Monday 28 June 2010

Buck Rogers XXVc - Progress Report

The very first adventure... didn't go so well. The game was great, but the rogue and the engineer of the group were pretty much killed. As it was the first game I was lenient and gave them a second chance in the guise of the mad scientist they were trying to evict bringing them back from the dead so that he could use them for his experiments. Much escaping and running ensued.

The game was good, that much was certain. A few things will be introduced for the next game:

1 - An accounts book. The players have a ship, the 'Tommygun Nova', a 50-ton cruiser they bought for nearly 700,000 credits. With all the repayments, docking fees, fuel costs and other sundries they need to keep track of money coming in and going out. That is a game in itself.

2 - Nose art for the ship. As I'm giving it a slight 1930s/1940s feel, I felt it would be cool to have nose art on the rocketships as they had on the bombers and fighters of the 2nd World War.

There's a selection of nose art here - I figured if the vessels had these they'd be even more individual and give the vessel much more personality, and rocketships would look so cool with these painted on them.

3 - Power down the badguys. Yeah, I guess they died because I slightly over-powered the bad guys. I need to calm down before someone gets seriously hurt!

Saturday 26 June 2010

Roleplaying Games on Channel 4's 'The IT Crowd'

Last night the first episode of the new series of the popular sitcom 'The IT Crowd' was aired and it was, as expected, brilliant. What I didn't expect was for half the show to be taken up by the characters playing a tabletop roleplaying game!

You can watch the whole episode from Channel 4's website, so here's the link for the episode page below, just click the image:

It's just brilliant. Funny, geeky and just... brilliant.

Sorry, didn't realise - the episode is blocked in other countries so this is UK only. :(

Thursday 24 June 2010

Sunday 20 June 2010

My first Buck Rogers XXVc game

Well, I've just got in from running my first Buck Rogers XXVc game and I think it went really well. My players seemed to enjoy it - I had them create random characters and design their own starship, so they have an investment in the game that goes beyond just adventuring for the sake of it.

I ran a very simple introductory game and got them to the first room of the dungeon/asteroid they have been asked to travel to. They have to evict a crazed genetic scientist who has been creating strange lizard/dog men as his slaves. This is mainly because the dungeon I'm running is 'The Transmuter's Last Touch', a dungeon crawl classic from Goodman Games. I'm just changing the descriptions and locations to give it that science fiction feel.

Not only is this the first of my Buck Rogers games, it's also the first published scenario I've ever run. In 26 years of gaming I have never, ever run a published adventure. It's all new to me!

Anyway, great first game. Looking forward to getting stuck into the campaign.

New Buck Rogers

I'm a bit of a Buck Rogers fan. Not the late/early eighties incarnation, I never cared much for that, but the original 1930s stuff, especially the 'Buster' Crabbe serials (along with Flash Gordon).

So, when I saw that Buck was going to be reborn in a web series I thought 'Okay, sounds interesting'. The clip below was good but didn't really tell me much. It was nice they were starting it in the early 20th century and not updating it like they did with the TV show.

Yeah, I wasn't overwhelmed.

But then I saw this and pretty much peed my pants.

Oh, yeah. That's Buck Rogers.

Please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please don't be shite.

A horse is a horse - unless it's a spaceship

I've been wondering about how to run my new Buck Rogers XXVc game, and I've come to a conclusion: if the system is based on Advanced Dungeon and Dragons Second Edition, then I'm going to play it as Advanced Dungeon and Dragons Second Edition.

This basically means that I'm going to treat spacestations as villages, spacebars as inns, and old abandoned starships, asteroids, moonbases and planetary locations as dungeons. Genetic creatures will take the place of monsters and I'll create a bad guy's palace for the final showdown. A palace with robots and lasergun emplacements.

I think that's why the original D6 Star Wars game did so well as it was basically treated as a dungeon bash in space when it first came out. That's how I used it, at any rate.

A horse is a spaceship and a sword is a lasergun. Shouldn't be too difficult.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Buck Rogers XXVc

I think I know what I want to do next as far as running an RPG is concerned. I want to take a trip back in time and run TSR's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century!

It's got everything I'm looking for in a science fiction RPG right now. Big pulp action heroes, rocket ships, laser ray guns, big bad cackling badguys and great battles against the odds. More than all that, it's fun!

My Traveller game has gotten off to a bit of a false start at the moment. I was going to run a dark, deep space adventure but a couple of cancelled games and some serious lack of forward momentum has kind of turned me off it. Now I'm thinking of doing something a bit more pulp, a bit more adventurous... mainly something a bit more old school, and it doesn't get more old school than science fiction AD&D. It even has THACO!

Oh, crap. THACO. I forgot. I frickin' hate THACO. I've declared my distaste for AD&D 2nd Edition (which is the system Buck Rogers XXVc is derived from) but there are some differences that make it more than playable. In fact, I reckon that if that if TSR had played their cards right - and if the lady in charge of TSR at the time hadn't been Lorraine Williams, a granddaughter of the family Dille who created and owned the Buck Rogers license - this system could have been a serious contender for the science fiction version of Dungeons and Dragons. It honestly could have worked, with campaigns and adventures set in existing and custom-built settings. In fact, there's nothing stopping me from creating a retroclone and doing all that myself! Imagine that!

Hold on a second...

Tuesday 15 June 2010

What are the odds?!?

I've just spent a very productive morning in the company of my good gaming friend Jason Brown. We had a spare couple of hours so, at my insistence, Jason treated us to a movie. The movie in question was '2012'.

I think we both agreed that it was a massive pile of crap. Sorry, Jason, it was my choice and you paid for it. I owe you four quid. In fact, I'll give you eight to cushion the trauma of having watched such a bad film.

I honestly tried to find a better way to convey my feelings on the film, to try and write a fair and balanced review on the merits and faults of the movie. But I just couldn't. It was just very, very crap. There were lots (and I mean lots) of times during the film that me and Jason just looked at each other and cried, 'what the hell?!?' It was a typical Emmerich movie. The odds are that this character will meet that character who knows this other character who heard of such and such, and that they are all where they need to be to utilise a certain skill you never knew they had ('We need a pilot!' 'Hey! I had two flying lessons!' Thank God! There's a massive effects sequence coming up and we need to fly under collapsing buildings!') or help someone else out who needs it at that very moment. 'There's six billion people in the world! Thank God that this particular Tibetan and his truck turned up at this very moment!' Bloody awful!

In fact, that became our mantra as the film unfolded. 'What are the odds!?!' The odds that he knew how to fly. The odds that he was the limo driver of a man who knew about a way to survive. That they were at Yellowstone park where they met the scientist who had read his book that he had happened to write, when he was with his hot ex-wife who was with the guy who could sort-of fly... a constant stream of coincidences. I'd only known the character's for ten minutes, and I wanted them all to die.

Effects were good. Dropping an aircraft carrier on the Whitehouse was a stroke of over indulgent brilliance.

I have an idea for Emmerich's next movie:

'The Day After Godzilla's Fight for Independance in the Year 2012: What Are The Odds?'

All the way through the film all you'lll hear is the audience shouting, 'Just fly upwards, morons!' and 'Holy crap! What are the odds?'

Saturday 12 June 2010

Elric of Melnibone Movie

Apologies to those of you who saw the header and thought I had news about an impending Elric motion picture. That's not what this is about at all.

Elric of Melnibone would be a very difficult story to tell as a film, but it'd work well as a mini series. Perhaps a series like 'Rome' or 'Band of Brothers' from HBO. Ten, 1 hour-long episodes of the worlds favourite sword-wielding albino.

I have two conditions, however. The production design must be done by the artist who painted this beauty:

And the character of Elric must be played by Luke Goss, with similar makeup to the getup he had on in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army:

These terms are non-negotiable. Oh, and I have to work on the film, doing something dead important that'd impress people. That'd be cool.

Friday 11 June 2010

The Facebook of Grudges

As I'm enjoying Warhammer Online I thought I'd immortalise one thing about the whole mythos that I enjoy immensley - the 'Dwarven Book of Grudges'. As I do like to whine and moan about stuff I've started a Facebook group page so that everyone can join in. I give you - the Facebook of Grudges!

If you want to get something off your chest, it doesn't have to be just about gaming it can be about anything at all, then join up and get stuck in.

I bought the collector's edition of Warhammer Online. I never paid full price for it, it was just gathering dust on a shop floor in my local computer game store.

It's bloody beautiful, with a full graphic novel, a mouse mat, a wonderful 'Art Of' book and a free minifigure. Oh, the game was in there, as well. It's given so much inspiration for a WFRP game it's not funny.

New look

So I figured... what the hell? If you don't like the new blog look then tell me now so that I don't embaress myself any further.

Character Sheet Management

It's time for another lazy copy 'n paste blogpost! Huzzah!

I posted this over at the forums. It was a thread about who hangs on to the character sheets between sessions - player or GM? I figured I'd share with you why it is that I as GM take care of the character sheets and hand them out/collect them every session.

1 - It keeps everything together and lessens the chances of someone forgetting their sheet. As GM I keep everything for the current campaign in a single bag so it doesn't get mislaid or left behind.

2 - In between games or campaigns I like to have the sheets to hand so that I can tailor certain parts of the game to certain PC abilities so that everyone gets a shot at the limelight. Having the sheets to hand is a bonus.

3 - I don't like several copies of the same character sheet because they are all set to change as the PC grows. I don't want any 'that's not what it says on mine' arguments, which may sound strange if the player has a copy of the exact same sheet but it has happened.

4 - It minimises the sudden appearance of phantom skills or equipment between sessions. Some of my players over the years have added beneficial stuff to their sheets in the hope that it isn't noticed by the next session.

5 - If any players want to write up info on their PC they can write down their skills and abilities and base it off that. They don't need a copy of the character sheet to make detailed background notes for their character. If a player desperately wants the character sheet for any reason then I have them write it out again/photpcopy it for their own use but I have them use the character sheet that I have during the game.

6 - I prefer any upgrading/advancements to be done at the table in front of me and the other players so that everyone is aware of any changes to the PC (that they want made public, at any rate). This way I can keep an eye on any rulebending that might go down.

7 - If the player does not turn up then we have the character sheet to run as an NPC during the absence.

It's not a question of me not trusting my players (but over the last 26 years I have run across many who 'modify' their character between sessions which is why I started keeping them in the first place), it's a question of practicality. It's simply easier for me to hang on to the character sheets between sessions.

Thursday 10 June 2010

The problem with being a big Tolkien fan...

... is that every other piece of fantasy fiction I read ends up being measured against the man. I mean, my youth was spent immersed in the world that Tolkien created, every facet, character and myth, from The Silmarillion onwards. My ideal of fantasy fiction is grounded in his work.

So when I sit down to read any other writer's work, even the stuff that predates Tolkien such as Howard or Dunsany, I always end up comparing the story, characters and world to Middle-Earth. I tried the Wheel of Time, Shannara and Magician books. I tried Legend and A Song of Ice and Fire and Earthsea. I just can't shake that Tolkien yardstick mindset and that's really annoying, it's honestly something that holds me back from fully enjoying a book. I can sit down and read an entire series of fantasy books and really enjoy them, but I always come back to thinking 'that's not as good as Tolkien'.

Maybe it's not completely my fault. Tolkien did set a standard as far as the structure of fantasy stories is concerned (he may not have been fully original but as far as mass-market books go he is the forerunner) and many people tend to do similar things with their protagonists, ancient-evil-rising plots and vast, detailed world building. I just don't find many post-Tolkien fantasy works as original, rich or fascinating as Middle-Earth.

If anyone, anyone at all, can recommend me a book that may change my mind then please, please do so. I have to get out of this Tolkien-only mindset as it clouds my judgement and appreciation of other works. I have shelves filled with fantasy fiction and it's a shame that I have put them up there without fully enjoying them. I've yet to find a book that I can enjoy and return to with any kind of enthusiasm.

'Hello. My name is Jonathan Hicks, and I'm a Tolkien addict.'
'Hi, Jonathan!'

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Warhammer Monthly

Do you remember this one? I loved it. I originally picked up the 'issue zero' from a comic convention in Manchester when they were first advertising it.

I really enjoyed it. I collected them quite diligently but when I got to issue 69 I was forced to change where I bought it from. Because these new guys were utterly useless at their job I missed issue 70 and then, thanks to a friend who helped me out, only got issues 71 to 74. I missed all the other issues up until they ceased printing it.

This means I'm missing issues 70 and 75 to 86. If anyone can help me out with locating these issues I'll love them forever.

It was a great comic. I've been looking through them and I'd forgotten how many times my letters had been printed - at least six times! I was a proper brown-noser.

Saturday 5 June 2010

UK Games Expo 2010

I've literally just got in from the UK Games Expo and I had an okay day.

It wasn't brilliant. It wasn't rubbish. It was just okay for me. As a roleplayer there was plenty of stuff for me to have a look at - in fact, I got some bargains - but if I had also been heavily into boardgames and wargames I'm sure I would have had a much better time.

Darth Vader does his rounds

It was a game gathering, not just for roleplayers, and there was some great stuff there. I was impressed by the Warmachine stand, the staff were energetic and friendly, and the game looked superb. That might be worth looking at.

I met Neil Roberts who kindly signed my programme and a print of his 'interpretation' of space marine Hicks from Aliens, my namesake. He was a nice feller and he's into the same things as me. It was a shame because the picture I took, for some reason, came out looking like I'd dropped the camera.

Some random pictures of the event

The bargains I got were three old Mongoose Publishing 'Runequest' books for a fiver each, the rulebook, companion and monster book. Not bad, an entire game for fifteen quid.

It was a pleasure to bump into Carol Mulholland of the independant gaming magazine Flagship (the link might not work as they're having technical problems with their website, so I've linked their Wiki entry) and have a chat. I met her last year and we had a nice conversation about the magazine and games, so I'm hoping to do some writing for her. She deserves all the support you can give.

After all this I had the crowning part of my day - I got to meet Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the guys who bought us Games Workshop and, more importantly, the Fighting Fantasy books.

There was an hour long talk - the room was packed to the rafters - where they talked about their earliest days in the 1970s, about Games Workshop, D&D, Citadel Miniatures, Fighting Fantasy books, the lot. It was really very interesting and I learned quite a lot.

There was a long queue afterwards for autographs but I paid it no mind... I was the first guy there! They signed for me my first print copy of Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World...

... and I bought a 'Warlock of Firetop Mountain' 25th anniversary hardback edition for them to sign, and they made it out to my son Bruce. Steve Jackson wrote 'To Bruce, may your stamina never fail!.

Ah, man. I'm such a sad nerd. It was ACE!

It was a good day out. Like I said, it would have been better if there had been more roleplaying stuff but there was enough there to keep me happy. Thanks, people who arranged it all! Looking forward to next year!

Wednesday 2 June 2010

So, anyway, roleplaying n' stuff...

Yeah. Tabletop gaming. Yeah, nice one. It's good.

Anyway, I've started playing Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

It's great, and it brings to life the Warhammer world I love so much. I'm not subscribing yet, I'll play out the thirty days and see how I get on. I got a beautiful collectors edition with a wonderful 'Art of Warhammer Online' book in it which I will now use for illustrations for a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game I've suddenly been inspired to create. If me and my group ever get to play it or not is another story, but you never know what will happen to their characters in the current Traveller game... a high damage roll here... a failed skill roll there... a black hole somewhere else.

You just never know.