Friday, 18 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 18: RPG you've played the most?

#RPGaDay 2017 18:

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

Including GMing, probably Buffy, followed by Vampire: The Masquerade or possibly d6 Star Wars.

Excluding GMing, probably Vampire: The Masquerade due to a whole lot of shortish games and the New Bremen chat, particularly if I count time playing a mortal. d6 Star Wars is probably the runner-up here too. Marvel Super Heroes SAGA must be close too, with two two-year-plus games. The longest campaign I’ve ever been in as a player, four academic years, was Werewolf: The Apocalypse, but I’ve played about three sessions of it outside that chronicle.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Trinity Storypath preview and Onyx Path brochure

New from Onyx Path, the 2017 brochure, and a new Storypath system with a Trinity focus.


Congratulations to Seven Wonders for Indie Groundbreaker Game of the Year Award.

#RPGaDay 2017 17: Longest owned unplayed RPG?

#RPGaDay 2017

17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I’m going to have to look up some publication dates here...

Monster Horrorshow came out in 1987. It was really a book of GMing advice and an adventure with a simple system attached, but it still counts. I think I got it soon after it came out.

But for a big RPG that has gone through multiple editions and has supplements and such, the GW hardback core set for third edition RuneQuest also came out in 1987, though I don’t think I got them until 1988 or so, when they were on sale.

I never ran either of these, or even seriously considered doing so.

Yes, I have games I’ve owned and never done anything with for thirty years.

Just a couple, though...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

To D&D - And Beyond!

D&D Beyond is live.

The original Star Wars RPG at 30 - back in print!

FFG are reprinting the first edition d6 Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game and the Star Wars Sourcebook for their 30th anniversary. Guess they can get my money for a Star Wars RPG after all!

I wonder how the licence works... reprints of some of the adventures would be nice too.

#RPGaDay 2017 16: RPG you enjoy using as is?

#RPGaDay 2017

16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

To vary my answers a bit, Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who, as the simple system allows for a wide variety of characters, and the action-based initiative is genius.

Otherwise, yes folks, Buffy. I don’t even change the grainy Life Points. I probably should, but honestly I hardly ever have the monsters hit the PCs...

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Coming soon: Mage plot hooks

Halfway through a “thirty hooks from song titles” challenge for Mage: The Ascension and thinking I could run this game.

Though I might be leaning a bit too much on “rival cabals being troublesome”. That may be more of an Awakening thing.

Nosferatu 3?

A potential remake of Nosferatu, from director Robert Eggers and starring Anya Taylor-Joy, reteaming after The VVitch.

Still waiting on the “remix” with virtual sets from the original and Doug Jones as Orlok to come through post-production, though...

#RPGaDay 2017 15: RPG for adapting?

#RPGaDay 2017 

15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

Storyteller, I guess. I’ve used Adventure! for spy-fi (with gadgets and some advantage/disadvantage ideas borrowed from Spycraft) and a modern Flash Gordon style space opera, and Trinity for a Battlestar Galactica style military SF game. Mostly because it’s a simple enough framework, reasonably well balanced for human and near-human characters, already used for various character types and genres so it has assorted sets of powers and equipment lists that are fairly easy to bolt on, and it mostly gets out of the way after characters are made.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Wolfman's Got Nards!

Monster Squad saved the world thirty years ago this very night.

#RPGaDay 2017 14: RPG for open-ended campaign?

#RPGaDay 2017 

14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

At the risk of repeating myself... Buffy.

Okay, to avoid a one-word answer, why?

It’s a kitchen-sink setting where I can reasonably throw a vast number of absurd ideas at the players and their characters. Parallel universes? Time travel? Killer puppets? A musical episode? Absolutely. With a group prepared to roll with the crazy it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Jokey geeky table talk can easily stay, or move, in character. Gamers love undercutting villainous speeches, for example, and Buffy does that more often than not.

And that central metaphor, that high school is hell and growing up is a hero’s journey, really works.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 13: game experience that changed how you play

#RPGaDay 2017 

13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

The earliest are bound to be formative...

My first ever session put me off letting the dice fall where they may, thanks to a near-total TPK by a bear in a side room of a dungeon. (A bear who could apparently teleport...)

My first time GMing, I planned everything out like a Fighting Fantasy book, and found myself having to improvise when the players went off the map. I didn’t handle it terribly well, so practiced that. Improvising systemless games with a friend at school over the lunch hour helped here.

My first “proper” RPG was MERP, which taught me a number of valuable lessons in the half session I suffered through running, about rules density and about adapting systems to settings or the other way around. My second was TOON, which I’d gladly run to this day. This has informed my views on what RPGs are for ever since.

By the time I was in late high school, I was pretty burned out on mission-based games like Shadowrun, so I fell hard for the character-centric Vampire: The Masquerade. I even tried playing music in-session - that didn’t take.

And the inevitable TWH reference - behind the scenes talk with players about what they’d like to put their characters through, with one becoming the Producer to my Director, collaborating on storylines for everybody.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Zach Best Family Bundle

A DriveThru bundle for Zach Best, of Conjecture Games, also known as Ravious on, and his family.

#RPGaDay 2017 12: most inspiring interior art?

#RPGaDay 2017 

12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Having not given the cover the win here, I really have to go for Vampire: The Masquerade, especially the black and white Tim Bradstreet chapter frontispieces in the first two editions.

Storytellers Vault Opens

Storytellers Vault opened last night, with, appropriately enough, thirteen products at launch:

Three adventures, two of them introductions to chronicles (Bloody But Unbowed, Contagion and Our Lady Of Sorrows)
Two By Night books, of very different size (Denmark and Madison)
One antagonists book (Fiends And Foes)
Two how-to-play primers for specific groups (Harpies and Ventrue)
One Discipline (Engagement)
One novel (A Golconda Story)
One short story (The Rose Witch)
One foreign-language By Night book (León Nocturno)
One foreign-language story (Pentagrama Demencial)

Also character sheets, templates and art collections.

Naturally, the server is a bit busy.

Interesting to see adventures top the list, with more promised by two of the three and the third, Bloody But Unbowed by Travis Legge, creator of the film and RPG Bloom, introducing a city setting suggesting it will have sequels as well. (So is the Discipline booklet.) We’ll see how well they do, as Vampire: The Masquerade adventures have always been thin on the ground.

Likewise, Denmark By Night is by Jacob Klünder, who worked on Revised and Dark Ages, and Madison by Bill Bodden, who has worked with OP on V20 and more.

And a plug-and-play antagonist book is a good call too.

Friday, 11 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 11: Which 'dead game' would you like to see reborn?

#RPGaDay 2017

11: Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

Take a wild guess.

Okay, to be slightly more thorough, Buffy and Angel had five written sourcebooks including one ready to go to final edits when the publishing licence ended, and the published books are still available in PDF, which is nice considering how often licensed games vanish when the agreement runs out, so getting those five at least in PDF seems achievable with some legal wrangling. (Please note, I am not a lawyer.)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

#RPGaDay 2017 

10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?, DriveThruRPG, a few blogs like Matt McFarland on character creation and Actual Play.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 9: What to play for about ten sessions?

#RPGaDay 2017 

9: What is a good RPG to play for about ten sessions?

I feel like this should have been question 10...

I used to specialise in games that ran ten sessions or so. It’s a good season-one style Buffy arc, or a trilogy worth of Star Wars, or a decent stab at a “one big book” campaign like Eyes Of The Stone Thief or The Dracula Dossier ... but there are games specifically designed for this kind of length.

Apocalypse World and its offshoots have purposely limited character advancement in their playbooks, with AW featuring Retire To Safety as one of the options when gaining a level after the first five or so and MonsterHearts characters acquiring Growing Up moves as more mature responses to their issues, which suggest a game that runs for a handful of sessions before it’s time to stop, or bring in a new cast of characters one by one or all together if you want to continue.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The first Trinity Continuum art

Onyx Path’s Monday update includes the first piece of art for The Trinity Continuum, a character illustrated by Leif Jones, and developer Ian Watson notes...

“I haven’t named her yet, but she doubtless works with the Global Cartography Initiative. Or perhaps even Les Fantômes.”

Those are two of the groups I wrote!


I got a bit excited.

#RPGaDay 2017 8: What to play for two hours or less?

#RPGaDay 2017 

8: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of two hours or less?

To avoid another “it depends” answer, because some players will rip through adventures for various games:

Something without a lot of combat or at least without a lot of detailed combat. Something with fairly defined parameters for adventures. Something like espionage, stealth-heavy, like Black 7? Or something with a core puzzle and little rolled action, like a whodunnit or Doctor Who?

Another good suggestion I’ve seen is comedy-centred games like TOON and Paranoia, because dissolving into chaos is part of the point.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Making that Doctor Doom post game-relevant

Darth Vader so embodied the Black Knight archetype, with added gadgets and Force powers, that he moved from interesting henchman to central character, and all the other villains in Star Wars went with other styles of supervillainy. The Emperor was originally going to be a distant and isolated figurehead, but became a full-on Evil Wizard.

When the prequels rolled around, a different kind of Darth was needed, so we got Darth Maul as Ninja Satan. Count Dooku was Sir Christopher Lee With A Lightsaber. General Grievous was a four-armed robo-skeleton.

Kylo Ren had to follow Darth Vader in-universe, so I think making him a Vader Fanboy was a stroke of genius.

I borrowed from outside sources for my last Star Wars villain, taking the Kingpin from Daredevil as the basis for a leading Imperial intelligence officer.

What would a Star Wars version of Ultron be like? Or Loki? Or Bane?

The problem with Doctor Doom in films

There have been four live-action Fantastic Four movies, three starters and a sequel, and they’ve all used Doctor Doom as the villain - even that sequel Rise Of The Silver Surfer had him cause more trouble than the world-eating space god Galactus. This is natural, Doom is the biggest villain in the series and one of the biggest in the Marvel Universe... and they’ve all played him off-model.

The 1994 zero-budget rights-keeper by Roger Corman actually played him pretty close, considering.

The 2005 version looked the part in the end after spending most of the movie looking normal and sounding cocky and American, and had electric mutation powers instead of magic. He even cured his appearance in the sequel!

The 2015 version was a hacker who turned into a Reaper drone lookalike from Mass Effect.

And they all rung the changes because, I believe, there’s already a perfect cinematic Doctor Doom, and if you play him straight he’ll remind cinema audiences of someone else.

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

So the new Fox standalone Doctor Doom movie, from Legion showrunner Noah Hawley, will have to figure out how to work around that. Because only Marvel themselves (owned by Disney) could really go to the source...

#RPGaDay 2017 7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

#RPGaDay 2017 

7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

Probably the start of The Watch House season five because one player met her future husband when he joined the game. Their second child was born a day after this post.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne

Paladin: Warrios Of Charlemagne, from Nocturnal Media, on Kickstarter, an RPG of legendary chivalry adapted from Pendragon.

#RPGaDay 2017 6: You can game every day for a week...

#RPGaDay 2017

6: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

I feel like this should have been question 7...

It depends who’s available to play or GM.

(Nearly got through a week without an “it depends” answer! Oh well.)

I actually did this in the spring sharing a cottage in the Highlands, and because the organiser had a bag full of one-shot indie games he never got to run we mostly played one-shot indie games.

If I organised such a retreat I would plan something like a mini-campaign in the evenings, much like my one-term-only campaigns covering as much story as a busy movie or a shortish trilogy, and see what else people would like to do in the afternoons.

Ah, but what would I run? That depends who’s there too.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 5: Aptest RPG cover

#RPGaDay 2017

5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

I think Vampire: The Masquerade has the most evocative cover art in my collection, but for “This is what you’ll be doing” it’s hard to beat Paul Bonner’s cover for Shadowrun Third Edition.

Because it’s a troll with a Mohican firing a massive gun as a decker and what appears to be a Dwarf version of Baron Munchausen try not to fall off a chain on a collapsing platform in a dingy corporate facility. In my experience, Shadowrun is exactly like this.

As are most RPGs.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Storytellers Vault

Storytellers Vault is on its way, having been discussed at World Of Darkness Berlin so I for one have had a while to think about it.

Maybe adventures because there were never very many of them. Maybe a book about the art world in the World Of Darkness because it would be a bit too niche for general publication. Maybe...

#RPGaDay 2017 4: Which RPG have you played most this year?

#RPGaDay 2017

4: Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

I’ve played five - D&D 5, Vampire: The Masquerade, FFG Star Wars, homebrew Star Wars and The Comics Code set in the world of Strikeforce: Morituri. I think The Comics Code wins for length as well as frequency of sessions.

I also ran d6 Star Wars for eight or so sessions, and had a Buffy game fizzle after four.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

#RPGaDay 2017

3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

Mostly Word of mouth. Newsletters from go-to publishers like Pelgrane and Onyx Path. The RPG Kickstarter news groups on social media.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 2: An RPG you would like to see published

#RPGaDay 2017 

2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

I will admit bias here and say the forthcoming games I’ve written for and playtested. :D And throw in the EVE RPG, which I was offered a chance to write on before it was cancelled.

But outside that...

Destiny. The background and lore seems like they would get more airtime here than in the game itself. And (assuming I liked the system) I would like to run it, more than other theoretical licensed games like Harry Potter or Mass Effect which I would also like to see for the good of the hobby.

And for a non-licensed answer, a Young Adult Dystopian SF game.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 1: What do you wish you were playing?

#RPGaDay 2017

1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because I’ve almost always been on the GM’s side of the table. Of course, I sincerely doubt I’d be able to stop myself backseat directing.

Also of course, playing can also mean GMing. Buffy is a good choice here too. I’d like to give Leverage a go too.

Monday, 31 July 2017

#RPGaDay 2017

And here... we... go.

RPGaDay will last all month, which is three times longer than the political career of Anthony Scaramucci. (Weeks from now, people will have to look that up.)

The Next Generation and the next and the next

Bryan Fuller spoke to EW about his plans for Star Trek, for an anthology, essentially a new show every season, advancing from the pre-Kirk basis for Discovery to a new future setting.

There are a few generational campaign games like Pendragon, but I’ve never run something like this. Hmm...


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the battle of Passchendaele, one of the bloodiest of the First World War. It inspired remembrance, protest and art at the time, and still does to this day.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

When Related But Incompatible Genres Clash

From Within made a small splash at Tribeca ten years ago and is mostly known as a footnote in the history of The Secret Circle as it features Thomas Dekker and Britt Robertson in a small town magic fantasy story.

But it’s a pretty interesting setup, with a girl falling for a brooding mysterious outsider a year before Twilight came out in cinemas, and a silent metamorphic killer hopping from victim to victim a few years before It Follows. So that’s a teen paranormal romance colliding with a teen horror...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Encounters on the edge of space

Matthew Knighton, creator of Distant Stars, has written a series of systemless SF creatures, monsters and encounters for Shades Of Vengeance, and the first is now free on their Patreon, starting a monthly feature. I could see the Memory, the first example, as a monster/puzzle of the week in something like DS, Star Trek or Doctor Who.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

More Vampire: The Requiem goodness

Well, my copies of Secrets Of The Covenants and the revised Reap The Whirlwind are on their way, taking advantage of the Christmas In July sale to basically get the shorter book free.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Disenchantment from Matt Groening

Matt Groening is to follow Futurama with Disenchantment on Netflix, about a hard-drinking princess, a demon, and an elf called Elfo trying to save a collapsing fantasy kingdom.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Firefly Adventures

Firefly Adventures: Brigands & Browncoats nudges us ever closer to there being as many Firefly games as there are episodes. Reckon one more and we’ll draw level with the number originally aired.

I sure hope it ain’t an omen that it’s got miniatures for the same five of the nine main characters as the Funko Legacy figures... that never got the other four.

Darker Days V5 pre-alpha playtest

Darker Days Radio’s Vampire: The Masquerade 5 pre-alpha playtest is now in cleaned-up version with intro and such at their main site.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

RPGaDay 2017

RPGaDay 2017 launches August 1st, but you can see the prompts already!

Our geeky future

Entirely too much exciting geeky stuff is happening at Comic-Con, so focusing on RPG things happening elsewhere.

Until I get some good trailer links anyway.

Like The Defenders.

Friday, including (the rather dinky fifty-minute web series) Stargate: Origins.

Saturday bringing extended trailers for Justice League, Star Trek: Discovery and Thor: Ragnarok.

Sunday featuring Doctor Who and The Ray.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Sabbat: The Apocalypse

Sabbat games of Vampire: The Masquerade have a lot in common with Werewolf: The Apocalypse in terms of pack structure and rituals, an overarching supernatural enemy and so on - all the things that make them harder to explain than Camarilla or Anarch games - so it occurs to me that this could also solve the other common problem I have with Sabbat games, that they focus on attacking Camarilla vampires and general chaotic rampages.

Give the Antediluvians servants to oppose, cults like the Black Hand and weird not-quite vampire things, as well as Noddist secrets to pursue and night-to-night vampire problems to approach in a different way.

One tricky part is that the creepy body-warping horrors of the setting are on the Sabbat side, which would make the enemy different from the Wyrmspawn. (The Tzimisce, providers of most of the weird monsters in the VTM computer games. I’d happily drop them or nudge them onto the NPC side, but hey... Of course, I could follow some of the setting secrets and have Tzimisce active and working against the Sabbat’s supposed purpose.)

So... hmm... ancient revenants, so old that they can make ghouls themselves?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

D&D Beyond beta review

D&D Beyond is in beta before a late August release - can we finally get the paperless office into the game room?

Star Trek: Discovery news

Ahead of San Diego Comic-Con, quite a bit of news about Star Trek: Discovery, with looks at props, Doug Jones talking about his character, and this poster.

Can we boldly go yet?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How to adapt Blade Runner

There have been two computer games based on Blade Runner, an arcade shooter licensing the soundtrack so the player chased and shot anonymised ‘replidroids’ (in the back, so it’s very true to what happens to Zora) and the all-in virtual movie with some of the cast, designs by Syd Mead, playing around with the Voight-Kampff analyser and a bunch of leftover Philip K. Dick references. (And giant rats.)

Do you try to imitate everything, or focus on a single aspect? The big game felt too close at times - a different group of replicants led by a different guy with a penchant for poetry also sneaking around Los Angeles in that same week in November 2019, pursued by a different Blade Runner in a different brown raincoat...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Anno Dracula miniatures sculpting contest

Frothers United sponsor a charity miniatures sculpting contest for Anno Dracula, Kim Newman’s Victorian vampire mashup, judged by various sculptors and Mr. Newman himself. The winning entries will then be cast and sold with proceeds going to Cancer Research or the MS Society.

Even if it sticks to just Anno Dracula itself and not the other novels set in the Great War, the 1950s and the 1980s, the short stories, or the currently running comic series set in 1895, it still allows just about every vampire from fiction of the era, lots of other fictional characters as well as real people drawn from history, and Newman’s own characters. With a good turnout, it could be a great range.

Game history note: series hero Genevieve first appeared (as a parallel universe version) in Newman’s Jack Yeovil fiction for Warhammer.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Night Of The Living Dead

Night Of The Living Dead is the Dracula of the modern zombie - there were walking corpses before, and the name comes from mythology, but it became a genre here and everything that follows reacts to it. The Walking Dead is basically “what if a Romero movie didn’t end?”

Most zombie apocalypse media since follows its example of this being a new phenomenon, so the world of The Walking Dead was like ours before the outbreak except for the lack of zombie movies. Characters referring to it are usually genre savvy stars of comedies like Shaun of The Dead, or sometimes using it to label something a bit different, as in World War Z.

Ordinary people trapped together. Matter-of-fact filming. Not exactly happy endings. A black lead is still uncommon, but Ben is especially remarkable in 1968 - George Romero mentioned hearing about the assassination of Martin Luther King on the way to sell the film in New York. And Barbra is one of the most realistic portrayals of someone in shock I’ve ever seen.

(It’s also interesting to see the aspects that didn’t become standard for the genre, like the term “ghouls” and zombies’ aversion to light, a hope for the night that would not continue into Dawn Of The Dead and beyond.)

There are plenty of zombies in gaming, but of course the real monsters in Night Of The Living Dead are people. Games often encourage this with limited resources, so only one person can get to the chopper in Zombies!!!! It’s also often overdone, to the point that the survivors in The Walking Dead should really shoot first and ask questions later. But done sparingly, it can still pack a punch. And Night Of The Living Dead packs a hell of a punch.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Martin Landau

Martin Landau has died. Winning an Oscar as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, he was also known for Space:1999 and Mission: Impossible, worked with Hitchcock in North By Northwest, and much more. His daughter Juliet Landau plays Drusilla in Buffy and Angel, and also appeared in Ed Wood as Loretta King.

George A. Romero

George A. Romero has died, at 77. Among many other things, he created a genuinely new monster.

The Children Of Thanos!

The D23 con teaser of Avengers: Infinity War is not yet online... but we do have photos of the Children of Thanos.

Cool to see a full-on supervillain team. I for one am already cutting together a fake Shadowrun TV title sequence starring them.

The Last Jedi behind the scenes teaser

Contains Carrie Fisher feels.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Darker Days tackle the V5 pre-alpha

Darker Days audio

Among other things, their Nicholas suggested the same hideout as ours when I ran it here, as it’s listed in his character background.

Garbage - No Horses

No Horses

All profits until the end of next year to the International Red Cross Committee.

And the song’s a dystopia in music that ends with a refrain of “This is the apocalypse...” so worth adding to the list of Garbage Songs To Get Ideas From.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Star Wars Land, now in model diorama form, ahead of full-sized park form in two years.

I want to go to there.

And stay at the in-character hotel.

Now, if I could just do it without all the other people getting in the way...

Michael Jackson, Prince Of Darkness?

Michael Jackson is now someone we get Hallowe’en specials about. Like Dracula.

Power Rangers 1969

Go Go Boots Power Rangers?

I love this kind of thing, even for settings I don’t know.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Games for 2017-18?

It’s just two months to go before GEAS starts again. Freshers’ Week is September 11-17th. Time for the inevitable pause to think about what to run...

Something relatively straightforward, both in rules and setting.

Star Wars? 40th anniversary, approaching The Last Jedi, that kind of thing. But I don’t particularly want to be the old fart complaining about the new game.

Buffy? Always up for running Buffy. The trick is finding people up for playing Buffy.

Superheroes? Hrm, maybe. Avengers style Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? With Icons, or something a bit heavier?

Something Darkness-y?

Thanks to Matt I have a vague interest in a Western...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Net Neutrality


Two Hundred A Day

Nathan Paoletta (Annalise) and Epidiah Ravachol (Dread) talking about The Rockford Files.

Discovered backwards through Twitter comments relating to Emily Care Boss noting how Rockford frontloads character besides that required for action - like when he has a ham in his fridge.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

S. John Ross has a blog!

S. John Ross has a blog!

For those new to him, S. John Ross created Risus, makes RPG fonts, character standups in fonts, created a piece of canon in a Star Trek RPG book, and wrote The Big List Of RPG Plots. His blog looks to be worth reading.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Dracula's America pre-release

It is 1875, and Count Dracula is President of the United States of America...”

Dracula’s America: Shadows Of The West looks to be a rather odd little wargame.

(I am curious about the scale, as they include Artizan Western miniatures for mundane types, and those are on the short end of 28mm - I used one as a Dwarf when I made a set of Owl Hoot Trail characters.)

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Nelsan Ellis

Nelsan Ellis, most famous as Lafayette in True Blood, has died aged just 39. During the show’s run, he spoke about the value of diversity in representation after another actor allegedly left the show to avoid playing a gay affair.

Demon: The Descent - Of Faith, Power And Glory

In May I grabbed a chance to run Demon: The Descent, with a mix of players familiar with the World and Chronicles Of Darkness and entirely new ones, but none of us had had a chance to try Descent before. The plan was for a shortish game over the summer, which got shorter than intended for external reasons, so the initial adventure became rather more high-stakes than it might have otherwise...

With four players, I suggested going with one each of the four demonic Incarnations, while having the same political Agenda, suggesting Inquisitor because I had a game of pursuing mysteries in mind. As such they have some concepts that would fit a longer chronicle better than a miniseries. So there may be more to come...

Each has a single human Cover identity. (The ability to maintain extra Covers is attached to the “power stat” Primum.)

Demonic powers are a mix of Embeds, which let them do things super-spies can do with gadgets (one of the characters can bug people by touching them, another can knock people out with a single strike) and Exploits, which are more mystical reality hacking. There was some delighted “whaaaaat?!” at what some of the Exploit powers could do. We left Demonic Form for the second session so that we could get started, and there was another round of delighted “whaaaaat?!” when we got there. “Do I want Long Limbs or a Plasma Drive? Hmm. Thing is, though, the mechanics are balanced!”

Argos, Psychopomp, once a many-eyed angel observer and now the owner and bartender of the Four Seasons in Chicago, someone that people can’t help sharing their secrets with. He fell when he received impossible orders, and came to believe that the God-Machine is fundamentally flawed.
Notable powers: Living Recorder (Embed, allows him to ‘bug’ someone’s senses and play them back later), Clairvoyant Sight (Demonic Form), Advanced Optics (Demonic Form)

Magnus/Opus, Messenger, a taxi driver with an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time - and the ability to manifest his cab around him and turn it into a tank. He fell after talking too long to those who rode his cab and seeing too much of their lives.
Notable powers: Soup Up (Embed, allows altering vehicle stats), Demon Car (Exploit, allows him to possess his car), Electrical Sight (Demonic Form), Electrical Resistance (Demonic Form)

The Undermining Whisper, Destroyer, a debunker of fraudulent psychic phenomena with a particular skill at having useful sources back him up by the time people go to look. He fell after discovering something he was meant to debunk was real and dangerous to the people he was lying to.
Notable powers: Eavesdrop (Embed, listening in on any conversation he can see), Left or Right? (Embed, influences binary decisions), Everybody Knows (Embed, spread rumours virally), Find The Leak (Embed, detects disloyal behaviours)

---- (Arne), Guardian, a bouncer with various frightening combat abilities including armour and fangs in demonic form, and a Knockout Punch all the time. He’s also the only one with a healing power. He fell after saw angels working at cross purposes, and stepped in to protect a target against a fellow angel.
Notable powers: Knockout Punch (Embed, does exactly what it says on the tin), Break To Heal (Exploit, symbolically destroy an object to heal an injury), Claws And Fangs (Demonic Form), Tough As Stone (Demonic Form)

All episode titles, and two character names, borrowed from VNV Nation. This tradition goes back to the tagline for Rose Bailey’s Strange As Angels, because about three quarters of their song titles sound like adventure titles for games about heroic demons and/or spies.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t have the best action of a Spider-Man movie (the train in Spider-Man 2 is still the winner for me) or the best emotional kick (for me that’s the moment when New Yorkers start throwing things at the Green Goblin in Spider-Man) but it’s easily the funniest, and a whole lot of fun.

Unlike the previous films it’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this very much makes Peter Parker a junior member, with Tony Stark as his (somewhat inept) mentor. So it might annoy people who just want a Spider-Man movie, but not nearly as much as, say, Captain America: Civil War.

Like the first run of Ultimate Spider-Man it stays in high school. Hence the Buffy tag on this post, USM is a great Buffy series. It also borrows a character from its second run.

It assumes you know the origin, too. (While including a run of questions about it to cover the basics just in case.)

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Chronicles Of Darkness: Dark Eras 2

Now on Kickstarter. I am not biased in favour of any of these eras in particular, after getting The Year Without A Summer for Promethean: The Created in the add-on Companion last time. Someone else on has already brought up my other suggestion for Innocents in the Blitz again!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Not all my song-based story ideas are RPG-friendly.

Now I want to make a retro 80s painful breakup movie so I can use Fake Happy by Paramore as the end credits theme.

(An 80s John Hughes high school Buffy game would be too easy really.)

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Independence Day

... still works pretty well.

The sequel is interesting in running with the world-changing events of the original but the world-building distances it from the real-world setting of the original, and then the plot doesn’t capitalise on it as much of the reverse-engineered tech is disrupted by the new alien invasion fleet and a lot of the same story beats recur.

Er, anyway, happy 4th of July, USA type readers!

Monday, 3 July 2017

The 100 Season 4

The 100 Season 4 was on the whole less nuts than Season 3. The show finally went full Hunger Games with just weeks to spare, and had one more crazy twist left after that. And it kept to its point of being about how awful Making Hard Decisions would be.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Older content?

Once upon a time, I used LiveJournal. For reasons explained by Frank the Goat, you should be able to find it on Dreamwidth instead.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Canada Day 150!

Happy Canada Day, celebrating the 1st July 1867 enactment of the Constitution Act.

Four years back I looked at popular culture using Canada as a setting, including notes from Derek about city-based scenarios. (I never got a chance to do that Primeval crossover adventure, sadly.)

I often link to Superhero Girl vs. Canadian-ness as an example of how to avoid making regional characters stereotypes. So here we are again. :)

Friday, 30 June 2017

Marvel's Inhumans trailer

The classic royal Inhumans as opposed to the general Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. earthly Inhumans.

Sticking to an effectively mute main character is the most interesting choice here.

Apart from keeping Lockjaw, the giant teleporting bulldog.

Anson Mount looks kind of strange without a beard.

The Marvel universe has a lot of alien / unearthly royal families.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

2500 posts!

And the most common tag, the only one to break 500, is... RPGs.

The Magicians

The Magicians - Wizard School now with swearing!

The tone of the series is kind of all over the place, with urban high fantasy and addiction drama and, er, books in love. The Beast with a face obscured by moths is a striking image.

The most intriguing part for me is the renegade witch group off to the side and resenting the Wizard School that rejected them.
Lev “Grossman successfully captured the idea that we never truly loosen our grip on our childhood fantasies, even in the midst of the most glaringly adult moments of our lives. (Like when we’re screwing or cheating or failing at our jobs.) Adulthood is another fantasy, he implies, and once we recognize that we can free ourselves from the limitations it imposes.”
Hillary Kelly at on the original novels

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Flatshare At The End Of Time

An idea I never quite got to running:

Mei moved in to this flat last week, she still hasn’t finished unpacking... and a woman just stumbled out of the closet, claiming to be on the run from an arranged marriage in 1871. And a deserter from Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign is in the shower. And an escapee from the Salem witch trials in the loop. And they all recognise the guest on the TV news as Mei makes them tea...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Top Secret NWO

A new edition of the Top Secret cinematic-ish espionage RPG is coming after a small gap of thirty years, on Kickstarter.

It appears to have turned into a Savage Worlds or Cortex variant while nobody was looking.

And most of the reward tiers as US-only. At least you can get the actual New World Order game worldwide...

Waaaaay back in the day I played Top Secret / S.I. in high school, in the FREElancers variant setting of slightly cyberpunk special ops, where my berserker ex-military sniper may have been somewhat influenced by a recent film called Lethal Weapon. I almost ran the standard superspy agencies setting as well, but never quite got to it. It still informed some of my espionage games down the years, and I considered running it instead of an Adventure! hack for modern superspies.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Birthday hauntings

And as is now sorta-traditional-which-is-partly-my-fault, an birthday idea thread.


43 isn’t the answer to life, the universe, or anything.

Now reading Beren And Luthien. Next, The Adventures Of Superhero Girl. Then The Long Utopia. Then Person Of Interest season three and Rogue One on disc. Then cake.

I share my birthday with Nick Offerman and the first printing of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A source for Mage ideas?

Does anyone have a list of 20-30 random titles that I can use as a starting point for Mage: The Ascension story hooks?

Edit: I asked the book of faces, and the first specific suggestion I got was from Bruce Baugh, so he wins. (And not just because he worked on the Revised rulebook and wrote the last novel for the setting!)
Song titles by Karnataka, or Birthday Massacre, or Barock Project would do nicely. Or Hugo/Nebula-nominated and -winning short fiction. Or Rhysling Award winners and nominees.
The Birthday Massacre were seconded, so go with them. Coming soon as I can get them done!

Also suggested: Houses Of The Holy (by Crian), Discworld novels (by Karen) and Elric stories (by my brother).

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Stewart Wieck

Stewart Wieck has died, just 49. One of the founders of White Wolf Magazine with his brother Steve and White Wolf Games, he worked on Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse before leading the creation of Mage: The Ascension. More recently, he founded Nocturnal Media, publishing Scarred Lands with Onyx Path and a new edition of Pendragon, as well as Darkling Plain, a boardgame with characters that animate when viewed through smartphones. Phil Brucato explains his legacy far better than I could.

My sympathies to his family and friends as well as my fellow fans.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Band On The Run

Going to a big gig (srsly, about 2200 people, queues out the door, across the square and round the corner, guest appearance by Lauren from Chvrches) got me thinking about the logistics of something like that. I’ve played and run games about bands before, but like most PC groups they’ve been rinky-dink bands playing rinky-dink spaces, maybe with one adventure about a big show, because a non-famous band having adventures seems more feasible. It’s like plotting for low-level adventurers versus royalty.

I’m kinda-sorta considering writing a sourcebook about music venues, possibly separate from my kinda-sorta considering a sourcebook about visual art venues, and I’m largely thinking low-end there too.

Star Trek: Discovery - coming in September

Star Trek: Discovery starts on September 24th in the USA and the 25th here, and Jason Isaacs joins the glorious tradition of looking uncomfortable in Starfleet uniforms.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to adapt Dracula

Some strangely apt news for midsummer... Moffat created the TV sequel Jekyll, but Gatiss is the known horror buff, having written and presented series on the topic as well as horror and horror-comedy fiction, and indeed done an audio version of Dracula with Big Finish.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Netflix Interactive "Gamebooks"

Kids Interactive Adventure uses the streaming service to support a branching story, Choose Your Own Adventure style. I’ve seen this done with DVD and YouTube (NSFW language there) as well as Earplay audio, but Netflix trying it gives it a big platform.

Stranger Things retro figures

Not a fan of retro action figures in general, but I suppose it fits Stranger Things being made entirely out of 80s. They’re also less bobble-headed than most of the style, which helps. Demogorgon cuts quite the dash, though presumably with the retro articulation it won’t have hinged jaws.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Wynonna Earp season two

Wynonna Earp is back, and there are more monsters around. And the cliffhanger was sorta-kinda resolved but appears to be an ongoing issue. And Black Badge use blood on contracts instead of signatures, suggesting they’re a different kind of occult monster-hunting conspiracy than they appeared last year. And Doc lost his hat.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pass on some of what you have learned

Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers, parents, father figures, and other mentors.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Gary Gygax's FBI File

For reals.

“He is known to carry a weapon and was proud of his record of personally answering any letter coming from a prison.” Because encouraging literacy, numeracy and cooperative play in prison is a scary thing, I guess...?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

VtM 5 playtest

The Vampire: The Masquerade 5 pre-alpha playtest rules and scenario are now online. Also available at DriveThruRPG. They look to be much the same as the Berlin playtest, including the hand-drawn maps.

Edit: I didn’t play Amelina, or see the other character sheets. The player who picked Amelina read and played her as liking to hang out with younger vampires rather than young people, possibly missing the feeding restriction. (We also didn’t get as far as the Spartans, or any of the ways the PCs could die very suddenly.) It still played as fairly absurdist and ultraviolent, with various horrible characters.

Yogi Bear Vs. Dracula

Poenari Castle, stronghold of Dracula, has become such a tourist site that their leftover food has attracted a family of bears.

Thanks to Sean for the link.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Wickiverse?

The creators of John Wick (the film not the RPG designer) are planning a TV spin-off, The Continental, about the hotel/Elysium chain for international assassins.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How to run ongoing horror... into the ground

Daniel Dockery at Cracked on horror TV, the problems of recurring antagonists and how to kill off someone we’ve seen take on all comers for six years already. The first point about off-topic subplots applies to all genres, but there’s useful advice here for this genre among others.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The problem with a public domain movie universe

Marvel are probably too nice to make a movie about their Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein monster and Werewolf By Night just to mess with Universal.

Hammer, meanwhile, recently finished a comic of The Mummy with a young woman with mummy powers running from a conspiracy in modern London. Shame the collection won’t be out for another month.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Black Canary

Happy 70th anniversary, Black Canary! A pulp hero in a world of supers. You rock.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Adam West

Adam West was the Batman of my childhood, and his perfect deadpan delivery was the centre of that glorious madhouse. Good night, and thank you for all the fun.

The Mummy

It is a Universe... of DARKNESS.

The DARK UNIVERSE globe appears to be behind and to the left of Universal Earth, at a right angle.

The Mummy was in places quite fun, and in places quite strange. The two overlapped pretty heavily. It was flattest when being a normal action-adventure summer movie.

Also, arachnophobes will not have fun with some scenes.

Enlightenment In Blood war stories

From Darker Days. I can attest to the truth of the first story...

The Mummy... as the hero?

An Egyptology professor is secretly a mummy! A plot idea from comments on The Mary Sue which is very much not what happens in the new film. Teaching the history you’ve lived through is more of a Highlander thing.

Alan Moore and Steve Bissette's not-Thor comic Horus was a professor who became the eponymous god... the original World Of Darkness: Mummy went pretty Highlander with the showing off historical knowledge... and this image from D20 Modern always hinted at that kind of story, perhaps in a more villainous way.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Gaming at the Fringe

The 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme is out.

(Macbeth 1, Hamlet nil! A shocking win for Julius Caesar and The Tempest at two each!)

Also, a Lovecraft adaptation, a Stoker adaptation that isn’t Dracula, the return of The Dark Room...

And an interactive game of Werewolves Of Miller’s Hollow!

And a physical theatre piece about the emotional meaning of Dungeons & Dragons.

No zombie run this year, and no obvious examples of interactive theatre that is really LARP...

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Betrayal At Baldur's Gate

I hadn’t guessed from the name that Betrayal At Baldur’s Gate was a D&D variation on House On The Hill.

I suspect Drizzt.

Monday, 5 June 2017

I was there, I swear!

Warning: obscure RPG injoke. Even by the standards of this page.

A gallery of photos from the big World Of Darkness Berlin LARP is out for review.

And although I was playing a Vampire: The Masquerade character, I was apparently a bit Vampire: The Requiem... in the sense that my face doesn’t appear clearly in any of them.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

UK Games Expo

Apparently this year UK Games Expo expanded to the world’s third largest tabletop games convention. The programme hints at how much bigger it is than just a few years ago. (And they seem to have done away with the pay-to-play RPGs, which I wasn’t keen on.)

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A ragtag fleet of timeships

A ragtag fleet of timeships landing across history, fleeing an enemy from beyond time. Sounds like the start of a game to me!

From the generally great 101 Time-Manipulating Villains! thread on

Primaris Marines

Warhammer 40,000 eighth edition is doing something like a smaller-scale version of my plan to smash the setting to pieces, having the Ultramarine Primarch awake and be rather put out by the state of the Imperium rather than the Emperor, as a way to introduce true-scale Space Marines.

Friday, 2 June 2017

D&D: Stream Of Annihilation

A livestreaming weekend for D&D, featuring Wizards Of The Coast creators and staff, fans, voice actors and more.

Unlike most RPG livestreams I’ve seen they’re all in the same room - and indeed in a purpose-built “living room” set - rather than playing via webcam from their homes.

Naturally I start thinking about what other RPG events could be shown like this. Livestreaming started with video games, and there are boardgame and wargame streams out there too.

My first thought would be LARP, which may be hypocritical of me as I complain about how much coverage it gets because it’s more visually interesting than tabletop, but hey, it might be lingering positivity after World Of Darkness Berlin. I could imagine someone bringing a camera in-character to something like Enlightenment In Blood or End Of The Line resulting in an improvised found-footage movie.

All the world is waiting for you...

I would guess if Wonder Woman had come out before Captain America it would have been set in World War II. That said, it would have looked very different in a bunch of other ways, if it had happened at all. She has a lot of the same heroic guardian qualities, and a bit of the fish-out-of-water element, though not as much as Thor. It’s also a better superhero film than DC have managed this decade.

I may also be overreading the Buffy influence in the moment with the sword. Or maybe not.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Kirlian Frequency / Ghost Radio

An Argentinian animated series about a paranormal radio station, La Frecuencia Kirlian, aka Ghost Radio, is kind of like Night Vale played straight-ish... and if we could see what was going on in the studio.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

You are being watched...

Surveillance is a major factor of modern dystopian futures, omnipresent in The Handmaid’s Tale and several alternate world characters’ job in the current Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cameras, checkpoints, and informants are recurring threats. Getting around it is a vital step in fighting back.

How possible that is can determine how playable the specific dystopia is, along with how bleak the tone is. (A setting as oppressive as The Handmaid’s Tale would be a hard sell for this reason alone, if not for various other concerns.)

The need for secrecy is common in urban fantasy as well, with the Masquerade in the title of the original Vampire. Demon: The Descent bridges the two with Cover rules for when characters act unlike the people they’re supposed to be. And yes, Person Of Interest starts with that title line...

Saturday, 27 May 2017

WFRP 4 and AOSRP 1

Cubicle 7 have announced both a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and an Age Of Sigmar game using a different system. Good call, I think.

Friday, 26 May 2017

It Was 120 Years Ago Today...

Not sure whether to post about the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or the 120th anniversary of Dracula. Coincidence...?

I’m sure Kenneth Hite could find some way to connect the two. Maybe through Wilde, Poe and Crowley appearing on the album cover... or an attempt to explain the 1974 film Son Of Dracula which Ringo Starr produced and co-starred in as, er, Merlin.

The Batman animated universe is back

Maybe just for one night only, but it’s something!

Batman And Harley Quinn, coming soon.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Star Wars at 40

Forty years ago, Star Wars opened in thirty-two US cinemas to an initial lack of fanfare.

It came here around Christmas... I might have seen it then, at three and a half. If not, I believe it was shown again, with “Episode IV” added to the opening crawl, a year later. I certainly have early issues of the UK reprint Star Wars comics, giant green rabbit and all, though they may have been handed down from my brother. And the toys, and... if I recall correctly... wallpaper.

I had definitely seen it before The Empire Strikes Back, which I remember seeing pretty clearly (with Black Angel in front of it, which I was relieved to discover really existed) while we were on holiday in the Highlands at my aunt Evelyn’s and spotted it was on in Aberdeen. (My mum went to the Beechgrove Garden instead.) I am similarly puzzled that the first ESB figure I got was a US import of Leia in her Bespin outfit.

I saw it again in a double bill with my dad a year or so later. By then I knew to close my eyes for the carbonite scene.

And then we saw Return Of The Jedi in the USA, which was a bit of an adventure in itself, as part of the summer I got appendicitis twenty feet from Mexico and a hundred and fifty miles from a hospital....

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Need some lost civilisations? 3855 artists offer ideas

ArtStation delivers the goods once again, with a competition to illustrate ancient or mysterious civilisations in game-friendly ways. The examples Kotaku picked out include evocative settings, characters and action scenes.

My last Star Wars game ran with a lot of ArtStation contest visuals, and I could pick a lot of these for fantasy or SF settings. I’ve already earmarked a few for Adventure! and Cavaliers Of Mars.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Sir Roger Moore

I can think of no higher compliment than passing on this story from Marc Haynes:

As an seven year old in about 1983, in the days before First Class Lounges at airports, I was with my grandad in Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I'd just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words "my grandson says you're famous. Can you sign this?" As charming as you'd expect, Roger asks my name and duly signs the back of my plane ticket, a fulsome note full of best wishes. I'm ecstatic, but as we head back to our seats, I glance down at the signature. It's hard to decipher it but it definitely doesn't say 'James Bond'. My grandad looks at it, half figures out it says 'Roger Moore' - I have absolutely no idea who that is, and my hearts sinks. I tell my grandad he's signed it wrong, that he's put someone else's name - so my grandad heads back to Roger Moore, holding the ticket which he's only just signed. I remember staying by our seats and my grandad saying "he says you've signed the wrong name. He says your name is James Bond."

Roger Moore's face crinkled up with realisation and he beckoned me over. When I was by his knee, he leant over, looked from side to side, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said to me, "I have to sign my name as 'Roger Moore' because otherwise...Blofeld might find out I was here." He asked me not to tell anyone that I'd just seen James Bond, and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight. My grandad asked me if he'd signed 'James Bond.' No, I said. I'd got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now.

Many, many years later, I was working as a scriptwriter on a recording that involved UNICEF, and Roger Moore was doing a piece to camera as an ambassador. He was completely lovely and while the cameramen were setting up, I told him in passing the story of when I met him in Nice Airport. He was happy to hear it, and he had a chuckle and said "Well, I don't remember but I'm glad you got to meet James Bond." So that was lovely.

 And then he did something so brilliant. After the filming, he walked past me in the corridor, heading out to his car - but as he got level, he paused, looked both ways, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said, "Of course I remember our meeting in Nice. But I didn't say anything in there, because those cameramen - any one of them could be working for Blofeld." I was as delighted at 30 as I had been at 7. What a man. What a tremendous man.
I donated to the Manchester fundraiser.

Twitter joke becomes film, sounds awesome

An observation about a photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o at a fashion show looking like a high-class con artist and her hacker tech support is set to actually become a movie next year. SOLD.

Monday, 22 May 2017


The official name for the new Universal Monsters Cinematic Universal... er, Universe, is DARK UNIVERSE.

When just one World Of Darkness isn't enough?

And after the new version of The Mummy this summer, it rolls out with Bride Of Frankenstein (directed by Boll Condon, of Gods And Monsters) around Valentine’s Day 2019, then Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man some time later. Dracula Untold is back to being standalone, after having been talked up as a provisional inclusion. So presumably we’ll see a new Dracula down the line, and this may be the end for FIST OF BATS. Boo.

Still, the trailer showing the original Universal Monsters before the title drop is great.

Happy World Goth Day!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Demon: Trilogy

Demon: The Descent three-shot ended tonight. Keeping Demonic Form back from the rest of character generation speeded it up a bit, I think. The option to do more is there.

Friday, 19 May 2017


Heartless, the Danish not-quite-vampire drama, is the best Monsterhearts game I’ve ever seen.

I see something I don’t recognise in your eyes...

(Amusingly, Godric from True Blood plays one of the clueless humans.)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Star Trek Discovery Trailer

You can’t set a course without a star...

UK-friendly Twitter trailer.

They really should have gone with uniforms for the first photo from the series, not those desert outfits that look Wrath of Khan but also more than a little like Rey’s outfit when it was new... even if the uniforms are a tad Mass Effect.

Grand hall of Klingons!

Unknown objects in space!


Doug Jones in alien makeup!

Snooty Vulcan!


Lens flare!

They’re hitting quite a few familiar beats here.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Person Of Interest

I have now seen the last episode of Person Of Interest.

I’m fine.


I’ll be watching the first episode tonight.

The series really ran with the danger that its premise suggested, and the second half made it vitally important. It snuck a cyberpunk dystopia into the gimmick for a modern crime drama. The final battle gave the villains a genuinely compelling argument, and refuted it.

Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country, a new HBO series adapted from the Matt Ruff book by Jordan Peele and Misha Green (with JJ Abrams as executive producer) has its protagonist dealing with the real horrors of racism in 1950s America as well as horrors from the Mythos.

(Did Chaosium coin the phrase Lovecraft Country for their series of Call Of Cthulhu regional sourcebooks, or was it already in use?)

13th Age Bundle Of Holding

13th Age from Pelgrane on PDF, for a good price for the starter set, and spend a bit more to get a lot of stuff including the barnstorming dungeon deconstruction adventure Eyes Of The Stone Thief and an exclusive collection of the organised play adventures.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Monarchies Of Mau

Monarchies Of Mau, a game of cats from the same world as Pugmire.

I'm gonna be a naughty vampire god!

One of the bar discussions at World Of Darkness Berlin ranged across various subjects, including Humanity and the other Paths in Vampire: The Masquerade, whether making them (and the Sabbat, in particular) playable was a good call. I’ve never really liked them, because they dodge around the original “what would you do to survive, or as a short cut to power?” question of the Vampire family of games, as well as a lot of them being played as “The Path Of What I Was Going To Do Anyway”. I definitely prefer the Vampire: The Requiem second edition version where the Humanity issues can be customised at some length.

On the other hand, I can also get the appeal of playing a vampire who doesn’t worry about this stuff. Lestat is more fun than Louis, Severen and Jesse are more fun than Caleb and Mae. There’s certainly fun to be had in playing such a character - it’s just not ideal in a Vampire game where morality is an issue. Something to discuss in advance, I think.

The Triumph Of Death miniatures

I really do not need more miniatures. Let alone more miniature skeletons. No, not even a miniature skeleton army based on Renaissance skeleton apocalypse paintings.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sunday, 14 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Four

Last night was the quiet wind down evening, where I hopefully somewhat amused some other guests, and discovered that one of them is Vicki Earland, the creator of OneDice Raptors, a game that one of my friends ran at Conpulsion. It’s a small strange world...

Also hi Joe and family!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Three

The Vampire: The Masquerade 5 playtest. Some info is out in the world already, and an alpha playtest will go out online in due course. It will probably lack the charmingly last-minute hand-drawn maps of the Berlin pre-alpha, though.

In the meantime, I can say that Hunger Dice are a pretty interesting concept, though the game will have to nail down what a Scene means...

And that the pre-alpha included Disciplines with a pretty MET feel and Virtues and Vices in a very Chronicles way.

And panels, Justin Achilli on why we play games and Mark Rein-Hagen on where these particular games came from.

Enlightenment In Blood

“I started the evening on the floor of an old Stasi interrogation room with half a chair leg stuck in my heart. It went downhill from there.”

Two hundred and fifty people in twelve locations, marked out from the real people by red wristbands (and that we were playing in English) with a simple system that relied heavily on trust as we had about one GM for every twenty players, if that. “Don’t be a dick” was the basic headline of the briefing. Real people being there meant taking care what we did and said in public, which meant the Masquerade felt quite real.

Powers based on phrasing like “you really, really fear me” for Dread Gaze, and combat on comparing 1-5 scores, with ties decided by what would be interesting, and no death for PCs until midnight - the game ran 8.15 till 1. All designed with a one-shot game in mind, not an ongoing chronicle.

Two basic tracks, Inhabit for PCs involved in central groups and major plots, and Explore for wandering the location and setting more DIY goals. I went Explore, being so inclined, creating a character who knew nothing and nobody by default.

Characters joined groups through an online selection system, then picking clans, powers, attitudes and so on. By the time I got round to it, after two weeks, a majority were full and I got into the Staked, anarch vampire prisoners of the newly dead Sheriff, liberated at the start of the game with no real plan.

The plastic sheet for ashes and teeth was a real talking point for our starting location.

“Then someone says "Uhhh those aren't props..." and you back away slowly.” - Brandon Sherlock, joking, I hope.
“Procuring ashes in a major city is not a trivial task, it turns out, but the nightclub across the street had some fire bins and an open mind.” - Johanna Koljonen
“... and a nice shovel, which we found immediately AFTER shoveling those ashes into a bag. Thanks to Zach by the way for getting his hands dirty for us.” - Daniel Thikötter


One of us, a more experienced Nordic LARP player, did have an agenda and ran off to pursue it after checking OOC if that was OK. I next saw her three hours later in the crowd killing the Prince. As we discussed later OOC, we had quite different experiences of the night! The rest of us stumbled off to cause trouble.

The outside of the RAW block
Venues included a shabby anarch bar, a rather nicer Camarilla bar, a pool hall (full of real people when we got there), an otherwise empty church hosting a vampire cult with its own factions (which we robbed) and more I never even saw like the Syndicate Mage meeting and the Bone Gnawer werewolf squat. All the locations were cool, if a bit far in the case of the church.

And I could carry on. For example, I didn’t use the in-character social media site.

Friday, 12 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Two

News! (Update: official video!)

Mostly on Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition, announcing Ken Hite as lead designer as well as Karim Muammar on rules, and fashion designer and photographer Mary Lee as art director.

A first edition feel with isolated cities and tyrannical Princes inciting the War of Ages with the dispossessed anarchs and the Sabbat as some mysterious danger elsewhere, rather than global conspiracy sects fighting. And a mechanics focus on The Hunger.

Also revealed - The Storytellers’ Vault, like D&D Beyond for this system. Plans to support all four previous editions of VtM to begin with. Hmm. Tempted to write adventures...

GMing! Because by cracky, I will have tabletop gaming happen!

LARP! Enlightenment In Blood took over eleven locations in East Berlin, mostly around an artist’s colony with clubs, installations, and lots of graffiti. As another participant says, “The RAW Gelände looks like a Tim Bradstreet sketchbook.” Fantastic location, if rather too spaced out for my shins’ liking. Interesting game too, though I deliberately stayed on the periphery and got the picaresque found-footage experience rather than driving much story. (Though one of the groups may have survived the night because I said hello to someone...)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day One

Greetings from a hotel somewhere in Berlin.

So far I've attended the screening of the World Of Darkness documentary, which is less “before White Wolf, RPGs were for neeeeerds!” than some feared, while still focusing on some areas and skipping over others. Lots of good stuff from Tim Bradstreet about the art, for one thing.


From Steve D of Tin Star Games, Relics, a game of fallen angels who don’t know why they fell. Hopefully a couple years out.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Judge Dredd on TV?

I am hopeful about the announcement of Judge Dredd: Mega-City One from Rebellion and IM Global, a newish company started by a producer with SyFy and with a lot of licences on the roster. Hopeful, but will wait and see...

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow, the TV series, is to end after four seasons. And I just finished catching up on the first season and a half.

I was advised that the mid-season break there is the point to stop for those who want closure as the show goes downhill after season one. Which looks to be true from that half-season already.

When I started up after the fun pilot, I was expecting it to run at a higher consistent Weird Level than it did, more like Angel than mid-season The X Files, considering it’s about...

Ichabod Crane being a Revolutionary War hero mortally injured in 1781 while fighting the Headless Horseman (and indeed making him headless), put into suspended animation by his wife Katrina who is a witch and revived in the present to fight the Horseman, who is actually one of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, teaming up with an understandably sceptical police officer, Lieutenant Abbie Mills, who has her own issues with demons and madness plaguing her family and the town.

I was a bit let down right from the first regular episode, when the two regular cops who backed Abbie’s story after getting halfway through trying to get the Horseman to put his hands on his head were written out and didn’t become recurring characters. The precinct captain joined the crusade, so having a couple of comic relief guys on the team too would have worked for me.

Another group seemed to be set up as potential allies and got murdered offscreen the next episode. It helped emphasise the danger of the battle against evil... but made the setup episode feel a tad wasted.

And some the real-world occult history was clearly dropped in a blender. (Druids are Greek?)

To be fair, the Weird Level ramped up quite a bit. Fighting monsters on horseback! Zombie Redcoats! Portals made of fragmented reality! Animated suits of armour with flaming swords! This is what I was after!

Though the “more like Angel” thing went a bit too far...

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Playing a family

The Gifted, the new X-Men spinoff TV series, is about a family with mutant children. Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker play the parents, making it seem like they're the main characters.

Having kids is a big issue for protagonists to deal with. I've hardly ever done it or seen it done. It would need the right players.

A Hellboy reboot?

I think Guillermo Del Toro’s first film of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy was great, and the second was a good Del Toro film that Hellboy was also in. A third or more might have balanced things out nicely, because Hellboy Vs. Elric In Faerieland is a fine setup for one of three or four movies about him rather than one of two, but it was not to be.

Now, it looks like we’re getting a new Hellboy movie, starring David Harbour, directed by Neil Marshall. I am okay with this. Harbour isn’t the “of course!” casting level of Ron Perlman but seems like he could pull it off. Marshall’s a good bloke. He brought Dog Soldiers and Doomsday to my local horror festival, The Descent to the same cinema for a preview, and came to the festival another year just to hang out and watch some movies.

Hoping it learns from the previous films and doesn’t keep all their changes. Hellboy being secret didn’t add all that much to the first film, and being revealed took up time in the second, for example.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Local Superheroes

Having mentioned Cool French Comics earlier, I thought I’d highlight Photonik and friends, superheroes created to join French reprints of Marvel comics.

So are they part of the Marvel Universe? Apparently not.

Still, they’re a good example of borrowing characters from local fiction rather than creating them as needed. Although you’ll note that Photonik is set in New York...

See also International Hero.

And Superhero Girl Vs. Canadian-ness.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

France as a setting

Another nation that could provide a rich variety of adventures.

Paris has cropped up a few times in my games as a highly recognisable location for tourist-y adventures, much like its role in many world-spanning movies. In this it’s a bit like London, but not as familiar to players based in Britain.

My first run of a straight spy game started in Paris, inspired by The Bourne Identity and featuring the subway and district divisions as well as more touristy backdrops. I also had a more cinematic spy game feature a car and boat chase along the east bank of the Seine, though I resisted the temptation to include the Eiffel Tower.

It’s also been a setting for adventures like a Doctor Who game fighting Nazis and dinosaurs in the early 1940s, Arthurian knights and Crusade-era vampires wandering all over western Europe, globetrotting adventurers and superheroes with a tendency to get into fights at or around famous landmarks, and Buffy being teleported away from Sunnydale by a monster trying to open the Hellmouth and having to get back without a passport.

I’ve never used it as a location for more than a single adventure or arc in any games, but I have considered it at times, like a supers or SF game mining Cool French Comics for characters and setups, or fantasy or horror cribbing from this thread about The Guide To Mysterious France.

I’ve also played the American translation of a French RPG, In Nomine. The adventure wasn’t set in France, however.

There are also supplements for France (or just Paris) for various real-world-based RPGs, and sections in Europe sourcebooks as well. I’ve seen Dreamhounds Of Paris for Trail of Cthulhu in action too. (Paris is a crater in Trinity. Sorry...)

Swashbuckling RPGs often feature Musketeers or analogues. The Revolution may or may not be an issue.

Likewise, Bretonnia in Warhammer started as just before the Revolution in WFRP 1 and then slid back to Arthurian High Middle Ages in the later wargame setting, while the Empire stayed early Renaissance throughout...

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Grim And Perilous Lego Minifigure

The Battle Dwarf from the new Lego Minifigures set is absolutely not a Troll Slayer from Warhammer. Not at all. Nope.
“Five angry trolls and a rock giant? Hah, what else d’ya got?”
Okay, maybe a little.

The Battle Dwarf is a fierce warrior of the Boar Clan, a brave and proud family renowned throughout the land for their expert iron-forging. He carries the axe Gougetusk, crafted by his own hand, and the legendary war hammer Snoutsmasher, famed for its ability to flatten enemies with the force of a charging razorback.
The Battle Dwarf is as loyal a friend as he is ferocious an opponent, though his hearty back-slaps of comradery are almost as likely to knock you over as a blow from his hammer. The tattoo on his shoulder recounts the tale of how he once faced a fire-breathing sea dragon. He didn’t manage to slay it or anything, but just getting away in one piece was considered a great heroic achievement – and the encounter left him with his magnificent new hairstyle, too!
Possibly more than a little.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Mexico as a setting

Today is Cinco de Mayo, the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, where a Mexican force held off the invading French army who outnumbered them two to one. It’s become a general event celebrating Mexican culture at home and abroad, especially in the U.S. One of the Mexican restaurants in town has a tequila promotion and face painting...

I nearly visited Mexico as a child, but I got appendicitis the night before. I insisted on being carried out to see the Rio Grande before we left the campsite to drive a hundred miles to a hospital.

I don’t think I’ve ever run or played an adventure set in Mexico. The closest I’ve come is the border, as it was in real life. I’ve had a few Mexican NPCs in U.S.-set games.

My first thought when I notice something like this is to look at a country’s history and find a good event to use for a Doctor Who adventure, or dropping a modern adventure in there. Since they’re mobile and facing an international threat, maybe I’ll send my current game to Mexico City for a session or two...

There aren’t very many sourcebooks or adventures for the country. There’s South O’ The Border for Deadlands, Mexico City By Night for Vampire: The Masquerade and Shadows Over Mexico for Chronicles Of Darkness, some Call Of Cthulhu adventures and at least one for Trail of Cthulhu as well... and for the Mexican wrestling action movie subgenre there’s Lucha Libre HERO and Luchador; Way Of The Mask, and probably more.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

God Mode

The moment where you use a rare power-up. Trusting the Force in D6 Star Wars, Apocalyptic Form in Demon: The Fallen, Going Loud in Demon: The Descent and more.

In Person Of Interest, the Machine rarely guides the heroes directly, and the results of God Mode are awesome in both the modern and traditional meanings. (Spoiler: I just saw 5.13, where it happens again in a new way, and it’s quietly terrifying.)

Which games have something like this, where you can occasionally drop a massive bonus or hit an I Win button?

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Scrappers from Osprey

Scrappers is a post-apocalypse squad skirmish wargame, with mutants, robots, cultists and the like, a pretty Gamma World setup all round. It doesn’t appear to have vehicle rules which I really associate with PA gaming going back to Dark Future because of the Mad Max connection, but still looks fun.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was fun, but not as good overall as the first, I think. It overplayed some of the jokes, and I’m not entirely happy about the developments required to defeat the villain.

Also, so many cameos, some of them distracting from the film itself. I was amused by some, puzzled by others. Looks like some of them will go on to matter in later films.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Your writing prompt for the day

“Passage” (2007) by German land artist Cornelia Konrads

Thanks to Alistair Stuart for the link from Women’s Art on Twitter.

Demon: The Descent

I decided to go for Descent.

Now I just have to figure out why a canning plant was closed six months ago by industrial waste leaking upriver and reopened overnight as a computer factory, why the workers sleepwalk through their shifts, why a local human with insight into angels and demons was struck blind when she investigated, and why the overseer is an angel that one of the Unchained characters last saw at the battle of Stalingrad...

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bringing in the summer

The Beltane Fire Festival reaches its thirtieth anniversary tonight. By dawn it will be May, and some folk I know will be spending the night up a hill setting things on fire and making noise.

What kinds of cyclical rituals do your settings have? And do they work?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

How to get hundreds of people to pay to be stranded

So the big internet trainwreck news of the day was Fyre Festival, an extravagantly expensive music and art festival in the Bahamas ($450 for a day pass that would mean leaving before dark and missing the day’s headline act, up to $3,995 for a full pass with “curated tented accommodation”) which delivered on none of its wild or even reasonable promises, was clearly doomed ahead of time, and now has people sheltering in the FEMA emergency tents supplied instead of those luxury tent-cabins, all flights cancelled, one of the organisers apparently under arrest and governments stepping in to retrieve those stranded.

Twitter, of all things, is describing it as “the luxury party that turned into the Hunger Games.” This is something of an exaggeration, as nobody has been killed with a bow and arrow. As far as I know.

A disaster like this sounds like the perfect setup for a Fiasco playset, the perfect end to a con caper, or the perfect start to a horror story about mass human sacrifice. I can’t decide which I prefer.