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
(Thanks to Matt McFarland for that)

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 ship.


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.