Tuesday, August 02, 2016

#RPGaDay2016 Part 2

I don't play much I have to say, beyond the odd convention one-off. I think the last campaign I played in was WFRP3E several years ago. That said I did enjoy the game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay run by Ovid (now Rangdo). The scenario involved us playing as Bretonnian children, avoiding the Fay. I'd hoped to play a lot more at Whymmecon but my DM on the 2nd day was a little worse for wear, while my 2nd game was more of a miniatures hack-fest.

Monday, August 01, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016

How do you roll?

Mainly real dice. I used a diceless app for WFRP3E as it was cheaper than buying the custom dice FFG sell for that game, but it wasn't the same. I also try to use the latest in dice technology and recommend The Dice Shop. Why risk repetitive strain injury by rolling 2 dice when you can roll one inside the other?.

That said, I roll badly. All the time. Seriously... and we're not just talking about my aim.

DM: "The target number is only 7 on a d20."
Me: "Yeah, I'm not going to make that."
*rolls a 4*
DM, realising this is the 4th time in an hour: "Yeah, you are unlucky."

That said, when I DM I roll very, very well. As in rolls I wish I could summon as a player. This is because (and do not let this get out) I want the PCs to win, or at least be in decent enough shape to progress with the scenario. So naturally every roll is a natural 20 or whatever its equivalent is in the system we're playing.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Review of Robin of Sherwood: Knights of the Apocalypse

Warning: Minor Spoilers!

Robin of Sherwood ended with a 3rd season cliffhanger, as a ratings hit on ITV that had weathered changing its leading man from Michael Praed to Jason Connery. Sadly the funding for a 4th season fell through, and later ITV foolishly turned down the offer of a reunion TV movie which would have seen all the cast (including by then massive movie star Ray Winstone) come back.

That was that until 30 years later the remaining cast reunited for a Big Finish style 2 CD adventure based on the TV Movie script by the show's now-deceased creator, Richard Carpenter. Via an Indiegogo campaign that funded in 24 hours, the entire cast came back, namely Robert of Huntington (Connery), Marion, Little John, Will Scarlett (Winstone), Much, Tuck, Nazir (the now-not-so-silent Saracen assassin that led to numerous copycat characters in nearly every subsequent iteration), the Sheriff, Abbot Hugo and the Earl of Huntington. They even got Michael Praed back, though not as a ghostly echo of Robin of Loxley.

Sadly Robert Addie, the actor who played Gisburne, a major player in Robin of Sherwood, passed away and the replacement actor sounds nothing like his distinctive voice. On the other hand Herne is played by the original actor's son ably and Terry Molloy effortlessly replaces the recurring rat-obsessed prisoner from the series. Anthony Head plays the suave Grandmaster of the Knights of the Apocalypse, while Colin Baker hams it up as a seemingly horse-obsessed sorcerous knight who faces off against the Merries.

Knights of the Apocalypse deals with a particularly nasty sect of templars who indulge in the worst excesses the templars were accused of - worship of Baphomet, sorcery and favouring the material rather than spiritual. The audio has the feel of some of the more memorable and supernatural episodes of the series, in particular the Baron Belleme episodes, the Seven Swords of Wayland and the finale, Time of the Wolf, though the Knights plan is a little unclear and the Sheriff feels a little shoe-horned into the later plot (though I love Nickolas Grace's definitive sheriff).

Knights doesn't resolve the Season 3 cliffhanger (though does briefly mention what happened), nor does it really use any of the dangling Season 3 threads (such as Robert and Gisburne being half-brothers or dealing with the final fate of Robin Hood and his Merry Men). The Earl of Huntington's interactions with Robert even seem to ignore the fact they made peace in the Season 3 episode Rutterkin (though I suppose years have passed).

The audio is great - all of the characters sound great, and while they didn't get the rights to all of the original Clannad soundtrack Spiteful Puppet managed to get a Clannad-style soundtrack that compliments the original nicely. There are also lots of nice character moments. One recurring character buys it in a rather permanent fashion, but there is scope for a sequel (and hopefully an interquel that resolves the Season 3 cliffhangers). However there's a lot of actors to get together, and this was a for-charity audio. I do hope they do another one (and not resort to some sort of talking-book Companion Chronicle style release that many audio series descend into, like the revive Blake's 7).

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dungeon Saga pt 1

Mantic Games are a company with whom I've not had much dealings with, though I think I have some of their miniatures. It's yet another company run by ex-GW and aims to produce games at a reasonable price. A Warhammer-style career exit from Games Workshop Employee must be Disgruntled Ex-Employee with Own Company as Nottingham is littered with wargames companies managed by ex-GW staff like Mantic.

Their latest game, Dungeon Saga, is a co-operative dungeon basher where one or more players take the role of four heroes and play against the neccromancer. There are clear shades of Heroquest but it is much more tactical, taking into account facing and allowing the necromancer to animate or reanimate undead to engage your warband.

This was a game I played at the UK Games Expo, where this guy severely trounced us by taking out our wizard in a few turns, or ate our dwarf:-

Eyes of a killer.
Never one to be beaten I managed to acquire a kickstarter set - which comes in 2 impressive boxes shaped like tomes so they look neat on your bookshelf. The miniatures are a bunch of undead and the four stereotypical heroes - the barbarian, the dwarf, the elf and the wizard. There is a scenario booklet, a quick-start set of rules and everything is streamlined so you can just play on opening the box. There are 2 tutorial missions which deal with firstly learning how to handle melee with the barbarian and the dwarf, then the more tricky areas of magic and archery with the wizard and elf.

Overall a pretty slick pack. The miniatures are fine - nothing remarkable but they paint out well from the illustrations. If I had some criticisms it is that the monsters are solely undead in the core set, and that there are no gender versions of the archetypes. The elf is a gal, while the other 3 are male. Since my significant other is playing it is nice to be able to have girl alternatives for the other 3. I worry about these things, she doesn't.

The Kickstarter also included various expansions - the Return of Valandor, which comes with more undead and two new miniatures (one of which is Valandor, the other is his arch-demon nemesis). I'm not sure what's so remarkable about this, other than it continues the story in the core set.

The next expansion, Warlord of Galahir, introduces the greenskins - orcs, goblins and trolls, with the heroes roster now including a female cleric and a tree-man druid with telepathy.

Then you've got your demons in Infernal Crypts, with abyssals/demons, and a massive green dragon features in the Tyrant of Haloi. Add in a halfling thoef, a paladinsylph demon huntres and you have your core heroes. So far so good but in part 2 we'll run into problems.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#RPGaDay18 - Favourite SF RPG - Star Wars

Not really much of a Sci-Fi RPGer. I likes me swords, not blast-guns, but I suppose it's probably one of the Star Wars iterations - probably the original d6 Star Wars. Though Jedi are severely underpowered in the d6 Star Wars, making it better for Rebellion era campaigns.

It predates the prequels, by the time Episode I was out it was D20 Star Wars and everyone was a Jedi, but there's some cool sourcebooks for the (now presumably non-canon) Zahn trilogy.

During one of Brad's campaigns we invented the term "to Death Star it", which means two human PCs running around an Imperial base in Storm Trooper disguise with a Wookie.

#RPGaDay17 - Favourite RPG

Used to be D&D, but thanks to the chaps at DURPS I got exposed to other games. Now it's WFRP 2E - low magic, simple rules for the most part and heroes are very squishy. What's saddest is the line was cancelled just as it was really hitting its stride - the first few releases made it clear that Black Industries didn't really know how to produce a decent sourcebook (lack of maps, plot-hooks, explanations of the settings) while the rarer supplements like Realm of the Ice Queen, Night's Dark Masters and so on are quite imaginative.

Am I the only one who thinks the chick looks like a white haired Billie Piper?

#RPGaDay16 - Longest Session

So many to choose from but probably when I was a teen we'd go over to a mate's house in Kirriemuir and I would run AD&D Dragonlance, for about 16-20 hours straight. Now I'm a DM who likes to have written out a loose script, so by about the 12 hour mark I'd have run out of plot.

Gregor: Alright we walk into the alley.
Me: Yup. You walk straight into the alley.

Hoppy: Do I hear anything.
Me: Not at first. But then suddenly behind you there is wicked laughter.

In the other room Gregor's Wicked Stepmother then proceeds to laugh in a manner that would make the Witches from the Wizard of Oz envious.

And sadly that was an accurate indicator of her personality.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 15 - Longest Campaign

Serial DM and all-round good guy Paul was ending our disastrous run as mercenaries in Mechwarrior and starting up a new campaign of Rolemaster. My last experience of playing Rolemaster, which was possibly my first session at Dundee University Roleplay Society, saw my pregened monk bleed to death at the bottom of a well when ambushing a group of monsters.

So it was fair to say, despite four or so years elapsing since that fateful encounter, I was not expecting this character to last terribly long either.

I thought I might have fun though, and as the incredibly long character generation went on Paul told me that Paladins in Rolemaster don't have the whole Lawful Good restriction on their behaviour and that they got access to quite a large range of clerical spells.

So I figured that since my character would last fewer sessions than I had fingers on my hands I might as well have fun with this. I designed an ass-hole paladin. Not an evil paladin, but a Lawful Neutral paladin and since I was neutral that meant getting access to the Harm and Curse spells as well as the Healing.

So this monstrous character, Dasmius of the Blinding Light, stormed onto the table. Any obnoxious trait a paladin could have, this guy had. D&D Paladins had Detect Evil, Dasmius has Detect Good and Detect Enemy, and woe betide you if you didn't show up on the latter, or showed up on the former. And he cast these spells all the time. So he knew which of the party were dodgy.

Once I greeted a peasant as, "Ho there peasant!" and the rest of the table laughed, so it became a running gag that the party would say, "Ho there ."

The rest of the party thought he was a dick. And he was.

But both Paul and the Gods loved a bastard and he survived where many other characters died. Seriously, every other player went through at least 1-2 characters a year. Not me though and this just made Dasmius even more unbearable. My memory's a bit hazy, but things like this happened:-

He rolled a 66 on a piety roll when he foolishly woke up a dragon by yelling at "Demon horse! Demon horse!" at a horse that had come from seemingly nowhere. The Gods teleported the Dragon away, but if you ask him the Blinding Light smote the foul creature.

He, with his twin mage buddies, took out 3 powerful undead in a single epic game session.

He survived another PC's attempts to corrupt him to evil.

He acquired a squire, called Shamus, who started off as an NPC and convert to the Blinding Light, who later became a PC in his own right controlled by one of our new players, and when danger lurked would yell, "Bitches in the hold!"

He gained access to the Theocrat list of spells, which allow forceful conversion of PCs and NPCs to his religion (but sadly required a full day's worth of casting minimum).

He survived Two-Bradleys tower (in other words a romp that killed two of Bradley's characters in rapid succession. I think actually it was the same trap or monster).

He survived said tower, even after being abandoned by the rest of the party (including Shamus - never let someone else play your retainers!) near the end of it. Sheer bloody mindedness saw Dasmius descend to the lowest level alone and learn the secrets of the Unlife that was threatening the world... and despite the fact the entire party abandoned the tower and Dasmius, the DM made all of them roll up replacement characters, while I played a replacement character (much less successfully) with their main PCs on alternative weeks.

Then after realising he couldn't keep walking the fine line of neutrality without being corrupted by Unlife he chose the lightside, but wasn't much nicer, even if he did loose such tasty spells as Bleed III.

Then after about a year of play-time romping around with everyone's replacement PCs in disguise as a mercenary, stopping ritual after ritual, he and the rest of the group finally stopped the spread of the Unlife, but not forever...

5 sessions I thought, more like 2-3 years.

Man, I miss those guys and those Wednesday nights.

Friday, August 14, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 14 - Favourite RPG Accessory

Probably Campaign Cartographer 3 - I like maps, I like making maps. I don't think my maps are that great (though I'm aiming for professional standard) but CC3 is leaps and bounds better than any handdrawn effort ever would be.

#RPGaDay2015 13 - Favourite RPG Podcast

When it comes to RPG Podcasts, there's none better than Games From the Perilous Realms podcast. Especially the Scottish guy who DMs every session - I could listen to him all day.

Best podcast EVER... oh never mind, here's the real post...

Actually probably my favourite RPG podcast is RPGMP3 - which is a hub for many podcasts. I was listening to their WFRP: The Thousand Thrones podcast. My thought was I was thinking of running that module but the module's text is tiny, dense and convoluted, so why not listen to someone else's sessions and get the jist of the plot?

Their playthrough doesn't go well - it's amusing, and the DM definitely softballs it. I'd love to be able to pull the DM aside and give him a few pointers on how to handle the PCs when they get themselves stuck due to lack of planning and poor interaction/roleplaying with the NPCs. Something you might get away with in D&D but not in WFRP.

#RPGaDay2015 12: Favourite RPG Art

I'm not a big fan of 1E D&D art as it was too cartoony, while most modern D&D fantasy art looks too computer generated and fake, and in the continual quest to be "diverse" it lacks the strong European medieval flavour that just tickles my fancy (and is a reason I don't like D&D Kung-Fu monks). Pathfinder rulebooks are particularly jarring in this regard - though I imagine the images are appropriate for the campaign setting.

As an example, if you have the 5E PHB the illustration for the Soldier background looks like a Samurai to me. It just seems a little jarring - I'd have expected a bog standard soldier. Similarly the Fighter image is some sort of tribal warrior - who could be a ranger for all I know given his relatively light armour, the Paladin is inexplicably a half-orc with an axe and heavy armour and the rogue looks like an assassin.

Probably my favourite pieces are Elmore's cover for the Companion Set of D&D - which I've never owned, going from Red Basic + Immortals, to the Big Black Dragon box and then directly to the Rules Cyclopedia. Remember I'm the guy who started gaming  - with Advanced Heroquest. I've always been hardcore.

The image was used on one of the D&D Novels, the Tainted Sword, Book 1 of the Penhaligon Trilogy by D.J. Heinrich, which is a surprisingly mature book and is easily the best in the trilogy. That's where I encountered this lovely artwork that represents aging Sir Flainn Flinn fighting the evil dragon Verdilith:-

There's your Dragon, now where's the Dungeon?

Of course there is the old classic, though when I looked in awe at the adverts in grainy imported comics I could never tell which way that warrior was facing. It still looks like an odd pose, and the armour is being worn by the gentlemen badly.

That Barbarian is going to have one heck of a back problem.

But the other contender is the cover to the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2E PHB. There's just something very cool about that fighter on horseback and the shadowy party of riders behind him that could be your characters. Very restrained, these days Marketing would probably send it back with anote saying, "Add Dungeons, Dragons and big monsters to the cover" which is clearly how we got the 5E covers to... well.. any of their products.

Onward to High Adventure (tm).

That said there's been a ton of amazing artwork for things like LotFP, Shadows of Esteren, the various Song of Ice and Fire RPGs and Warhammer.