Friday 30 October 2009


I thought about what game to run using the D6 system for a club I'm helping to set up and figured Stargate would be a good idea worth looking into. I looked into the official game, which was not so good, and did some searching and amazingly there was a D6 game written in the late 1990's for WEG by John Tynes, but it never got past the first draft status. The guy has made the 86-page document available for free download, so I've snapped it up!

If I use the standard Star Wars character sheet this is easily adaptable, and I've got all the details about the gate system, the aliens, the worlds and the tech! Brilliant! What excellent news!

My idea is the creation of Stargate Tactical Assault Groups - a STAG party. These groups are a selection of special forces soldiers and they are sent through to combat areas to carry out specialist missions and 'black' ops on other worlds. I had designed a team years ago for a Stargate game that never took off and the team was commanded by a British SAS officer and comprised of a Navy SEAL, a Green Beret, a French Foreign Legionnaire, a Royal marine Commando and a Spetznaz. They were test groups to see how well they could work together and represent the international community.

Man... I'm so digging that out.

SOTU: Scum Of The Universe

I wrote a book a long time ago called ALL FALL DOWN, in which I wrote a story called ‘I Do Not Remember The Stars Of Old’. It was the story of two people in a galaxy full of aliens that hated the human race. This was because the human race had mental powers, called Willing or Wielding, in which they could perform telekinesis, empathy and telepathy. Because the other races have no such talent they hate the humans, as they feel they cannot be trusted. The human race, therefore, has been reduced to the lowliest race in the galaxy and is treated as such.

I designed this setting as a D6 game, using the original rules from the 1st edition Star wars RPG rulebook. The intended name for the game was SOTU – Scum Of The Universe.

Below is the introduction I worked on for the game. It may explain things a little better.

You’re kidding me, right? You’re honestly telling me you’ve never, in your entire life, been out into the greater galaxy? Where are you from, one of those isolationist colonies? That’s too bad, kid. It must have been quite a shock have your home taken away from you like that. Who moved you on? The Windor? The F’ruk? No matter. They’re all the damn same, as far as I’m concerned. What do I mean? How to explain. Imagine… imagine the city you came from. Now imagine every single person in that city hating your guts through no fault of your own. You can’t work anywhere, you can’t live anywhere, people shout and scream and spit at you. There are only a few people who tolerate you, some even like you, but you can’t trust them as far as you can spit them. You, and maybe a few others like you, are outcast, despised and hated. Imagine how that must feel, all alone in a city that hates you, where all the opportunities are not for you. Now take that feeling. Multiply it by infinity. The city is the galaxy, and you are the human race. That’s what it’s like out here, kid. The galaxy hates us. Every other race in existence, even those lower than the lowest, hate us. We travel the cosmos in our own ships, sure, we even get jobs and there are some places, just some, where races allow us to live. But they’ll always hate and distrust us. And you can blame Willing for that. Are you a Blank? About one in six of us are a Blank. So you know how to Will, yes? Well, that’s why the other races hate us. Because we can Will. Because we can move things with the power of our minds, read and project thoughts and feelings. We’re the only race that can do. No other species can. And that’s why they hate us. Let’s face it, what’s to trust? Would you trust someone who could use their mind to move your possessions, read your mind and take your secrets, your spirit? Of course not. That’s why they hate us. They don’t trust us. They don’t understand our power, what we can do. They think we’re in their heads, taking their minds, poisoning their souls.
The Windor are the worst. Tail-faced bastards. They have more than a thousand star systems in their empire, with twice that number under their ‘protection’. They hate us the most. Arrogant, selfish creatures that think they’ve inherited the right to tell the other races how to live. The Genoin are the second biggest power, but they’re just as bad as the Windor. The F’ruk stink, the Stubians are all religious and weird, the Skavot are savages and the Juthrians spit. The Ka’Nalt aren’t half bad, but that’s only because their minds are immune to probing and they feel safe from us, but they still keep human slaves and think nothing of it. Either way, no matter who they are they hate us. If they find us settled anywhere, they move us on, some races exterminate us like vermin. It’s like we’re an infestation, an itch they have to scratch. You’ll be lucky to find more than a few hundred humans in one place at one time. There are all kinds of aliens. I know of a couple of hundred species alone. All over. There are billions of suns out there, and if just a small percentage have life… I don’t even want to think about it. There are thousands upon of thousands of alien races just waiting to be discovered, or ready to discover the rest of the galaxy. Will they hate us, too? So we traverse this galaxy as the lowest species alive.
Have you had training? Starships, weapons and stuff? That’s good. We should know about these things, especially out here, on our own. We need to teach the next generation what they need to know to survive, make sure they have the skills to exist out here in the deep dark black. I’m glad the elders of your isolationist colony remembered that.
A homeworld? Now I know you’re kidding. The human race doesn’t have a homeworld, kid. We never have. Nothing and nobody knows where we came from as a race. Most believe we were genetically bred for servitude, but that’s just so they can justify keeping our kind as slaves. If we did have a homeworld it’s either long forgotten or long dead. That doesn’t stop people from searching, though. Have you ever heard of the Long Walkers? The Walkers travel across the galaxy looking for clues about the history of the human race. They’re the most talented of us all; some say they know Will powers beyond what normal humans know. Mind you, as far as I know, they’ve found nothing. But that doesn’t stop them searching.
Oomans? Don’t ever use that word again. It’s the closest an alien tongue has ever got to saying ‘human’ without a translator brooch. It’s derogatory, as far as they’re concerned, and nearly all of us accept it, some even refer to themselves as Ooman without knowing it, it’s all they’ve heard. We are human beings. H-U-M-A-N. Oh, there are plenty of other words for us.
Tell me – have you been called a Sotu, yet? You have? Do you even know what it means? It’s the new name for the human race, kid.

We’re Sotu.
Scum Of The Universe.

I wrote up a large design document as a game bible with all the pertinent information included so that I could run a campaign. Once the Lichfield's ORC, our new local gaming club, is fully up and running I think I'll set up a SOTU game and run that, give it another airing. If it works out I might even write it up as a full game and release it under the OGL now that the D6 rulesets have been released.

Let's face it - there's not much going on with Open D6 right now and what the system needs is product and support before it dies completely.

Thursday 29 October 2009

'The Horrors' SKETCH RPG

Well, it's finally finished. 'The Horrors' is a SKETCH game for the horror genre, be it monsters and creatures or Eldritch horrors from ages past.

It's completely free so get your sweet arse over there and download it now. Once you've read it, make sure you come back here and leave messages on how rubbish it is.
For this is your day
You’ve stumbled from lightness
And into dismay
The world as you knew it
Is darker than night
And things in the shadows
Once hid from your sight
Walk hither and thither
And laugh at the bold
Who do not believe
In Devils of old

So, Rejoice, dear wanderer
You now have your fight
So take up your sword
And war for the Light

Brother Martin of Lichfield, Knight of the 4th Crusade

Wednesday 28 October 2009

My Favourite Games

The clue is in the title.

And now... counting down from 10 to 1 - MY FAVOURITE RPG GAMES! (cue title music) This article was originally published in my old ODDS e-magazine issue 8 and has been copy/pasted here just for you. And because I had sod all else to write about.

Number 10:
Buck Rogers XXVc

It kicks botty. I didn’t really like the AD&D system but it had been modified to suit this game, and in Buck Rogers I could blast about the cosmos on top of a nuclear missile and rain laser death on genetically engineered freaks. This game reflected my love for the 1930s Buster Crabbe serials, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, whilst at the same time giving me a rich campaign setting to play in. It didn’t influence me or change my perception of RPGs. I just wanted to blow shit up with my rocket pistol, and after years of gaming in gritty settings and getting serious it was nice to just jump in a spaceship and fire off some missiles. It reminded me that games could be fun.

Number 9:

I never played it. I never even created a character for it. But Pendragon gave me such a wealth of information and a wonderful way of playing a game, of feeling that you were not just playing a game but creating a saga, that I mined it for ideas and information for years. Many of my fantasy games were influenced by Pendragon’s way of doing things and the idea that your actions influenced your character was exciting and fun to use. I used that idea to document three successive generations of a single player character’s family in a WFRP game that lasted over three years of playing time – the father, the daughter and the granddaughter, all played by the same player. To be truthful, the player never knew the father was of the same bloodline, and we never fully finished the campaign to find the truth. I’m sure if he reads this he’ll have a few questions now.

Number 8:

Like many others gamers this was my first science fiction roleplaying game. I also dabbled in Star Frontiers but Traveller was the first sci-fi game that told me that I didn’t have to create yet another first-level elf. As with Runequest I never really played Traveller. I was involved in several games of a long-running campaign but I never settled into a regular routine. I was playing D&D at the time and Traveller was just a curiosity. I had never considered RPGs as anything but a fantasy game so it was intruiging to play in a science fiction setting.
Although my only long running sci-fi campaign would be Star Wars, Traveller let me know that my love for science fiction wasn’t being ignored by the hobby I was beginning to enjoy.

Number 7:
Twilight: 2000
I remember buying this because it was so very different to all the RPGs I had purchased before. My other games were either fantasy or sci-fi, so to find a game set in the modern world with no magic, monsters or spaceships was peculiar. I was already on a military drive (I was playing a lot of MechWarrior at the time) and so I picked the game up. Although the system was so-so and the character creation and combat system were overly complicated, the feeling of reality the game invoked was startling. Nuclear wars, devastated nations, a world clinging to life. It was still fiction but it all felt possible, and that was the appeal. I only ever got two campaigns out of it but they were gritty and dark. Twilight: 2000 taught me that games didn’t just need to be about clashing swords, flaming spells and faster-than-light travel; they could also be much more than that.

Number 6:
Dungeons and Dragons (Basic)
This is what got me started, way back in 1984. It’s not a greatgame but it does exactly what it needs to do to get new blood into the hobby. Sometimes, when I see the huge number of pages in new RPGs or the fact that you have to purchase multiple books to enjoy a system, I wonder why it is that publishers don’t target new players with the simplicity of a cut-down version of their game. This is what Basic D&D was, a simple game that eased new players into the hobby and introduced them to the world of RPGs. I moved on pretty quickly from Basic D&D to Advanced, but soon after that I stopped playing D&D altogether. There was something about Advanced, in all its incarnations, which turned me off it. It just didn’t seem to have the magic or feel of Basic D&D and all that sense of wonder was lost in charts and tables, rules and regulations.

Number 5:
Star Wars (D6)
Star Wars was my second most-played game. It was also the largest group I played with - consisting of six players and a GM at its peak - and the games went from running around defying the Empire to designing an entire region of space for our characters to explore and adventure in (the fruits of which can be seen at It was, by far, the largest campaign setting I designed and it grew even larger with additions from the players and other GMs. So why does it not appear higher on my list? Well, it is a great game. I like the easy, fast system and the original rulebooks are wonderful to read. I bought the game as a massive Star Wars fan and it reinvigorated my love for roleplaying. It introduced me to large group games and inspired me to create some crazy stuff. Amongst all this, though, I can’t truly say it changed my attitude to RPGs at all. It definitely got me involved with and taught me how to run large group games, but ultimately it was just that I loved the Star Wars universe and here was a game that allowed me to play in it.

Number 4:
Interestingly, I only ever played Runequest twice, both times as GM. I never played it as a player. The reason why I have it on my list is because it showed me that there were games out there other than D&D that could give me more options as to what I could do with a character, and the fact that I didn’t have to ‘level up’ to improve my abilities and that my skills could be influenced by gameplay. Runequest, and I’m talking about the mid-eighties Games Workshop release, was an excellent game and had plenty of long-term playing appeal. I’m upset that I never got to play in a full campaign.

Number 3:
Middle Earth Role Play (MERP)
One of the first fully fleshed out characters I ever created and played was done with this game. I had never really designed characters that I became attached to or regarded as anything other than a set of numbers on a page but MERP taught me that a lot of detail on a character sheet could be interpreted into an interesting, motivated character with goals and ideals. It’s not the best system out there, and I dislike its parent Rolemaster for all its complexities, but MERP opened my eyes to another level of roleplaying I had never experienced, that of playing a character who’s past and present influences decisions, and that I was actually required to play a role, as the name of the hobby suggests.

Number 2:
Call Of Cthulhu
I had never read H P Lovecraft until I played this game and it introduced me to a vivid and somewhat disturbing world. Not only does it invoke great atmosphere it’s a great example of how rules can suit a setting down to the ground. To me, playing Call Of Cthulhu is a bit like getting with friends and experimenting with an ouija board, or sneakily watching a late-night scary film when you should be asleep, and then being kept awake most of the night by the fearful images and ‘could-it-be-real’ thoughts that wander through your mind in the small hours. Personally, I’d forget all the Cthulhu Now, Delta Green and CthulhuTech stuff – stick with the early twentieth century period and experience proper horror.

Number 1:
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1st Edition)
The original rulebook was a mighty tome and had absolutely everything you needed to run a game in Warhammer’s Old World – character creation, careers, a full magic system, histories, location details, a bestiary, even charts and tables on insanity, phobias and random magical items. This one book alone was enough to keep a gaming candle burning for years, and indeed it did. I ran WFRP games for years and in all that time I could simply refer to the rulebook for everything I needed, even inspiration for new games and adventures. I bought some supplements, sure, but they were never used. In time the adventures, campaigns and extras I gathered were sold but I never parted with the main solid rulebook, which has been on my shelf for over twenty years and still gets some use. To me, WFRP is what a RPG rulebook should be – it contains every detail you need to run a succesful campaign, and it’s atmospheric and a pretty good read to boot. I love the system and I even like the idea and implementation of careers. With more than 8 years of continuous campaigning with many, many player characters, and delving into the Old World’s history and possible futures, WFRP is, by far, my game of choice.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

From Basic to 2nd to 4th to 3P?

The more I read about Pathfinder the 3.5 'fix' or, more accurately 'successor', RPG from Paizo Publishing, the more I'm intrigued by it. So much so, in fact, that I've even considered a purchase.

I cut my RPG teeth on D&D Basic, which I enjoyed. Then I moved on to AD&D 2nd Edition which I did not like at all - in fact, I disliked it so much I stopped playing D&D altogether. Twenty years later I began playing 4th Edition, which I thought was good apart from the overpowered low-level characters and the at-will/encounter/daily powers which I felt complicated things, and now I'm looking at Pathfinder, which sounds like it may have fixed a lot of the problems people had with 3.5 - as long as it's better than 2nd I'm fine with it. My aim is, of course, to be able to run a D&D style game.

I still intend to run a Dragon Warriors game as I want to play something fast and fun, but if I create something vast of my own, such as a campaign world, I'll want to use something a bit more widely used. D&D, of course, is the model and Pathfinder sounds like it might be my cup of tea. Right up my street. Up my flagpole. My kinda thang. Quids in. Bee's knees. Dog's... never mind.

Anyone have any thoughts or experience with this game?

Friday 23 October 2009

Defying Gravity

I'm a sucker for anything that comes out that is even remotely science fiction. Recently I've sat down and started to watch a new series called 'Defying Gravity', about the crew of a starship going on a historical 6-year journey around the solar system.

I remember watching the BBC's docudrama 'Space Odyssey' a few years ago and really enjoying it, and this show seems to be going along a similar path but with much more drama and characteriation. The science is there, with Defying Gravity's starship 'Antares' built very much like the vessel in Space Odyssey and, for that matter, Danny Boyle's movie 'Sunshine', so they all follow a pattern based on scientific plausability, which is a bonus in my book. The story arc, which is very mysterious and somewhat intriguing, has me hooked and apart from some cliches and a couple of stereotypes the characters are all very interesting. Of course, with being burned by Lost and Heroes, I'm hoping the plot reveal is handled in a much better way.

It's currently showing on BBC2 in the UK so it's well worth a look. I like my hard science fiction as well as my kick-ass action adventure stuff so this is right up my street.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Clubbed to death

Excellent tune, but not the subject of this post.

Me and some friends are working on a RPG/Wargame club for our local town. We're calling it 'Lichfield's ORC' (Lichfield's Only Roleplaying Club - clever, eh?) and we're starting small and hoping to grow. It should be relatively easy - we've an accounts book, some membership cards (thanks to Vista Print) and a location to game in. We've pretty much got a beginning date sorted, and we intend for it to be held every Thursday night from 7:00pm until 10:00pm.

Of course, all we need now is members, so if you or anyone you know wants to join a gamer's club and you're from the Lichfield, Midlands UK area then send us an email at lorclub (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll let you know when we've got our dates sorted.

And in other news...

Why is it that every time I try to sit down and write some fantasy stories that I might consider for publication I can't help but worry that the story or the style has been done somewhere before by someone else? Is it that the fantasy genre has been saturated by similar material, or is it because the genre itself is limited by it's own tropes? And why should I be worried if that's the case?

Bleh, Thursdays.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

War! UH! What is it good for?

I quit World of warcraft last night.

It wasn't that I wanted to quit, it's because I needed to. I took me a while to see that the game, whilst fun and absorbing, was taking too much of my time. I tried the cutting down of hours thing but instead of one long session it turned into lots of short ones as I was 'just nipping on to see what is happening'.

Account and subscription cancelled, game uninstalled. It's not a bad game - dammit, it's fun - but now it's time to pack the dwarf hunter away and get my creative mind working again. My writing and creativity took a massive nosedive these last few weeks and almost got to the point where I had no energy or inclination to create again. Now that the time-sucking World of Warcraft is no longer part of the equation I'm hoping that will all change, and I'm looking forward to getting back into my tabletop RPGs.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

So - an update of my SciFi/Fantasy tastes

It's been a while since I last blogged about... well... anything, so I just wanted to make a short list of the things that I'm watching/reading/playing/hating on.

1. LEGEND OF THE SEEKER - Boy, did I get sick of this quickly. The only decent character in it now is Zed, and that's only because he's played by Bruce Spence. The show should be about him and not the trite 'forbidden love' couple the show is supposed to be centred around. Oooh, what single person shall we save and put the whole world at risk this week? No idea, but no doubt the Seeker will be very vocal about why he is right and the others will look down ashamedly... even though he's WRONG! It looks great, the costumes and settings are wonderful, to be honest, but I just find the writing and the acting so formulaic and weak that I've given up on it.

2. STARGATE: UNIVERSE - The first two parts of the three-part opening 'Air' were very good and, let's be honest, Robert C commands the screen. I found part three to be very weak, to be honest, and it seemed to drag a little. It looks great (I've always been in love with Stargate's special effects) but it needs some more character work for it to grab me. You ca definitely feel the Battlestar Galactica influence, but I like that so I'll give it a few more episodes. From what I've seen so far it's looking good. I hope it's not one of those 'slow reveal' shows like Lost and Heroes because I'm sick to death of that premise....

3. FLASHFORWARD - ... and speaking of that I've watched the first two episodes of this, saw sme previews and given up on it already. Sorry, I got sick of Lost's ability to perplex and then finally annoy and Heroes disappeared up it's own arse when it becamse obvious that the writers/producers didn't know themselves what the hell was going on. This show smacks of the same stuff and I get the impresion it'll run out of steam in the near future. I hope I'm wrong and if so I'll come back to it in the future.

4. WAREHOUSE 13 - Good fun. It's artefact/monster of the week stuff but it's good, and I like the relationship between the two agents. It pokes fun at itself and that's always a good thing in my book and the stories are genuinely interesting.

5. A TOWN CAlLED EUREKA - Just stop, okay? Stop introducing story arcs and then concluding them in one episode once you get bored of them. I used to like this show, but now it's very 'which one of Carter's friends/relatives/associates is on the death bed this week, and will his amazing skill at deducing an answer to the problem when people with a combined IQ of the world can't and save them at the last minute?' Sorry - getting a little boring now.

6. STARGATE: ATLANTIS - I missed this first time around and I'm really enjoying it now. McKay is by far the best character in the show and he's a delight to watch. There's the usual formulaic Stargate adventure nonsense but they put little twists in there which keep it feeling fresh, and the Wraith are a pretty good and chilling enemy. I've just started the second season and so far it's been fun.

7. WORLD OF WARCRAFT - Levelling between 70 and 80 is a frickin' nightmare. I hate it. I just want it to be over. Please. Please help me.

8. DRAGON WARRIORS RPG - I'm ready to run a game now. I even bought a 3 quid packet of 60 plastic toy medieval soldiers as figures. I'm ready to start tabletopping again. I'm ready to GM again.

9. PS3 ONLINE - For God's sake, someone get me off GTA IV multiplayer before I have an aneurism. And before I buy Killzone 2 and lose what little life I have.

Friday 9 October 2009

WoW to the Rescue!

Roleplaying is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world. I grew up on fantasy and science fiction and I first cut my teeth in the RPG world back in 1984 with Basic D&D. I could always rely on roleplaying games because they were fun, energetic and creative. My friends thought so, too, and together we embarked upon journeys of imaginative discovery and adventure.

Years ago, computer RPGs were the little brother of tabletop RPGs. When I say little brother, it was the kind of sibling that pissed you off, nipped and your heels and made you wonder if you could get away with sibling murder. Siblicide? Have I just created a new word? Computer RPGs were limited, narrow and linear. The borderless worlds of imagination were the true wonders of RPGs and could only be accessed through paper, pencils and clattering dice.

That was years ago. It’s 2009, now. I’m 38 and I have a full time job, a wife and a son. My friends are in similar situations. We’ve gamed once, for two hours, in the last month. That’s crap. In my heyday I was gaming three nights a week for three to five hours a game.

So what has come to rescue me in my need for an RPG fix?

World of Warcraft.

I just don’t have the time to design, create, arrange and attend tabletop RPGs anymore, and the ones I do attend might have less than the required number of players, only last an hour or so or not even happen at all. With WoW I can switch on and off at my leisure, be guaranteed some gameplay and banter with like-minded Guildies. After all my bitching and sniping at computer RPGs as being bland and uncreative, it turns out an MMORPG has saved my imaginative bacon.

WoW will never truly replace my tabletop RPG experience because tabletop requires such imagination and a lust for creativity that can’t be satiated by the limitations of the computer world.

But, damn, if it’s not fun.