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

#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 RPGnet 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.

#RPGaDay 21: Favourite RPG Setting


21: Favourite RPG Setting

As you may have noticed, a lot of my favourites are licensed because I swing pretty visual, so they don’t really count for these purposes. (If they did, the Buffyverse for previously cited can-drop-anything-on-PCs-and-they-can-snark-about-it reasons.) Of those that aren’t, the Trinity Universe (and soon to be the Trinity Continuum) brings a lot of subgenres I like into one coherent setting, and the World Of Darkness families for the variety of terrible things hiding just out of sight.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Player - more details

More details about The Player, the new series from John Rogers. The original trailer didn’t mention who was placing their bets and why. Now we know...

H.P. Lovecraft at 125

It’s the 125th anniversary of the birth of H.P. Lovecraft, accidental forefather of mystery-based RPGs. Profiles discussing his surprisingly enduring legacy really should mention the role Call Of Cthulhu has had in popularising his work since the early 1980s. I can’t be the only person who first heard of his work through the game.

#RPGaDay 20: Favourite Horror RPG


20: Favourite Horror RPG

By amount read, GMed, played, the World Of Darkness games and especially the Vampire family. But horror is only one element of them, often overtaken by character drama, mystery, political machinations and other features. For straight-up horror, best suited to one-shots due to the level of threat involved, it’s hard to beat Dread. Especially if you’re as bad at Jenga as I am.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

#RPGaDay 18: Favourite SF RPG


18: Favourite SF RPG

I kinda have to say Aeon/Trinity here. I am also okay with saying Aeon/Trinity here.

Monday, 17 August 2015

#RPGaDay 17: Favourite Fantasy RPG


17: Favourite Fantasy RPG

The start of a run of questions about favourite RPGs in various genres. Coming soon: SF, Supers and Horror.

Fantasy as it’s generally defined in RPG terms means “dungeon fantasy” - elves and dwarves and swords and spell lists. This is my least favourite of the four. It’s never really spoken to me, and it’s the baseline from which other RPGs move. The most I’ve ever done with it is WFRP, which is at least partially a satire of that subgenre.

But fantasy also has the far broader meaning of anything with a fantastical premise. SF may not be, Horror might be mundane, but supernatural horror, space opera and Supers are definitely fantasy. Buffy - fantasy. Star Wars - fantasy. Doctor Who - massively fantasy (except when Christopher Bidmead was in charge). Let’s say Buffy is also Supers.

So Star Wars. As formative as Lord Of The Rings and a lot easier to imitate the authorial voice of.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Serial Box

Serial Box is an attempt to do something kinda like Shadow Unit, multiple writers collaborating on a fiction series where a short story comes out every week - i.e. like a season of TV. (The fact that Netflix and Amazon mean TV is moving to the all-comes-in-a-collection model is neither here nor there.)

For ease of collaboration and having a big toybox, the launch series is Bookburners, urban fantasy about a cop joining a Vatican secret team fighting black magic.

#RPGaDay 16: Longest Game Session Played


16: Longest Game Session Played

Back in high school we set aside weekends for gaming with as little sleep as possible. I never actually GMed much there, and we bounced around from session to session.

This year we went past that with a week-long retreat in the Highlands. Still, not that much actual gaming, mainly regular-sized sessions.

There’s Propulsion, twenty-four hours of gaming for charity. I’ve never GMed or been in one of the games that tried to do the full twenty-four, though.

So probably the five or six hours it took for the TWH finale. The five or six hours for a Nationals game has a bigger lunch break.

Not counting the hours spent online in chats, because they weren’t sessions per se...

Longest game session played geographically would be the time I ran WFRP from character creation to catching a murderer on the coach coming back from the Nationals...

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

We now live in a world where Felicity Jones, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whittaker and Donnie Yen are the stars of a Star Wars movie.

Bit excited.

#RPGaDay 15: Longest Campaign Played


15: Longest Campaign Played

(looks at blog title)

As for why The Watch House was the longest campaign I ever ran, easily beating the time I ran The Enemy Within in high school as it came out, I discussed why the Buffy The Vampire Slayer setting helped a great deal in last year’s challenge here:
Modern monster-hunting plain-clothes superheroes who make jokes about popular culture as they fight the forces of darkness and rely on book-learning to save the world. Being a bit of a geek is a weapon against evil.  
And it’s a kitchen-sink setting with a very high Weird Level while still being relatable. Buffy had a silent movie and a musical caused by demonic powers. Angel spent most of an episode as a bloody puppet. Just about anything can fit in there with “a wizard did it” as a perfectly viable explanation. This helped make it the longest I’ve ever run a game - almost twice as long as GMing WFRP in high school for a captive audience of fellow pupils as the books came out. And on the flip side, an episode about dealing with a totally normal life event (with a special guest vampire to slay) fits just as well.
And The Watch House in particular succeeded because of the enthusiasm of a number of players, who came early, stayed late, brought adventure hooks and subplots, edited AP transcripts, and so much more.

Friday, 14 August 2015

#RPGaDay 14: Favourite RPG Accessory


14: Favourite RPG Accessory

Boring but sensible answer - tablet computer plus Wifi. I can carry the internet in my bookbag. Hell yes. And on an easily portable device that also carries rulebooks and adventures and the like as PDFs. And shows images. And plays sound.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Dungeons & Dragons Comics Humble Bundle

A Humble Bundle is running for D&D comics until the 26th. The star attraction IMHO is in the pay-what-you-want bottom rung - all three volumes of the series written by Leverage creator John Rogers, which is just the funnest. An example from issue 2 featuring orphan zombies.

Magic Sword!

Via bigsteveuk on RPGnet:

Magic Sword!


#RPGaDay 13: Favourite RPG Podcast


13: Favourite RPG Podcast

Currently GMS I suppose. The White Wolf one overall. Also The Twitching Curtain.

Can’t quite count Night Vale...

We could reasonably expand to webcast and say Titansgrave: The Ashes Of Valkana and The Gentleman Gamer.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

#RPGaDay 12: Favourite RPG Illustration


12: Favourite RPG Illustration

Illustration, not illustrator. Gonna have to take a couple here:

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

100 Bullets

It looks like a film of the Vertigo noir action comic 100 Bullets movie is on the way, via Tom Hardy, after a TV series failed to materialise. It’s an interesting one because the original setup was built for serial storytelling.

The initial premise is this:

A stranger approaches someone who has been wronged badly, with a briefcase containing proof of who is responsible and how to get them, immunity from prosecution, a gun and a hundred bullets. What do they do? What would you do?

Later issues delved into the question of who set this up and why, and I imagine a film might go with that, but that starting point is always thought-provoking.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Robin Williams

#RPGaDay 11: Favourite RPG writer


11: Favourite RPG writer


Okay, now that’s out of my system...

There are lot of writers and designers whose names will make me more likely to pick something up. And I have a lot of friends here whose work I’m obviously biased towards whether I knew them before they started out or not. So I’ll say someone I’ve never met whose work has had a huge impact on me.

Greg Costikyan (TOON, Paranoia, WEG’s Star Wars) got me and many others seeing just how much RPGs could do.

Monday, 10 August 2015

#RPGaDay 10: Favourite RPG publisher


10: Favourite RPG publisher

The one who was in the game this blog was named after. :D

Sunday, 9 August 2015

#RPGaDay 9: Favourite media you wish was an RPG


9: Favourite media you wish was an RPG

On behalf of RPGs in general, I’d like some of the big obvious geeky universes that don’t (currently) have games to get them. The fact that we never got a Harry Potter RPG in its heyday is a real shame as Dave notes although I understand J.K. Rowling’s reasons for not wanting someone else to write sourcebooks and adventures in her world. And the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t licensed (and the comics universe is currently between licences) is also a bummer. There’s been no official Star Trek game since 2005, which is a whole universe ago. Right now, Destiny seems like an obvious choice, as HALO was before it. And it bugs me that we got a game for Dragon Age but not for Mass Effect. And the time WOTC announced a My Little Pony game line as an April Fool’s joke has me picturing all the money sitting on the table as they left.

For me... the EVE Online RPG would have been nice as I was asked to contribute. ;)

And as mentioned before, YA dystopian SF is crying out for a well-backed game. The Hunger Games is the big hit, but The 100 is probably the most readily game-ified.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

#RPGaDay 8: Favourite Appearance Of RPGs In the Media


8: Favourite Appearance Of RPGs In the Media

A moment from Buffy 7.22, Chosen.
Our heroes look at everything that really matters.
Despite the GMing cape.

Second favourite - the shoutouts in Leverage commentary tracks to Savage Worlds and Robin D. Laws.

Third favourite: Underworld. ;)

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Pixar way of gaming?

Another thought from Inside Out: Like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and WALL-E it starts as a workplace comedy for an imaginary job, before taking some characters out of that space on a big journey that will ultimately change the setting substantially. The initial setup could be a series premise in itself, with the journey outside and resulting changes happening several adventures down the line.

The stranger the premise, the more thought would have to be given to the requirements for the job - toys living in secret is relatively easy to work through, but Monsters Inc. gets a huge action scene out of their idea for how monsters get to closets, and Inside Out has a whole lot to connect with thought processes being represented.

See also the more domestic version, as in Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. A Bug’s Life is a classic adventure setup already.

Obviously it also needs some great character design. (Check out Pixar designer Everett Downing’s 365 Supers for superheroes who could easily fill out an animated universe of their own.)

And at least one huge emotional gut-punch.

See also the Pixar 22 rules of storytelling.

I just covered Rule 4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Inside Out: playing (on) our emotions

Inside Out is beautifully done and I only cried twice.

And because I inevitably go this way, I got to thinking about its huge setting inside a little space.

There are already games where you play one character’s emotions and memories, like the indie game Everyone Is John (soon to get a new edition apparently) where the PCs are the warring disassociative identities of one guy all trying to get him to follow their obsessions, and (because gamers) Khaotic, where the PCs are a group of personalities uploaded into a giant monster-hunting cyborg assassin. Neither of them are directly like Inside Out though, as they’re about who controls the body the PCs all inhabit.

Both are mentioned in this RPGnet thread about playing something like 90s sitcom Herman’s Head, the biggest antecedent in US culture (The Numskulls from The Beano not being a big breakout hit, while Inside Out director Pete Docter working on a similar EPCOT ride is a more direct connection).

#RPGaDay 7: Favourite Free RPG


7: Favourite Free RPG

There Is No Spoon. (direct PDF link)

Nothing complicated here... unless you count quickstarts. Okay, fine, counting quickstarts as well.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy (also direct PDF link) because if it was good enough for me, it should be good enough for you!

Thursday, 6 August 2015


This is the 70th anniversary of the first time we used the atomic bomb on people. Three days from now will be the 70th anniversary of the last, at Nagasaki. Its influence is still felt in Japanese culture, from Godzilla to Akira as well as direct references like Grave Of The Fireflies.

How do you reference something so big, directly or indirectly? When is too soon?

#RPGaDay 6: Most Recent RPG Played


6: Most Recent RPG Played

Dungeon World in Dragon Age. Hence the Undertake A Perilous Journey jokes a few weeks ago. Ask me again tomorrow and the answer will be Dragonlance.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

#RPGaDay 5: Most Recent RPG Purchase


5: Most Recent RPG Purchase

Not having been at GenCon, I don’t have a haul to show off. :/ But I did take advantage of DriveThru’s Christmas In July sale to get the two collected Leverage Companions in paperback.

But that was days ago!

Since then I’ve bought and read two Dramasystem series pitches, Campus Desk by John Kovalic for the theme and Hold The Chain because it’s by Matthew McFarland.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

#RPGaDay 4: Most Surprising Game


4: Most Surprising Game

That could mean surprising in a good or bad way. And this year, or in general?

Well folks, this is a blog, let’s do a few.

This year, the most surprising game was D&D 5 for dropping the core rules and classes free-to-play. Brilliant move.

Pleasant surprise - Monster Horrorshow, picked up on a whim from a high street department store bookshelf, one of the best GM advice books ever hidden in apparent gamebook form.

Unpleasant surprise - MERP. It knows what it did.

Monday, 3 August 2015

#RPGaDay3: Favorite New Game of the Last 12 Months


3: Favorite New Game of the Last 12 Months

Demon: The Descent. Because cybernetic spies from Hell.

New to me? Leverage. Because I’d played it, but I’d been holding off reading it until (a) I had a physical copy and (b) I’d watched the whole show.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

#RPGaDay 2: Kickstarted game


2: Kickstarted game most glad you backed.

Probably curse the darkness as it’s the most unusual.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

#RPGaDay 1: Forthcoming Game You're Most Looking Forward To

#RPGaDay is back for #RPGaDay2015 and:

1: Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to

Obvious answer is obvious: The Trinity Continuum, because writing credit. Would probably still be the answer if not. Runners-up: Vampire: The Masquerade 4 and The Fall Of Delta Green because announced in the last twenty-four hours. My fandoms be busy. Prior to that, Cavaliers Of Mars and Chill. Secret extra answer: something new to love as much.

The Fall Of Delta Green

Coming soon from Pelgrane: a Gumshoe rulebook and historical setting for The Fall Of Delta Green.