Thursday, 30 July 2009


I’ve played a lot of games over the years and I figured I’d make a bit of a list of some of my favourites/not so favourites and tell you why it is I like them. The games listed below are not in any particular order. (I’m intentionally leaving out Dragon Warriors – I think I’ve gushed enough about how much I like that game!)

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
This is the first fantasy game I ever properly GM’d. I’d dabbled in some Basic D&D DMing but fancied something a bit more detailed (and I never really liked AD&D). So, knowing something of the Warhammer World, I snapped up the softback copy in the late eighties. I can recommend the original rulebook alone – it has enough material to keep you going in campaigns for years. A lot of people didn’t like the career system but I found that if it was well managed it wasn’t that much of a problem. The magic system, however, was a bit of a chore and I was lucky that none of my players were that into playing magic users.
I’ve tried the Second Edition and whilst it is still a great game the rulebook just didn’t have the atmosphere of the original. This is my go-to fantasy RPG.

This was the first fantasy game I ever played where I got into my character. The rules are a cut-down version of the over-complicated Rolemaster system, but it’s still quite tricky in some places, and the rulebook is just that – a lot of rules. There’s not much Tolkien atmosphere in the book and we ended up just playing the game set in a fantasy Europe, but the system is robust and allows you to play a well-defined, rounded character. Again, the magic system was a bust and made no sense (and it didn’t suit the world of Tolkien at all) but we never took much notice of it, anyway.

Star Wars D6
All my RPG friends love Star Wars so it’s not surprising that this game was probably the most run. We set our games in the Setnin Sector (detailed over at http://www.lightsabre.co.uk/) and, through four interchanging GMs, got some great campaigns out of it. We always stuck with the original version of the game – the Second Edition just made things complicated for no discernable reason and was a horrendously laid out book, and even though the Revised and Expanded edition was a wonderful book it still retained some of the rules that I felt just weren’t necessary. In fact, the short Star Wars adventure I ran earlier this year used the original rules and worked like a dream.

Call of Cthulhu
Well, what can I say – I was introduced to the work of H P Lovecraft by this game so that’s one reason for me to like it, but not only that I love the system, which I knew from owning RuneQuest. Most of my games had either been fantasy or sc-fi so trying to emulate the world of the 1920s was quite difficult. After reading some of Lovecraft’s work (mainly Call Of Cthulhu and The Shadow Over Innsmouth) I got an idea of how to run the game. I’m not much of a horror fan but this game really did push some buttons. I’ve always prided myself on not ever having run a published adventure ever, but after reading The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep I so wanted to run that adventure.

And I’m talking first edition, too. Yes, that dreadful 2D6 game where character creation was ‘Wuh?’ and the skill resolution system was ‘Eh?’ Once we got our heads around what turned out to be a simple system, we had a blast. I was playing a Davion special forces soldier and, with rorynex in hand, I spent my time doing work for Davion Intelligence in Kuritan space. Now, the system is poor and we had to do some rule modifying for certain areas of the game, but it was very, very good to play a character in the Battletech universe.

There’s also a couple that I’m going to recommend that I, alas, have not yet played (although I have read them).

Basic Fantasy/Swords and Wizadry
I did enjoy playing Basic D&D back in the 1980s and now we’ve hit the 21st century you’d have thought that there was no place for the older game. Boy, was I wrong. These two games have taken the old D&D and tweaked it ever so slightly, releasing games that capture the spirit and the enjoyment of the original game and adding a bit more to enhance the experience.

This is a solid sci-fi RPG that I enjoyed reading, and it has plenty of background material that gives you plenty of scope. It is a game that I’d like to play just to experience the world that has been created for it and the fact that the game has been designed/played/tweeked for years tells me it’s worth having a go at.

Old school kill ‘em and take their stuff. It’s short, it’s sweet and it works. In fact, I’d recommend this game or Basic Fantasy/Swords and Wizadry as a beginners game – if you’re trying to introduce someone to the RPG hobby then you can’t go wrong with these.

And, of course, there’s a few I just didn’t get along with.

Shadowrun (1st Edition)
AAARGH! I so wanted to enjoy this game but the system was just so weird. Was it me? Did I just not ‘get it’? I don’t think so! Not only that but the initial nerdgasm about Elves and Ogres in a cybernetic corporation-run future wore of really quickly. I attended the games, mainly because at that time it was the only game in town, and once my character died it was almost a relief. Needless to say it turned out that I never revisted the game for later editions.

Prime Directive (Task Force Games)
Yes, I bought it because it was Star Trek. Yes, I bought it because I was asked to by my Star Trek friends. No, it wasn’t a very good game. I ended up converting the game to the D6 system, using Star Wars D6 as a template, because the game system just wasn’t any good. The book is full of useful info, and I bought it again recently just so that I could run some D6 system campaigns with it.

In all my 25 years of roleplaying I have owned, played in and GM’d 30 different systems. Some came and went with barely a ripple, but others struck my hobby and my gaming group with such a splash that it left a long-lasting mark on me and my players – and that wasn’t always a good thing.

A ‘We’re Bored!’ Chart for you

Are your players wandering about? Not sure what’s going to happen next because the PCs have derailed the plot?

Then welcome to Farsight Games' Totally Tried and Tested Table of Titbits. Simply roll 1D20 – the result is what happens next.

1 - Party is attacked by a wandering monster.
2 - Party is attacked by a wandering monster looking for directions.
3 - Mysterious small cartoonish white-haired but balding man in red robes appears who says he can get you home but won’t just tell you straight how to do it.
4 - A dragon falls out of the sky, lands heavily on a randomly chosen character, gasps, ‘The money’s in the…’ and then dies.
5 - Tapdancing goblin.
6 - Attacked by 1D6 lethargic orcs who really can’t be bothered.
7 - Approached by a random NPC who wants to sell them time-shares in a glorious castle by the sea, overlooking Passion Lagoon, honestly, it’s just beautiful...
8 - Tapdancing goblin.
9 - It starts to rain... Acid rain!
10 - Nothing happens. Some tumbleweed rolls past.
11 - Three talking mice engage the PCs in a theological conversation about the existence of Squeesquee, the Rodent God.
12 - A spaceship lands and three aliens attempt to invade the whole game world with a rubber band and a wooden club.
13 - Tapdancing goblin.
14 - Car chase! No matter what the genre!
15 - Intermission. All the players must go to the lobby for snacks.
16 - Ninja Pirate attack! No matter what the players say, all games benefit from the inclusion of Ninjas and Pirates. Ninja Pirates is just gaming gold.
17 - Tapdancing goblin.
18 - Random NPC tries to seduce one of the PCs.
19 - Bar fight! Even if they’re not in a bar!
20 - Two tapdancing goblins.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

If music be the food of love...

... then game on.

I used to use a lot of background music in my games. I always felt it helped the atmosphere and enhanced the experience of the game I was trying to play. I used soundtracks from all kinds of movies and television shows and kept the volume down but it was always there, getting the players in the mood. To play with each other. In the game. Of course.

Back when I started with Basic D&D there was no room for music but I started once I began to GM Star Wars D6 campaigns. Shockingly, I used the Star Wars soundtracks for those games. Once I moved on to GMing WFRP I used Beethoven and Rachmaninov, and the MERP game I was playing in was accompanied by Clannad, especially their 'Legend' album (as we were trying to get a 'Robin Of Sherwood' feel to the game.)

After that there was a plethora of music - The 'Terminator 2' and 'Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome' soundtracks for post apocalyptic / cyberpunk games, the 'Alien' soundtrack for 2300AD, a selection of swing and dance music from the 1920s for Call of Cthulhu - I had a massive collection of soundtracks to suit any and all games I was playing. When the glories of CDs came along and I got a remote control and repeat function... I was in RPG Music Heaven. I bought soundtracks not only for their quality of music but also whether they would suit my games or not.

A few years ago I almost stopped buying popular soundtracks for my games - I had been running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay using the Howard Shore 'Lord of the Rings' soundtracks and the game got lost, primarily because the atmosphere being evoked was 'Lord of the Rings' and not the grim world of Warhammer. So I branched out and purchased soundtracks that the players would most likely not recognise, so that the music would feel unique to the game I was running. The 'Army of Darkness' soundtrack, the 'Dune' and 'Children of Dune' soundtracks, the 'Shackleton' soundtrack... I dug out soundtrack music and classical albums where there was a good chance that my players had never heard it before. That way they equated the background music with just my game and not the subject/show it was originally associated with.

Now that I'm planning a Dragon Warriors campaign one of my first thoughts was 'what music shall I use?' Thinking about the subject matter - a fantasy medieval Europe post-crusades - I'm thinking of the soundtracks to 'Kingdom of Heaven' and 'The Thirteenth Warrior'. I'm also considering throwing in some Clannad, just for old times sake.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Grateful (to the) Dead

It's World of Warcraft time.
I just want to take a moment and thank a Horde Undead Mage called, I think, 'Zets', on the EU Azuremyst server.
My level 49 Alliance Dwarf Hunter Burgen was beset by Gnolls in Feralas and was about to get his arse kicked, when Zets came along and saved the day. He saved my bacon, enabling me to complete the escort mission I was on, and even gave me a hearty salute before riding on. What a dude.
So - Thank you, Zets.
A few weeks ago a Tauren Shaman did the same thing for me in the Alterac Mountains but I never got his/her name. But thank you, all the same.
Methinks I'll be trying out a Horde character next time I start a new game. For a bunch of evil bastards they're really nice people.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Here Be Gamers (Aarrrrrr...)

Can I please draw your attention to a most excellent podcast:


And this has nothing to do with the fact that they mention my SKETCH 'Highlander' game.

No, really, it's a great podcast!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Vote for Swords and Wizadry!

The ENies voting booths are open.

I'd just love* you to vote for 'Swords and Wizadry' in the 'Best Free Product' category. So would lots of other bloggers and gamers who enjoy truly free games. Oh, and the guys who wrote it, as well. They'd be simply delighted.

Go on. Just for me.

*This is not a veiled threat. Honest.

Dungeon Design - Monster images

I've been messing about with Microsoft Paint again and came up with these in about fifteen minutes:

I'm setting up a whole page of different monsters, from trolls to goblins to orcs to demons, in GIF format so that I can cut and paste them from one file into the main dungeon floorplan file. The colours are a bit sharp but that's not a problem, and I can modify them as I see fit to suit the room, which takes just minutes. Fair enough, the goblin on the right looks like a purple Superman with a rattle, but it's early days yet.

I'm also wondering if I should design the whole thing first, or blog it bit by bit as I design it. People can click on the images for full-sized versions that they can print, and they can take the room details directly from the text in the blog post - copy and paste is our friend.

No Funny Friday RPG story today, because I don't have any more. Roleplaying is a serious hobby, damn you! Serious! Saying that, we recorded our D&D 4e session last night - it's not really suitable for podcasting, to be honest - and that was great fun. The best line, I think, was something like, 'But, Jason, we really respect you as a DM... you po-faced motherf***er.'

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Dungeon Design Floorplan Test

I've been thinking some more about my idea of doing a large dungeon, designing it bit by bit over a period of time, and this was my primary idea for the floorplans.
Using very simple Microsoft Paint, I got hold of a GIF image of a some squared paper, large enough for me to draw on.

Then I used Microsoft paint and added detail. It was very simple - thick and thin lines for the walls and doors, circles for the fountain in the centre, and then use the fill function to detail the difference between the space in the room and the rock walls. The figures (in this case simple bandits with swords and shields) I drew seperately and then copied and pasted in, rotating the image as I saw fit to suit.

The whole thing took me ten minutes. There might be a bit more detail to add to other rooms, but I'm looking at half an hour to do a room, and then add text details to flesh it out. The best thing is that the finished image won't be any larger than 30kb. With text, that's barely 50 kb per room, so putting it all into an easily printable file should be a doddle.

It's looking quite promising.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hmmm... Dungeon Design Considerations

I was thinking about doing a simple long-term project, and my idea is this - create a large dungeon for use with Basic Fantasy, draw the maps with Microsoft Paint using a square-type background and just add to it room by room as I go along during lunch breaks and what have you. I could use the generator tools on the Basic Fantasy website (http://www.basicfantasy.org/). Build and build until I have a huge dungeon covering player levels 1 to 10, and then stick it all in a PDF and give it out. If it gets good feedback, then adapt it for other systems using the same format, see where it goes from there. I was thinking about doing the Island Tomb from my Stormland SKETCH game setting at http://www.farsightgames.com/. That's huge!

Could I last? Will I create something huge or will I just get bored by room 4 and think, 'Ah, screw this!'

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Basic Fantasy with a Dungeon Mixer



...and if I combined that with this...


...there's a good chance I'd wet myself.

And now for a post that makes me sound clever

Perhaps not.

I was wondering last night, in between boughts of sleep, about what kind of GM I am. Am I any good? Do I tell a good story? Am I fair to my players? Am I an overbearing railroading linear nightmare?

I like to think that I'm a storyteller, first and foremost, and that I'm engaging the players in an adventure that we all create but I ultimately lead. I got the wargame way of playing the game out of my system twenty years ago (I'm aware that I've strangely returned to that now that I'm playing D&D 4e) as I was more interested in mechanics, dice and XP at that time. I never really got into the character-driven angle until about twenty years ago, and then settled in to a story- and plot-driven way of doing things about sixteen years ago. Since then the games I have most enjoyed are the ones with the emotional highs and not the ones where the players killed the monster who was better than them - although there's still plenty of room for that! - and I've felt a much better sense of achievement.

The next time I sit down to GM I might go back to my roots and just lay out a basic adventure with traps, puzzles and monsters, and see if I miss that kind of gaming. I'm sure there's room for both action and storytelling in a game.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Monday Musings

It's Monday.

That should pretty much explain my mental state right now. I've done no proper roleplaying over the weekend, apart from doing some kick-ass dungeons in WoW with my wife. Now that was fun. My Dwarf Hunter character Burgen (EU Azuremyst PvE server) is doing well. Level 47 and rising. I just wish that some other players weren't such dickheads - I know you're level eighty, I know you're bored, but slaughtering all the traders in Booty Bay whilst I'm in the middle of trading 'because it's fun' is pretty pathetic. There should be a cover charge on top of the monthly subscriptions to keep out the riff-raff.

I've decided to go ahead and order a print copy of Dragon Warriors - that's how much I like it. I tried to get by with the PDF but I prefer to have the real thing in my hands. I love the atmosphere of the game, not just the feel of the setting but how the game makes me yearn for my younger days as a fledgling RPGamer in the 1980s. I just want to sit down, put on some gentle music in the background and immerse myself in the book. As soon as I've absorbed it I'm getting a game together.

I've been toying with the idea of putting together a wargame/RPG club in the Lichfield area where I live. Here in the Midlands of England there are plenty of other clubs in Cannock, Birmingham and Nuneaton, but I was thinking of something more central. I've looked into booking rooms and costs but that's pretty much it - if anyone has any idea of what to do, or better still has any experience in running a club, then please give me some pointers.

I'm still enjoying D&D 4e but at the moment the whole game seems to revolve around battlemats and combat. I've not used figures in RPGs for twenty years and so the game feels more like a tactical boardgame at the moment. It's time for me to get stuck in to my character and try to get some roleplaying going. We're hoping to record the next session and release it as a podcast through Farsight Games and http://www.lightsabre.co.uk/ so I'll let you know. The last game was really funny and it's a shame we didn't record it. Hopefully if we do tape a session the tabletop camaraderie won't feel forced as we'll all be conscious of the fact that we're being recorded.

Talking of podcasts, let me direct your attention to http://www.rpgcircus.com/ where you'll find 'the greatest show in gaming'. It's a show about games, strangely enough, and is well worth your time.

And that's about it. My Monday blog post. Let's recap - not much happened.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Funny Friday RPG Story #3

I once spent six and a half hours creating a Rolemaster character. Six and a half bloody hours. I figured I'd keep it simple for a first character (I knew what to expect as I played MERP) and so I created a warrior 'so as not to complicate things'. Six and a half hours, to work out stats, skills, weight, height, eye colour, bleeding sock size. Six and a half hours.

In his very first game he died. After 30 minutes. After being backstabbed by a frigging assassin.

And I was the only player in the game.

I shit you not.

PS: I hate being a player.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

DRAGON WARRIORS RPG - First Impressions

Recently, I got lost in time.

I was sat reading a book and became so immersed in it that I realised, after half an hour or so, that I had become displaced in the space/time continuum. I was even more shocked to discover that not only had I moved through time, I had gone backwards. In fact, I had gone back to the 10th century via the mid-1980s. My second concern was getting back home - my first concern was the fact that there were several demons coming at me with claws at the ready, all of them listening to Duran Duran's new album 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger' on Sony Walkmans.
The DRAGON WARRIORS book most definitely gives me that sense of displacement. This fantasy RPG was originally printed back in the 1980s when the Fighting Fantasy books were at their height and, to be perfectly honest, it passed me by. I was too wrapped up in gaming in Allansia and biting down on Redbox Dungeons and Dragons. With many RPG products to choose from it was no wonder that I missed many other games.

DRAGON WARRIORS throws me back to those days of my teenage youth. It's a wonderfully simple game with just enough game mechanics to define a detailed character and allow it to grow, and yet they're not so complicated that you'll spend your first game trying to work out how to create a character and the next two or three trying to figure out how the game works. In fact, as a player, you'll most likely have a character and a full encounter played out in a single session and have your head around the rules ready for the next game.

What struck me most about the book was the atmosphere. This is not a game about flashy magic swords, intricately designed multi-angled armour and high magic (which, by the way, are the kinds of fantasy I'm not fond of - see one of my previous blogs below), but about a pseudo-historical land based on Europe a thousand years ago. Saying that, the game appears flexible enough for you to create any fantasy setting you wish but I'm fine with the setting provided - there was a TV show in the 1980s that I loved called 'Robin of Sherwood' which took the premise of Robin Hood and actual historical events and people and mixed it in with elements of fantasy. It was a show tailor made for my gaming sensibilities and this game reminds me of that show.

I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the book and giving it a proper read. Once I've gone cover to cover and, hopefully, got some games under my belt I'll write a proper review, but I can tell you that my first impression is that I'm excited about what I've read so far.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Twitter RPG Design Challenge

Here's a challenge for you - design a tabletop roleplaying game that fits onto a single Twitter entry*. The best will get a free PDF copy of my League of Seven game. I'm not kidding - you'll need two or three words for setting and a few for the system. Its a challenge, alright.

For example: Cyberpunk Vampires roll 1d6+4 for STRENGTH, COMBAT+CHARISMA skill levels,roll below skill level on 2D6 for skill checks,1D3 damage on hits

Results will be revealed on August 19th, so you have a month to write a single sentence. Get twittering!

*140 characters, including spaces. You can post them on Twitter or in the comments below but you must send your entry to farsightgames (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk. If you go over the 140 character limit you will be automatically disqualified.

ENnie Awards

There is a lot discussion about the ENnie Award nominations recently - I have no problem with the awards and those nominated no doubt deserve the attention and acclaim they get.

What concerns me is that in the 'Best Free RPG' category, three out of the five games are quick-start rules, designed to give the player a taster of a larger commercial product.

Personally, I don't think this is fair. If the game is to be judged it should be done so on the merits of the final product and not on it's advertising methods. People who create free RPGs with no other intention than to distribute their work to the RPG community are doing so on their own time and talent. Quick-start rules are going to have the professional backing and talent of the company that created the full game so they are almost bound to have higher production values, and they will also have a (no doubt highly deserved) large fan base attached, much larger than fans of an independantly produced and truly free RPG.

So this creates a problem. I have no problem with quick-start rules - in fact, I think they're an excellent idea - but do they belong in the same nomination category as a truly free RPG? I don't think so. If anything they should be nominated for best RPG and that's it. If they were in both categories then, technically, you'd be voting for the same game twice.

This is being discussed on Rob Lang's blog here.
Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG blog has a few opinions here.
Stargazer's World has a thing or two to say about it here.
Over at 1KM1KT a representative of the ENnies has gotten involved with the debate here.

I think it's too late to do anything about it this year, but hopefully the nature of the topic will be considered for next year's awards.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Highs and Lows

I've never really been into high-fantasy settings, with flashy oversized swords, crazy-angled-pointy armour and insane pyrotechnics for magic. I've always been more of a down-and-dirty, quasi-historical setting kind of guy, with design and looks based in our own culture. I mentioned in my last blog that I was interested in doing a MERP game in a fantasy England and that's still my goal. Get some players interested in diving deep into an RPG together and fleshing out a game.

I've been looking at Dark Age Britain recently, especially the period around Alfred the Great (a time wonderfully depicted in Bernard Cornwell's books, which I'm reading at the moment and can't recommend enough) and what interests me is the idea of a decaying Roman settlement and the mysteries that collapsed villas, temples and towns might have in store for people wanting what the Romans left behind. Bloody Romans.

Take that one step further and make it a fantasy game and instead of a few columns and a collapsed roof all covered in weeds, you've got huge castles dedicated to Jupiter. A great statue of a Roman General spans the River Severn, one foot on each bank, gladius raised high overhead and scutum lowered as if protecting the land from invaders travelling the river, so you have to sail between his legs as you travel inland. There's another one of the Emperor across the Thames estuary, with his hand extended in friendship, his blank soulless eyes staring down at the water so that at some point he will be staring at you accusingly. In all this grandiose larger-than-life game you'll have the basic Dark Age trappings, with Picts, Norsemen, Saxons, Danes and Britons all fighting for dominance, and in the background a supersized version of a collapsed Roman occupation. Warriors might be using old Roman weapons and armour, their own or something cooked up by the local druid who resents outsiders after his kind were massacred by the Romans.

I think it'd make a great setting, one that's instantly recognisable from history (giving it depth and believability) and yet have an air of mystery and legend about it.

And, what's better, no pointy-flashing-crazy-angled armoured anime characters with huge weapons.

PS: Rob Lang has made it known to the world how much he disagrees with the Ennie nominations for Best Free RPG, considering that three of the five nominees are nothing more than quick-start rules for a commercial product. Read the details here. I'm supporting this opinion as free games should be just that - free - and not simple cut-down versions of a larger item you have to pay for.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Monday Musings

I really miss GMing.

I am enjoying the Thursday night D&D 4e game I'm in as I've not played in years, and it's great to react to situations instead of creating them. It's just that I love the idea of creating a plot and characters and then presenting that creation to the players. That way I'm constantly involved in the game and I'm not sitting back every now and then whilst another player has the spotlight.

So what does that make me? Selfish? Or an attention whore? I don't know. Maybe both.

In other news, I was going through my PC hardrive and I found notes for about 5 different ideas I had for RPG systems. One of them was based around the D20 (the dice, not the system) and had skills, spell lists and advancement rules. I was surprised to find it as it was a precursor to my SKETCH system and I thought I'd dumped it (I went with SKETCH as it was much simpler and D6 based) but no, there it was. I think I'll take Rob Lang's advice, tidy it up and put it out there to see if it gets any positive feedback. Then I'll decide what to do with it.

Finally - I really really want to run an epic campaign of MERP, but in a fantasy Dark Age Britain setting I designed a long time ago. The Romans have left and magic slowly returns to the land... I have a massive map of Ancient Britain, you see, with all the old place names and historical sites so most of the work is done for me.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Funny Friday RPG Story #2

I was running a Call of Cthulhu game once, and it was quite a long session. Two of the three players had retired for the night and the last one, whom we shall call Bob, was desperate to get to the end of a mystery that revolved around his PC and he was incredibly intense about it - which was probably why the other two players had excused themselves.

Now, Bob was desperate for a pee but I had started a dark, tension-filled scene in an old collapsed church somewhere in the south of England. He was hoping to find answers to his mystery and flatly refued to take a toilet break becasue he was just so damned excited and didn't want to miss anything! So, against my advice, we continued.

Suddenly, as he walked through the rotted pews, the floor erupted and a Hunting Horror burst from the crypt. I wanted to maximise the fright - he was mulling over a cryptic letter and as he looked up to ask a question I was loud, in his face with my arms waving. BAM! I screamed! He yelled! And he peed himself.

Just a little. It was then he decided that a toilet break was a good idea.

I shit you not.

So, in conclusion kids, the Call of Cthulhu RPG is pant-wettingly scary.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


You know, I spend that much time wittering about RPGs and game design that I'm not actually getting anything done. My brain is filled with ideas and I talk a hell of a lot about writing this shit down and printing it but I never get to it. I talk about how cool games are and the way I'd like to play but never actually sit down and do it. I'm more interested in sharing my ideas and announcing my intentions than I am about getting anything done.

What pains me the most is that I've neglected what is supposed to be my passion - writing fiction. Since I wrote and published some of my short stories in 'Those Dark Places' I've done nothing new. I know what I want to write and I've wanted to write it for years. At the moment I'm just doing the quick fix; oooh, release another short and sweet SKETCH game, knock up some simple rules for magazine format rules system, knock out a quick article for ODDS... it's not fulfilling my drive to create. They're just fillers. I enjoy them - I even get a kick out of it - but they're all short-term solutions to my long-term problem.

I need to write and, mostly, I need to create.

Sci-Fi D&D

I've been toying with the idea of a science fiction AD&D game for a while after realising that the old Buck Rogers XXVc game would make a great platform for generic sci-fi games. It'd need a bit of tweaking (ie: lose the crappy THACO) but it'd work, I'm sure. I even got in touch with WotC to see who held the license for the game system but they never came back to me. I can only assume they didn't actually know and were too embaressed to admit to it for they are infallible.

David Bezio has been working on a game along those very same lines but he's gone one better - what if the creators of D&D never went down the fantasy route but opted for science fiction, instead? And if it came out in the 1970's, what would it have been like? That's the game he's working on, a retro-scifi RPG in the vein of D&D.

It's a brilliant idea and you can download a playtest version of the game from here from Lulu. It's well worth it. Give it a play and get back to David with some constructive criticism and/or ideas. I'd like to see it take off, and in the meantime I'll still trumpet the benefits of using the Buck Rogers game to play sci-fi D&D.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Sunday Night Roleplayers

From 1993 to about 1995 I was part of a group of gamers who religiously attended a Star Wars D6 game every Sunday night. It was fun, furious and frenetic, with secret plots being hatched between players, mysterious notes being passed under the table and many a frustrated GM finding steam coming out of their ears. The fruits of this labour can be found on http://www.lightsabre.co.uk/ which was originally created as a source for our RPG creations.

Last year I made a commemorative movie to celebrate these games from an age gone by.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

... and I want it now!

I've got that bug again, the really crawly one where my heart tells me to buy any RPG I see to add to my collection. That I don't have anymore thanks to Ebay. I've been looking at Dark Heresy, Starblazer Adventures and Dragon Warriors and I'd love to buy them but my head is saying 'Shtop! You'll never play the bloody things!' I'm barely getting in a weekly session of D&D and I'm loving the game but I want to get my teeth into some roleplaying meat, tell some stories and play some characters.

In short, I want to GM again. I want to create a story, create some NPCs, throw an adventure at players and just make shit up on the spot. I want to get involved with a campaign and have a goal far off in the distance and have the PCs travel, work and fight to attain it.

I need to do dome serious roleplaying, dammit. I need to do it before my imagination boiler reaches full pressure and the creative outlet valve fails and pisses it all away.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Gaming and Writing

I wonder if writing stories about events in a roleplaying game would actually make a good story? Does anyone sit back, think about their games and consider if they would actually make a good novel or film or TV series?

Friday, 3 July 2009

Funny Friday RPG Story #1

So, there was this one time in a game where three players had basically thwarted the GMs obviously well-laid plans by setting fire to the Evil Wizard's impenetrable tower. By impenetrable I mean there simply were no doors. They spent two hours of realtime throwing burning oil on the walls, stacking firewood up the walls and firing burning arrows through the windows. They watched the whole place go up in smoke and were quite happy with their work, only to be told that they'd failed to kill the Evil Wizard because the Evil Wizard was 'out shopping'.

Then the Evil Wizard turned up with with two bags of groceries, frowned a lot, and then kicked their arses.

I shit you not.

*I was not the GM, I swear. I have omitted names so as not to embarrass anyone.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Magic in a Science Fiction world

I've noticed that in science fiction when magic is used or referenced it's always a psionic version - the psychic energies create effects and attacks that appear as magic spells. Therefore, psionic bolt attack is just Magic Missile. Instead of the magical energies being derived from mana flow or gods or nature, as in a fantasy setting, the power is from the mind.

Now, I say this because I'm having a look at setting up a new RPG campaign location and I want to do fantasy but I also love science fiction. This got me thinking about marrying up the two, a swords and sorcery in space mix-up, and one of the things that I was considering was dropping the whole 'magic is just psionics' angle and actually using proper magic as used in a fantasy setting. So instead of a bonus-giving magic sword you'd have a bonus-giving magic laser pistol. Runes etched into starship hulls create magical barriers, like shields. You could summon demons to fix your hovercar.

I'm in a fix, though - Warhammer 40K. It leans heavily on the fantasy side of things, so much in fact it sometimes seems they just swapped out swords for bolters, and so anything I do will be coloured by this highly successful game that's been out for more than twenty years.

So that means my work is cut out for me. If I do something similar then it'll be 'He's just copying WH40K!', and if I changed the aesthetic it'll be 'He's just copying WH40k and changed the design!', and if I try to do something different and try to keep that fantasy edge it'll be 'He's just copying WH40K and trying to do something different!'

Any way you look at it, I'm copying WH40K.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Blizzard? Shitzard more like!

I just fought my way through through The Scarlet Monastery dungeon with my level 38 Dwarf hunter, my wife's level 70 Night Elf priest by my side. We just spent two and a half hours fighting our way to the final dude Whitemane - and the server crashes. We're kicked out. When we go back in, we're both dead and have to find our way back to the dungeon... which means we have to fight our way through the guys we just spent the last three quarters of an hour fighting again!

Christ almighty, Blizzard. Sort your shit out. If you want my money every month try making the game actually bloody work.

Must... not... offer... opinion...

I'm a GM playing in someone else's game.

I've pretty much done nothing but GM since 1995 when I bowed out of a large Star Wars D6 RPG group and started up a smaller group playing Warhammer FRP. Since then I've done nothing but GM. On average I was running 3 games a week just about every week of the year. That's at least 306 games. Then I was running two games a year for the next five years. That's another 520 games. After that it petered out slightly, around about one game every two weeks.

So now I'm into gaming again but as a player... but I can't get out of GM mode! It's frustrating - all I want to do is sit down and roll some dice and enjoy the game but I keep catching myself, thinking 'I wouldn't have done it that way' or 'I would have introduced such-and-such at this point' or 'I would have played that NPC like this...'

Do you see what I mean? The game is great fun and I have no complaints about the way it's being handled by the more than competent GM we have at the moment, but I guess that more than ten years of conditioning is going to be hard to break away from. All I need to remember is that I need to keep my big fat mouth shut or I'm going to get kicked in the balls.