Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Modiphius mortality

Whilst Star Trek has always been formative across the generations and a popular diversion from parody to philosophy, there hasn't really been an opportunity to froth about it properly on this blog. There were some brief conversations last week at the club as to how certain things will be handled mechanically together with the overarching backgrounds to the various series. Much can only be learnt when we literally roll out the play test but, understandably, one of the first questions on a role players mind when approaching new systems and creating characters is how easy is it to die ?

These issues are prevalent in the Star Trek universe.

Whilst I can understand that in a horror game this is a more pressing issue, it often comes down to tentacles, teeth or claws. Basically a character may not see a vampire coming but a player would not necessarily be surprised to face a grisly death. But at the frontier of space exploration, alien cultures and creatures one would have no idea whether a small purple cube is in fact an air freshener or weapon of mass destruction or indeed both. Pile on top of this that certain cultures may insist on killing several ambassadors as a mark of respect before establishing trade relations, one can see the importance of a non expendable communications officer.

Further piling on top of this is another layer of sleek, stylish and occasionally reliable Starfleet ships systems - Starships are inherently dangerous places particularly with their notorious exploding consoles, transporter glitches, leaking plasma conduits and eminently bypassable security systems. Its a wonder we ever left the planet, but tracing Starfleet Engineering Core's history back to the days of Cochrain banging on a warp core with a spanner in one hand and beer bottle in the other, things start to make a little more sense.

So in the 24th century it would still seem prudent to cross ones fingers when flushing the turbo toilet.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Winter is still coming

The darkening of days and the chafing bone chiling winds are calling adventurers forth for their next realm as we have completed the rituals required to announce the next set of games..

GM Warren has declared a seasonal DnD 5e and will enter the land of Neverwinter once more. A solid favorite and stalwart system now, the 5e always get enthusiastic players so book your space when you can.

In a boldly contrast, GM John will be running a pre release test of the Modiphius implementation of the Star Trek universe. This does interest me - one of the many nice things about an RPG club is that someone is always looking at something new and opportunities for play testing and community feedback are a real chance to engage. See what I did there? Though I think Jon's environment will be pre Next Gen, though there could be time travel...or space gods...or green women. I have to say there is an overwhelming urge to roll up several redshirt security guards for the adventure and work my way through them but I feel that this would not be helpful even tho an Alpha Red security clearance would definitely be more appropriate in the original series.

The StarTrek play test release is due at the beginning of November according to the planetary database, www.modiphius.com/star-trek.html, this means that we will get a couple of weeks of a something. People bring all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff from the dark and amusing corners of the internet but I will bring along a short Chill to span Halloween if it appeals. Whilst many gamers hold great opinions and passions over their mechanics, I am more of a fan of keeping things simple, which means I am often drawn to the 2nd Ed Star Wars where virtually everything is resolved on one D6 table and also I like percentile systems such as Cthulu, MERP and indeed Chill. Straight percentages are just so easy to map to events in general although Chill does divide them into Low, Medium, High and Colossal depending on how close you roll to the upper and lower bounds of your skill score - so if you have a target roll at 60 and roll a check of 05 (low being good), its a colossal roll as its in the top 10% of the target number. This can generate a few fractions but are basically ignored..

So we shall see where the runes fall for the forthcoming characters in their various games and whether they will make it to Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Walking Disney

In true faffing style we have managed to stretch out the games for another week which buys us valuable time to carry out our quarterly bloodletting rituals and sacrificial ceremonies with regard to the next set of adventures. 

In a previous Strike post I had documented concern as to  how on earth we were going to take out a Genie. Despite all the experience and intelligence of a small determined group of role players its really took about an hour of arguing before a possible situation presented itself. It would appear that in this timeline of wartime London and entire fantasy realm has been created simply for the amusement of our absconded super villain, Aladdin.

Where there should be a hardened Capital city during the Blitz, there are mountains, lagoons and flying pirate ships. More accurately it seems that evil Aladdin is a roaring fan of the Peter Pan franchise. Presumably after discovering his own immortilisation by the Disney corporation he has come across all manner of entertainments and the scenario we are presented was a battle between Hook and Pan himself, with Tinkerbell in the mix.

Somewhat taken off guard on how to proceed we waited until the skirmish was over with a view to taking over Hooks ship, giving us at least a distraction if not a solution to defeating the Genie. Of course it is the case that we don't actually need to defeat the Genie as such, we just need to separate it from Aladdin whilst we lever him against us capturing his girlfriend, Princess Jasmine - or constructive, socially aware, eco-friendly kidnapping as I would like to refer to it.

Fortunately, after the battle, Hook took his ship across London to raid for supplies, where we were waiting in a local shop for his minions to appear. Having subdued them and subsumed their identities we returned to Hooks ship with zombie pirates in tow, with the aim of dominating the rest of the crew in turn. Despite however making colossally crap rolls of a 1 and a 2 on my D6, we did worm our way out of being keeled hauled by promising to help Hook capture the Pan (Tho being keel hauled on a flying ship perhaps isn't that bad)! Blinded by his revenge and somewhat shallow incarnation, he has avidly agreed to take us on board so to speak, whereupon we can slowly convert the lovable rogues of the Jolly Roger into the grotesque and murderous brigands of the Flying Dutchmen - Peter Pan meets Pirates of the Caribbean. I for one are looking forward to a tiny undead Tinkerbell.

Unfortunately I cant stop to think about this scenario too much otherwise I will freak out but for now we are committed to cartoon carnage and turning the Disney romp into more of a Minecraft hack and slash. Well at least its a plan.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Off Road

Its always a bitter sweet moment as a game draws to a close and also a slightly paranoid one as well. Both GMs indicate that their games have about a session left, but it is often the case that players can have a very different opinion about this, so do watch this space.

Whether its not wanting to let go of a character that you feel you are just getting to know or just not wanting to leave things undone, there can be a sense of players just not stopping. I wouldn't necessarily say that this is character momentum as it can equally be a result of disorganization, fumbles in game or the sheer obsession of a party's mindset. Basically straying from the path is technically a separate adventure in and of itself and more often in GMing I see the glazed look of a crazy idea solidify across a players face and transform into rational determination and he shoots off into the distance in search of experience points.

Whilst we joke about this sort of thing in the Roleplaying community all the time this would make a good Derren Brown episode. The extent to which someone can convince them self can be enormous bordering even on hypnotic; arguing is one thing but once an internal psychological battle has been won then there is no reserve and beyond this it is only at the stage of being surrounded by dead bodies that one stops to ask 'so how did this happen...'. Its one thing to bring yourself down a peg or two but another to explain that to the local law enforcement. Excepting of course those that thrive on genocide which is always a bit worrying when we catch up on some other peoples gaming news over the past week....

Anyway, despite the club game cycles being relatively short at about 2 to 3 months, longer campaigns can simply be chopped into chapters which is more satisfying I think. We have some long standing campaigns that are still open such as GM Julian's excellent Warhammer Fantasy and Gm Bill's Game of Ice and Fire where we are forever upgrading our Homestead duck by duck to eventually overthrow Kings Landing. I fully expect this to be the Finale of the TV show.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

I remember Talisman....

Given that last week GM Jack was on holiday, our Gary brought in his copy of Talisman. Now it seems that when you ask a lot of role players about Talisman, you often get a distant look in their eyes and the response, '...I remember Talisman', like trying to recall where you left your car keys in 1985.

Its an odd one as tho there have been several versions it just seems to evoke exactly the same heartwarming experience as an old Mr Kipling Apple Pie advert; the board looks to me like it's never changed.

The game comprises several character classes with Strength (attack), craft (magic points) and life (life) tho with a varying alignment. The board comprises 3 realms to negotiate to achieve the Crown of Command in the center of the action. What I really like are the massive stack of items, followers and enemies which become trophies if you kill them. It generates a huge space of possible circumstances for a player and also, as the game goes on, more resources are gained and more stats can be raised - a sort of levelling up. Notwithstanding of course that one can also lose what one gains and if characters land on the same square they do have the option to attack each other.

There are shady and welcoming places on the map which appeal to various character demeanors and also just generally dangerous caves, crags and graveyards where monsters can lurk. Once an adversary is exposed in a place it will stay there until slain and its body claimed as a trophy, so the realm slowly populates with creatures and items as the game progresses.

For our session, Gary's character got killed off quite quickly so he went from a Dwarf fighter to an Assassin. My humble Monk made steady progress but whet up to a more dangerous realm before he was ready and died off (though he was weak mainly thanks to Fade attacking me with his Ghoul on several occasions). The Ghoul in question just generally fared badly as Ghouls do but it was Nick's Priestess that was the actual winner who made it as far as the third realm with all his finesse and heavily upgraded character. Though I would credit Fade as the spiritual winner playing his Ghoul in fantastic style just wandering to and from the graveyard - occasionally into the Chapel where he would burn in the light but did so anyway just to scare the nuns. When he wasn't in his graveyard, freaking out the clergy or biting other players he was being ignored in the village.

All told after a couple of hours hilarity it really felt like we had an adventure rather than a game but despite the occasional snakes and ladders issues of getting knocked back randomly it was wonderful to play it again. I daresay I'll pick it up again in another 30 years.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Old Lamps for New

What is the most powerful adversary one can imagine? One could roll out a number of super villains perhaps, or indeed alien lifeforms bent on domination, xenocide or simply an instinct to kill, There are sinister and subtle nemeses in the form of irradiated particles, bacteria of the like that rescued us from 19th century martians or the humble virus; corporate, as engineered by Umbrella, or natural, in the case of the planet simply wanting to wipe the slate clean and start again.

One could be more straightforward such as a natural disaster from great floods to a hail of meteorites, but then again we have Bruce WIllis. We could be set upon by vampires, tough we have  sunlight and in the case of Werewolves we have silver. With regard to aliens we have Captain Picard and in the case of viral dangers we have Milla Jovovich.

There are the inherent flaws such as man's appetite for self destruction, loathing, control and bad hygiene but in order for evil to exist within us there must also be good and where there is body odour there are deodorants.

The point is that the more I think about it the more these are all straw men - each opponent or dilemma comes neatly prepacked with its retrospective antidote. One could even make an argument for cliche in the human struggle.

No, it has struck me that ineptitude should have been the eighth deadly sin. The option that the world would end with a whimper or possibly even an apology. The real dangers are the Homer Simpsons of the world and of course and there is a little Homer Simpson in all of us - he has no adversary, constraint or education and he is thoroughly likable. No one fears him and so he is expediently allowed to press important buttons at random.

I theorize that our game of  Strike could be approaching such a moment - we will soon be up against a Genie; or in other words a voice controlled interface of stupendous and indifferent power. Whether it will be us or someone else wishing for something, I don't think it matters, there is a distinct possibility of wiping out all reality in a fit of bad grammar.

At present we are fighting mutant Gorillas attacking the Great Wall of China in its medieval hay day. More precisely an escaped chemist/shaman is devolving people into a vast hairy army to conquer ancient China and to prove this theory via the proper scientific method our dear Nick has been dipping spiders into Gorilla serum, producing some form of grotesque, godforsaken Spiderape,

Never give a curious player random potions.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Earthdawn Sundays

Whilst the club meets on a Thursday provide a wonderful nexus for RPG cross chat and an excellent chance to try new games, with a relatively speaking high turn over, the evening is basically quite short providing a typical session of between two to two and a half hours of role playing. Added to this that transportation volatility and the general bustle of weekday life can mean further variation in play. Also, despite the weird and wonderful yesteryear environment of a Victorian converted 70s style social club, it can be a somewhat alien experience for newcomers. All things being equal though there is free space for games, cheap beer for those that seek it and a jukebox installed with a Genuine People Personality chip from the Sirius Cybernetics corporation.

So in an almost Zen like counterbalance GM Warren has installed a monthly/ whenever anyone can make it session at the local Dice Saloon RPG centre. The advantage of this is a proper session for a few hours that you can get your teeth into in a dedicated and decorated environment without weekday stress and the need to get pissed. I am very pleased to see that the Dice Saloon is still around given a very difficult market but that the gaming spaces available for rent do potentially give us another home from home with coffee reasonably priced as I understand it. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Anyways, at the moment an Earthdawn scenario has begun. I do have an old Earthdawn book kicking around and remember finding the spell system quite complex given the use of matrixes (which I guess is the proper plural form in magical circles), but never actually had a go. The game has begun in an underground citadel, or kaer, during a time of plague that is afflicting some of the Elves as well as a string of inexplicable suicides, Whilst the malady seems to be incurable its origins are mysterious - a previous  kaer expedition looking into this having since failed to return. It seems our party have had more luck if you can call it that by way of coming across some poisonous mutated plants and other vile creatures. Just a matter of connecting the dots whilst not being flayed alive I suspect.

Good luck to the I say and I hope to pop in for a session. In the usual Thursday slots, the Strike continues with a battle at Strike HQ and the Numenera is ongoing with no reported fatalities as yet.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Time Bandits

The Strike continues in Time Bandits, chandelier swinging, roller coaster style as we are now back at the start of the Roman Empire wrestling with a wrestling problem. We have to re-capture two temporal inmates, super villains in actual fact, who are virtually indestructible fighters. To further their ambition they have installed themselves ego maniacally as a daily act in the Colosseum and making a fair amount of coin in the process. It is interesting to note that given all the knowledge and power they have regarding the future they still succumb to their vanities rather then lever their potentially devastating control over events. I would suppose its hard to change even when you are presented with the world at its feet.

Nevertheless, these jokers are such showmen they have been beating all the gladiators to near death and are running out of people to fight, Or should I say, living people to fight. True to my roots I have gained access to the gladiators infirmary as the resident doctor and are now duly 'tending' to them in my usual necromantic way, thus providing us with suitable actors for, hopefully, the grand finale.

So how to capture ego maniacs ? Well the answer is always give them enough rope. As this is the Roman era, everyone knows the  great classic Helen of Troy so we are building a wooden horse for our wrestlers to burst out of and fight off all the Trojans and win her back. Thing is, when they get into the horse, we will have a timely portal arranged for them and they will be simply stepping back into captivity. Surely they will realize where they are as soon as they step into the horse and out into Strike Headquarters ? Well, of course the answer is to build another horse at the other end of time into which they will fall ! This should buy us the opportunity to close them off and collect our well deserved cake.

This being one of the most ridiculous plans I have ever been involved with in my entire life I am convinced it will be a complete success.

On a more drunken note, whilst wandering home afterclub, we came up with another Dragons Den winner - Asterix the Ghoul - a sleepy cemetery in France where long dead heroes just want to be left in peace. But due to those pesky Romans, Asterix, Obelisk and their dead friends, Cacafonix the Banshee, Necrofix the ReAnimist and their faithful hound Deadmatix all go on countless fun adventures keeping them at bay. 

I don't remember much after that, probably for the best.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Other universes

With some variance in club attendance at the moment caused mainly by Southern Rail's rather quantum approach to timetabling (ie it not being possible to know both where and when a train is at the same time and also the conundrum of the train driver being possibly dead or on holiday when you cant see him), there was an opportunity to grab a character in on GM Rob's Numenera. Esoteric scenarios can provide a huge playground for the imagination but provided one doesn't get disoriented with the reality, there is a lot of interesting fun to be had.

I picked up Jamie's character as he was away for the session and one the abilities is that he can create a duplicate of himself, which sounded like too good an opportunity to miss. The party were investigating a gigantic failing, floating military habitat of some sort. It transpired that aliens had portalled into its control room and started to dismantle its power source - a miniature thermo-stella fusion core - or in other words, a small sun. We had to reconnect some bits that were disengaged and rotating about the device whilst at the same time fending off the weird bad guys coming through the portal. Whilst we successfully repelled the invaders the chance to send a copy of myself back through their portal was too good to miss, so portal diving I go. There were dangers however I discovered after the event; whilst I could dispel my other self, I would suffer if it was killed.

Nevertheless, rolling my way past a sentry gun I managed to make it out of the alien portal compound and into a city? of crystal tower blocks. The aliens were themselves somewhat translucent, with their heads embedded into their chests and were ambulating about their streets. Having attracted their attention they were slowly closing on me so I dived into one of the building where some alien administration of some sort was going one. Up the staircase I rush dodging one acid spewing entity I eventually run into a large group cutting me off; there being the inevitable glass ceiling even in otherworld corporate culture.

Snapping back to our usual unsusal environment we decided to plug the base AI back in rather then try and sell it and it seems that systems were starting to come up, although the military personnel hadn't all left yet...

Well I do hope we didn't start a war as I am back in the Strike adventure now where we are chasing down a temporal prison break. Problem with building jails in prehistoric time periods is that ankle bracelets are not going to work...

On a social footnote, this weekend sees the annual Reunicon of BURPS, the 80s roleplaying society from the then Brighton Polytechnic, gathering this year at The Dice Saloon. There is an entry fee and a schedule of events on the website http://reunicon.uk/ drinks in the Mesmerist on the Friday if anyone fancies a hangover!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Happy Birthday Howard


The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.

Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.

I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.

Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.

To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

That old Roosevelt ploy

It has to be said, time travel does keep you on your toes. Twas the night before a critical World War II summit between Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt and Roosevelt. Hold on a moment I hear you cry, bear with me. Our mission was to infiltrate the various security contingents of the Allies and ensure that the evil time travelling agents were neutralized so that the conference would happen when it was supposed to.

This did involve, in order, a lot of planning, a lot of spying, a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting a lot of killing, a lot of necromancy and finally a lot of hotel management. Basically you can't get the staff and when you do they're dead. Nevertheless we had the entire situation under control and were dutifully catering for Stalin's and Churchill's contingents in silver service style, when Roosevelt's party arrived we just presumed we had it in the bag with cigars all round.

Sadly however when President Roosevelt arrived it did indeed turn out to be the president in person but unfortunately the wrong one. It transpired to be Theodore, not Franklin, leaving us a problem that vast amounts of zombies couldn't fix. And this is where the large hole labelled Twap comes in as I had naively presumed that the presidents had been swapped against their wills as surely the integrity of the very president himself couldn't be questioned ? What was the point of being sent through time to ensure a meeting between the wrong presidents ? So in we charge to rescue old Theodore and return him and his fifth cousin to their proper pages in the history books. But oh no, not this Roosevelt. It turns out the politics can sink to even lower levels and the old bastard was in on whatever evil plan was being hatched. So a further fight ensued as we tried to subdue the president as well as his entourage which included a giant, automated killer teddy bear. Irony comes in several forms including murderous toys it would seem but we're now committed to a worryingly divergent timeline.

I'm still reeling and kicking myself at the same time if my character's dexterity allows it as who to trust in time travel. But of course it was the wrong question. Who do you trust in politics ? The answer has never changed of course.

No one.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Good Cop Bad Cop

As we are still in the midst's of ongoing Southern Rail transportation chaos, it has been difficult for a few members to get to the club both regularly and in anything like a normal time frame. GM Rob summoned enough spirits to continue his Numenera but GM Jack was hijacked on the buses last week  as they are taking a lot of strain locally from the rail network disruption. We did take the opportunity to have a crack at another random card game though, in this case, Good Cop, Bad Cop.

If  you like games of paranoia and allegiances then this one may appeal. Everyone starts with three random down cards that are either honest or crooked cops - the majority that you are holding determine your alignment. There is a KingPin card hidden in someones hand for the bad guys as well as an Agent card for the law enforcers and the aim of the game is to locate both of them and kill the one that is the head of your opposing faction.

Initially players can turn over one of their opponents cards and  in the investigation stages of the game - this is standard as the players slowly piece together who is on what side. Then as knowledge and possibly paranoia grow, players can then take guns instead of drawing actions or exposing cards. Among other things the action cards do things like change the order of play, interrupt the moves of opponents or my favorite 'plant evidence' when you can invert the allegiance of a player. As the guns come out then they get pointed at a someone but as people put more guns on the table as the game continues a Mexican standoff is created and whichever side's leader gets killed first (shot twice) ends the game.

Its fun and fast but to be honest its not very interactive initially as there is a long quiet stage when people mutter to themselves as they piece the picture together. You cant say anything as you dont know much for sure and nor do you know who is on your side. The play suffers from a lack of social element and the designers needed to have considered this as players share a faction, it would have been better for them to interact earlier on to increase the paranoia and build knowledge. However it passed the time quickly and even if a player gets shot and is out of the game, he still has a stake in watching his faction fight on.

I suspect we will be in for a few more weeks of travel madness so keep a card game handy just in case...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Let's Quest !!!

One of our newer questers, Alice, casually dropped into conversation last week that she had just binged watched Dan Harmon's latest series, Harmonquest on SeSo. Dan Harmon is the creator/writer of the critically acclaimed Community series the first 3 seasons of which are absolutely outstanding - the only series I have ever watched when I have literally  fallen out of my chair laughing, so it stuck in my mind when she mentioned it. There are a lot of youtube channels that explore whether a  role playing game is media viable and longstanding campaigns that have a reasonable subscriber base are on going, but the missing element in all of these is an animated backdrop.

Like the cutaway scenes in Family Guy or the Ricky Gervais Show, absurd and surreal scenarios can instantly be given depth and context to engage audiences onto a level playing field and often to hilarious effect as, as we know, role players often miss some of the little things when thrown into the fray, like, 'oh, I forgot my head is still on fire'. Not only are farcical hilarities exposed when a given session is depicted, but also the ludicrous plans that party concluded were a good idea at the time. Whilst the animation has not had a huge budget available to throw at it, it does just enough not to detract from the show.

The GM, Spencer,  keeps a constant upbeat tone in order to play the commentator and mediator as well as the npcs, which he does admirably given such new ground and whilst his presence is essential it is neither overbearing nor lackluster. Spencer frames the situations concisely and rarely intervenes except when time presses to close an episode. Given there is a guest spot each week that can vary somewhat between those people who have never played before to those who either love the genre or are from an acting background, whilst some of the guests perform bravely in an albeit bemused way, those that pick up the idea quickly are absolutely wonderful to watch, but all of them give it a shot. The rotating guest spot also means that by the end of each session the adventure must sadly lose a player, which presents its own regular mini feature to look out for.

I would say that it is a bit of a rough cut gem as it doesn't always flow, definitely experimental in places, but just like any cast in its first showing, the players start to warm to each other by the middle of the adventure and the characters backgrounds define the players actions well by the end of the series. The live audience of course dont have the benefit of the animation so they can be subdued at moments but it is clear that they know the nature of the game and cheer on the highs and lows of the adventure.

Given a tight budget and a longstanding culture to draw from, I do hope that we will see more adventures to come.