Tuesday 30 June 2009

Am... am I dreaming?

Could this be the WH40K roleplaying game I was thinking of in the eighties when I picked up a softback copy of 'Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader', and even tried to adapt the WFRP rules to suit a 40K game? Which didn't work because my conversion was shit?

This is from the Fantasy Flight Games website:

'In Rogue Trader, you take on the role of a Rogue Trader and his most trusted counsellors, empowered by an ancient warrant of trade to seek out profit and plunder amongst unexplored regions of space. Your ship will take you to new worlds and uncharted reaches of the void, where you will encounter rivals, pirates, aliens, and possibly even creatures of the warp. You will acquire and spend great wealth and riches, and fame or infamy will follow. You will discover ancient and forgotten mysteries and search out the unknown to find lost human worlds or never before seen celestial phenomena. You must survive the dangers of space, for beyond the threat of vacuum and deadly radiation lurk things Man was never meant to find. To be part of a Rogue Trader’s crew is to stand on the threshold of nearly unlimited opportunity. Vast profits await for you and your fellow Explorers to find and claim. Fame and fortune reward the bold, but the unwary find only an anonymous death.

• Fast character creation to get you into the game quickly, including a lifetime of possibilities with an expanded origin path system.

• Dynamic rules for all eventualities that let you handle everything from social interaction to deadly fast-paced combat, starships and psychic powers to a system of profit and influence.

• Comprehensive background on Rogue Traders, written by Warhammer 40,000 novelist and GW Design Studio member Andy Hoare.

• Build your own starship or begin play with one of the six pre-generated vessels.

Begin your players’ path to wealth and glory with a complete starting adventure that puts the Explorers right into the middle of the action. The Rogue Trader core rulebook contains everything you need to start your adventure in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.'

I have only one word for this... 'Shexshwee'.

Monday 29 June 2009

Magazine format RPG?

I've been looking into publishing my own RPG for some time and I want to make it simple and easy. Costs have always put me off as spending that amount of money on a game that might not (and probably will not) sell dissuades me from the whole self-publishing idea.

I was looking over a game system design I'd made for a fantasy RPG I never finished after I'd read a copy of Flagship magazine and I got to thinking - is it possible to print a simple A4 magazine format 50 page (including covers) RPG with rules and an introductory adventure and sell it as a complete game. When I say 'magazine format' I'm just thinking of the size and not an actual regular issue by issue magazine. The same format could then be used for supplements and campaigns. The fact that it's a simple magazine, with full colour cover and black-and-white interior, will make it cheap to produce. The booklet will be easy to post (just a couple of quid to most places in the world) and it could be sold through Ebay, making purchasing easy and safe. It'd be easy to use and transport, being small and simple, and it would be possible to sell it for around 5 British pounds. A complete 50 page RPG for a fiver plus postage. Now, that's not a bad idea.

But then the primary problem is - what kind of game? Fantasy, sci-fi, horror? After all, the market is swamped with highly proffesional books covering just about every genre for every age.

Would there be any point in creating another one?

Friday 26 June 2009

... then suddenly, zombies attack

I posted this on http://www.rpg.net/ in response to someone asking how to make zombies more original. This might not be original, but it sounds like fun.

'I'm going to try a Shaun of the Dead/Reaper approach. You know the quote 'When there is no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the Earth'? Well, I don't think I've actually seen anyone do that.

Great fissures could open up, some could swallow whole cities, and the soulless shuffling denizens of Hell start to walk the land and kill all those still living in a fit of jealous pique. The zombie apocalypse begins.

Satan (who looks like Joe Pesci) is a little peeved at the mass breakout, then enrols the help of the PCs (who's characters are/were losers in real life) to get the dead back into Hell. They can do this in the only way available to them - remove the head or destroy the brain! Watch as the players queue up to play characters wielding cricket bats and wearing white shirts. With a bit of red on them.

A zombie brain-smashing adventure story in a Terminator-esque apocalyptic setting with a twist of black humour. Where can you go wrong?

Another idea I had was a properly dead zombie - no growling, moaning or grunting. They're dead, so technically the lungs don't work anymore so the vocal chords are shot. The skin is tight and pulled back, like it's shrunk on the body, so the bones are prominent and the fingerbones are through the skin like claws. They move as a normal human being, running and jumping and climbing, the face is totally expressionless and they'll stop at at nothing to kill you. In absolute silence. So, you can fight them off, hide, or wait until they rot away like a good dead body should. Oh, and they outnumber you thousands to one. Pisser.'

Flagship - The Independant Magazine for Gamers

I miss the old days of gaming, especially in the 1990s, when the internet was in it’s infancy and the best way to find out about new product was by picking up the latest gaming magazine. GM International, Valkyrie, Arcane magazine, and sometimes I’d even pick up Dragon magazine (even though I’d given up on D&D in the late eighties). I’d be dead excited about the next issue and devour it. I was extremely saddened when I could no longer get any of these magazines.

So I was highly pleased when I found a gamer’s magazine that not only covered RPGs but also all other kinds of gaming – wargames, online games and PBM. You should check out Flagship magazine at http://www.flagshipmagazine.com/ and pick up some issues. It’s regular but not monthly and has plenty of articles and news to keep you satisfied, and best of all its old school! It’s printed on real paper and you actually turn pages!

Nostalgia. I love it.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Dungeons and Warcraft... sorry, I mean World of Dragons...

Let's face it - the new D&D is tabletop World of Warcraft.

I've been playing the new Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition and I've had a stab at a couple of characters. In my main group game I've started fresh with a level 1 Tiefling Cleric, and to have a stab at a higher level (and play the game more like a tactical boardgame) I've also got a level 12 Human Fighter. I'm enjoying the new system (no more THACO! Hooray!) and, considering that I swore I'd never play D&D again twenty years ago, I'm incredibly surprised at how much I'm enjoying it.

Now, I've played a lot of Warcraft - my other posts in this blog are a testament to that - and I also enjoy that. It's fun and easy, and the ability to log on at a moment's notice and do some adventuring is extremely handy, especially since I'm now a husband and a father and time is precious. As an old geezer tabletop roleplayer I don't really see WoW as 'proper' roleplaying, but it is a great computer game.

A lot has changed for RPGs in this new century. Ozzie Osbourne and The Shat are advertising WoW on primetime television and they have millions of online users. That's the kind of publicity and paying fanbase that the current tabletop RPG companies would kill for. How on earth could they compete with that kind of muscle?

It's easy. Where once there were computer MMO's emulating tabeltop RPGs, now there are tabletop RPGs emulating MMOs. This is a contentious issue - a recent review of the Players Handbook on http://www.rpg.net/ generated a few heated replies - and the general feeling is that 4th Edition is in no way like an MMO. In fact, to suggest that the world's favourite tabletop roleplaying game was emulating the bastard lovechild of RPGs and the PC was heresy.

When I first opened the 4th Edition D&D book the first thing that struck me was the art. My first impression was 'Warcraft!' but this is by no means surprising - I had recently come out the other side of a few days of heavy MMO gaming and my visual cues of any fantasy art was Warcraft-based, that kind of high-fantasy, big-muscley-armoured-dudes-and-dudettes kind of thing.

But it wasn't until I played the game the similarities really hit me. As hit points dwindled and surges were used, as encounter powers were thrown out and at-will powers were slammed on the table I could almost see the on-screen equivalents - little red health bars falling and rising, powers cycling through their cooldowns after use, powers being casts to aid striking, damage and other party members like buffs.

And do you know what? This is a good thing.

A lot of D&D fans flatly refuse to hear that the new 4th Edition is WoW inspired but the I think the truth of it is that they know it is and don't like it. They do not want their D&D associated with 'that game'. But what's the worry?

Maybe I'm biased, based on the fact that I've not played D&D in 20 years and I enjoy WoW, but I think it's a good thing. It's a good thing because the game is fun to play, everyone has their roles to play and the element of good ol' dungeon bashing is back. It's a good thing because it bridges the gap between two things; the way we used to play RPGs and the MMO.

When I first started playing RPGs I wasn't really that interested in the roleplaying side of it - I just wanted to crawl through dungeons and fight bad guys. The game was, to me, a boardgame with no board, in the fact that I was rolling dice and fighting with tactics and victory in mind. All that personality and characterisation stuff came later. The new edition of D&D harks back to those days and the rules are conflict and adventure orientated. As with Old D&D all that roleplaying stuff will come later as the games progress, the rules become second nature and the character's develop a history within the game. As a way to get new gamers involved, which is what core rulebooks are supposed to do, there is nothing wrong with that.

And the new gamers they are trying to get involved are most likely the imaginative youngsters playing MMOs, and as far as the influence of MMOs is concerned, well... let's be realistic. WoW is probably now the biggest fantasy game in the world as regards to public awareness and accesibility. Most, if not all, kids know how to play a computer game and that's what WoW is. It's little wonder that the new D&D reaches out to these players with the promise of the same experience but in a three dimensional world where you share your experiences with other players in the same room.

Folks... this is a good thing. We're all into this kind of gaming for the same reasons. We like the creativity, the imagination and the adventure. And we like to kill things and take their stuff.

If anyone playing World of Warcraft right now asked me what tabletop game to play I'd tell them to pick up D&D 4th Edition - it's the closest thing they'll get to their online adventures in the pen and paper world and it's the game that I, a 25 year veteran of tabletop roleplaying games, am really enjoying playing right now.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Just... Wow!

Ah, World of Warcraft, How I love and hate thee in equal measure. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? No. Because you’re nothing like it.
I started playing Warcraft just before Christmas 2008. Well, I say since then – in reality I played out the ten day free trial and then didn’t bother with it until my wife started disappearing for a couple of hours every night. Then I created my first character, a Night Elf Warrior called Swordsong (named after my favourite character from my MERP days) and I was hooked. Now I’ve got him levelled at 41 and a Dwarf Hunter called Burgen kicking arse at level 37. Oh, and a Night Elf Hunter at level 17.
I’ve learned some valuable secondlife lessons playing this game. In fact, I’ve come to hate a few things about the game, things that I’ve filed away in a mental lockbox labelled ‘Do Not Disturb. Ever.’

- I hate players who are about three times your level challenging you to duels. Total pussies.
- I hate beggars. I hate it when I’m standing around in Ironforge sorting my stuff out and there’s either a General Chat ‘gld plz’ or some idiot whispers it to me. Just piss off and earn your gold like everyone else, dumbass.
- I hate being invited to join a group when I don’t even know what quest you’re on or why I’m being invited. Talk to me first – it’s rude.
- I hate it when Horde scum raid the town where I am and kill the Griffin point master and I’m forced to wait a million years for them to respawn.
- I hate it when I’m in the middle of a huge fight, or a quest is about to end, or I’m in the middle of a dungeon – and I’m disconnected from the server. Damn you, Blizzard! Damn you all to Hell!
- I hate it when I refuse a duel and the same player challenges me again. And again. And again. And again. Take a hint, willya, and piss off.
- I hate it when I help a player, usually a new one, and after I’ve taken time out to guide them somewhere they either ask me for gold or they just bugger off when they get what they want without a thank you. Manners, people.
- I hate it whenever I ask a question about anything in General or Trade Chat one of the first answers I get is ‘noob!’

Other than that, World of Warcraft is great fun. I was dead set against it at one point. Online roleplaying game? How can you roleplay online? You need people you can speak to face-to-face! It’s not real roleplaying at all! Charlatans! Imposters! Usurpers! You get the idea.
But it’s not that bad. In fact, I really enjoy it. Yes it’s kill-em-and-take-their-stuff gaming but it can be fun if you group up with the right people.
It doesn’t fulfill my tabletop gaming needs as I’d like and the only reason why I had a stab at it (and then subscribed) was because I didn’t have a gaming group at the time and my most excellent wife Lisa was into it.

WoW will have to do something extra special to fully take the place of tabletop RPGs – right now all it can do is be grateful to the original RPG hobby that it has a rich heritage and a rules framework to build on.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Looking down the nose

Elitists in roleplaying just piss me off. First of all I play the kind game I’m interested in, and secondly how I play that game depends on the mood I’m in.
Several years ago I was running a WFRP game that was pretty intense. The relationships between the characters, PCs and NPCs, were strained. There were double-dealings and betrayals, vows of revenge and pitched battles. It was intense, required some serious roleplaying in character and was downright awesome.
Right now, I’m playing in a D&D 4e game. All I want to do is some old-fashioned dungeon bashing - I want to twat goblins on the head, nut drow in the face and kick undead in the ghoulies*. I want to put some smackdown on some evil dudes, beeyatch! If something comes of that and a fully-fledged character with a personality and a history develops so much the better.
Just because I’ve not sat down and designed an intricate, deeply emotional character with a definitive modus operandi and background does not mean that I’m ‘not roleplaying’ or that I’m ‘doing it wrong’. Yeah, yeah, I’ve had my fair share of games, I know what makes a character. I’ve gamed with pretty much every type of group. I’ve played RPGs tactically, emotionally and socially. I know what makes a good game.
Why don’t you try doing a game outside your comfort zone? If you get deeply involved then just create a warrior and get in a basic dungeon. If you just batter evil shit all day then try developing your character, creating a history and growing a personality. Everyone games in different ways and there’s no harm in trying new methods of roleplaying.
Just don’t tell me I’m playing it ‘wrong’.

*Do you see what I did there? Comedy gold!

Monday 22 June 2009

Warcraft - it does good!

Here's something World of Warcraft is good for:
My wife Lisa and my son Bruce have gone to stay with her mother in London for the week. Now, the usual arrangement for any couple who are apart for any length of time is to phone each other periodically. But now, with Warcraft, we can chat to each other over the game.

My wife's level 69 Night Elf Priest on the left, and my new level 15 Night Elf Hunter on the right.

World of Warcraft. I'm declaring my love, keeping in touch and kicking the shit out of the Horde, all at the same time. What's your game?

Bring Him back!

It's time...


Who's with me?!?

Anyone at all.


I miss...

Do you know what I miss? I miss the days when the general population thought that all roleplayers were psycho devil worshippers. It kind of made me feel extra special, you know?
I’m talking early- to mid-eighties, here. Dungeons and Dragons had really kicked off big time and all the cool kids were talking about it. Then some stories started to circulate from America about suicides, steam tunnels and Black Leaf (‘Not Black Leaf! No! No! I’m going to die!’ No, really, Google it, it’s priceless). So all of a sudden this game was a way to practice black magic and get suicidal kids into cults that worshipped horned frogs in party hats. Or something.
I miss those days. These days you just get the odd nerd comment or a roll of the eyes. Nobody gets their knickers in a twist anymore and rants and raves at you, telling you that you’re mentally deranged and/or going to Hell. There’s no parent or teacher pressure groups trying to get the roleplaying games banned, or any religious people organising a mass core rulebook burning. When you were beaten up by a smart arse self-righteous wacko with a bible then you knew you were into something dangerous and rolling polyhedral dice made you a Goddamn REBEL!
But now nobody cares. It’s just another hobby.
I might start up a new roleplaying club and call it ‘Baby-Eating Children of Satan Gamers Club – Families welcome!’

Sunday 21 June 2009

What the elf...?

I just thought I'd share with you the wonders of World of Warcraft. If I'm not getting kicked off the server, having my level 41 Night Elf Warrior* challenged by level 80s, being hassled for gold by shameless new players or having to listen to the drivel on the Trade Channel in Ironforge, my character is doing some wacky things.

Standing room only

Sometimes, WoW never ceases to amaze me. Even the glitches are fun.

*Swordsong, European Azuremyst PvE server. Just in case you want to challenge me to a duel, beg me for gold or talk drivel on the Trade Channel.

Friday 19 June 2009

I've not played D&D in twenty years

And yet, on the evening of the 18th of June 2009 I sat down with friends Mark and Paul to take part in Jason's 4th edition campaign.

The Four Tabletopeers - that's me with the green top on

I gave up on D&D back in 1989 after a failed Dragonlance scenario and an awful Ravenloft campaign (I was a player, not the DM). The system was clunky, the action slow, the whole thing generally dismal. I had already discovered the wonders of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (crappy career system and all) and Star Wars D6. I didn't need pesky old D&D! Old hat, man! Old hat!

And so it went for twenty years. The 3rd edition and the save attempt that was 3.5 came and went and I barely even noticed. But then out came 4th edition and Jason bought the books and got my interest peaked. No THACO? I'm in!

Now, I've been playing World of Warcraft for about five months and I was enjoying it (though I missed the social gathering side of gaming and I was tired of the 'duel me, noob!' messages my level 35 Dwarven Hunter was constantly getting - duel you? Piss off, you're a level 80 Death Knight, bitch!) so I immediately saw the similarities once the game got under way. Every character had a role to play in the group, powers for aiding and buffing, special attacks - it was all there. It appeared that the new D&D had grown from the game that had grown from original D&D - the new incarnation had been inspired by the inspired. Even the artwork had the feel of Warcraft and my character, a Tiefling cleric, had the air of Draenei about him, but I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I actually considered buying the basic books for myself so that I could look into running games of my own.

And that was after a single game. Oh, most of the enjoyment probably came from the fact that the DM was the same guy who had DM'd my very first ever RPG in 1984, and the other two guys with me I'd gamed with for more than twenty years but hadn't sat at a table together with for almost nine... that was cool. The nostalgia, the atmosphere, the sheer fun of beating down on goblins.

But most of all? What I liked about it the most?

No fucking THACO!

Great... another blog

Well, everyone else was having a go so I thought I'd give it a try myself.

I've set up this blog to have a go at sharing my thoughts and ideas as I muddle through the roleplaying hobby, and perhaps other things besides. I won't just cover tabletop roleplaying (which is my primary love) - I will also waffle on about science fiction in general, fantasy, my love of old sci-fi movies, computer games, TV shows and online gaming as I also play World of Warcraft with my wife Lisa.

I'll probably also swear a lot.