Saturday, February 15, 2014
Sunday, January 26, 2014
|So, you've created a wormhole|
Saturday, January 25, 2014
One of my Christmas presents was the new second edition of The Esoterrorists by Robin D. Laws.
I'd already got the 1st edition (reviewed here), which I got after having a look at Trail of Cthulhu.
The second edition polishes the rules up a little, now that Gumshoe has been used to power a subsequent seven games (including the forthcoming TimeWatch and Gaean Reach), adds more detail to the Ordo Veritis and Esoterrorist organisations, has an expanded bestiary and includes an alternate setting - Station Duty.
It's still very affordable, and great for quick play at short notice.
Which brings me to the official point of this post - Recently a member of the Pelgrane Press Google+ community put out a call for some ready to play PCs for an Esoterrorists 2e game.
I, not having too much work that I wanted to avoid doing, knocked some up.
If you would like to use them, then they're here:
Esoterrorist 2e Characters
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
|TimeWatch main rules|
One of the Gumshoe games that I have been playing has been TimeWatch, written by Kevin Kulp.
It's not out yet, I've been taking part in the playtest cycle for the game, running it for my weekly group and laughing my ass off.
Now it's gone to Kickstarter, and I have broken my KS virginity on this book. I even paid $40 for the privilege.
I don't regret it.
I feel more of a man now. Like I can look other men in the eye...
You can go on the Kickstarter page and see why the author and publisher think you should back TimeWatch... In fact, do that. Watch the video and read the updates and consider the cost.
Now, let's talk about cool shit.
|Ezeru - Shapeshifting mutant psychic|
radioactive cockroaches from a false future
I like cool shit. Love it, in fact. And this game has so much cool shit in it that ... um... look, I'm not going to dive deeper into this metaphor. You'll thank me for it.
Instead I'll put this into context... I, as a teenager and as a 30+ year old 'adult' have spent actual hours discussing the temporal paradox resulting from the Terminator movie.
How can Skynet possibly think that ganking Sarah Connor is a good idea? If John Connor isn't born, then a there will be no resistance so Skynet won't need to send a Terminator back in time, so John Connor will be born...
Then Terminator 2: Judgement Day introduces the fact that Cyberdyne Systems used tech from the T-800 to create hardware that would later be used to create Skynet, meaning that Skynet propagated itself.
Any game featuring time travel is going to have this problem - players or NPCs change history, a paradox results and people start getting shirty just because they've ceased to exist or are now their own father.
|A TimeWatch agent activates an Autochron|
by Andy Mason
- Ignore it, like Dr Who normally does and like Terminator did
- Have history slowly assert its new form by deleting people like Marty McFly in Back to the Future
- Have people go a bit mad as their memories change, like Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys
- Go completely the other way and revel in the possible chaos like in the Futurama episode Roswell That Ends Well - become your own grandfather, blow shit up and screw with people
To do this it gives you three pertinent stats:
- Chronal Stability - How real and stable you are. If this dips below zero you start remembering alternative histories or fading into nothing
- Reality Anchor - The ability to focus yourself and others on 'reality' and restore lost Chronal Stability
- Paradox Prevention - A technical skill that allows you to mitigate paradox through cunning and knowledge.
|A TimeWatch team - a gunslinger, a neanderthal, a Mongol princess,|
a psychic Sophosaur and a 22nd Century space pilot
Therefore you can play just about anything, and the rules support them.
My players chose:
- A Wild West Gunslinger
- A sentient cyborg T-Rex (Prof. Doctor Thaddeus Rex M.D.)
- A Viking
- DB Cooper, posing as a legit TW agent
- An evolved, sentient mathematical algorithm housed in an artificial robot body
- A 1930's wise guy
In the first session, in prohibition era Chicago, one of the players opted to use time travel to move all other cars out of a street two minutes before they arrived 'in game time' to ensure that they got the best parking spot outside of a speakeasy. Later on in that session another player teleported to five minutes ago and just outside the back entrance to the speak easy so that he could catch the bad guy by surprise as she made good on her getaway sticks.
As soon as you introduce time travel into a game you force everyone participating to think in an additional dimension, and that makes for some weird and unusual fun.
What would be the repercussions of going back and stopping the villain from killing that small child just now? Maybe they were 'supposed' to die...
Maybe there's a whole moral quandary to work through before you kill an infant Hitler.
Maybe you should fund the book and find out.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
By 'enjoy' I mean 'be continually inspired and engaged by'
It is one hell of a book.
The first half (90 pages) is player facing, and expands on the wide range on cool things that players can do, use or blow up.
The book would be worth the cover price alone for this section.
The second half (30 pages) is director facing, and offers a range of pre-made people, places and perils (OK, monsters) as well as story ideas and tips.
I would probably have paid money just to get 30 pages of quality this high.
If you play Night's Black Agents, I urge you to get this book. There is not a wasted word or filler paragraph in its 120 page count.
Excellent work +Kenneth Hite, +Will Hindmarch, +Kevin Kulp, +Christian Lindke, +Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, +John Adamus, James Palmer, Will Plant and Rob Wieland.
Please keep producing work of this calibre and then take my money.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Let's skip the brain trust explanation and get right into it.
You used to be normal. Now you're not.
You used to have a normal life. Now it's anything but.
One day you had this dream, an I right, about signing your name somewhere and all of a sudden your brain is tied to this other place where the scales are tipped in favour of mad crap and if you pull on the strings, you can make crazy stuff happen as well.
And then sometimes you pull hard and the string breaks and you fall on your ass. Or something falls on you. That smarts, yeah.
Maybe you joined one of them nutty secret societies with handshakes that fry your brain or stop your heart dead, or maybe you didn't. Your business anyhow.
Where we are now is that we could both kill each other with a word, and none of these chumps would even know it. Hell, everyone of these guys could be a corpse already, and the world just ain't cottoned on yet. You coulda done it. You probably didn't. Maybe I did.
But here you are. In my place. And I know who you are.
Your move, kid.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
There's a decision that shapes a GM, one that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad.
You've put in time and effort creating a Non-Player Character for your game. You've not just statted them, you've woven them into the very fabric of your game world. They have a name, a back story, concerns, interests, a personality, goals, hopes and fears.
This is a recurring antagonist. A nemesis. Someone who your players love to lock horns with, who they curse in the day and ally with in darkest need.
Then the players just kill them. Usually in a summary fashion that in no way hints to the greatness of this character.
What do you do? Let the character die? Move on? Start again?
Or snatch them from the jaws of death, resurrect them off screen or retcon their survival?
This is the test.
I recently had to make this decision, twice, in my weekly Night's Black Agents game.
I created the first actual vampire the players were to meet, who was supposed to thrash them within an inch of their lives before dying himself or fleeing or driving them off.
They pretty much cut his head off in the first round of combat with him, dropping him instantly.
OK. That's fine. He has healing powers and is supposed to be hard to kill and fucking scary. Fair enough. Let them have their victory.
Their surveillance cameras picked him up walking around and killing Mafia henchmen with his bare hands some ten, fifteen minutes later. That put the wind up them.
The next time they meet him, some four sessions later, they were sufficiently wary of his recuperative abilities to nuke the site from orbit. They wheeled a bomb disposal robot, packed to the rafters with C4, into the building he was in and remotely detonated it.
I spent the next week agonising over what to do.
He was a vampire with supernatural speed, reflexes, resilience and healing. Of anyone could have survived, it would be him.
But that would be a spit in the face to the players. They'd put everything they had into making sure that they killed this guy dead. It would be unsatisfying to deprive them off that kill.
But what about the narrative function that the NPC was supposed to serve? And what about all the effort I put into building him?
Let me tell you a story.
Back in the late 90s I played in a Vampire: the Dark Ages game. I was playing a 7th Gen Brujah based on the Crusader Tancred de Hautville, who was a lot of a bastard. One of the other players was a 7th Gen Tremere who specialised in the Thaumaturgical Path of Fear. This becomes important shortly.
For some reason we were fighting a horde of flesh eating zombies in a tunnel network beneath London. It turned out that the source of all of these
Undead was a Celestial Chorus mage (don't ask me why, I still don't know to this day). He told us to stop killing the zombies, or he'd have to stop us.
So we attacked.
Our tried and tested tactic was for the Tremere to use the Path of Fear, which reduced the targets dice pools by a sizable amount, often preventing them from acting, and then the rest of us would beat the shit out of them.
So, the Tremere used Path of Fear and rolled well, reducing the Mage's dice pool by 9 dice. This pretty much guaranteed his death. The rest of us surged forward.
At this point the Storyteller starts panicking and tells us that the Mage is teleporting out of the tunnels.
Well, this is patently impossible, not unless the Mage has an Arête score of 10 (Arête is the measure of a Mage's magical might. A score of 3 let's you throw fireballs. A score of 10 literally makes you an actual God), which is highly improbable.
But the Storyteller informs us that, yes, the Mage is a God and can create a fully functioning universe in 6 days or less.
He rolls his one dice, gets a success and has the Mage escape.
To this day I find this deeply unsatisfying. I'm getting that empty, gnawing, hollow feeling in my stomach just thinking about it.
If only I could roll back time and punch the storyteller in the gut and shout "how d'ya like them apples?!"
Back to Night's Black Agents...
Should the vampire escape?
They found his severed arm in the rubble of the building, and the rest of him stuck in a collapsed bolt hole in the cellar.
Their play paid off. They get the rewards. My NPC gets to be interrogated, and if they're sloppy he may escape (sans arm). He'll probably die. That's fine.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
The thing that makes it an enjoyable film, in my opinion, is the clear love of standard horror movie tropes throughout. My wife and I were both delighted by the gas station in the beginning and it's treasure trove of creepy genre signposts: fish hooks, bear traps, animal skins, pickled creatures, hunting goods etc. I wondered aloud if they'd modeled the cabin on the one from Evil Dead. The scene where the victims choose the transgression for which they'll be punished is wonderful, as is Fran Krantz' line "I'm drawing a line in the sand, no one is reading any fucking Latin!"
The part that tied the film up to Fear Itself, for me, is the statement of specific roles within the genre:
The Whore / slut
The Scholar / egghead
The Warrior / jock
The Fool / burnout
The Virgin / good girl
Fear Itself uses these stereotypes to define character roles within the game with much the same effect as in Cabin...
The overall plot of Cabin is a nice fit with the classic Fear Itself Ocean Game setting: a mysterious and incredibly powerful consciousness horrifically manipulates reality around unsuspecting stereotypes for their own amusement and benefit / a mysterious and technologically advanced organisation manipulates unsuspecting teens into falling into stereotypical roles and controls the environment around them for their own amusement and benefit.
You could run a straight Cabin in the Woods game using Fear Itself with zero effort or adaptation, and you could overlay the Mystery Men and their Ocean Game onto Cabin with only a few tweaks.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I'm running a successful campaign at the moment, which obviously means that I'm thinking about what I want to run next.
I've been toying with a few plot ideas and potential settings for different games for awhile now, and suddenly have hope that I'll be able to run them.
I'm probably getting a bit giddy...
The games are:
Trail of Cthulhu
The first Gumshoe game I bought, and a work of beautiful genius. It successfully evokes multiple interpretations of Lovecraft's work, from the pulp two fisted tales of dark adventure to the doomed and weak minded soul not long for this world with the tenacious and fearful academic somewhere in between.
I have an idea for a game that draws upon The Mountains of Madness and Call of Cthulhu for mood and theme and a real life lost Arctic expedition for setting. I've already started mentally mapping out this idea. It's a strong contender.
Originally released as Aeon and soon to be re-released under that name, Trinity is the game from the Aeon Trilogy that I have played the least and have the most books for.
I think I ran a short one shot game for two players back in 2001/2.
It's a game that deserves another crack of the whip - a mix of epic sci-fi, space opera, cyberpunk, post apocalyptic wasteland, Starship Troopers, intrigue and horror. You can set the equalisers to any level you want just by varying the locations and organisations involved.
I'd run a vanilla Aeon Trinity game with a mix of investigation, combat and political manoeuvring.
Hunter: the Vigil
I think of all the World of Darkness games, H:tV has the broadest appeal. Used to playing the monsters in the other games? Have fun playing the other side for once. Never played a WoD game before? Here's a no nonsense gateway to the setting. Not sure about playing a monster? Play a legit human instead.
I was running a nWoD cops game when Hunter: the Vigil announced, and it quickly became apparent that I was running a proto hunter game.
When I finally got it I ran a short introductory story arc for my gaming group, then promptly got my wife pregnant again so had to scale back my gaming for awhile.
I've still got a load of unused ideas that I'd like to try out, and my wife bought me the Compacts & Conspiracies splatbook for my birthday, so it's fresh in my mind.
My first gaming love. The second game I ever played, the first game I ran. Over the years I've built up and lost a sizable ArM library. I had about 20+ books for 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition, some of which are probably worth a bit of money now, and stupidly gave them all away to charity when the 5th edition came out. To make matters worse, 5th edition wasn't what I wanted it to be, and I gave up on it.
A few years and a bit of perspective later I realised that I wasn't giving it a chance. Different doesn't mean bad. And it couldn't be as much of a disappointment as Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition.
So I'd like to run Ars Magica again.
Changeling: the Lost
Look, this game is fucking brilliant. Really. It's the most well rounded game that White Wolf has ever produced. It's beautiful, horrific, terrifying, paranoid, innocent, brave, redemptive and compelling. It's everything good about folk tales and myths and everything good about modern horror.
It's the best Slender Man pictures meets Pan's Labyrinth meets The Evil Dead.
As I see it, Changeling: the Lost is a game about self discovery and personal agency - freed slaves learning that they can do anything they want, and trying to work out what that actually is, whilst fighting to preserve that freedom.
Mage: the Awakening/Mage Noir
It's hard to get a grip on Mage: the Awakening, to definitively say "this is what the game is about", especially when compared to its predecessor, Mage: the Ascension.
In Ascension it was explicit within the setting that you were caught up in an ideological, metaphysical war with clearly defined sides and an achievable goal. Awakening lacks this direction and forces the players to determine what they want to do and who they have to fight to do it.
The rules are great though. They allow the player characters to bend reality to their will and do a truly impressive range of miracle working.
If running Mage: the Awakening I'd use the Mage Noir setting and play in post war America, late 40s to early 50s, with the players hunting down magical artifacts like an arcane Maltese Falcon.
Every now and then I have an urge to run a good old fashioned high fantasy dungeon bash.
So far I've primarily used Pathfinder to run Goblin games, because Goblins are ace. The Goblin games I've run so far have been independent of each other but set in the same game world, so the events of the first game (slaughtering a farmer and his family, burning their house down and eating the livestock) informed the second (humans try to drive the Goblins out of the area, Goblins retaliate by setting fire to what they think is a religious monument but is in fact a signal beacon) and the second will inform the third (possible war due to the sudden amassing of an army after an invasion has been signaled).
In every game, though, the players have basically been looking for food and tribal status.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
It sounds a bit weird at first: Jason Bourne alikes vs vampire conspiracy in a high octane thriller setting that focuses on investigation. Actually, it sounds a bit confused.
It doesn't run like that. It runs like a classic spy thriller, with an added level of scary shit at every level.
The core book is mostly a toolbox with every component needed to build and run a custom game.
- Design your own vampire - satanic, supernatural, alien or mutant
- Build your own conspiracy, with a step by step guide on how to move from street/gang level to world spanning mega conspiracy
- Move through Eastern Europe like Liam Neeson through a gang of human traffickers
- Support and ultimately betray your friends and allies
- Different modes of play from ultra realistic Dust to hyper paranoid Mirror, psychologically damaging Burn to high action Stakes
|Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria|
Honestly, as a setting, it's a gift.
- Extracted an informant and hurt a number of Bulgarian Mafia goons in the process
- Watched a human trafficking deal go bad, killed a load of surprisingly agile and hardy Germans and crashed out a bit when one got up again after having his head virtually severed
- Blown themselves up when they placed a propane canister and an M60 in the same confined space they were in
- Followed a trail of death and destruction as they played catch up to a sadistic killer who was tracking them down
- Blown up some cop cars as they fled from the scene of a brutal murder they didn't commit
|A genuine Bulgarian Mafia|
boss and ex wrestler
The notes of paranoia in there make me feel like I'm doing a good job.