Friday, 29 May 2015

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

I hope everyone enjoyed the weather over the recent bank holiday weekend and half-term. Now that said weather had turned slightly grim, I would like to point you to a Kickstarter project.

Although, it's been years since I first saw The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, I still fondly remember enjoying the film. It's about a group of roleplayers starting a new game with a player new to gaming. The action switches between the group at the table and the group within the fantasy world, one reality influencing the other.

I will be extremely happy having this as a Blu-Ray on my shelf and in case any of you would like to add it to your collection, be sure to back it as it seems it will be out as a limited edition to Kickstarter backers.

Click on the widger to the right or on the link within this post.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Undead relatives

Always embarrassing at Christmas or Birthdays is that long dead old uncle in the corner. A sort of rotting elephant in the room, conversation can be circumspect and frivolous but when its time to pull a cracker with someone and put on the paper hats, certain things just can be ignored.

Its often the case with relatives and loved ones that it is very hard to 'let go' particularly when they are still sort of groaning but its a question of whether or not its always best to face facts. Honesty being the best policy, the most caring thing to do would perhaps be to nudge them in the right direction when all they are doing is shuffling around and gnawing on things. Of course where a prearranged agreement can be made then so much the better; zombie apocalypses tend to bring like minded people together particularly where buddies and bites are concerned but in circumstances where fates are less communal then one can bravely but hopelessly struggle on in a more of a carer's role when in fact its long past time for a friendly staking.
Denial is the key hear I find and the quicker one can accept situations then the better really but once again in the metaphysical worlds of roleplaying the lines can blur a bit. Systems can often define point blank when souls definitively leave the body and also beyond what point resurrection or reincarnation can or cannot occur but to be fair, from a characters perspective the 'rules of the system' are not necessarily experienced or known. Perhaps a zombie is not just for Christmas.
In our last game for example we had to deal with a father and sons who went off into dangerous territory in search of their fortunes and yet returned to their mother somewhat malnourished and with glowing eyes. To be fair in this case it was also self defence as they were about to feast on us but I'm not convinced we necessarily did the right thing as I am not sure actually what their options were.
Still, my character wont lose much sleep over it as he just deals with the world as is - a sort of action figure, but there is perhaps too much shoulder shrugging in the post modern world of undead healthcare management. We might still be at the cultural point of medieval medicine but perhaps in time we can look forward to a renaissance of zombie care and positive undead outcomes.
Remember, just because you are rotting does not mean you are bad person.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

What to do in a pinch

Recently in the 13Age we have found ourselves portalled out of Egypt as you do and into a neighbouring land called Punt. Not so bad as we do in fact have a Puntarian / Punter / Puntish ? trader within the party who has thankfully pointed us in the right direction out of the desert. And going in the right direction in a desert is an extremely important point. Nevertheless on the way to what we were assured was an oasis we had one of 'those' encounters (possibly random - we are not sure yet). I think in desert or rocky environments one should really keep a lookout under small rocks for snakes, spiders and the like as we did come across an issue with a giant scorpion along with a possey of half mummified and somewhat stop motion skeletons.

Now I have dutifully checked on the best advice on scorpion handling from The Scorpion Picture Guide which has recommendations on correct handling but I would hesitate to use the word useful here as it begins..
"Handling your scorpion is not recommended". It goes on "There is the possibility of being stung or grabbed by the scorpions pincers"..
How true.
With this in mind my character did decide to leap onto its back, with the half arsed idea of being too far under the tail for it to be effective. Despite never having had an archaeologist mounting it, I got the impression that actually scorpions have already survived millions of years by being quite adept at fending off both predators as well as dealing with prey. I can happily say I was briefly both on this occasion as with a nimble preening swipe I was precisely pincered for a following sting in the tail, and I don't mean a plot twist. Remarkably I passed my poison resistance to halt oncoming paralysis and unconsciousness but what would the correct course of action be here ?
I did look for inspiration in a couple of Ray Mears extreme survival videos but sadly they appear not to be extreme enough for our dilemma. Perhaps I will drop him a line..

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Pencil is Mightier than the Sword

Krzy has written recently on the peculiar dice stacking habits of Roleplayers. Whilst there has been the occasional article on the natural and supernatural properties of small, pretty, many faceted pieces of plastic its interesting to read the psychological, or should I say occasionally psychopathic, effects of dice management. Nevertheless my aim in this Pulitzer contender is to bring to light that most unconsidered but most essential tool of the trade, namely, the mighty pencil.
For as long as I can remember we have been inundated with the traditional yellow and black striped stalwart Staedler, that I am sure you will all recognise. To give its formal latin classification it is in point and fact a 'Noris Club 118'. Staedtler remains a shining example of what makes up the backbone of the German economic machine, namely a small company gaining global dominance specialising in a narrow range of products. As it happens, the oldest known pencil was retrieved as part of  a carpenters working tools in the 17th Centuary also in Germany so pencillation remains a Tutonic tradition. But for my part and I'd be interested in anyone else's experience, whenever I pull a random fist full of pencils out of my bag, it always seems to have one of these pencils in it.
I am now wondering if indeed there isn't something more ethereal at work; whether Staedlter have done a deal with the underworld, such that, on any given upending of a pencil container, a Staedlter will always manifest the random pictures below, including an accidental snap at work, I can see a hitherto subtle phenomena at work...

My keyboard at work...

GM Bill in his usual animated style and Crish momentarily flummoxed


Warren plotting his next move

What is going on here ? or do these entities just follow roleplayers around.?
Perhaps its time to turn over a new leaf and not be lead astray, to erase our misgivings and draw a line under protracted habits and come out of the shade, lay down a new rule, sharpen up and retract traditions. Honestly, I do birthdays and weddings if anyone is interested.
Its the future soon so perhaps we should be looking at a retractable line along the precision engineering fronts maybe..

Thursday, 7 May 2015

So... who are we betraying, exactly?

In an unexpected turn of events, last session saw our group of thieves in the middle of negotiations with the boss-leader of the Lampblacks.

Wait what? was our general reaction.

We were just offered a job of stealing the treasury of the Red Sashes, another gang vying for control over the area known as Crow's Foot. According to the scenario notes', those two gangs are in open warfare and we're in the middle.

Just when player voices started to be raising over how did any of us got into that situation, GM Jack did the unexpected by announcing a flashback scene where the leader of the Red Sashes offered us the job of stealing the Lampblacks' treasury.

Our band of thieves, going by the name of Junkyard Dawgs, now had to pick sides... and since we had better connections with the Red Sashes who follow a ruthless art collector with an obvious penchant for sharp and pointy things, it was more advantageous for us to go with the latter offer.

Our reasons established, we had to come up with a plan. We opted to split into two groups: one attempting to create a distraction and the other intent on breaking in unseen. A combination of roleplaying and dice rolling occured. The Lampblack's boss, Bazso Baz, started to suspect his old friend of some kind of treachery, Mercer (who came into the meeting prepared for war) was having arguments with the other gang members and our Whisper brought a ghost-in-a-bottle, all too happy to possess some unsuspecting individuals. All while our Hound (me!) and Lurk broke in, avoided a death trap, killed some guards and stole as much as we could carry... to the window, we had a getaway vehicle ready.

I got to insta-kill twice!
I love this game!
I expect to die next session ._.

As this is a yet unreleased Kickstarter game, allow me to say a few words about the system.

It is true what GM Jack said about the system. It alleviates the need to roll dice for the GM.
When approached by a situation that conflicts with a player's intentions, we're all too used to have the GM roll against a player's roll, not so much here. Instead, the GM creates a circular progress bar that is slowly being filled up in accordance to die results. The player rolls a number of dice equal to his stat... and then the GM offers another die for the meager price of defining what bad thing will happen in return. The dice are rolled, you take the highest result from among them and it defines how much progress has been made in the given task.

Does this mean that getting anything done is a simple matter of enough dice rolls?
Of course not!

The game has a system for Stress that works more-or-less like Hit Points...
but I'll get to that in the next post...

Rolling Dice

Just as we were sitting down to enjoy a fine evening of roleplaying, the subject of dice came up. Stories of raiding dice sets in order to acquire the necessary and appropriate amount of dice for that night's game ran rampant... before I had a chance to contribute to the conversatio, the game started...

So I decided I'll put my 2d6 up here instead!

This is how you play Exalted.
In our wonderful hobby of creating interactive stories, it is often customary for us to turn to the fickleness of the Dice Gods to resolve our disputes.

Although among the great variety of games that we were blessed with, there exist diceless games and games using cards in lieu of dice, it is hard to find a roleplayer without dice.

I suppose it's a combination of a wide variety of dice and sheer availability. Whenever I went to DragonMeet in London, I either bought some pretty dice or had dice thrown at me. I especially remember that day when I and my friends were about to leave only to be stopped by a woman asking us to take as many dice as we could carry... fortunately, I had a whole lot of pockets that day.

When I say variety, I don't simply mean a range of colours and sides. Nowadays we have themed dice, with special symbols etched into the sides. There are tiny dice that will fit inside a lighter and bigger ones... metal dice are especially dangerous. I think dice rings are an awesome idea and I am going to need one in my life. It would supplement my dice earrings nicely.

At the table, it was clear to me that we, as gamers, all have our own little quirks when it comes to dice. My main one is that I strongly believe that dice is a plural word and I shan't use it in as singular (it is the One True Way). Another is that I try to build up my dice bag to allow me to play a range of games without the need to look through my collection before each game. That's why I've got so many d10s (Exalted) and one of my d6s is of a different colour (In Nomine).

Exhibit A: Chaos
Exhibit B: Order
The brief discussion we had at the table made me realise that others treat their dice differently. Some even go to such lengths as to melt a die that rolled poorly in front of other dice, in order to prevent them doing the same. I even disagreed with Jules on the probability of dice rolling after I rolled a few for no reason whatsover and managed to get a couple 6's.

A simple bystander just needs to have a look around the table to see how different we are in our treatment of dice. I had mine in front of me in a chaotic mess, ready to be rolled, while some organised them in an orderly line with each side showing the same number. Others still will use them as protection against the wrath of the Dice Gods and their eternal need to see our characters fail despite many accumulated bonuses.

Exhibit C: Wall
I wish I had something witty to say at the end of this piece... but I don't...

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Blight and Shadow ~ Tales from Tuesdays

For those who do not know we have a Tuesday game of D&D5e running from GM Jo. Due to its eternal popularity D&D often forms the backbone of an RPG club and is never far from the table or home session. At the moment the Tuesday game 'Blight and Shadow' has a space in it for any adventurer keen to take up arms.
Latest Game report from the GM:
5e is going strong, two deaths narrowly avoided so far,

First the ranger decided to camp away from everyone else, and as a consequence got rudely awoken by green Dragon  wyrmlings emerging one by one from the earth. Deciding to fight the first one, he found it a tough proposition, and when the second one joined in, he went down and was about to be swarmed under until a dire wolf charged into the melee, seized him and hauled him along the ground then onto its back and ran. The dire wolf turned out to be a wandering druid in wild shape.
Second time, the party took a short cut into the Shadow Plane because they'd decided to rob the law after a bunch of pixies played havoc upon a passing patrol of Purple Dragons. They found themselves in the Shadow version of the Tomb of Chonus and avoided various deadly traps before accidentally dropping a rope bridge on a behir at the bottom of a ravine. Said beast starts climbing out of the ravine, the party warlock casts an illusion of himself running away into a dead end into which the party trapped it. If the beast hadn't failed its saving throw, it could have been a TPK.
They would have been perfectly fine if they'd listened to their guide, not looted the law, and not tried to get a donkey over the bridge...
In other realms our 13Age game has progressed in the sense that we have pursued a highly successful assassination plot upon the Pharaoh of Egypt back through a Babylonian ambassador to what appears to be a group of Demons. We are in the midst of kicking the shit out of them, and I am speaking literally here as they more than resemble  the excramental Golgotha from Dogma. Whatever the reward we are after it better be worth it...

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Ragtag Band of Sociopathic Thieves

Contrary to popular belief, Dungeons and Dragons (along with its derivatives) is not the only game being played at our fine establishment. For those who are tired of sword swinging and magic casting, there are alternatives.

Although my proposal for a Don't Rest Your Head game didn't gain any traction, I'm quite happy to not be the only one who backed Blades in The Dark on Kickstarter.

Last week saw our character creation session. As the game is still unpublished, the available pdfs provide only the barest essentials to play the game... but with most of the setting being up to us means we, as a group, can create the game's environment to suit our needs without any silly game-constraints.

At present, our five characters cover the five available character types. While GM Jack did mention our characters ended up being more sociophatic than he expected, I believe the general consensus was that it fit with a grim world where the Gates of Death were destroyed so ghosts of the recently deceased run rampant... unless you quickly burn the body.

I'd say that the part I found quite interesting about this system is that we also got to create a 'character' sheet for our up and running band of thieves. We've each contributed to creating our gang, either by talking things through, giving suggestions or simply putting dots on the sheet.

And so, not only does our crew consist of a disgraced nobleman and a former academic now following the teachings of the Church of the Flesh but we have our own subordinates and various relations with other gangs in the area. All this while operating from a derelict rail station turned junkyard... it's in bad enough shape that the heaps of garbage create a byzantine maze for those not familiar with it. Which is exactly the way we like it, as it allows us to hide loot more easily.

Surprisingly enough, it's actually a fairly decent place to live in...
maybe that explains why nobody looks for illegal activities there...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Belmont Revolutions

 The Achtung Cthulu has now ended as all Cthulu must. An end of game report from GM Jon:
"The team's mission ended with a trip into the Egyptian under world to face Apophis and recover the second part of the Atlantean artefact.

Unfortunately, the first attempt ended with everyone being eaten by a giant worm/slug/serpent thing... which was ok (sort of) because it was all just a dream (although it did have detrimental effects on their collective sanity).

That meant trying again the following night, this time prepared with a certain level of planning. Effective tactics eventually one the day, and somehow they woke up with a large chunk of crystal and orichalcum.

This ended that part of the adventure and the focus will switch to a different team in a different part of the world sometime this summer. The existing investigators will be retired to a nice farm in the Home Counties where they can while away the winter staring vacantly into space, flinching whenever an earthworm wriggles into view..."

Which means that we now ceremoniously hand over to GM Jack who has created a Blades in the Dark scenario. I have asked after it but in fact I have not heard anything back but this may well be by design. As far as I know the John Harper Kickstarter requires the players to create their own underground, criminal, Mafia style organisation. Players then carve out their roles, ensuring the indispensable skillset of course, and ready themselves to fight, thrive and survive in a haunted city full of other competing gangs.
I'm not aware of anyone at the club having played it before but as the game gets underway I will try and get one of the players to do a long as I don't start waking up to any severed heads, equine or otherwise.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Belmont Reloaded

New games folks. We have had our second teaser for GM Bill's 13th Age and the Great Fall. A 13th Age overlay based on an alternative fantasy history of the Great Bronze Age Collapse. Below is the creation mythology and icon background behind the overlay for those interested in playing.

Before: Formless chaos.
Creation: The gods create themselves, divide living from non living matter, define the elements, shape the world, populate it and give all things their purpose.
1st Age: Gnomes of Sumer develop magic, which spreads quickly to other lands.  Human culture advances while gnolls decline into savagery.  Osiris of the Nile valley becomes the first Emperor, his sister Isis is the first Archmage.
Dark Age: Osiris is murdered by his brother, the Orc Lord Set, leading to civil war and anarchy.  Osiris expels demons from the nearest regions of the underworld and rules there as the Dead King.
2nd Age: Dwarves perfect the art of bronze working and elves develop funerary rites to ensure a safe passage to the afterlife.  Imhotep, the first Master Dwarf, designs pyramids enabling Emperors to control traffic between the lands of the living and the dead.
Dark Age: The Fool, supreme wit of the age, tricks the Empress out of her throne, but his rule is a disaster.  A series of audacious thefts culminate in the loss of the crown itself.  Courtiers plot and generals revolt against the Fool-Emperor, leading to bitter strife and the Empire disintegrates.
3rd Age: The Tyrant Sargon allies with Zahhak the Red dragon and becomes the first Dragon Emperor.  A succession of Tyrants rule a large empire from Akkad, but are unable to conquer Egypt, partly thanks to the protection of the Great Sphinx.
Dark Age: Losing patience with the latest weak Tyrant, Zahhak embarks on a rampage, burning a village every day until he can find no more settlements.  Humans everywhere flee their homes.
4th Age: The Great Sphinx and Ammit the Green make war on the Red, who is defeated and imprisoned beneath the island of Thera.  Ammit is slain in the battle and Osiris grants her the privilege of devouring the hearts of the wicked dead.  She dines well, but her diet of sin gradually poisons the breath of all green dragons.
Dark Age: The Archmage experiments with combining mortal flesh with beasts and primal creatures to create an army of monsters.  He attacks city after city in his quest for power until he is slain by his own creations, who disperse to wreak even worse havoc and destruction.
5th Age: Engineers build strategic forts and roads to hold off the monsters and fight back.  Dwarves become the most powerful group in society and Dwarf Kings rule many lands under the direction of their Emperor.
Dark Age: The dwarves grow ever more greedy, plundering the natural world.  The High Druid summons storms and beasts to fight back.  The Elf Queen seizes her chance to rally the common people against their unpopular rulers and the Empire collapses.
6th Age: The Elf King Minos establishes a maritime empire centred on Crete and gathers the most gifted young men and women to his court.  Minoans trade peacefully with other lands, spreading culture and prosperity.
Dark Age: after centuries stoking his revenge, Zahhak the Red bursts his prison, destroying the entire island and showering the inland sea with molten rock.  Apep the Black attacks the sun and blots out its life-giving light.  The Minoans are destroyed and famine grips every other country.
7th Age: The strongest dragons assert themselves as overlords to their weaker kin, who in turn use lizardmen and kobolds to rule over humans and other races.  The Red and the Black reign as co-Tyrants.  Other chromatic dragons scheme for power at the expense of their metallic brethren.
Dark Age: The Witch Queen assassinates many powerful dragons including Kur the Blue and Python the Black.  Most of the others withdraw into hiding.  But the demons who empower her spells drive her insane before spreading madness across the world.
8th Age: The Great Paladin and the Great Gold Sphinx fight back against the demons, aided by The Inquisitor who roots them from their hiding places.  Many dragons recognise The Great Paladin as Dragon Emperor.
Dark Age: Goblins and bugbears raid the fringes of the weakening Empire, aided by descendants of the aberrations that ended the 4th Age.  Hobgoblin kings claim the title of Tyrant and lead their legions on campaigns seeking to exterminate humankind.  People retreat into fortified cities and the Dead King reluctantly sanctions the animation of skeletal and zombie soldiers for self-defence.
9th Age: The Archmage designs the first practical golems, an improvement on undead troops.  Dragons and sphinxes support human armies.  Human and hobgoblin leaders vie for the title of Tyrant until the Dragon Emperor slays the Goblin King along with every other goblinoid he can find.  The surviving goblins retreat beyond the Empire.
Dark Age: The Archmage and Master Thief attempt to rob goblins of the power of speech.  The ritual backfires, and language is instead split between races, each retaining a small fraction of their original vocabulary.  The Archmage's golems misunderstand his commands and tear down his tower in Babylon.  Later historians speculate this was exactly what the Thief intended.
10th Age: The Fool invents new words and Elves spread them through poetry and song.  Priests of Mesopotamia lead the people to greater piety.  Blessed by the gods, many kingdoms flourish.  No great Emperor arises to unite them, but the Elf King is recognised as the standard bearer for culture and civilisation.
Dark Age: Ravaging bands of monsters grow in strength: orcs, giants, and the remaining goblins.  Striking from the wilderness, they make inroads everywhere and conquer numerous cities.  Some establish themselves in Lower Egypt as the Hyksos.  Wadjet claims the title of the Green and enters the underworld, but Ammit defeats her and eats her heart.
11th Age: The pharaoh defeats and isolates the Hyksos, who submit to his authority after purging their ranks of evil driders and medusae.  His dragons and chariots respond quickly to monstrous incursions, bringing relief to all human lands, earning him pre-eminence and the title of Dragon Emperor.
Dark Age: The Four greatest chromatic dragons (excluding Ammit) form an alliance, The Thalatth, and defeat the Emperor's metallic dragons.  Some rulers try to fight the Four and others to pay them off, with little success.  The Red tyrannises Persia, while the Blue, considered the brains of the group, rules Egypt.  People flee the cities to escape the rapacious monsters.
12th Age: The Elf Queen seduces Ladon the White, splitting the Four.  Human kings reassert their authority.  The Archmage lays down magic wards to detect, repel and weaken the remaining Three and other powerful monsters when they venture into human lands.
Dark Age: The Diabolist fractures the barriers between worlds.  Osiris and his loyal dead attempt to guard the breaches, but many demons manage to enter the mortal realm.  The more subtle devils corrupt officials and incite rebellion, then powerful Lords of Hell invade in force.
13th Age: The Great Sphinx takes up a strategic position before the gateway of the worlds at Giza.  The Alchemist turns the great Sphinx's body to living gold as a stable and incorruptible base for his spiritual fight against the demons.  A New Kingdom rises in Egypt, while the Assyrian crusader dynasty wars against the remaining demon-influenced states.  When in doubt, the Crusader kills them all and lets the gods sort them out.
Now: The Orc Lord sweeps across Greece and murders the Pirate King.  Using his new fleet he invades Asia with armies of Orcs and giants.  Osiris claims his right to rule the living, and dead rise from their graves as his agents.  The Diabolist tempts the desperate with offers too good to be true.  Both the Orc Lord and the Three court the support of the Shaman.  And a mere child inherits the title of Dragon Emperor - life, prosperity and health to him!
In other mists we are considering Blades in the Dark or Strike for the next game following the close of GM Johnathan's Achtung Cthulu. More on this next post.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Great Fall

What do Achaemenid, Afsharid, Akkadian, Aksumite, Almohad, Almoravid, Angevin, Armenian, Ashanti, Austrian, Austro-Hungarian, Aztec, Babylonian, Baekje, Balhae, Belgian Colonial, Benin, Bornu,  of Brazil, Britannic, British, British Raj, Bruneian, First Bulgarian, Second Bulgarian, Buyid, Byzantine, Córdoba, Carthaginian, Chagatai Khanate, Chalukya, Chera, Chola, Danish colonial, Delhi Sultanate, Durrani, Dutch, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Fatimid, Second French, French colonial, Frankish, Gallic, German, Ghana, Ghaznavid, Ghurid, Goguryeo, Goryeo, Gorkha, Göktürk Khaganate, Golden Horde, Greater German Reich, Great Moravian, Great Seljuq, Gupta, Han, Hephthalite, Hittite, Holy Roman, Hotaki, Hoysala, Hunnic, Ilkhanate, Imperial State of Iran, Inca, Italian Colonial, Jin, Kanem, Kara-Khanid Khanate, Khazar Khaganate, Khmer, Khilji, Khwarezmid, Korean, Kushan, Kushite, Latin, Liao, Lodi, Macedonian, Majapahit, Mali, Mamluk, Manchukuo, Maratha, Mauryan, Median, First Mexican, Second Mexican, Micronesian, Ming, Mongol, Mughal, Nanda, Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Nguyễn, Northern Yuan, Omani, Ottoman, Oyo, Pala, Palmyrene, Pandyan, Parthian, Pontic, Portuguese, Ptolemaic, Qin, Qing, Rashidun, Rashtrakuta, Roman, Rouran Khaganate, Romanov, Safavid, Saffarid, Sassanid, Satavahana, Samanid, Scandinavian, Seleucid, Serbian, Shu, Silla, Siam, Sikh, Song, Songhai, Spanish, Srivijaya, Sui, Sunga, Swedish, Tahirid, Tang, Tay Son, Tibetan, Timurid, Tlemcen, Toltec, Tu'i Tonga, Turgesh Khaganate, Umayyad Caliphate, Uyunid, Uyghur Khaganate, Vijayanagara, Wari, Wei, Western Chalukya, Western Roman, Eastern Wu, Western Xia, Xin, Yuan, Zand  and Zulu all have in common ?

They are all Fallen Empires. Shortly GM Bill will be starting his alternative or, who knows, perhaps just lost history of the great Bronze Aga Collapse. Underpinned by the very popular 13th Age system the game charts the fall and descent of circa 1200BC civilisations into darkness.
In his own words:

A 13th Age campaign set in the Middle East circa 1200BC.  As you may recall (if you're old enough) this is the point when Egypt and Assyria started sliding into terminal decline - and every other civilisation in the known world was wiped from the map.  The result was the deepest dark age in history.

But hey, this is fantasy, not history.  The survivors won't have to spend eight gruelling centuries struggling to re-establish peace, roads, literacy and law and order.  The Orc Lord doesn't leave survivors.  And at least those who fall prey to orc brutality are lucky enough to avoid the ancient and refined cruelties of the Three.  Instead they can look forward to serving the Dead King as undead slaves in his war against the living.  Oh, and did I mention the demons?  The Diabolist has managed to bring them back, somehow.

So it's a good thing our defences are in capable hands:
- The Pharaoh of Egypt (life, prosperity and health to him) is Emperor over all human realms, holding everything together and organising the fight back.  He's 16.
- The Archmage is his trusted vizier, serving his master with great wisdom and learning, whenever he takes a break from his unnatural experiments.
- The Master Dwarf is the finest craftsman of Greece - and perhaps the only one, now the Orc Lord has slaughtered every human there.
- The Elf Queen of Sheba is beautiful and deadly and has no inclination to join the losing side.
- The Crusader of Assyria is fierce and ruthless, kind of like the Orc Lord except not an Orc.  So it's a good thing he's here, right?
- The Priestess of Babylon is a very nice person.  Just what we need.
- The Great Sphinx is a stalwart bastion against demonkind.  He hasn't moved since he was turned to gold hundreds of years ago.
- The Prince of Shadows is never seen, but when really important things go missing you can bet he was there.
- The Shaman of Africa is happy for demons and undead to ravage civilised lands and leave the wilderness alone.
- Then there are the PCs.

Looking forward to that one....


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Which spaceship should you fly?

For those who recall partaking of their entertainments from wax cylinders or the very radio waves themselves you may recall a periodical by the name of the Radio Times. It is heartening to realise that in fact the tome has survived into the digital era and sports a rather delightful quiz regarding ones preferred method of space transportation.


I bring this subject up as the usual Dogs of the Vineyard game is on pause for a while which does raise the question of what to play in the interim. By way of whetting the appetite someone may volunteer a space game of course but for many of those that I have played, Star Wars, Spacemaster, Traveller, Gamma World, Jorune and god forbid Paranoia, to name but a few, equipment selection with regard to spaceships is a common dilemma.

A TARDIS certainly appeals as the most fascinating ship but personally I would definitely need something more reliable. The vagaries of time travel and the consequences of accidentally not wiping the dinosaurs out would concern me.


I'd find the Millennium Falcon a handy runabout for the local star cluster but it's hot property and disputed ownership would be a potential issue in a poker game. Conversely running a Constellation class ship would entail an awful lot of red tape and just too many people moaning about this that and the other. I am drawn to the Heart of Gold as a surreal yet highly efficient motoring experience; not exactly an enjoyable ride but if you appreciate a good Salvador Dali then its an opportunity to drift through one of his pictures.

No, I am an explorer in heart in an already well charted world so for me it would be have to be the Discovery One. A small crew to socialise with, a quiet little runner, very clean and only a marginally glitchy computer to play chess.

It would be ok tho as my name isn't Dave.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ye olde casulaty department

Last week saw our first casualty in the Dogs of the Vineyard game. In one sense it is surprising that it took that long but even in less policed frontiers and outback towns people do try and support one another. Given that we are pushing out into bandit territory though it was only a matter of time before one of our Dogs was caught in a small ambush by a seasoned gunfighter. Nevertheless even a shot in the shoulder was a reasonably fortunate outcome at going head to head with guns, however given the attentions of 19th century medical technology the Dog is going to be severely compromised for a few months at the very least.
Having got back to town we decided to let the cat out of the bag and rally a local militia; the gamble being made against routing people in panic. We were not going to be able to hide a gunshot victim anyhow so faith, fortitude and the holy black powder of judgement were called upon. The town came together around us and we rode out in force.
We will see what happens in due course but I'm not expecting an even number of arms to come back.
The Achtung Cthulu continues on in form and it sounds like there are potentially only 3 or 4 weeks left for it to run. I am always somewhat concerned when a GM announces that a Cthulu game is nearing its end but I will take GM Jon on good faith that this is a professional logistical assessment and not the fruition of his evil machinations.
And on another note we also seem to have sprouted a sneaky Dungeons and Dragons game on a Tuesday early evening. There is always a strong undercurrent of D&D interest and its good to see that it can conjure itself into existence when it needs to. Interested players should get themselves onto the forum comms and ask GM Jo to write them into the adventure. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


So the Dogs in the Vineyard game has been progressing at a steady but fairly civilized rate. So far we have had some church business to attend to, some families to split up, some preaching that needed to be heard and some very harsh conversations. But as we have been approaching the outskirts civilisation we are now well and truly in bandit country. To be fair we are trying to get to the bottom of some kidnappings so we are on the lookout for trouble but the issue is that we scouted two riders with someone tied up on the back of a horse.

At first impression we had simply moved the plot along a bit but whether we have worried ourselves into our own little paranoid corner or not is yet to be determined. The point is, how many people are in fact wandering around out there with tied up people on their horses ? - nervously sitting in some scrub, spying on the pair of would be bandits suddenly raised the question of whether in fact this was not a particularly unique occurrence, or in other words were we about to spring on a bounty hunter in the pursuit of court business or worse still a deputised officer who had arrested a wanted criminal. As there were only two of us at the scene, one of us wandered back to get the rest of the group as we wanted better than 50/50 odds at a chance of parley. Then the real fun started, with only one character left watching the suspects, they started breaking camp. Poor James, and gawd bless him as its only the second time at the club, had to make the call and for a moment we were all holding our breaths.

So cut to 1 minute later and on the good side we have two dead bandits. On the bad side we have 10 other bandits closing in who have presumably worked out that the echo's of gunfire fire around the valley is not the result of a casual fishing trip. On the really bad side we have 10 bandits, 2 dead law enforcement officers and a criminal to look after. We shall see what next weeks episode will bring...

On a more upbeat note GM Jon has started mutilating his players. In true literary style I shall immediately copy and paste his game update:

"It occurs to me that the group at large may like to know that the Achtung! Cthulhu game is finally generating casualties... Despite their best (well not really) efforts, Weber has lost an arm (amputated after a serpent-man bite) while Professor Doktor Fischer and Bogdanovich are well on their way to becoming one with the vast unthinking depths of the universe (primarily as a result of overly coveting an ancient Atlantean artefact)..."

Well done Jon! :-)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It is a Sunless Sea

Ordinarily I do not do many game reviews here as it s a log of club comings and goings really; when a game review crops up on this tome it will be because it we ended up playing it or someone has expressed it as being the best things since sliced waybread. Moreover I tend not to appreciate on line games as, for me, they subtract from the imagination for the most part and of course are heavily bounded by their mechanics, though I appreciate that there are roleplaying initiatives in an awful lot of the MMO's despite their genre. I have wiled away many man years I daresay on single player roleplaying and fantasy computer games from Gauntlet to Guild Wars.
But for every rule there is an exception and this is one to make...
Welcome to Sunless Sea..
Before anyone is totally hyped on the idea and forks out £15 on something they are not into, it falls into the formal category of a dungeon crawler or 'Rogue' like game, where a lot of time is spent moving around and staying alive by the skin of your teeth. In the case of Sunless Sea though its the back narrative in all its Victorian steampunk prose that delightfully compliments the nerve wracking exploration of the world and the tense music. I would refer to it as a Cthulu crawler.
On the surface the game mechanics are somewhat baffling and full of curious and confusing descriptors for your ship and crew that steam around in a dark and unforgiving world. But when you start to realise that 'fragments' are experience points 'irons' are strength 'pages' are wisdom etc one can start to get a handle on things. You pilot a steam ship across a subterranean lake discovering islands and communities from the surreal to the downright scary and in a story book way you are then offered various choices which come with various risks, rewards and consequences. Outcomes vary from gaining trust, trading, carrying out missions to being manipulated or outcast. As sanity is a component, knowing too much can also cause problems. But at each stage the rich story is successful in drawing you into an experience rather than a problem solving exercise.
On progressing through the game one makes money, 'echoes', in various ways and can accrue assets that are conceptual and abstract in in nature. For example you can gain one of a  'Move in the Great Game' or 'Memories of a distant Shore' along with the more physically obvious items. These conceptual tokens are to be accepted at face value and are not sub plots, but to be traded or exchanged as is to advance the plot.
As the world unfolds you very gradually gain stats, money and fight larger battles, both mechanically and narratively which, a bit like Minecraft, give you a sense of accomplishment based on considerable effort.
On the down side I would say the world is not that large eventually, although the islands are randomised between games to offer a different experience each time. But to be fair the world is easily large enough, so once the exploration phase is over then survival is still an issue and the plot phase keeps rolling. There is a lot of going back and forth but it is somewhat nail biting as you are often down to your last barrel of oil, ration of food or sliver of hull.
Don't ask what happens when your crew run out of food.
So here are some links to the trailers, purchase at your own risk.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Are you Mad ?

Insanity is a slippery subject. It is often heard between vexing party members in the depths of a planning discourse that one will shout "You must be mad!". Now its reasonable to be prone to a little exaggeration in the heat of an argument and I have heard my fair share of 'crazy' plans but it is never wise to throw caution to the wind in a roleplaying game where medical conditions extend into the supernatural.

Possession has roots in the real world but only as a symptom of delusion, schizophrenia or personality disorder. In an RPG you could argue that exchanging minds entirely is a also a case of possession, though not being nine tenths of the law, would be considered more akin to squatting.
Cthulu is of course a defining RPG in terms of madness management and Mythos exposure can lead to any number of phobias from the lighter end of the scale to wholesale evacuation of any and all faculties. So for those with an interest in the gradual fracturing of a human mind then I suspect most GMs would point you in this direction for a grand tour of the insanities. [Achtung! Cthulu currently running, though not sure of the average sanity rating at the moment..]

I have, before now had the chance to play a psychopath, probably one of my most enjoyable experiences. To be unbound by empathy can really create shocking circumstances but of course being on the one end of the scale gives you the freedom do what you want but the vulnerability of not knowing whether you should be concerned whilst sawing off the limbs of people who are still trying to use them.
Being sensitive to alternative realities can be a problem but often seers and clairvoyants are blessed with enough insight to cope up to the point that they encounter disturbing entities in one of the realms. Whether this characterises madness to is unclear to me; I think not as its a power but is the inability to cope with a supernatural gift actually a mental illness ?
I shall finally touch on Genius. When the cognitive faculties are pushed beyond the norm or augmented with technology do you become an exceptional member of society or are you driven off into the shadows? Either way if you an illness that is being celebrated or an infection that is being quarantined, it may be a case of Hero or Villain.
"Protect and Serve" or  "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow".


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mass destruction

Its one thing to lose a character but entirely another to lose a whole army. I don't mean as in "I put it down somewhere and cant find it" I mean the sort of entrenched fight to the death, the last order, the pre posthumous promotion to Field Marshal.
To be fair these are the trials of war and often or not a commanding general is left with no option but to defend with his honour after the bullets run out. Nevertheless spare a thought for the following chap.

34-YEAR-OLD Norman Steele has been left traumatised after his army of space marines was wiped out during a tabletop wargame.

Unemployed Steele could only look on in horror as his miniature battalion of spacesuit-clad Imperium troops was pinned against a fortress wall by six-limbed aliens.

He said: “They were using venom cannons and spore mine launchers. Not real weapons obviously, but scale models vividly painted to look very realistic.

“Anyway we were hugely outnumbered and there was nothing I could do. Everywhere you looked space marines were getting wiped out.

“Since the battle I’ve been unable to look at a picture of any futuristic alien or monster without experiencing flashbacks.

“Worse still I cannot go near a table of any kind without hearing the ominous clatter of dice and the gloating voice of a middle-aged man in a Sepultura t-shirt.

“I just want some professional help to get back to being the quiet, shy man who I used to be.”

We do have a Warhammer Fantasy running as  a home game at the moment so should the worst come to the worst I do hope that GM's are forewarned and have counselling to hand for traumatised players.
This Thursday the Dogs in the Vineyard continues with GM Rob. The party have a new town to repress after concluding our last issue by sending the protagonist away for 're-education' and ensuring that he will never see his son again.
GM Jon will continue his Achtung Cthulu and all the slime and monsters that entails. I cant go into further details as your mental health could be seriously compromised.