Thursday, June 30, 2011

Burning stuff / Fire as an adversary

Most threats, challenges, obstacles and enemies I see in RPG supplements are individual beasties and beings, with special abilities, per day powers and scripted dialogue.

This applies to games I have played, and games I have run.

Very rarely have I seen a mundane, everyday burning building used as an adversary, yet a house fire can be an unpredictable and terrifying foe.

It may be Hollywood hokum, but any movie featuring fire or firefighters will, at some point, tell you that as soon as you stop respecting a fire, you'll under estimate it and that's when it'll kill you.

I've had burning buildings in my games before, but only as background flavour.

The players have dashed down burning streets, aware that the burning house is just an interesting wall, or they've watched safely from a distance as the joint has lit up.

They've never had to fight their way out of a burning building, or dash into the flames to rescue a child or loved one, or battled to control a raging inferno before it engulfs the library or hospital.

This is a shame, as all of the above seem exceptionally awesome to me.

So, from now on, I vow to have fire break out in Elysium, a blaze in the arcane library, a burning house between the players and freedom.

Posted via my geek phone

Total lack of inspiration / Flailing wildly for ideas

It's been awhile since my last proper RPG related post, and the basic reason for that is that I'm stuck in a bit of a rut.

I really want to be devoting some quality time to my hobby, and I can't, because I've too much Real World stuff to do, like find a better job, move house, spend time with young children, perform manly DIY duties.

So whilst I really really want to focus on gaming, I feel guilty when I do.

Sad face.

So, how to get out of this rut?


I have a birthday coming up, and some holiday, so that would be a good time to indulge.

Therefore I have set myself some (woolly, hand-wavey) goals.

Make real and measurable progress to new job and house by the start of my holiday (July 25) and then allocate gaming time into my schedule after my birthday (July 28).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alone in a crowd

Everything stopped. Again. Tom looked up from his work to see the world perfectly frozen. A deafening silence roared in his ears. His eyes welled with tears, just like they did the last time, just like they had every time after the first. Already the loneliness was washing over him.

How long would it last?
He never knew.

Tom had no idea how long the first time had lasted. After the third, he had started recording how long it took him to grow an inch of beard, and now thought in those terms.
Last time had lasted three inches.
Three long inches of silence. Isolation. Stillness. Maddening stillness.

His greatest fear is that this time it may never end.

Tom walked home, weaving through the frozen crowds. A light rain had started falling, and he left a tunnel in it as he walked. He'd walk this way many times over the next couple of inches.

He found it as he crossed the main square.
Another passage in the rain. It went off south, towards the warehouse district.

Tom wasn't alone.
He ran through the tunnel, following it as it wound past cars and pedestrians.

His heart was thumping fit to burst. His lungs screamed in his chest as he sprinted.
He wasn't alone!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My love has changed, should I take her back? / Giving Ars Magica another chance

The first game I ever played was _cyberpunk_. It was pretty cool and introduced me to the world of RPGs.
The second game I played was _Ars Magica_. I was terrible at it. I didn't get it. Not really. I treated it in much the same way people treat D&D when they start.
But, God, I loved it.
I loved it so much that I refused to even look at Mage: the Ascension for years, and dismissed the Tremere in Vampire: the Masquerade until Revised Edition.

I played 3rd Ed to begin with, and when I went to University I found that a 4th Edition was out, and began collecting that in earnest.
One of my best friends in the Gaming Society also loved ArM, and amazingly gave me some of his 2nd Edition books.
Mythic Places.
More Mythic Places.
The Order of Hermes.
The Pact of Pasaquine.

I tried running it several times, to varied success. Again, I didn't get it, and failed to explain it properly to the players.

I hope I get it now.
I think its about the Covenant.

When ArM5 came out, I made the (stupid) decision to ditch everything that had gone before and focus entirely upon this new Edition.
It was supposed to be better.
I had faith in David Chart.

Faith I had misplaced.
David Chart is a serious academic, and, in my opinion, has trouble producing 'light' material.
I found ArM5 hard going.
I found it focussed on some elements of the game to the exclusion of others.
The Combat section is dispensed with as rapidly as possible so the book can move onto the 'more important' sections of the game.
There are mathematical formulae at every turn.
It's very dense and in no way welcoming to the casual or new Gamer.
It is a for people who already play Ars Magica.

Recently, though, I have been reading Dark Horse Game Design's blog. He's recently discovered ArM, managed to get past the text and discover the game at its heart.

I am now wondering if I have been too harsh. Have I pushed away a game I love because I don't like its current edition.

God, am I having an Edition Wars moment?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Advice for the citizens of Leicester / Zombie apocalypse survival

How to survive a zombie apocalypse | Stephen Kelly | Comment is free |

It looks as though the citizens of Leicester are going to have to rely upon themselves come the impending apocalypse, following the local authorities failure to adequately prepare.
The advice given is not up to the standard set by Max Brooks, but its a good start.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Zombie preparedness / Leicester actually interesting

For those of you checking your bug-out bag is fully stocked and that your escape route to the offshore oil rig is still open, I entreat you to avoid Leicester, England.

The city council has been forced to admit that it is completely unprepared for a zombie apocalypse, following a freedom of information request.

This obviously means that all zombie outbreak games must now be set in Leicester.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First combat drop / Advice for new players

I'm currently exploring the possibility of running my first long distance game over the internet.
One of the logistical challenges I have is making sure a couple of new players are fully engaged and involved, and that they get all the guidance they need. One has never played before.
I'm a little concerned about remotely guiding a new player through the first few sessions. I've decided to use Fear Itself as the first game because its a low rules game and uses a d6, which everybody has.
I had looked around the internet for some new player advice, and worryingly came up short.
There's loads of 'getting started' advice for online video games, but nothing for pen & paper RPGs.
WTF, people. For shame.

So, OK, we need to fix this, like yesterday.

Total Party Kill advice for new players

- Stereotypes and stock characters are good. You'll hear a lot of talk as you get into the hobby about how everybody's character is a unique and precious flower amongst the weeds of predictable and dull average characters.
The people that say this are usually elitist ass holes, who are just apeing a character from an obscure book, film or comic.
As a new player, you shouldn't be pressured into creating a dramatically poignant homage to existentialism, rather you should be given the freedom to play Han Solo, Aragorn, Indie or Neo, if that's what you want to play right now.
Stock characters are classic, timeless and easy to portray. You'll be busy enough keeping up with the rules a d action without having to wade through obtuse characterization and motivation.

- Have a flick through the rulebook to get the geist of the setting and system, by all means, but don't for a minute think that you're expected to memorize it.
You'll probably get a good grip on the basics of a game if you read Wikipedia and its official web page.

- Talk to the other players. Hey, have a beer with them before and after. They'll happily give you advice and tell you about their character. This introductory period is the only time in your life you will genuinely be interested in hearing about somebody else's character. Enjoy it. Let their enthusiasm rub off on you. Look forward to the day you have such hoary war stories under your belt and can regale young pups with tales of your glory. Oh yes.

- At the gaming table, caffeine, sugar and trans-fats are your friends. One or two small beers may be good buddies as well, just pace yourself and be sensible.
If you turn up at a session with any combination of: soda, pizza, chips & dip, cookies, donuts, candy and ice cream in enough quantity to share, you will be a king, my friend. A king.
I tells ya.

There's obviously a hell of a lot more in the way of genuinely useful advice out there, and I invite all and sundry to either add it here, or to blog about it yourselves.
We, as a community, need to build up a greater repository of knowledge for those new to and interested in the hobby.

The best advice I have for players new to the hobby

Thursday, June 2, 2011

White Wolf have officially confused me / Step back in time to 2000

I have just scoped this news article on the WW site:

The thing I find amazing is that these books are for the Vampire Revised edition, which is out of print, and not for the Vampire 20 version coming out later this year.

For why?
Quick buck?

New fantasy wanted / Please assemble naked ladies

Today I said farewell to my Exalted Second Edition Core Rules, as I posted it off to a new home, courtesy of Amazon UK Market Place.
I'll miss it, or, more accurately, I'll continue to miss First Edition, which I ditched when I 'upgraded' to 2nd.
I've already sold my D&D 4th Ed books, because they are slightly less evil than the Necronomicon, and been paid monies for them. Oddly, they are still at my house. Jay - do you actually want them? I have spent the cash.
Finally, I have my Ars Magica 5th Ed for sale, as, once again, it doesn't compare to the previous edition, IMHO.

What this essentially means is that I've ejected all of my Fantasy RPGs, and retained only my Modern, Horror and Sci-fi games.
There is a gap.

I intend to get Pathfinder, but I am slightly dubious - I didn't love D&D 3.5, and I suspect I'm  considering Pathfinder because I hate D&D 4.

So, a question.
Considering that my favoured system is New World of Darkness, and that I dislike rules heavy games like Exalted, yet would prefer something still in print and available through Amazon, what fantasy RPG would you recommend?