Thursday 31 December 2009

[RANT!] Superb game-hater messages from the BBC

It always amazes me that when a hobby genre is featured on a national website it drags certain individuals out of their slumber to post rude and uninformed opinions on message boards.

Take, for example, these messages left by people on a BBC 'Have Your Say' board about this years Golden Joystick awards and people's favourite computer games in general.

Who cares, save your money, put it to better uses.
[braveraddish], Gr Manchester, United Kingdom

I vote for whichever is the favourite of the nerd who believed this would be a suitable topic to be aired on HYS.
[Hiwilawonga], Bury, United Kingdom

So now the bbc has nothing to report about than video game of the year???
Well, London

What a sad bunch. Get off your backsides and get a life,
Steve Hadenough, South Shields, United Kingdom

I would say to all video game addicts - "get a life."
[friendlynorthernlad], Hull, United Kingdom

I took up hiking this year and I'm loving it!!It has a really cool 3D visual format that presents all of the beauty of southern California, actually gets your heart racing, fills your lungs with fresh air and gives you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.So far, I've lost 50 lbs and feel great! While I've not gained any extra lives yet, it has remarkably improved the one I've got.... you should get one too!
Walter Wilson, Los Angeles, United States

Then there was this from an article called 'What Happened To Dungeons and Dragons?'

It is sad to see people waste their lives in fake adventures when there are so many real ones out there. If anyone wants to know what it is like living in mediaeval times, I can point them in the direction of parts of the world where serfdom etc still exists. They will soon find the horrible truths behind their 'imagined' worlds of heroes and villains.
Karl Dunkerley, UK

Oh please - it's for kids, but it's worse than adults reading Harry Potter.
Sven, UK

D&D? Reminds me of unusual spotty students drinking cider and eating wheat crunchies - obsessively playing Hotel California on the juke box whilst pretending to wizards and serfs. Why bother? The real world is more fun.
Daren, Scotland, UK

This all reminds me of a letter I once read back in 1996 in one of the first issues of 'Arcane' magazine - it was before the days of easy posts on internet message boards. A person calling themselves 'The Real World' wrote a letter to the magazine and explained to us roleplayers that we were all sad, that he had watched his little brother playing the game and thought the whole thing preposterous. I remember thinking the same thing that I do now when I read posts like the ones above - this person went out of their way to read an article that they obviously have no interest in, and not only that they leave condescending and rude messages for fans of the genre to read. In the case of the author who penned the letter to Arcane magazine, he went out of his way to write a letter and post it.

Some might say that this smacks of elitism or ignorance but I don't think that's the case. If they were elitists they would be looking down their nose at people who are interested in the same things they are, and if they were ignorant they wouldn't have read the articles in the first place. No, I think they're just cruel. Cruel, rude and selfish people who obviously have a chip on their shoulder about something else and have decided to take out their frustrations on people they consider lower than themselves on the social scale.

It's the only conclusion I can come to. Why bother to go out of your way to offend someone in a hobby you do not participate in? You may as well just walk up to a stranger in the street, ask them what they like on their pizza and then punch them in the face if they don't mention certain toppings that you like. It's that level of nastiness.

Yeah, maybe I'm generalising the people who leave such messages. Well, at least that puts us on a level playing field, eh?

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Fallout 3 - and beyond!!!

Well, yesterday I went on about how great Killzone 2 was and that Fallout 3 was also great yadda yadda blah blah... sometimes I bore myself. Anyway, to cut a long story short - the end.

Sorry that's a bit too short. Story a bit longer, I went out and purchased a new copy of Fallout 3. But not just any copy. Oh, no. This is the super-duper razzle-dazzle oompah-loompa 'Game of the Year' edition. You get the original game and all the downloadable content, too - Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta.

I kicked off a short session last night, just to get back into the feel of the game. I started out with honest intentions - just create a character, get out of Vault 101 and then explore the Capital Wasteland another day. That's about an hour's gameplay right there. So, anyway, three and a half hours later I've gotten out of the vault, explored much of the south of the wasteland and done a few missions. Honestly, where does the time go?

This game would be wonderfully complemented by a tabletop RPG, much like what they're doing with Dragon Age. You might even be able to use the actual in-game system, much like this guy did here. I think there'd be plenty of roleplaying opportunities.

ADDITIONAL: I've been reading up on Fallout 3 a lot on the internet today - oh, I'm not cheating or anything as I owned the game before and completed it twice. What I'm hearing is everyone - and I mean everyone - bitching about the fact that it's buggy, that it freezes, that it doesn't load etc etc. Sorry, am I the only one who has never had a problem with it? In both the copies I bought? Touch wood it doesn't happen to me, but surely this isn't as widespread as some people are making it out to be. If that was the case it wouldn't be on the shelves, surely.
Maybe it's not the game. Maybe it's you. Yeah, you.

Tuesday 29 December 2009


Well, last night I completed Killzone 2, the rather excellent first person shooter from the guys at Guerilla. And when I say excellent, what I actually mean is fricking incredible.

I like my FPS and I always thought that the original Killzone was under appreciated. This game takes all the fast action and movie-like story of the original and ups the ante. It's great to look at, plays wonderfully and certainly gets your heart pumping.

If you haven't go this then get it. If you haven't got a PS3... well, buy one.

Another game I love and really regret trading in is Fallout 3, the post apocalyptic game from Bethesda Game Studios. Now that I've finished Killzone 2 I think I'll trade that in for it. I know there's lots of amazing multiplayer action on Killzone 2 but I'm not a big multiplayer shooting fan (except for GTA IV, because there's the free roam option which is always fun when you team up with other players) and now that I've finished the main single player game there's no more surprises for me. I never truly completed all the missions in Fallout 3 and would really love to revisit it, and now that the Game Of The Year Edition has been released I can enjoy all the extra content, too.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish all my readers, fellow gamers, friends and enemies a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

However you spend it, spend it wisely!
See you in 2010!

Tuesday 22 December 2009


If you're a veteran roleplayer, then you probably know the problem of coming up with new and interesting ideas. If you're new to gaming, then you'll need inspiration. Here I’ll look at ways to get those creative juices flowing.

It's Sunday evening. There are five people sitting around a table. Four players Bill, Bob, Brenda and Belinda and a Gamesmaster. The atmosphere is quiet and expectant. All eyes are on the GM, waiting for those few words to start the evening's session.

GM: Right. It's evening, and you're speeding towards the town of Boord-um...
BILL: Is this the town from the other week where we killed those bounty hunters?
GM: (Suddenly remembering the PC's had been here before) Yeah... yeah, that's right. The whole place seems to be deserted...
BOB: Like that place we visited where pirates had kidnapped all the people?
GM: (Scrapping the notes he'd made about the evil pirates) Yeah, something like that. There are signs of savage fighting, but no bodies are to be seen...
BRENDA: Servitors.
GM: What?
BRENDA: I bet Servitors killed them all. We visited that space station last month and they'd been attacked, remember? The place looked like this.
GM: (Forgetting his idea about the Servitors) Well... it doesn't look exactly like this, there's more blood. (Starts making notes about giant worms)
BELINDA: Like when those giant worms killed all those colonists on Tedee-um and ate their bodies?
GM: Sort of... but... Oh, I give up.

Well, it happens to us all. We dry up. Sometimes the GM may just need a bit of a break from running games to recharge and re-evaluate their campaign. Sometimes it's because of lack of ideas. Scenarios and whole campaigns are up to the GM to supply. They must create and breathe life into their NPC's, locations and gaming worlds. Each different character and location must have some form of originality to keep the player's interested. After all, you can only defeat a particular type of arch-villain only so many times. Even pulling the planet back from the brink of destruction can be boring if the players do it every other week.

So where do all these ideas come from? Lets say the average GM runs one game a week, fifty weeks of the year. If that GM has been gaming for five years, that means they would have overseen at least two hundred and fifty games. That's two hundred and fifty original story lines and scenario ideas. Phew! That's some creative genius! Surely the ideas department would have run dry even after the first fifty!

Not at all. A lot of games are very similar in overall plot, but are very different in execution. Fair enough, the game this week may be about investigating another murder, but it's how the murder took place - and for whatever reasons it took place - that make the game original. A number of games can revolve around the same plot device but the events in that game can run in a very different order to resolve a very different situation. This is what keeps the players interested.

But what happens when the plots get thin, the action becomes repetitive and the NPC's sound all the same?


Sit back. Relax. Leave it. Stop designing and running games for a couple of weeks. The reason your drying up may be due to the fact that your just working too hard at it, especially if your GM'ing more than one game a week. That little break may be all you need to get your brain back into gear. You'll be surprised how many ideas just pop into your head when you're thinking about something other than roleplaying. If you need space, then run a couple of published adventures, that's what they are there for. Those scenarios you bought may give you ideas for a sequel in future games. Also, try playing for a while instead of GM'ing. It can be quite refreshing to sit on the other side of the GM's screen for a change and actually participate in a game. You can watch the other GM run the scenario and think 'if I was running this game I would do this instead of that', and come up with your own ideas. Of course, it's not a good idea to do blatant re-hashes of someone else's scenario.


If the PC's have become quite powerful or they have explored pretty much every inch of the location they are gaming in then it may be time to start a fresh campaign. It can be difficult to come up with new challenges in an already well-used location for high-level characters, and so a change of place and PC's would be a good thing. If the genre you are using is restricted to one planet then go to another area of that planet, say the tropics or the desert. If you can, change the planet.
If your players are regularly planet hopping then take them to another sector of the galaxy. It is quite easy to change the gaming area, and a change of surroundings means a fresh new location for fresh new ideas.
If the players are a bit unsure whether they want to retire their favourite PC then just change the style of the game you are running. If your players are diverting world shattering events then bring them down to earth a touch by making their encounters more personal. It pays to read whatever background the players have written for their characters. Those little notes about PC childhood's and adolescence can spray forth ideas on how to get PC's more involved with the game instead of spending every waking moment battling the forces of Evil. Vice versa, if the players are doing a lot of adventures that don't mean much in the overall scheme of things then run a huge groundbreaking adventure. Ending a campaign on a high note may make the players more comfortable about retiring their powerful characters.


If you have really bled the game dry then it may be time to change the gaming style. Go from soldiers to smugglers or from smugglers to bounty hunters. Of course, players may be loath to do this. After all, it is them you are entertaining and if one player is unhappy with the setting the game is in then the sessions will suffer. The gaming group will have to come to an absolute decision on how the game is to be played. It may take a little while for the players to get used to a new setting, but a new game may generate new story ideas. If the group is really serious about gaming then a change will not be a problem, but make sure that everyone is comfortable with it.


If your running games for two different groups, then it's not impossible to run the same story for each one, even if they are gaming in two different genres. Designing a setting that virtually any game can use is possible. With a little work you can quite easily adapt the game you designed for your smugglers to be used for your group who want to defeat the alien scourge. It's easier, of course, to run the same game for the two groups, but this may not always be the case. If you design your adventure without restricting it to a particular style, you can quite easily use it for two different sessions, and even save it for future use.


A great source of information and inspiration comes from one huge source that is easily accessible- entertainment. Television, radio, newspapers, the movies, novels... all these mediums can inject ideas. It can be very easy to take a movie plot and 'adapt' it to suit your game, although be careful... it can be quite annoying when one of the players has seen the movie or read the book and second-guesses you. The original movie or book plot can be 'tweaked' sufficiently to keep the players on their toes. It's also fun to take a few ideas and mesh them together. Wouldn't it be fun to run around a Blade Runner type city being hunted by Terminator type robots and avoiding Geiger's Aliens? I bet that's given you a few ideas already, hasn't it?
Even taking dull ideas from dodgy television shows and spicing them up can give you all you need for an evening's play. An edition of the news, giving you current affairs and important information, can inspire scenarios. That Middle-Eastern conflict or this political scandal can be easily adapted. The stories are there if you look hard enough.


Communication is a great forte of roleplayers, and so swapping ideas and stories with other GM's is an excellent way of keeping the fires of creativity burning. If you know of a local club then it may be worth going along and talking to other gamers about their experiences and favourite settings, and sharing in their character's exploits may give you the spark you need to start writing a new scenario. Talking to your own players and ascertaining what kind of adventures they enjoy and figuring out their passions... all these factors can contribute to original scenarios. In a lot of cases, as long as the game is done in a particular vein the players will appreciate, it doesn't matter how unoriginal a scenario is. If the players enjoy running around space stations, blowing up the bad guys and escaping in a battered old freighter, fine. As long as they have a goal to aim for they can pretty much do what they want. So, as you can see, there are quite a few sources and methods to choose from. Even events in everyday life can inspire the GM.

A good point to remember... if you communicate your ideas with the players and get their feedback, then you can all settle into a game that everyone will enjoy. The aim of the game, after all, is for everyone in the group to be social and enjoy the evening. At the end of the day it is the sole purpose of roleplaying, and continuous fresh scenarios is a major contributor.

Sunday 20 December 2009

GAMERS IN THE WILD Part 4 – Actual bad gaming footage!

Simple things to remember so that your games run smoother.

Everyone relies on the GM to provide a solid, enjoyable adventure with memorable NPCs and fantastic settings. What can players and GMs do to make the game better? What responsibilities can a GM and player have other than simply sitting at the table and playing that game?

The tips below are for GMs and players to identify potential problems and nip them in the bud. With all the new-fangled technology, silicon chips, and such, a roleplayer's problems can only get bigger. Of course, not all these tips apply to every group, but there are always exceptions and if you game with a lot of people in a lot of groups then the chances of coming across these incidents are higher.

(All the tips are references to personal incidents that were probably some of the worst times I ever had as a GM or player during my long tenure as a roleplayer. I've included some of the worst ones I remember in italics. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent. Just call me Jonathan "axe to grind" Hicks).

1. Punctuality Is Politeness And Consideration In One

The GM may have a limited amount of time to play the game or have a set sequence of events he/she wants to play out before the night is over. To aid this, be punctual. If the GM says 7:00, then try your best to get there for 7:00. Arriving an hour late can be awkward for the GM and the other players, as time will be wasted with greetings and filling in the latecomer with game details and plot events. It's understandable that certain occurrences may cause you to be late, and these incidents are well out of your control, but if there is no other reason to be late then try your best. There's more than one person at that gaming table to keep happy.

(Case: I once ran a game in which the night's scenario was going to be the finale of the Warhammer campaign before friends returned to university. Only one player had the knowledge of how to progress and he was an hour and a half late getting there for no other reason than he was watching a film he had bought that day, which left me only an hour and a half to finish a Summer campaign. Hmmm...)

2. Turn Off Phones And Pagers

I don't know how many games I've run where I got to the plot-bursting, emotionally dazzling finale and then someone's mobile phone or pager went off. Precious moments, even minutes, are wasted when a player is distracted by a call, and then the atmosphere is lost and cannot be reclaimed. Switch off those mobiles unless there's a good reason why they should be on!

(Case: Halfway through an intense MechWarrior game, just at the point when the bullets were flying and enemy 'Mechs were advancing on our position, the GM's mobile went off. He was gone for nearly half an hour. Frustrating or what? To compound the problem, when the GM came back and the game resumed, a player's mobile went off. It wouldn't have been so bad if it had been anything other than a social call.)

3. The Items In The Room Are Not Always Part Of The Game

So, we got to a turning point in the game. Do the players turn north to the Eaglenest Range or do they head east to the Skaven Breeding Halls. What do they care? There's a PlayStation/Gameboy/PC in the room and they're having an ace time! It may be up to the GM to remove or make unavailable anything in the room that may provide a distraction, but this is not always the case. A little selfcontrol would be handy.

(Case: Whilst running an enjoyable game set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we realised that two of the players, who had left the room for a secret discussion, had been gone for quite a while. Upon investigation, we found said players in the other room playing Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation which, whilst an enjoyable game, had absolutely nothing to do with the scenario.)

4. Paying Attention Is The Core Of A Game

Well it is isn't it? How can you expect to progress if you've hardly listened to anything the players or the GM has said? Let's say the last five minutes has seen the PCs decide on their tactics and strategy and declare their intentions, then they go flying into the demon's cave with swords high and plan ready. You're not going to be much use if you spent those five important minutes with your nose in a magazine, are you? What if the GM has explained a vital clue or piece of information? What use is that to you or the group if you didn't give due attention? Prick up your ears when the GM is speaking to you and/or the group.

(Case: Whilst running a Twilight 2000 game I spent a good while explaining in-character the PCs' covert requirements. Their mission was to meet the corrupt President of Sunken
Madagascar, find out why he has increased his military output, and try to support a coup that had been growing. Upon arrival at the President's, two of the four players asked, "So, what are we doing here?" Much shaking of heads ensued.)

5. Being Funny Is One Thing, Being Annoying Is Quite Another

We've all had those moments in games where something has happened that just had us rolling on the floor. There's always comments and events which elicit a laugh or a chuckle from the players and GM alike. These are good moments, especially during a non-serious game, and can be great fun. But let's not overdo it, eh? Continuous jokes and remarks, especially during a serious game, can be a little annoying. Repeating the same joke over and over again to get the same laugh...can you imagine such a thing? Jokes and having fun are part of the game, but there is a time and a place for such things and, depending on what the game is being played for, players and GMs alike should realise their limits.

(Case: A long time ago, in a Star Wars game far, far away, there were five players and a GM. One of the players would wait until a critical part of the game, pretend to drop his pencil, and then re-emerge from under the table with the wraparound sticker off a large Coca-Cola bottle over his face and declare "Coca-Cola Man has come to save the day". Every week, on cue. No, really, I’m not making this shit up.)

6. Being Loud Does Not Mean You're Right

We've all got something to add to a game such as ideas, tactics, revelations, and character stuff. It's a sign of a good roleplayer when they can put forward their own opinions and thoughts, and deal with any arguments "in character", PC-to-PC instead of player-to-player. Some gamers find it necessary to raise their voices however, talking over the other people at the table so that their opinions are heard and acted upon. With players it's annoying because it's as if the one viewpoint is the be-all and end-all of group decisions. With GMs it's annoying because constant interruptions and opinions can disrupt good roleplaying and make the game feel linear. The answer is simple: don't do it! Have a little patience. The players haven't gathered about the table just for your benefit.

(Case: During a game of Rolemaster, an excitable GM decided that the players were not going in the direction he wanted them to go, so he decided to usher them onto the right path. He'd talk over every decision made, raising his voice if the players decided on a certain course of action with phrases such as "Why do you want to do that?" and "Oh, that's a stupid idea". When asked to allow a little latitude he would simply talk over the players until they followed his pointers. Strangely, nobody turned up for his next game. I won’t even tell you about the time we tried to kill an evil wizard by setting fire to his doorless tower, only to find we’d failed because he was ‘out shopping’.)

7. The Rules May Be Guidelines, But They're Still Rules

Roleplaying games have a set of rules to adjudicate actions and abilities and these are reflected, in most cases, in the use of dice. So why do some roleplayers feel it necessary to cheat? The idea of a high adventure game is to inject a little of the chance and danger inherent in such things. If a bad roll is made, it does not reflect badly on the player, it's just the way things turned out and it's a sign of good roleplaying to take the rough with the smooth.

There are five general types of cheaters:

1) The "Pooper Scooper" who will roll their dice and pick them up straight away before anyone else has a chance to see the result and claim they succeeded.

2) The "Ready-To-Rumble Roller" who will claim they succeeded with the dice that are already lying on decent numbers on the table, which were not actually rolled.

3) The "Bombardier" who will roll their dice one at a time, and every time a low dice comes up they will slam their next roll into the previous dice in the hope of knocking it onto a better number.

4) The "Houdini Skills" players who suddenly acquire a skill or increased ability to help them out of a situation, usually added to the character sheet secretly during play.

5) The "Phantom Equipment" player who will suddenly have an item or tool appear on their character sheet, again added during play.

There is no sure way to guard against these cheaters, especially in large group games where there is a lot to be aware of. There are some precautions you can take, however. Make sure that, before play starts, the group is aware that all rolls are to made in the open and watched by others. (The GM may be exempt from this, depending on their use of GM screens and wanting to have the chance to have more control over the game). Then the player/GM has no choice but to make the roll. Also, rolls must be made with all the required dice thrown at the same time. This way, the group is aware that rolls are being monitored and prewarning them means that players don't feel picked on. Don't worry too much about weighted dice. These little monsters are easy to spot as they don't roll naturally and have a tendency to spin when landing on their set number. You can check most of the dice before play, anyway. Have photocopies of the PC character sheets to hand to the GM, and make sure as a player that you've had a good look over other player's sheets (group style/policy permitting). This way you'll have an idea what each player is capable of and what they own, and have an insight into the possibility of cheating.

Case: During a strange game of Call of Cthulhu, the group was skulking about a sunken church in the Black Forest of the Rhine when they were suddenly attacked by ghouls. Single handed, one of the weakest characters in the group managed to hold off the ghouls with a machete and pistol while the others grabbed artefacts and made a run for it. He was hailed the hero of the encounter...until it was realised that no-one had actually seen any of the rolls made, and that the items "pistol" and "machete" were not actually on the player's character sheet equipment list.

8. Arguments May Be Healthy, But Stress Is A Killer

There can be many discussions during a game regarding the interpretation or application of rules, and this is a good thing in many respects. It clearly defines capabilities and limitations of PC and NPC alike, and it can result in well-conceived House Rules. Unfortunately, there are situations that arise when disagreements on rules and capabilities grow from discussion to heated debate to full-blown shouting matches. Both players and GMs alike have their own idea how certain things should be utilised from the rulebook and how things should be played out. The answer is simple: chill out! When playing a game remember two things:

1) It's a game.

2) The idea of the game is to socialise and have fun.

If you can't agree on an aspect then defer to the GM after making your point. After all, the GM's word should be final. If an honest mistake has been made, then make a note of the problem and carry on, backtrack if necessary then continue. Always be ready to have an opinion, but don't think that arguing the point will make it any better. Discuss the problem, come to a compromise, then make a note on the problem and how it can be solved. Failing that, the GM's word is final, if that's the only way to stop it. And don't take the disagreement out of the confines of the game. Getting cranky afterwards or during other activities because of the argument is pointless because, as in the concept of the game, it has nothing to do with real life at all. Ask yourself the question is it really worth it? Raised voices make for raised blood pressure - not good.

(Case: A player in a game of Cyberpunk decided to steal a car after a firefight at the local casino, but his hotwiring skill wasn't good enough. There was a long drawn out argument about the technicalities of stealing a car, but the GM basically said that regardless of what the player knew, the PC couldn't do it. After the argument (which got a little out of hand) the player sulked, made stupid comments, and generally disrupted the game. Towards the end of the night, the GM took the player's character sheet, crumpled it up and popped it in the garbage. "What was that?" asked the player. "Random psycho sniper in a church tower just took you out", said the GM. "Don't I get to roll?" asked the player. The GM just smiled. "He's a really good shot." The player got the point.)

I hope these tips have given you some ideas and a few things to think about. Most of these are intended to help you deal with those incidents that crop up during the actual act of gaming and will hopefully help you to have a smoother, happier experience.

Saturday 19 December 2009

GAMERS IN THE WILD Part 3 – Non-evolving players

Sarcasm mode on

How to be an annoying player.

Every game has them, and you don't want to be the exception. Take a few tips from these ten easy to learn steps on how to ruin the game your GM has so carefully designed.

Number One: Make sure that you never talk in character. Its much more effective to say 'My character tells the Navy officer to surrender or die' instead of just giving the GM a scowl and saying 'Surrender or die, Captain Vud!' in the most convincing Royal Shakespeare voice you can manage. Keeping the gulf between your characters personality and your own roleplaying talents as wide as possible is an absolute must for all players.

Number Two: Always express your own opinions and ideas, especially when someone else is talking, preferably the GM. Interrupting an explanation or a piece of dialogue with brash statements will win the respect of other players. All gamers are well known for their tolerance for people butting in on their repartee. If you make sure your speech is loud and overbearing, you may even succeed in drowning out the other people at the table.

Number Three: Don't be concerned about turning up for the game on time. Arriving about twenty minutes to half an hour after the agreed meeting time is suggested, although three quarters of an hour would be a fine example. Keeping other players waiting is a good test of their patience, of which they'll need a lot with you around. It's good to keep them on their toes.

Number Four: Wait until a moment of high drama has arrived and then talk about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Football or last night's television programmes are always good subjects to throw in. It makes the game unpredictable and sometimes quite surrealistic. So next time the GM gets to the part of the game where the final confrontation with the corrupt syndicate boss is just about to happen, make sure you come out with something like 'I saw this great program last night on the televsion, listen to this...'
Number Five: The game will progress much better if you don't actually take much notice of what is going on. Sitting in your chair and reading a book or a magazine while the game is in progress is a definite sign of good roleplaying. Every now and then nudge another player and show them what interesting things you've just read about, and when the GM looks upon you and asks what it is you want to do, just give him a blank look and say 'huh?'

Number Six: Every time the GM has to make a ruling, make sure you disagree with it, or at least question it before grudgingly giving in. Plenty of games have been filled with hilariously enjoyable hours of players and GM's conversing overtheir interpretation of the rulebook. And remember - if the GM succeeds inhaving his ruling accepted make sure you're miserable and surly for the rest ofthe session. In fact, moan about it for the next few days. After all, the game isbeing played for your enjoyment so why should the GM ruin your fun?

Number Seven: Wit and humour are what makes a roleplayer, so why not treat the whole game like a joke? This works most effectively when the GM has designed a game that's dark and sombre. Why play along with that, when cracks such as 'So that's an octopus’s great wobbly tentacle! Fnarr, Fnarr!' and 'I'll jump in front of the female guard and shout "Get back or I'll whip out my baton!" Ho, Ho!' will carry the atmosphere effectively.

Number Eight: Cheat at your dice rolls. You may think this is dishonest, but look at it this way; won't your fun be heightened if your character succeeds at most of her rolls? Of course! Forget about chance and tension, just roll those dice, scoop them up before anyone else sees them and say you've succeeded. The game is supposed to be fun, so you want to milk that fun for all it's worth, even at the expense of effectively roleplaying a character that is on the front line of danger.

Number Nine: Take lots and lots of food with you. This may be the normal thing to do for most players, but make sure you take plenty of chewy sweets. Having your mouth full with thick toffee and trying to explain your actions to a GM makes the game just ooze with realism. So when the GM next asks you what course of action you wish to take against the soldier who is about to attack you, you can reply with 'Gile thwig ag im wig my shord’.

Number Ten: Have you recently had a slight disagreement with another player over something trivial, out of the game? Do you want to know how you get back at that player? Well, the answer is simple. Use your character to spite him. Make the odd sarcastic comment to his character through yours, with the obvious reference to what you disagreed about, and then afterward say 'I was only roleplaying'. Better still, have your character try to bump off the offending player's character in some way. Using PC's to settle petty differences are a great way to improve the session and strengthens the relationship between players.

Using one or two of these steps will make you an annoying player. Using several in conjunction, or better still the whole repertoire, will let others know that you are definitely on the road to complete roleplaying player mastery.

Sarcasm mode off

Friday 18 December 2009

Sci-Fi Horror Roleplaying

A while ago I released a playtest version of a game I was working on called 'Those Dark Places'. The system used a single D20 (I called it the ODDS system - One Die Determines Success) and it had full rules for characters, vehicles and starships. I never completed it and never had any feedback.

If you get the chance, check it out and let me know what you think - you can email me at jonathan (at) farsightgames (dot) com. I'm thinking of digging it out and maybe using the system for my magazine format game, considering the fact that I have had no concrete info regarding Open D6 and no answer from Eric Gibson to my email from two weeks ago. I've given up on that system, now.

GAMERS IN THE WILD Part 2 – Gaming Groups in ACTION!

There are quite a few roleplaying groups out there. Which type are you most suited to?

A myriad of different gaming groups has spawned a lot of different styles of gaming. You get your heroes, your wargame-types, your freeformers... each group has a different approach to how the game should be played. Roleplaying has come a long way since the days of ‘don your armour and draw your sword to kill lots of nasties and get the gold from the dungeon’ type games.

Hundreds of groups all over the world have their own little quirks and house rules that make their game unique, but on the surface a lot of groups share the same traits. How do you play your games?

The SOCIABLES don't take their gaming too seriously. In fact, as soon as they are distracted by anything that they think is more entertaining, they'll drop their dice and take off. Oh, they'll get together on a pre-set evening to do a game, but there's a chance that the game will fall apart half-way through the session, or maybe it won't even take off. This is because that roleplaying is just another way of getting together. Groups like this don't usually last long. Sometimes they'll have a good game where they'll get into a situation they can relate to, but those games are few and far between.

WARGAMERS are almost exactly what the term means- they play the game to conduct detailed combat situations, and roleplaying pretty much takes a back seat. Their characters are two dimensional, almost always being a part of a military outfit, or at least trained that way. The term 'hack n` slash' applies to these kind of groups, who don't think they've had a decent night's game unless someone has been killed or something has been blown up. Considering a lot of games are especially created for conflict and war, these kinds of groups are quite common.

The FLAMBOYANT groups are the ones that belong on the stage. Their games are more or less freeform, with the rules used only to govern confrontational situations. They'll jump from their chairs and wave their arms about to physically express their character's actions. The place they play their games will be decorated to suit the mood of the game, like having candles lying around or drapes over the windows. Each player is an actor in their own right, and would rather decide a situation using their skill as a thespian rather than what they have written on the character sheet.

Another common kind of group is the RULESMONGERS. The rulebook is law, and deviating from that law is wrong. These gamers will quote rules for every situation, be it combat or climbing a rope or NPC interaction. Half the evening's session will be taken up by flipping through the rulebook or companion volumes, checking charts and tables and passing books across the table. Some of it is also taken up by disagreements on a rule interpretation. The players question each GM decision and the GM checks every player action carefully.

MOTIVATED roleplayers are the ones who only really want what's best for their character. They want decent equipment, better skills and a higher status. They'll play their characters to the hilt to get the most out of it, and try to reap in rewards and prestige. They'll place their character sheet and applicable notes in clear binders, and flesh out the character with complicated backgrounds and a predetermined goal. Likewise, the GM will have detailed notes on all the NPC's the PC's will meet detailed locations and maybe even draw up a sequence of events that happen around the players.

These sorts of groups' spawn the STORYTELLERS, who play the game to unfold a plot that has the traditional beginning, middle and end. These groups can be quite linear with their play, with the GM guiding the players along a story already conceived. They can also be quite unpredictable, what with the players wanting their characters to do what's best for them, and the GM trying to cater for all the different PC's by introducing alternate plots.

INTENSE groups are the ones who get right under the skin of their characters, giving PC's and NPC's alike psychological traits which go beyond what they have written down on their character sheet. They play characters with dark pasts or horrible phobias, and react to situations with intricately fleshed out actions. They have personal reasons (at least, personal to their character) why they are acting in a certain way. Their campaigns revolve around personal tragedy and psychological trauma, with moments of high drama and tense atmosphere thrown in.

Finally, there are the CASUALS, who are willing to play the game but are indifferent to the outcome. They'll crack jokes throughout the game, make light of grave situations and generally be laid back about aspects of the session that would mean a lot to any other roleplayer. These groups tend to change GM's frequently, and PC's are quite expendable. The players will play their characters, sure, but if they died it would be no big deal. The scenarios are pretty much open, allowing the players free rein of their environment with the GM winging the games to give the players something to do.

Different types of groups produce different kinds of players and GM's. Some players don't mix well, however. Could you imagine taking a rulesmonger and slapping him in the middle of a flamboyant game? It doesn't take much to realise that it would not work. A rulesmonger would probably fit in better with a group of wargamers. A motivated player would probably mix well with a group of flamboyants. A sociable type would probably get bored very quickly with any other group.

So which of these groups would you fit in well with? Perhaps you would fit in with more than one. You may be a rulesmonger who likes to be intense about the games, or you may be flamboyant gamer who has a lot of motivation for the character being portrayed.

Better still, which of these groups is like your group?

Thursday 17 December 2009

GAMERS IN THE WILD Part 1 – Species of GM

I'm going to reproduce (ie copy and paste) my old hints and tips articles here for a while. These articles originally appeared on and in my book 'Roleplaying Hints, Tips and Ideas' (now out of print).

** ** **

What makes Gamesmasters act the way they do? Jonathan Hicks would like to know, but he can't be bothered to get involved with all that psychological rubbish. Let's have a look at some of the more common styles of refereeing instead. It’s much more fun.

Gamesmasters. The very words are enough to strike the fear of the gods into the heart of even the hardiest roleplayer. Why? Well, why do you think? The Gamesmaster (GM) is the one person with the power to allow your wellcultivated character to live- or die. It's ultimate power. It's the ability to spend a few hours with total control over your group of friends. Nothing compares to the feeling of having all the PC's by the proverbials.

But that's not entirely true, is it? Other than being a dining table god, the GM also has a major responsibility to the players. The GM has to supply an evening's play that the players will enjoy, and if the job is done well they come back for more. But that doesn't stop a few GM's from abusing their power every now and then. So what do you look out for? What are the traits that make the power hungry megalomaniacs stick out?

If you're new to roleplaying, then you may find the next few examples interesting. It may give you an idea of who to avoid. If you’re not so new to it all, then there may be a few descriptions you recognise...

GM: Right, you've broken into the warehouse, and as far as you can tell the alarms haven't gone off.
PLAYER 1: I'll sneak to the crates in the corner.
PLAYER 2: I'll cover him.
GM: As you sneak across, you hit a tripwire and a laser hits you in the back, doing damage... (The GM rolls dice secretly behind his screen. As the numbers come up, a slow smile spreads across his face and he slowly looks up at the player. His eyes are twinkling.) Boy, that's gonna hurt. That's gonna hurt real bad.
PLAYER 1: How much damage did I take?
GM: (Shaking his head and pursing his lips.) Oooh, painful.
PLAYER 1: (Getting exasperated.) How much damage have I taken?!?
GM: Oh, do I pity you... etc.

Ooooh, it makes you mad. Fair enough, the player may have made a mistake or an error in judgement, but there is no reason to lay it on so thick. The Smarmy GM will almost sneer at the player as the misfortune piles up, or they'll make the odd comment, such as 'I wouldn't have done that'. Well, of course you wouldn't have done that, you know what’s going on! Needless to say, this kind of GM doesn't hang on to players long. It's fair enough the villains of the game laughing in the PC's face when something goes wrong, but when you get the impression that the GM is getting some sort of sardonic pleasure out of your misfortune... well, would you stay in his games?

GM: You walk out of the starport.
PLAYER 1: What do I see?
GM: The street. Some people.
PLAYER 1: Anything else?
GM: Yeah, some speeders.
PLAYER 1: Any taxis?
GM: Not that you can see.
PLAYER 2: Any chance of a little enthusiasm, GM?
(The GM shrugs.)

You kind of get the impression that they don't really want to be there. The Bland GM talks in monosyllables, doesn't inject enough energy or description in his GM'ing. In short, they're boring. How can you get that sense of being somewhere when every location is as dull as the last? Games don't last long if the player's imaginations aren't sparked enough for them to visualise their surroundings, or get a sense of individuality from the NPC's. The name of the game is entertainment, after all.

GM: The mist swirls around your ankles as you approach the dark building. The trees loom over oppressively, the branches clawing at the sky. As the building comes into view, you see that the metal walls are gnarled, twisting like some architect's nightmare, the sides forming and reforming, as the glass roof appears to oscillate with dark and bright colours. The windows are warped, casting bent reflections across the glade. The mist appears to be pouring from the single chimney the building possesses, flowing from it like something alive, covering everything around with moisture from it's damp touch. The ground underfoot...
(The players rap their fingers on the table and look at their watches.)

On the other side of the coin there's the Over-The-Top GM. In an almost direct contrast to the Bland ref., the OTT GM can go off on a descriptive tangent about a location, a character, and an object. Although it's good that whatever the PC's are looking at is well described, there is such a thing as overdoing it, and the OTT GM is probably doing the game more to show off his narrative skills than to actually get anywhere. Well designed and described places only work when your players are able to interact with them without
having ten pages of prose jammed down their throats every few minutes.

GM: You turn the corner and you see four guards lounging around the door to the hangar, but they have their blasters out. What are you going to do?
PLAYER 1: I'll throw my grenade and hit the deck.
PLAYER 2: I'll take cover in a door alcove and open up on the first one.
GM: Right. Initiative rolls... good. They get the drop on you. They're very good shots. They fire... two hit you, the other one hits you...
PLAYER 1: Hang on; I thought you said they were lounging around. Don't we get surprise?
GM: No, they're professionals, and you'd better deduct some hit points.
PLAYER 2: Shit.

It's not a game; it's a competition to see if the players can beat the scenario he's designed for them. At least, that's the way the Competitive GM sees it. Roleplaying is not a form of entertainment, it's a set of rules designed to pit players against a GM's creations. If the players don't complete the goal set out for them, they've lost. Hmm. Now, I'm sure I've read somewhere that there are no winners or losers in a roleplaying game, and that the whole group is there for an evening's entertainment and to participate in a game where everyone can have fun. From what I can gather, the GM is supposed to supply stimulating stories for the players to get their teeth into.
Oh, that's where I've read it. It's included in every roleplaying game ever written.

GM: So, what was it you wanted to do again?
PLAYER 2: I want to pull my blade whilst grabbing the rope and leaping off the building.
If I've judged the length of the rope right, I should swing in through the window and right on top Baron DeGungey.
GM: So you want to draw your blade (flips through pages of rulebook and looks up penalties for drawing a weapon), leap off the building with the rope (looks up difficulty ratings for using a rope in the rulebook companion volume), aim for the window (flips through pages of another supplement for the strength of glass against a swinging human body), and land on Baron DeGungey (consults the book for stats and then quickly noses through the grappling rules in the rulebook). Right, roll for your leap.
PLAYER 2: (Looking at her watch) Actually, I've got to go now.

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a ruling from the GM whilst he ploughs through tomes of rules to locate the adjustments for your roll, or to try and find a rule that covers your action. The rules of a particular game should be treated as guidelines because trying to find a reference to every player action takes up too much time. It's also impossible to allow for every idea a player has, but does that stop the Rules Lawyer GM? Oh, no. He'll spend the time looking for that particular rule that decides on the outcome. Even if the rule isn't included in the book, there are several supplements to choose from, no doubt. And even then, the rules will have to be interpreted from an amalgamation of
several different rules if the rule isn't there... see what I mean? This is the exact way to stunt a game. GM's should be able to make rulings on the spot, not ruin the pace of a game with their noses in books.

GM: The door to the starship swings open.
PLAYER 1: What do we see?
GM: The figure that strides confidently down the ramp is dressed in dark armour, giving an evil look. The gun slung over one shoulder is huge and powerful. Yeah, this one looks as though he can handle a fight. Mean and moody, with a touch of danger, that's what you can sense.
PLAYER 2: I don't suppose this is your old PC from last year's campaign, is it, GM?
GM: Errr...

Let's skip this one quick, because it is one of the most annoying. The ego-trip, or ‘Mary Sue’, GM will bring a powerful NPC into the game, maybe even his old character from an old campaign, and will run it as one of the group, saving the day and rolling high. And why? Well, this GM gets a sense of pleasure from showing up the party with a character that fits all his ideas of a good PC. You have to ask the question- whose pleasure is the game being played for?

GM: The hatchway looks unlocked, and you know for a fact that the computer centre is down there.
PLAYER 1: I'll make my down through the hatch.
PLAYER 2: I'll draw my pistol and get my flashlight out.
GM: (Ignoring player 1) You pull your gun and descend through the hatch.
PLAYER 1: I thought I was going first.
PLAYER 2: I'll check the floor for booby traps and sensors with my infrared.
PLAYER 1: I'll head over to the computer bank.
GM: There doesn't seem to be any traps or alarm systems, but your eyes do detect a heat trace in the corner.
PLAYER 1: Hello, GM? What about me?

This kind of GM is not too common and good job too. The Favouritism GM will pretty much give most attention to the player whose character he likes the most, or to the character whose player he gets on with better. Players have gone to a lot of trouble to turn up for a few hours of gaming, so can you imagine their frustration at being dealt with for a few seconds every few minutes? The ignored players are the ones that don't return to a game because they don't like the thought of sitting around while other players hog the game. I mean, it's alright for the GM; he'll constantly have a hand in the game. It's not much fun watching others have a better time.

See any you recognise? See any you would avoid at all costs? Do you see any you can relate to as a GM? The examples are nothing but surface observations. It would be way too difficult to postulate on why the GM does certain things in certain ways to certain characters or players. Not only would it relate to how the GM's mind works, but it would also have links to the relationship between GM and player. Once again, the diversity of the roleplaying hobby has bred different views on how a game should be run, but all games should have a common factor - that it should be entertaining to both players and GM's to further the enjoyment of participation and the growth of a healthy campaign. Fair enough, the examples may make you point your finger at your GM and shout, 'That's you, that is!'

Just think about the similarities between the script and paragraph and your own games for a moment. Do you think what the GM is doing will ruin the game? Will it stunt the growth of the campaign? If the worst comes to the worst, will it cause animosity between friends? Maybe, as a player, you are used to that kind of GM'ing, and may actually enjoy the way the games are being run.

The examples can be used for three things - as a reference for new players, so they can think about what kind of GM they want to game with, or avoid. For experienced players, so they can be aware of problems in their game. And most of all the GM, who can look at the example and question himself... am I like that? What will happen to my sessions if I don't correct the problem?

It's also a bit of a laugh, so players can point the finger at the GM and say, 'that's you, that is!'

Tuesday 15 December 2009

What the...?

I'm being made redundant next March. Suddenly, the hobby gaming shop idea is looking pretty damn good.

Monday 14 December 2009

(scratches chin) Hmmmm......

I've been thinking where to take Farsight Games and one option was to open up a fully-fledged shop, with premises, window displays, rent costs and everything. I'd open it in my city of residence because we're pretty central for the towns around us (all buses come through here) and we're pretty easy to find off the motorways. I reckon we'd service the local gamers quite well - the more I looked into a roleplaying club the more came out of the woodwork. Not only that, I was in a gaming store (which is, by the way, more than an hours journey away from where I live) last Saturday and there were two 10/11 year old kids with their dad getting excited over 'Pathfinder' ('Dad! Dad! This looks better than the 2nd Edition we're doing!'). This kind of made me smile because it was nice to see the pre-teen generation getting excited about RPGs and it gave me hope for the future. There will always be people with overactive imaginations...

I've even had a look at a business plan and considered some properties online. I think it's doable. It's what my area might need to help revitalise the gaming hobby, not just RPGs but wargames, boardgaems and card games, too. My city has never had a dedicated gaming shop of any description so perhaps because of that I might have a whole slew of new blood to entice.

Who knows. It's all just daydreaming at the moment.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

A new RPG powered by the Diesel Engine

And this is why I like Vin Diesel:

His films aren't great but I do like the guy, and his obvious love of the gaming genre is pretty cool. If he took the lead in the design of a Riddick RPG I reckon it'd be sweet - that setting would make a damn good game.

Note: I'm running Rogue Trader next year and the GM Kit just came out. Shexwee!

Friday 4 December 2009

Star Wars D6 Products Review


This material is, of course, out of print but there are probably a lot of collectors who wish to add to their mass of books through trading or personal ads. Of course the choice is limited making the buyer choose carefully before purchase. What is good enough to use and what may be a bad buy?
I have played D6 Star Wars with a variety of groups in a variety of settings (mostly our own creation - the Setnin Sector) and therefore I have a good idea of what is helpful and what is not. This list is based on nothing but gaming experience.
What I will try to give is a clear idea of what is good and what is bad for the average gamer. I cannot help but allow a bit of personal bias in what I present and you’ll have to forgive me for that. And yes, I did own all these products and have read them thoroughly.
Each entry will be accompanied by a short description and maybe what the book may do for you. It will also be followed by a brief rating out of five - 1 being bad, 5 being favourable and 3 being average.


Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game: The first book on the shelves and possibly one of the best. The rules are laid out clear and are easy to use, written in a manner that makes it a good read amongst other things. It would be easy to dismiss this book - the rules are now virtually unused in any of the later West End products, utilising instead the Second Edition rules, but the format is surprisingly atmospheric and lays out everything in an easy to follow beginners format. This is highly recommended for those first time gamers, and even more so for those players who want to get a taste of Star Wars Roleplaying and yet not get all fussed about the rules. (4)

Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game - Second Edition: Basically an expanded edition that adds extra rules to help the GM manage more detailed games. Even though it has a lovely cover it is badly laid out and disjointed in parts, with entire sections placed where you’d last expect to see them. The good thing about the First Edition was the fact that you could pretty much flip through the pages and get to the section you needed in seconds. This edition is convoluted and if you are a bit of a fussy rules person you’ll find it a bit cumbersome to use during play. The book, in many respects, is overburdened with extra rules that make the otherwise free flowing game unnecessarily complicated. (3)

Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game - Revised and Expanded: This is the book that any self-respecting gamer, Star Wars or otherwise, should buy. Beautifully laid out in full colour with excellent presentation, the book is what the Second Edition should have been. An absolute must buy. Each section is clearly marked, and although the rules use most of the Second Edition it streamlines the application of those rules to allow for a fast playing game. Its well suited for both experienced and novice gamers alike, with the rules being both well presented and yet not too simple for those players who want a little bit more. Highly recommended. (5)


The Star Wars Sourcebook: Covering all the main points of the Star Wars universe, this book gives the GM an insightful look into the workings of the most important things in the galaxy. Well presented with lots of little extra text that adds depth, it’s a good book for those little details you want to add. There are stats for all the main starships, weapons, aliens, vehicles and plenty of background material so that you can add the detail you want to the game. It doesn’t try to go into pointless technobabble either but explains things in a straightforward manner. It looks good on the shelf next to the original rulebook, too. Later sourcebooks expand on the material within but this one is well suited to beginning gamers. Dated but helpful. (4)

The Rebel Alliance Sourcebook: Although at first it may seem interesting to know what goes on in the Alliance, it soon becomes apparent that are a lot of unnecessary details in this book that turn it into a long winded narrative. There are some helpful parts, but knowing the exact workings of the Rebels is not what most gamers will be sat around the table to experience. It is a good source of material if you want to know the history and workings of the Alliance, but it’s a little let down with no helpful hints on how to insert the material into a campaign. (3)

The Imperial Sourcebook: As with Rebel Alliance Sourcebook, the Imperial book is little more than a collection of details and lists that present to the reader the inner workings of the Empire - if the players want to get involved with that sort of thing. A good read but not really necessary. (3)

The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook: A simple collection of stats and details of all the major things in the Star Wars movies (Episodes 4 - 6). Although an interesting read, it’s not really practical as far as the average gaming group goes. All the stats within are well laid out with histories and descriptions, but all these stats re-appear in later products and you have to wonder whether its really that useful, or whether you’ve paid good money to read what you’ll probably get in later prints. (3)

The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook - Special Edition: Same as the above but with any extras that the Special Editions threw in. Although well presented with decent colour pictures, it’s still limited as to its practical use in a game. (3)

Shadows of the Empire Sourcebook: Although not a great fan of the novel and the material produced, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Its clear and concise, but quite short as far as useable material goes. Its difficult to imagine exactly how useful this book is, but it gives some very interesting histories and descriptions. It only really details the novel and there’s little or no real use, unless you want to run a game that intertwines with the actual story. (3)

Tales of the Jedi Companion: The best thing about this book is the detail it presents to allow gamers to play hundreds of years before the movies as described in Dark Horse Comic’s series. With a decent presentation of Force Skills this is good book to have if you intend on running a game with that ‘little bit of difference’. Its atmospheric and well produced with plenty of artwork from the comic to inspire you to write your own history. It makes good reference material in games set around the trilogy, also, with tables within that allow you to use Force skills ‘at a glance’. (4)

The Jedi Academy Sourcebook: The novel was a little uninspiring with its convenient plot and ridiculous super-weapons and this book is no different. A boring presentation with little or no usable material this is only for completists. Its far from practical as a gaming aid - as with other sourcebooks based around a novelist’s creation its a little more than a list of stats that may interest a gamer as far as what things are capable of but little use in a campaign. (2)

Dark Empire Sourcebook: Its nice to read a book with material that can be put to good use. This one, based on the Dark Horse Comics series, is a good read with settings and places well described in a very interesting era of the Star Wars universe. It gives valuable insights into certain workings of the era and will help the average GM create stuff set on these famous locations and use them to their fullest. (4)

Han Solo and the Corporate Sector Authority Sourcebook: Need a new place to game, with a new power-hungry organisation to mess about with? Then pick up this sourcebook. Although it does tend to waffle on about nothing, there are decent pages in here that will help a GM build up on a new setting. Although it is filled with notes and ideas it may seem a little convoluted, as the stats and details are laid out following the progress of the Brian Daley novels. If you like the books you’ll find the tome helpful but it may take a couple of reads to get used to the material if you’re unfamiliar with them. (4)

Heir To The Empire Sourcebook, Dark Force Rising Sourcebook, The Last Command Sourcebook (three separate volumes): Not a big fan of the novels and I’m afraid that the same goes for the sourcebooks. They are little more than a collection of stats concerning all the elements of the trilogy. Once again we are presented with reproductions of statistics for the main characters and you wonder whether the paper you’ve spent your money on has been wasted. Lets face it; you’re not going to use the new stats in your game, are you? How many times are your players going to meet them? Unless the GM is doing an alternate timeline sort of game the books are pretty useless. No doubt a GM wanting to run a game set around the happenings may find it useful there would be a lot of work involved to make it any help. (2)

The Truce at Bakura Sourcebook: More of the same, I’m afraid, with more stats and figures, although it does detail the Bakura incident so that a GM can run games during the conflict. There’s little in here, however, to fuel a long-term campaign. (3)


GG 1 - A New Hope: If you’ve got the Movie Trilogy Sourcebooks then there’s very little in here you’ll find useful. More character stats that provide good guidelines for templates and little else. As with most of the first Galaxy Guides it was the first print of its kind and many gamers may have found it an interesting read to see what the main character’s stats were - and then left it gathering dust on the shelf after a couple of games. (2)

GG 2 - Yavin and Bespin: If you intend to spend a lot of time on these planets then you’ll find these details useful. Unfortunately, even well known locations can become boring. There’s enough information in here to allow a GM to run games within these settings and its full of information regarding the workings and mysteries of the planets. (3)

GG 3 - The Empire Strikes Back: Pretty much the same as GG 1 - A New Hope. A collection of details and stats that amount to virtually nothing. (2)

GG 4 - Alien Races: A collection of stats and details detailing many alien creatures, which the GM may find useful. Full of things already presented in other books and some uninspiring creations, this book will help the fledgling GM with visuals and quick-grab stats. It does include stuff that details some main aliens from the films and how to use them in a campaign but later tomes render this book obsolete. (2)

GG 5 - Return of the Jedi: Do you want more main character profiles and stats? Then dole out your money. Nothing in here is very helpful. (2)

GG 6 - Tramp Freighters: One of those books that the GM can’t do without. Its got all the details you need to play and maintain a free-trader campaign, with helpful hints on ship creation, modifications, law and order, trading, and even a little mini-sector to use all these new details. The sector itself is very useful, not only as a decent place to game but also as a good template for creating your own stuff. An excellent book which in some places you wish was a little more detailed but still manages to give you enough information to run a long campaign. (4)

GG 7 - Mos Eisley: Its not a bad book with some very interesting details as far as the history of the place goes, but continually roleplaying on Tatooine can’t be a good thing. From what I understand, though, it is a popular place to be and if your players want to go there (which they no doubt will) you’ll find this book useful. (3)

GG 8 - Scouts: It’s like the Star Trek of the Star Wars universe. This book gives helpful details on how to run a game of explorers, but it has short-term appeal. The players usually want to kick some rear and flying about doing surveys isn’t what they have in mind. Books like this tend to want to add extra rules for extra situations, but its good material if you want to run that kind of game. (3)

GG 9 - Fragments from the Rim: This book gives some decent enough insights into the rim worlds, with political and business viewpoints and places and people to add to your campaign. Not a bad addition, and handy if you already have GG 6 - Tramp Freighters. The two books combined give you the location and ability to run a decent trader game. (4)

GG 10 - Bounty Hunters: With details on bounty hunter procedures and a whole list of actual hunters to send after players, this book is a good addition. Not only is it good for the player or NPC who is doing the hunting, its good to know where you stand and how much you can get away with when running a hunter. (4)

GG 11 - Criminal Organisations: Take GG 6, 9, 10 and 11, mix thoroughly and add players. What you have is an excellent setting for a long campaign. Recommended to increase your playing pleasure in conjunction with the other three books. And excellent source material for creating your own enterprising businesses. (4)

GG 12 - Aliens - Enemies and Allies: More creatures. More beasties. More aliens, basically, but giving a little more insight into their usefulness. It is a little pointless, in some cases, because its basically telling you how each being acts and that makes them predictable. Not what your players want to interact with. (2)


Hideouts and Strongholds: With some pretty pointless rules (or maybe I should call them ‘guidelines’) for creating locations and bases, this book gives some details of several places that the GM may find useful. Ultimately, when you’ve spent more than a couple of games at these locations they become boring. (3)

Players Guide to Tapani: Disregarding the silly book cover, this little tome contains an entire setting for those players wishing to get a little politics into their lives. It details Houses and Lords that are constantly bickering, with the players adding depth by getting involved. A little convoluted and only accessible by players who like that sort of thing. The detail is expanded in the campaign setting Lords of the Expanse. (3)

Secrets of the Sisar Run: With a little Black Sun background this book gives an interesting trader/smuggler campaign setting with plenty of material to keep a game going for a long time. Again, players’ preference, but you can’t help but feel that this product was a little rushed with minimal detail to be useful. (3)

The Black Sands of Socorro: Although the setting is interesting it is uninspiring and not guaranteed to keep the player’s attention. Recommended if the GM doesn’t have the time to create their own location or campaign setting. (2)

Rules of Engagement - The Rebel Specforce Handbook: A very militaristic book that will only appeal to those who want to add a little specialist spice to their games. With limiting appeal it still has enough information to detail certain parts of an in-depth Rebellion campaign. If your players want to sneak about, shouting strange phrases during combat and gesticulating at one another whilst creeping into secret bases then this may be what your looking for. (3)

Shadows of the Empire Planets Guide: It does exactly what it says on the cover, which, unfortunately, isn’t much. There’s nothing in here to inspire the average player. (2)

Heroes and Rogues: Contains some very handy hints that will help a GM run a campaign where the players will meet a lot of different people, and how to roleplay different types. Ultimately, it’s a collection of character templates, which give new players a lot more choice as far as characters go and is handy when you need an off-the-cuff NPC. (3)

Gundark’s Fantastic Technology - Personal Gear: Although handy in some respects, and very appealing to players, the GM may find some of the stuff in here will unbalance the game. Some of the designs are nice but it appears to mostly drawings to add window dressing to a game. (3)

Cynabar’s Fantastic Technology - Droids: It’s a bunch of droids. What more do you want me to say? If you’ve got the core rulebooks and some of the other sourcebooks then you’ve got what’s in this book. There are some good rules as far as implementing and designing droids goes, but GM’s may find them a little over enthusiastic on the designer’s part. (3)

Galladinium’s Fantastic Technology - Guns and Gear For Any Occasion: It’s handy for all those little details you might want to put into your game and very little else. Handy if you don’t want to spend the time designing new stuff. (3)

Stock Ships: Some very uninspiring designs (some downright awful) make this book a little more than a quick-grab tome to show your players what ship someone flies if you don’t have anything else to hand. (2)

Planets of the Galaxy - Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three (three separate volumes): A nice collection of planets and sector details that a GM will find useful if they need a quick place for the players to go to, or if they have a campaign design they want to fill with details. There’s enough detail about each planet to plan and execute a small campaign. (4)

Cracken’s Rebel Operatives: An interesting collection of characters but you do wonder whether you’ll use them all, and if you do then it may be a case of making space for them. Unusable unless you need NPC’s to hand, and unless you design your scenario around the character its hard to imagine using the stats for what they were created for. (2)

Cracken’s Rebel Field Guide: Interesting but ultimately useless. Lets face it; if the things here were available to the average rebel at any time then it would make the game boring. Anything else is just unbelievable co-incidence. It really depends on what kind of game you run, and its difficult to remember what’s usable when in a high-energy part of the game. (2)

Wanted by Cracken: Need something for your bounty hunters to do? Then get this. It’s got some interesting contracts and decent locations to keep your hunter campaign going for a while. It does become difficult to maintain the interest, though, so it’s only handy every now and then. (3)

Cracken’s Threat Dossier: Want a location or object to review? Then check out this, although there’s hardly any practical use for the locations - their use has already been exhausted by the novels they appeared in and if the players have read the books there’s no real surprise. (2)

Alien Encounters: A well-laid out tome that details many aliens that will populate your campaign. Its handy and comprehensive so you’ll have no problem grabbing a quick alien if you need one. Filled with all the details you’d expect from a brief xenobiologists report it makes a good read and excellent source material. (4)

Creatures of the Galaxy: What every GM wants is a couple of little monsters to annoy the players with, and this book has plenty. Handy, not only for giving quick details but also helps with designing and creating your own little beasties. This, really, is the only book that covers decent creatures that populate a variety of ecologies. (4)

Alliance Intelligence Reports: If you want to put your players up against some NPC nasties this book is handy but it only really helps if you’ve run out of your own ideas or you’ve used up what’s already available. (3)

Wretched Hives of Scum and Villainy: Want to lie low? Make some contacts? An interesting collection of places and people for those less than honest players, and even good for players to visit in the course of the game. Short-term appeal, however, with the small number places presented. (3)

Death Star Technical Companion: It’s a technical companion. About the Death Star. What exactly is a GM supposed to do with this? Apart from read it, I mean. (2)

Pirates and Privateers: A good collection of ideas and designs for the enterprising capital starship captain or player. Recommended for those games where the players like going ‘har, har’ and doing less than honest things on their vessel. A good little addition. (4)

Platt’s Smugglers Guide: More of a personal viewpoint than a practical one, but helpful if you want to go into more detail than is necessary when running a smuggler campaign. (3)

Platt’s Starport Guide: Very few decent starports, but it does have some good charts and tables concerning costs and other stuff for the discerning trader. (3)


Tatooine Manhunt: The first scenario produced and it’s an excellent little game set in and around Mos Eisley. There’s plenty to do and see around the deserts of Tatooine as the players hunt for the almost hermit-like hero Adar Tallon to help them in their fight against the Empire, with the first appearance of Jodo Kast. A decent plot. Quite entertaining for first-time players. (4)

Starfall: If you want to run through the bowels of a collapsing Star Destroyer then this could be the game for you. Oh, and as luck would have it the ship’s designers are on board. An interesting plot but overly convenient. (3)

Battle for the Golden Sun: It’s really just an excuse to get the players underwater to get across a different setting. A powerful coral (the Golden Sun) is wanted by both Rebels and Imperials. I defy anyone not to laugh at the AT-AT swimmer. Although the plot is interesting it isn’t acted upon very well. (2)

Otherspace: It doesn’t feel like Star Wars, it doesn’t play like Star Wars, but if you want to run a dark mysterious game in another galaxy (or dimension, or whatever it is) then this may suit. The players are thrown into another dimension after a hyperspace accident and come across the biomechanical Charon, an insectoid race of evil. It does try to build atmosphere but its a little off the mark, though. (2)

Otherspace 2 - Invasion: More of the first but in the Star Wars galaxy. Or dimension. Or whatever. As far as sequels go, this isn’t much better than the first as the Charon try to invade realms beyond their own. (2)

Strike Force - Shantipole: Does rescuing Admiral Ackbar and the B-wing project sound like fun? Then pick this up. It’s interesting and rather enjoyable, but strangely lacking in depth. With dodging asteroids and Imperial squads you’d think it would be exciting but the small location limits the adventure. (3)

Crisis on Cloud City: After Tatooine and Ackbar, it would be nice to stray away from the Star Wars settings, but here we go again. This one is set on Bespin, and has a weak plot concerning a nasty droid intelligence with an un-exciting ending. It does have Sabacc cards, though, which is cool. (2)

The Game Chambers of Questal: It would be fun if the plot weren’t so thin, as the players go hunting for a missing operative during some kind of carnival, and the art was better. It can’t be recommended. (2)

Riders of the Maelstrom: An enjoyable little romp on a luxury liner beset by internal problems and pirates. There’s a lot for players to do and its good fun. Even if the game isn’t run there’s enough detail about the liner to fuel your own stories. (4)

Scavenger Hunt: A ridiculous plot and absolutely awful interior artwork makes this scenario one of the worst. The players go into a junkyard and find a piece of the destroyed first Death Star - and amongst other things, Darth Vader’s spare suit. Are they trying to be funny or creative? (1)

Black Ice: An interesting plot concerning the infiltration of a huge transport ship that’s moving fuel about but its let down by a pretty basic sequence of events. When you get to the end you wonder whether your fate was really in your own hands. (2)

Operation - Elrood: A decent plot which starts out as an intriguing conspiracy-type game but which finally degenerates into a simple blow-up-the-badguys type of thing. I know that’s what Star Wars is about but I like to think that when you establish a game’s atmosphere you try to stick to it. (3)

Mission to Lianna: Quite an entertaining little romp that’s kept moving along at a nice even pace, a collection of decent setting and Rebel threatening drama as the players try to stop the manufacture of a fully operational cloaking device. (4)

No Disintegrations: Only really good for bounty hunter players, this collection of adventures is entertaining and well though out. Limited appeal, sadly. (3)

Instant Adventures: A nice collection of short adventures, some of which you wish were a little longer. Fun but slightly impractical. It says that you can insert these into an on-going campaign but its more useful if you need a quick one-off that won’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. (3)

Graveyard of Alderaan: A ridiculous plot set in what’s left of the doomed planet that is basically a bad idea. The players enter the wreckage of the planet where they find the remnants of the planet’s palace. Hmmm. (1)

Death in the Undercity: An interesting plot that concerns Calamari, concerning good action sequences and a decent story idea. An Imperial plot to divide the forces of the Mon Calamari and the Quarren is well thought out with several key moments that make it worthwhile. (4)

The Isis Coordinates: A simple run through a series of encounters to track down Imperial Agents who have stolen the location of a Rebel stronghold and are trying to alert their superiors. There are some encounters which seem a little pointless but it is fast paced. Ultimately run-of-the-mill. (3)

Planet of the Mists: A nice little story that includes elements of moral and tactical decision. The Imperials are poisoning a planet with an Industrial plant and the heroes are thrown into the thick of it. You do get stats for Imperial Swamp Troopers, and then wonder if the creators are going to invent a Stormtrooper for every occasion. Good for the more ecologically minded players. (4)


Lords of the Expanse: A box set, which details more of the Tapani Sector. It’s a lot more detailed and has some very handy stuff in there to expand on the original book - if you liked the original book, that is. Plenty of extras and details that may or may not be useful. (3)

The Darkstryder Campaign (incorporating four volumes - the Darkstryder box set, the Kathol Outback, the Kathol Rift and Endgame): As far as huge, all encompassing campaigns go this little beauty just about covers everything. You’ve got intrigue, action, character interaction, mystery, suspense... the whole campaign is spread out over four publications and takes a long time to run through, but it is worth it. The only problem is that it’s designed for characters supplied with the game. The players are required to choose one of the characters and then get into the plot. Some people may find this a little constricting, but if you want epic roleplaying designed to bring out the best in plot and design then you can’t go far wrong. With a lot of work the GM may be able to redesign the campaign to suit his own player’s characters, but in reality the game is designed for the characters included. It’s recommended but, as stated before, some players may consider it linear, based on the fact the story is designed around pre-created player characters. There is a lot of design and detail here that the GM can incorporate into his own campaign, anyway. (4)

Thursday 3 December 2009


Ah, Rogue Trader. Where else could I fly through space in a giant cathedral, commanding tens of thousands of crew and deciding the fate of entire worlds? Nowhere, that’s where.

My experience with free trading in a science fiction setting has been pretty much nothing but the D6 Star Wars RPG using the Tramp Freighters Galaxy Guide. In fact, most people will think of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds when it comes to this type of game. That’s a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. It’s fun zipping about the cosmos as a crew of half a dozen – it’s easy to control as a GM and keeps the action flowing. Thing is, after more than ten years playing that kind of game, it gets kind of repetitive. How do you inject something new into the mix? That’s easy. Give your players a crew to deal with. Say, oooh, about TWENTY THOUSAND OF THEM!!

You see this the Warhammer 40K universe, and everything in the 40K universe is BIG!

In this game you will literally be flying giant starships, hundreds of years old and kilometres across, built like gargantuan interstellar cathedrals. Your mission as a Rogue Trader is supposed to be to explore strange new worlds (to dominate, bring under the control of the God-Emperor and abuse for resources and profit), seek out new life (to exterminate) and new civilisations (to steal new technology from)… to boldly go where no man has gone before (primarily because if they do they’ll have their heads bitten off). Under an ancient Warrant of Trade you and your crew will be able to fly beyond the boundaries of the Imperium and explore the vastness of the galaxy, trade, deal and dominate other worlds, alien or no, and create profit for your starship. Basically, you’re told to sod off into space and pretty much do what you want – in the name of the Emperor, of course.

Of course.

The very term Rogue Trader tells you this might not always be the case and this is perfect for the sort of games I want to play. Years ago I used the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rules to try and run a game in the 40K universe. It worked fine but the fact that the regime was so oppressive made my games a little limited (more my fault than the setting, perhaps, but when the player’s answer to everything is grimdark WAR FOR THE EMPEROR! it gets a little restrictive). I don’t want to be limited by the domination of humanity by the Emperor and that everything the billions upon billions of humans do in the galaxy is for His and the Imperium’s benefit.

So I’m glad I purchased Rogue Trader because now I can fly away from the Emperor’s sphere of influence and pretty much do what I want. Rogue Traders and their crews may be the representatives of the Golden Throne but they are left to their own devices and are a power unto themselves. So those dirty Xenos and possibly heretical human worlds that the Emperor wants vaped in the Imperium may be the very creatures you make profit from in trade and diplomatic relations outside the borders for humanity. You may end up relying on them for help or aid or supplies, and you may have to make some pretty shady deals or pacts with enemies of the human species. Brilliant.


As I’ve not fully played this game I’ll give you a brief overview of the book.

If you know Dark Heresy then you’ll know this game. In fact, if you know Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay then you’ll know this game. It’s a primarily percentile based skill roll – get under the appropriate number and you succeed, with varying levels of success (or failure) depending on what you succeed (or fail) by.

Character creation is a doddle and is made even more interesting by the use of the Origin Path. By choosing where you come from (A Death World, a Hive World, a Forge World etc) you can read down a chart and choose different aspects of your history. These aspects decide on skills and bonuses/penalties to certain stats and rolls. Once you’ve finished you’ll have a career. The table is very clever – you can either decide where you come from and read down the chart to decide what you are, or you can decide what you are and read up the chart to find out where you come from. Excellent.

Careers include the Rogue Trader (captain), the Arch-militant (the combat specialist), Astropath Transcendent (the telepath, kind of a communications guy but it goes far beyond that and they get all kinds of psychic powers – this also applies to the Navigator), Explorator (engineer), Missionary (a priest zealot), Navigator (a dirty mutant!), Seneschal (the guy ‘in the know’, with contacts and such), and the Void-master (pilot). Each has a distinctive role to play and has plenty of gaming potential. Add to this a cool list of guns, bombs, cybernetics and other kit and you can create a pretty good character with all kinds of quirks.

Starship creation and combat is decided by a point-based starship creation system. With this your players can create a starship of their own – there are several basic designs to choose from and then they spend points to beef them up for battle, make them better for trade and commerce or somewhere in between. Combat is fully covered.

GM tips and background material is plentiful, giving you plenty of ideas for games and hints on how to evoke atmosphere. It also gives you the background necessary to understand the universe of 40K. Then there’s a small section on adversaries and NPCs, and a detailed description of the Koronus Expanse, a section of space for the players to explore as they settle into their new roles. Top this off with a short adventure and you’re ready to go.

- Wonderfully presented. The artwork is lovely with only a couple of ‘meh’ illustrations and it evokes some good atmosphere.
- The rules are simple. With twenty years of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay experience it was a doddle to get my head around it. I don’t see any newcomers to the system having any problems.
- It is its own book. I don’t need to by x-amount of supplements, everything I need is right here.
- The Origin Path is a cool way to help character creation. PCs with similar histories could have crossed paths before and that makes for some good roleplaying.
- I managed to get the full gist of the rules and setting in one two-hour reading session. Now, that’s probably because of my experience with WFRP but I know it was also because the layout of the book was well realised and easy to navigate. The index is a massive bonus, as well.
- It gives you plenty of advice on how to run a Rogue Trader game and really invokes the atmosphere of the setting. I feel like I’m ready to run a game right now and the sheer scope of the premise opens up all kinds of avenues of adventure.

- Not enough stats for vessels, enemy vessels, NPCs and foes the Rogue Trader might come across. I felt it was a bit lacking in that department.
- There are a few typos and what have you, and there were a few times I had to re-read a sentence or a paragraph because the explanation wasn’t clear.
- Everyone will want to be the Rogue Trader captain. Let’s face it; you don’t want to defer to a fellow PC’s decision.
- With a crew of thousands at their beck and call your first few games are going to be a struggle, as your players will simply send NPC crewmembers to do their dirty work.

No doubt some of my problems with the game will be ironed out once I get to play it. All in all, it’s an excellent product, beautiful to look at as it is to read and will no doubt make for some brilliant games with like-minded players who can get past the idea that trading in space isn’t all about the Millennium Falcon.

Want some inspiration for the game? Here you go.

Ends suddenly, though, which is a shame.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Did you know...?

I watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen this week. Utter shit, but there were massive fuck-off robots kicking the crap out of each other so I was happy for three-quarters of the film. I'd recommend it... not for the story or the acting, that was just rubbish. But giant robots, man... giant robots...

Anyway, my wonderful nerd wife emailed me this -

'Would you like a bit of trivia? The guy who did the voice of Jetfire (the old Transformer) also does the voice of Bumblebee and is actually the guy who played Nasir in Robin of Sherwood... so there you go.'

So, the guy who did the voices for two of my favourite Transformers also played the coolest kick-ass bitch slapper in my favourite TV show of the 1980s?

Can today get any better?

*checks post*

Ah, my copy of Rogue Trader came today. So, officially, yes it can.