Saturday 28 July 2012

Hate in the Real World - Some very difficult roleplaying

I've run some very hateful NPCs in my 28 years of gaming, and most of them have been a product of the campaign - evil wizards, nasty warlords, insane pirates. Character archetypes you would expect to be evil.

I'm now running a Call of Cthulhu campaign in 1933 and I've created a couple of characters I wanted to be distinct, especially a janitor at Miskatonic University called Lewis. He's not evil (although his opinions are), or insane, and has no plans to take over the world. He just mops floors and cleans up after the students. He's also one of the most hateful people you'd want to meet - he's sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-semite, willfuly ignorant, offensive and pretty much everything you'd dislike in a person. I created him as a red herring for the PCs, a man who seemed to hate everything and everyone and so might have been responsible for the apparent hate crime incidents happening around the campus. They only spoke to him a couple of times and then managd to follow the clues to the real culprits. During those conversations he would spit and moan about anything the PCs questioned him about. He blamed it on the kids, the women, the foreigners, the coloured folk, the Jews. His language was colourful and his attitude horrendous, and if he could whine and gripe about it he would.

This was the first time I'd portrayed a character like that - I'd used hateful characters before but never to this degree - and he was successfuly nasty. I think the PCs were trying to find a reason to beat the living shit out of him, but as he was in his sixtes and one of the players was a cop they bit their tongues and just chewed him out. More than that, though, throughout the entire encounter, the looks on the player's faces changed from interest to disgust, and I wasn't sure if the expressions were aimed at the NPC or at me for running him. I felt horribly uncomfortable playing the role and I've decided not to run an NPC like that again. In fact, I dwelt on the character and how I must have sounded at the table for a few days after the session and wondered if I should have apologised at the table, or mentioned that I didn't share any of this bastard's views.

It seems that it's okay for me to play NPCs that want to enslave the world with magic powers, invade star systems with fleets of starships and decimate millions, or have the PCs kinapped and beaten by psychopathic pirates - all things I'd never do or contemplate. That's all part of the story. But the moment I play a character that may have actually existed, and may have shared the views of people living in the real world today? It made my skin crawl to inhabit the personality of such a person and I don't think I'll be doing that again.

Playing in the real world - or, at least, a version of it - is far, far scarier than anything I've done with the fantasy and sci-fi settings I've played in. I think that's what gives Call of Cthulhu it's power.

Sunday 22 July 2012


I put a brief link to this Marvel Super Heroes roleplaying game site up on this blog a while ago, but I'm giving it a bit more publicity as it's an amazing website. It's giving me loads of material on the site and the lively forum, and there's so much stuff on there I could run campaigns for months. Better yet, they've got every original TSR product on there as downloadable PDFs. That alone makes it worth the visit, but there's so much other stuff on there it's an absolute goldmine of information and material.

I've been toying with the idea of running a superheroes game for a while and I think I'll stick with Marvel Super Heroes. I've got the original books and I'm more than ready to get a decent game going.

Monday 16 July 2012

Why didn't they do a D6 System Indiana Jones game?

Imagine this with
'The World of Indiana Jones -
The Roleplaying Game'
splashed across the front cover
It’s annoying, but the more I think about it the more I realise that the D6 system would have been great for a fully supported Indiana Jones roleplaying game in the same vein as the original Star Wars D6 books.

What made the original Star Wars books so amazing is that they expanded on the Star Wars universe and opened up so much more for fans to absorb beyond the events of the original trilogy. Their sourcebooks and guides told us so much about the galaxy at large, how organisations worked, the whole thing. As you may know, it was the groundwork for what eventually became the Star Wars ‘Expanded Universe’, the creations and adventures that existed outside of the movies and the playground of so many novels. There was so much to learn, use and do in the Star Wars RPG it was no wonder it was so successful.

So why not an Indiana Jones version? Lucasfilm’s second hottest property with so much potential in the same pulp adventure style, and they didn’t take advantage of it when they got the license? The TSR game wasn’t great – but, to be fair, it didn’t fully deserve the stick it got – so here was WEG’s chance to capitalise on it. And what happens? They give it to the Masterbook System.

There was so much they could have done, over so many eras in so many parts of the world. They could have had sourcebooks for the eras, the 1910s, 20s, 30s and even into the 40s. They could have taken a leaf out of Call of Cthulhu’s book and created sourcebooks for the different locations all over the world, as well as globe-trotting campaigns that could have taken the players all over. Books about the artefacts the players could have been chasing after. The enemies and dangers of the different decades, from bandits to Nazis to treasure hunters could have got their own books. Imagine a 64-page softback book detailing the Thugees or any of the other countless cults or organisations, both in the official Indiana Jones stories or anything created for the game itself, all over the world. Real and imagined artefacts and locations and characters… if Call of Cthulhu can continually produce quality material for 30 years, I’m more than sure that the world of Indiana Jones could have. A glorious hardback initial book, presented the same vein as the original Star Wars book with the same energy and excitement I felt from the author… it could have been great. You could have had the high adventure mixed in with dark, Cthulhuesque nightmares.

Where is the D6 system at now? Who owns it? Who owns the Indiana Jones license? Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore. It would have been amazing but maybe it would have worked best back in the day, when roleplaying games were still a huge hobby with a dedicated industry. It could have been the successor to, or run alongside with, the Star Wars RPG.

'If adventure has a game, it must be... The World of Indiana Jones!'

I’m actually a little depressed by this blog entry.

Sunday 15 July 2012

An Indiana Jones D6 game?

This is the first I've heard of it! All I was aware of the was the TSR game from the 1980s and the dicey West End Games Masterbook System game from the mid 1990s. Being a huge Star Wars D6 fan I'd have pulled my own teeth out to own a copy of this game. What the hell was West End Games thinking? As a D6 and a WEG fan that must have been some pretty shitty advertising for it.

When this came out, WEG were already showing signs of cracking. The Star Wars line was starting to get a bit stale, and the Masterbook system hadn't been very well recieved along with the D6 System release not being as good as they would have wanted, what with being a bit of a mess of rules and very little clear instruction for none-D6 players or details on campaign worlds.  They had the Star wars and Indiana Jones licences, and instead of using the D6 system for both they used the established system for Star wars and the cumbersome (and most definitely not pulp adventure-friendly) Masterbook system for Indiana Jones.

Then they bought this out, to introduce D6 players to the Indiana Jones way of doing things, and also including a conversion system to swap your Masterbook stats over to D6. I never played in the WEG world of Indiana Jones because of my dislike of the Masterbook system - I used to use Call of Cthulhu for my Indy-inspired adventures - but if I'd known this baby had been around I'd have played the living shit out of it.

As a huge Star Wars D6 fan I'd have snapped this up faster than you could snatch a golden idol, and I'd have flooded WEG with money to get hold of the books as they came out. Star Wars was waning, and what else does the average Lucasfilm fan love? Indiana bloody Jones, you idiots! You could have kickstarted an entire new Expanded Universe for Indiana Jones, the same way you did for Star Wars back in the late eighties!

But what license did they support?

Men in Black.

Men in sodding Black.

God almighty, a missed opportunity or what?!?

If anyone has it, I'll quite gladly swap either my copy of Mongoose Traveller or Cthulhu Dark Ages for it. Send me a message.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Looking for a new sci-fi RPG campaign setting? 'Orbital' is my recommendation...

If you check out this comic you'll see the roleplaying potential straight away. 'Orbital' is an amazing galaxy-spanning science fiction setting perfect for gaming in. Details below:

Authors: Sylvain Runberg & Serge Pellé
Age: 12 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages
Publication: May 2009

In the 23rd century, humans and Sandjarrs are allowed to join an intergalactic multiracial organisation set up 8,000 years before. The humans are seen as a belligerent, underdeveloped race by the other members of the organisation and have been kept out of it until now. The Sandjarrs had stayed out of interplanetary politics until a war between themselves and the humans broke out. Now Caleb, a human, and Mezoke, a Sandjarr, are paired up and trained as special agents to keep the intergalactic peace. This is a controversial and historic alliance, and a lot of people are watching them. Their first mission is to keep war from breaking out between humans and Javlodes on the planet Senestam.

You can buy it direct from Cinebook here.

Or pick it up from Amazon here.

Thursday 12 July 2012

And tonight's Cthulhu game...

... was a massive success! Hooray!

I was so nervousd it'd fall on it's face and feel really flat but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The players really got into character and played their parts well, and the gaming table was in a dark room with a single table lamp plonked in the middle. The music was Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to the movie 'The Thing' which suited the game down to the ground, and the atmosphere and mood was palpable.

The highlights were the police interrogation, the search of the student's room, and most of all the conflict with the bad guys on the river, in which the academic of the group - with no skill in firearms - panic fired with his eyes closed at the cultist with the pistol and got him through the heart... and then had to roll against his sanity for seeing a violently killed corpse for the first time. Crazy stuff. Literally.

I was really pleased with the session. The players were well into it and were not only pursuing the clues but justifying why they would get involved and press on, and looking for reasons why their characters would continue investigating even though it was obviously dangerous and life threatening. They did a cracking job.

I'm more than relieved that it all went well. Looking forward to next Thursday, now!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Cthulhu rises! On Thursdays, apparently.

This Thursday I begin my new Call of Cthulhu campaign.

I’ve run Cthulhu games before but with a more adventurous slant, more along the lines of Indiana Jones than anything else. In fact, one of the players in an old CoC game had a character called ‘Idaho Smith’. You can draw your own conclusions from that, but they were fantastic games.

I only ran a couple of truly scary games, one on a train across Europe with werewolves on board, and another had players searching for an almost-dead Hunting Horror in an abandoned village on the moors. They were intense investigation-driven games, even though they did have the adventure element involved. Coming from a background of very long and involved Star Wars and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaigns I can’t help but stick some adventure and conflict in there.

So how to approach this new campaign? Well, I still want my adventure elements, more the dark threat of Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ than the over-the-top adventure of Sommer’s ‘The Mummy’. I’ll have my investigations and searches, but the arrival of some low hit point cultists can’t hurt. I’ll only have the players pause for thought when they come up against mythos creatures.

I’ll be a stickler for the sanity rules – that’s the core of a CoC game, after all – and I’ll make sure the players are aware that anything horrific, or even just a bit scary, is cause for a check.

I used to be a GM screen overlord so that I could keep rolls secret and have more control over the game, but I’ve realised over the last few years that rolling in the open is so much more satisfying. I have been accused of arbitrarily killing player characters with rolls behind the screen (which is actually true in one instance, but that was more a case of a mercy killing than anything else) so I avoid that with open rolls. As long as the challenges are surmountable and I don’t throw unfair threats at the players then any outcome is acceptable. Maybe not so much with the mythos creatures, but they know what to expect in this game.

As far as music is concerned, I’ve found some great themes of a very dark and mysterious quality on the movie soundtracks of ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Master and Commander: The far Side of the World’. I really wanted to use my friend James Semple’s music he composed for the ‘Trail of Cthulhu’ roleplaying game, but with a house move coming up its sadly packed away somewhere – for the record, I can highly recommend this soundtrack. My obvious choice, of course, was the Indiana Jones movies, but the themes are so recognisable that it would no doubt pull the players out of the game and encourage ‘trust me’ quotes and fist fights. I wouldn’t mind if there were Nazis involved, because there’s all levels of right in punching Nazis in the face, but sadly there’s none in my game. Maybe next time.

All that really remains is to see how my players react; I can make all kinds of attempts at atmosphere and mood but it really depends on the involvement of my players, if they get into the darkness of it all or if they approach it more light-hearted. That remains to be seen. To give them a sense of time it’s set in 1933, two months after King Kong has hit the picture house and people are all excited for the wonder, adventure and monsters of the far-off places of the world.

I’m really looking forward to this game.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Call of Cthulhu - my new mini campaign

It's been more than ten years since I last ran a Call of Cthulhu campaign using fifth edition, and as my gaming group is going through a few games at the moment and trying to settle into a new schedule - what with pesky real life and other commitments interfering with our beloved hobby - I thought it might be fun to run a speedy CoC game to fill in a couple of weeks.
Walker in the Wastes - Pagan Publishing

I've been reading up on my history recently as I've been working on non-RPG projects, and I've been interested in explorers and adventurers of old who really put it all on the line to acheive their goals and dreams. One such adventure was the Franklin Expedition, doomed to failure under mysterious circumstances. Although the clues have been found and the fate of the crews of the HMS Erebus and Terror have been all but answered, I thought it would be a great jumping off point for a 1930s CoC game.

Browsing the Wikipedia entry for any inspiration (I know Wiki is not the most reliable of sources, but considering the fact that I'm fictionalising the entire expedition it's not a problem for me) I noticed the line:

'The expedition has also been the subject of a horror role-playing game supplement...'

Nuts, I thought. I bet that's for Call of Cthulhu.

And it was. It was Walker in the Wastes from Pagan Publishing.

Well, my game is all designed now. It's not fully concentrating so much on the expedition itself, although the doomed voyage will be a pointer to the larger picture, but I just thought it strange how I had considered the historical event perfect material for a Call of Cthulhu campaign, only to find that someone had beaten me to it. Hopefully my players will assume that this is what I'm running and try to get hold of a synopsis of the adventure, or even a copy of it, to try and second guess me in the hope that this will increase their chances of success.

If that happens, then the whole game is going to get very interesting.

Sunday 1 July 2012

What is happening with Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG?

Other than the 'wish list' threads of the FFG forums there's very little coming out about it. What do people want from the game? What are you hoping for, and what are you dreading?

Me, I'm hoping for a rules system as flexible as the WEG D6 system, with the cinematic adventure feel it has, and source material other than the already established OT/Prequel stuff. What I'm hoping they don't do is a game like Warhamer 3rd Edition, with special dice and tokens at a high price. That's just not my thing and I'm a veteran of the original D6 system way of doing things (so I'm automatically bias, anyway!).

What's the story, FFG? Watcha doin'?