Thursday 28 June 2012

Cthulhu She Wrote

You know those old ladies who also happen to be hardcore detectives, just with tea and scones instead of gin? Hetty Wainthrop, Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple and all that jazz? Right, well I envision an RPG where each player is an old lady investigating crimes of a Lovecraftian bent.

Fewer things are as badass as that.

"I count 14 unspeakable terrors in this car alone"
If anyone's going to get to the bottom of these mythos mysteries, it's these ladies. I'd probably give the game a clever-ish name like 'Old One Gals' (you have to say that aloud to get the joke) or 'Geriatric Dears Go Insane'.

"It's pronounced 'FHTAGN', you berk"

Now, I don't have the time nor the energy to undertake such a feat of immense ingenuity, but rest assured I will be emailing Wizards, Green Ronin and Cubicle 7 with a pitch.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

This Evil Dead animation is awesome

Fact: Evil Dead 2 is my favourite film of all time, and the others aren't half bad either. Daniel Kanemoto has taken his love for the splatter/comedy trilogy and condensed it into 1:26 of pure excellence.

Now where's my boomstick?

Trollish Delver appears on Wizards again

Tracy Hurley is totally awesome to the max. Some time ago she mentioned Trollish Delver in an article on the Wizards of the Coast site.

Now she's included my little blog in her new article about Caves of Chaos and the community's reaction to the playtest. As before, I'm joined by blogs and sites much better than my own.

So thanks again Ms Darkmagic - you rawk le sawks.

Guards! Guards! Campaign idea

Man, I love the hell out of that Pratchett fella. Ever since I stuck my chubby little cheeks into Wings when I was a wee anklebiter, I've been hooked on Discworld fever and I hope they never find a cure.

That's also sort of what makes T&T resonate with me so much, not least because Josh Kirby did the Corgi art (only one of the greatest artists to ever spelunk the natural world). Ken St. Andre's humour is pretty similar to Pratchett's, or at least I think anyway, and it only seems natural to use T&T as a basis for a Discworld campaign.

Out of all the books, Guards! Guards! is my favourite, mostly because I think the City Watch is da bomb-diggidy. And that Vimes - is there any cooler customer than Sam Vimes. I don't think so.

So I was thinking how cool it would be to have a campaign set around the Watch. Each character is a member of the Watch and each session could be a new case, where they track down the criminal and bring him/her/it to justice. There could also be an overarching storyline where all these crimes are tied to one Big Bad and the Watch finally has to face off against them. I like this idea because it's made of awesome.

They could even cross paths with the chap WHO TALKS LIKE THIS.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Has US conservative media changed its attitude towards D&D?

While we're lightyears away from the time when people who rolled plastic polyhedrons in their basements were apparently dealing in the dark arts reminiscent of that Chick Tract, there has always been a tendency for some forms of media, mostly from the right of the US political spectrum, to continue the denouncement of D&D. Mostly this comes down to playing the murder blame game and bringing up past atrocities and linking it to roleplaying, rather than insinuating that us nerds are diddling Satan and cavorting with his fiery companions.

I wanted to do some research into this, so I fired up Blekko, a search engine underdog that uses crowd-sourcing to sort their wheat from the spammy chaff. Using their slashtags, I was able to look at results in the conservative media with the keywords 'Dungeons and Dragons', both recently and in the past.

As predicted, a general search brings some negative stories about the game. The top result is from Fox News, reporting on how inmates playing D&D could be dangerous. Joining it, has a story that equates D&D players (or all young men in groups, apparently) to have murderous tendencies. Similarly, American Thinker talks about a female murderer who played D&D (though doesn't explicitly say there's a link, but it's implied). Most of these results are from before 2011, aside from American Thinker, which was written in February of this year. Generally, the most relevant results are negative towards D&D. So what happens when we get the most recent data?

The most prominent story is from Jonah Goldberg, with his article 'The False Modesty of Nerds' appearing on almost half of results (a bit of duplicate content). In the article, Goldberg states how he's a nerd and waxes lyrical about nerds, politics and celebrity types. Nothing negative towards the game there. Furthermore, we have sites like referencing D&D Next in a benignly humorous way and Enter Stage Right actually endorsing the game as a past-time for bright young people. Other results often reference D&D as a political analogy, like "fighting a 'Dungeons & Dragons' battle against moderates" and "playing numerical Dungeons & Dragons". I looked at the first 2 pages for this, which ran from September 2011 and I was surprised to find little to no negative mentions about D&D.

For good measure, I also employed the /liberal slashtag in the same way. The relevant search turned up an article about Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, an open letter from Wizards to Republican Michael Goldfarb and other benign nerd jokes. Setting the date filter, we find a whole bunch of Daily Kos articles mentioning D&D in passing along with the story of online games cracking the AIDS enzyme. 

So what can we tell from this brief media study? From the looks of it, conservative media has embraced D&D as just an aspect of pop culture and isn't afraid to reference it or even proudly proclaim that it's dabbled in the game. Are there other external factors at work here? Absolutely, considering we haven't had a prolific string of murders or suicide by anyone who may have ever played the game before. Still, it's interesting to look at media attitudes from both sides of the political fence. 

Saturday 23 June 2012

The Dredd trailer hits the interwebs

Yes, well, I'm not too impressed.

I'll obviously still pay top dollar to watch it, but man, this looks a bit vacuous. The plot seems to revolve around a new drug that's making the rounds in the Big Meg that is essentially an excuse to have slo-mo action shots to the sound of La Roux. TV's Sarah Connor is in control of said SFX drug and therefore controls the entire city.

I don't know, but the shots where we see ground-level Mega-City One don't really echo the comic books at all. It all seems, well, near future, rather than awesome super future. But obviously this is just a trailer and it's only giving us a snippet of what the movie's about, so I really hope it rolls with the comic book mentality of being intelligent and satirical rather than just being another action movie.

Also, the shoulder pads are weak.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

T&T Arena: Grimfall Vs Hammerface

The crowd erupts as Falcon Grimfall strides confidently into the arena, hands raised as if to embrace the full adoration of his fans. He grins as he arrives at the centre of the sandy arena where the announcer stands, having introduced the 6ft 5 blonde human. The announcer, a halfling with curly black hair and a little moustache, turns to the opposite side of the arena, "And the contender for today, all the way from Gull: Brinnokkk Hammerface." At that moment a red-headed dwarf scuffles out of the tunnel on the west of the arena, entering the sacred oval to more boos than cheers. Brinnokkk looks up at his opponent with a grim look on his craggy face. The bell rings.

Falcon Grimfall
ST: 15, DX: 18, CHA: 9, LK: 14, SPD: 13, WIZ: 7, INT: 8, CON: 16
Combat Adds: +11
Armour: None
Weapons: None (1d6)

Brinnokkk Hammerface

ST: 28, DX: 8, CHA: 12, LK: 10, SPD: 11, WIZ: 10, INT: 15, CON: 20
Combat Adds: +15
Armour: None
Weapons: None (1d6)

Grimfall charges at Hammerface, launching into the air to deliver a kick to the dwarf's face, but Hammerface ducks in time and the human sails over him. As Grimfall's back is turned, the dwarf leaps onto him and wraps his muscular arms around his opponent's neck, strangling him and pulling him to the ground [Grimfall 10/16]. Grimfall manages to grapple Hammerface and throw him to the side. He attempts to stomp on his head but the dwarf manages to roll away in the nick of time before springing to his feet. Hammerface then picks up a handful of sand and tosses it in the human's face, temporarily blinding him. The dwarf then charges headfirst into him, causing his ribs to crack and his body to fall in a bloody heap [Grimfall 1/16].

Suddenly two shortswords appear in the centre of the area in a glimmer of magic. Grimfall reaches out to grab the closest to him and lumbers to his feet. Hammerface turns to run and get his blade but using all his might Grimfall sprints at the dwarf but trips and lands face-first in the sand. Seeing his chance, Hammerface takes his huge boot and crushes Grimfall's head [Grimfall -5/16].

The bell rings to signify the end of the battle and the announcer lifts Hammerface's arm as the crowd applauds and cheers. "Our winner - Brinnokkk Hammerface," he booms.

This was the first in a series of gladiatorial battles waged using the Tunnels & Trolls rules. Tune in next week when Hammerface will be fighting in the jungle arena of Krytiana against Sherri Goldhorn, the Lioness. 

Monday 18 June 2012

Damn medusas

I had her on the ropes. There was, like, four of my human army against one of her and goddammit I thought I was in for an easy kill and then off for ice cream. Didn't turn out that way.

That's what Song of Blades and Heroes offers - a game that can be unpredictable if you make a wrong strategic decision. So where did I go wrong? I had a Cleric, a Warmage an Undead Hunter and a Leader. What I should have done is moved my Leader behind my ranged spammers and left her to just chillax and sip a latte while I spewed forth magic and arrows into that bitch's face. This would have been wise because if the Leader is killed, everyone makes a morale roll.

So here's where I went badly wrong.

As if some drunk toddler possessed me for that brief moment, I had my Leader charge the hill where the lone Medusa stood. I can only imagine the other troops looked on in a mix of horror, awe and confusion as their fair leader failed to land a blow on the mythical creature- instead Medusa threw her to the ground.

What followed sucked.

Medusa rolled 3 activations. She launched a power attack against the prone Leader. She hit, but not by double, which would normally be the amount it takes to kill someone. Of course, Medusa has the Assassin ability. You can probably guess what that does. So my Leader lay on the hill in a bloody heap. The Cleric and Warmage pussied out on me and fled, leaving the Undead Hunter to take a quick pot shot at the Medusa. Fail. Medusa rolls 3 activations and fires and aimed shot. Undead hunter takes one through the eye.

Epic fail.

Sunday 17 June 2012

USR makes it into the "10 Awesome RPGs You've Never Heard Of"

General nerd site, Geekosystem has included USR in its article, 10 Awesome Tabletop RPGs You've Never Heard Of, along with some who aren't frankly that obscure.

I'm really chuffed they picked up on USR and really, really chuffed about the kind things writer Ted Johnson had to say about my humble little creation, including: "I can't get enough of it! I am a huge fan of this system. It is simple, elegant, and FREE!"

However, judging from the comments, it doesn't look like I'm alone in thinking that some of the others are pretty far from obscure. I mean, Runequest, Paranoia and Tunnel & Trolls are in there! Even West End's Star Wars makes an appearance. I can only guess that it's because most of these games are from the heyday of tabletop gaming. They are awesome though. Well, at least the ones on the list I've played. Still, it's great to be recognised by a site as big as Geekosystem - so thanks Ted.

Friday 15 June 2012

Blood of the Zombies cover revealed

The Official Fighting Fantasy website has revealed the cover for Ian Livingstone's next Fighting Fantasy book, Blood of the Zombies. Here it is:

Wow, that's pretty dynamic! Zombie bursting out of a door. These guys don't mess around, although I have to question how they had the strength to tear through the middle of the door without breaking that measly wooden lock. 

Still, it's nice to see the return of the yellow dagger logo and apparently the spine is green, just like in the old days. Nostalgic sigh. Although I do miss the old tagline.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

I am taking players for De Profundis

A while back I looked at the intriguing De Profundis, a Lovecraftian roleplaying game that merges letter-writing and live-action roleplay. I initially tried to get a game off the ground, but I found it difficult to find the materials I wanted to run an authentic 1920s style game, so now I've decided to fire up an email version of the game. Why email? Scope, baby. Scope.

The author, Michal Oracz, yammers on about how email takes away from the eeriness of the game, and while he may be right, I think there is huge potential when utilising this medium. As well as the core emails, the game will include Twitter accounts, blogs, video, real-life news links and audio, which will hopefully come together to create a rich tapestry of horror, although I do plan on posting parcels too.

I have a couple of players interested in the game, but I'm opening it up to others as well if they want to get involved. I think around 5 people in total would be enough to have a good game and keep the story moving. So, if you do fancy joining my De Profundis game, email me or let me know in the comments. Please do make sure you have read the De Profundis rules if you want to play.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Which is Lovecraft's best story?

H.P Lovecraft was undoubtedly the master of cosmic horror, creating creatures and nightmare vistas that resonate well with nerds like me, who aren't necessarily afraid of ghosts and demons, but shudder at the tentacled shadows that gibber in the heart of the night. But the question remains, out of all of his stories, which is the best?

While many of his tales seem fairly similar on the surface, when you peer deeper into their dark souls you will notice a plethora of differences. There are the big 'blockbusters' like At the Mountains of Madness, Shadow over Innsmouth, The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror, which are all fantastic stories, but on the other hand you also have the subtle understated yarns like Dagon and The Festival, which are horrifying on a different  level.

Personally, At the Mountains of Madness is my perfect Lovecraft story. It has everything that is quintessentially Lovecraft and leaves you wondering what could possibly lurk beyond those mountains. However, maybe you're more of a Terrible Old Man or Pickman's Model fan?

Let me know what you think the master's greatest story is.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Sorry, I can't hear you for all the awesome

Ever since I cracked open Lamentations of the Flame Princess I was in love. The gory, explicit artwork blew me away and the unique approach to the OGL rules made for a very slick game. Around the corner lies a behemoth of a project called The Grand Adventure Campaigns, a crowdfunded series of 18 adventures written by different authors, including Monte Cook. Baby, this looks juicy.

The funding will begin in July, promising a multitude of pricing tiers for us discerning gamers. I'm going to want them all, aren't I?

In other news, I'm about to grab the Carcosa PDF. I feel that this will make me happy.

ACKS has me feeling all left out

I don't know why, but Adventurer Conqueror King System seems more and more attractive every day. It might be all of Tenkar's hootin' and hollerin' about his campaign or it might just be that sweet cover design that gives me the vapours, but I know that I want that thing in my pants. Although not really.

I think I like the scope of the game. It plays on handing the players the opportunity for a legacy, with rules to that bent. Castle management sounds pretty good, I like the thought of mico-managing my guards and servants, controlling what goes on my Wednesday night menu (tacos, please). I'd also create a new day in my honour. That would be an awesome day. There would be cake.

Other than that, reports seem to say that it's like a streamlined OSR title but sort of not at the same time. Can I be bothered to invest in that? I have LoTFP, LL, OSRIC and S&W and I can strip D&D Next down to size if I so wish. Guys, do I want this game? I think I do. Maybe.

Dungeon Theatre: Wizard One-upmanship

Dolamar, 1st level 4th edition Mage Evoker
Elrith, 1st level AD&D Wizard

Dolamar: It's...I mean, are you impotent or something?

Elrith: No man, I've got that Vancian shiz going on. It's pure y'know.

Dolamar: But you're essentially useless until tomorrow now. You've magicked out all your missiles and for what? A d4? Watch. Kaboom! Just nailed three goblins and still got room for more. 

Elrith: Must get boring.

Dolamar: Are you kidding? I have Arc Lightning and Freezing Burst too. Infinite. Not to mention Sleep, Burning Hands, Mage Hand and Phantom Chasm, and that's scratching the surface. 

Elrith: Doesn't that take the challenge away? You're like 17 and you're already a god. 

Dolamar: Look at my sparkling magic items, man. Shimmering. You can't beat new school. Who needs challenge?

Elrith: Fine, you're better than me. Now let's take the left tunnel. 

Dolamar: Whatever, I'll go ahead with my 24hp against your 2. Oh man, is this a magic item? 

Elrith: Dude, don't touch th-

Dolamar: Aaargh!

Elrith: Sphere of Annihilation. Moron.

Meatshields are back in business

Fourth edition had no time for henchmen. Not a minute. What does Superman need a sidekick for? In the name of balance, the noble meatshield was kicked to the curb. Taverns throughout infinite campaign worlds were filling up with nondescript proto-adventurers while the real deals were off firing face lasers at dragons and whatnot. Face lasers.

Our second session of D&D Next saw the return of the hireling, because goddammit them there Caves of Chaos are a ball-ache. In this instance, we were missing the player who uses the wizard, who was against hiring help for reasons meta-gamey, so were went ahead and bought out a pub full of the scrag ends. They became numbers.

Like any good, clear-headed players, we decided to sweeten them up with ALL the money. We figured that they're going to die fairly soon anyway, so we could just loot their fresh corpses like vultures with a need for monetary gain. We flung them into marching order and made our way into the goblin caves. Stats for our flesh cushions were made up on the fly, with +1 attacks and 6 hit points. They fared relatively well until the [redacted] slaughtered the majority of them and the others tried to flee until we gave them a good talking to, the defiant bastards.

Put it this way, we would have been in dire straits without them. HP may be relatively beefy, but characters aren't amazeballs in an sense. Sure, combat dragged out a bit more, but they were getting like, what, two seconds per turn? That's small potatoes. Characters still probably need some HP reduction along with monsters, but it's nice to know that the meatshield industry is back open for business.

P.S. Incidentally, this is something that is good.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

5 reasons why Prometheus is At The Mountains of Madness in space SPOILERS

A number of months ago, Guillermo del Toro announced that he may not be taking H.P. Lovecraft's opus At the Mountains of Madness to the big scree after all, citing Ridley Scott's latest effort as the reason. According to del Toro, Prometheus is essentially the same story and that would pretty much take away from an ATMOM movie. 

Well, I've seen Prometheus and, let me tell you, he's not wrong - the similarities are many (SPOILER ALERT!)

A scientific expedition to the unknown

Just like Lovecraft's epic, Prometheus tells the story of a team of scientists who travel to a distant, inhospitable location after evidence of an ancient civilisation is hinted at. Both tales deal with the slow unravelling of the history of an alien civilisation, delving into parts of the world (or galaxy) that have never been visited before by humans. The protagonists aren't gun-toting beefcakes; they're studious academics who have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

They find a dead civilisation...or so they think

Both stories have the protagonists find the dead, decapitated bodies of the ancient beings that originally lived in that location, both having been dead for many thousands of years. However, the more they explore, the more they find out that this civilisation may not be as dead as it seems.

Both aliens created human life

In Prometheus, the protagonist is dead set on finding evidence that humans were created by a seeding race and ATMOM reveals that the Elder Things were the ones who originally created life on Earth. Both are essentially our gods, although the reasoning for the aliens (or engineers) seeding Earth isn't quite clear.

Both aliens engineered species that got out of control

In ATMOM the Elder Things created Shoggoths to serve them, acting as a slave race. However, the Shoggoths eventually became independent and rebelled against their masters, killing many. Although the Elder Things managed to subdue the Shoggoths while the engineers in Prometheus were almost all destroyed by their own alien creations which they were to use as weapons, rather than slaves.

Both stories leave us wanting more answers

In Prometheus, we're left wanting to know more about the engineers and why they chose to seed on Earth, while in ATMOM we're left wondering what exactly is beyond those mountains that the Elder Things are so afraid of. Both leave us in a state of unease - there are powerful things out there that we cannot yet explain, but it's very possible that they may one day destroy us all.