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December 06, 2009

FreeMarket: Great Minds...

Looks like Allan Sugarbaker of Ogre Cave and I are on a similar tack:

I think everyone who’s interested in the technology of roleplaying should have a look at this. It’s the first game I know of that truly reverses “kill them and take their stuff” – all the way into “no one can die and you want to give them all presents.” And yes, it makes that work, turning it into a tense, motivating, probably hilarious saga of social climbing and idealisms of all sorts.

December 04, 2009

FreeMarket: Lord, Have MRCZ

(Yeah, I'm sure someone's already done it. Still.)

My last post explained my issue with the roleplaying hobby: the irony that, in a hobby that tends to pride itself on storytelling and exercising the imagination, prioritising character development over optimal tactical decisions is counterproductive in many sets of rules.

(Sure, sure, Golden Rule and all that, but if a set of rules doesn't cater for what you and your friends are actually doing around the table to have fun, why are you wasting your money on it?)

So what does FreeMarket do in this regard? Well, it removes the possibility of a user's profile being removed from play,* but it still keeps user death firmly on the table. The twist in the tale is that, as previously mentioned, death isn't an end; it's more a pause.

Continue reading "FreeMarket: Lord, Have MRCZ" »

A Side Note on Taking Characters Out

Since my early days in the hobby, I've always wondered what a roleplaying game where eliminating a player's character sheet wasn't a possibility would be like. See, while most RPGs claim to be avenues for telling stories and freeing your imagination, their rules are often still quite tied to the hobby's wargaming roots, devoted to the challenge of "kill the other guy before he kills you" - possibly because games about action and combat are easier to grasp (and sell to young boys) than games about, well, stories. Naturally, suboptimal tactical decisions aren't good, which is a pain if you want to play out an interesting, compelling character; optimal dramatic decisions, ones that feed into more interesting story, are often suboptimal tactical decisions.

A perfect example can be found in the Dungeons & Dragons podcast of October the 9th, 2009. As an aside, I'd just like to recommend this particular series of D&D podcasts, which feature Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of the Penny Arcade webcomic, Scott Kurtz of the PVP web comic and Wil Wheaton (yes, Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation Wil Wheaton) play D&D 4th Edition with one of Wizards of the Coast's staff dungeon masters. They are hilarious, truly. If you don't have iTunes or another client for downloading and managing podcasts, you can always listen to them on the D&D site.

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FreeMarket: Challenges, Card Decks and Memories

Freemer Fever seems to have taken hold in my brain. After my first pass of the FreeMarket beta rulebook I'm giving it a more sedate reading, spotting bugs (i.e. typos and grammatical errors) and submitting them to the bug report page as I go (Firefox's Find utility makes seeing whether anyone else has spotted a bug already easy).

I'm also thinking about how I'm going to run it for whomever decides to give it a whirl with me. I'm glad to say I've already got one person keen, a co-worker who has never played in an RPG before. I think the quirky, semi-philosophical, semi-political, off-the-wall-SF nature of the game is what hooked her, and I want to make sure she's thoroughly entertained. I've sent some requests to some other gamers, but I'm starting to wonder if I can rope any other non-gamers in. Either way, I'm aiming to run a session sometime mid-January.

Vickie's declared she's out of this one, by the way; her current condition is giving her a bit too much trouble for “sitting and thinking”, as she puts it.

Continue reading "FreeMarket: Challenges, Card Decks and Memories" »

December 01, 2009

FreeMarket: Early Impressions of the Beta

Well, I know I don't do much tabletop RPGing at the moment; in fact, the recent game of D&D with Simon and his kids broke an eighteen-month drought. But I still dip my toe in the waters every now and again, mainly by browsing various RPG-related sites and fora.

Just recently I signed up on the website Project Donut. A rather odd name to be certain, mainly because it supports a rather odd game: the soon-to-be-released collaboration between game designers Jared Sorensen (whose games InSpectres and octaNe I've game mastered and loved and whose game Lacuna I own and would love to try sometime) and Luke Crane (whose game Burning Empires I own and would love to try sometime), called FreeMarket.

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November 23, 2009

Notes on Session One of Dungeons & Dragons at Simon's

I've been meaning to mention that a couple of weeks ago, I did the first roleplay gaming that I've done in, sheesh, it must be around a year and a half. Simon was the gamemaster – well, actually, dungeon master, which should tell you fellow gamers out there that the game in question was Dungeons & Dragons, specifically 4th Edition. Although I've owned the Player's Handbook for about a year now, this was the first time I'd ever actually played a game.

I like it. After the first encounter, when there was talk of stopping, I spoke up for pressing on to the next encounter. In hindsight that was a mistake, as my fellow players – Simon and Cristel's four kids – can usually only handle a single encounter before getting bored. Simon's talking about setting up an adult gamers' group sometime in the future, although I reckon that'll be after Christmas. And I'd gladly be a part of it (hopefully I can drag Vickie along once she's recovered from her operation).

Continue reading "Notes on Session One of Dungeons & Dragons at Simon's" »

September 13, 2009

Heavy Gear Going Again

I mentioned on Friday that I'd been getting rid of my Heavy Gear books. Well, I've just re-listed all of my remaining Heavy Gear books on eBay. They're Buy It Nows, so if you're not interested or can't meet my price, please pass the word on to anyone you think might be. If they don't sell and you'd still like to take them off my hands, let me know!

September 10, 2009

The Nerd Report: September '09

Late last year, while talking with Vickie about What I Wanted To Do With My Life, I had the idea of starting up a sideline helping people fix computer problems. I haven't done a great deal with the idea since I suggested it; I put a couple of flyers up and got some sporadic work from a mate of mine, but that's about it. The next stage is to do up some more flyers to be placed strategically in the local area, but I keep putting it off or talking myself out of it; the only real reason is because it seems such a big step outside my comfort zone.

I'm way overdue to do a rebuild of my PC. Windows XP is doing some really odd stuff, and I think the only way to fix it is back up what I need and reformat the bastard. My flirtation with Linux continues, although it hit a speed bump when the latest distribution of Ubuntu (9.04) decided it couldn't play sound. I have no idea why and the bug report I filed hasn't generated any real interest. I want to dedicate a weekend to getting the rebuild (XP, Ubuntu 8.10, then see if the Windows 7 RC1 code I got a couple of months ago is still valid) right, though, and we've wound up with other plans lately – the last weekend I dedicated to it, I couldn't find a critical part until I finally looked in the place I'd put it (which seemed logical at the time). So sometime before Christmas, one hopes.

Continue reading "The Nerd Report: September '09" »

August 09, 2009

Heavy Gear On Sale Again

Well, I'm glad to say that my Sorcerer stuff sold for way more than I asked for, which is bloody great, but the Heavy Gear stuff didn't. So I've taken another $50 off my asking price and thrown in both of the Heavy Gear PC games. Again, if you're interested, please make a bid; if you know anyone who's keen, please forward the link to them!

November 04, 2008

Steve Jackson Games Publishing Heavy Gear RPG 4th Edition

Well, this is certainly a surprise.

On a whim, I browsed into the web page of Dream Pod 9, designers and publishers of the Heavy Gear roleplaying game. in the last few years, they've moved from RPGs to miniatures, pumping out the Heavy Gear Blitz rules and a whole heap of metal Gears, Hovertanks, GRELs and the like. The RPG line has remained strictly on the back-burner.

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September 04, 2008

Houses of the Blooded: $5

In the hope that, in part, it gives John Wick some more sales but, in the main, that it might interest enough people to get a game with: John Wick is selling the PDF of his newest Big Game, Houses of the Blooded, for US$5.00.

It looks like the delivery issue is sorted, so with any luck I'll have an actual copy of the game in my hot little hands by the end of the month.

August 30, 2008

RPG Spring Cleaning

We’re doing some spring-cleaning here this weekend, and I decided it was long past time I made some more room on my shelves. To the local second-hand bookstore went my Dungeons & Dragons v3.5 core rulebooks and the Eberron Campaign Setting, Star Wars Revised Core Rulebook, the Serenity RPG, my Amazing Engine core and supplements, HERO System 5th Edition and the Sidekick supplement, Systems Failure, The Shadow of Yesterday and Nine Worlds. Into the recycling bin have gone Traveller: The New Era, Brilliant Lances (the T:NE starship combat strategy game), Car Wars Deluxe Edition and Shatterzone, as well as reams of character sheets, system summaries, campaign notes and printed PDF rulebooks, stuff I’ll never need to use again and, in all honesty, probably never actually put to any practical use in a game in the first place.

Am I giving up on the RPG hobby? No; I still have almost a shelf full of RPG product, including the D&D 4th Edition Player’s Handbook. Also, John Wick’s latest game, Houses of the Blooded, will be on its way to me as soon as John sorts out some unfortunate shipping issues. But if you’re a regular reader of this web log you’ve probably noticed the sense of gnawing dissatisfaction in my posts about gaming as far back as the Black Talon campaign, especially those games that I’m GMing.

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July 04, 2008

Bringing the Silly in D&D

I’ve been trying to find a post on Steve Darlington’s LiveJournal for the past ten minutes (this is one of the reasons why I don’t blog on LiveJournal; there’s no way to search someone’s archive). Some time ago, maybe a year, maybe three, he was posting about a D&D campaign he was in. He wrote something along the lines of the inherent silliness of the setting, and how he couldn’t help imagining cavalry charges straight up castle walls whenever he read the spiderwalk potion description.

In the meantime, I found a more recent post where he relates his reactions to D&D 4th Edition, which is just as relevant. Oh, sorry: The reason I’ve been ransacking Steve’s LJ is because I’ve been listening to the podcasted Actual Play recordings of Tycho and Gabe of Penny Arcade and Scott Kurtz of PvP playing Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition with Wizards of the Coast’s GMs. The recordings are pretty damn fun. All three of the players are witty, creative guys – which, as they’re behind two of the most popular webcomics out there, is no real surprise – and they attack the concepts of the session and the results of their rolls with gusto. Probably the most hilarious moments come from Mike Krahulik, who has never played a tabletop RPG before, and his character Jim Darkmagic, to whom he always refers in the third person – “Jim thinks you guys are pretty fuckin’ lucky to have Jim”, “Jim casts Jim’s Magic Missile”, “Jim goes to the bathroom and deals 5 damage.” It seems like an example of the kind of silly that Steve was advocating.

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June 25, 2008

I Think John Wick Said It Best...

Further to my rant about what I want out of an RPG yesterday, I'd like to draw your attention to a YouTube video posted by a man whom I think is heading down a road I'd like to follow on.

Continue reading "I Think John Wick Said It Best..." »

June 24, 2008

Standing Up for My Tastes in RPGs

I believe every set of rules is intended to support a particular flavour of awesome, even though it mightn’t necessarily succeed. D&D supports a different kind of awesome than Dogs in the Vineyard. Feng Shui is pretty clear on its awesome, though. Its awesome comes about in the fight scenes, when the players are firing off each other and the GM to create memorable, fast-paced, stunt-laden action. It virtually requires players to be not only primed to fire when the fights roll around, but also be economical with between-fight scenes. In order to keep the snap of the session going, each scene that occurs between fights must either tie directly into one or more PCs’ melodramatic hooks or feature some really cool interplay (a’la the Vince & Jules “Big Macs in France” scene at the start of Pulp Fiction); otherwise, they should be excised swiftly and cleanly.

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May 26, 2008

Feng Shui Forsaken

It was a pretty geeky weekend. Friday night saw some of The Forsaken Ones getting together for a training session. Karlos had found some neat cubbyholes in the geometries of the Halo 3 maps Guardian and Construct, so we spent a little time getting to know them before launching into a game of Team Oddball using the AussieXbox.net Team Rumble variant. I go into some more detail here, but suffice to say I found out a few things about how my fellow clan members play, especially those who reckon they despise the objective-based gametypes. I’m hoping we can get some more training in this coming Friday evening, and I want to try and give the session some more structure.

Saturday was busy. My former mentee got back in touch a couple of months ago, and Vickie and I have been hanging out with him and his family lately. Mid-last week he called and asked whether I’d like to go and play some laser tag at Crystal Cascades with him and his stepdad; unfortunately, when we got there for the early morning session no one else showed up, so I wound up driving back home a half an hour later. Kid and his stepdad are pretty cool, though, so I had a good chat with them in the meantime!

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April 04, 2008

Movies and Movie-Based RPGs

In a little under sixteen hours, I’m going to be running the fourth session of my Star Wars: Tarmadan Sector campaign for my players. Naturally, I’ve saved all the prep-work until the last minute. I doubt I’ll be burning the proverbial midnight oil, as I have some shopping to do tomorrow morning, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be up until around twelve to finish things off.

Last week’s Feng Shui session was fun. If you’ve never played it, Feng Shui is meant to encourage the kind of frenetic, stunt-laden set pieces seen in Hong Kong action films. Our GM, Leon, stripped out the standard setting in Feng Shui for one of his own, a cross between Blade and The Terminator where we players (Tracey, Patrick, Tracey’s daughter and myself) are trying to halt a future vampire apocalypse. I found myself coming up with lines of dialogue for my character more readily than improvisational stunts, and it was a great relief to be sitting on the other side of the GM’s screen again!

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March 15, 2008

Order 66

Just thought I'd hip you all to a neat little podcast by a pair of fans (and GMs) of the Star Wars Saga Edition roleplaying game. The hosts talk about general Saga Ed. system matters (the second show has an interesting discussion on why it's better to multiclass into Jedi than take it at level 1), particular issues (is the Ithorian bellow too overpowered? did the Gamorrean get boned in Saga?) and general silliness (including guest spots from good-ole-Stormtrooper TK-421 and postcards from Commander Cody).

The home page is here, and you can subscribe via your favourite podcast manager here.

March 12, 2008

Another Campaign Almost Toast...

You're not going to believe this. If it weren't so utterly in character for me, I wouldn't believe it either.

I'd spent a lot of time last week prepping the next session of my Star Wars Saga game, which was meant to be on Saturday at 1PM. I was pretty happy with what I had; I spent Saturday morning printing out NPC stat blocks, writing a session summary sheet and thinking about fight scenes. I hole-punched everything neatly and put it in a ring-binder, then put binder, rulebook, the notebook I've been using exclusively to make campaign notes in, dice and pencils in the draw-string D&D bag I got at last year's Spring Revel.

Twelve PM rolls around, so I say goodbye to my wife and take everything out to the car - whereupon I realise I've forgotten my car keys. I put the bag on the roof of the car, go back inside, get the keys, start my car's engine, open the gates, drive through them, close them again, then drive down the road to the petrol station, fill the tank, pay, then start the twenty-five-or-so kilometre journey to Simon & Cristel's place.

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March 06, 2008

The Geekosphere Says Goodbye

For those of you not really familiar with my little hobby, let me offer you some links to those better able to express the influence that two guys in a garage had on today's world:

Finally, Steve Jackson, head of Steve Jackson Games (probably the second-biggest RPG publisher behind Wizards of the Coast), sums Gygax's influence up best: "If not for Dungeons & Dragons, "adventure game" would still mean "cardboard chits on a hexmap." Which I love dearly, but would it ever have gotten out of the garage? And that's the least of it. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson didn't just remake a hobby. They impacted all of Western culture. Fantasy fiction would still be a backwater had not D&D built an audience and a new generation of writers. Lord of the Rings would be something taught in college English classes, not a blockbuster movie trilogy. And consider: The direct lineal descendant of D&D is World of Warcraft, which is, all by itself, what? A billion-dollar business now?"

RIP Gary Gygax

It’s old news now, I’m sure, but I didn’t want to let it go without a remark. Yesterday, one of the two creators (certainly the better known one) of Dungeons & Dragons, E. Gary Gygax, passed away at his home. He was 69 years old.

If you want to find tributes to Gary, Google will fix you up. Personally, I like this one by Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade – the strip is pretty good, too. While, like nearly every gamer, my first exposure to the hobby was D&D, I’ve never laid eyes on a copy of the original rules and only bought a version of D&D - 3rd - for the first time back in 2001. My first actual game of D&D is a study in irony; EvilHayama DMed his “red box” Basic Rules for the Cazman and I in the first or second year of High School, and of the three of us, only I became a serious hobbyist (and primarily GM). I feel I owe a more direct debt to designers like Wujcik (himself battling life-threatening illness), Costikyan and Pondsmith for hooking me into RPGs than Gygax.

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November 18, 2007

Star Wars: A New Campaign

It’s been a pretty damned good month so far. Quite a bit of stuff’s been going on; I’ve just not got around to blogging about it yet. An exhausting weekend of garden work and Halo 3 has cleared enough junk out of the way of the writing urge. Let's kick this off with some gaming.

To start off with, I’m GMing a roleplaying campaign. If you’ve been keeping up with my RPG-related posts over the past few years, you’ll have read about my increasing interest in independently-published RPGs and my desire to run titles like Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures and Burning Empires.

Thus, it may come as some surprise that I'm running Star Wars: Saga Edition, a game about as un-indie as I can get (it's from the same company that publishes the venerable Dungeons & Dragons). I played it at Spring Revel Down Under at the beginning of October and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’d like to say that I enjoyed the session so much I bought the rulebook except I caved into my gamer-geek urges and bought the bloody thing the day before.

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November 03, 2007

Gardens and Gamorreans

The 360 went in the post to Xbox Customer Service on Wednesday, so with any luck I should have it back by mid-November. I doubt I’ll have any trouble; Podge’s 360 got all Red Ring of Death on him a few months ago and he got it back in fairly short order (the refund of the repair charges took a little longer, though).

Which has, of course, given me more time to get some other things done. The first is to get back into the garden; I mowed the lawn and fixed the fence of a smaller garden bed near the front gate that we turned over a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow is whipper-snippering and clearing the yard of dead leaves (not to mention dog poo – Vickie’s granted me the household title of “bomb disposal expert”).

I’ve also got back into RPGs. I think I’ve already written that the “Prelude to Defiance” module I played at Spring Revel Down Under back in October had me keen on playing some more. Well, thankfully I have my chance. On Saturday October the twentieth, I trooped up to Edge Hill to get together with Simon and Cristel, Patrick and Tracey, and Sam to make characters and do a touch of world-building for the Star Wars campaign I’m going to run using the Saga Edition rules. I’m pretty happy with how we went, although I still think I could’ve done a few things better.

Continue reading "Gardens and Gamorreans" »

October 27, 2007

Heroism in Digital and Tabletop Gaming

I read a couple of posts online recently that helped me put into words some thinking I’ve occasionally kicked around my brainspace in the last year or so.

Via the Burning Wheel forum, I came to a post on the web log of a fellow named James Wallis (the name rings a bell, but I’m not sure from where). Anyway, in this posting James discusses heroism and how both computer/video games and tabletop RPGs treat it. Please, go and read it, even though I’m going to tell you the gist of it, which is that computer/video games have made failure uninteresting and dull, and that the best, most meaningful way to reverse that is to give the player “actual challenge”, which Wallis basically defines as the consequences of risk to more than just the character’s life, to what the character holds dear outside of personal survival.

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October 07, 2007

Spring Revel Down Under 07 Review

Spring Revel Down Under 2007 wound up a couple of hours ago. My general experiences at the event were chronicled over on the MySpace, but I’d like to add some more detailed thoughts about the experience here.

Firstly, I think I’ll take a bit more time for my next con and try a broader variety of stuff. I mentioned in the MySpace post that the Ruins of Discovery back-to-back module was very much a dungeon crawl, which suited the very tactical players at my table fine but left me, an inexperienced D&D player, a bit out in the cold; my sole effective capability was the casting of magic missile and any other action or suggestion was criticised as a bad move (the annoying thing was, from a “get the party in and out alive” standpoint they weren’t wrong).

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August 22, 2007

Fourth Edition

In the last week, some big news spread across the RPG hobby ether, news that I think many had been halfway expecting for a while. Wizards of the Coast, publisher of roleplaying games, colelctibe card and miniatures games, finally announced that it will release a fourth edition of the grand-daddy RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, in mid 2008. As with the previous two editions (well, technically, edition and a half), this new edition will consist of three core rulebooks: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. If the third and 3.5 editions are anything to go by, each of these books will be at least two hundred and fifty glossy, full colour pages long, with hard covers.

Now, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand I own the 3.5 editions of all three rulebooks, plus the Eberron Campaign Setting. In total, these cost me around $170, and I find myself a bit sore at the thought of these books made redundant in one fell swoop.

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August 08, 2007

Podcast Preferences

I’ve been sampling the wonderment that is an iPod nano for the past couple of months now. Young Brook’s hand-me-down is now full of Steely Dan, Def Leppard, The War of the Worlds, Flogging Molly and assorted other musics (yeah, okay, fine, including John Farnham). Bu the really great thing about it, especially combined with its iTunes master application, is podcasts. The iTunes service will track podcast feeds via XML and RSS and will automatically download the latest shows of any podcasts I subscribe to. I can take them with me in the iPod and catch up on subjects of interest during my lunch hour, all without bothering Vickie with any annoying voices or accents.

So what am I subscribed to?

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The Cure for RPG Nerves

Over on the MySpace page, I mention that I’ll be running a roleplaying game session on Saturday week. Instead of contacts I’ve made through the hobby, though, my players will be friends to whom I’ve explained the hobby and who expressed interest. I, of course, worked myself up into a bundle of nerves after sending out the invitation – yes, the usual “giving up gaming” crisis – and Vickie prescribed a course of yardwork. She’s been going like gangbusters in the yard while I’ve been at work this past while, and last weekend was my turn to do some honest work for a change. I wound up helping Karl cart around forty concrete sleepers from his stepfather-in-law’s place to our yard, then yank up our hardwood sleepers- most of which had rotted through – and take them to the place of a friend who has a pit in his backyard that needs filling. We still need to get the concrete sleepers in and bedded properly, but that’ll most likely be a job for this weekend.

Anyway, now that the usual panic is over, I’m looking forward to Saturday week. I know of at least one of the people I invited is really looking forward to the day, which, if Vickie is amenable, means I can run something like The Shadow of Yesterday. I have the feeling that InSpectres is going to be the game of choice. It’s always been the go-to game around here for introducing people to roleplaying games because it’s an almost-guaranteed fun generator.

May 29, 2007

Wiki Down; Gaming Down

I popped into my Wiki today, fearing that it had become a haven for Wikispam in my absence, only to discover that it seems to have broken down. Every page is giving me an SQL database error message.

I’m not sure if I’ll ask Marcus whether he can fix it up. I think today was the first time in a good couple of months that I’d gone anywhere near it. Also, it’s not really being used as I hoped it would; the various campaigns mooted in the last six months have all tripped at the gate and I lost interest in the last Lexicon game I tried to organise, many moons ago. In that regard, I think I’ll just take it down to make room for more blog posts. (I still have to do some fix-ups on Vickie’s blog…)

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May 05, 2007

Still Thinkin' Like A Die-Roller

So as I mentioned in the last post, Karl's over here today finishing up the panelling of the laundry walls. Ten minutes ago, Vickie tells me that Karl's just been showing her this new tool he's got: a knockrometer. "You know what it is?" she asked.

"What, he knocks on the wall or something?" I said.

"No, a hammer," Vickie replied.

I had a chuckle, then went back to getting changed after a hard day in the garden (Vickie had a harder one, but still).

A minute later, I was suddenly seeing an Alpha Complex R&D lab, with a high-end-of-the-spectrum technician handing a knockrometer to some hapless RED-clearance Troubleshooter.

"Wait a second - this is a hammer!" the 'Shooter says.

"No, citizen, it's a knockrometer," the tech replies.

"Now hang on, I wasn't born yesterdaycycle," the 'Shooter insists, "and this is definitely a hammer."

"Oh, really? And what security clearance are you, friend citizen?"

"RED."

"No wonder, when you can't tell the difference between a hammer and a knockrometer."

Ahh, PARANOIA. Someday, I must run thee again...

April 20, 2007

Exchanging Addictions

You know, I noticed that roleplaying games seem to be dominating my waking thoughts much less than they used to. I think my last post related to RPGs was, what, mid-March? Strange, only a month, but it seems a long time ago.

As Vickie recently observed, I tended to filter everything social through an RPG filter. If I were organising a get-together, it would be oriented around the local gamers, and although I liked them, it was our common interest in the hobby that I was organising the meet-up around. I’ve been turning that around recently; David dropped over last night for a good chat with Vickie and I (and, I’ll confess, I showed the 360 off), and tonight we’re off to a mentoring scheme get-together and a dinner with some friends whom I met through work. There’re still quite a few folks we haven’t seen in a while and would like to get together with, and some of them are gamers, but the shared interest is only part of why we want to keep in touch (and no longer the dominant part for me, either). Given half a chance, I’d still love to run a Burning Empires campaign, but I don’t, you know, need to. "Successful Gamer" isn't really tied into my self image any more.

Continue reading "Exchanging Addictions" »

March 08, 2007

Priorities and Scheduling

Now that I’m past yesterday’s minor bout of depression, let me have a look at what’s on my plate at the moment and how I want to organise it:

  • First and foremost, as always, is Vickie. Our recent lack of readies means we’ve not been getting out much. This weekend we’re turning that around by going out to see Wild Hogs, as I mentioned. I don’t want that trip to be a flash in the pan, though, and after going over our income and budget again, we’ll be able to afford to go out more often. We have some friends who we’ve not seen in a little while, so it’s about time we made some phone calls.

My other priorities are, in no particular order:

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March 07, 2007

On The Back-Burner

Remember that Burning Empires campaign some friends and I were getting set to run? Unfortunately, one told me tonight that the game wasn't quite his cup of tea, and has decided to step away.

Although I could try and rope in another player, I have quite a bit on my plate at the moment: mentoring, trying to organise an extension on our home loan, committing to play in Simon's MegaTraveller game, making sure I actually work to keep the house we live in clean and well-maintained. This last I tend to neglect when I get a bee in my bonnet about a game; in fact, I have been neglecting it in my mania for Burning Empires. I might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but for the moment at least I want to try and get my life a bit better organised and disciplined.

Continue reading "On The Back-Burner" »

February 17, 2007

Burning Empires: Who Got Game?

I got game!

Post-game dissection of GM technique here. Also, mostly-burned world for new campaign here.

January 24, 2007

eBay Auction: My Entire Heavy Gear Collection

Remember I mentioned Vickie's toothache? She has the feeling that it's due to an abscess underneath one of her teeth. For the past few days, she's been holding and wiggling the offending tooth to try and alleviate the pain. She's also been using Nurofen and toothache drops but to little avail.

Between various expenses over the past six months and helping out family members who haven't yet paid us back, our credit cards are maxed out again; Vickie cannot afford to see a dentist. I'm not willing to let that stand, so I'm getting rid of some RPG books that I've barely touched since we moved up here. By some, I mean forty-two, and by RPG books, I mean my entire Heavy Gear collection.

My asking price of $300 might seem a bit pricey, but that's just over $7 per book without even factoring in the cost of the tactical game boxed set. I'd appreciate it very much if you could bid and/or spread the word around to any of your gaming friends.

InSpecting Frustration

Hello, everyone. The last week or so has been – well, exhausting, but not particularly busy. It’s just been so damned hot up here!

Long Weekend Gaming seemed like a good idea at the time, but although the gang at the meet-up were generally accepting of the idea, responses to the e-mails I sent out were slim. Instead, I had more interest in running a game on the weekend just gone, and not from any of the gang who turned up to the get-together! Patrick and Scott, the two guys who recently moved to Cairns, were keen for some game, any game, so I organised a session starting at 1PM on Sunday the 21st. I hoped I’d be able to run the Fires Over Omac demo for Burning Empires, but Vickie had previously made clear that she found the main enemy in Burning Empires repulsive, and the demo needs at least three players. And although Vickie is keen on Dogs in the Vineyard, she’s still suffering from not just neuralgia but also toothache (more on that later).

Continue reading "InSpecting Frustration" »

December 17, 2006

They Keep On Moving Up...

In the last week or so, I've had two people get in touch with me via e-mail after having moved, or moved back, to Cairns. Guess what? They're looking for a game. They found my web log, read a few posts and decided to get in touch!

This is bloody great! Putting "Cairns" and various phrasings of "roleplaying game" in my website's meta tags has really paid off. Last night, I sent out an e-mail to my gaming contacts about organising another gamers' get-together on Saturday, January the 13th, and I'm hoping both of the gamers who got in touch can make it!

December 05, 2006

Dogs in the Workplace

A couple of days ago, Vickie happened upon a printout I'd made of a post on the Burning Wheel Forum about the Vaylen, the alien enemies in the Burning Empires RPG. She read it, and found herself being repulsed by the description of the Vaylen's conquest of humanity, so much so that she wouldn't be interested in playing in a BE campaign. She compared it to the life cycle of the Alien in the Alien movies which I've long-known she has a negative interest in seeing (it put her off another chance to see her favourite aliens in action in Alien Vs. Predator).

Continue reading "Dogs in the Workplace" »

November 26, 2006

Wherein I Grok Burning Empires

Yeah, I've been hanging out on The Burning Wheel Forum lately, kinda sorta to get my "lving vicariously through others' games" fix but also to get a better feel for how Burning Empires works before I play it. And regardless of the former, it looks as though I'm well on track with the latter.

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November 19, 2006

This Whole Creative Agenda Business

WARNING: This article is still a work in progress. The writing isn't quite as plain-English as I'd prefer, and I think I need some feedback before I can get it there.

If the RPGnet Forums are any represenation of the hobby of roleplaying games, any body of theory that attempts to examine or address the activity of roleplaying is almost always savaged by people who believe that, because they don't understand it, it mustn't be of any utility to anyone with a brain. One of the most oft-attacked targets is a body of theory known as the Big Model, suggested by a gamer named Ron Edwards and hashed out on the RPG forum he manages, The Forge. Now, while I might agree that the model and the way it's presented have their weaknesses, I do believe that a) the model as a whole is sound and b) has helped identify what I want out of the hobby. I chalk the fact that my recent gaming hasn't been consistently successful up to a combination of conflicting schedules and my gaming skills being rusty.

The least understood, and most attacked, part of the model is the part known as "creative agenda", or more commonly, "GNS", the abbreviation of the three creative agendas the model posits - arguments over the utility of GNS have cemented a long-standing animosity between many denizens of RPGnet and The Forge. I read a recent thread over on RPGnet, where a poster attempted to explain her understanding of GNS, and while I had the feeling that she grasped the more readily-evident concepts, there was something fundamental to the three creative agendas that she'd missed - and that the main essays themselves hadn't explained to my satisfaction. That fundamental thing is: What the heck is a creative agenda anyway, and what makes them different to the other agendas or goals others suggest?

Here's my attempt to answer that question. I considered posting it on RPGnet, but thought better of it and put it up here instead. It's probably not complete or as thorough as I'd like, but I believe it's serviceable enough.

Continue reading "This Whole Creative Agenda Business" »

November 12, 2006

More (or Less?) Con Thinking

Well, after getting all ambitious and posting about organising a non-RPGA con in Cairns, I've had a longer brew on the idea and the various points and suggestions made by helpful respondees - thank you, Leefe, Sim, Steve, and Tracey, by the way. I knew that a convention would involve a significant investment of time and money, and the respondees helped clarify what those investments would entail. While there's nothing wrong with the idea in principle, Vickie and I can't really afford to make those investments at the moment (said moment probably lasting for the next twelve to eighteen months). Due to our helping some people out we're in quite a bit of debt right now; one of our New Year's Resolutions is to clear it all by the end of 2007. Also, the practical matter of planning and organising a convention is simply too impractical right now.

However, there's something I'd still like to do, and that's organise and establish a regular gamers' get-together. It's an idea I've had for a year or so now, and after the rough success of the Courthouse meetup in October I think organising a monthly sit-down lunch is going to do more for the Cairns gaming community - or at least, for my getting to know the Cairns gaming community - okay, fine, for the odds of me putting a campaign together - than a roughshod convention.

So, I'm going to start e-mailing people sometime in early December to drum up some interest in another get-together for January or early February, and if that one pans out okay as well, I think we'll be able to make it a regular event.

November 09, 2006

Did Ah Hear a Mee-Yow?

In the spirit of the moment, I offer you this link.

Yep, Tracey, one of my players for Saturday, has had life sneak up and bite her on the arse; although she wasn't 100% sure she couldn't make it as a result, I thought it fair on everyone else that I cancel the game.

Plus, Vickie and I have some Chrismas shopping to do; work's Social Club has organised a masquerade Christmas party in a couple of weeks and she wants to make us up some natty costumes! I'm not telling what we're going as, though; we don't want anyone copying our ideas! I have no doubt photos will be taken, though!

So, no gaming until the New Year, unfortunately.

November 05, 2006

ConStruction Blueprints

In my last post, I listed why I believe the fact that ReefCon is the only fixture in an otherwise fluid Cairns RPG scene presents problems for said scene. It's easy, though, to criticise an endeavour when you've never made or are unwilling to make a similar endeavour yourself. Which means that niggle I mentioned in the last post often takes the form of a little voice in my head which says, "Why not organise your own RPG convention?"

And I'm starting to seriously think about it.

Now I know I'd be going into it utterly blind. I also know that there's at least one subscriber to IMAGinewS who's been part of the organising team behind a con or two, which means I'll probably be pestering those people for advice. I'll especially need help with venue organisation and liability insurance.

Continue reading "ConStruction Blueprints" »

My Whinge: ReefCon, The Cairns RPG Fulcrum

Something that’s been niggling at me for a while bloomed into a full-fledged bother after the October gamers’ get-together. It was due to a comment that Bruce made; I can’t quote it verbatim, but the gist of it was that while there’s a lot of turnover in the membership of the Cairns RPG scene, ReefCon remains the one dependable fixture. On one had, that’s cool; there’s at least one event per year where gamers new to town have a chance to meet fellow gamers.

On the other hand, that presents two distinct problems.

Continue reading "My Whinge: ReefCon, The Cairns RPG Fulcrum" »

November 04, 2006

Fires Over Gordonvale

Gaming-wise, I’m hankering for this coming Saturday, when Tracey and Brett rock on over. I sent the below to Vickie and them last night:

Okay, so on Saturday the 11th I'd still like to play a session of Burning Empires with you guys. However, I know that World and Character Burning aren't exactly playing, and I know from last week that at least one of you wanted to do some more actual play than we did.

So instead of - or, if we somehow wind up having the time, as well as - Burning a World and Characters, I'd like to suggest that we play the first official Burning Empires con module, Fires Over Omac. The world and characters are pre-burned; in fact, as none of it is GM Secret Stuff, I heartily recommend that you download the module and character sheets from here.

I think it'll give us an idea of whether we as a group will enjoy a campaign of Burning Empires before we get seriously stuck into it.

Continue reading "Fires Over Gordonvale" »

October 29, 2006

ParaShoot

Well, last night’s game session went pretty well. In the end, only Tracey and Brett could make it over. After some chat, we sat down at around 3PM to create an InSpectres franchise and its employees. The result was ParaShoot, a BrisVegas (yes, that was the name of the city) start-up whose headquarters was formerly a demountable foreman’s office on a vacant lot – that was actually an old graveyard. It had great views of the beach, though. The employees were an ex-forensic profiler with a taste for gunplay (Tracey), a stage illusionist who was a descendant of Harry Houdini (Vickie) and an Asian computer geek with cybernetic computer interfaces (Brett).

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October 14, 2006

Gamers in Court

The kitchen and dining room are almost entirely painted. Actually, the kitchen itself is done, aside from a couple of touch-ups. The dining room still needs a little work, though; the skirting boards need a thorough sanding-off before they can be painted. There’s also a vertical trim in each corner where the dining room walls meet that needs a good smoothing-over. I’ll get those jobs done this weekend; we want our dining room back soon!

Still, we’re going to be a little busy. Today at midday, Vickie and I are meeting some local gaming friends at the Courthouse Hotel for lunch and a few games of Chez Geek; Vickie once said that a few of the people coming will probably be glad that they'll just be meeting people without the expectation of having to play an RPG session. It’ll be just seven of us today, Vickie and I included, but I’d like to make it a regular, maybe monthly thing. Getting together with friends has become a tricky proposition lately, not just because of the renovations; I think people’s schedules are getting a little more crowded. Having something regular that you can plan for in advance would help people keep in touch.

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October 06, 2006

The Shotgun Approach

While we're doing the kitchen over, I've decided to start recruiting for a play-by-post game of Burning Empires. I've put up notices in a few places:

I've got one player already - the friend in Canada mentioned in some of the above posts (hi, Cheryl!). Anyone else interested?

(Don't worry, darling - I fully intend to start pestering you about Dogs in the Vineyard with Cheryl once the kitchen's out of the way! :-D )

Continue reading "The Shotgun Approach" »

September 30, 2006

The Big Trick to Game Mastering

I remember a while ago I was broadly championing Primetime Adventures as a nice, simple game that would help generate heaps of fun; so simple that fun could still be had even when played over Skype. I tried twice to put a game together, and what happened? Each attempt petered out after a couple of sessions; scheduling conflicts got in the way, which is fair enough, life sucks sometimes; the real problem was that the group as a whole wasn’t in any hurry to work around our schedules and continue the game.

So much for "The most reliably fun roleplaying game in the history of fun." (Apologies, Vince.) So what went wrong?

Continue reading "The Big Trick to Game Mastering" »

Goals vs. Burning Empires

Remember a few months ago I posted about what I want out of my gaming and analysed my gaming catalogue based on those criteria? I want to examine my current RPG of the Moment, Burning Empires, using the same criteria and see where it fits. My opinions will also be shaped by some recent attempts at gaming, which I’ll probably go into some more.

Those few months ago, I came up with the following goal that I could evaluate games against:

The goal of the campaign is a set of interwoven stories (with beginnings and endings) created as the campaign progresses, not beforehand, by all of the participants at the table. During the process of creation (i.e. the campaign), each participant will be engaged in not only creating his or her character’s story - the character, the challenges it faces and what the methods it uses to overcome those challenges mean to it - but also assisting the other participants in creating the stories of their characters.

There are also a few real life concerns that weren’t expressed in that goal, which I explain a bit more here.

Continue reading "Goals vs. Burning Empires" »

September 25, 2006

We Have Our Living Room Back!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen; thanks to some dilligent and hard work by Karl (with assistance from yours truly), we now have our main room back and looking far better than it did a couple of months ago! Our furniture is all back from Karl's and we're slowly re-assembling the entertainment appliances; I'll be spending this evening re-organising the cables behind the TV in order to prevent another rat's nest. Once we've put some decorations up on the walls, I'll take some photos for you folks.

The deadline pressure is off, although we wish it weren't. I got a call from Dad on the weekend; Heather had called him and told him that she'd just been in to see the doctor with eye problems, which turned out to be a burst blood vessel. She's in the public health service waiting queue to have it seen to, and until that happens she can't fly. It's a bugger, as we were all looking forward to Heather being here, but at least it ddn't happen midair. I've been meaning to give Heather a call; she's too old to go to pubs and tell the football supporters that they're all Southern pansies.

So the week of leave I was taking before she arrived, whch we were planning to spend frantically dusting and clearing up, will still be spent frantically dusting and clearing up, but in addition, we'll de-wallpaper and paint the kitchen and dining room (another long-overdue job).

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September 15, 2006

Setting Info and Playing Without Playing

Okay, folks, I've been naughty; I just spent some cash on Yet Another RPG. This one's Burning Empires, written by Luke Crane and using his Burning Wheel system. It's based on the Iron Empires comics by Christopher Moeller, known for his Star Wars comic book cover art and illustrations for Magic: The Gathering cards. A few years ago, Moeller was in discussions with Avalanche Press to do an RPG and setting guide for Iron Empires; it was even mentioned at the back of one of the Iron Empires issues. That didn't work out, allowing Crane, a fan of the comics, to pitch his own system to Moller. Several months of blood, sweat and tears later, Crane and Co. at Burning Wheel HQ put out an amazing product.

One of RPGnet's members was recently reading an old Iron Empires issue, read the note about the then-forthcoming Avalanche Press effort and started a thread asking for more info. A respondent wrote:

As much as I like BE, I wish there was a metric ton more setting info.

Continue reading "Setting Info and Playing Without Playing" »

September 11, 2006

King of the Mountain

It’s been a busy few days:

Friday and Saturday was the Cairns Amateurs, a horse racing carnival treated with all the pomp and pageantry of the Melbourne Cup (on a local scale, of course). Naturally, The Cairns Post has a big representation there, and as every business who’s any business is also present all of the Post’s ad reps spent Friday there, with a rotating schedule for Saturday. Yours truly was left to man the phones; thankfully I had a backlog of bookings to keep me busy. I was asked whether I could help out on Saturday, but with a weekend of renovation work on the cards, I had to decline. So everyone else went and got pissed without me.

Continue reading "King of the Mountain" »

August 26, 2006

The Spillane Way: Timeslot Juggling

Unfortunately, we've not been so lucky with The Spillane Way lately. The renovation work we're doing here is really taking its time, and in order to get it out of the way any time in, say, the next month (before my aunt Heather arrives from the UK), we're having to make it a priority on the weekends. Which means Vickie and I can't really spend three or four hours of Saturday afternoon on gaming, not when we could be sanding, painting, drilling and such. It also looks as though Saturdays aren't working out so well for Salidar, either.

Also, the first session didn't exactly fire as I was hoping it would. I think the main reason is, really, getting to know the game, not in terms of rules (ther really aren't that many) but in terms of me, the Producer, thinking on my feet and driving the events of the game towards meaty, engaging problems that'll interest the players. Still, I've been doing some work on that in the past couplle of weeks; Chris "Bankuei" Chinn posted an article on his Deep in the Game blog called Flag Framing that I've found really helpful. I've used it to create myself a cheat sheet with all my players' Connections and Nemeses on it, with notes on what they want from the protagonists (the players' characters). I think it'll be a whopping great help. In that first session, I was really stumped on how to put meaningful conflicts into the game. Looking back now, I realise there was a simple answer: Drop a Connection or Nemesis into the scene and make their reason for being there at cross purposes to the protagonists.

Still, we have to work on scheduling before I can try that idea out. We'll see how we go!

August 25, 2006

Shadowrun and Interesting Characters

Right. Slacking with the off lately. Back to the bloggage:

Firstly: Shadowrun (Third Edition, as it turns out) was pretty good, especially considering we were all feeling our way, both in terms of rules and each other. Well, Vickie and I were feeling our way with Tracey, and she was feeling her way with – wait, this is suddenly reading rather weird, so if you don’t mind I’ll drop that little metaphor. Okay.

So we’ve got Vickie, who has never played Shadowrun, was, I think, feeling a little uncertain about this whole Lord of the Rings meets Blade Runner business and is always complex-rules-ick, and me who’s on this whole Story Now, Player-Engaement-Yes-Easy-On-The-Rules kick right now. Then there’s Tracy, who’s keen on Shadowrun but hasn’t played or GMed it in a few years and has a “rules are a guideline” mindset; she’s also thankfully pretty cool and patient and went through character creation with Vickie. I think Vickie still came out of it like, “All those numbers – huh?”, but was pretty okay with playing. Meanwhile, I was in the computer room, mucking around with a Shadowrun character generator I downloaded and getting the odd bit of guidance from Tracey (I still managed to forget to buy a knife). We had a fairly short run – mainly because there was no violence and things were getting late, which meant I was getting tired and grouchy – but we got fairly familiar with the system. I think.

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August 19, 2006

The Mountain Comes to Mohammed

Just read about this in the Perrenland mailing list.

GenCon Oz.

Holy Fuck.

August 02, 2006

Lt. Farquhar, You Are Go For Drop!

Hey, everybody: I just got published! The latest issue of Mongoose Publishing's Signs & Portents PDF magazine is avalable, and my article on drops and drop capsules for Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game is in it, starting on page twenty! Woohoo, I say!

Reefcon 06: The Magic Number

I forgot to mention one other thing I took away from Reefcon: There is such a thing as too many players. The fact that there were seven of us for the Friday night session contributed to the general sense of chaos, especially when one player got a bit of spotlight time (the rest started feeling either left out or that the module had become stuck), and although the Saturday session was okay, I have the feeling that managing six players was one of the factors that contributed to the session going a little longer than it should have.

In terms of what I'm looking for out of gaming, I have the strong feeling that the "sweet spot" group is three to four players. If you want to give a decent amount of spotlight time to each player in the group and you have five or more players, then you need to be an expert at aggressive scene framing and keeping the pace moving (which I'm definitely not yet) or else you'll wind up with one of two situations: A player or two hogging the spotlight, or The Classic Party Mentality, where individual characters are just extensions of the overall party, character-based decisions are subject to a half-hour of argument over whether they endanger team safety and nobody gets any spotlight time.

August 01, 2006

Reefcon 06: Dissecting Experience, Defining Tastes

So what can I learn from my experiences at Reefcon 2006?

Overall, the Reefcon experience reminded me personally of a suggestion that circulates through RPG forums every now and again, that RPGs are often “twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours” (that the original quote was regarding D&D makes it doubly applicable here). Do they have to be? No, but a fair few factors work against the "traditional" RPG on that score.

My personal opinion of the Version 3.x incarnations of the Dungeons & Dragons rules is that they work best when "roleplaying", as it were, takes a back-seat to tactical chalenge. It's at its most fun when all of those feats, spells and pieces of equipment Swing Into Action – will holding until he moves closer and then Cleaving equal oh my God, did you see how much damage I just dealt? Now, don't get me wrong; character and what's traditionally considered roleplay are and should be still present; they make imagining the world of the game and the characters in it easier and more interesting. But that tactical crunch is and should be front and centre, because that's where you find D&D's maximum fun. If D&D is the game, then skills, feats, spells, equipment and hit points are the toys.

Continue reading "Reefcon 06: Dissecting Experience, Defining Tastes" »

The Reefcon Report: 2006

Now that Reefcon’s over and done with, I want to review my experiences there, filter them through the lens of my tastes and learn as much as I can. I’ll break this up into two posts, a straight up report with my initial impressions and some general conclusions.

I wound up playing in two sessions. The first, on Friday night, was a Living Greyhawk module. I was one of seven players, most of whom were hormone fuelled teens (early to late) still in that phase where you’re always trying to verbally one-up everyone else (I know how that feels; I can think of several instances in my youth when I was right there). As an example, my character, the first-level half-elf sorcerer Horst Buholt (the Perrenland region has a distinct Northern European flavour, so I went with a Germanic name), likes travelling on foot (you have to pick a deity for Living Greyhawk characters, and of what I read from the two-hundred-plus page deity document for LG, the god Fharlanghn seemed the most interesting choice) and owns a pack donkey. Of course, once the other players found out, a good chunk of session time was occupied by tittering threats to the donkey’s life. Most of the session was pretty much occupied by that kind of sugar-buzz smack-talking. I took it with a smile and did my best to ignore it, but the session was slow and boring as a result. At the end, the DM said, “I hope everyone had fun; I did.” I couldn’t help thinking, “What - really? You seriously had fun? When?”

Continue reading "The Reefcon Report: 2006" »

July 25, 2006

Skyping The Spillane Way

Saturday, of course, was the first session of Primetime Adventures, with Dan and Sallidar joining Vickie and I via Skype. You’ve most likely already seen the “ads” Vickie and I did up for The Spillane Way, the show the four of us came up with, and seen the wiki page for it. As with the first attempt, the whole first session (around three hours, not including breaks) wound up being pitch, but things still went smoothly. We’ve decided to reunite over Skype on Saturday, August the fifth for the pilot.

A few notes about playing over Skype: Firstly, things take longer than you think or plan for. I reckon it's a combination of not being face-to-face with everyone (I have the feeling the pitch might have gone for about half the time when we were face to face) and a phenomenon similar to the one that happens on long phone calls; you're so busy talking you don't realise just how long you've been talking for. I think a timer near my desk would help; each episode of PtA should have four acts, so allowing an hour per act would allow us to get through one episode per session.

On the other hand, we didn't have anywhere near as many "floor" problems, where people talked across each other, as I was expecting (at least none that were obvious). Vickie wound up with less floor time than Dan, Sallidar and I, so that's something I'll keep an ear out for during the pilot.

Also, I don't think we quite got the "click moment" mentioned in some write-ups of PtA games. Again, I think that was a function of both voice chat time and my still fairly novice skill in keeping the pace during the pitch. Nonetheless, I think our show idea is very gameable; I’m very confident in my ability to cook up a good starting situation for the pilot session and pace things from there on in.

Continue reading "Skyping The Spillane Way" »

July 23, 2006

Now In Production: The Spillane Way

The Spillane Way

June 26, 2006

Simmering, But Almost Ready to Serve

The RPG situation has cooled to a simmer for the moment. Everyone’s pretty much got busy lately; us with renovations, Rhys’ mate Kev with work and Simon and Cristel juggling keeping the bills paid and four youngsters busy. So there’s been no more InSpectres since that last time. It looks as though Kev is heading off South; he’s keen on the idea of being able to manage an office of the sales business he’s working for, and that might take him south of the border.

Still, things are looking up again. I’m revisiting the idea of playing some Primetime Adventures online. Vickie’s interested, as are a couple of friends down South, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to tell you how that goes – and, frankly, I reckon it’ll go better than last time. I have a more concrete idea of how the Pitch session should go; put simply, everyone has to be keen on the show idea we come up with or else the game will crash and burn (as the last one did). I’ve been listening to the audio recordings of the “Life on Mars” sessions, which are pretty awesome examples of how PtA actually works, as well as the Sons of Kryos’ eighteenth podcast which features some hints and tips.

Continue reading "Simmering, But Almost Ready to Serve" »

June 01, 2006

Windmills Redux

In light of all the thought I've been doing lately on what I'm after out of a roleplaying campaign, I went back to my What Is A Roleplaying Game? article over on the wiki and had another stab at the most problematic section of the article, Playing A Roleplaying Game. All the point-form notes and scattered sentences are gone, but a few paragraphs, especially the "Roleplaying Vs. Roll-Playing" section, still don't quite say what I want them to (not that I'm sure what that is). So please read and criticise in a constructive fashion!

May 21, 2006

Germans and St. Bernards

Well, Rhys, Kev and I had our second game of InSpectres today, and Vickie joined us for her first! (Well, first since 2003.) With the team turning a loss on the books, RPI owner Albert dcided to bring in some new blood; specifically, Lieutenant Ingrid "Iron Maiden" Irony, German Army Logistics Corps (Retired), to bring things into line and get the firm turning a profit. We kicked things off with an Employee Interview; as Albert was busy, he got Jim-Bob and The Shark - the two people Ingrid would be whipping into shape - to interview her. (Interesting, RPI now employs two ex-armed forces types - army and navy! I smell future rivalry...) Things went pretty smoothly; I must admit, I partway left Rhys, Kev and Vickie to it while I rolled the dice and consulted the Client Contact table.

The results were "Angry, Government Official, Abnormal Weather, In a Sketchy Neighbourhood." A little thought gave me Gary Pitsley, Councilor of Urban Management for Cairns City Council, that kind of bull-necked political shit-kicker who's always having a bad day and lets everyone know it. The abnormal weather was a blizzard (which is about as abnormal as you can get in Cairns), and the sketchy neighbourhood was the back-end of Parramatta Park.

Continue reading "Germans and St. Bernards" »

May 15, 2006

Campaign Design: Goal vs. Games

Previous: Forming a Goal

UPDATE 16 May 06: On re-reading the "Game Design as Process" article, it seems that identifying mechanics - i.e. the set of rules a given game will make use of - should be left until after a play group is recruited and play strategy has been determined. This runs counter to conventional gamer wisdom, which holds that the GM usually picks the rulebook before recruiting players.

Personally, it's a little hard to imagine getting people intersted in a game based solely on the goal and the key indicators of what I want out of the game - there doesn't seem anything particularly "cool" that can be discussed with or shown to a potential player in order to hook his or her interest. People who've never played in an RPG might be mystified by the well-intentioned yet broad statements, while experienced gamers may well want to cut the bull and start looking at books, rules, fiction and pictures so they can get jazzed (or not) on the idea of the campaign.
Then again, maybe the goal needs to incorporate items like intended setting elements and such.

Still and all, I think the below text accomplishes something constructive in terms of getting me and my "fun-to-GM" campaign closer together, so I'm not taking it down.


In the past, I’ve selected a game book to base a campaign around based on its pretty pictures of cool machines – see, for example, Bubblegum Crisis, Heavy Gear and Starship Troopers. Now that I’ve had some more experience with various systems and how they aid (or not) a gaming group produce fun (which, for these purposes, I’m defining as engagement and satisfaction, including but not limited to the happy/joy sensation commonly associated with the term) and a goal for the next campaign I want to run, I want to take a look at the games I could use as the basis for my next campaign and evaluate whether they’d meet the goal.

I’ll start with a list of games I’ve been kicking around lately:

  • Dogs in the Vineyard
  • Heavy Gear 2nd. Edition
  • InSpectres
  • Primetime Adventures
  • The Shadow of Yesterday
  • Sorcerer
  • Starship Troopers

Now I’ll examine each individual game through the filter of the campaign goal I’ve written. Just a reminder: “The goal of this campaign is a set of interwoven stories (with beginnings and endings) created as the campaign progresses, not beforehand, by all of the participants at the table. During the process of creation (i.e. the campaign), each participant will have been engaged in not only creating his or her character’s story - the character, the challenges it faces and what the methods it uses to overcome those challenges mean to it - but also assisting the other participants in creating the stories of their characters.”

Continue reading "Campaign Design: Goal vs. Games" »

Campaign Design: Forming a Goal

Previous: Items of Play

Now that I've identified some indicators that what I want out of an RPG is actually happening in play, which of them best represent what is desired in the game?

Of those nine indicators, I think four stand out as primaries:

  • Ongoing emphasis on what and who characters are and how the events of the campaign (including but not limited to physical conflicts) change the characters personally.
  • Moderated kibitzing (suggestions / ideas / etc.) from non-involved players on the action between the “acting” players.
  • Identification of potential end-points (i.e. Sorcerer’s Four Outcomes) and players driving their characters’ stories toward them.
  • Statements from players regarding what interests them about the kind of people the characters are, including revision as play progresses.

Continue reading "Campaign Design: Forming a Goal" »

Campaign Design: Items of Play

Previous: Analysis and Considering Goals

After I wrote the last Campaign Design article, I realised I missed a step from Jere's notes, and that step (with a little editing from myself) is to "indicate the type of play that would demonstrate that that goal was working." With that in mind, I went over the list of "What I Want" and tried to summarise what would happen in play for each item if it were happening:

I want everyone at the table to be engaged, even when the current moment mightn't be about their character.

  • Moderated kibitzing (suggestions / ideas / etc.) from non-involved players on the action between the “acting” players.

I want everyone at the table to have the opportunity to contribute to and build upon the game world during the session and right there at the table (even when the current moment mightn't be about their character), not in a wiki or blue booking session between games.

  • Players creating specific set elements / items / NPCs on-the-fly based on broad-strokes GM definition of scenes / sets.

Continue reading "Campaign Design: Items of Play" »

May 13, 2006

Dressed to Kill

Around mid-to-late last year, I splurged on the independent roleplaying game, Sorcerer by Ron Edwards. I'd read recommendations on it in most of Jared Sorensen's work, in Dogs in the Vineyard and on The Forge to make me think it might be worth getting, and the way it was discussed led me to think that it might have some interesting and heretofore-by-me undiscovered techniques for and insights into roleplaying.

I remember reading it and being, well, a touch underwhelmed. But as it sat on my shelf, I read a few Actual Play threads and rules discussions - and things started to percolate. I helped assemble a couple of resources for it on the RPGnet Wiki. One of them, "How To Run: Sorcerer," I put together with the explicit intent of creating a coherent, step-by-step process that I could use to build a Sorcerer campaign concept.

That was a few months ago, and it's only been in the last week that I've been able to get over the first hurdle: Coming up with a definition of Humanity personally interesting enough for me to run. (I've read a couple of play reports that have suffered problems because Humanity and the circumstances which would prompt a Humanity gain or loss check were hazy and ill-defined.)

The result is a work-in-progress that I'm calling "Dressed to Kill". If it interests or intrigues you, why not get in touch? I'd love to organise a game. (You can also find "making-of" notes here.)

May 11, 2006

Campaign Design: Analysis and Considering Goals

Now, if you're keeping up with this web log, you know that things have been looking up lately RPG-wise, with Simon and Cristel moving up from Brissie, Rhys' co-worker Kev from Canada turning out to be a gamer and getting Rhys interested in the hobby (again, as it turned out). You've probably even read my murmurings about various campaign ideas.

A couple of days ago, I saw this slightly older article over on The 20' by 20' Room about campaign design and setting goals. Since then I've started to think more ruthlessly about the whole campaign idea. Instead of starting at "Hmm, which of these books on my shelf will form the basis of a campaign?" I'm approaching the idea more along the lines of, "Now, what do I actually want out of a campaign?"

Continue reading "Campaign Design: Analysis and Considering Goals" »

May 01, 2006

Not Just One, But Two - And A Half!

Looks as though the curse has been broken, folks - Rhys, Kev and I didn't get a single session of gaming in yesterday, we got two, and Kev's talking about running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for Rhys and I! (He even borrowed my 3.5 Edition books!)

The lads got over here a little late. I figured it was a sure sign Rhys was becoming a gamer (see various prior comments re: herding cats), but later I discovered that Rhys had in fact tried a game out at one point, but was presumably bored to tears - as I was dropping Rhys off last night, Kev made a comment along the lines of, "See what I told you, it can be fun with the right people."

Per my last post, I decided to run InSpectres for the guys. Of the two games, InSpectres was easily the most fun. Our boys were Jim-Bob Smith (Kev) and Steven "The Shark" James (Rhys) of RPI (Randomly Precise Investigations), Sheridan Street, Cairns. Here are the things that really stick out in my mind:

  • Rhys detailing the corporate vehicle: a battered, gunmetal Kombi van with "RPI" spraypainted on the sides using a crude cardboard stencil. During the course of the job said van got a rather nasty gash down the side thanks to a botched Stress roll and very nearly had a tree fall on it.
  • Kev introducing the Mystery of the Plasma Rifle, an advanced piece of ghostbusting tech that somehow appeared in the Kombi one day. (This is yet to be solved.)
  • My detailing (after a bad Technology roll) that Albert, the CEO of RPI, had horrid mental scars from a bad experience with a DOS-based IBM XT computer back in the late eighties, refusing to equip the office with any computer more advanced than a scientific calculator as a result.
  • All of us creating a working adventure based on nothing more than the characters, the franchise and a roll of "Frantic, Monster, Infestation, Underwater" on the Client Contact table, which became a bunyip evicted from its home in Copperlode Dam by the sudden appearance of voracious beasts with big teeth.
  • Jim-Bob hauling the industrial-strength vacuum cleaner (ostensibly ghostbusting equipment) down the stairs to the underground bunker-cum-library of Musty Tomes to do some cleaning. Sadly, vaccuming was all the vacuum cleaner was used to do this time around.
  • Both Rhys and Kev using Confessionals to slap "Scaredy-Cat" characteristics on each other after some nasty Stress rolls.
  • The defeat of the nasty monsters using water-balloons, acidic pus and a self-propelled giant cattle syringe (yep, the Plasma Rifle never got used).
  • Lots and lots of laughter at the absurd situations we were all creating for Jim-Bob and the Shark.
  • Oh, yeah, and my turning Albert the CEO into a caricature of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (the distinctive and oft-lampooned mannerisms, not the rampant paranoia and abuse of authority - although there's an idea there...).

In short, we definitely want to follow the progress of RPI, and I'm hoping the firm can hire Vickie, Simon and Cristel soon! It'll be interesting, as the firm, which started on six Franchise dice, wound up with only five after clean-up and vacation, even after a six was the high die on two Bank dice rolls (which nets the franchise an extra Bank die each time). Can the new blood turn a profit?

Continue reading "Not Just One, But Two - And A Half!" »

April 19, 2006

InSpectres = The Fun

Okay, so in my last post I wrote how, in my experience, a lot of character design processes in RPGs are about creating something that feels more like a custom-built toy and giving you rules so you and your friends can play toy wars, testing each other's toys to breaking. Thing is, RPGs seem to mix Trying To Do Other Stuff in with the Toy Wars, which means people looking for Toy Wars get bored with all the other stuff they have to trudge through, and people wanting to just explore or "play a character" get bored with all the stuff that gives the Toy Wars tactical depth and meaning.

So what's the opposite of that for me?

On Monday, I asked Vickie if she'd like to play some Primetime Adventures in the next couple of weeks. I'd been indulging in some more RPG porn, you see, reading the accounts of a group that had created a series called Dungeon Majesty and, as people who've played a Primetime Adventures game tend to, were waxing poetical about how god-damned cool the game is. (If you ever wonder why I proselytise about this game so much, it's simply because Primetime Adventures has the most consistently good Internet word-of-mouth, not to mention most consistently good accounts of actual play, that I've ever read for an RPG.)

However, although Vickie said okay, she didn't seem particularly keen on the idea. I asked her about it, and she said that her experiences with Primetime Adventures - namely, the pitch sessions Vickie, Gav, Salidar and I did for what became Stars on the Move - had been more complex than she prefers. Instead, she suggested InSpectres.

Continue reading "InSpectres = The Fun" »

Neatest Toybox In The World?

I remember sometime, I had something that resembled an epiphany in relation to roleplaying games. Now, I'm not sure of exactly when that happened; I think I have a couple of memories all tangled up with a couple of others. but the content is the point, and I think it's worrthwhile.

I used to enjoy "equipment" books for roleplaying games, and still do to an extent. It's a combination of pretty pictures and impressive, meaningful-looking numbers. I'd lust after them, want the opportunity to use these big, small, sleek, blunt, cool-looking, cool-statted objects in a game.

The realisation I had was this: All those natty pieces of tech? They're just numbers. That Glitter Boy suit of powered armour? All those cool looking machines in Coalition War Camapign, or even the Gears & Striders books for Heavy Gear? Numbers, and lots of 'em. That's all you're geeking out about, son, is just the possibility of putting those numbers next to some numbers you'd already written down on a piece of paper. The actual gear doesn't exist, and while that may seem self-evident, it was nonetheless the idea of an RPG alter-ego of mine actually possessing and using these mythical objects that tended to whet my appetite for playing a roleplaying game. The thing is, all I'm really doing when I whip out my smartgun, link it to my cyber-interface and firing a three-round burst is juggling numbers.

Continue reading "Neatest Toybox In The World?" »

April 17, 2006

eBay Auction: CyberGeneration Complete Collection

Well, as we're a little tight for money, running out of shelf space and realising that some of the games on the shelf we'll simply never play, I've decided to auction off some more of my RPG stuff on eBay. This time, it's my CyberGeneration books. Please take a look; if you're interested, have a bid, and if you're not but know someone who might be, can you forward the link onto them, please?

April 12, 2006

My Ideal Intro for Ice Station Zebra 24

You know how I mentioned in the last post that I reckon it'd be a good idea, if / when I next GM "Ice Station Zebra 24", to start in media res? And how I wanted to do a Federal Network style opening tothe game for the session I did on Saturday?

Well, here's the sort of thing I had in mind. To have it work really well, I'd probably need a laptop with PowerPoint connected to a big screen, but I can see myself doing it with a stereo loaded with the Starship Troopers movie soundtrack, dextrous use of the volume control, and colour printouts as storyboard-style flash-cards.

Eh-em:

BLACKOUT. AUDIO FADE IN on the drum opening of the FedNet March.

HORN FANFARE! IMAGE: "FEDERAL NETWORK"

CUT TO:
EXT: PARADE GROUND. Regiment of power-suited MOBILE INFANTRY in parade formation.

ANNOUNCER (O.S.): (Cue GM's hammy voice over quieter march) All around the world, young people are joining up to fight for the future!

RAPID ZOOM on a TROOPER.

(GM makes picture-frame hands at each player in turn, hoping like heck they have seen the film and get the idea.)

TROOPER 1: (Player 1) I'm doing my part!

FLASH-PAN to TROOPER 2.

TROOPER 2: (Player 2) I'm doing my part!

FLASH-PAN to TROOPER 3.

TROOPER 3: (Player 3) I'm doing my part!

FLASH-PAN to TROOPER 4.

TROOPER 4: (Player 4) I'm doing my part!

CUT TO:
IMAGE: SICON LOGO

ANNOUNCER (O.S.): Join SICON - the Strategically Integrated Coalition Of Nations - and save the galaxy. Would you like to know more?

Continue reading "My Ideal Intro for Ice Station Zebra 24" »

April 11, 2006

Ice Station Zebra 24: Analysis and Recommendations

(Continued from Part 3.)

Okay. It's been another couple of days since the game. I wanted to do a little dissection on Sunday night, but the humidity really got to me, so I decided to rest my brain and head for bed instead. So, with some more sleep and thinking time, here are my ideas regarding the "Ice Station Zebra 24" text and any future games of Starship Troopers (Vickie, Simon and Cristel have said they wouldn't mind a campaign).

Firstly, I'm damned glad I had a group of players willing to put up with an off-key GM's shit for half the game. They deserve better, so next time, I aim to be on key right the way through, which means preparing mentally before the game, relaxing, getting psyched up - well maybe not so much psyched up, but in a flexible, creative, fun state of mind. If I've not written such thus far, my problems during that game were solely my own, so fixing them is my responsibility alone.

Continue reading "Ice Station Zebra 24: Analysis and Recommendations" »

April 09, 2006

Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 3

(Continued from Part 2.)

Through all this, I was still feeling a bit "whatever" about the proceedings. We took a break for dinner during the middle of the combat, which wasn't really a big deal. I asked Vickie, Simon and Cristel how they were feeling about it so far, and they reckoned the slow pace was good for the air of suspense. We got back to the game after pizza, and our three troopers polished off the rest of the Mites. They decided that, rather than wait for four hours until pickup, they'd decamp to the station's comms room to contact their orbiting troopship and get evac ASAP.

As the control console was frozen over, Simon's engineer character cobbled together a working uplink with their communications kit and the station's antenna. They were signalling the ship when Cristel had the idea of listening for any movement outside the comms room. She and Vickie rolled well, so I told them they could hear sounds of claws on metal. "As a matter of fact," I said, "WHAM!" And Cristel nearly jumped out of her seat. Yes, I shouted that last word at my players, and I was glad to see it had worked.

Suddenly, at this point, I started feeling mor einterested and involved in what was going on than previous. I dunno exactly why I started to pick up then and not before. Maybe it's because a Warrior Bug is serious oppoisition for a team of troopers, maybe because including the - I dunno how I can put this without coming off like a hippie theorist, but here goes - the energy and aggressiveness of a Warrior Bug into the shared imaginary space couldn't help but increase the tempo of the game, or maybe I just got over some kind of hump right about then. Regardless, I was from that point on actually feeling positive about the game. I know it's a harsh thing to write, especially as there were three other people at the table who were having fun in spite of whatever the hell was up with me, but there it is.

Continue reading "Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 3" »

Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1.)

"The ride to K-1138’s surface takes 14 minutes," reads the text, "during which time the players can interact and try a little roleplay." The problem was that my players were working from pre-gens that are basically collections of stats, with no "character info". This was intentional; I wanted them to be something of a blank slate so the players could make of them what they wished. This backfired somewhat; the players were feeling a little, "Who the hell is this character anyway?" That might've been fixed iof I'd drummed up some "character notes" for each pre-gen, but I think the only real alternative is to have the players create characters so that they can build their personalities as they go. On the night, I just glossed it over and skipped ahead to the landing.

Something that annoys me nowadays about a lot of RPG rules sets is the "yes/no" nature of resolution for anything non-combat related. If a player wants to try something, or if the GM requires a roll of a player, there's a single roll, maybe with modifiers, that tells the player whether the whole attempt is a success or failure, and if the player fails, that's it, no second chances, or they can wait for an horu or two, during which bugger-all else is likely to happen anyway, and try again. This means you have rolls for stuff that either really doesn't matter to the progress of the game, or that can bring the players to a frustrated halt, or wind up being meaningless anyway as, if no one else wants to do anything in the meantime, the GM can skip time and allow the player can keep trying until he or she succeeds.

There's a case of the former during landing, when the driver of the truck needs to make a roll to get the truck out of the shuttle's bay, while the shuttle is hovering over a fragile ice shelf. The adventure text reads, "failing this check may send a worrying screech of metal-on-metal, but otherwise causes no major damage to either the hauler or the dropship." Which makes sense, you don't want the adventure to be over before it starts be wrecking the truck, but I keep thinking, if the negative result barely affects the rest of the scenario, why roll for it?

Continue reading "Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 2" »

Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 1

Well, the game went off at Simon and Cristel's yesterday evening. Overall, it went well. I'd like to try a post-mortem. Forgive me if this rambles a bit; I stated writing it at half past twelve in the morning, before I remembered we needed an early start today.

The Basics: The game was Starship Troopers. The adventure was "Ice Station Zebra 23", as seen in Signs & Portents issue 26. The GM was myself, the players were Vickie, Simon and Cristel. I'd contacted a few other local gamers, but two couldn't make it, and I'd not heard back from the third after I postponed the session last Saturday. I'd pre-generated six Level 1 Mobile Infantry Troopers a while ago (each one advancing toward a particular cross-training specialty), and also done up a rules summary for the players.

Continue reading "Ice Station Zebra 24, Part 1" »

April 06, 2006

Look The World Right In The Eye

In my efforts to cut down, I've stopped hanging around the RPGnet Forums as much as I used to. I've since come tothe opinion that I'm not missing out on much.

Still, that "much" can, every now and again, be pretty damn quality. I'd like to quote a gent by the name of Levi Kornelsen, who's been making a name for himself on RPGnet as the Nice Guy Who Makes RPG Theory Digestible And Interesting. (Not surprisingly, the forum moderators have made him one of their own, probably because theory talk on RPGnet can lead to flame wars, and Levi's theory threads are usually flame-free, more so than most threads of any topic on RPGnet). It's an open letter to members of the roleplaying game hobby in general, and is titled, "Dear Gamer: Walk Tall."

Continue reading "Look The World Right In The Eye" »

March 30, 2006

Invasion?

Vickie and I had an absolutely horrid night last night; neither of us could get comfortable enough to sleep for any great length of time. As a result, I'm buggered (and very sinus-y) and am spending the day in.

Yesterday evening, I finally pulled my box of six plastic Arachnid Warriors off the shelf and started assembling one in preparation for the game of Starship Troopers I'll be running for Vickie, Simon, Cristel and (with any luck) a couple of others on Saturday. I cleaned, shaved and glued together, ending up with a rather nasty looking Bug. I put it up on the top shelf of our bookshelves with the Mobile Infantry miniatures.

Around two this morning, with the whole insomnia bit raging, I decided to put another one together. That's when I noticed that the first one was missing. Vickie and I had a look around the shelves, the living room, anywhere else I might have put it after picking it up again (which I don't remember doing; in fact, I remember quite specifically where I put it down); no sign of it. I couldn't (and still can't) see any bits of dog-chewed plastic on the floor anywhere. I assembled the second Bug, had another quick look around, and tried going to bed again.

Continue reading "Invasion?" »

March 17, 2006

The Curse Strikes Again

Remember back in December last year, I made that Blues Brothers crack about Dungeons & Dragons?

Yup, Game Night at Trinity Bay SHS was a no-go. The organiser called me this afternoon at work and said that two of his GMs had suddenly had to pull out (one was called away to Brisbane on business, the other was crook), and rather than play favourites and only run for some (a risky proposition as the organiser is a teacher at the school and many of those going along were students), he did the fair thing and cancelled the night.

So, no first session for half-elf Horst Buchold or Skullcrusher (that's right, isn't it, Simon?) the half-orc.

Continue reading "The Curse Strikes Again" »

March 15, 2006

"This'd be the perfect time for a swear-word."

So Simon and I are chatting on MSN about the upcoming Games Night at Trinity Bay this Friday and the characters we're planning for the Living Greyhawk module.

[19:59] Simon Taylor: dont know if ill be a 1/2 orc barbarian or human fighter
[19:59] Simon Taylor: have to have a read and find out
[20:02] IMAGinES: No worries! Still working on it myself.
[20:03] Simon Taylor: so what is it going to be
[20:03] IMAGinES: Think I'll go with the sorcerer.
[20:03] Simon Taylor: nice
[20:03] Simon Taylor: so we going to be at the same table
[20:04] Simon Taylor: (H)
[20:04] IMAGinES: Nah, mate, I'm gonna ditch you as soon as we get in and go play with some more interesting people. :-P
[20:04] IMAGinES: Of course we are! :-D
[20:04] IMAGinES: Well, I hope so, anyway.
[20:04] Simon Taylor: damn
[20:04] Simon Taylor: :P
[20:05] Simon Taylor: so have u played at one of these before
[20:05] IMAGinES: Sort of. I went to Reefcon and played Living Force (only had Star Wars D20 at the time).
[20:06] Simon Taylor: orc barbarian played a bit like jayne
[20:06] IMAGinES: Hahahahahahahaha!
[20:06] IMAGinES: "You don't pay me to talk pretty!"
[20:07] Simon Taylor: me not hired of atitude
[20:07] IMAGinES: Heh heh!
[20:07] Simon Taylor: for atitude even

(slight break for the robo-rollercoaster on Beyond Tomorrow)

Continue reading ""This'd be the perfect time for a swear-word."" »

March 08, 2006

Indicator of an Unhealthy Fixation

Hmm.

Well, after I put that thread up over on the Forge's Actual Play forum about last Saturday's Dogs in the Vineyard session with Simon and Cristel, I received a lot of reads, but no responses. So I asked whether anyone could contribute some constructive criticism?

Ask and ye shall receive; a Forgite by the name of Belinda K. politely pointed a few things out about my postings that I hadn't seen when I wrote them.

Continue reading "Indicator of an Unhealthy Fixation" »

March 05, 2006

When It Rains...

We've met our new friends and fellow gamers, Simon and Cristel, and I've had a game with them. The question now, of course is what next, gaming-wise? And when?

Actually, it's seeming like the question is, what not to play next? Vickie, Simon, Cristel and I have been discussing options over IM, and so far we seem almost spoiled for choice:

Continue reading "When It Rains..." »

Was It Good For You, Too?

Yep, I got game yesterday. Unfortunately, Vickie didn't, I'm sad to say; she rediscovered a twenty-year-dormant-allergy to eggs on Saturday morning after she cooked us a four-egg omelete each on Friday night and was itching all over. (A fucking shame as she was looking forward to the game as much as I was - but she said she'd kill me if I didn't go, so what can a husband do, eh?)

But if you'd like to see how things went - and I'll wreck the story for you, it was a learning process and we had some trouble, but in the end it (for me at least) rocked - read this.

Continue reading "Was It Good For You, Too?" »

February 24, 2006

Conflict Resolution & Task Resolution Explained

Lifted from this Forge thread:

I am going to be a little pedantic about terms, so forgive me. As I use the term, conflict resolution vs. task resolution is best understood in terms of opponents. Let's say one character is chasing another, and the person being chased is confronted by a fence. It's time for a roll!

If the character rolls against the fence, in the sense that it is tall or otherwise difficult, and if we the players consider how fast or strong the character is, then this is task resolution.

If the character rolls against the pursuer, in the sense that the fence modifies the chase (and it might do so significantly if it is tall or whatever), then this is conflict resolution.

Continue reading "Conflict Resolution & Task Resolution Explained" »

February 20, 2006

New Gamer In Town

Now for RPG-related news item the second: Been trading e-mails with the gent who organises ReefCon lately. He's having a hell of a time with his job, which has left him little time to organise Game Days, let alone the next ReefCon; it's all he can do to actually relax on weekends!

But just when I thought that any chance of decent face-to-face gaming was well and truly scotched for the next few months, I get an e-mail yesterday from a bloke who's just moved up to Cairns form Brisbane, and when I write "just", I mean he, his wife (who also games) and kids (who are a bit too young at the moment) arrived last week! He found the IMAGinES web log just before the move and figured I'd be a good person to fill him in on the Cairns gaming scene once he and his family got here.

We wound up spending some time instant messaging each other yesterday afternoon, trading photos, history and general info on the Cairns gaming scene. I called him last night, and Vickie and I will be going over their place this coming Saturday for a nice casual get-together. I'll let you know how we do!

February 12, 2006

Yet More Recorded Actual Play!

This one's a session of the game I've been pimping since mid-June, Primetime Adventures. Instead of being an Internet voice chat, this is a recording of a convention session that was run at Dreamation 2006, resulting in a TV series called Life on Mars. I fyou want to get a better idea of how this Primetime Adventures RPG I'm on about works, download the sound files and have a listen! And if you like what you hear, let me know and we can sort a game out!

If you're wondering, the sound quality on the small MP3 files is okay, around telephone quality; if you have a decent broadband connection and can download the 40+MB zip files, though, the sound quality is much more clear!

February 02, 2006

Curses! Beaten To It!

After my thus-far unsuccessful attempts to get some voice chat gaming going, Matt Snyder, creator of the Nine Worlds RPG and the Daedalus RPG e-zine, has gone and played a session of Nine Worlds over Skype. The overall result was a success, and Matt has even made recordings of the game session available online! I haven't heard them yet myself, but I will get downloading once I get home (assuming I can get an AC adapter for the ADSL modem today).

So come on, all you broadband-enabled slackers out there! I'm not just talking craziness here, it can be done and it can be done well! Who's up for a frigging game?

January 23, 2006

Intimate Gaming...

You know, I just realised something today, after all my whinging and bitching about not being able to get game: At least a couple of my games could quite easily be played with one player and one GM. Dogs in the Vineyard rather stands out as good for one player / one GM, with the added bonus that Vickie is positive about the game. I asked her about a little one-on-one time, and she seems all right with the idea!

What? Post details about it? Actual Play? What are you, some sort of voyeuristic freak?!?!?

(She's gonna kill me for posting this, I know it.)

January 22, 2006

"Training Wheels" Rules for Rules-Free Play?

Well, after admitting to a possibly unhealthy interest in RP forums, I've gone and started a topic on one of them. I think it's an extension of this whole "GM-less/Player-less" business going on at the moment. I've asked the questions:

  • Are you aware of any texts, guidebooks or sets of rules that, either intentionally or otherwise, serve as a "training wheels for freeform" guide / set of rules? How do they work as training wheels, and how do they guide participants toward doing without them?
  • Have you, personally, had a "rules-free success story" similar to SteveD's (late last year, he admitted on RPGnet that his gaming group for his Buffy: The Vampire Slayer campaign was actually doing swimmingly without need for either the Buffy rulebook or himself as GM) with a traditional rules set? Did you find it happening in spite of the RPG rules you were using, or did it occur as an extension / result of those rules?

You can find the thread here. Responses are welcome on it.

RPG Porn

I'm starting to think that reading RPG-oriented forums like RPGnet and The Forge isn't doing me much good; all these folks talking about the game they're getting while I've just had frustration and twiddling my thumbs for most of the past year.

That's probably one of the big reasons Vickie's suggested I start reading news sites more...

January 18, 2006

It's True - I'm Planning to Play Amber

You may have read some scurrilous lie over on Salidar's LiveJournal about me - Rob Farquhar, of all people - being interested in playing the Amber Diceless Role Playing Game via Skype. This is the same me who has long expressed disinterest in this whole "diceless" shit, who read all ten of Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber and thought, "So... what, that's it? That's all the shouting's been abut all this time?", who passed up an opportunity to buy the RPG in an eBay auction.

(Admittedly, the top bid skyrocketed to around $70, but still.)

But yeah, the bastard sends me this PDF of the book and damned if it's not got me interested and intrigued.

Continue reading "It's True - I'm Planning to Play Amber" »

Your Character? Whose Character?

There's been an interesting progression on various RPG discussion sites over the last few months. A little while ago, the Hot Topic was Immersion, i.e. the ability of a player to submerge him or herself in their character and the imaginary situation that character occupies and the opportunities various RPGs offer/don't offer players to use this ability.

Recently, it's shifted into the more fertile (in my opinion) topic of Identification, i.e. the player's ability to identify with really need Immersion to have enjoyable play, but I can utterly understand the need to Identify with my character, because it helps me make consistent, sensible (in the context that they make sense, not that they're safe or not reckless) choices for it.

Continue reading "Your Character? Whose Character?" »

January 17, 2006

"Life, Liz. Life happened."

If, like me, you've been wondering what he heck happened at Dream Pod 9 that turned it from a seemingly-successful RPG company with a sideline in miniatures to a movie company with a sideline in miniatures (which still publishes its existing RPG stock but isn't writing aything new), you will be very interested to see this post on the web log of Marc-Alexandre Vezina. Marc created the original Jovian Chronicles "Green Book" supplements for Mekton II back when Dream Pod 9 was itself a subsidiary of Ianus Publications and oversaw its establishment as a standalone RPG using DP9's Silhouette rules. He's answering a query by a gent on RPGnet, who asked the question that's been bugging me for a while: "... what the hell happened to Heavy Gear and Dream Pod 9?!"

The summary of Marc's answer, in his own words: "Nothing sinister, nothing evil, just life taking its course."

It's worth reading just to see what the old crew have been up to since they left the Pod.

January 14, 2006

RPG WikiProject on Wikipedia?

Here's one for all you Wikinuts out there: Jonas Karlsson, occasional commenter on this blog, is proposing a serious Wikipedia WikiProject on roleplaying games.

Now, I must admit, I'm probably not the best person for a WikiProject - after all, I drifted away from the first and last one I tried to kick-start myself due to lack of energy and eventually interest. But, if Jonas can attract more than one other person (and so far I'm the second to express interest), then I'd say we'd be able to put something solid together.

It's interesting that this comes at around the same time as I start doing some serious revision of my "What is a Roleplaying Game?" article on my wiki.

So would any of you guys and gals be interested?

January 01, 2006

PARANOIA: "Mister Bubbles" Mission Briefing!

Hey, Boots, Christian, Dizzy, Gav, John, Seth: Remember that Paranoia session I ran for you guys way back in December of 2004? Well, the guy who does the Flash animated versions of various Knights of the Dinner Table comics has created an animated version of the mission briefing from that adventure!

If I ever run "Mister Bubbles" again, you can bet I'm using it!

Continue reading "PARANOIA: "Mister Bubbles" Mission Briefing!" »

December 27, 2005

Commence The Splurge!

UPDATE: Due to a local dispute over appropriate use of irony, the spelling in the post title has been corrected. Future use of "teh" will be reserved for use in conjunction with "l33tspeak" or other Internet-related irony. We now return you to our regular posting.

Well, now that Christmas and Boxing Days are out of the way, I reckon it's time to get materialistic. Dad sent me some money in the mail to spend on something I'd like. So, the first of the post-Xmas splurging has commenced:

Continue reading "Commence The Splurge!" »

December 22, 2005

Taking Another Tilt At The Windmill

A few years ago now, I made an attempt at explaining what a roleplaying game is, with an intended audience of Someone Who's Never Played One. I've fiddled with it now and again since, but in the last couple of months I thought I'd try rewriting the whole damned thing.

One of my ideals is to avoid simile and comparison as much as possible, especially the overused "Let's Pretend with rules" or "ancient tradition of sharing stories around the campfire" schticks.

The revised article is still a work in progress, but I think it's at the stage where some more attention would do it good (I'm a little worried that I'm getting a bit too wordy). Please, have a look and tell me what you think. Please feel free to comment here or in the discussion tab of the article (you'll need a login, though).

December 14, 2005

Time to Get Busy with the Saw...

With thanks to RPGnet and the PARANOIA web log - The Ultimate Gaming Table.

December 07, 2005

Shock Scandal: Polite Theory Discussion on RPGnet!

Not so long ago, one of the 20' by 20' Room's contributors posted a link to a thread on RPGnet started by someone trying to nut out some RPG theory - a feat made more noteworthy in that the profile of the average RPGnet poster includes an allergy to theory (pr perhaps, in all fairness, High Jargon Theory).

Now, someone has asked for an explanation of the Big Model, a theoretical construct proposed, discussed and refined on the Forge that attempts to analyse long-term roleplay in order to identify what people, as individuals and groups, find fun, and what methods encourage and support that fun.

Continue reading "Shock Scandal: Polite Theory Discussion on RPGnet!" »

December 02, 2005

It Let Me In! It Let Me In!

Clinton Nixon has applied a recent round of fixes to his FindPlay gamer-finder application, and now it's finally letting us Aussies - even ones in Cairns - sign up!

I'm in! What about you?

I deserve to go to Hell for this.

It's rude, snide and insulting - heck, if I never hook up with any gamers in Cairns, at least I'll know I'm paying my dues.

But I just had to share it with y'all:

    "What kinds of RPGs d'you play here, ma'am?"

    "Oh, we play both kinds: Dungeons and Dragons!"

Never, ever gonna get a game again.

December 01, 2005

The Agent who Came In from the Mystery

Following on from last post's general Ron Edwards theme, here's another Forge posting by the man himself. This time, it's about Jared A. Sorensen (if you don't know the name, you're either an IMAGinES newcomer or you just ain't been reading) and his roleplaying game, Lacuna Part I: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City.

Continue reading "The Agent who Came In from the Mystery" »

November 22, 2005

Gaming Night

Following on from this post, here's the e-mail I sent out:

    Vickie and I would like to invite all of you over our place on the evening of Saturday, January 14th (after the Christmas / New Year Danger Period) to Play Some Games.

    What games? Anything that can be picked up, learned, played and enjoyed in a short space of time. Now, I know you're thinking board or card games, and those are fine for Gaming Night. If you have one or some you enjoy, please bring 'em along.

    But here's the thing: There are roleplaying games that can be picked up, learned, played and enjoyed in a short space of time. There are roleplaying games DESIGNED to go from blank character sheets and no GM prep to a completed, satisfying first session in four or five hours. (No, no pre-generated PCs.) Even with two players and a GM.

    I have some. And I'd really like to play 'em with you.

    So if you're interested, please get back to me on or before Saturday, January the 7th and let me know whether you're coming. If you have freinds who might be interested, please pass this on to them - better yet, just tell them to keep the night clear and drag them along with you!

    You'll need your dice collection; a deck of playing cards would be a bonus. An item of food (bag of chips, a container of dip, whatever strikes your fancy) and a bottle of drink (alcoholic or otherwise) would be a good idea. Again, please bring along anything you'd like to play. I'd like to get a game going by eight o'clock at the latest, and while you're welcome as early as six, please aim to get here around seven.

So far, I've had one reply. Yes, it was positive, schedules pending.

Dogs from Another Angle

Here's a very interesting and thought-provoking comment from the responses to "You're Soaking In It":

    Dogs [in the Vineyard] breaks for me in interesting ways. As a player, it's fine, if not paradigm-breaking. I like the concept and the questions. What I can't get past (as a player) is that I have so much control over what other people do. Almost any situation I can arrange to get my fellows in, we can argue our opposition into anything, no matter how dumb our arguments are. As a GM, it's the flip side. I have to "lose" to some grossly unconvincing statements. It moves the argument from the game to a meta-argument about stakes.

    In general, I'm not too keen on social stats and mechanisms in games. I think it's useful for a GMs to have a way to resolve social conflicts for NPCs when s/he doesn't care, but I see too much reliance on dice rather than interaction in Dogs or Burning Wheel to make me happy. The story I review at the end of a session is often unsatisfying because someone chose a course of action that was unusually stupid because the dice told them they lost a conflict and had to do so. This is an area where vagueness and winging it are what work for me and getting into explicit detail blows my suspension of disbelief.

Continue reading "Dogs from Another Angle" »

November 21, 2005

He Hit The Nail On The Head.

I'd just like to direct your collective attention to a web log post written a couple of weeks ago. It's called The Campaign Fallacy, and it discusses the common myth of the Campaign (or the longer-than-four-sessions campaign) and some answers to it.

The concept of Stealth Gaming is mentioned here, and it's something that, given my current situation, I think is worthwhile trying.

It may well be worthwhile for you Sydneysiders, too - I've been hearing about how the scene seems to be dying off a bit down there. I remember how there seemed no middle ground between Board Game Night and The [Insert Name Here] Campaign Night (which often turned into Board Game Night when one or two couldn't show). Maybe Stealth Gaming and easy-to-access RPGs are what's needed?

Capital-C Character in Trad Gaming

Over on the 20' by 20' Room, Jonathan Walton is proposing a personal gaming experiment:

    In playing the first session of the Warhammer Fantasy game last night, I found myself floundering a bit without any systematic support that helped me figure out how my character would act or what his central goals and conflicts were.

    I'm trying to provide myself, as a player, with the kinds of tools and structure that I'm going to need to play this game effectively. ... I'm going to define a few beliefs and goals for my character, and then keep track of them in a formal way, noting when they change, using those moments of change as major turning points in my character's life, and making that a record of character development.

    I'm going to try doing this on my own, without formal system support, and see how it goes.


Continue reading "Capital-C Character in Trad Gaming" »

November 19, 2005

Smithfield Sprint

Vickie and I finally made a dash out to Smithfield today, to check out the Toyworld store there and its stocks of miniature painting supplies. The first thing I noticed is that it wasnt really a dash as I thought; it was more like a trek. For you Sydneysiders, imagine driving from Normanhurst to Parramatta, thats about how long it took us. I thought Smithfield was much closer to Cairns proper!

Still, they have a fairly decent line of Warhammer 40,000 books, kits and blisters, pretty much concentrating on the major sides (Marines, Imperial Guard, Chaos and Orks). They also have some Lord of the Rings stuff. No, no Mongoose or any other miniatures. The rest of their hobby range is devoted to model kits.

Continue reading "Smithfield Sprint" »

November 16, 2005

Epic Legends of the Hierarchs

For those of my readership who just can't get enough Wiki goodness (you know who you are), I present the latest project by none other than Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade: Epic Legends of the Heirarchs: The Elemenstor Saga! It's a group attempt at cataloguing the history of this epic work of fantasy fiction, all the way from its humble roots as a CCG, through the WizBits animated series to the eleven-novella work of Tycho Brahe himself. ANy fan of this work owes it to him or herself to contribute!

So get yourself a log in and make with the crazy wikifying! The "Begin In An Inn Inn" is just begging to be detailed...

November 15, 2005

National Games Week

I keep neglecting to mention this, but in a scant five days, the United States will be in the grip of National Games Week. From November the Twentieth to the Twenty-Sixth, America will (ideally) be indulging in "... a celebration of non-electronic games, taking the form of events in homes, schools, community center, game stores and many other locations... wherever our members want to hold their event."

Yes, Wizards of the Coast and several other RPG companies are sponsoring the event.

I'll have to follow up with Bruce on that games day he was planning for the Trinity Bay SHS kids...

November 07, 2005

Interesting, The People You Bump Into...

Vickie and I went shopping on Saturday. Close to the markets we get most of our produce from is a little shop called Imagine, which, of course, caught Vickie's attention. It's a general eclectica store: incense, furniture from around our half of the Pacific rim, clothing. Needless to say, it brought the hippie out in Vickie!

Continue reading "Interesting, The People You Bump Into..." »

October 24, 2005

A Virus Wearing Pumps And Pearls

Our town is just like any other
Good citizens at work and play
Normal folks doin' business in the normal way
This morning was like any other
Mommies kissing daddies goodbye
Then the milkman screamed
And pointed up at the sky

From Sheilus to the reefs of Kizmar
From Stargate and the Outer Worlds
They're speeding towards our sun
They're on a party run
Here come Tomorrow's Girls

- Donald Fagen, "Tomorrow's Girls", Kamakiriad, Reprise Records (1993)

Continue reading "A Virus Wearing Pumps And Pearls" »

October 12, 2005

Searching for Serenity

Well, I gave MilSims a quick call today; they're all out of copies of the Serenity RPG, and not expecting any more for a few weeks.

So I'm going to call a few RPG stores in Sydney and see if they have a copy - if so, I've recruited my man Gav to pick one up for me and mail it up. (Yes, I'm paying for the lot - Gavin has depressingly little I can blackmail him on.)

Continue reading "Searching for Serenity" »

October 08, 2005

Incoming Upgrade

Well, a nice bidder on eBay met my asking price of $200 for the NetRunner cards. I was hoping to get a bit more - especially as the number of people watching the auction went from 3 to 5 to 9 to 12 to 14 and, at one point, all the way up to 15 before dropping back to 14 and holding there until the end of the auction, but no one else put a bid down.

I suppose having the auction end at half past midnight on Sunday didn't help, but still.

So, I've got a little spare cash. A lot of it's going on some fresh veg and seafood this week, but after next pay I'm planning on upgrading my PC from 512MB to 1GB of RAM, plus maybe Winter Assault. (Is anyone else still playing Dawn of War?)

I'm thinking of auctioning off my Feng Shui books to pay for the Serenity RPG and some more dice. (Boy, does Dogs in the Vineyard need lots of dice...)

Continue reading "Incoming Upgrade" »

October 02, 2005

Dogs in the Voice Chat

We were all keyed up to play some Primetime Adventures tonight, when two things happned. The first was a sudden and serious lack of confidence in the idea we'd come up with on my part; I was trying to come up with a big Pilot Episode Problem that three actors could be expected to deal with, and... well, I explain it all fairly well here.

Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) Seth had some nasty Internet connection problems, so not only was his Ventrilo server unavailable, but he couldn't even hook up for chat via Skype! We've postponed the sessionf or another couple of weeks, which hopefully will give us some breathing room to rethink the Pitch a bit (if required).

But, as Vickie and I had a stable (well, fairly stable; it did drop out for a few minutes later on) Skype connection with Gav, and we had some time, I suggested we play a little Dogs in the Vineyard. When I explained the premise, I got, rather surprisingly in fact, a "This sounds interesting!" from both Gav and Vickie. Now, let me just say that Vickie has rarely if ever been down on an idea for a game. But this was the first time I can remember that it took only a few minutes to get her that seriously interested.

Continue reading "Dogs in the Voice Chat" »

September 30, 2005

Game Mastering: Better Than Caffeine

Mental Note: Never GM on a working weeknight. I get so jazzed that I have trouble sleeping.

At eleven PM on Wednesday night, the second Pitch session had wound up and I'd gone to bed, but I was wide awake; all I wanted was to get straight back on the PC and do all those revisions to the Stars On The Move section of the wiki. It got so bad that at around one AM, Vickie kicked me out of bed and told me to have a cup of tea and a Valerian pill. They did the job, thankfully, but I only got five hours of sleep with work on Thursday!

I'm glad the next session is on Saturday night!

September 29, 2005

Thankfully, We All Remembered!

Well, that's not entirely true; I forgot to record House. But we all remembered last night's Pitch session, and this time Salidar (who's freshly linked on this site) had a mike! We got pretty much everythign done, and we've organised the next session - the pilot episode of our freshly-named series, Stars On The Move, for this coming Saturday at 8 PM.

You can find a more extensive write-up of Wednesday's session here.

September 25, 2005

Story Appropriateness vs. Risk and Tension

Once again, it may be that Ive been hanging out on RPG forums a little too much lately; at least youre forewarned about the content of this posting. Apologies to any regulars on The Forge to whom a lot of the below will probably seem familiar; I suppose it's my thoughts after seeing some of the stuff you guys, especially Ron Edwards, have discussed actually in action.

Ive noticed that, among those people who not only play roleplaying games but also discuss their hobby online, there seems to be a conflict in the view often held by the, for want of a better term, average gamer.

Continue reading "Story Appropriateness vs. Risk and Tension" »

NetRunner Cards on Auction

Back in 1996, Wizards of the Coast, creators and pioneers of the Trading, or Collectable, Card Game, released its second product in the line: a game called NetRunner. It was based on the universe portrayed in the Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. roleplaying game, and being a fan of said RPG, I was naturally all over NetRunner like a rash. It came out during my first and only year of uni, and as a few of the TCG geeks I'd known from high school went to the same university, I had some opponents.

Continue reading "NetRunner Cards on Auction" »

September 22, 2005

Slightly Off-Pitch

Yesterday was the date Gav, Seth, vickie and I set for the next part of the Pitch: the pre-play session of Primetime Adventures where we work out what the show - the roleplaying game's campaign - will be all about and who the principal cast - the player characters - are. We were due to get together around eight.

At around ten last night, Vickie asks me whether we had anything planned for the coming weekend. I replied that as far as I knew, we had nothing on, although I vaguely remembered organising something.

Continue reading "Slightly Off-Pitch" »

September 15, 2005

Partway Through the Pitch

Well, we finally got that first sesion of Primetime Adventures in last night. Boots had decided that he wasn't fond of voice chat, so Vickie, Gav, Seth and myself hooked up to work out the Pitch for our show.

You can see what we have so far here. I've also started up an Actual Play thread over on the Forge detailing what we actually did.

We didn't finish the Pitch off, so we're getting together again this coming Wednesday (same time, same channel) to finish off characters and iron out any issues. Barring accident or inicdent, we've decided our sessions will be at eight PM, every other Saturday.

September 11, 2005

The Escapist

Thanks to Allen Varney and EvilHayama for both pointing me in the direction of this online magazine. Allen mentioned it generally on the Paranoia web log a few weeks ago, but Hayama linked me to it via ICQ this morning. It's an online periodical dedicated to examining the computer and video gaming phenomenon as a whole, rather than the usual news/ reviews sites and magazines available.

Surprisingly, several big names of the RPG industry contribute; the latest issue contains the second half of an article on destroying the computer game retail system as it exists, written by no less than Greg Costikyan, and previous issues include articles by such luminaries as Warren Spector and Allen Varney, as well as an ongoing column by John Tynes. It's well worth a read.

September 10, 2005

Damn Itch...

Well, as some of you have probably guessed, I'm starting to get the Gaming Itch like nobody's business. I think that's the by product of reading the Actual Play threads on the Forge: all of those testimonials of great times around the gaming table conspire to drive one up the wall when one isn't gaming oneself.

After seven months of Googling, coincidental meetings and the odd e-mail, I've come to the conclusion that there are quite a few Cairns gamers out there; they just don't hang out much on the Internet. I've discovered a few new forums on the web, at least two of which (the Queensland Gamers Guild and Ruby Covenant Roleplaying) encourage Queensland gamers to get involved, but it seems none of the active members are in Cairns; every post I've put up about looking for players or existing groups has been greeted with that wonderful sound of crickets you hear whenever everything stops happening in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Continue reading "Damn Itch..." »

September 03, 2005

You know you've spent too much time at the Forge when...

... you start thinking about all those mini-RPGs they put out, and the thought occurs to you, "Maybe I can do this..."

And then you start thinking about what sort of game it would be, from characters to activities to pre-supplied worlds to resolution mechanics, and you wonder, "When the hell am I going to have time to nut all of this out?"

Okay, let me try and make some sense of all of this for you:

Continue reading "You know you've spent too much time at the Forge when..." »

August 28, 2005

Winding Up for the Pitch

Unfortunately, today's planned brainstomring session didn't go exactly has planned. An urgent family matter sprang up on Seth late last night, which meant he couldn't make it. Vickie, Boots, Gav and I got together via Skype to decide what we wanted to do and to test the software; however, Boots and Gav had intermittent drop-out problems.

The first session of any Primetime Adventures game is dedicated to "the pitch". This term is used in TV-land (and movie-land, I believe) to refer to the selling of an idea for a new TV show (or movie) to network (or studio) executives. In Primetime Adventures, the Pitch is the session where the basics of our fictional TV series are hammered out - where and when it is, what the principal cast usually do every episode, what sort of characters would be cool. As it's important that every player have an investment in the series and at least likes what is finally decided upon, I felt it vital that nobody playing in the game be left out of the Pitch. This meant we either waited for Seth, or pressed on ourselves.

We all agreed that we wanted Seth in the game, and set Wednesday, September the 14th as the date when we'd get together for the Pitch (pending Seth, of course). I'm also having a look at alternate voice chat programs, including TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, in the hope that a server-based system won't have (as many) drops out.

August 27, 2005

Time Lord

Just one more item on the full-frontal nerdity (thanks, Aaron) topic before I go and do something else (although what, I'm not sure, as today is doing a pretty good job of being rainy and miserable): A couple of days ago, I discovered that the second official Doctor Who roleplaying game, Time Lord (originally published in the early nineties by the Virgin imprint Doctor Who Books), is available for free as a PDF document. It means, of course, that you'll have to print and bind it yourself, and as the original book's art was all copyright of the BBC, it's just basic layout Arial font. But it exists and can be downloaded.

Continue reading "Time Lord" »

PtA Tomorow Night

Speaking of full-frontal nerdity, I hope that at 2PM tomorrow, Vickie and I will be gaming for the first time as a couple since we got up here! After the usual organisational fits and starts (see: "herding cats"), we've managed to get a pretty stable group of three Skype-enabled people (or at least, they promise to be Skype-enabled by 2PM tomorrow), namely Seth, Gav and Boots, available for the pre-game prep session (and possibly a pilot episode) for Primetime Adventures.

With any luck, I'm hoping we can get a regular session going; probably once a month. I'm looking forward to it.

Vickie isn't. :-D

Here's hoping this damned cold doesn't get any worse before then...

August 12, 2005

Those Magnificent Men at Mongoose and MilSims

I'd like to take up some of your time with some much-deserved - how do the young people say it nowadays? - "mad props" to a couple of RPG companies.

Now, as any regular reader surely knows, Mongoose Publishing are the company that publish Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game, a copy of which I purchased through Melbourne-based mail order firm Military Simulations a few weeks ago now (as I think I wrote not long after we moved up, there are no Friendly Local Gaming Stores in Cairns). Over the past few weeks, people have been posting on the Mongoose boards that the glue in the bindings of their copies of the book had been coming loose; the pages weren't sticking to the spine any more, with only the binding string holding them together. About a week ago, I noticed the same started happening with my copy; first the tops of the pages came away, and then the whole long edge of the page where it met the binding! (I think the symptoms started a little earlier than that, with the residue that usually holds the inside edge of the pages to each other going).

Continue reading "Those Magnificent Men at Mongoose and MilSims" »

August 07, 2005

Capsules and Capsule Drops

Now, let me just say that I've not gone back on my earlier comments regarding the Starship Troopers RPG now that I've had the chance to read it from cover to cover. It does have its problems, though, which this review over on RPG.net covers quite ably.

The problem that bothers me most, though, is one that the review doesn't mention, and that's the paucity of information available on capsule drops.

Continue reading "Capsules and Capsule Drops" »

August 01, 2005

On the (at-choo!) Bounce, Trooper!

I hate colds. Have I ever told you that? I really hate them. Especially when you're in Cairns. It's meant to be too warm for colds!

I'm blaming Reefcon for this. One of those bloody Brisbane bods brought his bug up with him and passed it on, I bet you. I mightn't have heard any sneezing, coughing or splutterings on Saturday night, but it must've been from there.

In case you hadn't guessed, I've spent the day at home. I've been pretty much ignoring my darling wife all day, which is wrong, especially when she has a cold too. I've spent the day largely fiddling with my copy of the Starship Troopers RPG that came in the mail on Saturday. My opinion? It's all about making Bug-killing combat wombats, and by God, I love it! Maybe it's that dose of RPGA-member mindset that I got infected by (along with the cold) on Saturday, but the book turned up at just the right time. There's just something really refreshing about dropping all that focus on characterisation and angst in favour of "Here's your rifle, there're the big ugly man-eating insects. Do us proud, trooper." I really think the RPGA crowd would enjoy it.

I'm glad I've got that battlemat tucked away. After playing the combats in Star Wars with one on Saturday night, I can see it working really well for Starship Troopers. Now all I need are some miniatures...

One thing I'd like to know after making a couple of characters (one starting PC and one fourteenth-level Lieutenant for NPC purposes), I'm wondering whether anyone's adapted Thomas Kathmann's Star Wars Calculating Character Sheet for Starship Troopers - if not, I'm almost tempted to give it a burl. If there's one thing I've noticed about most D20 games, it's that making a mdeium-to-high-level non-player character can be a right bugger...

Anyway, I'm going to go and relax now. Vickie's making a Lemsip with Crushed Chilli, a very effective, (if rather painful) head-clearer, for me. With any luck, I'll be up at six tomorrow morning, raring to go to work.

July 31, 2005

Reefcon '05 Report

As you may already know, I attended Reefcon 05, Cairns annual RPGA convention at the Trinity Bay High School, yesterday evening. Almost half the players were up from Brisbane; the event they call the Spring Revel Downunder is actually going to be in Brisbane this year, so the money the Brisbane gamers usually save to fly to Sydney or Melbourne for the Revel was used on flying up here instead.

Couple of things Ive learned:


  1. If you want to go to an RPG con to meet new gamers, its best to go to as much of the whole event as time and money permit. Just turning up for one session aint gonna do much good; you dont have any time to really get to know anyone and, unless youre Captain Charisma, youre not giving anyone else a fair shot at getting to know you. Invest your time in them and it's more likely they'll invest some in you.
  2. An RPGA convention attracts the gamer type more than most. Expect to hear conversations on whether to get a mastercraft broadaxe or the enchanted armour next, or how rule X on armour-stacking in the Players Handbook interacts with rule Y on Divination school spells introduced in a campaign card. If you hear any discussions on character development, youll be very lucky.

Continue reading "Reefcon '05 Report" »

July 24, 2005

I knew taking RPG books to work would pay off...

Turns out that one of the other temps is a gamer as well, and knows a fairly regular crew of D&D 3.5 players. Fingers crossed!

Also, the Ring Of Australian RoleplayING has a new member website, the Queensland Gamers Guild. They also have links to a few North Queensland gaming associations. Could well be another potential source of gamers...

July 21, 2005

Stories for TV

Now, as I'm prepping one, possibly two Primetime Adventures campaigns at the moment, I found this ABC Media article a very interesting read. Four authors, of novel and/or script, discuss their experiences in the translation of story to small screen.

I'm not sure whether I'd consider this required reading for a Primetime Adventures campaign, but I'd probably suggest it anyway; if you're familiar with the game, you'll probably finmd yourself thinging about the content in terms of Screen Presence, Budget and Fan Mail, but it's also an interesting insight into how one person's story can change, grow and mutate before it becomes a finished screen product - and recognition of the fact that in TV, there's no such thing as "one person's story".

July 17, 2005

Heavy Gear: Honour and the Game

It's taken me four years to get around to it, but I can now proudly announce that the complete text of the Heavy Gear module I ran for Necronomicon 13 in 2001, Honour and the Game, is finally available on the Internet. I decided to Wikify it, as it's very easy to modify and edit as I go.

So please have a read, and if you played in it, either as a playtester or at the con, I hope you enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at the module!

July 09, 2005

Reefcon '05!

A few months after Margot told us about the place, we finally managed to drop into Sue's Book Exchange at the Showground Shopping Centre in Cairns. Margot told us that Sue's a gamer from way back, and usually gets deluged with offers to join gaming groups.

We had a browse there today - Vickie bought three jigsaw puzzles - and met Sue. We asked her about local gaming, and she mentioned that there's actually a convention on at the Trinity High School at the end of the month. It's called Reefcon, and it's pretty much an RPGA event, so it's D20 gaming only. I've signed up for their Living Force session on the Saturday night; Star Wars is the only D20 game that I have the most up-to-date core rulebook for! Vickie prefers to game outside the con environment, so it'll be just me. With any luck, I'll be able to make some new friends and build a new gaming group...

Continue reading "Reefcon '05!" »

May 17, 2005

Horizon: Virtual WikiProject is Live

Check it out here!

May 15, 2005

RPGnet Wiki: The World of Virtual

As those IMAGinewSers who browse the RPGnet forums are probably aware, the managers of RPGnet have set up a Wiki for public use. Now, before certain of you rush over there to start a Lexicon game, you should know that the RPGnet Wiki has been created with a purpose: to allow community development of RPG-related projects, such as new systems and sourcebooks for existing games. So to paraphrase Seinfeld, No Lexicon for you!

However, I am thinking of setting up a section of my own in there. Ever since I purchased Fantasy Flight Games Horizon: Virtual mini-RPG, Ive wanted to develop the ideas, rules and setting and contained therein a bit more. You see, what Virtual does is take the D20 system as presented in the Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 books (and the D20 System Reference Document) and, to borrow a term from Winamp and computer gaming, re-skins it with new classes and feats it so that it can run a game set inside your computer (in other words, Horizon: Virtual draws much of its inspiration from the Disney movie TRON and the animated series ReBoot).

Continue reading "RPGnet Wiki: The World of Virtual" »

May 01, 2005

Lasersharking and the Honestly Extraordinary

I mentioned about a week ago that I�d been reading a post over on The 20� By 20� Room on the general subject of �lasersharking� in roleplaying games, specifically, whether a game can work and/or sell without it.

Continue reading "Lasersharking and the Honestly Extraordinary" »

April 30, 2005

We Missed You, Johnny!

A while ago, back in the heyday of the Feng Shui roleplaying game, there was a fan website named the Fortress of Shadow, ran by a guy named David Eber. I'd go in there on a regular basis, not only to see whether there was anything new, but also just to check out the existing stuff again.

Probably may favourite article was on a bunch of secret warriors and jazzmen named Johnny Keys and the Swing Killers. It consists of an interview with the titular band, followed by game statistics and history for each band-member. There was even a little WAV-file that'd play a MIDI-style jazz number.

Then, a few years ago, the Fortress of Shadow, as well as the rest of David's site, suddenly vanished into the Netherworld, leaving behind a bunch of dead links on the web pages of other Feng Shui fans. No-one seemed to know where the Fortress had gone, or whether anything was up with David. And this was before the grand days of Google caching, so none of it existed where it could be easily found.

Just recently, though, someone on RPGnet posted a link to a website named fortressofshadow.org. When I first tried to have a look, BigPond ADSL was giving me its usual grief, and I couldn't get in. But this morning I tried the URL again, and sure enough, a new site with all the old goodness sprang up in my browser window - and the first thing I did was to check whether the band was back as well.

They are. Thanks to the labour of Kevin J. Chase and the permission of David Eber, the goodness behind the Fortress' walls are availabe to anyone with a Net connection once again!

Let's face it; I'm going ga-ga over a faux interview bunch of stats. But I still think that the world was a lot poorer when even just that single page about Johnny and the Killers wasn't available.

April 01, 2005

So what's this Armour Class thingy?

I can think of a few people who could use a copy of Dungeons & Dragons for Dummies.

Myself included.

March 01, 2005

Dark Stars

While Dark Stars has a few good ideas and a promising concept, it needs more development and polish before itll inspire or enable a solid SF-horror one-shot.

Continue reading "Dark Stars" »

February 20, 2005

Moving In: The Local Dice-Rollers

Things are also looking up on the gaming front, as well. A few days before the move, Gav handed me $20 for the purposes of buying alcohol for a fellow member of the RPGnet forums, Scott Lette. Gav had wanted to run a Conan roleplaying game module at a local con this year, but didnt have time to write one; Scott bailed him out with one hed written earlier. We had Scott over for a steak lunch Sunday week ago, and I gave him two six-packs of Hahn Premium that Id procured with Gavs $20. Scotts a gamer, but hes also writing a few works at the moment, and will be heading out of state soon on a writers retreat, so hes not after any serious campaigning at the moment.

Before we moved up, I established the Cairns Roleplayers Meetup Group in the hope of attracting any local gamers, and after I got our computers back up and running, I discovered that I had two members! Our first meeting was this Thursday gone at the Green Ant Cantina, and it was pretty good. We met three new gamers; partners Margot Medek and Paul Storm, who enjoy White Wolfs World of Darkness game lines, plus their friend Sean, whom I think is doing a bit of Cyberpunk at the moment. Scott also came along, and we got some good tips on finding gamers from all four (you can find a group photo at the Meetup Groups web site), including trying our luck at James Cook Universitys local campus. I was hoping to try the nachos that Margot recommended, but Vickie and I were the only ones to eat from the big bowl of chips we ordered, so we went home full anyway.

Ill probably wait until the job situation is bedded down a bit before seriously looking at getting a regular gaming group together, but its nice to know there are some local gamers willing to get together regularly!

January 13, 2005

Serenity Roleplaying Game On Its Way

Well, if this post on RPGnet is anything to go by, it looks as though we can expect a Serenity Roleplaying Game to be released at around the same time as the movie. Margaret Weis Productions will be making the game; although many punters were hoping Eden Studios, makers of the Buffy and Angel RPGs, would make the game, Eden believes the risk would be too great for FOX's price for the Firefly RPG license.

So while the RPG mightn't include the glory of our favourite TV series, it'll still have all the goodness that Joss Whedon and the crew of Serenity will be able to cram into the movie. Shiny!

January 07, 2005

In 2005, I Absolutely Avoid Resolving To...

Well, its the beginning of the year, which means resolutions. Ive been thinking a bit about what I want to do with it and myself in it. Im hoping that getting away from some of my troubles down here and moving to a nicer environment will help me focus on what I really want to do; as I (hopefully) wont trying to distract myself from unpleasantness half the time, Ill be able to realise whats really pleasant (like, I hope, hard work).

Being the materialistic sod I am, of course, Ive also been thinking about the things Id like to splurge on should I get some disposable income. These purely materialistic and utterly selfish but god, what fun they are, eh?

Continue reading "In 2005, I Absolutely Avoid Resolving To..." »

December 23, 2004

Those Guys Must Have Too Much Free Time On Their Hands...

I've posted this up on the RPGnet Roleplaying Open Forum, and am making it available in slightly edited for my readers to comment on:

As you may know, I've started reading a bit of RPG theory stuff lately. Thanks to The 20' By 20' Room, I discovered and printed off the free-PDF version of the Finnish collection of RPG essays, Beyond Role and Play. Just today I stumbled across The Forge's article section, and am brewing over Ron Edwards' breakdown of his GNS theory while reading some of his other stuff. (When I met Jared Sorensen, he compared Ron Edwards to Scott McCloud, and having read a little of both, I'm inclined to agree.)

A few minutes ago, Vickie asked what I was reading, and I told her it was Ron Edwards' "A Hard Look at Dungeons and Dragons" article. I contrasted him to the intensity of some of the Finnish stuff (apologies to the Finns reading this) and tried a basic description of what Ron was trying with his GNS theory (i.e. to analyse the many ways in which players enjoy RPGs and find a way of communicating those ways in order to reduce the number of gamers out there who aren't enjoying their hobby). Part way in, Vickie said, "He must have too much free time on his hands."

Now, I bristled at this a bit. I find it fascinating and, frankly, a little affirming that someone is willing to put some time and effort into identifying how the fun is (and can be) created within a roleplaying game ('cos it ain't as easy as the game-books make out). But Vickie went on to frame her comment in terms of all the gaming he must have to do or have done to be able to sit down and work out some theory around it all (not to mention the time required to theorise).

In part, I can kind of take Vickie's point. Our mutual experience of gamers is that organising a session is like herding cats, so much so that we consider ourselves lucky to get a game in once every two weeks. Frankly, though, we'd probably be exhausted by gaming at any higher frequency, and we tend to grumble if we "have to" game more than once a month (then again, we're rather grouchy homebodies anyway).

Yet I regularly see postings and hear discussions about groups whose weekly game sessions are the rule, not the exception, and while I'm a little envious, I'm also amazed at the amount of time that must go into prep (especially for the poor GM) before each session.

So I suppose my questions to the broader gaming community are:

  • How much time, say on a weekly basis, do you invest in actual, active gaming (not reading your rulebooks and dreaming, as I do most of the time)? How much of that is prep time, and how much is actual play?
  • How do you make that time?
    • What activities, if any, are you sacrificing in order to do the work of gaming? Housework? Non-school time study? Overtime? Weekend sports? Significant Others/Families?
    • If you're maintaining an active non-gaming social life, how do you manage everything?
  • Do you ever find meeting up with the same gang every week and/or the prep-time required irritating and/or exhausting? In other words: Do you ever wish you spent less time gaming than you do?
  • And what about you folks who've stepped over the threshold and gone into writing RPG theory or designing your own games (or both)?
    • How much gaming experience did you need to get you to the point of writing theory/designing your own game?
    • How much gaming do you still do in between designing/writing?
    • Again, how do you achieve that work/family/gaming/other stuff balance?

Please note that my intent isn't to attack the gaming community; in fact, I'm rather hoping I can show Vickie the answers and say, "See? They don't have that much free time after all!" Ultimately, I'm honestly curious - perhaps as a gamer who doesn't get enough.

Gaming, that is!

December 06, 2004

Post-Paranoid Delusions

Well, Saturday nights Paranoia XP game went off pretty darned well. It was nice to have the lads over for One Last Game, although I was rather naughty in excluding Vickie through the choice of game (shes not keen on a roleplaying game that takes backstabbing, betrayal and deceit as its core concepts; [she claims] shes just not that kind of person). I just wanted to play The Game With My Name In It at least once.

Continue reading "Post-Paranoid Delusions" »

December 02, 2004

Everybody's Doing It

No no no, you dirty-minded Huns! Caption competitions! Everyone's doing caption competitions!

Okay, this one's not quite a caption competition, but it's close. Steve Jackson Games is working on a supplement to their Ninja Burger game, and Evil Stevie himself needs some help with a title. Enter, and if you submit the winning entry, you get free copies!

Oh, and speaking of caption competitions, the total of entries to the Halo 2 comp has gone up - to three! Ladies and Gentlemen of my reading public, I ask you, are you going to let these people walk away with a prize just for entering? You don't have to enter three captions, you know; one or two will do fine! You have just over a week left to go, so you'd better not let it slide, or else you might realise too late that the deadline, which is, I'll remind you, ten PM, Friday, December the Tenth, has slipped by!

Beyond Fear and Ignorance

I'm getting all geared up to run my first Paranoia session in over - it must be, what, twelve years since I ran (or tried running) Into the Outdoors with Gun and Camera from the Second Edition Paranoia rulebook? Yeah, twelve years, maybe thirteen. I tried running it fro a bunch of friends in high school, including the Hayama and the Cazman. I remember Caz was unfortunate enough to get saddled with the "big, dumb lunk" character of the team (Steve-R-STN-1) and had something of an allergy toward paying big, dumb lunks afterward. Might've been what put him off RPGs in general too.

Continue reading "Beyond Fear and Ignorance" »

November 29, 2004

If You Build It, They Will Come

Thats the theory or maybe the blind hope Im operating on by establishing a Cairns Roleplayers Group over on Meetup.com. I found out about this service via The Forge, and it looks like a good way of organising a gathering of like-minded people.

In fact, here are some existing groups in Sydney that I think will appeal to a broad segment of my readership: Firefly, Roleplayers, Xbox and SciFi/Fantasy.

Oh, and here's one for a certain Melbourne reader: Buffy.

November 26, 2004

Mutant Experience Fortune Cookies

Over on Greg Costikyan's Paranoia XP web log, Allen Varney is asking for "fortune cookies" - those little one-line quotes that appear on the bottom-right corner of almost every right-hand page in Paranoia XP - for the next supplement, The Mutant Experience. If your forune cookie gets published, and you provide your real name, Allen will "do [his] best to list it in the credits of the supplement". Get in quick; Allen's given a deadline of Monday, November 29th.

Speaking of caption competitions, the Halo 2 comp has been running for a week now, and I've only received two entries! Come on, people! Where's your creativity? Your wit? Your greed for free stuff?!?!?

November 24, 2004

15 Questions on Gaming

Matt Snyder has got on what he calls an "RPG Meme Bandwagon" and posted fifteen gaming-related questions on his LiveJournal. I found out thanks to Ginger Stampley and the 20' By 20' Room, and, as may well be obvious, I decided to answer them myself.

Continue reading "15 Questions on Gaming" »

November 05, 2004

Shatterzone Action Deck?

While going through my Shatterzone Boxed Set, I was able to confirm a suspicion of mine - that I'm missing the first half of the game's Action Deck of cards.

Does anyone have one (either a first half or a complete Action Deck), ideally in good condition, they'd be willing to sell?

November 03, 2004

Biggest Auction Ever: Necromunda!

Well, it's my biggest auction ever: My complete collection of Necromunda kit, including rules, terrain, miniatures, even my two 3' by 4' game boards, is going under the hammer!

Once again, please rock along and have a bid, or if you know someone who might be interested, why not spread the word?

[UPDATE November 6th:] Lauren and Jason were over this evening to watch some Firefly (Lauren's now talking about getting the DVD set herself). Lauren pointed out the boxes of Necromunda gear I had sitting in the living room - and Jason pulled out his wallet. I wound up selling all the Necromunda gear, my game boards and my paints for a bit over $400 in cash. Needless to say, I cancelled the auction on eBay (my apologies to the seven watchers).

Another ALIENS Auction: Leading Edge Board Game

After my ALIENS Colonial Marines miniatures were snapped up so quickly, I decided to put my long-unused ALIENS Board Game (also by Leading Edge Games) up for auction. It's not gone quite as quickly, but it quite quickly had a bid put on it.

As usual, if you like it, or you're an ALIENS nut, won't you put a bid in? And if you know someone who's an ALIENS nut, can you spread the word, please?

October 31, 2004

My Wonderful Wife.

Late last week, I realised once again what a wonderful woman I married.

You see, Vickie has been doing most of the work leading up to our move. Shes organised the notice to her tenants, shes made lists of stuff to go and to be sold, shes even hit job sites looking for something for me. On top of all of this, though, shes also gone searching for gamers in Cairns whom we could hook up with.

So far, weve had sporadic luck. A website Vickie found for a Cairns-based group turned out to have not been updated since 2001, and the author has since moved back down to Melbourne and started an SF web comic. However, weve sent her an e-mail in the hope that she can hook us up with any of her mates who might still be up there. (Fingers crossed.)

Vickie also found a site for the Far North Queensland Gamers League. It seems more computer/video gaming oriented, but geeks tend to cross-pollinate, so I might give it a whirl anyway. (At the very least, I may be able to hook up with Halo 2 players in Cairns.)

So yes, I have a wonderful wife whos always thinking of wonderful things to do for me.

As for me, I keep spending our money on myself. :-D

I must also give mad props to Gav, whos done something quite similar over on the RPG.net Tangency forum.

ALIENS Marine Miniatures Auction

While digging through my gaming kit, I came across these bad boys: Ten miniatures from Leading Edge Games' ALIENS movie franchise line, plus packing case. As I'm pretty much getting out of miniatures, I don't really have a need for them any more.

I have a couple more auctions (of my Games Workshop stuff) that will pop up over the next week - I'm holding them until closer to November payday. I'll be sure to let you know as soon as they go live. In the meantime, if you're an ALIENS nut, won't you put a bid in? And if you know someone who's an ALIENS nut, can you spread the word, please?

[UPDATE 9.50PM:] Actually, don't worry about it; someone just nabbed them for the Buy It Now! price of $70. (If it was someone you mentioned it to, thank you very much!)

October 19, 2004

Aeon On Sale

Just to let you know that I've put my copy of Aeon Limited Edition up for sale on eBay. Please have a browse, and if you're interested, put a bid on! If not, be sure to let your friends know!

October 13, 2004

Hat Trick - The Computer Is My Friend

After the downer that was the last post I made, I thought I'd let you all in on some good news I discovered this morning. With everything that's happened lately, I decided to take advantage of the company's employee assistance service, which meant visiting the counselling firm's office in the city. after the session, I decided to quickly nip into Games Paradise (I figure a little browsing now and again is good for the soul).

On the New Release shelf, they had a copy of Paranoia XP. Although I'd sold off all my Second Edition gear, I'm still interested in the game generally (and there was the idea that part of the proceeds from the sale could go toward XP), even to the point of contributing the odd comment on Greg Costikyan's Paranoia XP web log (lead writer Allen Varney even called a particular contribution of mine "a cut-and-paste keeper for the new playtest draft"). So I thought I'd pick it up and have a flip-through.

Eventually, though, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check the Credits page - and sure enough, there in the "Valued Service to The Computer" list, is the name of yours truly.

I am well chuffed! So chuffed in fact that I immediately laid the copy by in preparation for Friday's pay-day.

"But what's the hat trick?" I hear you ask. Simple, my friends: This is the third official, printed RPG product I've had my name in. The other two were Bubblegum Crisis: Before & After and Bubblegum Crisis: EX.

I doth rock! Bow ye before me, o assembled several of my gaming community, for I am the most rockin'est guy you have ever seeneth! :-D

(By the way, Rog: You're in pretty cool with the Mongoose Publishing boys and girls. Can you give them all a big we sloppy kiss for me, please?)

UPDATE 14 October: I am now the proud owner of a copy of Paranoia XP, andf my contribution did indeed make it all the way from playtest draft to publishing with just a little editorial tweaking; it's that natty bit of dialogue that runs from the bottom of the left column to the top of the middle one on page 87. Yippee!

October 09, 2004

The Church of Arthur

Here's an interesting little article that I think makes a nice piece of speculative fiction as much as a source for RPG ideas: What if the Arthurian legend became a religion?

September 19, 2004

Game Dream #14: He's Dead, Jim!

Theres been an issue with many roleplaying games thats been bothering me for a while, and I managed to turn it into a potential Game Dream topic for Doc. (I'd say he liked it!) Simply put, its the consequences of player character death in a campaign.

    Many "traditional" RPGs incorporate the possibility of the irrevocable death/disabling injury of a player character into their basic mechanics, yet often skirt the issue of what happens to the game in such a case, instead encouraging the GM to "fudge" the results if the GM doesn't want a given PC or PCs to die.

    How has your gaming group, current or previous, handled character deaths due to system-legitimate causes, i.e. combat or traps (assuming no intent on the part of another GM/player to kill a given PC or PCs)? Which methods worked well, and which didn't?

Continue reading "Game Dream #14: He's Dead, Jim!" »

September 17, 2004

From Space Marines to Starship Troopers

Intriguing news on the RPG - well, miniatures wargaming, actually - front: Mongoose Publishing of Swindon, U.K. (home to the stunningly attractive Roger) has signed on none other than Andy Chambers, late (and to my knowledge, still) of the mighty Games Workshop, to develop their upcoming Starship Troopers wargame!

Would you like to know more? I would: I'd like to know whether Andy's been allowed to grow back that long-haired, mutton-chop-and-mo old-skool James Hetfield look, or is he sticking with the clean-shaven and short-cut Gaming Industry Professional look. Answers probably not forthcoming in this publication!

Me, I just can't wait until the RPG comes out.

September 07, 2004

Game Dream #10: Tangled Webs

Paperwork tends to be the bane of the average Joes existence, and this is no less true in roleplaying games. Docs tenth Game Dream is given over to examining how much work we need to put in when maintaining our campaigns.

    During games, how do you keep track of the various plot hooks, hints, and people? Are you a master of the arcane memory arts and keep them in your head? Or, are you a mere mortal who must put them to paper?

Continue reading "Game Dream #10: Tangled Webs" »

Game Dream #9: Positive Reinforcement

Docs taken an introspective turn with Game Dream #9, in looking at the effect gaming has had on ones life:

    What is the most positive thing you have gained from your gaming experiences?

Continue reading "Game Dream #9: Positive Reinforcement" »

Game Dream #8: I'm Late! Rewind!

Well, now that server moves, marriages and other issues are out of the way, I can do some catching up:

    How have the games you've been involved with dealt with the passage of time? Has it been primarily linear, skipped around a lot, or even reversed?

Continue reading "Game Dream #8: I'm Late! Rewind!" »

July 25, 2004

Game Dream #6: Defying Convention

In the latest Game Dream, Doc steers away from gaming itself to ask some general questions about one of Gamings institutions: the convention.

    Have you attended a game or media (i.e. comic book / SF) convention?

Continue reading "Game Dream #6: Defying Convention" »

July 17, 2004

Game Dream #5: Cooperative Storytelling

Id just like to say that I look forward to each of Docs new Game Dreams every week very, very much. Theyre challenging, in that they make me think about my favourite hobby, and yet not too much so, as (and I hate to admit this) the Lexicon entries got after a while (probably because I was doing double-duty as player and effective GM). Its quite fun and illuminating to read others responses also. (ahem) Doc credits an article in Dragon magazine for the inspiration for this weeks Game Dream, but I cant help but wonder whether hes been reading my previous posts in the RPG Notes category. Anyway, here we go:
    To what level (if any) do the groups you usually play with encourage communal creation of the game world?

Continue reading "Game Dream #5: Cooperative Storytelling" »

July 11, 2004

Black9 Ops Character Sheet

I must be a right geek; I've only had Black 9 Ops a few days and I've already made up a character sheet for it. I used Publisher 2000 to put it together, then made screen-grabs of the body and cut the margins and converted to .gif in Paint Shop Pro 7. It took a few days to get everything shuffled around and figure out where the issues were.

Continue reading "Black9 Ops Character Sheet" »

July 10, 2004

Game Dream #4: Dude, Read This Book!

Here are a few rather cinematic questions that I think a few IMAGinES subscribers could provide some interesting answers to (*cough* Boots *cough*):

    What is the role, if any, that movies and books play in your campaigns?

Continue reading "Game Dream #4: Dude, Read This Book!" »

Must've failed his Saving Throw vs. Getting Busted...

I hope this won't strain the good Doctor's bandwidth limit, but all you RPG geeks out there just have to go and check this file that he's most graciously posted, especially if you thought "Dungeons & Dragons - Satan's Game" was funny. It's a video clip from a US comedy show, Reno 911 (you can also find the clip as a RealMedia file on the show's official site; just search for "D&D Axe Scuffle").

Black9 Ops

Here's an interesting little game that I must thank GameSpy for pointing me toward. A while ago, the makers of the Star Trek: Starfleet Command series of computer games decided to branch out and make a console/PC action title, which they dubbed Black9, a sprawling sci-fi epic of ultra-tech frontiers, ancient mysteries and Machiavellian intrigues. During development, a decision was made to develop a pen-and-paper roleplaying game set in the Black9 universe; the task was given to none other than Steve Perrin, long-time game developer from the early days of Chaosium (especially RuneQuest).

Continue reading "Black9 Ops" »

July 04, 2004

Game Dream #3: Us and Not-Us

Doc's third Game Dream asks:

    Some people play RPGs to enjoy a viewpoint or way of acting that they just couldn't do in real life. Others seem to play characters whose motivations are more their own. And some folks do all of the above and everything in between :) What character of yours was most like you "in real life"? Which of your characters is the least like you? Which did you find more fun to play, and why?

Now this one requires a little thought, mainly as Ive not played too many characters, and none for any particular length of time. Three characters come to mind off the top of my head.

Continue reading "Game Dream #3: Us and Not-Us" »

July 03, 2004

Peat of the Sants GMing

Just over the past day or two, I've been thinking about the two Memento Mori Theatricks games I own, InSpectres and octaNe. Whenever I pick them up, I read the bits about how they can be run without need of a pre-written adventure; players and GM improvising ideas as they go, as it were. I've never quite felt comfortable with that concept, and I always plan to write adventures for them - but lately, I've been tending toward the mindset of the books. Sometime soon, I'd like to get a bunch of people over - or even go over someone's place with the InSpectres/octaNe kit - and just create characters and run an adventure out of pretty much nothing but the PC details and perhaps an idea or two. I think it'd be heaps of fun.

Continue reading "Peat of the Sants GMing" »

It's Necromunda meets octaNe. In an UT2K4 Mod.

Seriously. Just look at those screenshots. I mean, when I saw this, I thought, "Now this is the Wastelands of octaNe. But when I saw this, I thought, "Ahh, but these guys look like Goliath gangers from Necromunda. Even the terrain looks like something scratch-built for it!"

Makes me interested in getting Unreal Tournament 2004...

(Thanks to Penny Arcade for the linkage.)

June 27, 2004

RPG Plot Resources

I've been meaning to mention two web pages that have come in handy recently when planning the Corsairs campaign out. The first is S. John Ross' Big List of RPG Plots. It's a nifty little resource that summarises almost every plot that's been used in an RPG module, complete with the most common plot twists and general themes.

The second is a posting on Gamescribe's LiveJournal about Adventure Axioms and Campaign Construction. Several have already compared it to S. John's Big List (although I have the feeling Gamescribe came to his conclusions independently of it), but really, it's a distillation of the ideas within the Big List into their absolute basics.

At the moment, I'm using the Axioms to come up with an episode plan for the campaign, with the intention of referring to the Big List when it comes time to flesh out the individual episodes for play. I think these articles will also come in handy when I start doing other stuff, like maybe that Feng Shui campaign I've had brewing for ages (which would really benefit from some episodic planning).

June 26, 2004

Game Dream #2: Deal with the Devil

I'll keep this one short, as I don't really have much to say here. Doc's second Game Dream asks for tales from GM or player perspective of the most vivid time "where the players are forced to deal with unsavory characters that they would otherwise destroy." Unfortunately, I've not played or GMed enough games for this theme to have actually cropped up - and if it did, I can't remember.

But the idea is one I wouldn't mind using in the Corsairs campaign sometime... Thanks, Doc!

June 21, 2004

Game WISH 49: Winning

I know Im over a year late on this, but I only just read it and have to respond, because by coincidence Ive thinking about those very questions a lot lately.

    Is there a way to win or lose in a roleplaying game?

Continue reading "Game WISH 49: Winning" »

WISHes and Dreams

I discovered Ginger Stampley's Game WISHes through The 20' by 20' Room just in time to discover they'd ended. The Game WISHes (WISH: Weekly Idea Sharing Hegemony) were a weekly writing exercise where Ginger would post a question on her web log relating to roleplaying games and throw the floor open for responses. She created and wrote 100 WISHes - almost two years' worth - and gained a significant following.

Continue reading "WISHes and Dreams" »

Game Dream #1: Voice

My response to the inaugural Game Dream:

    When Role Playing Games are discussed, the subject of first-person versus third-person character narratives sometimes surfaces. When you play a character, do you assume first-person, using your voice as his or hers, or do you use third person, simply describing what he or she is doing?

Continue reading "Game Dream #1: Voice" »

June 20, 2004

In Praise of the Playlist

Ive read several columns on the use of music in gaming, and for every RPGnet column that expounds on the incalculable enhancement that music is to the gaming session, there are at least two comments that the mechanics of including and managing music during an adventure, plus the potential for distraction, add up to a royal pain. Music is nice, but GM and players are here to game, first and foremost. Music should be an aid to roleplaying. As soon as the music or the management of it music intrudes on gameplay, youre not gaming any more.

Ive come to the conclusion that the best soundtrack to a session is one that supports the overall mood of the game and that can adapt to specific moods without requiring a significant break in the flow of the session. The problem is that, up until the past few years or so, such a goal has been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Thankfully, the advent of the MP3, the ever-decreasing size of computers and the capability of ripping tracks from CDs have put the minimal-maintenance soundtrack within the grasp of Joe and Jane Gamemaster. In fact, the convergence of modern technology has given this goal a name the playlist.

And why stop with just one? Take your CD collection and a few hours, and you can put together several playlists, each one suiting an individual mood within your campaign. All you have to do when the mood changes is swap between playlists and make sure the brick is still on the Track Shuffle button!

Continue reading "In Praise of the Playlist" »

June 05, 2004

The White Gamer's Burden

I've been meaning to post about this for ages,and only just got around to it. You know I was on about gettng the HERO System 5th Edition? Well, just after I bought it, I decided to cruise into the Hero Games website to get the latest errata and FAQ stuff, and what do I find on the front page?

This.

Damn, was I cheesed. If only I'd waited a few more months...

Still, I've got over it; I think all the stuff Steve Long talks about is pretty much covered in SideKick anyway. And besides, the 5th Edition pretty much gives me everything I need to create the stats for Slamdance. Even if the typos aren't fixed.

June 04, 2004

On The Next Episode

If any of you know my reputation among gaming circles, or have even played in one of my games, youll probably know that I have some trouble in coming up with ideas for the dreaded Next Session. While I have some fairly solid ideas for the overall campaign arc, I always seem to get stuck on that simple question: What Do I (as a gamemaster) Do Next? Its resulted in the premature deaths of at least two campaigns of mine.

Often, I find myself going to my players. Unfortunately, though, asking them open-ended questions like What do you want to do next? tend to elicit open-ended answers like, More of what youre doing, its great! Which is reassuring, but at times not quite helpful, especially when But I dont know what Im doing! doesnt do much to inspire your players.

To be fair, the players are usually kept in the dark with regard to the GMs plans for the campaign, and more often than not, its the GM whos immersed him or herself in the campaign world, while the players have probably read the core book and a supplement or two (probably with no interest in reading further). They may also feel like the GM is really asking them, Can you write next sessions adventure for me? (Which probably wouldnt be far off)

Continue reading "On The Next Episode" »

May 21, 2004

What Would You Prefer - Yellow Spandex?

I'm sorry, I know this is posting from work, but I just had to let you all know about this thing I found during my lunch break as soon as possible. Once again, mad props go to The 20' By 20' Room for linking to a new gaming blog, Gamethink. I specifically wish to draw your attention to this posting by contributor E. Burns, where he expounds on why the character creation system for the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game City of Heroes is quite simply the best ever for any superhero RPG, whether computer or tabletop, and why it ought to be stole - (ahem) licensed by tabletop RPG companies as the character-portrait part of their computer-assisted creation programs.

You'll see my thoughts on the posting in the seventeenth comment. But look at the character pictures that E. Burns links to. Just look at them! The captions are worth the price of admission!

May 20, 2004

Conversations in a 20' By 20' Room

The 20' By 20' Room has had some intersting stuff go up lately; I thought I'd commit the blogging sin of linkage and let you know. If you like what you see, or have any ideas, why not enter them into the comments of those posts? The 20' By 20" Crew encourage discussion.

Continue reading "Conversations in a 20' By 20' Room" »

May 15, 2004

RIFTS on the N-Gage

Some interesting news from E3. There's been talk of movies and computer games based on Palladium Books' RIFTS universe for ages. Now, it's official: A RIFTS game will be published - on the Nokia N-Gage platform.

Very little info is available on the game; no screenies or video just yet. Still, there's GameSpot's E3 interview with Palladium honcho Kevin Siembieda, who's understandably pleased.

May 11, 2004

Lexicon of the Auction

It might be a bit premature, seeing as we're only on the second turn, but I think the Lexicon of the Whisperers At War is doing pretty well so far. Granted, we've lost one player, but I think he might be up for the next Lexicon we do, and it looks as though another one might be joining us. The entries thus far have been good quality, and we're taking some interesting directions!

Also, as promised, those R Talsorian auctions have gone up. You can find the Night City/Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net auction here, and the Mekton Zeta auction here. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the CyberGeneration auction is absent; I'm suddenly loath to part with those books at the moment.

May 08, 2004

Upcoming R. Talsorian Auctions

Vickie and I are spenidng some time getting the computer room back into some sort of order today, and while we were (well, Vickie was) fossicking around, I started eyeing my RPG shelf, wondering if there wasn't anything else I could be rid of. As a result, I'd like to give you folks advance notice that I intend to sell most of my R. Talsorian RPG books on eBay.

These auctions will consist of:

  • CyberGeneration Collection: The complete R. Talsorian product line, including both editions of the main rules, all three Front sourcebooks (EcoFront, MediaFront and VirtualFront) and the Bastille Day adventure!
  • Cyberpunk Sourcebooks: Two classic pieces of source material for the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG: the Night City Sourcebook, one of the most detailed city-settings for an RPG, with sector-by-sector notes on locations and personalities (including the full-colour, eight-panel map) and Rache Bartmoss' Guide To The Net, the posthumous memoirs of the world's greatest Netrunner, inlcuding descriptions of Net regions and city grids!
  • Mekton Zeta Core Rules: the latest version of R. Talsorian's Anime Mecha RPG, including Mekton Z, the character and basic mecha creation rules, with GM and genre notes and sample campaigns; Mekton Z Plus, the in-depth mecha creation system, allowing you to create anything from Hardsuits to Heavy Space Cruisers; the Mekton Z Tactical Display, a GM's screen complete with booklet containing errata, rules, FAQs, an adventure idea and the new, cinematic play style: Mekton Zeta The Movie; and finally, Mekton Mecha Manual Volume One (of one), the bridging product between Mekton Zeta and the previous edition, Mekton II, containing ten campaign ideas and two mecha for each (except the tenth, which has six!)

The auctions themselves won't start until closer to the middle of the month (i.e. when us hard-working permanent full-time people get paid). I'll be sure to link to them here as soon as they go up.

And while we're on the auction vein, I'd like to direct you to a successful auction of a classic 1980s air guitar. (Thanks to Wil Wheaton and TotalFark for finding this.)

May 07, 2004

My Entry's Up! My Entry's Up!

Read the testimonial of Scholar-Researcher Nulf Marcketh (Posthumous) on the life and death of Vodis Balmot!

[EDITOR'S NOTE September 04: Although the Wiki and its contents were lost during the server move, I'm keeping the posts relating to it up for historical purposes.]

May 04, 2004

Turn 1 of The Whisperers At War Has Commenced!

The first Lexicon game of the Jake Robinson Lexicon Project has kicked off! Turn A-B will run until midnight Sunday, in which time players will write entries for either letter. We have two already, one on the fascinating lichen commonly known as Ahrneeka and one on the odd gentleman Benedict Abrille. Please stop by and have a read, and keep coming back; four more entries are due to be written this turn (so I'd better get to writing mine)!

It's good to know that the Jake Robinson Lexicon has already had one success: SimLauren has joined Jake's Bar!

[EDITOR'S NOTE September 04: Although the Wiki and its contents were lost during the server move, I'm keeping the posts relating to it up for historical purposes.]

May 03, 2004

Bubblegum Crisis Sydney 2033 Site Updated!

Well, folks, after Saturday evening's Bubblegum Crisis session, I finally got around to updating the Sydney 2033 web page. It's mainly a facelift rather than a major overhaul; I've applied a Cascading Style Sheet to the page, cleaned out all the .gif headings, fixed up a few links and graphics and edited some of the material. I think the visual improvement alone is worth it.

Dan is planning to write some content for his campaign, and I've aded sections for character write-ups. With any luck, the site shouldhave some new content soon.

Next up: overhauling the Bubblegum Crisis RPG Web Archive. As there are some whole pages missing and I want to axe the frames, that's going to take a bit more time.

April 28, 2004

The Whisperers At War

I've set up a page for the first of hopefully several Jake Robinson Lexicon games. It's called The Whisperers At War and it needs YOU. As of ths writing, we have four players, and I've noticed that a Lexicon works best with somewhere between six and ten.

If you'd like to take part, put a post up on Jake's Bar or Robinson's Place just get in touch with me. You can even create your own login to the Wiki with no trouble.

Continue reading "The Whisperers At War" »

April 25, 2004

The Wiki is Online!

In an earlier posting, I made mention that I wanted to run a Lexicon game for a couple of fora that I frequent. It was dependent on either finding or setting up a Wiki - a web site that anyone can edit - and I'd like to announce that, thanks to the tireless efforts of my webmaster Marcus, he of infinite graciousness and kindness, I now have a Wiki all of my own! It's a little spare right now, but if I can get that Lexicon game started (and would any of you be interested?) it'll get updated quite quickly!

Continue reading "The Wiki is Online!" »

April 19, 2004

Orion's Arm

I'd like to direct your attention to an amazing site called Orion's Arm. It's a huge, collaborative online work of writing, fiction and graphics. Its goal is the creation of a hard science space opera setting that allows for grand human drama and strange happenings while remaining thoroughly grounded in science fact and plausibility. The amount of work that has been done in the (I think) four years since it first went up is incredible - they even have an Encyclopaedia Galactica filled with histories, relevant facts and extensive topical coverage. It's all throrughly hyperlinked so you can explore to your heart's content. Frankly, if you have an hour or two to spare and like science fiction, I heartily recommend you have a read - and if you find your creative muscles itching, why not put something together and send it along?

If you're a gamer, you'll probably want to check out the Orion's Arm message boards, where they discuss assembling a pen and paper roleplaying game and a space-trader style computer game.

Thanks again to The 20' By 20' Room for stumbling across this site and linking to it.

April 14, 2004

History's Written By The Winners

A while ago, I was an active member of the online fora, Robinson's Place and Jake's Bar. Since then, they've been rather neglected. Vickie and Peg have been trying to inject some new life into them for a while, and I figured it was about time I pulled my weight and added a suggestion of my own.

I've already made mention of The Toothpaste Disaster, the Lexicon game run by Allen Varney to drum up interest in/material for the upcoming new edition of Paranoia. I'd like to do something similar for the members of those boards - set up a Lexicon game as a way of kick-starting activity on the forums and getting us all writing with each other again.

I think the Lexicon idea is well suited to these fora; the membership consists mainly of SF / fantasy fans and (generally) amateur writers, and the collaborative nature of the Lexicon - not only do the players create entries in an encyclopaedia detailing a period of fictional history, they have to reference each other's entries in doing so - would allow for a great deal of interaction and literary play.

It's not gone beyond the proposal stage on either board, but I thought I'd get the word out; not only are some of the members on the IMAGinewS list, but we always welcome more members! Why not come on board as part of this fun activity?

April 06, 2004

Mo' Linkage and a Campaign Idea

It looks as though my commenting over on The 20' By 20' Room hasn't gone unnoticed - if you check out the Blogs By Gamers link list down the left hand side, you'll see IMAGinES there!

While you're there, might I direct you to their newest posting? It's about starting a campaign off with a one-shot mission. The idea is, you hand out pre-generated, disposable characters and run what amonts to a prequel session, ideally setting up events to be used in the actual campaign. It gives everyone a chance to get used to the world and the system (especially its level of lethality), and as none of the characters aren't going to be around for the actual campaign (well, not as PCs, anyway), there's little angst if they get killed off during the session. In fact, the idea is that by the end of the one-shot session, every PC should be dead, preferably horribly.

I think it's something that could work well for Black Talon, even though the campaign has already started. I'll expand the thought in the GM & Player Notes section of the BT website.

April 01, 2004

Group Paranoia In Amber

Few new things on the roleplaying front:

  • I'm tempted to say it's yet another RPG Resurrection, except it's more a revitalisation; the game's never really gone out of print, it's just sort of faded into obscurity a bit. I'm pretty sure there are a few Amberites on this list, and after reading the positive comments that the posters over in The 20' by 20' Room kept making about the Amber Diceless RPG (based on Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber novels), I was tempted to get a copy myself. However, publisher Phage Press (owned by the RPG's author, Erick Wujcik) is planning to transfer its Amber Diceless publishing operations to Guardians of Order, home of the Tri-Stat system, the Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG and Silver Age Sentinels. GoO prez Mark MacKinnon plans a second edition and has mooted various options, including D20 support alongside the original diceless rules (which are a firm lock for the 2nd edition).
  • Back to the actual resurrection: Things are bubbling along on the Paranoia XP front. Developer Allen Varney has started off an interesting little correspondence roleplay project called "The Toothpaste Disaster" as a way of generating content, garnering interest in the line and scouting for new writing talent. It follows Neel Krishnaswami's Lexicon format, which I'd be tempted to emulate if not for what appear to be steep technical requirements (i.e. implementing a PHP application on your webspace). Several High Programmers (played by various luminaries and not-so-luminaries of the online gaming world) have gathered to compile a report on the Toothpaste Disaster, which rocked each of their respective sectors; they're only just finishing up the As and Bs, but what they have so far is hilariously skewed, especially if you have any familiarity with Paranoia.
  • Finally, Gav's plot plans encompassed some potentially strong character moments for Trent's PC, and with Trent unavailable, Gav suggested taking a raincheck on Friday night's Star Wars session. With Brook arriving the day after, Vickie and I have leapt on the suggestion as an opportunity to take a post-work breather before all hell breaks loose. This gives me a little more time to ponder Gav's campaign questions; it's an interesting taste-of-my-own-medicine experience, as I've been nagging my Black Talon players for suggestions and plot ideas for ages. The least I can do is give Gav a considered reply...

March 31, 2004

Bubblegum Wars

(sigh) Once again, I've let the website go entry-less for a week (not counting that place-holder Obligatory Web Quiz bit). Not good.

It's going to be an intense little week for roleplaying. Sunday gone, we piled over Dan's place for the kick-off session of Bubblegum Crisis. It was fun revisiting the character of Slamdance again - and this time actually playing him rather than writing him! Just as interesting were some of the character choices everyone else had - Boots played to type with a dopey martinet of a Major (in powered armour) with Gav as a long-suffering Sergeant of MARS, Sydney's own version of the AD Police. Vickie is Utopia Jones, the token Hardsuit Babe; Dizzy (a.k.a. John, one of the two new players to the Black Talon team) was a rather frazzled Private Detective, and Mad John (a.k.a. John the Mad Norwegian), stayed true to form when creating a character for a high-tech, near future anime campaign - he made up Sir John, a Knight from the Days of the Magna Carta who has no idea how the hell he got to 2033 A.D. Sydney.

As we were a little rushed for time, we went character sheet-less. Dan ran the whole thing as a party-meet-up session, allowing us to chat and setting up the team structure; it looks as through we're going to be a semi-official "flying-squad" within MARS, with extra budget from the government and other interested parties (including Dick Smith himself). The next session will probably be in April, but in the meantime, Dan wants to put campaign updates and session summaries up on the Sydney 2033 website (even more incentive to get the damned thing working properly again). I'll be talking with him about how he wants to do it soon.

Friday night is the next session for Gav's Star Wars game. Unfortunately, Trent can't make it, but Boots, Dan, Vickie and I should still be able to make things interesting for him. ;-) Vickie and I still need to work out how she's spending her skill points from levelling up after last session; I think we'll be putting them into her Force skills so she can Cloud Men's Minds like she wants her character, the Bothan Drema Awa'k, to be able to.

I've been prevaricating on the Heavy Gear front, mainly as we have so much coming up in the next couple of weeks, Brook's visit notwithstanding - on the day she heads back to Melbourne, we're off to a friend's housewarming. Thankfully the rest of the month is clear, so I might have to ask whether anyone's available for a date then.

March 23, 2004

Unnumbered Tales of Blue City

This is one of them.

It's the first ever documented playtest of Jared Sorensen's Lacuna roleplaying game. It definitely makes for an interesting read.

Also, Jared's made an official Lacuna character sheet; while it's displaced mine, I can definitely see some elements of mine in there. It looks quite a bit better, as well.

Continue reading "Unnumbered Tales of Blue City" »

March 13, 2004

When Weesa Be Gettin' Lightsabres?

The first session of Gav's Star Wars: Jedi Academy campaign ran last night at our place. It was a nice, relaxed session with more geek chat than gaming, but as we were all relaxing into place, it wasn't a big deal. Besides, Gav intended it to be more of a loose, training game so we could all get our first Jedi level before venturing out into the wide galaxy. It was a little different being a Gungan Soldier. (Up at 0600: "Meesa wakey, Sarge! Meesa... Oh, no-sa bein' in Boot any more.")

Anyway, I've got to make this short, as Vickie and I are dashing off to Dan and Lesley's; they have to attend a wedding today and need the kids baby sat.

March 06, 2004

Can't Help Being Paranoid in a 20' by 20' Room

I'd like to direct you all to a posting on The 20' by 20' Room, a gaming-dedicated web log. With the pending return of the roleplaying game Paranoia in a new edition, Rob MacDougall has given some thought to the most commonly discussed issues on the Paranoia Live Forums and come to his own conclusions about the important elements of Paranoia and how the designers should aim to preserve them.

It's a very interesting read, especially for me, as I was buying into a lot of the window-dressing discussions he mentions (I think I said "Oof" once or twice while reading it). I also couldn't help but chuckle at a few of his other comments, especially on geeks and nostalgia.

It also doesn't hurt that he mentions Jared Sorensen and InSpectres at least once apiece.

February 29, 2004

Black Talon is Moving

Over the past few hours, I've made updates to the website of my Heavy Gear: Black Talon campaign, including a post-get-together status update, info on the Black Talon Brain Trust and the guidelines I wrote for my players when creating their characters.

Check 'em out one time, won't you?

February 26, 2004

Evil Dead 2

It seems to be a week of resurrections in the RPG industry. Just days after Gav tells me Paranoia is to be reborn in a new edition, I surf over to R. Talsorian Games' website and discover that Firestorm Ink have licensed the CyberGeneration game line, and are working on a new adventure book!

Here's hoping we see not only new material, but also the finishing up and publishing of the ISA Sourcebook and Generation Gap.

February 24, 2004

Classic Fear and Ignorance, All-New User-Unfriendly Interface!

My man Gav has already broached this bit of excellent news to the IMAGinewS group, but I thought I'd better post it for all to read: that classic roleplaying game of a darkly humourous future, Paranoia, is on its way back to gaming store shelves everywhere in a brand-new edition!

Continue reading "Classic Fear and Ignorance, All-New User-Unfriendly Interface!" »

And I thought running Heavy Gear was intimidating...

Wil Wheaton is preparing to do something he hasn't done in 19 years: Run a Dungeons & Dragons game.

He's also preparing to do something he's never done before, and really badly wants to not screw up: Run a Dungeons & Dragons game for his two step-sons.

He's run into the inevitable scheduling conflicts a GM has when organising a game, but with any luck, he'll be able to get things rolling next week.

At least he only has two players. :-D

February 18, 2004

Indier Than Thou

Apologies for MC Frontalot for stealing his song title for my post title, but I seem to be doing pretty well with independent RPG writers on the linkage front. You've already read about das linkage to Cars Needs Women! by Jared Sorensen, and the acceptance of das character sheet for Lacuna by same.

Well, I sent the URL for my Wushu Guide to The Matrix Optional Rules to Dan Bayn, and he was so impressed that - guess what - he put a link to them on the Wushu Guide to The Matrix home page.

Not bad, eh?

On other news, I finally have Vickie's new case buttoned up. The fan filters, cables and North-bridge fanless heat sink finally arrived from PC Case Gear. One filter and the 3-pin to molex fan connector went into Vickie's PC, and I have another filter and the Northbridge heat sink yet to go into my beast, probably on Friday or Saturday. While doing the work on Vickie's PC, I discovered which RAM stick has been giving us so much trouble lately - even with two 256MB RAM sticks, Vickie's PC was only reporting 384 MB RAM present. This I took to be a bad sign, so I did some trial-and-error swapping of the sticks to find out which one was causing the trouble (the oldest, a generic 256MB stick of PC2100 RAM) and took the offending stick out.

That left Vickie with only 256MB, which can be a little slim when you're running Neverwinter Nights. As you just can't get PC2100 RAM any more, I've ordered a single stick of 512MB PC2700 RAM from EYO, along with a set of cheap Creative 2.1 speakers. I've mentioned a new set of speakers on and off to Vickie, and she's never really been interested, so I've not pursued it too much - but while I was re-connecting her peripherals after transferring her stuff to the new case, I noticed that the right speaker (which has the power connection and the input cable from the PC) would blow sparks from its power port whenever I plugged the power cable in. This I took to be another bad sign, so I'm bloody well replacing them - they must be five years old by now, at least.

Continue reading "Indier Than Thou" »

February 17, 2004

Wushu Guide To The Matrix: Optional Rules

The Optional Rules for A Wushu Guide to the Matrix have now moved here.

Continue reading "Wushu Guide To The Matrix: Optional Rules" »

Chez Geek On The Brain

While you're here, I'd just like to point you to a post from late last year that's seeing an unusual amount of comment traffic. I've had Chez Geek card idea posts from at least two people who I've never heard of before, including a complete new Job card!

Heck, if you have any card ideas for Chez Geek, why not put a comment in yourself?

February 15, 2004

All RPGed Out

I realised something earlier this afternoon while reading an e-mail from Dan. At the moment, it looks as though Vickie and I are going to be involved in three roleplaying campaigns:

  • Gav's Star Wars: Jedi Academy campaign is approaching readiness. After a few hiccups with organising venue (finally settling on our place), most of us have characters ready to go, and Gav's seriously talking about a start date.
  • Dan has announced that his Bubblegum Crisis campaign is almost fully written, and he's expecting to kick off in late March/early April. Although his players have concepts by and large, no-one's sat down to put characters together - mainly because, out of all of us, Dan's the only one with the HERO System rulebook.
  • And, of course, Heavy Gear: Black Talon looks to be coming out of hiatus. My players and I are getting together with a prospective new player on the Saturday week, and with any luck, we'll be able to get the final training session out of the way sometime in the next month or two.

This is, quite lierally, going to be the most roleplaying I've ever done, and I've been in the hobby for about eleven years. As for Vickie...

I am Jared Sorensen's bitch.

UPDATE 23 March 04: Jared's taken what I was pointing you toward - my home-brew Lacuna character sheet - and posted the Official Character Sheet from his upcoming Print Version of Lacuna I. I like the new one; not only does it still use some elements from the one I cooked up, but the layout in general is much nattier.

Original Post:
Take a look at the Lacuna web page. Over there, on the bottom right.

See what I mean?

February 11, 2004

Hot Seat Game Mastering: My Thoughts

I stayed out of it mainly because of time commitments, but partly because I wasnt comfortable with the idea of switching GMs in a traditional RPG campaign. I felt, considering the emphasis most business-making RPGs place on character building and adventure / campaign construction, that everyone would have too much invested in their game roles to readily switch. Also, swapping the starring characters in and out on a regular basis is an obvious break in the campaigns continuity. (Before you say anything about having the GM run the character, whats the point when the GM was only just playing the character?)

Lately, though, with all the downloading of indie RPGs Ive been doing and wondering when Id actually get the chance to play in or run them Ive been thinking about Boots idea. I called him last night, and we talked it over some more. His immediate thought was octaNe (probably because Ive been harping on about it of late) and while its definitely fast and loose enough, its too freeform and zany. Theres also little incentive in the mechanics or setting to run a campaign.

Continue reading "Hot Seat Game Mastering: My Thoughts" »

February 10, 2004

Lacuna and Lawnmowers

After the thunder and rain of a couple of weeks ago, the heat has moved in. It was thirty-eight degrees at midday in Sydney yesterday, one of those times I was thankful for an air-conditioned office to hide in.

First off, good news: I called Aunt Heather in the UK on Sunday night, and Grandma is in hospital, but feeling better. It turns out shed broken her leg, not her hip (phew), and she didnt fall; the leg had already been weakened by an earlier bump and picked that moment in the driveway to give way on her. The doctors have put a plate into her, and I think theyre keeping her in for recovery and observation right now.

Continue reading "Lacuna and Lawnmowers" »

February 02, 2004

Scientific Exploration, My Arse (... actually, Church's)

This evening, I direct you to the newest Public Service Announcement from the gentlemen at Red Vs. Blue - actually, it's more of a cry for help.

We didn't wind up going to Ned & Joe's yesterday, as they weren't home from Crescent Head yet. Instead, I nipped out to pick up some supplies, then dropped over Mum & Dad's for a while, where I introduced them to the wonderment that is Red Vs. Blue. Strangely, they didn't seem impressed, alhtough it was the first episode and things had yet to really warm up (it also helps if you're familiar with those odd little gaming paradoxes known as first-person shooter multiplayer arenas).

Or perhaps they're just Philistines. (And in case you read this, Mum: ;-D )

I also nipped out to Dan and Lesley's to grab my Revised Edition Star Wars D20 rulebook. Gav's working on his Jedi Academy campaign, and is keen to kick off as soon as some details get ironed out - like characters and where we're going to play. While I was there, Dan showed me this amazing Excel spreadsheet that some German lunatic has come up with; it's a character sheet generator that outputs its results in a form surprisingly similar to the official Star Wars character sheet. You can download it in .zip form from here.

And not only does it give you a character sheet, it also gives you a supplement-style stat block, in either plain text or HTML. Here's my character so far, and all I had to do was select the "Stat Block" worksheet after putting the figures in.

Dessen Tass: Male Gungan Soldier 1; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Defense +15 (+3 class, +2 Dex); Spd 10 m; VP/WP 13/16; Atk+3 ranged (3d8/19-20 or DC 15 stun, Blaster carbine, range 20 m) or -1/-1 ranged (3d8/19-20, Blaster carbine with Multifire, range 20 m); SQ Hold Breath, Low-Light Vision; SV Fort +5, Ref +3, Will -1; SZ M; FP 2; Rep 0; Str 13, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 11, Wis 9, Cha 10, Challenge Code A.

Equipment: Blast helmet, vest (DR 2).

Skills: Computer Use +1, Demolitions +2, Knowledge (tactics) +1, Knowledge (world lore) +1, Pilot +4, Repair +2, Ride +4, Treat Injury +2.

Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Force Sensitive, Weapon Group Proficiency (blaster pistols), Weapon Group Proficiency (blaster rifles), Weapon Group Proficiency (heavy weapons), Weapon Group Proficiency (simple weapons), Weapon Group Proficiency (vibro weapons).

That's just bloody excellent!

Oh, and while we're on the topic of Games, Vickie's gone and got herself hooked on a new web game from our old friends at Popcap (who've just recently revamped their site, too). It's called Zuma, and right now, she's trying to get me hooked on it as well!

Continue reading "Scientific Exploration, My Arse (... actually, Church's)" »

January 24, 2004

Cars Needs Women v1.2

The promised revision of Cars Needs Women! has now been posted. Please feel free to download and use in your octaNe games, and if you like it, pass it on - but it's strictly for free. Don't be makin' no money off of it, now.

January 19, 2004

Dodgy Movie Week

Evening, folks. Nothing in particular happening right now. Stuff has been happening, though. Ive put in that order for the Red Vs. Blue Season 1 DVD; the only person to chip in was Gav, so Im buying two DVDs. With any luck we should have them by early next week.

Vickie and I are feeling the bite of a triple-hit rent month (when three rent withdrawals fall between two of my pay days). Im holding off spending money on me in preference of paying the bills when they come in. This means Six-String Samurai and Battlefield 1942 will wait until my next pay.

Im fiddling with a revision to that Cars Needs Women! PDF. Ive been catching some typos, editorial mistakes and grammar errors ion subsequent read-throughs. Im also revising some of the material so that it reads better and adding in new stuff from the Saturday night play-through at Dans.

I charged down the video shop yesterday to return an overdue War of the Worlds (I watched it as research for a possible revision to the Cylon.org article) and picked up five weeklies. Yesterday evening, Vickie and I watched the 1990 film production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, directed by the writer, Tom Stoppard. It was intellectually engaging and very funny. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth starred as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. (Or was it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?) The set design and staging were very theatrical, which helped make the viewing experience unique. It was a surprise to see Richard Dreyfuss as The Player. It was a definite departure for Richard, who usually plays everyman roles, and although I can see some people wishing that another actor had filled the role, I think he gave it an air of smug mystery. It was definitely a worthwhile spending of two hours.

Of course, wed had Universal Soldier: The Return to clear the palate beforehand. Ill say one thing about Jean Claude Van Damme: he has a quite expressive face, which he uses well. Youre gonna call me crazy, but Van Damme actually gives this otherwise cheesy sequel to a dark action film more charm and class than it deserves, and yes, that is saying something. Michael Jai White is also good at being bad as SETH, the supercomputer that goes mad (as they do) and miniaturises itself into the body of a super-UniSol. White was in phenomenal shape, and both actors also kick an imperial fuckton of ass; in the modern era of special effects-laden action flicks and wire work, it was rather refreshing. Vickie especially enjoyed it, as shes done some martial arts training herself. (Vickie likes White, so Im going to get the somewhat less mediocre, but still mediocre, Spawn out soon.)

And of course, theres Big Bill Goldberg. Ive never seen him wrestle, but he gave a better performance than I was expecting, and its almost a shame that hes not really done much since. The most annoying thing was what looks like a post-production decision; I think he was brought back for some ADR to give him more dialogue (including some very cheesy action lines) in parts where you cant see that his lips arent moving. Used sparingly, it might have been forgivable, but its used so much that it becomes annoying by the end of the first half-hour.

About an hour ago, I finished watching an odd little film called Hardware. I picked it up as part of an effort to uncover some Psychotronic cinema, so I can get a better feel for the zany atmosphere that octaNe is meant to have by default. It was a little darker than I was after (though I was sort of expecting that), with some cheesy apocalyptic themes thrown in for good measure. Its also one of Dylan MacDermotts earlier pieces, and underground cinema / metal rock geeks will probably love it for the twenty-second appearance of Lemmy as a water-cabbie, not to mention Iggy Pop in crazy-ass radio DJ mode (although you never see him). Still, its worthwhile seeing for a little (as Jared Sorensen likes to put it) inspirado.

Continuing the Psychotronic thing, I also got Roadhouse out, although I suppose its more Grindhouse than Psychotronic. Ill watch it tomorrow.

Continue reading "Dodgy Movie Week" »

January 18, 2004

I'm Famous!

I e-mailed Jared Sorensen, the designer and writer of octaNe, the URL to my "Cars Needs Women!" posting. I asked whether it was worth being included in the "Psychotronic Story Hour" list of links on the octaNe website.

He replied soon after.

Have a look!

At this point, I would just like to say "Woohoo!"

octaNe: Cars Needs Women!

Afternoon everyone! We had a fun night at Dans last night. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Lesley had the idea of getting us over to do some gaming on Dans birthday, but we were in Cairns at the time. So after we got back, I organised a game of octaNe with Gav and John coming along.

Boots, Gav, Vickie and I also organised a present for Dan: the Battlefield 1942 Reload Pack, with the core game plus the Road to Rome expansion. I imagine Dan, Gav and Boots will be hooking up for some online fun very soon! (Well, at least once Boots finds time in his busy schedule ;-D )

Anyway, Ive been spending a few hours last week on an adventure idea Id had before we went up to Cairns, called Cars Needs Women! I typed it up over Friday night and Saturday so it would be ready to go and to keep how it would work clear in my mind. Ive PDFed it for download and play.

Continue reading "octaNe: Cars Needs Women!" »

January 15, 2004

octaNe in the Tank

Morning all! Some new items today:

  • Vickie has set her Harvey Norman Photo Album up. Access is normally invitation only, but if you go to her website and click on the Photo Album link, youll be able to get in using my ID and see our photos from Karl and Jodies wedding.
  • Vickie and I are finally off to see Return of the King tonight. I havent had any late-night meeting invitations as of this writing, so we should be okay. This means I can finally read all the kvetching Boots has been doing about it on the group lately. ;-)
  • Vickie and I are also on a diet. were swearing off junk food and most meats, and splurged on several Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice meals during our large shop. So long, Dominos, farewell, Maccas, and chips and coke only on RPG nights (especially if were playing octaNe, when I will be ensuring compliance with the Rule of Snacks). Were also going to endeavour to get more exercise; Im taking the stairs instead of the lift at work, and if it wasnt so humid nowadays, Id be taking the fifteen-minute walk from work to the next-closest station on the line. Ive also got to do something about re-starting Thursday Lunchtime Soccer at work.
  • Recently, Gav made a valid comment about the rampant product placement (often referred to in the vernacular as pimping) on the site and the IMAGinewS group lately.

    And now Ive got my salary for the month and am looking at spending some of my hard-earned on myself, heres some more of it:


    • Im planning to buy the Red Versus Blue Season 1 DVD. I know there are a few of you out there who like RvB, so Im thinking of putting in a single big order. If youd like a copy, how about I order one for you and you can pay me back once I get them? That way, the shipping ought to be somewhat cheaper. At current exchange rates, it costs AU$26 per copy, not including shipping. Please let me know ASAP, as I want to put the order in early next week.
    • On a general octaNe kick, Im also thinking about snagging Six-String Samurai, a crazy movie about a sword-wielding guitar player (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Buddy Holly) headed across the wasteland for Lost Vegas.
    • With Saturday nights octaNe game at Dans coming up, Ive been working on how Im going to adhere to the Rule of Rock n Roll, which states that when playing octaNe, you MUST be playing rock n roll music of some kind, during our session (as long as we're careful, we shouldn't disturb Dan's littlies who should be sleeping while we play). Ive been building a few playlists of songs, including some by a little-known band called the Red Elvises. Theyre an oddball bunch of Russian political exiles (well, thats what they say) living in California, who play this crazy fusion of surf, rock and Russian folk. Its quite catchy, especially their earlier stuff, and Im tempted to pick up an album (maybe next month, after Red Versus Blue comes in). In the meantime, you can download some of their tracks as MP3s, so why not wander along to their website, download (most of the MP3s are 1-2 megs in size) and have a listen? (Especially to Boogie on the Beach.)

  • In the meantime, I could use some up-tempo Elvis stuff, so if anyone has any Elvis CDs, especially with numbers like Jailhouse Rock or Viva Las Vegas, could I borrow em before Saturday, please? With that, and the British/US West Coast punk rock Gav will be bringing, I'll be all set for some octaNe-powered fun!

January 02, 2004

Indie RPGs Going Cheep/Free!

I remember that a few years ago, I used to buy role-playing games and supplements on a regular basis, back when they were generally cheaper and I had more of a disposable income. All of a sudden, I've started getting back into the habit - but instead of going into gaming stores and buying books off shelves, I've been downloading (and, where applicable, paying for) PDF files of role-playing games and supplements by independent authors. I've come across some really funky stuff, and as Heavy Gear has gone into something of a slump until we either get another player or Mandi gets back from Beijing (whichever comes first), I've been thinking of inflicting them on my Heavy Gear group, so that we can still game on a regular basis.

I'd also like to recommend them to you all, especially with the Aussie dollar in such good shape against the U.S. buck right now. Even at U.S.$5 to $10 per head, they're really good value considering the quality you get.

Continue reading "Indie RPGs Going Cheep/Free!" »

December 19, 2003

Example of Play

So in the News & Musings before last, I was rabbiting on about InSpectres. But what's it like to play?

Well, I don't think there are any examples of play outside of the rulebook, but there's a very funky one for another game by the same man, octaNe, written by a con GM. octaNe has a whole different premise to InSpectres; rather than ghost-busting, it's meant to crecreate this whole tripped-out, B-movie, Elvis Meets Snake Plissken On Route 66 crazyness flavour (also known as Psychotronic). But the story is still a good example of the sort of general mayhem that can occur in InSpectres, when roleplayers finally realise they can direct the plot.

It's called From Shangri-LA to Lost Vegas in 3.4 Seconds.

(Warning: Game was played whilst moderately intoxicated. Some inappropriate language.)

Read. Fear. Experience the burning urge to play it yourself.

December 16, 2003

Probably the most evil thing I've ever read.

I was doing a little research for octaNe, see, and I came across this review of the '67 SF (?) movie, Mars Needs Women. I couldn't help but laugh all the way through it. It's like Bill Bryson doing a movie review.

Continue reading "Probably the most evil thing I've ever read." »

octaNe: Map of the Former United States

Here's a little something I was tinkering with in my spare time yesterday. It's a prototype map of octaNe's Former United States. It has all the game detail, but I'd like to put other things in, like major highways. At the very least, Route 66 needs to be on there.

Continue reading "octaNe: Map of the Former United States" »

December 10, 2003

This just needs to be shared...

"At this point, one of the players got The Look. I will, forever, call it The octaNe Look. I'd seen this guy play through some of the most bizarre Changeling, Gurps and Cthulhu campaigns we could manage. I'm talking, traversing forests of dildos, heat seeking baguettes, goblin scone launchers, turnips, kobolds, Elvis as the chief deity of the Orcs, Snow Golem Lawn Gnomes, some seriously weird stuff. But monkeys in a blimp demanding his gas, dropping onto the back of his bike and pummeling him on the head... it was too much. He got The octaNe Look, the one that says "My brain has been replaced by a little squeaking pig." This scene proved what I have come to call the Jared Theorem - Anything Can Be Improved With The Addition Of Monkeys."
- From The Party, an octaNe adventure rundown.

I'm seriously thinking of getting this game. I mean, it's only $13 for the PDF.

After Christmas, though.

December 08, 2003

InSpectres Is Upgraded: v2.5!

InSpectres, that crazy, free-style game of ghost-hunting and corporate shenanigans, has gone and upgraded itself to version 2.5 - the same great mechanics you know and love, but with rules clarifications, a fab new layout and (gasp) art! The groovy thing is, if you've already shelled out for InSpectres 2.0, the upgrade to 2.5 is absolutely FREE!

And if you've not shelled out for InSpectres yet... well, what the hell are you waiting for? Especially you Australian gamers - with the rising dollar, it's even cheaper than when I bought it! In fact, as of this writing, the PDF will only set you back $13.60! So get your credit cards out! Support the indie RPG scene (and have a bloody good laugh while you do)! Surprise the heck out of your friends next session with the most fun they've had playing an RPG!

December 07, 2003

Got My Stuff Back

I finally managed to catch up with Boots for about ten minutes yesterday. In between not doing particularly much (we decided we'd clam up and stay home this weekend, even to the extent of turning down an invitation to "do something" from Dan), I dropped over Boots' place on Saturday evening to pick up my Xbox and Crimson Skies minis (I imagine Dan will be wanting to drop over ASAP). Boots was, unfortunately, a little too busy to actually play the thing, but he reckons his brother had a blast, so as long as someone got some entertainment value out of it in our absence. In the meantime, I've loaned him the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel I picked up in the UK. It's quite different to the movie, in plot and overall tone (very quirky, to say the least; as written, it wouldn't have made a commercial film at all).

This morning, I fired up MechAssault and tried to get through that mission where I've been stuck for several months ("Thor on the Rocks"), and to my surprise, completed it in one hit. Buoyed by my surprising success, I decided to give the next mission a go, but got clobbered, so I think I'll leave that one for a few months as well.

In between, I'm re-playing the first few missions of Homeworld2. It's a tricky game to master, all right, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of fleet management (maybe). I also started to have crash problems when loading up games, but thankfully, the latest Catalyst driver set from ATi seems to have fixed them.

GameSpot is offering a one-month trial of Sony's PlanetSide Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter, and I downloaded the client via Telstra's GameArena servers (so it doesn't count toward our monthly limit). I've done a little fossicking around, but the (albeit limited) experience thus far has been rather underwhelming. Of the three servers, the lowest ping is Europe, and even then the response time runs in the three and four hundreds.

Yesterday, I wound up spending about an hour on the SciFi.com chat rooms, to get in on a guest chat with Ron Moore, writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and the man who set the creative direction for, and wrote the first draft script of, SciFi Channel's Battlestar Galactica remake (final writing credit is shared with Christopher Eric James). It was an interesting chat, if not too informative, and I managed to get a question or two in. What was really good was that Ron actually stuck around after the half-hour moderated chat wound up.

What no-one asked him - and I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this - was where he stands on the schism that threatens to divide the new mini-series: whether Katee Sackhoff's dog should be cast as the new Muffit (the robot dog in the old Galactica). Edward James Olmos, the new Commander Adama, is all for it. Executive producer David Eick is against it. Whither standeth Moore? I have no idea, and that's why I'm kicking myself for not having thought to ask.

The Galactica 2003 website - sort of the core of fandom on the new series (and supposely home to some who've been committing unsanctioned mischief in its name) has been listing some of the positive and negative reviews on the new show, and from what I've seen of it (via the web-based, behind-the-scenes documentaries and stuff) I can understand both sides of the good/bad argument. I still want to see it for myself, though. Pierre, are you still okay to tape it? Parts 1 and 2 are back-to-back from 7 PM (Eastern, I think) on Tuesday the Ninth.

I keep fiddling with my new BSG rant, but it's become more a means of clarifying my thinking and less (in my opinion) of publishable editorial. Then again, I think I'm just procrastinating myself out of actually writing something out.

Christmas is coming up, and I'm looking forward to ten days of raw present shopping mania after I get paid. I still have to figure out what to get some people.

November 30, 2003

Chez Geek Ideas

Yesterday evening was planned to be restful, and even when Dan called, needing an escape from home and wanting to play some Chez Geek, it pretty much stayed that way. The worst of Vickie's hacking cough virus has passed, but I kept her supplied with coffee while Dan, Gav and I played cards and rolled dice.

At the end of the evening, the three of us lads were talking about card ideas for the blank cards that come with Chez Geek and its expansions. We were trying to come up with a new Job or two, and thought of a Sales Assistant (sort of like what Boots is doing now), and assembled a rough idea of its Free Time, Income, Slack Goal and unique bonus.

Continue reading "Chez Geek Ideas" »

November 01, 2003

Run, Talon, Run

Morning everyone! Well, it's evening still, I suppose, as I'm kicking this posting off at half past eleven on Friday night, but by the time I'm done I think it’ll be Saturday morning. Just so’s you know, I am officially on leave from work for the next three weeks; I’ve tied up all the loose ends in my queue and given the bloke who’s taking over from me while I’m away some thorough and updated documentation on my job – and when I arrive back, I fully expect it to be filled with revisions and corrections.

We fly out of Sydney on Monday evening, so if there’s anything you’d like to borrow from me in our absence, you’d better get in pretty quickly.

Continue reading "Run, Talon, Run" »

October 26, 2003

Don't Game And Drive

Morning all - no, hang about, it's afternoon, isn't it? That's right - the clocks went forward an hour this morning. Bloody daylight saving. I'm still feeling exhausted after last night, but it was fun. I forgot throw a planned character interaction into the Black Talon session, but that just gave us more time to fiddle with the combat system. Gav, unfortunately, got killed out a little early (thankfully, it was a training simulator, so his character didn't die), and as Vickie was being a target designator, she really didn't have much to do, and was quite bored as a result.

I'd been a little worried about Vickie not having enough to do in the game. Her Gear is more a reconnaissance unit than a combat vehicle, so much so that I'm thinking of taking Vickie out of her Dark Cheetah Gear and putting her into something heavier - although she's not that much less powerful than half of the opponents the team faced last night.

Continue reading "Don't Game And Drive" »

October 24, 2003

Gear on the Brain

Afternoon everyone! I've not posted anything new for three days (except for some new musings still in draft), which has allowed me to build up some material. I'm still yet to drag some the rest of the material from the old site, unfortunately; I'm not sure whether I'll import all the news posts (which will take ages) or just get all of 2003 (leaving 2002 and 2001 behind). The RPG Stuff is the next biggest deal; there's a lot of table-format info that I'll need to look at the HTML code for, and I'm wondering whether some of it could be left behind anyway.

It looks as though this evening may be rainy, but I'm going to be spending most of the evening working out the details of tomorrow's Heavy Gear: Black Talon session anyway. With any luck, Dan and I should be able to get his blue booking session out of the way this evening as well. Mandi won't be able to make it tomorrow, so it'll just be Boots, Dan, Gav and Vickie playing. I pretty much know how things are going to go down, although I want to try and define some of the NPCs a bit better before then. With a bit of luck, I should be able to referee a session of cracking Geary action (if only in simulators) with a few plot points thrown in for good measure.

Continue reading "Gear on the Brain" »

October 12, 2003

Brother, Can You Spare A 350-Watt Power Supply?

Dan's Champions game last night was a good climax to the campaign. Once again, we went up against a giant invisible jellyfish, and once again, Turbine (my character) got put out of the action rather quickly - this time by getting wrapped up in some Spider-Man-Web. This left Magus (Gav's PC) fighting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Croc (as Gav himself said, "Crikey!") and the Huntsman (Rog's character) playing tug-of-war with the invisible jellyfish; the "rope" was the temporarily named non-player character Captain Kangaroo, a Tennage Mutant Gun-Toting Roo whom OzWatch (our superhero team) had recruited after a previous adventure near Uluru (Ayres Rock). Black Hole (John's character) managed to trap two ne'er-do-wells in a Sphere of Darkness, and when Nightshade (Vickie's character) used her powers of illusion to convince the jellyfish that the water around it was boiling (so well, in fact, that the jellyfish was actually hurting) and the Huntsman pinned the Evil Leader to a wall with some spider-web, it was all over bar the arrests and threats of "This isn't over, OzWatch!"

We farewelled Rog a couple of hours ago; he crashed at our place last night after the game. His plane for Melbourne leaves at around one. We hope to see him again before he returns to the UK in early November; with any luck, he may be moving out here to stay some time. Our fingers are crossed; Rog is a quality bloke.

Continue reading "Brother, Can You Spare A 350-Watt Power Supply?" »

October 11, 2003

Tactical Dogfighting From the Sidelines

For the past three hours or so, Dan and Gav have been waging tense aerial battle on our dinner table. The score has been one-nil to Gav for a little while, but in the turn just gone, Dan managed o even the score by downing one of Gav's Brigands. In case you've not guessed, Dan and Gav are having a friendly game of Crimson Skies.

It all started earlier this evening, when I got a phone call from Dan, keen for some CS action. It turns otu that he'd been virtually kicked out of home by Leslie, who was keen to have a night to herself in front of the telly. It was Australia's first match-up in the Rugby World Cup, you see, and they were playing Argentina at Telstra Stadium (formerly known as Stadium Australia, the venue for the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies). Australia won 24-8, but apparently their quality of play isn't inspiring any confidence at the moment.

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October 10, 2003

Popular Licenses = New Gamers? Not Any More.

This editorial has been brewing for a few days. It’s the result of a growing dissatisfaction with the RPG industry that was highlighted in a recent e-mail conversation with Gav (whom I hope is still talking with me) and a trip into Games Paradise on Tuesday, October the thirtieth.

Probably the biggest draw card for any roleplaying product is its use of a “license” – the right to create and publish a game based on an existing media franchise – and the best licenses to acquire are those for popular television series and movies. Existing gamers will often leap at the chance to play in an established universe which they, and other players, are going to be familiar with – and more importantly, a roleplaying game based on popular TV show or movie will have a much easier time attracting people who’ve never been into RPGs (and considering what a niche market RPGs are, the untapped potential here is huge).

With the debut of the D20 System – first seen in Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition line and made available to all thanks to the Open Gaming License – companies that have acquired some popular movie and TV licenses have started writing roleplaying games for these franchises using the D20 system.

Continue reading "Popular Licenses = New Gamers? Not Any More." »

September 06, 2003

Crimson Skies and the Heavy Gear Funk

(Editor's Note 10 Oct 03: "Crimson Skies and the Heavy Gear Funk" - sounds like a glam soul band!)

Afternoon everyone! A late morning for us both today; apparently I was so wired after playing Crimson Skies with Gav last night that I was keeping Vickie awake. I even got out of bed twice and looked out of the bedroom window. I don't even remember any of it, except for the (allegedly) second time I looked out the window. Vickie asked me what I was doing, and I said something about wanting to know where we were. I think I was having some sort of weird dream, and was half-expecting to look out the window of our bedroom and see something other than brick wall.

Yes, odd, very. I can't explain it either.

Continue reading "Crimson Skies and the Heavy Gear Funk" »

August 31, 2003

Going Once, Going Twice...

Morning everyone! It's been a pretty good weekend so far. Vickie and I did some shopping in Chatswood yesterday, and I managed to sell my RPG stuff on eBay for far and beyond over what I was expecting to get! After eBay deducts its fees for posting items for auction and its cut of the winning bids, I'll be walking away with a little over $160!

I'm still debating whether to put some of the other stuff up for auction. Not for sentimental reasons; it's just that I'm not sure whether it's worth paying $2 to post something that I doubt will sell well. You know, stuff like the Lawnmower Man RPG, the Men in Black RPG, my first and second editions of the Mutant Chronicles RPG. I'm even debating putting some of my comics collections on eBay; mostly the stuff I don't read any more like Azrael, Iron Man, the first couple of Darkminds mini-series and maybe some of the TransFormers stuff. (Oh, yeah; I don't think that I mentioend that I've cancelled a lot of my Phantom Zone subscriptions. However, I'm still staying with Phantom Zone; as there's a good bead shop in Chatswood, Vickie and I both have reason to pootle down there on a monthly basis.)

I also managed to sell off most of my Star Wars D20 stuff to Gav. I'm keeping the Revised Edition rulebook, because that's all I'm ever likely to need, but Gav now has my Dark Side Sourcebook, Rebellion Era Sourcebook, Alien Anthology and Living Force Campaign Guide, plus the first edition Star Wars D20 rules (I'm pretty sure he has the Revised Edition rulebook already), and he purchased all that product for $100!

Continue reading "Going Once, Going Twice..." »

June 15, 2003

Ideas for Con Games

Good afternoon, everyone! It's a nice, slow Sunday, so I think it's about time for another news post.

I must apologise for one inaccuracy in the previous post: Vickie and I didn't spend Sunday in. We headed into the city to catch some of the Sydney Jazz Festival at Darling Harbour. Admittedly, as the Harbour was already crowded when we got there, we didn't do too much actual viewing of acts (although there was always music almost everywhere), but it was an impulse trip for the both of us. We're thinking of making a long weekend of it next year, even though that may well put us in conflict with the next Con*Descending.

Boots and I are talking about co-writing a Heavy Gear module for MacquarieCon this year. We have a couple of concepts in mind, but I have the feeling we'll go with Boots' one (not because of any perceived superiority; I just suddenly find myself wanting to try something different, and Boots' idea is definitely different). Boots, Gav and I have also discussed doing a con module based on Kevin Rubio's insane short film blend of Star Wars and COPS. Called TROOPS, it focuses on a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers keeping the Empire's peace on Tatooine, right around the time a young farm boy ruins away to join the Rebellion. Gav is the main impetus behind this idea at the moment, and has come up with some interesting ideas. More on these as further developments eventuate.

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June 10, 2003

What I Did on the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend

Hi all! I've taken today as annual leave so we could stay out late at the Con*Descending Wrap Party last night. This morning, I think it's entirely appropriate that I give my:

CON*DESCENDING 2003 POST-CON REPORT
or
What I Did on the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend

To provide background information to those unfamiliar: Con*Descending 2003 is a convention of table-top roleplaying games, free-form roleplaying games and collectible card/miniatures games. There are approximately five or six each year in Sydney alone, usually over public holiday long weekends. It's being run by a few friends of mine, one of whom (Mandi, for those interested) pestered me into writing a "module" - in general RPG-speak, a single adventure sold as a booklet, but in con-speak, a short adventure designed to be completed within roughly three hours - for the con. Rather than writing a module based on an established game line, I decided to do something a little different: make a module based on the InSpectres independent roleplaying game. It was Vickie who came up with the idea behind the module: Set it at the Sydney Opera House, during a production of Macbeth, with the dreaded Curse in full swing.

Continue reading "What I Did on the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend" »

April 26, 2003

Oh, Woe Is Us...

A very sad event occurred last weekend - Vickie and I finished off the Neverwinter Nights Campaign. Now we have nothing to play together... at least, not until Shadows of Undrentide arrives in July! (Coincidentally, that's around the time of my birthday... so if anyone's thinking of a natty present for moi...)

Well, that's not entirely true; I downloaded Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne's Penultima campaign yesterday, and we managed to complete Episode 3, Hazard Pay, by the time Vickie had to get ready for work. Of course, there are the various NWN communities out there, but Vickie's too shy; she insists she has no idea what she's doing. Looks like I'll have to add a new phase to my Evil Plan to Turn Vickie Into a Gamer (because I don't know what's good for me and can't stop at pencil & paper and co-op computer gaming): NWN Online... (So if Vickie kills me sometime in the next few months, don't be surprised if the judge rules it justifiable homicide, okay?)

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April 13, 2003

Stress-Testing and Playtesting

Morning all! Nice, slow Sunday today - aside from having to mow the lawn again. And washing the car, too; Madam Lash is looking a bit grungy (sigh). But First: a News Post!

I'd like to kick off by apologising for last week's posting; there were several typos in it. At the time, I couldn't be bothered to fix them up; I've left them in since as a reminder to myself. This one shall be thoroughly spell-checked, I promise.

So what's been happening in the last week?

Continue reading "Stress-Testing and Playtesting" »

February 21, 2003

Cons and Campaigns

Evening all! Another working week done, and a nice relaxing weekend of nothing in particular to look forward to. It's great, isn't it?

Heavy Gear is progressing. Gav dropped over on Wednesday evening and donated his supply of Green Stuff - Citadel Miniatures' modelling clay - to the cause. The next step is to hook up with Boots sometime soon, so we can convert the team's Gear miniatures into Dark Series models (it looks like Boots will be dropping over this coming Tuesday night). So far, the eighth of March seems to be okay with everyone for the next session, although I have to confirm with Dan when he gets back from the U.S. - assuming, of course, that his return flight gets him back before the eighth, which, as I have no idea what his itinerary is, it may not.

As we still don't have any opposition miniatures, the next session is definitely going to be a roleplaying-oriented session; Miki Hirami may well get to make use of her Investigation skill! Regarding the miniatures, I took a quick look at Dream Pod 9's web site this evening, to see what their prices plus shipment to Australia came out at - and with four Battle Frames, two Hovertanks and two Weapons Packs coming out at a little over AU$150 including shipping, I think I might just order the kit directly from the manufacturer.

Still, that may have to wait. Madam Lash's rego expires in March, and the service we put her in for late last month revealed that not only does she have an an oil leak, but also that the boot on the right-hand joint of the CV shaft has torn; there's no oil left in the joint. As there's no way of telling how long it's been gone, the best bet is to replace the entire CV shaft. All up, we're looking at $300 or so for the repairs, and then there's rego on top (which I still have to book an inspection for), and I have no real idea how much that's going to cost. As is, it looks like the Black Talon minis and Tron 2.0 are going to be put back a little further.

Continue reading "Cons and Campaigns" »

February 16, 2003

This Is My Theory

I have this theory when it comes to Neverwinter Nights, and it might well be applicable to D&D in general: When creating a party, do not, I repeat, do not leave home with out at least one dedicated fighter character. As I think I mentioned in my last news post, Vickie and I are consistently getting our posteriors served to us on the family silver (the family in question being the long-established Waterdhavians of, I believe, Waterdeep). We keep crawling our way toward enough experience points to earn a level-up, only to have some big, tough critter and his/her/its minions knock us back down to almost Level 2. Although Perin Nertoppho, my handy rogue, is definitely good for getting at loot in locked chests and disabling traps, his halfling constitution doesn't give him a long combat lifespan. And even though Goldenrod Starkeeper, Vickie's able ranger, is very adept with a bow, fisticuffs isn't quite her game either. I'm thinking of importing one of my other characters, Rente Arnesen, a fighter who's already at something like level 5, thanks mainly to experience on the Frendeer server.

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Back Into It

Good afternoon, everyone! We're back into the old swing of things (i.e. work). There's been a change on my front, though - I've been moved up to the top floor of my building! (Okay, okay, it's only a four-story building, and I was on the third storey beforehand anyway. Lemme have some joy out of this, okay?)

We're still trying to pick up a bargain laptop for Vickie on eBay, but we keep continuously getting overbid. I have the feeling our budget won't be able to cover a laptop, but we'll see how we go...

We finally got back around to Neverwinter Nights last night; we started at around nine thirty and finally finished off at two o'clock this morning! We're now halfway through Chapter 1, and we keep having to respawn (which takes away gold and experience points) when we meet the Waterdhavian creature behind the troubles in each suburb of Neverwinter. Going through single-player must be tough... Apparently Cameron bought himself a copy recently, but he keeps experiencing bugs and performance problems. (He had some with Black & White, too - and he used to knock me for the trouble I had.) I'd invite him to join us, except I can't run an Internet game from my PC with the way our network's set up at the moment (maybe after I get that Linksys hub I have my eye on). We might be playing a little more today, after Gav drops over. In the meantime, I've been exploring some of the servers that are up and running on the Net for NWN, and looking at upcoming games on Neverwinter Connections; I might squeeze myself into a game sometime. As a result I've not done much dev work on the Kingdom of Hyatt module lately.

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December 15, 2002

Dude, Where's My (thingy)?

Sorry, guys; couldn't resist another update.

It's on the general topic of Nick Irving's Achtung! Wo Ist Mein Panzerkampfer? Ever since Nick came up with it, he's been peppered with suggestions of similar games in other genres. Gav and I came up with a few:

  • TK-421, Where's My AT-AT? (Gav), where five stormtroopers wake up after a night in the Mos Eisley cantina and can't find where they left the General's walker.
  • Anakin, Where's My Lightsabre? (Gav)
  • Gollum, Where's My Ring? (Me), where five Ring Wraiths hung over from one too many pints of mead at the Prancing Pony bumble from town to town in a wacky Middle Earth, trying to find their master's missing One Ring; the only clues they have are that it's with some guy named "Shire" in a place called "Baggins". A fun little romp accompanied by lots of bitching about just whose bright idea it was to accept the Nine Rings in the first place.

Has anyone else come up with any? Can you think of any? Suggestions/ideas in e-mail, please, or if you're an IMAGinewS member, please send them there for discussion; I intend to post a few with full credit to the originator.

Random Pre-Christmas Gaming Stuff

(Yawn) Afternoon all! Just got up after trying to catch a couple more hours of sleep. Party was great all round; great food (thanks be to the Vickie for all her hard work), great company (thanks be to all you cats who turned up) and just a dash of great gaming (thanks be to the Xbox and that fourth controller I bought). People came and went at various times, and Vickie and I finally got to bed somewhere between three and four this morning; Gav, Rog and Mandi, our sleeping-over crew, stayed up and chatted for another hour or so. Rog wandered off at around twenty to nine, I ran Gav to MacquarieCon for nine o'clock and Mandi headed out at around one PM.

It's stinking hot up here at the moment; the only reason I'm actually awake right now is because I'm sweating too much to sleep comfortably. I can't smell any smoke in the air; hopefully this hot spell won't touch off another run of bushfires. Thankfully, there's not much housework to do. Vickie and I got the washing-up done last night, while the party was winding down.

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May 01, 2002

Dream Pod 9 Stuff

Evening all, and a happy May Day to you! I don't believe I know any Maypole dancers, but if you happen to be one, I hope you didn't get yourself tied up in all that ribbon today! Nothing much new to report today, except that I'm working on a review of SimGolf for the site. Cameron was wondering why I bought it (he didn't seem impressed), and I hope to be able to explain why it's such a fun game.

Continue reading "Dream Pod 9 Stuff" »