Saturday, 18 September 2021

Adversity Games

This post is going to be a heads-up and plug for Adversity Games.  I have no connection with them other than being a playtester for their currently-in-development cyberpunk RPG, Wasters. 

The reason for the post is that AG have just had two major milestones.

The first is that their first Kickstarter is in the course of fulfilment.  Nightlancer is a cyberpunk tabletop game for up to 4 players - with solo, competative or co-operative options - set in a dystopian future (Birmingham, actually).  In it players are "living out the career of an underworld operative in a world turned to hell, struggling to escape the corrupt society and find freedom".

Nightlancer was 205% funded on Kickstarter last year.  As well as being delivered to backers, it's now available through the Adversity Games website (there's no news there about wider distribution, but there is a page for making enquiries).  Details of the game, a Wiki about the Nightlancer universe and a shedload of reviews (video and otherwise) can be seen on the Nightlancer page of the website.

And the website is the second milestone that I'm flagging - it's just been relaunched.

As well as the section on Nightlancer there is info on other games in development (including Wasters).

Monday, 13 September 2021

Books and Stuff (NS, No 19) - Reading in Aug 2021

I'm sorry that this is a little late; but to be honest, I doubt if any of you were on the edge of your seats waiting to be updated on my reading... 

Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral

After their long circumnavigation and service in West Africa, Aubrey and Materin are closer to home in this book.  Aubrey is concerned with Parliamentary business (no least opposing the enclosure of the common where he is lord of the manor).  At sea, they are employed in the tedious blockade of Brest with a superior who just happens to have an interest in the enclosure.

And above all is the deadful spectre of a looming peace, with Aubrey close to the top of the Captains' List and in danger of being retired as a 'Yellow Admiral'.

Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days

Well, the peace didn't last for long.  With Napoleon's return to France, a semi-official mission to Chillie is cancelled and our pair return to active service in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.  Much time is spent trying to prevent a shipment of gold from North Africa intended to buy allies for Napoleon in the Balkans.

Maturin goes on a lion hunnt.

Jill Murphy, The Worst Witch, The Worst Witch Strikes Again and A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch

Jill Murphy died on 18 August, so I read some of her Worst Witch stories.

James A Corey, Calaban's War

After watching the first season of 'The Expanse' on dvd (which ended on somewhat of a cliff-hanger), I decided to re-read the second book in the series.  

[It didn't take me long to realise that TV show had played cut-and-loose with the chronology of things - so I had to read the last third of Leviathan Wakes to fill the gap.]

In this book it turns out someone has weaponised the Protomolcule and that the planetary governments are intent on war - on the basis that it's best to sort out local differences before tackling any threat from outside the Solar System.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

24 August - Ancient


If I'd kept up with the RPG-word-a-day, one of today's choices would have been 'Ancient'.

I would have chosen this one because today is my 54th birthday.  It's also the 9th anniversary of this blog.  It's hard to avoid the feeling that the time (or at least peak) of blogs has passed (and that podcasts are on the way out too), but that's probably just my extistential crisis talking...

Monday, 23 August 2021

On Cheap DVDs

It would be surprising if my readers haven't noticed that streaming tv is now a Big Thing.  Perhaps only those of us who work in Charity Shops (Thrift Shops for those of you in North America) will have realised the corellary - we're now getting bags and bags of DVDs every day.  As a result most are selling them at 'please-take-them-away' prices (in our case five-for-a-pound).*  Even tape cassettes sell for more.**

*Sometimes the message doesn't come across.  A lady commented to me that we seemed to have a lot of DVDs.  "Yes", I replied "We can't sell enough of them - they're five-for-a-pound."  "Good", she said, "I'll bring you some in". 

**We can't even sell DVDs or cassettes to those bulk-buyers who give us 5p-a-kilo for books

But, of course, that provides an opportunity.  I've got an completist friend who's now got almost all the MCU films (and many of the tv series) on offer.  I'm not as committed as her*, but even so, I'm now up-to-date with that output.

*Being 30 years older, I value my time and storage space a little more.  I won't be spending 20p on 'Ironman 3' in a hurry.

In such a completist mode, I recently got all the 'Star Wars' DVDs.  I watched 'Solo' for the first time and realised what a turkey it was - and why Disney hasn't got a "Star Wars Anthology" series to rival the MCU.  On the other other hand, I the next night I watched, 'The Last Jedi' and enjoyed it.

As an aside, my favorite rendering of a Star Wars film is just 5mins 36 sec long...

When First Lockdown dawned I bought the complete 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' in order to recapture some 90's vibe.  I didn't watch them all, mainly because it's no longer the 90s (which made it creepy watching as a 50-odd-year-old).*

*But also because I got caught up in the whole continuitiy issue with 'Angel'.  And then the things came out about Joss Wheedon being a dick (see "creepy" above).

In prep for Second Lockdown I bought box-sets of "Blake's Seven".  What can be wrong with watching a beloved series from my adolescence?*

*I don't know, I still haven't got around to it.  But don't worry, it's definitely blog-fodder!

This week I've been watching the first season of 'The Expanse'.  Those of you who follow will know that I've read the first couple of the book series that this is based on.  Despite the fact that the fact that the pictures are always better in your head*, this is a great adaptation, and I'd recommended it.

*My vision of Detective Miller (in his hat) would have been played by Dennis Franz c.1983. But I'm old - my picture of asteroid mining is still framed by von Braunn and Isaac Asimov.

The point is that if there's anything out there that you to watch cheaply, you can probably get it on DVD (and you may be able to chuck some coin to charity at the same time).

Thursday, 12 August 2021

RPG-a-Day: 'Failure'

OK, so I have failed spectacularly in keeping up with the RPG-a-Day posts.  

But I think it was worth the attempt, and I'm going to carry on with the words (perhaps not all of them) as prompts for posts.  At my rate, this will give me material for the rest of the year!

Also, I've got my hostages to fortune...

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Kickstarter Watch: Medieval Marginalia


Link here.

On offer are 12 minis (for £38.00) from Andrew May of Meridian Miniatures and other projects  (with a strong Kickstarter track record), more or less directly copied from the marginal illustrations of medieval manuscripts (do follow the link and compare the minis to the source materials).  It was fully funded in half an hour, and unsurprisingly so.

Here's one of those tempting Kickstarter that's produced a delicious idea, but you wonder if you'll ever use.   I think the answer with this one is that if you had the figures, you'd damn well create a scenario to fit!

Idea: party of adventurers after a hazardous journey through the wilderness are glad to know that their next stop will be at the Abbey of San' Umberto, renowned for its hospitality to travellers (and, the more learned of your party point out, its magnificent library and scriptorium).  But when you arrive, the usual welcoming party isn't waiting...

Now, would you play that as a medieval fantasy (think Dolmenwood or The Midderlands) or a Cthuhlu Dark Ages?  And would you let you're players know which it was?

RPG-a-Day 2021: 3 - 'Image'

Today I'm going for one of the subsidiary choices - "Image".

For a long time I maintained that I don't have a visual imagination.  This went hand-in-hand with "I'm no good at art" and "I couldn't possibly paint minis".  It's wasn't until relatively late in life that I was disabused of that.  

Of course I have a visual imagination!  Just look at the post I did yesterday on maps.  I chose to read  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (and thus got into fantasy) because of Pauline Baynes' wonderful illustrations.  I picked up my first Robert Heinlein (and thus got into Sci-Fi) because of cover art.  And if it's surprising to some that I can remember the first book I bought, it is in part because of the striking cover.  I don't remember any of the plot (no doubt smuggling and dastardly foreigners played a part), but I can shut my eyes and see the object.

It was the cockatoo on the spine that did it...

So how does all this feed into RPGs?

Well, I think I've save some of the answer for when I talk about Inspiration, but in a word that's it.

Whether I'm GM-ing or playing I like to find images that represent what's going on.  Of course, in the days of VTT everyone now does that, and much to the enhancement of the game.   

Done properly it creates feedback - I find an image for a character and, suddenly, aspects of that image seep into character development and how I'm playing them.  

A case in point...

Bolton the Mage

I can't remember how far I was into character development when I found this image.  I had stats and knew that I was looking for a Magic User (was it before or after seeing the picture that I decided that he wasn't 'a Wizard', he was 'a Mage'?).  I think I had a name, but not much else.  Armed with the picture, I developed a character who liked the finer things in life and who prefered to use his brains rather than brawn (though he was surprisingly handy in a fight).  Of course, it helps to have cliches to fall back on!*  And as the game progress, so extra bits were added - some were mentioned once and fell by the wayside, others stuck (his love of jewels, and over-fondness for dolphin-burgers).  The cigar became significant - it became a tool through which he projected his magic,  The GM even developed a "Hamlet moment" for him, whereby he got a bonus if he paused and smoked one. And of course, when we came to a city that had a Eunuchs' Guild...

*In this case I was thinking of Nichloas van Rjin and Nero Wolfe.

Yes, all this character development could have come out through other means.  I'm merely saying that an image is a good tool for the imagination.  Most of us have more than one source to pick from.  Other people get the same result from finding the 'right' accent.  Some actors claim that they don't get into character until they find the right hat or pair of shoes.  Whatever it takes.  This is a game of imagination, and we all need props.

"But!" I hear a cynic cry "Surely this stiffles the imagination!  Theatre of the Mind - that's where it's at!"  I suppose done heavy-handedly there is a danger of this - of creating a visual railroad (much like saying your Elf can't use dual weapons, because your mini of him only has a sword and a bow).  But that underestimates the power of the imagination - if every picture speaks a thousand words, how many combinations of those words are there?  Humans (even more so "Players") are adapt at interpretation.  Two people will look at the same picture or read the same book and come away with different things.  They will latch onto to different aspects and may choose to block out others.  I look at the picture of Bolton above and and see "fat man with cigar" someone else will look at him and see "be-jewelled bearded dandy".  From these initial impressions, two (or more!) interpretions may branch out.

Just a few pictures taken from the pages of this blog.  Who can say that they're not inspirational?

"I have a little, ah...  'job' for you."

Who wouldn't want to fly around the
 'Verse with this crew?


Monday, 2 August 2021

RPG-a-Day 2021: 2 - 'Map'


Today's word is an easy one for me as it allows me to rehash one of my favourite RPG stories.  When my FLGS group celebrated the first anniversary of our delve in Barrowmaze I decided to have a hard-copy made of the progress we'd made.

End of Day 1

...and a year later

I was annoyed when Snappy-Snaps got in touch to tell me that it wouldn't be ready at the time they'd promised, and thus I'd have to pick it up on the way to the session.  When I got to the printers, it turned out that the lad who'd took my order had confused centemetres and inches.  That ruler lying on the map is a foot long...

Last week, someone posted on the Old School Essentials FaceBook group about all this.  "Why do you grumpy old sods hide things from your players?" he said*.  "I give my players the whole map and let 'em at it!".  Well good for him, and good for his players,  That's the game they want to play.  Exploration (of the 'dungeon') isn't their priority.  But I found it a bit odd.  I'm old-school in my approach.  I like mapping and record-keeping.  Why is that?

*Not really, but words to that effect.

Well there are those who will insist* that Dungeons & Dragons is primarily an exploration game (and by that they don't mean exploring one's character or motivations!).  So, when played in that Old-School** way, mapping is an essential part of resource-management.  

*Ad nausium sometimes.

**Note I use the initial capitals here that I avoided in the previous paragraph.

For me, it's because maps and imagination are closely linked.  I've posted before about R L Stevenson's 'Land of Counterpane'.  Technically the poem's not about maps but the link is there; and I'm not the only one who has lain in bed looking at cracks in the ceiling and instead seen rivers and coasts.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My introduction to fantasy was Narnia.  Not The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I picked up a copy of that in the school library because I liked the picture of the ship, but it also had a map!  Even better was the one in Treasure Island which had all sorts of strange symbols on it.  I've always loved coasts and islands.*  The first book I bought with my own money was Enid Blyton's The Island of Adventure**.  For years afterwards I'd doodle island maps.

*Inevitably our holiday desitnations when I was a kid.

**In a secondhand bookshop opposite Exeter Catherdral while on one of those holidays.  I must have been about 8.

Treasure Island

My next literary map was of Middle Earth, and I'm sure I don't need to write much about that one.*

*Partly because once one starts, where do you stop?

Of course, it all got rather out of hand in the fantasy genre.  All the sub-Tolkein writers determined that books had to come in threes*, have over 800 pages* and must start with a map.  Joe Abercombie** famously reacted against that and resisted having maps in his books (but they're just too damn useful!).

*At least!

**Who I rate very highly.  Follow the link and read his eloquent and amusing dismissal of crap maps.

So why do I like maps and record-keeping in my games?  I'd like to say that it's because of all this.  But really, it's because I'm anal.  There is a joy in making the unknown known.  I know that capturing the butterfly and pinning it to the page is unnecessary, but it's a question of control.  I must be a micro-managing control-freak.*

*No accident that I became an archivist then (and though I was bad at it, that was solely due to vice and laziness).


After posting this, I was reminded of my first book-with-a-map.  How could I forget the Hundred Acre Wood!  My Mother used to read Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner to me in bed.


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