Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Outer Limits

So more Thursday welcomes to Alex and George who dropped in last week to find out about this Roleplaying thing. We were a bit backed up what with the a Railway meeting downstairs running over time and in fact as our numbers are now in the region of twenty players we have suddenly hit the inner limit of people we can seat at the club. I sort of had the capacity issue at the back of my mind but it unequivocally landed last week. I have been carrying an emergency  D&D Planescape around with me so with a couple of volunteers from the other games we have started a 4th adventure with the new guys and we'll see if we can scare them off.

It's somewhat deceptive as there is a huge amount of space downstairs in the club but we also share the venue with the local darts team as well as the table sports community; pool, snooker and the like. There is a large area for drinking and this would be ideal for us except we have to be sociable and share the space for people who just want to have a pint and listen to some music. Fair enough. Se we have just hit a hurdle and in fact necessarily have to tell people now that we are full !

Or possibly not, we do have some other options and we are not the only pub based role playing venue and the Craft Beer Co. club just sends overflow down to the Windmill and Hamilton bars. Though pub density is not as great on the seven dials, there are possibly options at the Good Companions, The French Horn or even the Crescent. Alternatively we can stretch our outer limits and I am happy to take the fourth game players home for now but it wont be a long term solution if we then hit a 5th game requirement.

There is also the final possibility of expanding the club across a couple of evenings at the same venue which is an idea I am warming to and whilst it would be nice to have everyone in the same place at the same time, its likely not sustainable I think. Its all logistics but as yet I haven't inspected the roof...

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Adopting Rat Catchers

Creating new characters for a role playing game is a bit like a shopping trip. You start off coming back from town with bags of random new stuff all excited. Then sort through what you have bought and find out that some of the things don't quite match the pictures on the boxes and finally your realise its too late to take anything back as personalities don't come with thirty day money back guarantees.

So its more sort of an adoption process really and when you make a commitment to a one legged, ego maniacal, kleptomaniac from a large family of albinos then you sort have have to see it through. Remember that adopting people is not just for Christmas, its for life. Having said this, life can also be mercifully or unmercifully short so perhaps don't get too close to someone destined for a Darwin award. A nod here to GM Max's game as apparently Cameron's character ended up in the stocks last week, which was a brief sojourn to being repetitively stabbed to death. Is that ironic ? I can't tell anymore.

Either way, I have found it useful on many occasions to turn to TV for inspiration and for some reason I seem to have based my Part-Time Gods character on Vasily Fet (no relation to Boba), the rat catcher from the Guielle De Toro series, The Strain. I suppose I appreciate the simplicity of his stalwart Bronks attitude but also with a passion and unswerving dedication for what he does. Being both physically fit and single minded makes him a capable doer and will motivate action in any situation without necessarily adopting the Kamikaze Paladin approach. As always we will see I guess but to be on the safe side I have some other series lined up.

At this point I would usually meander off into the lengthy history and deep lore of the wider catcher profession but with respect to the Pied Piper the only other catcher I can recall is the one from from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie. Is there a D&D Truly Scrumptious expansion or Toot Sweet Kick starter ? Well F*** off if there is.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Time is not enough

Although the Exalted has begun, there is still some work to do on the character sheets, partly as its somewhat like quantum theory but mostly because I am extremely lazy. Thankfully one of our number has returned after a year's worth of insane commuting and can now look forward to a normal life of  fantasy gaming. As he is joining the Exalted and will also have to create a character it does buy me another week under the radar to hide my ineptitude and finish off background narrative and various skills. Whilst I see players tearing at their faces where complex character generation is concerned, reward does come with effort and once completed, it shouldn't have to be repeated.

In the intervening time, I have been perusing more of the DnD lore. I think actually there is now more content than can be absorbed in a single lifetime so I quite like to leave youtube autoplaying from one world to another - its a pleasantly relaxing and meandering journey into the great pool of content and throws up the occasional item of note.

However, one particular piece of the DnD multiverse pretty much knocked me off my seat. I think I suddenly have a new respect for the system and things will never be quite the same again. I know I am a bit late to the game so to speak coming from a Merp and Rolemaster heritage and I am sure this comes as common knowledge to the avid DnD fan but I had no idea. DnD is a fundamentally hopeless struggle. Everyone will always die and all the civilisations and races will always be doomed to sadistic destruction. There is no future in DnD and it wont matter how many times the universe gets reborn. Its people and the beauty of their realms will inevitably be horrifically consumed no matter how hard the struggle.

This is the story of the Ilithids, commonly known as the Mindflayers. They are essentially the Borg of the fantasy world, a psychically linked species that literally feed on the brains of intelligent beings and bent on complete domination of all life. In this they become completely successful and subjugate all races. But of course this is not enough for true conquest. In order to ensure that they survive the end of the universe itself, they created "The Great Cycle", a portal back to the beginning of time where they seed themselves. This ensures an eternal time lock, so no matter how many times the multiverse restarts and whether they are hunted to the edge of extinction or not in any particular version, they will always win because they can only exist as a result of their future apotheosis.

Their ecology is lovingly fleshed out in gory detail in one of  A.J Pickets excellent videos.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Character Creation


So the mysts are clearing and we have a part time plan for our part time GMs and suitably enough one of them will be running the afore mentioned Part Time Gods alongside the Exalted. Last couple of weeks we have been preparing GM Andras's Exalted characters, and whilst this is on the more complex side of character generation it is achievable with a little help and a lot of patience, though I will need another week to read through all the skill definitions just to determine which ones I don't particularly want. It can be quite a barrier to a new players but sophisticated systems are not just completely arbitrary - one can sense the effort of the designers to make skill and attribute definition more lifelike. But at the end of the day I do feel its a bit of a labour of love rather than pragmatics as it all boils down to numbers however role playing does have its fair share of people passionate about such mechanics.

Having said this we did have enough down on paper to start off the adventure and jumped in as part of a travelling band of thespians. I think the professional phrase is an Entertainment Events Management Company. Fortunately we have happened upon an immensely wealthy patron who needs us for his imminent celebrations so we will be quids in for hamming it up as we put on a play and or concert. As much fun as it will be push the amateur dramatics for a session or two I very much suspect we will suddenly be in a murder mystery when someone doesn't actually get up after a stage dive. When you are having too much fun role playing its important to become extremely paranoid as a rendition of Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell might mean exactly that.

Funnily enough I don't think I have ever played anything like a Bard, tho I have run a game with one in it. Generally speaking I get the impression across systems that they are more of a jack of all trades but in D&D they come with a specific lineage of course where in the 5e they join either the Colleges of Lore and Valour. Whilst they have their own class spells and abilities there is a nod to their heritage with access to a limited set of spells from other classes and bonuses to all their skill checks.

In other games, the Star Trek is now underway as is the Warhammer so I will be pressing the GMs as to when we will get the first mashup of Orcs on the starboard bow.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Ping Pong Power Play

“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look farther than you can see.” – Winston Churchill

So we are trying to settle the dust on our new set of games. Warhammer and Star Trek are now running and the third session is now looking like an Exalted, tho GM Andras can only offer this on a part time basis.

There will be some more conversations to be had about how to juggle this but whilst it's not ideal, the club did actually used to run a pattern with four games; each pair of games run every other week. I think this was a result of having too many GMs spread across too few players, but wasn't in theory a problem. We certainly saw a lot of systems but the issue was that if a GM missed a session then the corresponding gap would be potentially four weeks which not only made it difficult to remember what was gong on but it also doubled the duration of the games and made it difficult to roll over to new systems when the time came. But the logistics of running a large group informally entail a lot of compromises and its always nice to give a new GM a go.

Nevertheless, related to this, in geological timescales we are actually a growing club and whilst the Warhammer has packed in seven players, we are still comfortably three games but the first discussion has taken place regarding the logistics of a fourth game. This sounds very organised but basically entailed me leaning over the bar and demanding that the ping pong club surrender their table to us or feel the wrath of the dark side. However, I was shocked that my opening gambit was not perhaps the best approach and whilst I attained my ale I was firmly told that there is an active and fanatical ball sports community and that ping pong was definitely off the table. Seems that the pong enthusiasts are in fact allied to the snooker and pool faction...

This will require some more subtlety and leverage on my part but the road to the iron throne is not an easy one... I will need an undead army. And I don't mean painted miniatures.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Plane Sailing

So, games are ending and we have a very busy and eagerly awaited Warhammer that GM Max has begun. Last week I walked in on some sort of clerical meeting with several people busily scribing character sheets with various large tomes scattered about sprouting post it notes akin to a nest of jostling birds at lunchtime. I though it prudent to take my overflowing beer to another table. This leaves remaining players to choose between GM Jon's Star Trek and GM Krzys's Part-Time Gods. 

Now we are hovering on the awkward three and a half games worth of players but as seven adventurers have climbed aboard Max's game it may just be enough to balance us out across the three in total, depending on the other GM requirements. But if one player sneezes in the Warhammer and flies off their seat and another lost soul should wander in then I have prepared a fourth game which may suddenly be needed.

To keep it interesting for myself I wanted to run a D&D to get some more GM hours under my belt following a few practice sessions I had last year. But which sceanrio ? Well, with a nod to a few pages in the new 5e and an ancient but pristine box set that has been sitting on my shelf for twenty years, I have prepared a Planescape adventure set in the center of the Multiverse encapsulated within the most splendidly impossible of cities, Sigil - The City of Doors. Planescape adventures do need some attention to detail as every opening (doorway, fireplace, chest or cabinet) could be a portal to absolutely anywhere so there can be a tendency to uproot an experience and leave players spinning and never having a feeling of structure or heritage. But I think this is unwarranted - even though Sigil is a city of portals, it is in all respects also just a City, with a guard, blacksmiths, taverns, merchants, builders etc etc. Whist its packed inhabitants are either planar natives or just prime travelers, the wild variety of species that crowd its streets do not have to detract from specific tasks or narratives. Basically if you combine Tokyo with Gatwick at rush hour, you begin to get the idea of day to day life. But people not only survive in such environments but they can also set down roots and thrive.

Sigil itself is a fascinating place, partly because of its toroidal physics but more so because of its quasi Ruler (or perhaps prisoner), the Lady of Pain. Wandering the streets seemingly for all eternity, she will dispatch any force, army or entity that attempts to unbalance or claim her realm. Her very gaze will shred any opponent instantly and as if that wasn't enough, she has the ability to fold dimensions and trap insurgents within an infinite Maze. Not even the Gods can sway any leverage here and they stay well away. I heartily recommend the excellent bite size videos by Jorphdan on all aspects of the D&D universe  and his Sigil and Outlands brief is no exception.

For now the game may not be needed but as always, it can be added to the list and is also sympathetic to one-shots on the occasion a GM is away. I might even run it as a home game if I can find enough players.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018


One might think it a little alarming to start the year off by musing on how to kill people, tho it is normal for role players have slightly psychotic conversations from time to time. To be fair I am a little unsure as to how many people we will have settled on for the next round of games starting soon, or more specifically with the winter rush we often get I would be concerned to have 10 people trying to squeeze themselves into a single game.

So given the fact that its been at least six months since I have killed someone, I have volunteered an overflow D&D if required. This necessarily includes challenges and of course consequences but I will endeavour not to be too contrived, except to say that the most ludicrous trap I have come across was a Kobold on a rope suspended above a pit trap behind a closed door. Given the relative ease at which Kobolds can be dispatched one would naturally think nothing of charging straight in. Rolling my eyes under such circumstances tends to be a prelude to rolling a new character and this instance was no exception, though I have since harboured a deep seated hatred of all things rope like. And I do see some ropy things.

I will go back and double check the PHB for specific rules on swinging. Certainly there is a climbing skill and associated falling damage but I suppose a swing would just be a variable difficulty class depending on its challenge and also whether any drama is also included. Swinging for dramatic effect though should really only be attempted by experienced players such as Erol Flynn or possibly Harrison Ford.

Having said all this I am reminded of a previous Chill session regarding an undead Hangman the party had to deal with. That was roprey of an entirely different kind.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Its a date

So its 2018 in our universe and we are looking forward to another grand year of mucking around so clearly everyone's new year resolution is to come along to their local role playing club, have a beer make some new friends, play some games, have some arguments, throw some things around and storm out. An experience not to be missed and all are welcome. But in keeping with our temporal temperament here are a few other notable dates for your diary..

2019 - Replicant terminations via the Blade Runner initiative

2022 - Soylent Green distributed to offset global starvation
2032 - Terminator kills John Connor
2035 - Positronic robots extend the Three Laws  to enslave mankind

2054 - PreCrime police department set up in LA
2063 - Zefram Cochran completes the first Warp Drive test in the Phoenix
2122 - Nostromo lost
2164 - Daleks invade Earth
2256 - Babylon 5 construction completed
2274 - Sandman Logan 5 leaves the Domed City
2381 - Cmdr J.J Adams lands on Altair IV
2491 - Buck Rogers emerges from coma
2517 - Crew of the Firefly uncover the Reaver conspiracy
3001 - Frank Poole revived
4846 - Commissioning of the Andromeda
10191 - Year of the Atredies governorship of Dune

802701 - H.George Wells encounters the Eloi
3000000 - Dave Lister wakes from stasis
5000000 - Yithians inhabit the bodies of the insectoids of Earth
End of Time - Everyone has lunch at Milliways

Monday, 25 December 2017

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Things to come..


There are natural cycles to the universe - galaxies collide, black holes rage and stars explode. But in the midst of such cosmic destruction, new stars are born from the remnants and elements of old, hot galaxies coalesce from cold, dark matter and even black holes evaporate their information back into the light. 

Likewise our games this year started in the blazing bright heights of the summer and have burnt long and strong, but nature has taken its course and as we approach the longest night, arguments have settled, players have been killed off,  princesses were slain and their gold has now been rescued. Over the next few weeks the Phoenix Dawn will go on hold (as its campaign length really and sports several more scenes even after six months), The DnD has formally ended and I believe GM Jack is wrestling down his Gods in the Exalted.

So this means fresh adventures and a chance for people to pick new characters and causes, wield novel and powerful items and explore the full range of fumbles and failures. So in the new melting pot we have a selection of GM Max's Warhammer Fantasy, GM Krzys Part Time Gods (not one I know) and GM Jon's Star Trek. Interestingly GM Jon has offered to run an additional quick stop gap Star Trek parody whist the new games get into sync. My understanding is that this will take the form of a Tarantino/Roddenberry mashup along the lines of Kill Will or Reservoir of Targs.... I'm not sure whether you could actually get a blood bath with phasers or disruptors which vaporise organic material but I would be very disappointed not to see judicious use of transporter "malfunctions".

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Time waits for no half-elf

Time travel is a tricky business. Brave is the GM who decides to take on board a campaign involving cause and effect or indeed effect and cause. Often used as a plot device, time relocation is a handy way to place characters back in the good old days which often turns out to drop them into the great mythological stories of a given world. For richer narratives like Lord of the Rings, Warhammer Fantasy or Cthulu  this is an opportunity to dabble in world creation or glimpse the gods - not that that would make for a a very long game in Cthulu mind you. Moreover I would say it's a more appropriate environment to play high level characters and become part of the Mythology of a system itself; a chance to become part of Lore.

However, as tempting as it is to run such a scenario, role players will insist on doing their own thing. Off roading in temporal sensitive games can require the GM to take an overly heavy hand jus to keep a world intact. Whilst there is the argument that history cant change - attempts to achieve goals that a party is fixated on, such as the assassination of Hitler lets say, may result in repetitive play and whilst fun, are basically a dead end. Paradoxes proliferate if players start to meet themselves (always embarrassing) and create duplicates of items. Things will also spiral when they start to bring other time machines back through time.

There is a more forgiving option of sending players into the future where actions cant be judged in practical terms but there is always the possibility of bringing back knowledge or items that may  unbalance a game. But also, to be fair, there is little point in running a future time travel campaign that has no interaction with the present - it may as well just happen somewhere else as far as plot is concerned.

And there is also the eternal issue of temporal ticks in the real world. Whilst we are all time travelers, spare a thought for the D&D game that has been running for 30 years ! If any of us got caught in that particular time trap, it would still be a first level adventure after the first year and then 29 more of arguing...

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Its been emotional

Generally speaking, I have a slight aversion to watching live streams or episodic recordings of roleplaying games for several reasons, predominantly because these can be very lengthy and a lot of time can be spent eating biscuits. In addition much of the subtlety is lost as people can shout over each other and whilst it does add to the drama, critical moments can be missed. There also isn't a great deal of production value in video session where imagination is involved and it can come across as amateur dramatics to the casual observer unless you are there in person.

But it does remind me of where my games are weakest, manly due to laziness and time constraints, but like a lot of GMs, I usually come up with interesting problem solving scenarios backed by a half decent plot and a few key characters with a bit of GM roleplying on the fly. There is a need to create enough space in a game for characters to develop themselves and roleplayers are their own content to a large degree, tho I would never leave them unsupervised with sharp pencils.

The point is that ever since Homer put pen to papyrus, there have been such things as plot formulas and character development traits that underpin professional narratives but whilst not always there in roleplaing games (and they should be), they are the bread and butter for writers. For some reason Gladiator comes to mind as of course Oliver Reed died unexpectedly during production and a lot of effort went into finding a quality resolution - William Nicholson OBE stepped in here as one of the writers and his deep understanding of character provided a seamless and respectable end to Proximo. He's very engaging and more interestingly as a roleplayer one can instantly identify with his conversations on character. Here is a fascinating interview with him.

Or course I haven't had my OBE for services to roleplaying yet and broadly speaking such creative minds are not available to the GM but I did find the epic end of the recent Critical Roll game run by Matt Mercer a dramatic case in point. In fact the moment is beautifully explained by here by the engaging Matthew Colville - I highly recommend  a watch - spoilers for 400 hours of roleplaying btw.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Fashionable Roleplaying

Creativity is an outlet, more so for the technical mind I suspect, crowded in by business workflows, engineering problems and the day to day challenges of making sure your underwear is not inside out. Whilst Roleplaying exercises a very underused muscle these days, it can be a quick fix and something to look forward to in an otherwise ordinary week. There is the matter of talent of course - not sure exactly what talent looks like in roleplaying but I have fond memories of Chris dancing around with a couple of carpet tiles when he was playing a sort of  animated jukebox, most entertainment I have had since Top of the Pops went off the air.

Nevertheless I would be remiss in not mentioning some of the amazing artwork that comes with the trade. Having visited a MegaCon event in Florida several years ago you do get overwhelmed  by the enthusiasm and effort people go to to decorate themselves. In fact its worth just going in a crowd for the crowd.

Physical Representation, or phys-rep as we call it in the trade has utility when you are actually playing but there are artisans that go above and beyond - there is a point where skill becomes art and some pieces are phenomenal. 

From the large to the very small, with skills more reminiscent of neurosurgery are the miniature armies of the war gaming tables. Lovingly attended  and and in fact impossibly crafted using something akin to a quantum paintbrush. In fact I believe there are still annual awards for such detailing and whilst I would be happier to bump into an army only two inches tall rather than some of the other characters depicted here, I think they would be more challenging in game.

Finally I do think its important to say that its the taking part that counts and whilst passion is a wonderful thing, imagination also has its place...