over by a psychotic clown army whose propaganda dictates your every move, including your choice in fast food breakfast sandwiches. But you're young and attractive (and straight and white), so grab the person of your attraction, break free of the lines for mcmuffins or whatever, and run for your freedom! Blast some Ramones (a song about the Nazis no less!) and run! Escape from marxist clown soldiers, jump over a concrete wall and into a ball pit (!) and find the whole in the wall hiding behind our propaganda posters, and climb through to Taco Bell - which is a magical city in the Czech Republic or something, where a multi ethnic group of hip attractive young people lounge around on the streets and will greet you with some free Taco Bell breakfast taco wraps or whatever.
It's like the ultimate Hunger Games 1984 Muse Video Snowpiercer Ultimate Teen Dystopian Punk Rock Rebellion short film, to convince people that they should spend their money on breakfast burritos instead of breakfast biscuit sandwiches or whatever. It's like a parody commercial that would have been in Robocop, but it's for real.
I am just blown away.
Shawn Gaston, on RPGnet.

The Hunger Games hadn’t reached cinemas by the time The Watch House finished, otherwise I might have done a YA dystopia as the flash-forward to a nightmare future instead of a post-apocalypse Days Of Future Past setup. Maybe someday.

Probably without the guard tower with a slide built in, fun as that looks.

The Inheritance

How would you feel if you inherited a wizard’s house? What if it contained its own war? This is the premise of new webcomic A House Divided.

Inheriting property and the trouble that comes with it is a classic opening for Call Of Cthulhu, not seen much elsewhere in gaming. A PC might inherit her father’s sword or a suspicious map, but rarely a haunted house. That could be the start of a game if everyone moves in...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

And of course the most important part of prepping for the Nationals... deciding on fonts for the series logo.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Anthology Episode Of Your Setting

How would you go about boiling down a much-loved setting into a one-shot, or a movie, or a Twilight Zone episode complete with twist ending?

What is the big plot you’d pull out and adapt? I can kind of answer this one from experience - having stolen the Big Bad plot from The Watch House season four for Nationals one-shots and the like. (It’s the one where they try to resurrect every vampire ever slain in the nearby area, which obviously get increasingly hazardous the longer a series about killing loads of vampires in a particular town goes on.)

And what is the twist ending? I imagine for Buffy it would be that the Vampire Slayer turns out to be a teenage girl. (Battlestar Galactica starts with the premise of a classic Zone twist, by way of an example.)

The other thought this thread gave me was what would an anthology series about your setting be like? A new cast, a new location, even a new time period, but all in the same setting. For Buffy again, we have Tales Of The Slayers and Tales Of The Vampires, collected short comics stories (and text stories) about, well, you can probably guess, throughout history. A one-shot adventure offering a different view of your regular setting could be very interesting.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Preparations for the Nationals

Edit and print character sheets and backgrounds and table tents.

Watch lots of Buffy and Angel, The Avengers, some glee, the pilot of iZombieScott Pilgrim, Empire Records, Josie And The Pussycats, assorted urban fantasy things I haven’t seen yet (The Mortal Instruments... eh, it has its moments, but could have done without the magic self-harm stuff) and get In Your Eyes on DVD, delivered from the US.

Decide on T-shirts for sessions.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Clone Club Game Club

The Godfather and Orphan Black to get card, board and dice games coming soon.

I wonder if the licence extends to RPGs - because a game where every player character is Tatiana Maslany could be fun. :)

Spotting a niche

Harry Connolly created an urban fantasy adventure featuring a hero in her sixties because he couldn’t find anything like it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Star Wars: Aftermath

Aftermath, the first novel in the new Star Wars canon set between Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens is written by Chuck Wendig, who you may know from The World Of Darkness among other places. (I am one degree of separation away from him. Which is quite weird.)

The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos. Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side. And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting....

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The national bird of your setting

A related idea to this:

A question prompted by the campaign for a new UK national bird. Does your setting have a national bird?

As I sit here, over my shoulder is a framed set of stamps, a souvenir from our childhood trip to the US, of every state’s official bird and flower. I can tell just from a glance that the Cardinal is very popular - not the state bird of Arizona, where the football team named after it is currently based, but the bird of Illinois where it started, among seven states. (The less striking Western Meadowlark appears to be the runner-up with six.)

The symbolic motif of a nation, state, corporation, or clan should tell you something about the group in question, even if it tells you it doesn’t matter to those involved as it was chosen by committee or has a meaning lost to history. This could be particularly true in a fantasy setting where animals and birds might have uncanny powers.

The Dire Wolf of House Stark is a real presence in Westeros, a symbol that became physical and important as the story began, Others are less significant - no stag appears to Robert Baratheon to tell him of his kingship, for example. The Flayed Man of House Bolton retains its historical significance (and really should have told the Starks something...) while the Dragon defines House Targaryen.

(See also Game Of Brands for modern corporations, and how some things never change.)

Non-deadly wildlife in fictional settings

A question prompted by the campaign for a new UK national bird. Does your setting have a national bird?

Indeed, does it have any birds or other small animals besides the norm... and monsters?

PCs venturing into the sewers have a good chance of facing giant rats, but if they go on rooftops they tend not to face giant sparrows or pigeons. One is a classic, the other suggests a comedic parody. Is cuteness a factor? People tend not to take scraps of meat to feed the rats in the park...

Speaking of parks, I saw a pied wagtail recently - the size of a sparrow but much less common around here and strikingly odd due to its black and white plumage. A small detail I might sneak into a fantasy setting - all the birds are unfamiliar.

The Small Folk

The Small Folk is a new game from Phil Masters about small magical beings living unnoticed in our homes and gardens.

BTW, he has kindly offered to demo it at Conpulsion.

"We are intelligent, self-reflective tool-using pursuit predators"

Warren Ellis answers those questions about the future, writing, what to show aliens about humanity.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Record Of Lodoss War

Record of Record Of Lodoss War: How a D&D Actual Play became a series of books, comics, animated series and even games.

(The link claim “It’s the closest a DnD session has ever come to becoming real” seems a bit odd, though. Being merchandised is not what most D&D sessions are about.)

And I thought I overdid it with The Watch House at times. :D

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Games for Conpulsion

Because I suppose I should...

Buffy Vs. Blackbeard
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Even for a town on a Hellmouth, pirate attacks are unusual in this day and age.
An exhibition of pirate treasure at Sunnydale’s museum? I’m sure that won’t cause any trouble at all.

The Rig
The World Of Darkness
A mayday call brings a scientific survey ship to an oil platform on a stormy sea. And it seems to be deserted... An adventure for the new edition of The World Of Darkness.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

You sank my Warhammer Fantasy Battleship!

The End Times have apparently dropped on Warhammer Fantasy Battles to clear the way for a whole new cosmology for the next edition, possibly on another planet or drifting in the Void. After Storm Of Chaos, where player victories meant it became a storm in a teacup, this was written, so shall it be.

Nah. Let’s play The Enemy Within or something.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Notes from the Discworld

Coming to Discworld along with gaming, and seeing the influence of one on the other and vice versa, there are of course official games, unofficial games, and plenty of references.

The Luggage started out as a magic item that would obey a certain number of commands and then lock in the last one and never do anything else. It acquired more of a personality as it got into the books, much to the dismay of characters around it.

Ankh-Morpork seems a bit more livable than the average fantasy Bad City, perhaps because we were introduced by a slightly biased resident who knew where the best pub grub was available. The Broken Mended Drum is comparatively welcoming compared to Mos Eisley Cantina or the Vulgar Unicorn.

And Gods that require you to have faith not just for you to use their powers but for their existence...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett

So much universe, and so little time.
Sir Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

As a fan I started pretty early with the push for The Light Fantastic as seen in, among other places, White Dwarf, and stayed.

I had a chance to meet him, get some books signed and ask the occasional question - when asked if he might write something for TV after Neverwhere was announced, he said “I’d rather stick my wossname in a blender” - which I still feel was TV’s loss but having seen how Neverwhere turned out due to various production issues I see his point.

There is still more to read and discover, for a while at least.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Buffy is eighteen

I know Buffy was eighteen in the film, and turned eighteen in season three, but Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a TV show and life-defining work first aired eighteen years ago.

Gotta go watch some.

Do you wanna build an Ice Dragon?

Yes you do. The World Ice Art Championships are a showcase for some amazing sculptural effects, the medium used adding to their strangeness. I used these as monsters in Doctor Who a good few years before the living ice sculpture monster in The Snowmen, for example.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Leaping Between Worlds

I don’t know what’s going on in Tomorrowland as of this trailer but I’m certainly intrigued. Visitable parallel world? I presume it’s a “real” place (maybe the pin shows a holographic image of it) so the jeopardy can be real.

Quite a few games have multiple interconnected settings, going right back to the planes in D&D. A few, mostly urban or portal fantasy, have the “real world” Earth and elsewhere as the only or a major fantasy element. An SF version is unusual.

The ease of moving from one setting to another, and what effect they have on each other, will also change how such a setting works. When you go to Narnia you’re in for an adventure, while stepping sideways in Werewolf: The Apocalypse is just as likely to be used as a bonus to sneaking in somewhere.

The Trolltooth Wars graphic novel

A comics adaptation of the Fighting Fantasy novel - not interactive, in case you were wondering.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

I may be getting a Special Thanks in a free RPG soonish. Which is nice.

The stage version of your game

Just linked to The Hammer Trinity by Ken Hite, a classic fantasy story on stage, one part of a trilogy a year for three years.

Unlimited budgets are a feature of RPGs, so would it work on bare stage?

Dungeons & Dragons Live On Stage happens here and there at comedy festivals, but it aims for jokes more than narrative heft. I’ve sometimes wondered how getting the best actors in, say, a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP together on stage to improvise might work.

IWD 2015

Happy International Women’s Day. Make some noise for your female heroes, real and roleplayed!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Firefly Online

Firefly Online nears launch, with the original cast doing voice work (along with Wil Wheaton and Courtenay Taylors as the male and female PCs) and we have a fair amount of early-ish screenshots and concept art at Keep Flying.

Not entirely sold on the character concept art, though, as it seems to run with the steampunk influence more than the fairly plain duds of Mal, Zoe and Book, the scruffy modern look of Jayne, Kaylee and Wash or the multicultural elegance of Inara and more shabbily River. Maybe I’m being grumpy because steampunk, but aside from the female Jayne type on the left here just about everyone looks fancy-collared, frock-coated, kind of... Simon.

Still, right shiny boats.

A forgotten hero flies again

Who is Hop Harrigan and how did America’s Ace of the Airways fare in a comic-book film serial?

And what could we do with him now? Aside from use the comic visuals for Adventure! characters?

Compare Spy Smasher. I want to play that.

A single figure for your game

This selection of vintage video game custom figures based on a handful of pixels reminded me of previous post like this one regarding toys and iconic representations of characters.

(Of course if this were a real line it would hit one of the classic blunders - just making one side, the heroes with no baddies to fight. Sure, Pitfall Harry can swing over pits in your garden and fight plastic alligators, but what about Short-Order Sam?)

Miniatures are the classic format in gaming for obvious reasons, but easily customised toys like Lego lend themselves to this, hence the D&D Kre-O sets, and my current Wednesday evening game has been immortalised in Playmobil.

(That said, I actually worked out how much ordering each individual bit to make an ideal Milli from TWH from a Lego individual bits site, and it came to more than I spent on the base for the 6” custom figure. Apparently pink hair is expensive.)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Plain-clothes SF espionage superheroes

The style of genre series Harve Bennett helped to found, action-adventure shows where a hero with a superheroic gimmick fights crime or becomes a secret agent, is easy to represent in a lot of RPGs but I’ve never seen a game quite like it - superspies, urban fantasy and superheroes are all close, but all go a bit bigger and weirder in their own ways. Budget not being an issue tends to mean bigger gimmicks on all sides.

Hmm. I could do this with the modern setting for the new Trinity...

Harve Bennett

Less than a week after Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek film producer Harve Bennett has died. He developed and produced The Wrath Of Khan and produced the next three films in the series, after producing The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and The Gemini Man on TV. The Bionic series were early favourites of mine, plain-clothes SF superheroes in an espionage setting.

Red Sonja in banded mail

Armoured Red Sonja is in no mood for your shenanigans. From this series of women SF/F artists redesigning women SF/F characters and/or their outfits based on their role in the stories.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Happy World Book Day. Give a book a home.

Werewolf: The Forsaken Second Edition

The Wolf Must Hunt.

I only know first edition in passing, and have never played it, so I will come to this with relatively few preconceptions.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Monday, 2 March 2015

Random jumbled thoughts for GMing next year

With Conpulsion looming and the Nationals a week before that, I have three weeks of regular GMing on Sunday before that gap, then Easter, terms, that kind of thing. I have enough keen and non-studenty people that V20 can continue, possibly over the summer and to a second year, but the Buffy game has not picked up enough steam. So while I could happily take the afternoon off, my restless GMing mind turns to a possible game.

Probably going for a different genre -

SF maybe, Aeon if available, or something like Star Trek without the baggage a la Distant Stars.

Or fantasy, likely of the intrigue and violence rather than the adventure variety.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The GURPS Cyberpunk Raid

25 years ago today, the Secret Service raided the offices of Steve Jackson Games due to a claim that GURPS Cyberpunk was a how-to guide for real-life hacking. This lead to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as well as quite a story, and the label proudly displayed on the cover of the Cyberpunk book.

Dark Eras approach...

The Kickstarter has ended, the votes are in. Feeling quite chuffed about Year Without A Summer for Promethean becoming a thing, although I haven’t actually had a chance to play or run the game, just read it and some of the line. My other suggestion of the Blitz for Innocents might well be easier for me to do, and of the other runners up I’ve actively considered some of the Vampire suggestions before. I was already looking forward to the book, and that bit more now of course.