Friday, 12 October 2018

Farewell to Greg Stafford

There are few legends left and now another one has said farewell.

Very sad news today that Pendragon designer and Glorantha creator (among many other achievements) Greg Stafford has passed away at the age of 70.

Chaosium has a full obituary.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The doom that came to Google Plus


In 2011 I became a beta user of a brand new social network called Google Plus. For me, it was a haven from people I knew in real life and a way to meet new people online. As users grew, I found that roleplaying fans were in abundance and the conversation was GREAT.

Plus became not only an amazing place to discover great new things happening in the DIY RPG community, but also a valuable tool for me in my game design. It's where I found playtesters, where people fed back and where communities around my games sprang up. Sure, there was drama, but at the end of the day the quality of conversation outshone the Twitters and Facebooks of the world.

And now as the death knell sounds for Plus, I realize how lucky I've been to be able to be part of that community. While I'm not jumping ship yet - there's 10 months left - I think it's worth saying that the network had value for a lot of us. Sure, people love to mock it. Why? They didn't understand it (and it was a bit clunky too). Those of us who did understand managed to make it worth our while.

A large exodus has happened. We're looking for a new home to accommodate our hobby. Right now a fair few of us have pitched up in MeWe, who have noted the influx of nerd refugees and are speaking to our number about adding features we loved about Plus. Will we stay there? Only time will tell, but as of now this blog will be my main way of communicating to the roleplaying world.

Our community might be fractured for a time, but it will never die.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD quick start first impressions


Being a 2000 AD and Judge Dredd fan, I've been following the recent Kickstarter by EN Publishing for the (wordy) Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD.

Recently they've released their free quick start rules and adventure to help people get a feel for the game, so I wanted to give my first impressions.

The WOIN system is simple enough - it probably translates well across genres, being an easy d6 pool system, which I guess is why it was used. I've not played NEW so I don't know how pared back the quick start is, but there are some stats we have to ignore in the QS that will come into play in the main game. It's certainty not crunchy - rolling a d6 pool of attribute + skill and attempting to meet a target. There are also exploits in the game, offering further abilities, but these aren't detailed here. While this won't be to everyone's taste, I like a lite game so I'd be happy to play this.

It's interesting that you can play as judges, perps or citizens. While the QS doesn't have character creation, I'd be interested to see how much these characters differ. Will there be perp scenarios and judge scenarios when the game releases? This would make sense, it's tough to wrap up two or potentially three play styles in a single scenario.

The QS does include a scenario and, honestly, if this is what they want a Dredd game to be like, then I'm seriously disappointed. The adventure takes place in the Empire State Building, where a crazy perp called Ricki Rocco is holed up with a load of gang members. You're offered hooks for judges, citizens and perps, but the scenario only comes with 4 pre gen judges. I suppose it could be played when the full rules are released, but that defeats the point, right?

The scenario has some weird errors. Some of the section sub heads dealing with intros for perps and citizens are inconsistent. At the beginning, it says the perp section is titled In and Out, but the actual section is called Criminal Empire. The citizen section is referred to as Lost and Found, but later it's called Little Lost Ray Fey. Also, the citizen hook is baffling, mentioning that they could be after the cursed treasure of skull island. Where the hell did that come from? Maybe I missed something, but it doesn't seem like a thing.

The scenario is fairly rudimentary, but suffers from wall of text syndrome. There are very few bullets, no key info bolded, so it's not super useful at the table. There are also some really boring rooms containing nothing. You can search an empty office for an hour and surprise, surprise, you won't find anything. There are restrooms, explaining that the juves keep clean. I don't think this needed spelling out. The third floor is a series of empty offices, but it also says it's full of booby traps - yet it goes into no detail about what and where those traps are. So lots of fun to be had in rooms where nothing is happening! I do like that there's a room full of helpful robots who will do whatever you want, which could lead to some interesting situations, but these little nuggets are few and far between.

I really think an intro scenario should help the GM and players get to grips with the rules by offering ways to use attributes and skills. Not so much in this scenario. I counted a total of two checks and one instance of using tactical cover. While I don't think this would be so bad as a scenario for experienced players, this is not that.

When we reach the basement, we again find another glaring error. From what I can tell, there's supposed to be a giant toad in its lair, but the lair text doesn't actually say this. Instead it just says 'suddenly an immense form comes barreling out of the refuse...' and that's it. No mention of a giant toad, but in a later room it refers to the toad's lair. Then under the city, it says that you can add in another toad, blind crocodiles or troggies. But it doesn't give stats for these other two creatures, so why include them?

Honestly, this adventure is a bit poor. Clearly rushed out of the gate, it definitely needed another editing pass. They were clearly going for a Dredd movie vibe so that people only familiar with that would grok it but dear lord is this stale. You have the entirety of the Judge Dredd legacy to build on, a comic noted for its larger than life characters and insane situations. I get they wanted a scenario that could be used by all character types without having to change much, but I really hope this isn't the norm for adventures.

I'm cool with the system. It's basic, but that's my jam. The scenario, however, really could have been better.

Friday, 5 October 2018

D12 magic items of little consequence


Roll that d12.

1. A stone snail garden ornament. At dusk it mimics the call of a red stoat.

2. A black ring made of warg tongue. Emits a hum when bread is near.

3. A wooden doll shaped like a fairy. At night it polishes your boots.

4. A deerstalker hat that never gets wet.

5. A goat horn containing a powder. When huffed your eyes turn purple.

6. A scabbard of cloud. Anything inside it falls through.

7. An amulet of dinosaur tears that wards off blacksmiths

8. An eyeball on a chain. Wherever it swings there is butter.

9. A lantern of demon skin that casts shadow.

10. A hand harp that automatically plays the queen's second favourite childhood song.

11. A croquet ball made of glass. Smashing it releases a dancing mouse.

12. A compass that points towards your heart.


Monday, 24 September 2018

Dragons as spirits of place


What if dragons are just manifestations of place? They're born from the very essence of the location - the genius loci, appearing from the fog, the rock, the sand or the snow.

Manifestations of place aren't readily 'beatable'. You can't defeat the ground you walk on or the air you breathe. Dragonslayers are puffed up braggards attempting to attain legendary status through tall tales.

Ancient dragons take on the form of their place - red dragons become crusty with igneous rock, black grow willows from their necks. Eventually the oldest become the place itself, yet remaining sentient and all-knowing.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Forests in roleplaying games


Aside from the dungeon, the forest is potentially the most ubiquitous environment in fantasy roleplaying. Chances are you've passed through, delved into and become lost in a woodland on many occasions. We love forests because they're liminal places. When you enter one you're in essence transported from one world to another - one where things might work a little differently.

Folklore has a lot to answer for here. Back when common fairy tales would have been told, the woods were a real risk. Bandits would waylay travellers, while some held the danger of wolf packs on the prowl. So tales were populated by witches, fairies and goblins. The forest became its own character - dark, gnarled, enchanted, forbidding, mysterious. One sure thing is that you'd never be the same person coming out as you were going in.

I don't believe in 'passing through a forest uneventfully'. For me that's like taking a quick detour through a dungeon where nothing happens. This is a place where you can let your imagination run riot. Start by thinking about the character of your forest. What's its essence? Is it filled with dread? Is it a confusing place where paths shift? Is it a tease to lure in strangers before showing its true colours? Is it playful and enchanted? Then think about how its character affects the forest physically. A forest of the undead would probably be blackened, rotten, replete with fungi. An enchanted forest will be brighter, with flowers, birdsong and little calm pools.



Every forest needs a guardian - a creature that could be good or evil (or neutral). This is the being that, above all else, locals are aware of. They tell tales of the guardian in taverns, they have folk songs about it. You might decide on creating some rumours - some true, others false and it's up to the players to discover which is which. Guardians aren't necessarily the most powerful beings in the forest, but they should be the catalyst for how the PCs are altered. Witches are common forest guardians, like Baba Yaga in her chicken-leg hut or the witch in the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. These are the essence of the forest personified, usually found at the heart of the wood.

Aside from the guardian, you've got the flora and fauna of the forest, some of which will be working with the guardian (whether they're conscious of it or not), while others will be neutral or perhaps antagonistic to the guardian. I like to have at least one helper in the forest - a wise old hermit, a dark elk queen, a happy Muppet - whatever it is, it's going to act as a guide through the forest, perhaps giving them a clue as to how to defeat the guardian. They can also equip the PCs with something to aid their quest (think the Phial of Galdriel). At least two warring parties in the forest can allow the players to pick a side (and face the consequences of picking a side).

I love the forest. It's an organic funky dungeon where you can pretty much do anything you want. The above is just a template I like to use when designing them, but don't let that hold you back from adding and removing elements.