Thursday, 30 July 2015

See Jane Play!

From this year’s UK Games Expo, Paco Jaen had Cat Tobin organise a panel - she chose representation as her topic, and got Monica Valentinelli and Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart to talk about it. The video is now up here.

On the Path ahead

The Onyx Path 2015-16 brochure is now up for free download, with first word on books for The World Of Darkness, Vampire: The Requiem, fiction for Vampire: The Masquerade, a guide to Rich Bastards for Mage 20, and first news of Deviant: The ???. (I kinda hope it keeps the ??? subtitle...)

And a Pugmire promotional booklet too.

Spaceships in trouble

And as I consider the next game, I seem to be thinking about spaceships a lot. Spaceships in trouble.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Thoughts on a second game for this year

Leaning towards an existing setting, which may or may not have an official game attached.

Since V20 is centred on a small location, going big. Travelling.

Something relatively low-prep.

Probably episodic rather than heavily serialised. More action.

Not horror. Fantasy, SF, spies?

Depends who’s around and what they’re doing, of course.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

What to do, what to do, what to do...

Still not sure what to run next academic year, other than continuing V20. At the “too many options” stage. Haven’t heard what anyone else is planning. Would of course like to play some time as well.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Doing something else during an apocalypse

The Resident Evil films started in 2002 with a very loose adaptation of the original game, and since then the series has come back every couple years, surprisingly heavily serialised as it bounces between genres, cheerfully lifting and discarding bits and pieces from various games while an unstoppable original character stomps through it slaughtering everything in her path. It’s... quite odd.

But anyway, after the first film the zombies are pretty much an occasional nuisance, so the characters get on with fighting among themselves, teaming up with different groups, coming back from the dead and trying to stop an A.I.

Ever done something like this, throwing in what might normally be a campaign premise in its own right as an added complication?

All things considered, I'd rather be heading for Gen Con.

In the meantime, here is just one of the Wrecking Crew games:

For our test recording we will be recording an NWoD Mortal one shot. This game is a sci-fi mirror using the NWoD (non-God Machine) rule set. The story is called 'Singularity' and will focus on themes of transhumanism and body horror. Here is the hook for the game:

Transmitted: UNFM Command, Belt Sector HQ
Destination: Commanding Officer, UNSS Roanoke
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 2042 09:19:05 EGMT
Author: Captain Andries Brink
Ref: Possible Homicide
+++++BEGIN MESSAGE+++++ 
To the commanding officer of the UNFM patrol frigate Roanoke,
Approximately twelve hours ago Belt Sector HQ received a request for assistance from Ivan Volkov, Security Chief of the Cheiron Group space station Psychopomp. The dead body of one Dr. Cassandra Russell, Station Director, was found within her private laboratory. Station Security processed the crime scene, but only transmitted their initial findings (report attached). Psychopomp Security has failed to submit any further data, and attempts to contact the station have not received any response. 
You are ordered to rendezvous with the transport vessel Clear Horizon to take on two representatives from the Cheiron Group as advisors. You will then proceed to space station Psychopomp and assess the situation, as well as investigate the possible homicide of Dr. Cassandra Russell.
Good hunting,
Captain Andries Brink, Commanding Officer, Belt Sector HQ
 +++++END MESSAGE+++++

What's Up, Doc?

Happy 75th birthday Bugs Bunny!

And happy birthday to my sister-in-law too.

Hmm... quite a koinkidink.

Why am I mentioning this here? Without TOON I might have fled RPGs after MERP never to return...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Leverage: The Tabletop Job

Having finally gotten a hardback copy of Leverage, and being one disc away from the end of the show (awww), seems like a good time to think about running it. It’s more mechanically hefty than I generally go for, but the heft supports the style of play - Flashback activation, complications paying off.

My natural inclination after doing it straight is an urban fantasy version with crooks battling vampire gangsters. I’ve done games without the option to drop in monsters, but only for select audiences and there’s usually been something crazy in the premise, like superspies.

Jamie of TWH fame mentioned wanting Shadowrun with a different system in a recent RPGnet thread, and that’s certainly something it could do, short circuiting the frequent issue of spending more than half a session planning a break-in. (Idly thinking where I could get cyberpunky Tolkien races to do a fake credit sequence...)

Or Mission: Impossible. Or...

See also Sabotage for a practical example, complete with series creator John Rogers talking about the Actual Play. (Of course I’m jealous!)

Christmas In July

Bargains, bargains and bargains at DriveThruRPG.

(looks at Leverage Companion paperbacks... looks thoughtful...)

Reaper Bones III

The Reaper Bones III Kickstarter ends this evening, having raised over two million dollars for the production of more plastic miniatures. I’ve bought some Bones in the past, notably from their Chronoscope range of anything and everything rather than their main fantasy line, and the quality is very nice and the price a lot better than metals. Just about everything come on sale in their regular catalogue in time, so there are bits and pieces I’ll be tempted to pick up even though I use miniatures purely ornamentally.

The Middle Age Of Heroes

As part of the new Secret Wars reality fracture crossover, the X-Men get old. Cyclops’s optic blasts go the way of everyone’s eyesight. Wolverine trends towards Old Man Logan (another alternate take getting another airing). Comic Book Aging is a common complaint, so seeing it done away with is always interesting.

This goes to other fantastic styles as well - Conan was still beheading people in his seventies, following Beowulf’s example, as commented on by Cohen in Discworld. James Bond has regenerated almost as often as the Doctor. And vampire stories are at least partially about the desire to never grow old.

Friday, 24 July 2015

A title sequence for someone else

The Chronicles Of Cidri, for Tim Knight of HeroPress fame.

Please note that I do not intend to make a habit of this. :)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Destiny merchandising spreads to the physical world

A high-end 12” figure of the first of the character classes for Destiny, coming soon from 3A. I expect the other classes will soon follow, then the major aliens, then perhaps weapon and armour packs, then maybe some specific NPCs.

And then I wouldn’t be surprised to see some smaller scales, like the 5” scale Halo figures from McFarlane, complete with swappable gear packs. And hopefully miniatures, and tabletop games, and other things we have for Halo...

In the meantime, what might you use for a Destiny RPG? Maybe Trinity tech, Adventure! toughness and 3:16 mass of kills?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The raid on Innsmouth was just the beginning

Via Mark: The Litany Of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys pictures a world where the government reacted to Cthulhu worship rather more thoroughly. Maybe too thoroughly. Maybe not...

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Got some gangsters? Share!

I didn’t start the “It’s My Birthday, Give Me X” threads on RPGnet but I certainly helped popularise them, so I post on most of them if I can. I’m currently the only respondent to thealmightyrob’s request for gangsters. Come on, folks, let’s make this a thing!

Edit: A few more there now, and another of mine, which lead to my learning about the first ever car chase. Which is hilarious.

And a new birthday request from DeathbyDoughnut, for steampunk magitech.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Kros: Hallowed Ground

A Kickstarter signal boost for Kros: Hallowed Ground, a graphic novel by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake (Grimjack, The Spirit) about a one-man war against vampires in the shadow of the battle of Gettysburg.

Road Wars

Star Fury was taken. It’s funny, though I don’t feel this mashup would entirely work tonally...

But if you’ve ever wanted shots of a squad of TIE Fighters swooping through a sandstorm you’re in luck!

(And if that seems like an obscure want, the GMing section in the first edition WEG Star Wars book suggested something similar.)

Giving Furiosa a lightsaber also helps demonstrate how good (and desperate) Mad Max’s evasive unarmed defence is. Something to keep in mind next time someone comes after your character with one.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

You are our last hope. No, seriously.

The Flock looks like an interesting background and gimmick for what is essentially multiplayer online reverse tig. But the background and gimmick get my interest... a world overrun by formerly-human monsters and one character suddenly becoming more-or-less human again. And the absolutely finite number of lives on both sides could make for an interesting game aspect, maybe for a narrative boardgame?

Friday, 17 July 2015

Miniaturisation and expanding it (sorry)

Marvel’s Ant-Man is out in cinemas. So inevitably I’m thinking about miniaturisation.

I’ve talked about miniaturisation before, here and here. It remains a fun gimmick for an adventure, or as here for a character.

In Ant-Man it’s sold as stealth technology, but the real danger of it goes beyond just people becoming the size of ants and all the chaos they could cause - it could change the world on a level like splitting the atom, making this a threat worth telling a story about alongside the fun of falling through cracks in floorboards and getting into epic battles on top of Thomas The Tank Engine train sets.

In the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it probably won’t become that important because its potential effect would raise its overall Weird Level too much, but if it wasn’t part of a larger (sorry again) setting it could define one of its own.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


Killjoys is a new SF series created by Michelle Lovretta, of Lost Girl, and looks even more like 15-cert Firefly than her previous show looks like 15-cert Buffy. Which is not a knock, coming from me. (Also I’m not jealous at all. Shut up.)

Having spotted her creator credit, I also started looking for Lost Girl parallels... like the hero being a tall dark badass who has a mysterious past, mostly wears dark practical clothes but sometimes rocks a slinky dress, has issues with authority, is specifically unaligned in a brewing political conflict, has a mouthy thief for a sidekick and a potential interest in a hunky ex-soldier, hangs out in a bar where they play folk music...

It’s also Strontium Dog, in that it’s about bounty hunters IN SPAAAAACE who are on the fringes of society and regarded with suspicion.

It looks to be a fine and game-friendly setup. Will see what more episodes bring.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Wanna be in Star Trek? Got ten bucks for charity?

After the Star Wars Force For Change campaign, and more, the stars of Star Trek Beyond introduce their own Omaze campaign, Boldly Go.

And the video gives you a really nice view of the Enterprise bridge.

Also, Simon Pegg calls Chris Pine Thundernuts. I’m not sure how to feel about this.

How to run convention games

Matthew McFarland discusses con artistry on video.

RPG Travellers (no, not that RPG Traveller... well partially)

Travel in RPGs, when to feature it and when not, by Siskoid.

Great advice can arrive in strange ways

This post comes in a thread about some Werewolf: The Forsaken characters killing a kid and the ST making it a hero from a cartoon...
Good job putting the horror into personal horror, too. I'm of the opinion there should be no "generic victims" in the World of Darkness. Everyone the PCs kill deserves a name, or at the very least something memorable, whether it's a photo of a loved one or an intriguing tattoo or a letter from their parole officer or a shopping bag full of cheap plastic toys - something to make it clear to the PCs (if they bother to check) that they had a life and a story and it's now been cut short.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Storytelling and the meaning of life

According to Joss Whedon.

Speaking about his new “Victorian female Batman” comic Twist (more here) he also discussed heroism, diversity and representation, and the importance of story.

My idea is that stories that we then hear and see and internalize - and wear hats from and come to conventions about - We all come here to celebrate only exactly that: storytelling, and the shared experience of what that gives us.”

Saturday, 11 July 2015

"Star Wars is an important part of everyone's history."

Comic-Con behind-the-scenes reel.

Getting a bit emotional.

Also, the TIE Fighter with the red accent will be the first vehicle for the new series in the 6" Black Series. And when they announced that at Comic-Con, they had the audience make the engine roar as they swung it overhead.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Star Wars naming

The stories behind the names of the Star Wars: Rebels heroes.

Thanks to Tim Knight for the link.

I often get stuck on a good name for a character, particularly when I can sneak in some extra meaning and subtext.

I have at times fallen back on randomly generating letters to get a Star Wars name started. The trick there is knowing when to stop - two syllables is a good bet.

My last Star Wars character was Vannik Dahl, Rebel smuggler bodyguard. I don’t know where I got Vannik from - sounds a bit like Manic, which he wasn’t really. Dahl came from John Dahl, writer and director of The Last Seduction, because of the hint of a Noir connection for a story about smuggling and underworld deals gone bad, rather than Roald Dahl.

(It has also previously been suggested that Sabine is reference to Satine from Clone Wars, another major Mandalorian, who was in turn named after Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! because they’re both romantic foils for Euan McGregor...)

Darth Vader possibly coming from Invader (as well as the German for Father) led to Darth Sidious, which led to a big run of jokes about Darth Competent, Darth Conceivable and Darth Ept and so on.

Of course, George Lucas has said that the real trick is to read a name out loud and see if it sounds okay.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Atari Force!

News via Morgan Davie: the clearly busy Dynamite Comics partner with Atari to adapt classic games and reprint Atari Force.

Now... Atari Force is a weird one. A DC-produced five-issue series from 1982 with a team of science heroes having adventures somewhat connected to Atari games of the era, with some of the best creators at DC working on it. It then came back as a big action-adventure space opera comic from DC in 1984, which got a big push from the company (like the first three interior pages of their sampler magazine for the year where the likes of Amethyst, Star Trek and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing only got the regular two), ran for twenty issues, and due to rights issues for its in-name-only licence was never seen again... UNTIL NOW.

Happy birthday Rose Bailey!

And also, as a rather mad interactive Google Doodle shows, Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Ultraman.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

What do characters do?

Boosting this post by Matt McFarland on what different RPGs offer the players by default.

John Carter, three years on

John Carter (Of Mars) was on TV here this evening, and perhaps coincidentally io9 has a feature of concept art and animation tests for an earlier attempt to adapt the stories to film. Contains more floating islands and even less clothing.

The film itself remains more fun than its disastrous reception indicates, although it still has the problem of being the story Dune deconstructed and Star Wars reconstructed in the decades it took to be adapted.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Sometimes the edition wars fight themselves.

Age Of Sigmar, the new entry-level skirmish game which is apparently the basis for Warhammer Fantasy Battle 9th Edition previews today and...

Well, I like to keep this blog positive, so I will say that a rules-light entry-level wargame is a nice idea and releasing the rulebook and army lists online for free is a very nice move.

And apparently the strained attempts at comedy like the requirement for a player to have a moustache to use one of a certain unit’s special abilities (that’s great for women or children playing...) or the requirement to insult the other player for another (no chance of asshole player actions there...) are just jokes for the backwards-compatible rules for your old miniatures, and there isn’t anything like that for the nice new miniatures GW want you to buy. So that’s okay then, isn’t it?

Is it?

(Update - a tournament has since added comedy rules for current armies. FUUUU)

The USA as a setting

Happy Independence Day to America-connected readers!

It occurs to me that I’ve written articles about using a lot of real-world locations as game settings here and on the Who blog, including Canada, Russia, Scotland and particularly my home town, but not one for the USA. I suppose this is because it’s the default setting for so much real-world-based media, including gaming. I’ve set plenty of games in the USA for no particular reason, where I would set a game in somewhere like Russia to play up its cultural differences.

So this might be a bit of a funhouse mirror for readers from the US, but here goes...

Being British and geeky, I largely associate the USA with imported geeky things, even having been there several times including a year of my childhood. We share a lot of the international geekosphere, but some things still feel distinctly American.

It’s familiar enough that everyone has loads of source material, from the news to the media to games supplements. (This can give a skewed view of the US, of course, like you’d get of the UK if you only see news stories about the royals and no fiction except our murder mysteries...)

It’s exotic enough to catch some interest at the same time. The USA is where you have cowboys and astronauts, and cowboy astronauts. Cowboys never surpassed Cops And Robbers or War (Probably WWII But Never Specified) at playgrounds, but the Cops And Robbers were pretty heavy on shootouts as well, in a way only The Sweeney ever got to be in UK portrayals while the likes of Starsky And Hutch certainly fit that style. Come to think of it, I had a Starsky And Hutch car but not one for The Sweeney. (Toy merchandising for cop shows is a weird idea in and of itself.) New York is the city of skyscrapers and Spider-Man - superheroes in London always feel a bit odd.

It’s distant enough that I can readily fictionalise it. I can fudge something like the law more readily. My current V20 game is set in the non-specific fictional City, which ended up being in the US because there’s no space for an extra city of eight million people in the UK and I used London last time. Likewise, TWH was set in the UK to differentiate it from Buffy but my last Buffy game went back to a fictional smallish college in the US because I wanted it to feel traditionally Buffyish.

It’s big enough that you can drop cities into it. You can get lost in the country in the UK, but it’s a lot harder to travel for days on end without seeing anyone like you can in the US.

One downside is that its recorded history doesn’t go back as far - the nations from before 1492 have few written histories like we know about Celtic, Roman, Mediaeval and Renaissance Britain, for example.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Poker slang

On the subject of specialised slang - Poker terms from the obvious to the baffling. I could imagine a Leverage crew running with something like this to discuss targets and tricks.

Prison slang

Via Eddy Webb, a look at (but sadly not all of) a modern prison slang dictionary compiled at Bonne Terre, Missouri. So the bit in The Chronicles Of Riddick differentiating Prisoner and Convict as terms of address has a basis in fact, for example. And verbing nouns has happened as well, in the case of Jail as what you do when in jail. Something to add to a crime plot or possible prison-based adventure.

The Strix Demand Tribute

The Strix must be extremely disappointed that this two hundred foot owl statue in New York never went ahead. Although they are doubtless pleased by the owl statuary that was made, complete with eyes that light up at night.

Body swap!

A boost for Crosswind, a new comic written by Gail Simone, after she retweeted me today(!) due to hopping on a hashtag she boosted mocking Donald Trump. (Everyday cyberpunk again...) It’s about a body swap, one of the standard plots for a genre series but here given star treatment, and built to be as awkward as possible for both parties.

Have you ever done one? I have, inevitably in TWH, and it was the involved players’ idea. As above, they worked to make it maximally awkward for their characters and everyone else involved. In rules terms it was fairly straightforward - PCs had the physical stats of the body and the mental stats and skills of the soul. The players suggesting it and doing most of the work avoided the obvious potential issue with a plot like this - a player not wanting to go for it if you dropped it on them without warning.

NPC-to-NPC swaps are easy, and more likely to result in horror than comedy as the change can be a secret and a mystery, but do the players know the NPCs well enough to spot when someone’s acting out of character? An obvious tell of some kind may be required. This is where the whistling in Fallen comes from, for example.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Everyday cyberpunk (again)

You know that bit in SF when soldiers or cops send a self-moving camera in ahead of them to scout ahead before going in and look at the output on a tiny portable screen? Yeah, that’s a thing now. Not flying yet, but give it a year until they make a drone quiet enough.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Diana Jones Award 2015 shortlist

The shortlist for the 2015 Diana Jones Award for excellence across gaming has been announced, containing a Danish-Polish LARP, a book of essays on the history of tabletop RPGs first aired on RPGnet, a sourcebook, a cardgame and an RPG.


Faith Erin Hicks’s Superhero Girl Vs. Canadian-ness is an important point to remember when creating regional superheroes and villains. Also, fun. Happy Canada Day!