Sunday, 31 January 2016

Apocalypse World 2

One of the most influential RPGs of the last decade, Apocalypse World is kicking a second edition. Do I love everything about it? No. Do I think Playbooks are nice way to deal with character classes and pregens? Sure.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Wargame design, by the author of Designing Board Wargames

Author and designer Professor George Phillies presents a series of lectures on how (board) wargames work, passing other games including RPGs as they come up, notably talking about adventures in part two.

Thanks to VictorVonDoom for the link.

The voices of Batman and the Joker are back!

A new Justice League animated series, eleven-minute episodes focusing on action, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as is only right.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The first event for the new Vampire: The Masquerade

End Of The Line is a Nordic-style LARP, with a new light system and no required familiarty with the World Of Darkness, part of a convention in Helsinki:
You know you have made it if you are on the guest list for the 'The Line'. Elusive. Illegal. The club is the place to be in the Helsinki nightlife. These are the parties you only hear rumours about. The rich and the poor mix with the criminal and the insane. Here are more drugs, weirder sex, cooler dance moves and better music than most can handle. The club moves from location to location to elude the police. This time it will be held at a closed insane asylum in the centre of the city. 
The Line has two simple rules: If you want to do something, do it! If you hold back, you will not be invited again! So you better make sure you give everything this night.
You know The Line is a dangerous place. It looks like a squat. All guests might not leave the party alive. But that does not matter. The only thing that matters is that you are on the list! You cannot wait. This will be the most exciting night of your life.
Sixty players, twenty playing vampires. Plenty of room for players not familiar with the setting, and also a reason to keep the Masquerade up even in such suroundings.

As the first official event for the new White Wolf, I wonder if it counts as a statement of intent. Vampires and mortal mixing socially in an environment where the vampires can play a bit fast and loose with the Masquerade - a social-focused game not unlike the first edition intro adventure Baptism By Fire. Mark Rein-Hagen wrote about that recently, incidentally: “I figured almost no one would know how to run a non-adventure or non-detective based Chronicle (this is back in 91 remember) unless I explained how to it.”

We’ll see what happens later on, as it’s also a prologue to the event happening at The Grand Masquerade this autumn, the biggest dedicated WoD and Vampire LARP event in the world. This is also mentioned in this interview where Martin and Tobias discuss some of their plans and ideas.

What do you do with "what do you do?"

Justin Achilli on opportunities for action and how to get and gauge responses from players.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Pugmire launches on Kickstarter. Help get it to gamers - and to bookstores!


Arena Rex 35mm gladiator miniatures game. Three to six fighters per side - an army I could actually finish painting! Of course, gladiatorial combat simulation games aren’t new.

As I have mentioned before, heroes forced into the arena to fight and/or die is one of the classic bits of genre fiction. Gladiators are the biggest and flashiest example in our history, up to Spartacus nearly bringing the whole empire down.

It happens to Conan and John Carter, Han Solo and Chewbacca very early in the original Marvel comics and then Luke, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme on screen... It’s a popular side plot for prison adventures too.

RPGs have featured these in adventures, and Eternal Contenders is all about gladiators and their managers - following the boxing-based Contenders, as stories of fighting sports use a lot of the same tropes throughout. There’s a Hillfolk series pitch for it as well.

Ever sent your PCs into the arena? If not, why not? (I never did in TWH because Angel did that one already.)

Captain Eo

Thanks to a rather thorough article in the new issue of Empire that took longer to read than the film did to watch, I was pointed to the chance to see Captain Eo, the collaboration between George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Disney parks and Michael Jackson.

Some observations:

No singing for ten minutes. Then all the singing. The robots turn into musical instruments - which is actually a nice idea for a sci-fi band.

WHOA the Borg are totally out of this. Seriously.

The trench scene is pure look-this-is-a-3D-movie as well as totally Star Wars.

Rick Baker made the butterfly gopher thing. (He had previously worked with Jackson on the Thriller video.) The crew being all aliens and robots except Jackson is pretty cool.

Jupiter Ascending

Last mentioned here about a year ago about the concept art, I finally got around to watching Jupiter Ascending, with managed expectations, and... yeah.

Like The Matrix it has a secret culture running the world we live in, influencing it and its legends, just in this case a beautiful baroque space opera empire instead of creepy spider-y robots.

It also has these villains harvesting people... though unlike The Matrix sequels it remembers to address this at the end. So one point to it there!

Like Neo, and Harry Potter, and Luke Skywalker, and so on, Jupiter finds that her sucky normal life is not the only life she could have - it’s been pointed out that it’s a take on the secret princess narrative in particular because she’s offered wealth and power and parties and a big wedding because of her genetics rather than a battle.

Would have liked more of the undercover cyberpunky types and stealth aliens on Earth because I like that kind of thing.

Would have also liked more of the Space Opera NOW happening around Jupiter because I like that kind of thing too.

Would have really liked it if Jupiter had at some point in that super-cool chase flying around Chicago said to get away from Chicago as lots of the near-miss blaster shots were blowing up buildings and cars and probably killing people. I admit to being much more aware of this since Marvel started making rescuing and defending bystanders such a prominent feature. In this case it would have given her something to do besides hang on. Something she needs a lot more of.

Also, Draconians. And less impressively, gimps.

Finally, a spoiler block. While everything else was either spoiled or predictable, very few reviews mentioned my favourite bit - which feels glaringly out of place in amongst everything else.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

As if by Magic...

$75,000 worth of Magic: The Gathering cards stolen from games store. Proooobably someone who knew what they were going for. Police investigating include a Magic player who is normally assigned to domestic burglary cases.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Walking Dead miniatures game

Coming soon from Mantic via Kickstarter, and based on the comics.

So if you want non-comic-style miniatures of the survivors from the TV series there are... oh, nine or ten companies making them unofficially, not least Zombicide, Hasslefree and Studio.

And Macfarlane Toys making them officially but in a weird two-inch scale in limited playsets. And Gentle Giant in army men scale.

Update: Kickstarter is up, revealing various panicking humans.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Heroines in sensible shoes

A Kickstarter for seven female dungeoneer miniatures in practical clothing. Nice that they exist, sad that they should be newsworthy.

The Eight Faces Of Tutankhuman

“King Tutankhamun: 8 Face Charges in Connection With Restoration of Pharaoh’s Mask, Officials Say”

What’s a Face Charge and why does his mask have eight of them?

... Oh, wait. Never mind.

Besides being a demonstration of how not to use capitalisation in a sentence, it got me thinking about masks having mystical powers. The golden mask of a king gives an aura of command while the mask of an animal grants its perceptions, that kind of thing. A blank mask makes you anonymous beyond simply disguising you, no-one can recognise your voice or gait either. There’s a lot of this in various mystical traditions, but the only time I recall seeing it in gaming was in a Fighting Fantasy book. Hmm. Could be a good hook for a superhero or villain?

For Whovians, see The Six Faces Of Delusion, now most famous as a Doctor Who Magazine quiz joke.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Snow, again

A year on from Snowmageddon, another blizzard is messing up the US east coast. It’s six years since we had the Big Freeze here, and my reaction to snow is still to restock my kitchen.

I’ve discussed weather as a dramatic device and game effect before, and weird weather in particular, and yes, both these articles have the same title. So how about a long period of particularly harsh conditions? Being stuck at the Arctic or Antarctic, or the equator, on Hoth or Tatooine? Developing standard responses to the extremes, but getting in trouble when they fail...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Tenth, er, Ninth Planet

This may be a thing. A whole new planet hiding out at the edge of the solar system.

Pluto being reclassified means we shouldn’t call it Planet X. And that alone is surely reason enough to reclaim Pluto!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Always in motion is the future...

Star Wars Episode VIII aims for Christmas 2017, not May.

Had to go complete the set of viewing options and see The Force Awakens in IMAX to deal. HAD TO.

And meanwhile, a new fan film. Jakku?

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Happy birthday Buffy!

Today is Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s in-character 35th birthday, going by the date most often referenced of the three she has on-screen thanks to I Robot, You Jane messing up some displays.

Celebrate with killer severed arms, strength-sapping poison murder tests, Fyarl demon curses... maybe just a card.

Destroy (preconceived ideas of creators and fans of) SF!

People Of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! - a special issue of Lightspeed magazine, following their Women And Queers Destroy SF series, encouraging inclusion and visibility.

American Horror Story

Since I mentioned American Horror Story while discussing Scream Queens, is this a game with the same group of players and the same system but new settings every year?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Scream Queens end-of-term report

Well, I think the timeline of events in Scream Queens works, but after wondering how the constant tonal shifts would work I’d say they pretty much settled on one for the final episode wrap-up - one that doesn’t work for every character and basically drops a couple of them, but that wasn’t going to be possible anyway.

What to take away - get everybody on the same page for tone, or at least the same book.

(For comparison, American Horror Story: Coven is a fairly consistent comedy-horror-urban-fantasy miniseries from a lot of the same people that also stars Emma Roberts as a self-centred fiend. She’s not as bad in Freak Show.)

One interesting wrinkle in her character is that she’s consistently wildly horrible to just about everyone - except Chad, because she desperately wants his approval. It’s a nice example of a character being two-faced in minor ways, something to consider when coming up with a cast of shifty types like a political game’s local court.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Force Awakens trailer music REALLY works.

Here it is applied to the Masters Of The Universe movie.

Now I want to make one for a game... dunno what game. My next Star Wars, I suppose...


For my 1812th post, music with additional cannons!

Vampire: The Masquerade - Unwanted season two, part two

New players! Gulp.

I really must attempt a summary of the last few sessions, since I also have returning players who were away for half or all of the last term.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Playing and GMing by Skype

I’m currently in a game GMed by a friend mostly via Skype. He played in my last game in the same slot the same way. I’d say remote GMing works a bit better - although he’s also on a bigger screen this time which will help too.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Alan Rickman

“Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”
Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman was very serious about his craft, using his acting and directing to inform and raise awareness as well, but not so about himself.

Like I suspect a lot of us I’ve borrowed ideas from some of his genre roles, mentally casting him as the exasperated villain or the droll observer.

And please watch this tortoise eat a strawberry.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

13 Days

It’s the 13th day of the year. It’s not a Friday so no black cats walking under ladders. Ever created a superstition like that in your settings?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Batman 1966

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Batman, the TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

Responsible for the BIFF! BAM! POW! perception of superheroes that fans resented for decades, it has been looked on more fondly of late, and referenced in later interpretations like The Brave And The Bold and even the super-straight Nolan Batman films.

In adapting Batman to be kid and censor friendly, they kept a lot of the over-the-top villains and some of the style from the post Comics Code era and glossed over what drove him to fight them, so much so that he’s really a different character with some props in common and some of the same rogues’ gallery.

What would a kids’ show version of your setting look like? These days the changes might not be as extreme for relatively family-friendly stories - compare the Star Wars animated series from the 80s and the last decade, for example.

Dungeon Master's Guild

Wizards Of The Coast has made the Forgotten Realms D&D setting available for self-publishing! D&D DMs can publish adventures, monsters and the like, via OneBookshelf, free or for pay receiving 50% of the profits while Wizards and OBS split the other half. Not intended for big publications, just the kind of things a DM might put in a blog.

They also released the Fifth Edition SRD for those wanting to use the OGL.

This is a very interesting development, just like making the Fifth Edition core rules free to play. It’s similar to the Amazon licensed fanfiction idea, but maybe a better fit for use.

Rey arrives in more toy stores, just a bit late

Better late than never... now how about Leia?

Meanwhile, no sign of any official 28mm miniatures from FFG. But completely coincidentally Hasslefree has a young woman in desert gear with a high-tech quarterstaff coming soon, completely coincidentally.

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie

David Bowie released a new album, Blackstar, for his birthday three days ago, a reflection on his life, still playing with genre both musical and narrative - when I heard the first single and watched the video I said that it would be a great episode of Doctor Who, and I was not entirely joking.

He was a trickster. Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke... The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Goblin King - and in gaming he was Boz of Omikron.
As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs on stage and nobody else was doing them. I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself. I continued designing characters with their own complete personalities and environments. I put them into interviews with me! Rather than be me - which must be incredibly boring to anyone - I’d take Ziggy in, or Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke. It was a very strange thing to do.
Musician magazine interview, 1983

And in so doing, he helped make a place for outsiders.

And he was very good at keeping a straight face.

A game featuring Bowie himself might draw from his influence on Doctor Who in particular.

Whenever I think up a dangerous and charming character, they might well have a hint of Bowie.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

S.H.I.E.L.D. is back, and downtime has happened

“Wait... Is this still cagey banter, or are we being honest all of a sudden?”
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Laws Of Nature

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back in the UK, rather later than in the US but at least we avoid the mid-season gap this way. So these spoilers are from back in September for many...

Since we last checked in, Avengers: Age Of Ultron has happened and this apparently hasn’t helped the agency’s reputation. Some months have passed as well, and the setup has been adjusted in a number of ways.

Some more Star Wars advice

Sterling Hershey, writer, game designer - and writer for all three official Star Wars RPG lines - writes about Star Wars and/or gaming just about weekly. For example, he offers commentary on his writing, advice on coming up with adventures, using maps and where to find them, running convention games, opening crawls, and the care and use of superweapons...

Edit: he also contributed d20 and Saga adventures available online from WOTC and still archived in links in this RPGnet thread. Excuse me while I yoink things.

Friday, 8 January 2016

A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies...

Today is the eighth of January, 2016.

Roy Batty’s incept date.

We’re still a good way away from self-aware genetically engineered people - and indeed from off-world colonies, more’s the pity. On the other hand, we still have real owls.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Frontier towns

Jericho takes a piece of Industrial Revolution history and makes a Western in Yorkshire. As Clarke Peters notes, frontier towns are not so different all over.

It’s an interesting historical point, people working at the frontier, a long way from civilisation, often because they have nowhere else to go. Since Clarke Peters is in both, see also the asteroid mining in Outland for a different genre context, a rather involved background for a used-future remake of High Noon.

Need d6 Star Wars stats for Rey and Finn?

Of course you do, as provided by Campbell Award nominated fantasy author Max Gladstone, who also goes over pretty much the entire movie in dice roll terms. Thanks to Chuck Wendig for the link.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Twitter might become a blog. For some reason.

The creatures outside looked from Twitter to blog, and from blog to Twitter, and from Twitter to blog again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Ten thousand? We could almost write our own blog with that!

Yes Rey in Star Wars Monopoly?

There is news.

Depending on scale (and Finn staying in) this might be enough to get me to buy it. And then throw the game away and keep the figures.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

War And Peace

Also starting on Sunday evening, BBC One’s start-of-the-year drama big gun is a new version of War And Peace, adapted by Andrew Davies and starring, oh, everybody really.

The early 19th century is a popular spot for gaming, especially the British Regency era due to the options of Napoleonic action and Austenish drama, but Russia has the advantage of bigger upheavals for those looking for epic scope. War And Peace pretty much defines epic scope, as the title implies and the wordcount demonstrates.

The closest I’ve gotten myself as a quick visit to the Year Without A Summer to drop in on Mary Shelley et al for an episode of The Door In Time, but the opportunity to get involved in huge land and sea battles, meet with royalty and get into all kinds of trouble could certainly be fun.

Adding a fantastic element like Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell, or the odd airship or brooding Promethean, could make it that bit more gamer-friendly, but there’s plenty to do in something like Sharpe already. (And that way lies Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, and no-one wants that.)

There are RPGs, wargames and card games for battlefields and drawing rooms, and some that can cover both. And when in doubt, grab the relevant GURPS book. Which in this case has an extra gazetteer section free online.

Monday, 4 January 2016

No Rey in Star Wars Monopoly

Not cool, Hasbro. Not cool.

We shall believe this when we see it.

(Meanwhile, front and centre in the Disney Infinity box set. Infinity is also the only way to get Sabine from Rebels without her helmet...)

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands

I wonder what led a firm of solicitors to sponsor the new Beowulf TV series. Not seeing a very strong thematic connection there...

Anyway, it looks like it’s done a decent job of hammering the oldest English story into a Who-ish kid-friendly shape while inevitably looking like offcuts from Game Of Thrones.

Not jealous. Nope.

A Star Wars RPG run by Gail Simone. Not jealous. Nope.

(Which led to this artist posting paper miniatures links. Not jealous. Nope.)

A Star Wars RPG with full miniatures terrain tables. Not jealous. Nope.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Hey, I haven't seen it since last year!

I went to see The Force Awakens again, thanks to Sam and Louise for a ticket! This time looking out for small details like...

Friday, 1 January 2016

Are we out of the woods yet?

What is going on in this Taylor Swift video?

It takes metaphors like Out Of The Woods and plays them literally, which is a great hook for a story, especially if it started happening randomly.

Or take what is shown, that a broken heart and teleportation powers don’t mix well.

New Year

2015 has felt like at least a year and a half. I hope 2016 will be like the better bits. Happy new year, all.