Sunday 31 July 2011

Warhammer Online - Age Of Reckoning

It's not often that I find any kind of inspiration in a computer game. I've played many over the years and apart from the obvious console games like Fallout and Mass Effect, games that would would make great RPGs, I've never really been inspired by them. I'll rob ideas, sure, but I've never actually thought, 'I'd love to game in that world!'

I played Warhammer FRP extensively in the 1990s/early 2000s and so it might seem strange that I would draw inspiration from a computer game of a world that I'd already been playing in. The thing is, this was the new updated version of Warhammer's Old World, and as I'd also bought the collector's box I also got a gorgeous hardback book filled with artwork for the game.

I saw Warhammer in a whole different light, this highly stylised and atmospheric game far removed from the pseudo-historical low-magic games I'd been running more than a decade before. The PvP was the best I'd ever played and the huge battles were incredible. It was wonderful and gave me a whole new outlook on and drive to run Warhammer FRP.

It also gave me the chance to physically design my characters as well as create their WFRP stats. I played each of these characters extensivley in the online game world. First, there was Salmonius, the human Witch Hunter melee DPS:

He was my first experimental PC for the game - I never take my first toons seriously and just use them to get a grasp of the world. He turned out pretty good, mind.

Then there was Beerswiller, my dwarf Warrior tank:

He did a little better and I got him the furthest, but as a tank I have to rely on too many other players to have my back and... well... let's just say I couldn't count on anyone, especially in Tier 1.

Then there was the cream of the crop, Hellfeur, my human Bright Wizard ranged DPS:

Definitely my favourite, and his AOE attacks were devastating. He was maxed to the... well, max.

For each one I created a past and a backstory, and created their stats for WFRP. The artwork book gave some imagery that sent me into giddy giggling fits, I was so excited about opening the book to show the players different characters or locations. I even had the strategy guide book filled with more art and maps! It was going to be... AMAZING!!!

Of course, it was going to be, but it never happened. Pisser. I still want to do it!! DO YOU HEAR ME, GAMING GROUP?!

Oh, and I stopped playing Warhammer Online about three months after I began. Why? Well, the game was excellent, far better than most MMOs I'd played, but the gaming world felt small and limited and once you'd fought everywhere in every tier you'd pretty much covered the game. Also, the business minds behind the game had rubbish support and customer updates, and they kept dangling teasers in front of our faces as if something huge was about to happen - you know, game-changing Warcraft Cataclysm huge. But no, it never happened. Shame. Warhammer Online could have been huge, but I think EA/Bioware's new Star Wars: The Old Republic might give it that final push into an undeserved grave.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Call Of Cthulhu... in SPAAAACE!

Well, not exactly.

After perusing some of Chaosium's free downloads on their website, I realised that a science fiction version of their flagship horror roleplaying would be amazing. If you took the basic Call of Cthulhu system, kept the sanity rules, and added a few skills to represent the sci-fi then you'd be on to a winner. You don't even need to include stats or rules for starships, really, as you could just use all that as window dressing, like an ocean liner or aeroplane in CoC. Like in Cthulhu: Dark Ages you could keep the rules to a basic minimum and flesh out the atmosphere with the rest of the book, making it self contained so that you can use it with the mythos or use your own creations. I was thinking of running a Dark Ages game minus the Cthulhu mythos, and use creatures from the Runequest games. Dark Ages is a wonderfuly simple fantasy roleplaying game, if you want to use it like that.

Anyway, I digress. So, you could keep the Cthulhu mythos if you wanted (that would be proper cool - imagine searching long-abandoned asteroid bases overrun by Mi-Go, or travelling to the other side of the galaxy and finding a Great Old One's ancient, deserted city) but you could also use it for other sci-fi horror/mystery games and do your version of Alien, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Outland.

It's something to consider, for sure. I know we've got Cthulhutech, but in my book Lovecraft, mechs and anime don't mix. Take me back to the dark sci-fi of the late 1970s.

Monday 25 July 2011

Horror Science Fiction

It's official. I'm in love with Eclipse Phase.

I love the idea, the atmosphere and the rules system. The thing is, it doesn't do exactly what I want it to do...

I've been getting back in to my science fiction horror recently and enjoying it immensley. I think it's because I'm getting all excited about Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' movie that comes out next year. I remember those horrible feelings of terror, of the fear of the unknown, when I was a boy watching 'Alien' and 'The Thing'. This kind of horror these days is done for the shock value, the kind of nervous jump and disgusting visuals we now come to expect. Yeah, I know, The Thing was pretty damn visceral and gory, but the story and the characters held up well in between the moments of fleshy explosions and the horror was palpable. Alien even more so.

So, I'm wondering what system would I use to run a game such as this?

Eclipse Phase would do it, but the horror level isn't exceptionally well represented in the game. It's there, but it's not the forefront of what the game is about and the whole morph/resleeve coolness would overshadow the terror.

Call of Cthulhu is perfect - the Sanity rules alone help, but the far-future concept isn't really covered. Sure, there's CthulhuTech, but that doesn't appeal. Maybe a combination of classic Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying to get hold of the sci-fi aspects of the game system?

My next port of call are the Warhammer 40K RPGs: Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and Deathwatch. The thing is, I'm looking for PCs that are normal and out of their depth, whereas 40K PCs will solve any terror situations by either calling in an orbital strike or standing behind the guy with the heavy bolter. Great games, but not sure about how much of a threat the terror could really be in the face of explosive bullets.

Of course, any of these games - or any game - can be tweaked to make the setting work but all things considered I think I'll stick with the tried and tested system; Call of Cthulhu. The 6th Edition has details of the modern day in it's system so, adding a few extra skills to reflect the sci-fi era the PCs are in, I can make that work and get my own seven man crew on an interstellar commercial towing vehicle in no time.

'Oh, God, it's moving right toward you! Move! Get out of there!'

Sunday 24 July 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 29 - 2011

So, here we are.

I've come a long way with this series of blogs. There's a heck of a lot of other things I could talk about but what I've written here are the bullet points, the important incidents that I thought were worth recording. I'm of the mind to take the whole series and expand on it, filling in lots of smaller details and letting all and sundry know of the full story, of the gamers, incidents and upheavels that have changed my hobby, my perspective on life and my life in general. There's a lot more I can say (a lot I haven't included due to the nature of the incidents, but I now feel that I can address these as long as nobody is incriminated) but I'll gather together all the blog entries and consider filling in the gaps at a later date.

So, I was unemployed in a recession and becoming desperate. I managed to secure small amounts of money that kept my family afloat but then, out of the blue, I found a temporary job that managed to solve most of my problems. I was back in my dayjob mode, back into customer service and account management, and even though it wasn't where I wanted to be it got me through. Recently they decided that I was more than just a temp and made me permanent so now I have job security.

Hard Sixes still exists on the ineternet as an Ebay store but the money it makes hardly covers the monthly outgoings. I'm looking at it as an account for a possible future gaming convention, to be held in Lichfield where I live and to help support the gaming community and other local stores.

I still play every Thursday night and we have a new gamer in our ranks called Nic, who I met at my shop, and he's an experienced gamer who brings a whole new dimension to the game. I've also been in talks with my old Warhammer pal Andy and he's thinking of rejoining our group. Paul is attending when he can, too, so it looks like we're getting the band back together. In fact, now that my home is up for sale and we're looking to move on to greener pastures things are looking good and for the first time for more than two years I'm starting to feel relaxed and happy with everything. I find it almost humorous that my simple hobby of make believe that I love so much almost ruined me.

So, there you have it. This, as they say, is the end. Now I can get back to blogging about normal stuff.

Define normal.

My Gaming Memoirs Part 28 - 2010

Now, I didn't totally give up MMOs. I had a stab at quite a few - Guild Wars, EVE, Lord Of The Rings Online - but I couldn't quite get into them, The only one I had any success with, and truly loved, was Warhamer Online: Age of Reckoning. That was brilliant, and as a lover of Warhammer it gave me all kinds of fun.

My game of choice was Dragon Warriors, a game recommended to me by James Wallis, the publisher, who sent me a preview PDF to tip me over into the game. I bought it, and the supplements, and ran it. It was highly successful and I felt that I was getting back into gaming proper. After this I ran Buck Rogers XXVc, and then Jason took over with a Pathfinder game that we're still playing today.

This year also took me into an area of the RPG hobby that I had always wanted to do. Own my own hobby shop. So, with my friend Richard, we opened an account, located a small store in an indoor market and got in the stock. My dream had come true - Hard Sixes: The Hobby Shop was born and opened early August. It was a much smaller enterprise then an idea that my wife and I had envisioned earlier in the year, a full gaming shop with gaming areas and clubs. We were going to call it 'Halfling House' and had even registered it as a limited company and secured suppliers, right before the money people ripped the financial rug out from under us.

Now, I had spent a couple of months on the pulse of the local gaming community and the support for the shop was great. As far as I was concerned, this was the greatest thing to happen for gaming in my local area and now gamers wouldn't have to travel for miles and miles to locate a gaming store.

Let's just say that the support was very vocal. Unfortunately, it wasn't backed up by purchases and the shop was forced to close in the following December. I managed to introduce lots of new gamers to the hobby - and they're still gaming today - and met lots of great people and interesting groups. I miss my shop terribly but I knew the risks when I opened. So now, when people accuse me of taking my hobby too seriously, my answer is - 'Yeah, I opened a shop and managed to get myself more than ten thousand pounds in debt. You're damn right I'm fucking serious about it'.

So by the end of the year I was jobless, in debt and in danger of my whole life being turned upside down on every level because of the risk I had taken in opening the shop. Things couldn't get much worse, surely?

Monday 18 July 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 27 - 2009

Well, well, well. World of Warcraft. The game I said I would never play because, well, it's not real roleplaying, is it? No. It isn't. What it is, is a very good computer game.

I never played it much for the first couple of months as it my wife was the one who loved it. It was a pretty good arrangement - get the little one off to sleep and I'd work on my writing whilst she played WoW. It worked really well, until I noticed she was having a lot of fun with it. So, I thought I'd give it a bash, as well.

Warcraft was very addictive. We played it as often as we could, joined guilds, did raids and dungeons and festivals. We got very friendly with people from all over the world and I figured I was finally getting some gaming done. I was sadly mistaken. I was playing a repetative, linear and somewhat dull computer game given depth by the illusion of interactivity. It took me several months to realise that it wasn't a pastime, it was dominating my life and that of my wife. It wasn't a pleasant realisation.

I had also started gaming with Mark, doing one-on-one Star Wars D6 games. The old buzz was back and I remembered what it was like to get truly excited about roleplaying games and I started wanting more.

During all this I was contacted by Jason - the poor bugger had broken his leg and had become bedridden for a few months and during this time he purchased and absorbed Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. 'Fancy a game?' he asked, and with that me, Mark and Paul started spending Thursday nights at Jason's house playing the new D&D.

Now, D&D 4th is a good game but it's not my kind of game. It felt too much like a boardgame and the similarities to WoW (which many people will deny but are unmistakebly there) stood out to me. Although I didn't fall in love with 4th I realised that I missed roleplaying terribly. Slowly and surely World of Warcraft's grip on me started to slip. It all came to a head later in the year and both me and my wife dropped WoW for good and swore never to go back to that kind of gaming.

I was back at the gaming table and, with new gamer Andy joining our ranks, we ran through D&D 4th and I eyed a new system for us to have a go at, a fresh game that I could run.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 26 - 2008

So... this was the year in which I never gamed. At all. Not once.

The entire year went by and I never gamed, bought any gaming material or even sat down with anyone and just talked about games. Nothing at all.

So that's pretty much it for this year.

Oh... except for the time I started my own gaming company. Okay, that's probably a bit misleading - I never started up a huge enterprise with shedloads of money and stuff. I started a small company I called 'Farsight Games', I designed a dead simple game system called the SKETCH system and I published a free e-zine called 'ODDS' magazine. I was pleased with the work I did - I know I only spent time doing it due to the fact that I wasn't gaming and I needed to get a gaming fix somehow, but I also felt - probably wrongly - that I had spent so much time in the hobby that I wanted to kind of give something back, put my experience to use and put my own work out there. And start small, too, after the disaster that was The League of Seven.

My e-zine 'ODDS' did well - I managed to secure interviews with business names such as Bill Coffin and Eric Gibson, covered events, did competitions and generally had a high circulation. Sadly, lack of material forced it to cease and I do miss it.

My SKETCH system got some good reviews and di the rounds but only for a short while. Already established free games such as Risus were all that gamers needed and a small, simple and free system wasn;t worth that much time. I experimented with some settings, some established and some of my own design, and let the system rest.

What did I learn from all this? That editing an e-zine and developing and promoting a game, even a free one, is hard work. It was satisfying, though, and given a little more time I'd do it all again.

By Christmas I had exhausted myself and just wanted to rest, so my wife suggested we have a go at World of Warcraft.


Sunday 10 July 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 25 - 2007

This year was somewhat better for me. Gaming was still scarce but I managed to get half a dozen games in with my old friend Andy, the guy who I kicked all kinds of roleplaying rear end with in the 1990s. We dived into a Warhammer FRP game which I set in the city of Remus - basically Rome. I was going to use some of my Roman knowledge and set up a deep, involving murder-mystery (and shedloads of ultraviolence).

It was great. It felt natural, slipping into an old system with an old friend and the game flowed well. The murder happened, the mystery deepened and the ultraviolence blossomed. It was a fun, deep game that taxed us both.

Taxed us both for two reason - Andy was running around after three kids, and I was running around after one and I also got married. Yes, that was quite a year!

It was this year I published a short story anthology called Those Dark Places, which got me into the local papers and a few copies were sold. I was going to follow on with another two novellas called All Fall Down and a historical fiction novel called A Soldier Of Rome, but these books never materialised as I had got the roleplaying bug again. I had some time on my hands - most of my nights were spent looking after my wife and my son.

Sadly, Andy didn't have the time. The game ended on a cliffhanger and Andy couldn't make the next game. Or the one after that. The game stopped and Andy couldn't make it anymore. I realised then that I had to stop looking back for my gaming fix, I had to start looking forward, try and find other games and start new games and adventures. If I wanted to game, I had to start afresh.

Strangely, I saw Andy for the first time in a long time today, just a few hours ago, totally by accident, and we didn't even have the time to reminisce about our adventures. I miss our games.

Sunday 3 July 2011

My Gaming Memoirs Part 24 - 2006

And this was the year that I realised that my gaming could only go in one direction, the direction that any avid roleplayer at least considers dabbling in to test their mettle, try their hand and attempt to revolutionise the industry.

I was going to attempt to self-publish my own roleplaying game.

So I did.

And it was shit.

I had done loads of work on The League Of Seven years before but it had petered out and all that work was still sat on my hard drive, doing nothing. I had to do something with it and with support from my wife-to-be Lisa I set up an account with to try it out. Did I playtest, edit and scrutinise the work I had done? No. No, I didn't. The system was broke and useless, the setting wasn't filled out properly and the art... the art I did as fillers and guidelines for a proper artist. But, considering that an artist was not going to work for very little (ie free), I ended up using that. And it sucked.

I suppose I was under a bit of pressure. You see, I was also going to be a dad.

That's right. Nerds breed.

I had taken a long, hard look at my roleplaying collection which consisted of pretty much an entire bookcase and decided that 90% of it wasn't being played and it should go on Ebay, to fund my son's arival into the world.

So, my collection went from this:

2300AD plus 2 supplements. Advanced D&D 2nd Edition plus 8 supplements. Advanced D&D. Alternity. Amber Diceless. Basic D&D first three boxsets. Battlelords of the 23rd Century. Buck Rogers XXVc plus 1 supplement. Bureau 13. Call of Cthulhu plus 14 supplements. Champions. Conspiracy X. Cyberpunk 2020 and 2 supplements. Darksword Adventures. Elric! Everway. FASA Star Trek plus four supplements. Fighting Fantasy plus one supplement. Ghostbusters. Golden Heroes. GURPS. Judge Dredd plus 2 supplements. Manhunter. Marvel Super Heroes. Mechwarrior. Megatraveller. Men in Black. MERP plus 18 supplements. Mutant Chronicles. Paranoia. Pendragon. Prime Directive plus 1 supplement. Runequest and Advanced Runequest plus 1 supplement. Shadowrun plus 2 supplements. Star Wars D6 (including 2nd Edition and Revised) plus every supplement published except for 2 books. Stormbringer. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plus 2 supplements. The D6 System. Twilight 2000 plus 3 supplements. Vampire: The Masquerade. WFRP plus 6 supplements. WFRP 2nd Edition plus 2 supplements. I also had the games: Aliens Boardgame, Dark Future, Dragonstrike, First Quest, Star Trek III Starship Tactical Combat, Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

To this:

Star Wars D6 RPG (1st edition) with the Star Wars Sourcebook, Imperial Sourcebook, Rebel Sourcebook, Rules Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen. WFRP (1st edition) with Warhammer Companion and Gamesmaster's Screen. Buck Rogers XXVc. MERP boxset. Fighting Fantasy.

Yes. That was quite the cull. Still, it not only paid for my son Bruce, there was lots of money left over for other things, too. I have no regrets. Well, maybe the Cthulhu stuff. But that's it. And my Basic D&D boxes.

So, my life was changing and roleplaying was still helping me through it.