Thursday, 30 June 2016

His Scarf Blinded My Camera With Science

If we have to live in a cyberpunk nightmare, we can at least have some of the tech - like clothes and other items that prevent (flash) photography. Not suited to making gangs of cybered-up super-thieves invisible to security feeds, but it’s something...

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Living And The Dead

The Living And The Dead, from creator of Life On Mars Ashley Pharoah and Doctor Who director Alice Troughton, is rural period folk horror. This makes it basically Please Watch This Craig. As such I was probably bound to be easy to get watching... but not completely on side.

I’m not entirely convinced that its apparent monster-of-the-week with arc plot format was the best call, though. That could be sustained across six weeks, but it feels like a serial would be a more natural fit.

(Also, as of the end of the first episode, the audience has seen elements showing that the supernatural is a thing but our heroes are still entirely sceptical. Can that last without the Scully problem setting in? If this is just a one-off series it doesn’t need to, but the MOTW suggest that might not be the idea...)

The horror folk side of folk horror is well used, with a new (to me) version of The Lyke-Wake Dirge as the theme tune and a new She Moved Through The Fair in episode one - even though it’s not about a ghost visiting a loved one...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

More worldbuilding than expected

Independence Day Resurgence is a sequel to the alien invasion trash-classic made and set twenty years later... which runs with Earth being pretty banged up and having access to massive amounts of alien tech for those twenty years. As a result, it looks kind of like Mass Effect with more modern-fighter-shaped spaceships.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Martian - not a solo adventure because communication

The Martian modernises the castaway adventure with mostly real science about how to deal with being stranded on Mars after an exploration mission - and also because communication with the rescue effort is a major factor. It starts out impossible and then improves to very difficult, to about as easy as modern communication with a half-hour lag from Earth to Mars.

Constant communication really changes the “split the party” issue - Leverage talks about this, and Steve D talks about this when he talks about Leverage. Here, getting the connection to work is a plot point - before that it is effectively a solo adventure - and the delay can be a major factor at times once it’s up and running.

Thursday, 23 June 2016


A decision that splits normal political alliances in two, could throw a nation into chaos... all very good sources for drama, if it isn’t actually happening to your country.

A normal political development (election, succession) can change things plenty - a once-in-a-lifetime one can really shake a setting up.

Get out and vote, folks.

One Last Match

SteveD on five things gamers can learn from The Fifth Element. I’ll just plug a couple of specific points, about how easy victories can be fun - and make hard victories stand out - and an idea in the section about running out but not empty:
... it’s good to have crit failures be out of ammo or your weapon breaks. But a better idea even then that is leave them with one bullet or a sword that will break on the NEXT hit.
That? That right there? Brilliant.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Gods Of Sweden

A joke in the thread about Gods Of Egypt has become its own glorious thing, Gods Of Sweden, imagining an equally accurate rendition of Norse myth starring Ice Cube as Thor and Ice-T as Loki...

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Under The Strawberry Moon

Summer solstice. Full moon. First time since 1967. Not as cool a name as Super Blood Moon. You wouldn’t have an apocalypse cult gearing up for a ritual for the Strawberry Moon, would you?

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Game Night Of The Film

There’s a board game night at the Edinburgh International Film Festival tonight, slotted in amongst the DJ nights which have been running all week. This seems slightly odd.

(I don’t know how many of the games will be film-based. I doubt that the really rather out of print Highlander card game will make an appearance, for example.)

Then again, a few months ago we had board game nights fundraising for the Green Party.

Sunday, 19 June 2016


From the dawn of time we came, moving silently down through the centuries. Living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you...

... until now.

Go check out Katanas & Trenchcoats.

And Incarnate.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A new Buffy boardgame

A new Buffy boardgame.

Some of us at TWH once played, I believe, the Prescot Games boardgame. Once. This one sounds a bit more promising.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Do some good today.

“Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Jo Cox MP, 1974-2016.

Jo Cox was my age. She had done good so much in her time, and could have done so much more.

Do some good today.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


A long time ago, we used to be friends...

I’ll have to get Bubblegumshoe (also available just PDF at DriveThruRPG) even though it may not have a high enough Weird Level for me to ever run it.

Grownup Face is a skill.

Carrying on plot threads in a high-risk game

How do you keep a high-fatality RPG going? This thread started with horror, but some fantasy and SF entries have snuck in at the sides. The main tool that I seconded or thirded is organisations that can call new PCs in, with the caveat that it might make the horror of the unknown less unknown and horrible, so maybe make them not entirely reliable...

Monday, 13 June 2016

The future of the World Of Darkness

The Temptation Is Real - Martin Ericsson on White Wolf’s plans for the future of the setting, at the Living Games Conference.

The hint at a change to how and why vampires feed could be very interesting.

And he says nice things about Buffy which always helps get me on-side.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Our Story

A new column on about using history as inspiration.

The short SF film written by a neural network

Someone showed a neural network a mass of SF screenplays, put in a 48 Hour Film project style prompt set, and filmed the result. It’s... interesting...

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” is clearly the network’s favourite phrase. And it’s true, it really doesn’t.

At the awards ceremony the network declared “I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.”

And I particularly like the incredibly lazy use of the optional plot prompt right at the start. So true to so many short film contests...

Ten films Star Trek III isn't

To mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, a funny and sometimes scathing look back at the movies at EW, with the highlight being a look at all the bits of The Search For Spock that don’t really define it. (Part one is a rather lengthy look at Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, which is less fun.)

I flagged this one up because I would watch (or play) the Hell out of the Enterprise heist, or the Enterprise versus Excelsior, or particularly the rally against the fading virtues and complacency of the “next generation” of Starfleet.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Watch House (season three) titles back online

After the YouTube takedown, it returns to illustrate a response to a question about theme tunes for RPGs.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Signature Moves For GMs

What is your signature move? For instance my games tend to feature a mix of NPC authority figures so the PCs can trust some but not all, quick cut scenes, and if I have a cult in my game they’re usually inept and nutty rather than terrifying. And there may be a parallel universe episode at some point.

I ask after watching The Nice Guys, written and directed by Shane Black and full of his signature moves - shabby P.I.s, wiseass daughters, big conspiracies revealed by a single slightly botched murder, homes getting invaded, a pair of bickering minor villains... unusually only one scene is set at Christmas.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

Reviving the neglected tag for Of Gods And Men, the game I wanted to run after seeing Thor and never did...

X- Men: Apocalypse is big, flashy, a bit long, suffers a severe case of poorly defined superpowers and limitations clashing... it has its moments, though.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three

AKA Day of The Shotgun Axe.

The show went pretty much full serial this year, complete with a Big Bad upgrade mid-season (I still think the reveal should have been held off a week or two) and a fun little cliffhanger.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Going Too Weird

I just ran through three seasons of Arrow and one of The Flash in about six weeks, and I think Arrow’s Weird Level rose too quickly in two and a half years, partially to match The Flash. Which considering the newer show quickly develops into a world with super-speed, weather control and time travel in the first episode, with a tease of a giant telepathic gorilla as well, may not have helped the “no-nonsense” street-level vigilante show all that much.

A superhero universe can quickly develop a really high Weird Level, but one that starts with a skilled normal fighting gangsters and goes no weirder than that for a year might not be the best fit. Maybe it should have brought in a couple of weirder villains earlier if expanding to something like The Flash was the plan.

Stephen Amell has mentioned going more grounded in future now there are multiple shows with different tones... while discussing the possibility of a crossover and/or musical. It may be too late...

Also, lots of support teams on earbuds. Pretty common in modern action shows, the Intercom Girlfriend from video games and the like. In games it lets a non-combat PC contribute to fights, and lets everybody talk IC even though their characters aren’t there. (See the third of Five Things Roleplayers Can Learn From Leverage by Steve D.) And private prisons, which get around various practical issues but don’t get questioned very often. And not telling the female romantic lead while spilling to just about everyone else. Which is... odd.

(I was also perplexed that R’as al Ghul was a scruffy Australian and Captain Boomerang was neither of those things, but never mind.)

Anyway, how do you set up a reliable Weird Level? Track it up a bit slower, I think. Introduce some more Weird in that first year - a good call for a superhero-based show anyway, in case you have any plans for weirder stuff later on. A ghost here, a vampire there. And bring in the crazy assassins a bit earlier in particular if they’re going to be that big a deal.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Muhammad Ali

A reminder that confidence and skill really can change the world.

Hexer Dusk

John Ostrander and Jan Duursema reunite for the first time since Star Wars Legacy with a free hand to create a wrecked post-magical-apocalypse space civilisation in the adventures of Hexer Dusk, one of the last magic guardians of the cosmos. Looks like a fun grim an’ gritty ride. I was the three hundredth backer on the Kickstarter.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Opening narrations

After Knight Rider, I looked up other TV opening narrations. It really is among the least accurate. (Although The A-Team never seemed to take payment for their work.)

For example, I have no idea if this show lived up to its opening narration but it’s pretty specific so I would guess it tried...
Lost in the Devil’s Triangle, trapped in a dimension with beings from the future and other worlds, a party of adventurers journey through zones of time back to their own time. Varian, a man from the 23rd century, possessing awesome powers; from 1977; Fred, a young doctor just out of medical school; Scott Jordan, the thirteen-year-old son of a famous scientist; Liana, daughter of an Atlantean father and an extraterrestrial mother; and Jonathan Willaway, a rebel scientist from the 1960s. Together they face the frightening unknown on... The Fantastic Journey.
How would you introduce your series?

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The dark and brooding talking car show

“Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man... who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.”

Even when I was eight, I was always curious about the show Richard Basehart was introducing instead of the show that followed. (Also, I thought it was James Earl Jones, but never mind.)

I’m imagining a disavowed and officially dead secret agent on the run, fighting corruption and conspiracies in places of power, black ops units, that kind of thing. Bourne style amnesia optional. I’d watch it.

Of course, if you add A.I. back in, you get Person Of Interest. :D

The 100 Season 3




Buffy: The High School Years

Alongside the regular-comic-sized new seasons, Dark Horse has just started seventy-something-page basically-an-episode-in-a-book original graphic novels set in the earliest era of classic Buffy with Freaks & Geeks by Faith Erin Hicks and Yishan Li. It’s like coming home.

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is both a Big Ideas SF story and a look at the practicalities of space travel, with astronauts’ routines examined in detail on the way to investigate a mysterious alien artefact. It’s quite a balancing act, which arguably ends once we get to that “ultimate trip” sequence. How do you top discovering the meaning of life? How do you depict it at all? The trip is one answer...

And how do you follow it?

Arthur C. Clarke returned to the setting in later novels (and one film) and provided an origin for the monolith, focusing on the practical issues of humanity moving out into space. Before that, Jack Kirby created another sequel, adapting the film for comics and then carrying on with further stories of monoliths influencing primitive people and super-evolving their descendants in space. They run off in wildly different directions, neither of which feel all that much like the film as a whole. Neither does the film of 2010.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture feels closer, with the chilly tone and the huge effects sequences authored by Douglas Trumbull making it feel like an impression of 2001 with the characters from Star Trek intruding and asking the questions Kubrick never has voiced. What does God need with a monolith? Ahem.

Were I to try following 2001, I would try to mix the two facets in a story of humanity stepping out into space. I’d avoid including a killer A.I. as that seems too close.

And I would definitely, definitely keep the indications of contact with another intelligence mysterious. Glimpses, visions, strange non-communications. Give them a coherent agenda but make sure they never spell it out.

And to bring this back to gaming...

Unbelievably, both 2001 and 2010 had official Star Frontiers adventure books. Apparently 2001 was a replay of the film where the players were expected to play the main characters and stick pretty close to the plot, while 2010 was less reverent. TSR were doing something similar with Indiana Jones around the same time, with players expected to play the stars, but at least there they adapted the comics for adventures as well as just the films.

2000 Posts!

Thank you, thank you, and sorry about the mess.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Party Like It's Post 1999

Prince, artist and occasional superhero, gave voice to pre-millennial jitters and how it wouldn’t really be that big a deal way ahead of the curve in 1999, released in 1982. After all, as he said elsewhere: “I’ve seen the future, and it will be.”

If you had the power to see the future, a successful music career would probably be a much better way to get people to listen to your prophecies than the more traditional methods of shouting on street corners and photocopying pamphlets. Your proclamations can still be mysterious and hard to decipher until after the fact, but at least they’d be catchy!

This could easily spin off into a Man Who Fell To Earth idea, someone who seeks to impart great knowledge but gets caught up in the medium. (A metaphor for the malaise common among stars, of course.)

Likewise, the worlds Prince conjured in his songs, films and other stories could be interesting places to visit.

Modern pulp heroes

To celebrate Ian Watson’s birthday he asks for modern pulp heroes. Go make some!

My example may or may not be a counterpoint to one of my Trinity Continuum Allegiances. Ahem. ARCA is a real thing, by the way. Although probably less prone to fistfights and chases.

Phantom Boy

Phantom Boy is a new animated film by the makers of A Cat In Paris in which only an astral projecting boy can save New York!

This is not a sentence I expected to type today.

It’s lovely, by the way.