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...

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.)