Friday 28 August 2009


I love this stuff - from the pages of 2000AD, the mutant Johnny Alpha and his norm Viking partner Wulf stalking the galaxy, outcast bounty hunters living in a universe that hate their kind. The mutants were created after atomic wars and the radiation, Strontium 90, mutated generations of humans into mutants that the norms could barely accept - in fact, they even tried to wipe them out. Now they are the bounty hunters of an ever-expanding galaxy, doing the dirty work the norms hate. They are the Search/Destroy agents. The Strontium Dogs.


I used to use the old Games Workshop Judge Dredd RPG to run games set in this universe (there was a section on random Cursed Earth mutations in the companion that was perfect for generic SD Agents) and with a bit of tweaking to bring the system in line with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I got dozens of games out of it.

But this whole premise has much more going for it: Movies and TV shows! It's perfect! It's a high-concept future, with aliens, far-flung worlds and mental powers. It has time travel, spaceships and Old West-style townships on the new frontier, and it has mutants of all shapes and sizes. Best of all it has Johnny Alpha - the mutant with the eyes! And his norm partner Wulf with the big happystick. He's a real Viking, you know. It's a long story.

How could you go wrong with a setup like that? You've got your production design sorted - the genius that is Carlos Ezquerra created a beautiful and unique look to the future - and there's a perfect mix of angst, melodrama and all-balls-out action to be had.

Oh, come on, producer people. It's a frickin' gold mine.

Thursday 27 August 2009


I'm a massive fan of THE GUILD, the online video adventures of a group of MMORPG players who are in... a guild, strangely enough. It follows their antics both on- and off-line and is, for want a better description, frickin' great. As a World of Warcraft player I can see all the game jokes in there and it's a good watch for those not so versed in the world of MMOs.

They recently recorded a song and shot a music video and here it is. I think some bigshot producer should seriously consider giving this show some airtime; it's clever, quick and very funny. But, then again, so was Arrested Development and they still managed to shaft that up the arse.


This always struck me as interesting.

I wonder what's happening with it? It's apparently in limbo due to funding.


Yeah, that's what you did, you crappy movie people - you mooned us! There was a clever science fiction movie without all the big explosions and special effects doing the rounds and you not only failed to promote it with any kind of flair or gusto you pretty much ignored it.

I'm talking about MOON, the Duncan Jones directed psychological sci-fi thriller starring Sam Rockwell. I'm a child of 1970s/1980s science fiction movies and you failed to include me in your crappy target audience research. What was the matter? Not enough big spaceships blowing the crap out each other? Did you feel the absence of giant robots having fistfights might confuse the audience? Or maybe because there wasn't a hero with perfect teeth and big laserguns you felt the audience might get bored?

I enjoy my in-your-face films because they're fun but, honestly, demographics mean nothing to me - there's room for more thoughtful films, too. I understand that they're trying to run a business and it's all about money, but when that's used as a reason as to why they don't promote movies such as this because it'll only appeal to a 'minority of moviegoers' really makes me grind my teeth. So it's okay to splash massive action movies everywhere but not interesting thoughtful ones? Cinemagoers responded well to movies such as The Sixth Sense, so why not movies like this? Or do the big movie companies feel we're not that clever and we'll only respond to explosions explosions explosions?

Perhaps if they did promote better they'd have much better attendance numbers at the cinemas from those of us who enjoy these kinds of movies. Try enticing film lovers back to the cinema, movie people, and stop relying on CGI-laser-death 'event' movies for the bums-on-seats approach. I think you'll be surprised by the results.


There's two things that might go through my mind when I watch a TV show and they are:

1 - 'I could do better than this'
2 - 'If I had the money, I'd make my own TV show'

It's inevitable. When I'm daydreaming or thinking about possible projects one of the things I think about is 'what kind of show would I make if I had the finances to do it?' If I could land a big fat inheritance or win millions on the lottery what production company will deny me the chance to create and fund a whole pilot out of my own pocket? What kind of mad-cap sci-fi/fantasy show could I come up with? Something with sharp dialogue and a teenage slant for FOX? Something intelligent for the BBC? Something gritty and dirty for HBO?

And then reality kicks the door down and boots me in the nuts. I know naff-all about the TV/movie industry so all I'd be good for - if I had it - is the cash.

I can write scripts, though! Hooray!

Wednesday 26 August 2009


I'm not sure why it is, but I just can't seem to generate any excitement for James Cameron's new movie AVATAR.

I know that Cameron is a great filmmaker - I've not seen a single film of his that I haven't enjoyed... well, I'm not hot on Titanic but it's a good film - but I just can't build up any personal buzz for this film. It looks great, the visuals are gorgeous and no doubt he'll tell a great story. Why is it, then, that I'm not feeling it? Maybe I'd have felt differently if I'd been in a theatre watching the preview and actually felt the electricity in the air. Right now I'm not that bothered if I see it or not, and will probably just pick it up on DVD and lament the fact that I missed it on the big screen.

Maybe if every other blurb about the movie wasn't accompanied by the words 'ground-breaking', 'movie-defining' or even 'vision' I'd be a bit more interested. In my experience, a potential blockbuster that uses those phrases usually turns out to be crap and I still suffer from bouts of EpisodeOne-itis.

And those exo-battlesuit-thingies looked cool. The battlesuits in Matrix Revolutions were cool, too. So where the hell is my Battletech movie?


Well, it turned out that I didn't have a massively influential or world-changing opinion on roleplaying games - I just like writing and playing them. So, instead of scrabbling for news that everyone will have already read a thousand times before I posted it or trying to write an essay about the state/decline/awesomeness/types/life-changing aspects of RPGs, I figured I'd just wax bullshit about my favourite things.

So, I've dumped the old banner, stuck up a basic new one which tells you what this is about, and hopefully I'll be able to talk about the state/decline/awesomeness/types/life-changing aspects of the sci-fi and fantasy genre.

So, good luck to me.


It's not often I get excited about fan movies - I do like them but most are just a passing bit of fun you might dig out on Youtube. I think the last fanfilm I got excited about was Star Wars spoof Troops - it was funny then and it's hilarious now.

The Hunt For Gollum, however, was not only set in a world I love but it's an amazing production. It's doing the rounds at the moment but it can be viewed online at pretty much any video streaming website. The production quality is fantastic and the performances are incredibly professional. Colour me impressed.

PS: Also colour me as a humble pie eater, because when I first heard about this I thought, 'A Lord of the Rings fan film? It's gonna be shit!'

Friday 21 August 2009

I can't live... if living is without youuu-hoo-hoo...

Sing along! 'I can't liiiiiiiiiiive... I can't liiive anymoooooooooore...'

Or can I?

The internet is a wonderful thing. I can send emails and messages to people in other countries in a matter of seconds, I can find out information on anything in minutes, I can play interactive computer games and I can talk crap on my own blog in the vain hope that someone is going to give a shit about what I think. In the interests of my hobby, though, I can download free RPGs.

I'm not talking about Word Document pages of text or PDFs of photocopies of original books - I'm talking about full on original and proffesionally produced roleplaying games created by fans of the genre. I've downloaded games such as Icar, Dungeonslayers, Basic Fantasy, Swords and Wizadry, Sufficiently Advanced... all of these games and many, many more are available by simply clicking on a link and saving it to your hard drive. My own SKETCH system was designed for this very purpose - I had an idea, I typed it up, I stuck it in a PDF and I gave it away. Job done.

So where does this leave the big game companies? These guys are not only selling their printed copies of books but they're also selling their PDF versions as well so that people can get hold of them faster. That's fine, but if I can get a similar game for free somewhere else then why don't I just do that? Some games are so simple that I can print them out on my own printer in less than an hour, and if I must take the PDF to a printer then why pay for the PDF download in the first place if it's going to cost me extra to get it physically printed? Each and every one of the free RPGs on offer are quite capable of doing the same job as a company-printed game. Some of the production values of these free games are, to be blunt, stunning, and easily contend with products that have the financial backing and talent of an RPG company. The old school movement of games such as Swords and Wizadry and Basic Fantasy not only have rules that hark back to the beginning of the RPG hobby but they also have plenty of support material and adventures to go with them - and it's all free!

So do we really need these big companies producing their big costly books? We're constantly told that the RPG industry isn't something you get into if you want make it rich - 'How do you make a million in the RPG industry? Start with two million' is an old joke - so the presence of free material will surely mean the death of the industry, or at least damage it as a whole?

I honestly don't know. I've recently bought some new RPG books - the Dragon Warriors game and supplements - after several years of not buying any product at all. This was mainly because I'm having a nostalgia kick and I wanted to catch up on and play a game from the 1980s that I missed, but also because it's a great product. It's like buying a new novel even though you're an amateur writer yourself - you want to see what they have come up with but at the same time be safe in the knowledge that it's been through a professional company so that what you get is a complete, finished and polished product. Is it that sense of quality we're looking for when we buy these things?

So, can we live without the big companies? Yes, I think we can. I'm not saying 'smash the printers, comrades!' because, and I admit it, I like the idea of a 'big-budget' game in my hands, but as a long-time player I'm content with knowing that my hobby will never die. The big game companies could vanish tomorrow but the hobby will live on, because even now there are devotees out there creating, fashioning and producing quality games for people to access quickly and easily. Even first-time gamers will have the resources on the internet to learn about the game, from the games themselves to gamers talking about the hobby to Wikipedia entries. There is nothing a single RPG book can teach a budding roleplayer that the internet RPG community can't.

Weasel out of this one you... weasel

Brent P. Newhall, the winner of the Twitter RPG Design Challenge, has expanded his game into a 1-page PDF document and released it into the wild. The game, Weasels!, is a dead simple system using a single D6 for mechanics.

The PDF can be downloaded here: Weasels!

Thanks for sharing, Brent!

NB: Is it just me or does the word 'weasel' lool like it's spelled wrong after you've typed it out half a dozen times?

Thursday 20 August 2009

Ready... Aim... GAME!

I've pretty much got my Dragon Warriors game ready. I'm leaving it open to the players what kind of character they want to play but I'm starting the game towards the end of a Crusade in the Principalities. The first game or two will be them fighting in the Holy Land - mainly to get used to the mechanics and introduce the PCs - and then I'll move the action on to them returning to Ellesland where the adventure proper can begin. I might introduce a couple of NPCs that'll resurface later on if they work out well with the players but we'll see how that pans out.

Now, I've got two players pretty much confirmed in the game but I'd like at least two more. I know of two guys who might be up for it but I have one major problem to overcome before I agree to a larger group - a place to play the game! My flat just isn't big enough to cater for four people, espcecially as my wife and son are there too, and I'm a bit loathe to pay for room rental at a local centre. I already grudgingly pay for WoW subscription, I don't want to pay for my tabletop RPG, as well!

I'll get the players set up first and worry about location later. At the moment, though, it's all looking good.

For inspiration and visualisation I just bought the extended edition of Kingdom of Heaven, which is 45 minutes longer and apparantly a much better movie for it. I didn't mind the original release but there was room for improvement, and for £2.98 from Amazon for a 4-disc DVD boxset I'm laughing.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Hang your head in shame, you dirty roleplayer!

I was musing today on the nature of roleplaying and there is one thing that I have never been about my hobby - secretive.

I've always been quite open about being a tabletop gamer. I don't fling myself in people's faces and declare that 'my hobby is the roleplaying!' but if the conversation turns to 'what do you do in your spare time?' then I'll casually mention that I play roleplaying games along with my other interests. If they ask again, I just say it's like a freeform boardgame for actors. If they enquire further I inevitably say, 'you know... Dungeons and Dragons'. Even if that's not what I'm playing, it's the name everyone recognises.

Because I approach it in such a relaxed 'whatever' attitude I'm never looked at strangely or ridiculed for it. If I find out they've taken the piss behind my back that's their prerogative and a true indication of their character, but in general almost all the people I've said it to just go 'oh, right' and change the subject. And that's fine by me - I'm not interested in botany or football so if someone told me that their primary hobby was planting flowers and kicking balls around I'd probably do the same thing. We're not all into the same stuff.

A couple of people I knew back in the 1990s were good gamers and I knew them primarily through the games we played, but I do remember one night we were getting together to go out for a few beers with some of their friends and I was asked not to mention RPGs. When I asked why I was told it was because 'they wouldn't get it', but so what? I don't get cricket but I'm not going to disassociate myself with someone who does. I had lots of non-gamer friends who had no interest in the hobby, so we didn't discuss it and they never felt the need to take the piss. End of.

So this got me thinking - what is it that makes some tabletop roleplayers feel like lepers when they're asked about their hobby? I've come across idiots who think it's funny to take the mickey out of us and make comments about pointy hats and rubber swords but that's okay - we're a fringe hobby, I guess, and if people don't understand something they ridicule it. But it's never dissuaded me from talking about my hobby if I'm asked about it. I've never made it a secret and, in many ways, I enjoy talking about it if people are interested to hear about it.

Like I said, I was just musing. I've got no real point to make.

Twitter RPG Design Competition Results

And the winner is.....

BRENT NEWHALL with the following entry:

Play intelligent weasels with other beasts in forest. 13 points in Sneaky, Vicious, Persuade, Health. Beat 1d6 to succeed; 1 damage per hit

I chose this because, let's face it, playing an intelligent weasel? Who doesn't want to do that? The system is simple and usable and it even has as a damage system. You'd probably have to adjust things depending on the size of the animal but hey - there's only 140 characters to play with! Well done, Brent, a copy of my SKETCH game The League Of Seven is on it's way to you now.

A special mention goes to Allon Mureinik with this entry:

Dragon souls hiding in cat bodies. Divide 10 points between attributes: flight, fire-breath, magic. D10+Attribute vs. difficulty to succeed

Mainly because of the concept - the souls of dragons inside the bodies of cats? That's just cool on toast.

Thanks to all of you who entered!

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Let me tell you about Armand...

I had a non-player character who originated in one of my first Warhammer 1st ed games called Armand De Guin. I never intended him to be a huge character, but he obviously made an impact.

Armand was the mysterious-guy-talking-in-riddles character to hook the players into an adventure. He was actually a con man pretending to be a man of mystery to con the players into going into a barrow just outside the Moot and they sort of fell for it, even though they were suspicious. The game was a one-off but he lingered in the minds of the players, so much so that a few games down the line when they were confronted with a similar quest into a tomb they sought out Armand to ask him for advice. He became the go-to guy for information. He never popped up cartoon Dungeon Master style and say, ‘You must do this!’ – the players actively sought him out. He would never, though, accompany them on their adventures. I enjoyed playing him but I would never Mary Sue it up.

In time Armand De Guin became a character who appeared in all kinds of fantasy games I ran - I used him as a quest-giver, the guy who gets the players on track, the guy they go to for information or clues as he seemed to know everything about everything, or at least point them in the right direction if they needed it. I used him in three different games with three different groups. One day, one of the players from one group joined another (Warhammer over to MERP, I think it was) and Armand's name was mentioned and there was honest shock at the fact that he was here, in another world. It was then that I realised that maybe that this Armand character actually existed in the game worlds like a constant shadow – a bit like Moorcock’s Eternal Champion – and that he had a some kind of overall plan, that there was a reason that he needed the PCs to do the things that he asked them to do in each of these fantasy worlds. He had a bigger agenda and only the completion of these quests by the PCs could bring his goals to fruition.

I never fleshed that out. The games dwindled, the groups broke up, and the last time Armand was mentioned was a few years ago during a one-on-one game. His plot was never completed and I was never asked why it was he existed in so many worlds, why it was he helped the PCs with so many things and pointed them in the right direction.

I miss playing Armand De Guin. Maybe I’ll dust him off when I get this Dragon Warriors game off the ground.

Do you know what?

Sod this. I'm going to write a novel.

So, how's the new Guild working out for you?

Really well, thank you for asking.

I'd become a little disillusioned with World of Warcraft recently and even had a go at playing a Horde character, but I couldn't get into playing a Tauren and missed my mid-level Dwarf hunter Burgen. My wife joined a Guild called Azeroth Raiders and they invited me, too, and they're a lovely bunch of helpful, funny people.

The word on the WoW streets is that Alliance players are aroggant and rude and Horde players, being the outsiders, tend to stick together and get on. Well, a couple of weeks ago I might have agreed - a lot of the Alliance players I was encountering were absolute tossers - but now I'm not so sure. Since joining the Raiders I've found a new sense of purpose and I'm experiencing camaraderie. I'm actually starting to enjoy WoW again and last night's Jeremy Kyle conversation had me and my wife laughing out loud at our computers.

Their tabard clashes with my Ebonhold armour, mind you, but I'll let that go.

Monday 17 August 2009

This just in... D&D used in child custody case...

This from

D&D used as a weapon in a child custody case

If this game tips the balance in a child custody case there's no telling where it will end. 'Mother found not suitable to bring up children after 2-hour Monopoly binge! Father's weekend visits limited to one a month after discovery of Hungry Hungry Hippos in attic! Parents arrested after beating children at Cluedo!'

Good old D&D - never fails to raise a little controversy or act as a soapbox for other people's agendas.

Friday 14 August 2009

I've just realised something

I spend more time talking about roleplaying games than I do actually playing them.

I talk about what I want to play, what I want to write, I talk about the kinds of games I like and the games I own, and I even talk about how great the games that I played long ago were, but I don't talk about sitting down, playing and enjoying them right now. In fact, I don't think I've spoken once about a game that I've run recently. I harp on about the games that I want to do, but as of yet there are no posts about how they went or how they're going.

I'm playing in a D&D 4e game at the moment - and I'm enjoying it - but I'm not talking about it. That's because I'm playing and not running the game. 90% of my roleplaying experience is being the GM as I love to create, control and communicate the worlds I build to players.

Am I spending my time blogging and posting and writing free stuff because of my lack of gaming? Is my narrative GM gland trying to find another outlet for my imagination, for my need to talk to other gamers?

I created this blog to talk about my gaming, and that included World of Warcraft. You'll notice that I'm not posting about WoW that much - and that's because I'm actually playing the game regularly. If I had a regular tabeltop RPG then maybe my need to yap on about gaming would be satiated and I wouldn't be grabbing moments of time to write about RPGs but instead I'd be playing the damn things and getting my fill that way. Would that mean that my blogposts and writing would diminish? I think it would. I think the reason why I have so much free stuff out is because I'm using that as an outlet for my gaming needs. It's also why my fiction writing has suffered, because my writing time is being put into these games I'm creating.

Years ago I was a very prolific writer - I had more than a hundred short stories and three novels under my belt (none of which, it must be said, I felt were suitable for publication). This was at a time when I was GMing up to three RPG games a week for three different groups! What does that tell you? It tells me that my gaming needs were more than catered for and the time I had spare I'd write my fiction. Now that I'm writing to fill my gaming needs my fiction has been neglected.

So we come back to the fact that I'm talking about gaming more than I'm doing it, like a guy who harps on about sex all the time and therefore making it obvious to everyone that he's not getting any.

This is not a good thing. In fact, it worries me a little. I need to do some roleplaying. You know, that thing I keep writing about.

It's all kicking off at FFG!

The official press release last Wednesday on the Fantasy Flight Games website regarding the new Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game has recieved some seriously negative responses. You'll have to read the full press release to get an idea of what the game is about but here's a quick quote regarding the game itself:

'The massive Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition box, which will retail for $99.95, contains everything a group of adventurers will need to play – four different rule-books, 36 custom dice, over 300 cards, counters, “character keeper” boxes, and much more.'

Anyway, the comments on the press release page range from 'Woohoo!' to 'OohNoo!'

Personally? Well, I've got my WFRP 1st edition stuff and I still love it. I bought a couple of books of WFRP 2nd edition and, whilst it was good, it just didn't have the feel of the 1st. It wasn't a bad game, in fact it was probably much more user friendly and manageable than 1st, but I was just so versed and involved with 1st edition that I ended up selling my 2nd edition books on.

But this new 3rd edition? My first thoughts were 'is there any need for another edition?' And when I saw that the game had gone the way of a glorified boardgame I realised that it appeared that FFG were following in WotC's footsteps - they had 'redesigned' the game to attract the console/MMORPG crowd. That's just not my thing, and a box full of 'special cards and dice' that, by the looks of things, is not compatible with previous editions is something of a turn off. At least I could use some of the 2nd edition material in my 1st edition games.

I'm sure it's a great game and it will have it's fans - and good luck to them - but the game just doesn't feel like the kind of thing I'll be playing. Still - Rogue Trader will be out soon, so I still love you FFG!

Thursday 13 August 2009

A simple SKETCH-based Gen Con Game for you

Below is a game I wrote for the 2009 UK Games Expo - the organisers of the convention were kind enough to print the game in their event programme and allowed me to offend many people. Good on 'em!

I've put it here for those of you attending Gen Con this weekend (you gits!) and I hope you have fun with it.


An Unconventional Roleplaying Game about Unconventional Conventions

By Jonathan Hicks

IT’S A CON! was a very small roleplaying game using an even lighter version of Farsight Game’s SKETCH system designed especially for the UK Games Expo. The aim of the game is simple – create a convention attendee and get through the day without falling foul of stress brought on by losing games, being frowned at by your peers or having comments made about your personal hygeine. All you’ll need to play is a single six-sided die (you’re at Gen Con – you’ll find one somewhere!). Although this is a roleplaying game you don’t really need a GM to play.

First of all, you have to create your convention attendee. An attendee has six areas of expertise:

RPGs – Your ability to play tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Traveller.
Wargames – Your ability and expertise at wargames such as Warhammer.
Video Games – Your skill and knowledge in handheld, console and PC games.
Card Games – Your skill and knowledge in card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
Fan Boy – Your knowledge and love of a single iconic person of a game, book TV show or movie, such as an author, actor or designer.
Personal Grooming – Your personal hygeine, appearance and general fashion sense.

The attendee is given the numbers 1 through to 6 to put in each area of expertise – this means that he can have a 1 in one group, 2 in another, 3 in another and so on up to 6. As the day goes on, the attendee will be subject to each of the five different areas of expertise. The number in their area of expertise is what the player has to roll or less on a six-sided die to succeed. So remember: during attendee creation, the higher the number in the area the better the attendee is!

Each attendee is also given a STRESS level of zero. This is zero at the start of the day, when they are fresh and ready to face the gaming challenges ahead with dice bag, minitaures case, card deck or autograph book in hand, secure in the knowledge that they are an expert in their chosen field. Go, convention attendee, go!

If you’re playing IT’S A CON! as a full-on roleplaying game with other gamers and a GM then you can try to bluff your way through – if you can spout a convincing line about the area of expertise you’re playing in, with convincing details on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, then the other players may give you a bonus on your number in the area of expertise you’re rolling against to help you make the roll.

Each time an attendee fails a roll their STRESS level goes up by one point. If the STRESS level ever gets to 6 then they stress out – see the STRESSED OUT! table at the end of the game to see what happens to your attendee.
After each roll in the area of expertise, the player also has to roll against their Personal Grooming – if they fail, their STRESS level goes up by another one point! Not only that, but every time you roll against Personal Grooming, that particular area of expertise goes down by 1 point to a minimum of 1 - walking around a hot crowded convention hall or sitting at a tense, sweat-inducing gaming table can do all kinds of nasty things to glands as the day wears on, and having people making such remarks as ‘are the drains backed up?’ to you can send your blood pressure through the roof.

GEN CON 2009

So, the day begins. This is hobby heaven. The doors open. Gamers, collectors and fans flood through the doors, all peeling off in different directions, searching out their chosen hobby like fun-seeking missiles.
Into this maelstrom steps your attendee. Ready for action. Dice in one pocket, cards in another and deodarant in the bumbag. Get stuck in!

The RPG table – Your attendee sits at the gaming table, ready to dive into their favourite roleplaying game, be it D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller or whatever. Roll your RPGs expertise!
Success means a pat on the back and comments such as ‘you’re what this game is all about’.
Failure means looks of confusion and comments such as ‘So this is your first time playing, yeah?’
Now roll against your Personal Grooming.

The Wargaming table – The table is ready, the armies are prepared and your opponent glares at you with the eyes of a master tactician… roll your Wargames expertise!

Success means a reluctant handshake from your defeated opponent and a murmur of ‘yeah, well done.’
Failure means having your victorious opponent standing over your shattered army shouting ‘never, in the field of human conflict, has anyone ever been owned so badly! Owned!’
Now roll against your Personal Grooming.

The Video Games area – Go on, you know you want to… there’s some places where you can have a stab at a free demo of the latest computer games or try an online game. You sit at the keyboard and your fingers turn into blurs. Roll your Video Games expertise!

Success means a huge group of people standing over your shoulder, gesturing others over to your screen with shouts of ‘this guy’s awesome!’
Failure means a screen message saying ‘hi m8, i pwned u loser noob lol’.
Now roll against your Personal Grooming.

The Card Games table – Fancy a stab at Magic: The Gathering? Or some other tactical card game? Then get your deck out and roll against your Card Games expertise!

Success results in looks of awe as tyu lay down your last card, and comments such as ‘dude… you truly have the power’.
Failure gets you a smirk and a box matches. ‘Do yourself a favour, dude… burn ‘em’.
Now roll against your Personal Grooming.

Fan Boy – They’re here! The person you admire the most, be it an actor, author or games designer, is standing in front of you with an expectant smile and an outstretched hand. Can you handle the pressure? Can you talk to this icon, this King of Kings, without losing your nerve and looking stupid. Roll against your Fan Boy expertise!

Success means that you’re wildest dreams come true – the person you look up to the most actually likes you and even offers you some advice on getting into his business with comments such as ‘I can see some of myself in you, kid’.
Failure means a restraining order and an escort to the door.
Now roll against your Personal Grooming.

The day is over… what’s your STRESS level?

If it’s lower than six then you’ve got through the day. You’ve had some ups and downs and a couple of close calls, but you’ve got to the end of the day and you’re satisfied with the outcome. You’ve got some bags of goodies, some great deals and a big smile on your face. Get yourself a pizza and crack open a can of cola – you deserve it.


If your STRESS level ever reaches 6, then you’ve reached your limits of patience – you’re STRESSED OUT, man! You’ve failed! You can’t handle it! Roll the six-sided die and consult the table below:

1. You go home and cry into your Masters of the Universe pillow.
2. In a daze you walk out the building, down the street, into the local police station and up to the desk, and ask to be locked up for crimes against gaming.
3. You go home, pile up all your gaming stuff and set it alight on a funeral pyre, standing in a Luke Skywalker in ‘Return of the Jedi’ pose as you watch it burn.
4. You leave flaming posts on gamer message forums all over the Internet about why you’re the best at gaming. Then you get banned from each and every one of them.
5. You run through the convention in only your underwear, shouting ‘I’ve wasted my life! Help me! Help me!’
6. You go to the nearest bar and wake up the next day in a garbage skip just outside Alberquerqy.

How did you get on? Did you survive a day of Gen Con? You did?

Are you coming back for the other days?

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Those Dark Places

Following on from my last post about Dead Space, I've decided to take an old RPG system of mine and create a playtest document for a roleplaying game designed with the sci-fi horror genre in mind. I'm calling it THOSE DARK PLACES, named after a book of science fiction stories I wrote a couple of years ago, but whereas the book dealt with those who got a less than stellar deal from the future this game will deal with the dark corners of the universe, as showed in films such as Alien and Event Horizon, or games such as Dead Space.

The playtest version is now available at my website in PDF format. It's free to download and is ready for use, including the bones of an adventure. It's only the playtest version so comments and constructive critiques are welcome.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Dead Space RPG

Dead Space... I love that game. It scared the living poop out of me.

WARNING - The above video may make you poop yourself

So what I really want to do is run sci-fi RPG of a similar vein, something with a simple system to keep the action fluid and the tempo up. I was thinking D6 System but that always reminds me of bright and fluffy Star Wars, but I always loved the feel of 2300AD (although I no longer own it) and that suits the gritty atmosphere better. I wonder if there's ever been a game produced designed specifically for the sci-fi horror genre?

I might SKETCH it up, create a Dead Space-inspired unofficial game using info from the Wikipedia entry. although I suppose I could use the ECHOES: We Are Alone game for that. I don't know - my head just works in weird ways and I have no idea what I want to do from one minute to the next. I must concentrate on my Dragon Warriors game, dammit!

Fun Across The Whale Road

Zach over at RPG BLOG II has just put up a lovely post about Gen Con, which starts on the 13th of August.

I'm sure that there's plenty of you going, all dead excited about the fact that you're going to experience 'the best four days in gaming', and you've got your games and dice and reservations sorted out.

Well, I'm not going to be there because I live in England and I can't make it, so I hope you all have a bloody terrible time, and it rains and there's a snowstorm-tornado thing and the convention centre falls down because of an earthquake caused by gamer flatulance, or something. I hate you.

PS: Have fun!

Monday 10 August 2009

Game Design... of a sorts

Quick blog today - I've been doing a little bit of work on my Dragon Warriors game which I'm hoping to start in the next few weeks. If all things go according to plan there'll be a seasoned gamer and a newblood in the campaign.

I've been doing my notes whilst listening to the Clannad 'Robin of Sherwood' soundtrack 'Legend'. I'm going for the low-magic angle but I'm sticking with the Dragon Warriors world 'The Lands of Legend' as my campaign setting.

And for those who are interested - which is hopefully all of you - there's a new Dragon Warriors wiki site up and running. That should help add depth to my game and is a pretty good resource for my players, too.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Get More For Less

I've been looking at miniatures to use in my Dragon Warriors games and I found that for a box of five or six plastic figures it'd cost me around five pounds. So I did some more searching and I found that I can buy a bag of about 60 medieval knights for less than three pounds.

They're 45mm high and of low detail and quality, but who cares? I'm not looking to create a diorama or win any awards, I just want to be able to position figurines on a map drawn on a whiteboard so that I know where the PCs and NPCs are. I can cut off weapons and glue them back on to create my own figures and every time I need up to sixty new ones I just spend another three quid.

It surprises me that no company with an eye for the RPG or wargames market makes a selection of dirt-cheap figures such as these of fantasy creatures, packets of 60 orcs or packets of 60 skeletal warriors. I reckon they'd fly off the shelves.

Saturday 8 August 2009

... and another new system

A while ago I found about four or five rules systems I wrote as notes and I tidied them up a bit. A couple were very similar in execution (using D6s) and a couple were D20 based. The one called 'FLAG' (Fictional Lands Adventure Game) I put on for everyone to have a look at but the simpler version I've adapted and integrated into the rules I originally wrote for my long dead (because it was rubbish) SPIRIT system, the one I originally used for 'The League Of Seven' campaign setting, which now uses the SKETCH system.

So, what I've done is take the original text of the SPIRIT game and replaced the D6 with the D20, and cut out whole swathes of complicated and downright unneccesary spot rules. It's a very easy system - roll 1D20 for skill test, roll less than your skill level to succeed. I've also got rules for vehicles and starships, which are straight from the original SPIRIT game and needed very little work. With an adventure it should weigh in at about 55 pages as a playtest document so once it's finished I'll give it away to the RPG community on my website to see if it's worth continuing with.

My original SPIRIT game - the original League of Seven game - was a bit of a lame duck, unfinished and untested. I put it out but, obviously, there were no takers. I'm sure I can do something with the system but right now I'm leaving it in sus-an and sending off to the outer rim. Maybe someone will find it in a few hundred years and put it to good use.

Thursday 6 August 2009

I Hate You, Duncan Jones!

I’ve been feeling nostalgic recently where my games are concerned but in the last couple of days there’s been another love of mine that has resurfaced - old sci-fi films.

The movie ‘Moon’ with Sam Rockwell has just been released and the director, Duncan Jones, has been talking a lot about his influences and inspirations. Mr Jones is my age, 38, and he’s where I’d love to be – he’s made a sci-fi film that harks back to the sensibilities of the 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Alien, Outland and Blade Runner. I’d even throw in Planet of the Apes, as that’s a love of mine, too. He’s writing and making the films that I grew up with, the films that I love… I hate you, Duncan Jones!*

Now, I know precisely two things about the film industry – Jack and Shit – apart from the Filmmaking For Dummies book I own. But Mr Jones (huuurk-spit!) has an obvious passion for this kind of material. That passion has rekindled my own passion for the period and, as a knock-on effect, I’ve automatically thought on how to translate the era into gaming terms. I like lasers and explosions as much as the next guy, but these movies deal with themes and ideas that honestly make you think deeply about your perceptions of the human condition and the world you live in. They were chock full of atmosphere, design, inspirational visual ideas and obvious moviemaker passion.
There’s plenty of games out there that would cover the rules – 2300AD, Traveller, the new X-plorers that I can’t seem to find anymore, even my own favourite Buck Rogers XXVc (if you dumped the imagery and the Buck Rogers background and made it generic... i.e. just used the rules) – but what I’m thinking about is the actual gameplay. How would you run a game that will have very little action and concentrate mostly on the plot? Would it work for multiple players, or would you make it more personal with maybe one or two players so that you can concentrate on the unfolding events? Could there be rules included to enhance the story and the player’s involvement in it?
One idea I had was the DAM point, DAM standing for Dramatically Appropriate Moment. The player gets to nominate one single automatic successful roll in an adventure, no matter what the circumstances (and within the realms of realism, of course – ‘I’ll snuff out the exploding star with my mineral water… what do you mean no? It’s an automatic success!’). This way they have some form of control over the outcome of the unfolding story, it could influence what they find out or if they manage to save a life or figure out a plot against them. I don’t know, I’m just musing out loud, but I’d love to run a game with the feel of the great 70s sci-fi movies.

I’m just really sad that there are apparently no cinemas near me showing ‘Moon’ as it has a limited release. I’ll probably have to DVD it.

*By hate I actually mean admire. And hate.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Why I Sold My Huge RPG Collection

Actually, there’s a couple of very good reasons.

First of all my wife and I were expecting our very first child. I knew that there wouldn’t be much time for gaming and that I’d need the extra space. I’d not done that much tabletop RPGing for a while so the obvious thing to do was to sell off the books in my collection that I hardly used. That would be almost all of them, then. I put it all on Ebay, book by book, and even opened a small shop to help sell them. My big boardgames went first, like Dark Future and Dragonstrike, and then the rest followed. My best sellers were my Star Wars D6 books and my MERP modules – one MERP book went for nearly fifty pounds, and that was with a starting bid of a fiver. I made a lot of money, which was then used to buy what we needed for our baby boy, whom we named Bruce. We worked out that my roleplaying collection paid for everything we needed for Bruce – cot, sterilising unit etc – and we even had money left over. Result.

Second of all, I always got lost in the number of games I had. I couldn’t focus on new material, because when I went to my RPG bookshelf there were 40 different systems and genres screaming for attention and my games were turning into a mish-mash of stuff that was influencing me. I can’t even begin to describe my pain when I decided to turn my fantasy Europe MERP game into a near-future cyberpunk game when the main PC woke up from a centuries long slumber to find the world had changed… it sucked. Big time. Stripping down my games gave me focus, and now my handful of games are enough to keep me inspired but at the same time not drown me with details.

There are a few things I regret parting with. My red-box Basic D&D, for instance, and my 5th Edition Call of Cthulhu book and adventures. I also miss my Runequest stuff.

Ah, well. Easy come, easy Ebay.

Monday 3 August 2009

My Old RPG Collection

With a little help from my wife I've pieced together a list of the RPG games I used to own.

2300AD plus 2 supplements.
Advanced D&D 2nd Edition plus 8 supplements
Advanced D&D
Amber Diceless
Basic D&D first three boxsets
Battlelords of the 23rd Century
Buck Rogers XXVc plus 1 supplement
Bureau 13
Call of Cthulhu plus 14 supplements
Conspiracy X
Cyberpunk 2020 and 2 supplements
Darksword Adventures
FASA Star Trek plus four supplements
Fighting Fantasy plus one supplement
Golden Heroes
Judge Dredd plus 2 supplements
Marvel Super Heroes
Men in Black
MERP plus 18 supplements
Mutant Chronicles
Prime Directive plus 1 supplement
Runequest and Advanced Runequest plus 1 supplement
Shadowrun plus 2 supplements
Star Wars D6 (including 2nd Edition and Revised) plus every supplement published except for 2
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plus 2 supplements
The D6 System
Twilight 2000 plus 3 supplements
Vampire: The Masquerade
WFRP plus 6 supplements
WFRP 2nd Edition plus 2 supplements

I also had the games:

Aliens Boardgame
Dark Future
First Quest
Star Trek III Starship Tactical Combat
Warhammer 40K
Warhammer Fantasy Battle

And what I have now is:

Star Wars D6 RPG (1st edition) with the Star Wars Sourcebook, Imperial Sourcebook, Rebel Sourcebook, Rules Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen.
WFRP (1st edition) with Warhammer Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen.
Prime Directive (Task Force Games) but I play this with the D6 system.
Buck Rogers XXVc with Belters Supplement and Comic Module Issue 1.
MERP boxset.
Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition
Dragon Warriors with Sleeping Gods and The Elven Crystals adventures.
Fighting Fantasy.

Blimey. Once I've stopped bawling my eyes out at the games that have walked the path of Ebay, I'll try to explain why it was I culled my collection.

My RPG Collection

Bear in mind that, three years ago, I had about 32 RPG systems and a couple of hundred books. Now my collection consists of:

Star Wars D6 RPG (1st edition) with the Star Wars Sourcebook, Imperial Sourcebook, Rebel Sourcebook, Rules Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen.
WFRP (1st edition) with Warhammer Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen.
Prime Directive (Task Force Games) but I play this with the D6 system.
Buck Rogers XXVc with Belters Supplement and Comic Module Issue 1.
MERP boxset.
Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition
Dragon Warriors
with the Bestiary and the Sleeping Gods and The Elven Crystals adventures.

And I suppose I can include in that my Fighting Fantasy and Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, and - believe it or not - 'Darksword Adventures' by Weis and Hickman.

That was quite a cull. I'll see if I can remember what it was I owned and post that, too. I can see myself getting quite teary if I do that.

D&D 4e Progress Report

Last Thursday's D&D 4e game was the best yet. It was one of those games where the dice rolls were all over the place, natural 20s appeared just when they were needed and the group of PCs came together and used their strengths not only against their foes but also in aid of each other. It was a big fight against zombies, skeletal archers and a couple of end-of-dungeon bad guys... although, one of the bad guys got away! Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

There was also a chance to do some roleplaying. It was difficult because we're a scary bunch of PCs - a Tiefling cleric, a Drow warlock and a Dragonborn warrior. We're a bunch of outsiders and the NPCs we're interacting with are human so it's a difficult job to succesfully communicate withouth scaring them off, but that's the challenge and as roleplayers we're reacting to it.

The games are definitely becoming smoother as we're getting used to the system and the use of the encounter cards. I still think that having so many abilities at level 1 is a bit too much for so low a level - some of the abilites should really be earned as the game progresses. Newcomers to the game might find it daunting and a bit of a nightmare to keep track of the bonuses and modifiers the cards give. We've been on the go for five or six sessions, now, and we've only just got into a roll, with people using their encounter powers when and how they should. Simply remembering that you had the ability was a pain and sometimes involved a lot of page-flipping, and we're seasoned gamers with 100 years of experience between us. Imagine how difficult it must be for the first-time player, not only having to get their heads around the concept of the game but all these extra bits and bobs as well. I'm not sure that D&D 4e is new-gamer player friendly.

High five to Jason the DM, though - the guy must have the patience of a saint with us as players, but he's handled the game brilliantly and given us a great gaming experience. Now that we've mastered D&D 4e as a boardgame it's time to have a stab at it as a tabletop roleplaying game. I'll keep you posted.

ADDITIONAL: Oh, and do you remember when I said I was going to try and design a dungeon using nothing but Microsoft Paint and Word, work on it week by week and make it absolutely huge?

Yeah, well, I'm not.