Wednesday, 27 August 2014

All Change.

Well, last weeks Ice and Fire saw slightly less people die from stab in the back syndrome and we left our characters in the after tournament ball, waltzing and plotting away for their next instalment whenever that will turn out to be. GM Bill brought the proceedings to a graceful end on this chapter of House Bequis and we managed to sell the remainder of our horses too! I think we were supposed to add another duck to our homestead base or perhaps another dry stone wall by way of experience. I had thought, when I started playing the Ice and Fire, that it would be an overly administrative affair and full of arguments given the plotty nature of the series and not much action, but it was quite the opposite. All testament to a good GM of course but its been an excellent mix of action on the ground and drama behind the scenes. And I shall miss it for now but it will be back no doubt.

In all the recent talk of the new D&D5E, Player Handbooks are starting to teleport into the hands of club members and people are understandably excited. GM Warren will take up the magic helm and will begin preparation for a 5E this week for a kick off next week. Here is a snippet in his very own words:
"The game will be set in the Forgotten Realms (for those that are familiar with it) and the area will be the Sword Coast (again for those familiar with the area).

The rules itself encourage background and I will at least want some sort of personal goal for each character which i would like to fit into whatever I run. Obviously details we can discuss

GM Jack will also start a 13th Age following his taster game a few weeks ago which I really quite enjoyed actually, so there is something for the those who wish to experience something outside the D&D juggernaut. Really not sure which I will prefer.. choices.. choices. From GM Jack:

"For people who don't know the system, One unique things are one thing about your character that is unique, nobody else in the world has that. Uniques can be used to establish setting details or plot points/leads. Backgrounds are the skill system of this game, every character has 8 background points (without feats) that can be put into any background (max of 5pts). Backgrounds are important as when chars make skill/background rolls the roll is 1d20 + level + applicable attribute (Str, Dex etc) + relevant background. Backgrounds can be anything there is not a list of them like there is of skills, they also do not have to match to the classes either, a wizard could have a background of Cat-Thief (Thief known only as...) or Gladiator (Champ of Axis tournements) just as much as a Rogue or Fighter can. 
Incremental advances are basically letting you get parts of your next level early, can be a feat, hit points, the ability to use another magic item, another power or spell, skills (+1 to all skill checks).
Icon relationships; At lv 1 all characters have 3 icon relationship points, the number of points you spend on a relationship is a measure of its overall usefullness since the relationship mechanic lets you roll 1d6 per point invested in a relationship when you are trying to leverage your connection to the icon, 5s and 6s on the rolls net you things. A relationship can be positive, conflicted and hostile. 
Icons; The 13 great legendary figures of the world, the movers and shakers, they are all/ have powerful factions and often enlist various adventurers for various tasks and quests."

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Dungeons and Flagons.

Advertising break this week.

I can heartily recommend The Brighton Beer Dispensary at  38 Dean Street Brighton where I enjoyed a particularly magnificent Pulled Pork Bap for the princely sum of only six pounds. This may seem a somewhat disconnected story for a role playing blog but in the long tradition of plot bending ... here it comes ... on Tuesdays they have a 'Dungeons and Flagons' evening, which I actually think is just board games, although if any locals reading this are at a loose end on a Tuesday then perhaps they can report back.

Apparently they are artisans of real ale and ciders; I can avidly testify to both from an amateur palette. I expect some further feedback on this also, although I appreciate this may be of a more elusive nature.
Oh, and certainly worth mentioning that today is the formal release of WotC's 5E Dungeons and Dragons player's handbook. My God, has it really been 40 years....and they still haven't got the rules right. I hear there's a Warlock now.
For posterity, here is the future from 2012 by the WotC management and D&D designers:
 The Future of D&D
Ask The Dungeon Master  

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dice Shaming.

In the last Ice and Fire we tried, in vein, to make it through the House last man standing event - we would have had a chance except Horse/Lance charges were allowed. Whilst this is in fact an inevitably mutually assured destruction strategy our section opponents decided to opt for it forcing us to do the same.

Now the amusing thing about this is that we had to hire some NPCs to help make up the numbers and after the initial charge into each other it was only the NPCs that remained sat smugly on their horses. To be fair we did manage to insult our opposing team and long standing House adversaries, which was our main aim, but it does bring up the issue of how we all deal with epic dice failure. Too often I feel its just passed off to fate or shrugged off as destiny; players too often resign themselves to a despondent 'It was meant to be'.

Well it appears that there is another way. Why should we have to take such appalling performance from little pieces of plastic ? Why should we sit there and have our egos betrayed by the tools we so lovingly care for, sometimes for decades. No. We should take a stand; don't get down, get angry and get even. Out the treachery for what it is and shame the little bastards for all to see - record it for posterity and remind them whenever you can of their failure!


Monday, 4 August 2014

Sending dead bodies through the post.

Last week we had a break from the Runequest as it was GM Rob's anniversary - well done sir; 4 years and they're still talking to each other as far as I know. This gave me a chance to dive back into GM Bill's Game of Thrones and as it happens, pick up my old character.
Seemed like the usual backstabbery is very much alive, if you will excuse the oxymoron, and it seems that someone is doing a tidying up job on the party. One of our witnesses in our recent trial was found drowned giving us another murder mystery as we don't feel he was a keen swimmer.
First things first, as we did sort of know the chap, our dear leader had to write a sober and conciliatory letter to his Next of Kin. This was of course dispatched with the body itself which led us to the particularly important issue of how best to transport dead bodies given the medieval technology of the time.
I recall plenty of situations when we had to get rid of dead bodies of course - easier when magicks are involved provided you don't forget about the one you had in your bag of holding - no one is short of creativity here, but when it comes to transporting them then that's a whole other barrel of worms.
We opted eventually to have it couriered back by horse aka Peasant Force but given the few days in transit there would probably be issues at the receiving end. What if the customer wasn't there to take delivery ? Well one would presume that it would be held at the local distribution warehouse for 30 days and then returned to us if no one claimed it. Not really a situation we wanted to find ourselves in really so we ticked the option to leave it with a neighbour if there was no reply at the delivery address. Basically out of sight, out of mind. The details of all this have left me wondering though and its a loose end, and loose ends are not a good on a party's equipment list in Ice and Fire - we don't want additional problems of people coming back from the grave in any sense least of all in an administrative one. As always we shall see.
On a brighter note however we did come third in the InterHouse Horse race after an exceptional performance by our Ranger - I think we would have done even better if we hadn't spent a few weeks selling our competitors our own finest stock Dorninsh horses. Oh well.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

All Hail Central Computer.

There was a brief reminiscence, at least for me, last week during a brief discussion of the RPG Paranoia.
I remember the first time I played. It was a one off game and no one was any wiser regarding this game than any other, although the GM was behaving in a bit of an odd way. Our mission was simply to guard a tank bot and ensure that it was protected from communists for the duration of our shift. Simple enough, a job for the boys.
However the penny started to drop when the bot decided it was very bored and began various self tests culminating in its deploying several dozen sheepish proximity mines that wandered around aimlessly by themselves.
Having spent 20 minutes just trying to stay alive, it became apparent that this was simply not a plausible strategy. After the first grenade went off in someone's pocket, replacement clones were rushed into the scenario like chicken wings at lunchtime. It was immense fun and I'm happy to say we learnt absolutely nothing.
Here are a few comments from club comms for anyone curious about the game.
All comments are treasonous and have been emailed to Central Computer.
Remember: happiness is mandatory.

Never run it but I've played it, it's an old classic by West End Games. I think Mongoose are still doing Paranoia since WEG vanished but WEG had a few great games under its belt.
 It's good for short adventures and one-offs and its slapstick comedy is good for more laid-back sessions.
being a mutant always appeals, though in my case it's hardly 'roleplay'.:)
With the right GM, it's a lot of fun.
(I have very clear memories of having to stand in a briefing room because the seats were the wrong colour and making use of a dog vendor near the escalators - "dogs must be carried").
Yes, I have been reading about it and sounds fun. Anyway, it's a suggestion. The good thing is it does not have to last for many sessions.
Read about someone who got a bowl of M&M's to the table and zapped anyone who ate one above their colour clearance.
Its genius. Excellent for a one session filler.
Think 1984 crossed with the marx brothers.
Grenades with a throw distance of 20 feet and an explosion radius of 50 feet.
All hail central computer!
I have been reading Paranoia supplements for years and always wanted to play!
The latest edition of the game I have (Paranoia XP), offers three different modes of play, ranging from the notorious "zap" style where everyone dies before they even get to the briefing room, through to the more longterm "straight" mode which is supposed to play more like Orwell's 1984 than Looney Toons; so it is possible to find the right balance for different players.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The other way.

Well, it appears that we went up when we should have gone down.
Still, we have a new hostage to rescue and a different crew of bandits to hack and slay. I never quite know how much wiggle room a Knight has in negotiations but I decided that 'none at all' was close to the mark and we seem to be most of the way trough our 'dialogue' with just a few scars so far.
At the end of the day everyone deserves a second chance, chaos or not, but if they are determined not to do exactly what I say then they have to be cut up into little pieces and fed to the rats. Just an opinion.
I have also heard that the Ice and Fire Game is approaching its conclusion and it would appear that the characters still have all their collective heads attached to their respective bodies after a life or death trial. As proud and relieved as they all seemed after walking out of their last game I would always advise caution in medieval intrigues. Just saying.
The use of technology in RPGs also continues to interest me - often its a race between the pressing of an button and the rolling of the die. There is a charm both in the materials and a lot left tot he imagination when using the native resources but that's what they said about stone tablets I suppose. I'm a traditionalist myself but Chris, our resident gadget guru, is pictured here with his more up to date tablet.
Obviously when he feels he has mastered the basics he will turn it over and use the correct side.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Last week saw us proceed deeper into trouble in search of a missing village shaman. The cave complex we are in seems to have given way to architecture; apparently an ancient tower now embedded into a mountain. Normally at this point its a matter of either the left hand rule or the right hand rule, someone expendable on point and look behind you every 3.4 minutes. Given that, traditionally, towers follow an up/down sort of direction, we spent some time looking for the staircase of course. It seems however that traditional tower traversal here is in fact done by drinking from a magical fountain and then disappearing. Well, at least we left the game with the last of us having just dematerialised - it is a slight concern naturally that we may have inadvertently finished the game early but we maintain a high degree of confidence in our unshakable belief that we are not all suddenly dead. Our confidence clearly stems from the clues below, etched into the tower walls:
Now we are also of the presumption that our GM can in fact read and write perfectly well and hasn't just scrawled something akin to severe dyslexia that he thinks is perfectly legible. No, I am going with the cryptic clue interpretation as there is something in the name of the RPG that makes me think these aren't just the scribblings of a madman...

I can also assure everyone that GM Rob's attention to detail is quite authentic as he is pictured here with a particularly sharp pencil.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Broo Beer

Somewhat of a tradition for anyone on the roleplaying scene are the necessary supplies for surviving the game itself. I have been in many discussions regarding the optimum configuration of rations that a character should have but what of the players? Is there a market for Paladin Popcorn, Ranger Rolls or Cleric Crisps ? Either way, more market research needs to be done.
Our Runequest has started in style with us on the track of marauders who have recently departed a small burning village with most of its population; its a good way to get the moral lines drawn early and assess the characters abilities. Seems we are all on side at present but it may depend on how much the slaves are worth...
Here is our hand model Chris stylishly demonstrating the usefulness of his new dice rolling app; in this picture he has just rolled on the region of 2000 that crashed his phone for a while. I think we can agree on exactly how useful this will turn out to be.
The report on the Ice and Fire game from GM Bill read one word: 'Torture'. Think I'll fill in the details after I've had my Kender Kit Kat.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Game of Thrones Season 2 and ducks.

As I happens I've have only watched the first and second season and to be honest whilst I will watch the other seasons at some point I am inevitably losing sympathy with all of the main characters and clans. They all seem to be either stupid, greedy, petulant, sadistic, juvenile or short. To be fair I wouldn't class short as a character flaw but its an irritating reason to sympathise with someone though I do understand the risks of inbreeding.

Nevertheless the Season two I am most excited about is in fact our own. The Song of Ice and Fire restarts with our own House Bequis fighting and clawing for their rightful place in the World. I don't recall a motto or coat of arms although I'm sure its been discussed; I would vote for "Backstabbing for Honour". There may be better ones.
House Bequis also gets development points for its Homestead by way of experience although its always difficult to decide between a new hedge or pond. If I recall I think we have a pond, with ducks.
Which, in my very clever journalistic style, leads me to the second announcement that we begin a new campaign in Glorantha. For everyone wanting to get into a new game at the start, now is the moment. Welcome to...

GM  Rob has the following prĂ©cis
It'll use a pre-written adventure with a pre-genned group set around the city of Pravis. The players characters will mostly be people from the Rubble, the ruins of the ancient city that surrounds the modern city and contains the various non-human races such as the elves or broo that shelter around the city. The party consists of 4 humans, 1 elf (who are *very* different from Tolkienesque elves, being living trees more akin to the Sylvari in Guild Wars 2) and 1 broo (a reformed member of a race of goat-like creatures twisted by a trinity of dark, chaotic gods into violent raiders and monsters).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Frothing Dwarves are best avoided

The second chapter of the great Warhammer Saga is drawing to a close; whilst our demonic dagger is down its definitly not yet defeated. Whilst we are loking forward to a jolly epilogue where we slap each other on the back and pose for a group photo, there is a little more to be done. Having dug out the last adversary she narrowly missed the full force of a beserk Dwarf and managed to slip away under her fate point. I suspect we may see more of her in the next chapter. Neverthless, one exorcism ceremony in a graveyard and then its home for tea. We shall see I daresay.

If there are people out there thinking about coming back to the club on a more regular basis then now is a good time as the Song of Ice and Fire will restart and also, depending on numbers another game will begin -Ive offered an episodic Stargate if people cant commit to a regular slot or I have a Middle Earth adventure if there are enough regular people. Other GMs may also have something they would like to run so watch this space for a decision soon.

I have a long history with the Middle Earth as it was really reading Lord of the Rings that kept me out of trouble as a teenager so the RPG was an instant fix for me. I later got into the more administrative Rolemster, it's bigger brother, but somehow managed to absorb it all. My preference these days for a LotR is to use the core book and some of the Rolemaster books as options - the Arms Lore and Spell Lore and some of the RMC character classes. A pure LotR can be a little dry I find but additional options can make it much more enjoyable without cannabalising in the original legacy too much. I wonder if JRRT would have had time to write it if he had got into roleplaying first...


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Music to get massacared by

Warren was good enough to run a one off DnD Next by way of a filler game last Thursday. I'm not familiar with the system though I am guessing that its designed to be a more accessible version of the D&D lineage. I only remember playing the original D&D and then Ad&D 2nd ed which seemed to complement each other very well as entry level and complex respectively. The evolution beyond 2nd ed drifted out of my perception for years until the D&DN game last week.
As I understand it the sequence of the D&D games is listed at the end of this post. I'm sure someone will correct me if its wrong. Don't blame me, I just plagiarised it from another post.
Nevertheless most of the session was spent rolling up the characters, which, whilst a bit formidable for a one off, is a game in itself and always a good way to get a an intro to a new system. Much of it seemed familiar and the new character sheets are covered with icons in an mostly successful attempt to stop you from writing the wrong thing in the wrong box. Once you know what to look up where, the personalities start to come through. I like the new Warforged race; a 'species' of sentient golems if you will - mass manufacturing fallout from the last wars - think medieval Terminator.. "Eyel be backe".
Still, our little session took place in the bustling market square of Balders Gate no less. We only got a few rounds in before we had to stop but it was in the middle of a indiscriminate attack that had erupted whilst we were calmly browsing the wares of presumably highly reputable merchants. For some reason I forget it did get us thinking about the best music to get massacred by. "Don't stab me now" by Queen got wide appeal but I've always liked "Underneath the Archers" by Flanagan and Allen.
Here is a picture of Frasier rolling up his DnDN character. Whilst it may look like a genius at work he has in fact completely lost the plot here and just colouring in the sheet, I also think he is thinking of a duck for some reason - perhaps a lost cry for an old Runequest character...
D&D Lineage
OD&D - The original game had only three classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic User). Cleric spells up to 5th level, Magic user spells up to 6th level. Every attack except for certain monster abilities did 1d6 damage if it hit. There wasn't a lot of difference between characters in terms of combat capabilities. Characteristics didn't have many modifiers.
OD&D plus Greyhawk Supplement - The Greyhawk supplement transformed OD&D into a form of older edition D&D that is recognizable by most gamers today. Characteristics have more modifiers and exceptional strength was introduced. Variable damage dice for different weapons and creatures was introduced. The number of spell levels increased.
Holmes Edition, B/X D&D, Mentzer D&D - Similar to OD&D plus Greyhawk including selected elements from other supplements, with the rules rewritten for clarity and organization. Playing a Race meant playing a class. For example a Dwarf used only the Dwarf Class. Both B/X and Mentzer were divided in distinct books that focused on a specific range of levels. Later the Mentzer version was combined into the Rules Compendium. The biggest difference between these rules and AD&D was found in higher level play. Mentzer D&D had specific rules for running domain, mass combat, and even becoming a immortal i.e. god.
AD&D 1st Edition - OD&D plus Supplements plus Strategic Review articles are combined, rewritten, and organized into a three book set. One of the reason behind this edition was to standardize how D&D was played to make running tournaments easier. The most popular version of older edition D&D. Bonuses for characteristics roughly go up to +4 and are capped at 18 except for exceptional strength.
A lot of extra details are added in Gygax's distinctive writing style. Some section are poorly designed or understood like the unarmed combat rules, initiative, psionics, human dual classing, etc. While other are widely adopted, classes, races, spells, magic items, etc. Characters select a race and a class. Non-human race can multi class which involves splitting experience between multiple classes. Non-humans were generally limited to a max level (often low).
AD&D 1st Edition plus Unearthed Arcana - This version shifted the power level of the game upwards by allowing increased level limits for non-human, new classes that were slightly more powerful, and weapon specialization for fighters. Later AD&D hardback books (the two Survival books) expanded the use of non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system.
AD&D 2nd Edition - Still basically AD&D 1st Edition but the rules have been reorganized and rewritten for clarity. Some content like half-orc, demons, and assassins were removed or changed due to media pressure. Character customization was expanded by using non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system and by allowing characters to take kits that confer various benefits. Combat has been redesigned to overcome the issues with initiative and unarmed combat that were part of the previous edition of AD&D.
Because of the success of Dragonlance, much of AD&D 2nd Edition run was focused on customizing the rules for specific settings or themes. TSR released a lot of different settings like Dark Sun, Birthright, and others.
AD&D 2nd Edition Skills and Powers - Player's Option: Skill and Powers introduced several rule systems that allowed extensive customization of a character.
D&D 3rd Edition - The first edition created by Wizards of the Coast, 3rd Edition took the idea of Skill and Powers and developed a cleaner system for customizing characters by designing the classes so a level of one class can stack on top of another class. A single level chart was introduced and a each level a character could take a new class or add another level of a class they already had.
In addition feats were added to allow character to further customize their abilities. A true skill system was introduced and integrated into the game. The underlying d20 system worked by rolling equal too or higher than a target number and adding various bonus. This was used across the game in a standard way. Problems developed at higher levels as the number of options increased to the point where players had a tough time resolving their actions.
In addition, when various supplements were combined, characters could be built that were considerably more powerful than other combinations. This version was also noted for releasing the d20 system under the Open Game License, which ignited a vigorous third party market.
D&D 3.5 Edition - This edition featured only small changes to the core game (and was mostly-but-not-entirely compatible with books written for 3rd Edition), but had its own extensive line of supplements which magnified the role of feats, prestige classes, and multiclassing in character customization.
This version of D&D is still the baseline for many D20 games still in print and active development, notably the Pathfinder game by Paizo.
D&D 4th Edition - This edition is a completely new game with only a few game mechanics carried over from the 3rd Edition. It has a simple set of core rules and defines all character and monster abilities as exceptions which are described in standard terms. Higher level combat has been simplified, and class has been designed to have specific roles in combat. Every classes has a diverse set of combat options to use. The use of a battlegrid and miniatures is part of the core rules. Classes and monster generally have a high fantasy flavor. There are multiple ways to heal centered on a new mechanic called healing surges. Combat takes noticeably longer than any prior edition except perhaps for high level 3rd edition combat. While not present at the game's launch, this edition is noted for popular use of on-line computer tools, particularly an online character builder that integrates content from all the supplements. Wizards of the Coast originally intended to create a "virtual tabletop" as well, but the project was never completed.
D&D Essentials - This was an alternative set of core books for 4th Edition, with simplified classes intended for first-time players. Essentials was designed to be cross-compatible with 4th Edition, with different versions of the classes usable side-by-side.
D&D Next - Current Version

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Antiques Roadshow

I remember watching antiques road show on and off for my entire life. There is always the moment someone realises that they have a national treasure that they have been using as a tea cosy for generations and of course the adamant collector of the full star trek set of chess pieces, crestfallen when he realises they actually shipped several million of them worldwide.

I can't however remember any particular episode where a presenter became possessed by a demon inhabiting a given article and tried to eat any of the general public. At least not on camera. This is of some solace to us as a party as we have only apparently two thirds of a demon left in a dagger we are trying to disenchant. I must admit to attempting an administrative solution to our quandary by suggesting that the Warhammer system does indeed round down on occasion and that, applying the principal, we could simply round down the demon to zero and defeat the incumbent evil using no more than basic mathematics. My plan did not gain traction.

So, we are currently in a graveyard doing a sort of ceremonial rehearsal, as you do, current problem being that several ghosts and demons inhabiting the facility do not know a practice run when they see one.

Here is a picture of Warren and Jon with things completely under control.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Splitting the party in style

A bit like a moth drawn to a candle flame or perhaps  much more akin to the compulsion to lean over a cliff or the edge of a high building, we seem to be drawn inexorably to the time honoured punchline below. Ive been roleplaying for nearly three decades now and I am still mystified as to why this keeps happening; its a bit like groundhog day - perhaps I needed to be nicer to that elf I met earlier....

I do like the Warhammer FRP system of rolling one for the initiative for the entire battle but knwowing your place in the order of events is a matter of life and death. Still, thats my excuse. Anyone who wants to add a caption, you are very welcome. Several come to mind.

Nevertheless despite rushing to the aid of his colleagues our stricken hero arrives to find out that they had in fact made other plans. Oh dear, well, perhaps he'll get lucky next round.

I was going to put a link to the Warhammer FRP but I couldn't find it. My honourable colleagues remind me of its lineage:

WFRP was originally a GW product. They then licensed the first edition to Hogshead Publishing. When Hogshead closed down, the license went to Green Ronin, who did the 2nd edition, which I believe Jules is using. The current edition is 3rd, which is a completely different system, using buckets of dice and published in a very expensive (but gorgeous) format by Fantasy Flight. I believe Paco has quite a lot of this version. If you're looking for 2e logos and artwork, you'll probably need to look at fan sites.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Jacked In

A big thanks to Jack for standing in at the last minute as GM last Thursday and running 13th Age.
Also a hearty welcome to Joel and Matt, though I could have got both of those names wrong. Nevertheless what's more important is that despite wild boars, a drunk priest and serious health and safety dungeon issues, correct administration won the day.


By the powers vested in me by the Kelvin the Great and with authority from the wise and mystical sprits of the Belmont I hereby resurrect, summon and command this blog....


Friday, 28 December 2012

Thieving: 75%

As of 2013, I'm going to be transferring my gaming posts over to my other blog. I'm sure I had a good reason to be running two blogs at some point but I've long forgotten what it was, so I'm going to keep everything in one place from January. Until then, I'll post in both places, but if you want to carry on following my somewhat infrequent posting, then please bookmark or follow or whatever the term is these days my other blog, Aiee! Run From Kelvin's Brainsplurge! Thanks.

The main reason behind the lack of posts of late is that I've been spending most of my time working on Horror Among Thieves. It's not done yet, but I estimate that it's about 75% done. What I have completed as of this morning are all the maps, aside from the big city map and one bonus location that wasn't in the original adventure as written. Behold:

There's still some way to go, but it's starting to look like a complete adventure. I want to thank everyone again for contributing to the funding campaign, and also for being so patient; I'm a little embarrassed that it's taken so long to get this thing done, but I hope it will be worth the wait.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Horror Among Updates

It's been a bit quiet around here of late, not because of a lack of interest in gaming -- we've played a bit of Call of Cthulhu, playtested D&D5 and have even returned to Pathfinder in the past couple of weeks -- but rather because I've been preoccupied with working on Horror Among Thieves. The adventure exists in a playable form as of right now, and I managed to get in a playtest with my regular group, but there's still a lot of work to be done to get it into something that can be published.

That said, I thought I'd share a bit of a preview. This is one of the least spoiler-laden locations in the scenario, the House on Willow Lane:

This is a rough version of how I want the book to look; if the adventure hadn't reached its funding goal and I'd put it out myself this is how it would look more or less, but with James Raggi's layout people putting it together it should look much better, and of course there are still changes to be made. Even so, this should give you an idea of what I'm going for.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Adventures in Love

Blatant self promotion time!

Death Love Doom is almost the latest adventure from Lamentations of the Flame Princess; I say "almost" because another one was released in the pat few days, but more on that another time. It is a graphic piece of work, with extreme descriptions of brutal violence and I was asked to draw the pictures; it's not the kind of thing I've done before and I don't know if I'd do it again, but it was an interesting experience. I would recommend reading the reviews and this blog post before you buy.

The Complete B/X Adventurer is a different beast. It's a rules supplement for Basic and Expert -- the "B/X" of the title -- Dungeons and Dragons, and a follow-up to The B/X Companion, and contains all sorts of new character classes, spells and other bits and bobs I don't understand as I don't play B/X D&D. I did some art for the latter, so I was happy to be asked back to provide some character drawings for this new volume; my favourite is the Acrobat.

Death Love Doom is available from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess online shop, although it is a limited edition and there are only about eighty copies left, so if you like brutal body horror then hurry! The Complete B/X Adventurer is available from the B/X Blackrazor blog.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Horrific Certainty

Horror Among Thieves reached its funding goal with about ten hours to spare. I was as surprised as anyone, as I'd given up quite early on; my offer to produce the adventure anyway and send it to contributors for free was my way of thanking the thirty or so people who'd supported me at that point.

The offer of a free adventure got a few more people on board, but the interest seemed to peak at around $3000 and I thought that was that, so when the campaign made up the rest of its funding over the last day or so, I was stunned.

I still can't quite believe that so many of you out there are interested in an adventure written by me, but thank you one and all. I can't give you a free adventure any more, but I'm going to make it up to you by producing the best thieves' guild based horror scenario I can, and I'll also try to think of some bonus features to give to those of you who have supported the project, stuff that will be exclusive to this release.

In the meantime, here's a mutant guard dog from the adventure.

Thank you all.

Friday, 3 August 2012


The door opens into a windowless room that has a circular table and six chairs in the centre. All the walls are lined from floor to ceiling with shelves that are crammed full of board games, computer games and even 25 issues of an old games magazine with the strange name Owl & Weasel. One shelf has a row of books with distinctive green spines and fantastical-sounding titles like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but most shelves display row upon row of board games. On a high shelf, nestled between a pile of board games and a box file labelled Games Night Newsletters, you see a silver two-handled cup. You lift the trophy down and see it is inscribed with the words "The Pagoda Cup". There are six names etched on the back of the cup over a period of 27 years. If you want to open some of the boxed games, turn to 297. If you would rather leave the room and walk further up the corridor, turn to 129.

From Ian Livingstone's 2012 gamebook, Blood of the Zombies.

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Time of Horror Approaches, Maybe

Well that's unexpected.

In the past couple days, Broodmother Sky Fortress and The Seclusium of Orphone have both made their funding goals, so congratulations go to Jeff, Stuart, Vincent Baker and Cynthia Sheppard. Jeff's adventure was an early front-runner and even the naysayers couldn't deny that there was a good chance that it of all the adventures would make its funding. Baker's adventure had a fair way to go this time yesterday, but it's got there with just over two days left, so that leaves...


By some weird twist of fate, that leaves my adventure as the next closest to its goal. Now I'm a long way behind the other two so there's a lot of money to make up in two days, but it doesn't hurt to try, and if nothing comes of it then the previous offer still stands.

To be honest, I think it's too late and I don't expect Horror Among Thieves to make its goal, but then I never expected it to get as close as it has done, to have attracted more interest than Monte Cook's adventure or the one by the bloke from GWAR. The fact that it has is down to you lot, and I can't thank you enough.

For those of you still on the fence, perhaps a glimpse at some of my other games writing will give you an idea of whether you'll like Horror Among Thieves. Dinner With Susan is an appparently well-regarded scenario for Call of Cthulhu that shares some elements with my new adventure, and the idea of being trapped in an enclosed space with some horror also cropped up in my contest-winning One Page Dungeons of 2011 and 2012. All three adventures are free and are somewhat indicative of what you can expect from Horror Among Thieves, and you can find more -- along with many examples of my art -- at my website.

Thank you again.

Monday, 23 July 2012

More Horror Among Thieves

When I announced that I was going to produce my adventure Horror Among Thieves as a pdf and give it away for free, I intended it as a small way to say thanks to those who backed the project.

I had mentioned the plan to Lamentations of the Flame Princess head honcho James Raggi, and I had his blessing, but I had no idea that he was going to then pull something like this:

 Kelvin Green’s gone nuts and he’s infected LotFP Central!

If Horror Among Thieves does NOT fund, LotFP will still be publishing the adventure. It won’t necessarily be on the same timetable as if it were to fund, but we’ll put it out.

Anyone contributing $10+ to the campaign will get the adventure PDF, WHETHER OR NOT THE CAMPAIGN FUNDS.

Anyone contributing $20+ to the campaign will get the physical book, WHETHER OR NOT THE CAMPAIGN FUNDS.

That’s right, if the campaign doesn’t fund, you get your contributed money back at the close of the campaign, and you will get the stuff anyway when it’s published. (Note that if it doesn’t fund with this campaign, books will be shipped 2nd class and it does not include any of the campaign extras.)

Spread the word. Now there really is no excuse not to fund this thing.

That's a bold move; I'm risking nothing by producing the adventure whether it makes its goal or not, but James is going to be putting his company's resources behind it with no guarantee of financial reward.

In the day or so since James made his announcement, the campaign total has almost doubled, so thank you James, and thank you to all who have contributed so far.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Horror Among Thieves

Oh look, I'm going to be writing an adventure for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess role-playing game!

"The Tenebrous Hand don't rule the city, but they may as well. If they can't bribe you, they can sneak into your home and threaten you and yours. That's why they get away with it. But you know what I think’s fishy? No one's seen one of their men for a while. No one's been collecting the protection money and I've got this constable mate who says that there aren't so many robberies these days. I’ll tell you another thing: he also says that the people in charge are more worried than ever, because if a thief's going through your pockets, you at least know where he is, you know what I mean? And you’ve got to wonder, if the Hand really are gone, then what’s happened to all their loot?"

It’s nice and ominous, but it doesn’t tell you, the buyer, much about the adventure, does it? At the same time, I don’t want to spoil things too much; I want to surprise you -- I hope in a good way -- when you open the book and read it for the first time. So what can I tell you?

I can tell you that the chief inspiration behind Horror Among Thieves is the work of John Carpenter, in particular his remake of The Thing. There’s a bit of Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China in there too, and just a tiny smidgeon of Prince of Darkness. Attack the Block, which is not one of Carpenter’s but may as well be, has exerted some influence too. If the adventure had a soundtrack, it would be full of ominous synths.

It’s an urban adventure, set in a block of buildings that can be dropped drop into the city of your choice, and the surroundings should force an interesting moral choice on your players. What are they willing to do, or rather what are they willing to let happen, for the promise of treasure?

As I’m also responsible for the art on this project, I’ve got the opportunity to do more than just illustrate the text; I want to create a closer relationship between images and words than we tend to see in role-playing adventures. It’s a lofty goal, perhaps, but after reading Vornheim, I know that there’s more we can do with the format of these things. I hope I’m up to the task, and I hope you’ll join me in finding out.

So, if you want to know what happened to the Tenebrous Hand, what they have hidden in their vault, why that unfortunate fellow over there is so keen on forgiveness, and what the heck the Brotherhood of Pus is, then pledge $10 or more and you’ll find out.

Whether or not this campaign makes its goal, anyone who contributes at least $10 will get a pdf of the adventure; if the campaign is a success, the full weight of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess design and layout team will be thrown behind it and you’ll get the fancy pants edition detailed on the campaign page. If not, then I’ll be putting it together myself and it won’t look half as good, but you will get the full text and all the art; all the content just as if the goal had been reached. That’s my small way of showing my thanks to you for showing your support.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Five, Six, Seven

Over the past few weeks, I've been running my group through the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons playtest. I will admit that I was not optimistic as I hated D&D4 and while I've enjoyed playing Pathfinder, it's more complicated than I like. I appreciate the retroclones for how they've opened up old-school gaming to a new audience, but most of them have mechanics or assumptions that I find difficult to accept; the notable exception to this is James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which I've mentioned before. It has the simple mechanics I prefer, but introduces a number of welcome tweaks to the basic D&D system, making it close to my perfect version of The Game.

All that said, D&D5 has impressed me. It has the same kind of mechanical simplicity as Basic D&D, so I can run it without breaking my brain, but it also seems -- the character generation rules have not yet been released for testing -- to provide enough complexity on the characters' side to keep my players -- who missed the mechanical options of Pathfinder when we played LotFP -- interested and happy. It does have some problems -- player-characters are perhaps too tough at first level, and spells are a bit erratic in terms of power; sleep in particular is either useless or overpowered, depending on the target -- but it's a first draft playtest, so such glitches are to be expected. My big fear for the final published product was that it would add more and more complicated parts to keep the D&D3 and D&D4 fans on board, but recent comments by Mike Mearls have suggested that a simple and streamlined core rules package is a goal for the design team, so I have high hopes. If all else fails, we'll just carry on playing it using the playtest documents!

Also on the way -- but arriving much sooner -- is the sixth edition of Warhammer 40,000. I entered the Games Workshop Hobby™ during the Rogue Trader days, but the boxed second edition of 40K was the one I played the most. I stopped playing with the release of the third edition, in part because I disliked some of the rules changes, but for the main part because of my two armies -- a Genestealer Cult and a small Ork force -- the first was invalidated by the edition change -- although an army list was later published in the Citadel Journal -- and the second was rendered unplayable by the game's general reduction of points values. I did pick up the fourth edition second hand but never played it, and the fifth passed me by; from what I can tell, the latter releases have been minor tweaks and polishes of the third, and as I never much liked that ruleset to begin with I haven't been moved to get involved again. The modern game looks absurd to my old eyes, with so many vehicles crammed on to a table that's far too small for them -- back when I played, the only vehicles available were the Rhino and the Ork Battlewagon -- making it look like a game of Space Marine played -- to paraphrase John Peel -- at the wrong scale. As such, unless the sixth edition brings revolutionary changes to the mechanics, I doubt that I will be signing up, but even so I've found myself interested in playing the game again.

Part of this is due to gaming at Stuart's place; while I've been enjoying our fantasy and historical battles, the Grim Darkness of the Far Future™ has always been where I've felt most at home. Part of it is to do with recent nostalgic discussions with friends who either play or used to play, and part is in discovering people like Warhammer Joey, who show such an honest enthusiasm for the game. I'm sure the announcement of the sixth edition had something to do with it too, even if I never buy the thing.

So I've decided to dip my toe back in and put together a small 500 point force. I'm going to go with the Eldar, as I had an Epic-scale army but never got a chance to see them in action in 40K; no one I knew had an Eldar army and they always seemed rather neglected by White Dwarf. I'm going to make no effort whatsoever to make it a competitive army and the troop choice will be made on the basis of the models I like, which in most cases means the older pre-third edition designs. I tend to have a 40K craving once or twice a year that comes to nothing and this one may also fizzle out, but we'll see.

Of all upcoming gaming releases, the most exciting for me has to be Call of Cthulhu's seventh edition, which I believe is going to be getting a preview -- if not an actual release -- at this year's Gen Con. I suspect it won't be too different to the previous six editions, but I've heard that the new rules will have some innovations; much as I love the game, it could do with a bit of mechanical tweaking in places, so I'm keen to see what the writers do in this regard. I own two previous editions and don't need another one, but I'm on board anyway, because it's one of my favourite role-playing games.

All in all, I have plenty to look forward to in terms of gaming in the next few months, but I'm a little wary of the effect all this will have on my bank balance!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Special Delivery

We wrapped up our second Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure last night; second and perhaps last, as while it's close to being the perfect version of Dungeons & Dragons for me, I know that not everyone in the group is anywhere near as keen.

Anyway, I've scanned and cleaned up my scenario notes from the game, and they can be downloaded as a sort-of-a-One-Page-Dungeon here. For those interested in the tension between preparation and play, it took about a couple of hours to put together and gave us two four-hour sessions of play, although there was a fair bit of faffing about in the first session. I've dropped most of the LotFP-specific statistics, so it should be easy enough to import to your game system of choice.

Thanks to the Queen -- not of the Demonweb Pits -- giving everyone a couple of extra days off work, we should be meeting again tomorrow, this time to either play a bit of RuneQuest -- I haven't played since a total party kill about fifteen years ago -- or perhaps the D&D5 playtest, if I can get my head around the adventure in time.

Friday, 1 June 2012

One Page Dungeon Contest 2012

This year's One Page Dungeon Contest was a tough one, with over a hundred entries and a list of winners almost twice as long as last year's. So I feel even more lucky that my entry is among the winners. I suspect cheating a bit helped to secure me the victory, as my entry is not a dungeon as such, although it does have a map of sorts.

Congratulations to all the other winners, and well done to everyone who entered and made it such a hard-fought contest; I know the judges found it difficult this year to narrow the field, let alone pick winners. A collection of all the entries can be downloaded here, while the winning entries are here.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Hills Are Alive

It's been a bit of a funny time of late for our gaming group, as one regular member has had to relocate to the other end of the country, and another spent a few weeks touring South America, so we've not been able to put together a regular roleplaying campaign. That might be a bit of a blessing in disguise though, as it's allowed us to try out some other games we might have overlooked if we were in full campaign mode.

We've played a few games of the new Wizards of the Coast board game Lords of Waterdeep. I was a bit hesitant at first as I'd played a couple of the recent Dungeons & Dragons board games and while they're fun enough -- sort of light versions of D&D4, concentrating on the good bits of that game and cutting out all the dodgy stuff -- they're not that engaging. I also find it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for a product associated with the Forgotten Realms, surely the most dull of the classic -- I use the term with reluctance -- D&D settings.

It turns out that while Lords of Waterdeep is published under the D&D brand, it's quite a different kettle of ixitxachitls in terms of gameplay. I'm not a big enough enthusiast of board games to be able to identify its lineage, but it reminds me of a fantasy-themed Monopoly coupled with the mission structure of the old -- and brilliant -- Shadowrun collectable card game. The combination is quite a lot of fun and I would be more than happy to play it again, even with the bland Realms trappings. At least Elminster or Drizzle haven't turned up in our games yet.

We also played a bit of Kingdom Builder, a game which is fast and fun to play, but the English translation of the original German rules is so poor that we found ourselves better off using the French translation. It strikes me as a bit limited in scope, but it's a good way to while away an hour or so with friends.

The past couple of Fridays have seen us return to roleplaying with a couple of games of James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess, with me as the GM. I've never been a big D&D enthusiast, and I did not react well to our abortive D&D4 campaign. I'm happier with Pathfinder, but I did not enjoy running it; my preferred level of complexity is somewhere around the BECMI level, and LotFP sits right about there, making a few tweaks to some of the wonky mechanics that have always put me off running the otherwise similarly simple Labyrinth lord.

I ran the included adventure last week and we enjoyed it enough to play again last night. I have developed a bit of a -- mostly unfair -- reputation in our group for a certain type of adventure, and without revealing too much for those who haven't played "A Stranger Storm", I rolled my eyes when I read through and got to the climax of the scenario. Of course, my players all thought I'd written the thing myself when they got to the end, and I'm still not sure they believed me when I told them I was running it as written.

Last night's adventure was written by my own hand, although "written" is perhaps too strong a word. I had an adventure hook in my mind and a couple of hand-drawn maps, and that's it; I've not often gone into a game with so little prepared in advance, but I found it worked well, and the light nature of the LotFP rules made that easier. I was again accused of being up to my old tricks as the player-characters butted heads with what they assume to be inbred hill-dwelling cannibals, and I can't really put up much of a defence in this case.

Again, everyone seemed to enjoy the game, although the slow character advancement was a shock to a group more used to Pathfinder; that said, most of their earned experience has been from killing monsters so far, as they've shown an extraordinary aptitude for overlooking loot. We finished the evening with the party deep inside an abandoned silver mine, surrounded by the corpses of hill people and with an ominous moaning coming from further on down the tunnel; I don't know if this cliffhanger will be resolved, as we may well be playing Stuart's conversion of The Shamutanti Hills next week, and I'm looking forward to treading those old paths once again.