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.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

I don't like you either

Despite the hours that roleplayers can spend arguing over an encounter or solving a situation there are equally as many occasions where you have to think on your feet. This is often amusing as it is exciting as when you inject magic users into any given dilemma the possible outcomes can range from the surreal to potentially universe threatening. As from my last post, the Strike game last week revolved around the all time classic bar fight. In fact I would say its almost an unwritten rule now that when a role playing party enters a drinking establishment then someone must end up with at least a broken nose before the party leaves. Its a bit like the fabled Samurai myth that before sheathing a weapon its must have drawn blood, even that of the owner if necessary. So yes, I would go as far to say that it is a matter of honour for the seasoned player.

The bar scenario in the (currently WWII) time travelling Strike eventually boiled over from a room full of drunken spies and bodyguards. The different factions all had their personal guard there ahead of a pivotal meeting but we knew that at least some of them had been infiltrated by time travelling Nazis, or those who backed them. The brawl however escalated quickly out of control as in this particular bar fight, not only was everyone armed, but they also comprised of a mixture of trained special forces and military personnel who have, broadly speaking, no qualms about pulling out weapons over dinner.

Cut to the chase, during the fight at least someone in the fray shouted "it must be Strike" so we at least know we haven't just slaughtered a room full of innocent people, but either way we abruptly had a room full of dead bodies to deal with when, at the same time, we heard the senior officers coming down to see what was happening. Well, being a necromancer and suddenly needing a room full of amicable people pretending to be drunk , all I could do was reanimate all the bodies and quickly sit them at the tables and bar. Keeping them talking we told the officers that everything had calmed down and that we would sort it out - hoping that they wouldn't notice their soldiers starting to gnaw on each other or shuffle around a bit too absently. Whilst I think we have got away with it so far we now have 20 undead minions to look after and a bar bill to pay.

Speaking of bills, thanks to GM Bill for running his stopgap 618 adventure - not a game I know much abuot- but I'll have chat to him next time, though unbelievably he has implied that it too may involve time travel. We have had a few new lovely members recently and are hovering around a possible regular third game if interest holds so plenty of seats to be had in various universes at present, past or future.  GM Rob also continues his Numenura thogh havent had any reports of a bar fight as yet.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Always time for a bar fight

Its a bit of a weird co-incidence. Although weird is a somewhat relative term when it comes to role playing scenarios.....and role players for that matter. It would appear then that the Numenera players are also tinkering in time travel technologies albeit as much over the players heads as it is in the game of Strike. This is going to involve a lot of complicated and confusing pre game chatter as the weeks go by as for my part, I am always interested in what general approach the GMs take to the fundamentals of cause and effect. I always think it likely that there is a universe collapsing paradox laying at the heart of such plots or possible time quakes cascading forward chasing parties into alternate futures. Either way a great deal of care will need to be given to the temporal footprint of adventurers in any given context, or the future wasn't what it was supposed to be.

Words fail me literally as I am reminded of Douglas Adams point..

"The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. "

Personally my character is just along for the ride but I am secretly hoping that in fact both games are set in the same universe, just billions of years apart - it opens the real possibility that the GMs can swap groups for an episode as we go on missions in each other's timezones. However with respect to well laid plans, we should really concentrate on cocking up our own game before moving onto someone else's.

Following on from last weeks Strike episode of time travelling Nazis, we find ourselves in 1943 at a meeting of the great powers, German, Soviet and American. It's a week before a pivotal summit and we are all hanging out at the same hotel bar with the other delegations' security details, trying to pry information out of each other by seeing who can drink the most. All the characters are tired, paranoid and  inebriated. This is only going one way...

In the Numnera in GM Rob's very own words:

"the party seek an ancient and mystical key the time-travelling wizard from centuries in the future identified as a thing called a "fuse" to stop a giant metal being transmitting nightmares to the population of the nearby town. They have found this key in the possession of some goat-like creatures who killed the priests guarding it. Finding their camp at night, the party plans their attack."

OK, so goats, wizards, priests, keys and metal things. Got it. So if anyone out there has has experience with time travelling killer goats then we would appreciate a few pointers.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

World of Romans

I have heard it said  that sometimes too much knowledge is a bad thing. Generally speaking I am a huge fan of not being ignorant and I have a high esteem for those working in the fields of teaching and research. I can see that knowledge under duress can be a difficult situation, i.e. where torture may connect someone with the wrong end of a variety of secrets as well as medical instruments but it is equally the case that  you are not going to escape a grizzly ending whether you divulge classified information or not. It is more the case that the burden of some decisions can leave you wishing that you didn't know what you know but I suspect that this is really about the office you hold at the time, a lesser of two evils or perhaps or having to enact laws that leave little choice in an outcome. The difference between fault and responsibility will often mean that the blameless will shoulder the burden for the people they are responsible for despite what they may know or indeed those that have to sacrifice themselves for the greater good just because they know it to be for the best. Life isn't fair, but we know this already. 

But role playing can take this dilemma into extra dimensions, literally, and not to ramble on too much further without a cause, the scenario set for us in GM Jack's Strike adventure does serve to keep all this in mind. The point is Time Travel. At this point in history the party seem to be on both sides of an ancient battle fought between the Celts and Romans. A foregone conclusion from whatever perspective you may be looking at it from but unfortunately from our perspective it appears that we are also up against some Time Travelling Nazis who have brought tanks to the battle. So a bit like undead steam powered, Nazi zombie robots, the steam punkish scenario is already brimming with B movie action and hilarity.

The fun thing about charging around blowing up tanks and trying to level the odds in an future-historic field of battle is that its all too easy to be caught up in the action and forget that decisions we take now are going to have profound effects in the future. Anyway, we have a secret weapon - a horse, who's secret ability is that it can't talk! ....confused ? a cunning plan ? does it know more than it is letting on ? Can it convince the Romans that we aren't spies ? Unlikely at this stage I feel....

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Kickstarting Games

So some of us are returning from out annual holidays about now and there are some ancient voices whispering on the winds of email foretelling that they may also soon return to claim their rightful seats at the role playing tables. In all respects the forces are gathering and we have two challenges to be met by brave and wise gamers, both actually from kickstarters.

GM Jack is running a STRIKE! A kickstarter that had 418 backers raising 9192 canadian dollars is targeted to deliver fast action combat with exciting twists. Created by Jim McGarva the RPG Drivethru responses are good so far. Here is the spiel to give you a flavour.

What sets Strike! apart?

Every roll is 1d6. This makes it fast and easy to learn, teach, and play.

Setting agnostic. Strike's exciting combat and surprising twists fit smoothly into any setting.

No boring failures. When you don't succeed there's a twist: maybe you get what you want or maybe you don't, but either way something interesting happens that changes the situation.

Non-binary resolution. Despite the simplicity, there are four or five distinct possible results on every roll, not just Success or Failure.

Speed! Because of the simplicity, and helped by other tweaks, the game runs very quickly. Combat only takes 20-30 minutes, even at high levels. The system supports players taking risks and gives characters interesting options without being burdensome and pulling you out of the game to crunch numbers.

Character creation is simple too, and there are no false choices. Now instead of spending time trying to spend points and sorting through endless lists, you can just pick a background to give you basic skills, pick a class and role, do a little bit of customization and get to playing.

Variety without complexity. Combining your choice from ten classes with any of five roles gives you fifty unique options that will each play very differently from one another. Re-skinning guidelines help you create exactly the character you want with ease.

Also Gm Rob is starting his Numenera. Augmented with beautiful artwork it will be interesting to see if the games mechanics are as equally impressive as the backdrop.

Step a billion years into the future—into the Ninth World, where the remnants of previous civilizations’ technologies are indistinguishable from magic. Based on Monte’s Cook’s Cypher System, a new RPG system that focuses on story and ideas over mechanics.

I will post back with some of our club's experiences of it after its been running a couple of weeks. Definitely my favourite video tho so come along and let yourself go.