Saturday 29 May 2010

Games Workshop

I was invited to Games Workshop's headquarters in Nottingham, UK yesterday. I can't tell you why, that's a story for another day. I've never been there before and I was really looking forward to it. Whilst I was there I had a bit if a wander around the place.

I'm a big Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fan and I recently bought the Rogue Trader RPG. I'm slowly getting back into the wargaming side of it all after a 18 year break (!) and the visit really gave me some geeky inspiration. I took many pictures of the place, some of which I'll share with you here.

The buildings were all very modern and had the eagle insignia everywhere. There were life size Space Marine statues dotted about, like they were on guard. It was all very atmospheric. The reception itself was modelled like some kind of chapel. Very stylish.

Even all the mats had the insignia on them. I want one for my hallway.

The Space Marine statues were really impressive. You can't miss the place when you approach it - one of these massive gits is standing right outside the gates.

There's an exhibition building called Warhammer World, in which thay have a custom built gaming room filled with tables foor all kinds of Fantasy Battle and 40K games. It was quite quiet when I was there - it was a work day after all - but I was told that on weekends and holidays it gets really busy. I'd like to see that.

Upstairs from that was a miniature display room. It was awesome. They had dioramas and models dating back years, some I remember from old White Dwarf issues, and they were all expertly painted and arranged. This picture does it no justice - you'll just have to go along and marvel at it yourself.

It was then I found the most important room of the place: Bugman's, a pub. It was all styled out in a Dwarvish theme - again, my phtotograph is terrible - and I had a pint of Troll Brew, which was... an experience.

Mounted on the wall was a life-size Orc head on a shield, and as I stepped backwards to get a better photo...

... I tripped over a chair and went arse over tit. I looked like a proper prat.

Games Workshop get a lot of stick for their business practices but I've been a long time fan - maybe not a huge one but I've always enjoyed their products - and visiting this place gave me a new appreciation of their product. Everyone was friendly, even random staff members walking past would give a cheery 'Hello!' as they went by, and they were all eager to share and talk about the hobby. An office I was in was decked out with pictures, models and a personal collection so I could see that they were all really passionate about the game and the hobby as a whole. You can't knock that kind of eagerness.

I highly recommend a visit to the place. If you're not going to play then it's not a full day out, you'd get through it all in an afternoon, but it is an experience. I'm looking forward to going back.

Friday 28 May 2010

Perfect campaign hook for World of Darkness

I'd use the basis of this clip from the movie 'Dogma' to start any World of Darkness campaign I might run. I'd show this to my players and tell them that they'll be playing fallen angels - what will they do to get back into heaven?

Careful - swear words abound!

Screw angsty Vampires and hippie Werewolves and whiney Ghosts. This would make an awesome campaign. Will the players try to live lives of virtue against the odds, or will they make war on God?

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Free Gaming Store Advertising and a Possible Revolution!

Recently I posted an article about my visit to an unwelcoming gaming store. Now I'd like to give the nod to a couple of stores that I do appreciate.

First of all is Too Fat Goblinz in Stafford, Staffordshire. It's not just roleplaying it's loads of collectible stuff like comics, figures and other games, but the staff are pleasant and friendly and know what it is they're talking about. I was in there yesterday asking about Traveller stuff and, even though I never bought anything, the guy behind the counter was a really nice bloke. The shop was small but it was airy, bright, clean and didn't stink like sweaty armpits. Bonus! I recommend this place as they're obviousy passionate about the hobby and customer service.

Then there's Spirit Games in Burton, Staffordshire. This shop is quite large and the selection of RPGs in there is simply astounding, not only new games but also many obscure and second hand games. Their internet and mail order is excellent (I bought a Dragon Warriors supplement at 4:30pm Thursday, I got it the following Friday morning) and the customer service is great. Even though the shop seems a little cluttered and is a bit dimly lit, I have spent hours perusing the shelves because there is just so much stuff to choose from. Highly recommended.

If you've got any stores you'd like to recommend then leave a comment with a link to their website, or just put their address details down. It doesn't matter where in the world you are - let's hear about the decent shops that are out there, and tell me why you'd go back. Let other bloggers know about the list and post the details on your own blog.

Let's spread the word that not all gaming shops are wretched hives of scum and villainy that smell of tobacco and Cheetos, let them know what we as consumers expect from a gaming store. They probably won't give a crap, but let's get some positivity going about the RPG hobby for a change.

I read far too many message boards and listen to far too many conversations about how the hobby is on it's last legs thanks to MMORPG and console games, but I don't see many people trumpeting the postive side of RPGs or what they can do to correct this apparent problem. The place to start is not with the publishers or the designers or even the gaming clubs, but with the very people who sell these games. It's them that should be doing more to push RPGs as these games are part of their lifeblood. Where would they be without gamers? What would they achieve with more gamers joining the hobby?

Maybe I should start a movement. Write a mission statement, or something, design a logo.

Monday 24 May 2010

Roleplaying During 'Traveller' Character Creation

I've never run a Traveller game before - in fact, last night was the first time I've ever had a character creation session for it.

Andy had decided on a military career and Jason an academic one. There was one great moment when Jason was trying to enroll in the Scholar career and failed - he was a bit peeved about this. He had the Writing skill and Andy's character had Administration and a rank. So, to get into the career, Jason said he'd have his character write a strong letter using his Writing skill to Jason's character, who used his Administration skill to talk to the right people. After a couple of successful rolls Jason's character found himself in the Scholar career.

Brilliant. It was done mainly for fun but the fact that we were able to do this bit of roleplaying during creation was an excellent part of the process. I wish more player character building sessions were like this.

Saturday 22 May 2010

LARPing with my son

Kind of.

A lovely sunny day, foam swords and my hyperactive three year old son. What more could I ask for?

The initial duel was a bloodbath. He bested me with a single strike!

Arr-harr! Fair does, the head scarf made him look like a failed actress from the 1920's, but he did look the part when he was trying to board the pedloes in the pond.

His favourite Drizzt Do'Urden pose - Dark Elf: The School Years
I'll introduce my son Bruce to all aspects of roleplaying - tabletop, liove action, wargaming - and if he gets into it then that's just fine. If not... well, I'll just make sure he grows up with an inquisitive, creative mind so that he can excercise his imagination in any way he sees fit.
I never truly got into LARPing, but a friend of mine playing my Dragon Warriors campaign does it quite regularly and he's invited me to a get together. I can get hold of some gear, that's no problem, but I'm in two minds. You see, I enjoyed the few LARPing sessions I did but it never really grabbed me. I can play in character and all that stuff but I never truly felt I was part of any kind of fantastic world. With tabletop it's all about the imagination and, in my humble opinion, the ability to see the setting in the mind's eye outweighs any physical experience.
I guess I was pulled out of the fantasy world mid-duel when a car a couple of hundred yards away thundered down the road blasting out crappy house dance music. I can't imagine King Arthur ever had to deal with Ford sound systems.
I'll give it a shot.

Friday 21 May 2010

New Beginnings

First of all, a quick shout out to ny wonderful wife who is having a birthday today! Love you loads, you beauty!

Now that my Dragon Warriors game is over I've been convinced to (ie suckered into) running a science fiction game. I'm good for that - I've got all kinds of sci-fi knowledge and experience - and we've decided on Traveller. It's been more than twenty years since I've played it and I've never run Traveller so it'll be an experience for me, if nothing else. I'll be running Classic Traveller after learning that the T4 task resolution is a bit rubbish.

I've also learned that I get more comments on my posts if I have a rant about something. I'll think of something suitably controversial for my next blog entry - suggestions welcome.

Monday 17 May 2010

Why do local gaming stores seem to want the RPG hobby to fail?

I went into my 'friendly' local gaming store recently. It's off the beaten track and is a pain in the arse to get to, more than an hour's worth of travel by bus and train, but it has lots of RPG stuff in there. It serves an entire major city area and the surrounding towns. You'd think, with the popularity of RPGs being nowhere near what it used to be which probably results in sales being low, that they'd be a bit more welcoming.

The shop felt dirty, the lighting was harsh and sterile, RPGs were stacked on a table in dirty torn boxes in the middle of the room and everything seemed haphazardly dumped randomly around. There was a gaming table in there manned by friends and acquaintances talking about random stuff and there was not one single 'Hi! Welcome! Do you need any help with anything? Well, if you do just ask!' In fact, what I did get was a baleful stare from the guy behind the counter and brief glance of suspicion from everyone else. I felt so unwelcome it made me feel uncomfortable, like I'd walked in on a private club meeting and I was intruding. And the smell... oh, God, the smell. Salt and vinegar mixed with sweat and nicoteen, in a shop with virtually no ventilation. In fact, I was barely in there five minutes - I just had to get out. I won't be going back.

I was pretty annoyed. Why do some gaming shops present themselves in such a way? I once had an idea for a gaming store that I put into practice and almost got funding for. I was going to advertise in local papers, set up clubs for younger kids, have late opening for war, card and roleplay gaming - basically do what I could to get new blood into the hobby and spread the gaming word. Make the shop welcoming, actually want people to come in and hassle me with questions. This is what they should be doing - don't set up clubs and get-togethers for existing gamers (ie your mates), advertise for new players, get new people involved. Take the piss out of Games Workshop all you want, at least they have the right idea when it comes to attracting customers. Bright, airy, open to the public with great big display windows and places for people to game and paint, and staff who are friendly and knowledgable.

Don't hide your gaming shop away from view. Open the windows for displays, advertise in local papers, sponsor or create your own events. Get people involved - stop being so insular about it all.

Stop hiding yourself away and acting like you're embarressed about your hobby. You're not sex shops.

Sunday 16 May 2010


Oh, Neil Marshall. I had such high hopes for you. Dog Soldiers and Descent were really good, but Doomsday?

Just tried to watch 'Doomsday', the one about Scotland being quarantined for a few decades because of a killer virus. I got about an hour into it before I realised why I was so confused - the movie wasn't Escape From New York or Mad Max, but an amalgamation of the two to create what some people call a 'homage'. It created what I call a steaming pile of shite.

'What more do you want', I hear you cry. How about an actual film that makes sense? Like, why are the mad Scots cannibals when there's thousands of cows walking around? And the APC could take 30 mil rounds and chemical hits, but couldn't stop a twat with an axe smashing the window in?

Rubbish rubbish rubbish.

Friday 14 May 2010

My First Dragon Warriors Campaign Ends!

Well, my last Dragon Warriors game of my first full campaign is this Sunday (I'm the GM) so I'll tell you what's been going on.

The game started in Third Crusade England with two assassins and a Knight. One thing lead to another and they found themselves transported to the Land of Legend where they embarked upon a series of quests to find a way back home to the 'real' world. The campaign started in January and we've played (most) Sundays. All in all the game has been excellent and we've really enjoyed using the system.

Here are a few things I realised about the game, bear in mind this may only be pertinent to my group.

1. To simplify resolution we use 1D20 for all rolls and not the combination of 1D20 and 2D10. It makes life much easier.

2. It was remarked several times that a skill system would be really useful and I have to agree. Although we can manage it would define the characters more.

3. Combat is excellent and we use the optional damage roll and not the set damage that weapons have. It made things much more unpredictable.

4. I allowed one of the assassins to learn magic once they arrived in Legend, so he changed his Rank 2 assassin career for a sorcerer one, starting at Rank 1. I allowed him to keep his assassin's skills and scores and it made for a very interesting character - it didn't unbalance the game at all.

Now that we know and enjoy the system I'd love to carry on using it in my upcoming science fiction campaign, so instead of a DW 2nd Edition they could do a refined skill-based generic science fiction version. I reckon it could work.

All in all, great stuff. I'm hoping to get a sequel to this campaign on the go by the end of the year (depending on whether the PCs survive, of course!)

Wednesday 12 May 2010


More like the Why?-Files.

I've been going through a back catalogue of movies I've missed over the last few years and the last three have been absolute jokes. I had high hopes for The X-Files: I Want To Believe... but it was utter drivel. It was like a cast-off over-long episode that filled in the gap between the better episodes. What the hell were they thinking? They had every chance to give it a new lease of life with a shitload of lore and what do they come up with? Rubbish.

Highly dissapointed. I liked The X-Files, even the first movie, and it deserved better than this.

Warhammer Roleplay

This is kind of a throwback to Chainmail in the early 1970s and what the players did to change it into the first dedicated roleplaying game. If you have a working knowledge of roleplaying games you can introduce new players to the tabletop RPG through any tabletop wargame. All you need to do is take a profile of a character from, say, WH40K and add a couple of stats for social interaction. Stick on a 'Charisma' stat or a 'Social Skills' stat and you've got a character to play. The stat can be random or whatever and you have to roll the stat or less on a D6 to succeed.

So, next time you're wargaming with try suggesting adding the stat and try roleplaying out a parley between the two sides and take it from there. Or try a basic dungeon bash - set up some combat in catacombs and send in several players with defined characters. Set it up as a basic skirmish but suggest they talk in character when discussing tactics or sharing info. Maybe even throw in a couple of NPC-types and roleplay them yourself, kind of lead the way and show how it's done.

You never know, they might go for it and expand on the characters using the wargame. From there you can introduce them to RPGs. Even wargamers who had no interest in RPGs might go for that and, at the very least, do the roleplaying as an extension of the game.

Either way, any wargame can be used as a rudimentary tabletop RPG.

Aliens + Predator + teenage slasher flick = garbage

That's Aliens Vs. Predator: Reqium. Nice to see that an already horribly damaged franchise was degraded further by being reduced to a pointless pre-pubescent date movie gore-fest.

Rodriguez, Scott - please, save these movie icons.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

In the Name of the King

I've watched approx. 90 minutes of this film and have just one question - how the fuck does Uwe Boll continually get financing to make movies?

It's utter shit.

Sins of a Solar Empire

I'm a massive fan of Homeworld and play it regularly. In fact, I've never found a space-based RTS game that compares with it. I've been looking around recently with the intention of finding a new game that can expand on the fun I had in Homeworld. Also, with my next tabletop campaign being a Traveller game, I'm looking for something in that vein.

I've recently come across Sins of a Solar Empire and this looks like the sort of thing I'm looking for.

An RTS with world-building and a diplomatic/trading angle? Perfect. I was seriously considering EVE Online but I don't want to get involved with another MMORPG - I quit World of Warcraft for a reason.

I think I'll seriously check it out. Looks like my kind of thing when it comes to galaxy-spanning science fiction.

Sunday 9 May 2010

Nazis? On the Moon?

Space Nazis attacking the Earth from hidden bases on the dark side of the Moon?


Saturday 8 May 2010

Treasure Planet

I just watched Disney's 'Treasure Planet'. It was like a slightly higher tech version of 'Spelljammer'.

So, the first thing I'm thinking is 'I'd love to make a roleplaying game out of this cartoon's universe'. It just looked so evocative - how weird is that?

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Outlander, Avatar and District 9

Okay, so I've sat down and watched all three of these films in the last few days. I've had my intense sci-fi head on recently as I'm working on new material so I was probably a bit more involved than usual.

Outlander was pretty stupid but it was good fun. The fact that the hero of the story was from outer space and he found himself in the age of Vikings made no impact on the story and it was a shame that not more was made of who he was or where he came from - that ruined it a bit for me. The whole backstory he tells towards the end was great, though, and could have been a movie of it's own. It was good, and the action scenes were great. Ron Perlman as a Viking nutjob - cinema gold.

Avatar was what I expected it to be. It was very involving and looked amazing - there were moments you forget the smurfs are digitally rendered and you really get involved with them and their culture. Truth be told, though, the story was hardly original - in fact, it was pretty dull - and the characters were a bit bland and predictable, especially the loud-'n-nasty military leader. It was a great film and I really enjoyed it. The action scenes were amazing and the world of Pandora was fantastic. I hope we get to visit it again soon.

District 9 was my favourite of the bunch. The mixture of documentary, fly-on-the-wall, security cameras, news footage and standard filmaking was a fantastic mix, and the story and characters were so well defined, especially the alien Christopher, that you felt part of the whole thing. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. If Moon hadn't blown me away so completely then this would have been my best movie of the last year.

Great films. I can recommend them all.