Friday, April 9, 2021

Games I want to play this year

A recent conversation with my home group pulled into focus a desire I have to run or play a bunch of the games I currently own.

Pulling my books out of storage to populate some nice new bookshelves, has  also meant that I have a visual on the games I own, and want to play.

So, I am formulating a list of games to offer to my players. What I will do is offer them in pairs, and get them to chose one. The full list is as follows:

These games are going to be split into the following pairs:

The One Shot

Escape from Dino Island

A powered by the Apocalypse Engine RPG system, which is one I have not tried, but really think I should. This is basically a Jurassic Park game, made with one-shots firmly in mind, and requires no prep to run, as the table designs the set-up together.

This is a very different game . Players are scummy villainous dirtbags in a world that is dying, out to get what you can before the world ends. At its heart, it is a dungeon crawl, with very very simple rules, and where the GM never rolls any dice.

This one I have played once, and want to try again. This game is very simple to do as a one shot, but it might turn into a campaign (with the end of the world as the end of the campaign).

The Old Skool Game

This pairing is two games from my youth. One which I played and ran a lot, and another which I played once. WFRP and Star Wars.
I really want to get back to WFRP, and only ever played 1 game of D6 Star Wars. The nostalgia for both is quite strong. By putting this to the vote, I can see where other people have the same feelings. The Mandolorian is also a big factor in making me want to return to the Star Wars Universe.

The One Page Game

Lasers & Feelings and Everyone is John. Both one page pdf games which I want to try. I think the rules for Lasers & Feelings are elegantly simple, and Everyone is John just looks fun. I think for this category, I'm going to give 3 choices, with the third being Honey Heist.

The Retro 80's Games

Kids on Bikes and Tales from the Loop. Both new games looking to hook into the nostalgia for the '80s that is exemplified by Stanger Things and other things of the genre.

Players suggestions

I asked the rest of the group what they wanted to run or play in terms of a wishlist. So far we have :
Best Friends

Looking forward to extending that list, and charting the progess of the choices here on the blog.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Year in Gaming 2020

 This past year has been many, many things. Most of which are outside the remit of this here blog, so I shall pass them by without another word. 

What this year has been for me, and for many others, is an eye-opener in terms of how accessible gaming has become online. This has meant that not only have I run as many games as I would have in a normal year (maybe even a few sessions more) but I have played a lot more gaming sessions than I have in decades, AND a lot more variety of games than I have since just as long.

Rather than list them all out, let's see the numbers. This year, I have played in a whopping 48. Forty eight gaming sessions this year alone. Just to give you an idea, last year I played in 13 sessions of various RPGs, and 5 of those were at Necronomicon. I think the year before I managed 2!

What have I been playing? Well, looky here...

Of those games played, I am very happy to have finally got in a game of Fiasco. It went very well, and am looking to get more games in with that particular group. I am also hugely pleased to have played so much The One Ring. We have made it through the first few years of the Darkening of Mirkwood campaign, which pleases me more than I can state.

As to what I have been running, well I managed a total of 38 sessions as GM this year, which is a little up on last years 33, but not so much as you would notice. As could be guessed, the bulk of that was Call of Cthulhu, in a variety of flavours. However I did manage to get some Mothership in there, enough to coax the players into a campaign based on the 'A Pound of Flesh' booklet.

So there we go, 2020, the year I moved my gaming online, and didn't look back.

How was your year in gaming? Any games you didn't get to try that you wanted to? That is of course another list entirely, but I haven't made fancy little graphics for those.

Hope 2021 is all you want it to be, and may your dice never let you down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Genevieve Diaries

As mentioned previously, Games Workshop are re-releasing older books in their back-catalogue. I really enjoyed "Drachenfels",  so this was a great opportnity to increase my Old World lore, get my oldhammer fix, and read some good stories. As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, there is "Drachenfels" and "Genevieve Undead", to which I have now added "Beasts in Velvet" and "Silver Nails".

If you only read one of these four books, make it Beasts in Velvet. There is so much going on in this book in terms of plot threads and characters for you to mine for your game, you could get a whole campaign out of it. This book makes the Old World come alive in your mind. Silver Nails is a great follow up, where the author shows us other little vignettes for the characters we have come to know and love, showing their further adventures. There is also pay-off in the final book that explains what was a non-sequitous plot thread in one of the other storied in Genevieve Undead.

In short get all of these books for your WRFP game. They show the grittiness and humour that the world is known for, along with great characters and plots for you to take, whether you are running a city game or a wilderness game (though mostly for cities to be honest). The class war element in Beast in Velvet is certainly going to make an appearance when I run the Enemy Within next time!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Random Tables

I did not come up through the D&D route of RPGs, so the random table was not something I used at the table unless for very certain circumstances, mostly as outcomes to certain in-game happenings: Sanity loss in CoC; mutations in WFRP, that kind of thing. I of course knew about random encounter tables and the like, but I did not use them. For me, encounters had to fit with the story. 

However, I was running a session of  'Tails of Equestria', where I was looking to beef up a session that was going too fast, so I overcame my hesitancy, and rolled on the table. The resulting encounter led to some cool role-playing by the players, and I was very happy with the way it worked out. This was enough to turn me round on what I had previously thought would be something that would just be too random to add to the story being told.

Jump forward a year or two, and I've been looking through a bunch of OSR games, some of which contain nothing but a bunch of random event tables. My new outlook has meant I've seen these more and more as a way to improvise and get good story out of a session, prompts to move things forward. I became a convert. I've even thought of writing my own.

Recently,  I went a step further, and ran a Call of Cthulhu game, with random event tables. It may have been a step too far...

I ran the players through the Goodman Games scenario 'The Lost Expedition' by Jon Hook. The Goodman Games line of Cthulhu scenarios got a bit of flack at the start of their run for looking and playing more like old style scenarios, maybe more in line with their DCC line than with the direction of modern Cthulhu adventures. They quickly righted their course, and headed off on their own direction, which led to some delightfully Pulp style adventures, even if they were not immediately sold as such. 'The Lost Expedition' is definitely planted squarely in the Pulp genre, with mutated dinosaurs, golden pyramids, and inter-dimensional travel. 

One of the inspirations this game book has kept from the DCC style game, is its reliance on Random tables at a couple of key moments in the scenario. One is the use of the Laboratory control console, and the other is when travelling through the Great White Space, or the interdimensional portals if you will. 

I decided to lean in to this, since it was a pulp game, and use the tables in game as written. The first use was when players were using a control panel in the lab of the pyramid. This led to random things happening, but none of them really moving the story forward. After a couple of uses of the panel, there was the question as to whether this trial and error was leading to an understanding of this very alien technology. The answer was, well, no not really, it's very complex. This may not have been the right answer in a Pulp game, and the choice to make that call lays at my feet, not an issue with the table per se.

The second table in the adventure is at the end, when they open a portal, and end up in what is essentially an infinite corridor full of doors. There is no distinguishing marks on any of the doors, and no way to know where to go to get home. This may be a fun ending to a convention scenario, and if the Keeper has their wits about them, this is a great jumping off point for another scenario, but as it played, the lack of way of knowing which was the way to go led to choice paralysis. With infinite choices, no choice can be made at all. In the end, I made the choice to tell the players outright, "there is no way to know how to get home, you're going to pick a door, then we're going to roll on a random table to see where you end up". I think this was the only way to move the game forward before the frustration set in.

So where am I now? I think I still like random tables much more than I used to, but my use in the last scenario means that I will temper their use somewhat going forward. As with all things in a game, they can be fun if used well. Good use of a tool inherently requires that it does not block or hinder player agency too much. I think where I was hitting a wall in this scenario was that if I had not said what was happening, and that I was going to roll on a random table, we would really have had no way for the players to go forward without more frustration.

As a final word on 'The Lost Expedition', this publication seems to be no longer in print, as is the case with the rest of the Goodman Games Age of Cthulhu line, but if you do manage to track down a copy, I recommend it as a great fun Pulp Cthulhu scenario. Please do not take this as in anyway a criticism of the scenario, but just the evolution of my thoughts on this particular GM tool.

Monday, November 30, 2020


 This thread was started on twitter by @SKenson. I don't do twitter, so I'm doing it here.

 "my personal wish-list of tabletop roleplaying games to play in or run, if I had unlimited time, energy, and resources..."

To this I'd add "and have the right group." Don't get me wrong, I love my players, but not all players fit all games and vice versa. I think some of the games I want to run on this list are because I don't think they'd fly with some or all of my current players.

Since this is a wish list, I'm going to avoid the games of which I have had a current fix, and can most easily get moving, which is currently Call of Cthulhu, The One Ring, Vampire and Mothership.

Alright, let's see...

  • I have never played, run or read any of the Pelgrane Gumshoe games, While the latter is easily rectified, I would really like to finally get to play one of them. I could make a top 10 list of which specific ones I'd like to play, but let's not make it all about Gumshoe.
  • I want to play in the Great Pendragon Campaign. I have heard so many great things, but my Pendragon experinece runs to making characters once.
  • Powered by the Apocalypse. I wan to try it. This one I don't mind running. I think I'd want to start with Monster of the Week, as that seems to be one that I could get the best buy in for. Working up to Bluebeard's Bride.
  • Getting a scenario I've written into print. The barriers to entry on this are at an all time low, so the publication part is the easy bit. Finishing a projet I've started is what takes the 'unlimited time, energy, and resources' part.
  • Play/run Blades in the Dark. For this one, I don't mind which side of the screen I'm on. 
  • First of the nostalgia based wants. Play a(nother) epic Legend of the 5 Rings campaign. I have done one of these, and it was epic and memorable and I loved it. I know you can never go back, but there are so many Rokugan stories I still want to tell. I may have to even play a non-Scorpion character this time! Note I did not link to the current version of this game by FFG. This is because I don't know yet if I would want to play this version for a long campaign. which leads me to my next point...
  • Play more Deadlands. And not the kiddie Savage World's/Reloaded version, but the grown-up time hogging 'and the kitchen sink' original version with all the chips, cards, dice, bells and whistles. Unlimited time right?
  • Another nostalgia wish, but since you can never go back, I wouldn't go with the same game, but I'd do anything to play a reunion game with the Watch House Buffy group. I don't know what we would play, I'd be tempted to leave the Buffy RPG in the past so as not to mess with it, but I don't know which game I would want us to play. I know these players are now spread all over, and would be highly unlikely to all be in one room, but in these days of online gaming, who knows?
Ok, I'm going to stop at 10, but I could keep going, so be on the look-out for part two of the list.

One thing I would like to say is that on all the lists I read, it's all about the games, But the more I think about it, my wish list would be about who I want to play with. This list is a long list of the friends I've made throughout the years through RPGs, from my first group of school friends who still regulalry get together after 30 years, through the GEAS gang in Edinburgh (who are now all over the globe), and the regulars at NecronomiCon, who I get to see and play with all too infrequently, and finally to the players I have here in Montreal, and to thse that have moved away and we no longer get to see every week. 

That would be my real wish list, to play again with the friends I made along the way!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The One Ring Part 1: My Introduction to the Game

My first RPG was MERP. Middle Earth Role-Playing. Well, actually it wasn't it was Road Hogs, a supplement for TMNT. But lets just skip that for a moment and say that the first game I bought and ran was MERP.
We played that game for years, running at least 1 set of characters all the way up to level 10. That may not sound like much, but in MERP, that was pretty huge.

I still have all the books, though my original MERP book is now in a well thumbed ring-binder, as the glue on the binding game up the ghost a long time ago. If there is an RPG that will be buried with me, it'll be a copy of MERP (as well as Call of Cthulhu).

Add on top of that Tolkien's books, and the films, which I am now passing on to my kids, one could say I have a lot of fondness for gaming in Middle Earth.

However, there was a bit of a lull in my TTRPG gaming for a few years as I moved into minis gaming, as they could be played with no prep, and the painting side of the hobby could be done solo, in own time (i.e. to fit in with the lifestyle of parents of young children). Which was why I was a latecomer to The One Ring RPG. It was around the time of the re-release of the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, which was being mooted (and rightly so) as one of the best TTRPG campaigns of all time. This accolade got me to thinking, what are the great all time campaigns?

Of course, I had my list of the ones I had been exposed to. Masks, of course, the Warhammer Campaign too, Horror on the Orient Express? I wasn't sure how well that one had been received critically, but I knew it was famous. I have never been into D&D, so I didn't know which campaigns esisted for the game, but there must be one or two that people go on about. I had also heard mentioned that there was a Campaign for Pendragon that people adored for various reasons.

The Darkening of Mirkwood – Cubicle 7And then I heard "The Darkening of Mirkwood".

Mirkwood? Okay, now you have my attention, so I dig a little further. Gareth Ryder-Hanranan? Ok, now I really have to know more!

So I did some digging on what this campaign was all about, and what this game was. At this point, I managed to find the campaign in a local store on sale, so I bought it, and it,s companion book, Heart of the Wild, eventually picking up the rule book, and Adventurer's Companion, and well, you know how this collecting thing goes. I'm at the stage right now where I have all but one of the books, and the set of maps. I would have got them too, but, and those who've been following along at home will know, the game went out of print.

The is of course a Second Edition coming, but the current run of the game is not for sale any more, so none of my FLGSs will be able to restock for that one book that is missing. I mean I guess I'll get it eventually, afterall, that's what collectors do. But I will have to be patient.
So, that in a nutshell was my introduction to the One Ring RPG. 

The next thing to do is to find players and try it out. And that's when the lockdown hit. Which was both a bane and a blessing. I was unable to find players in my local gaming area (although 3 of my CoC players will try if I ask them), but online, things are different, and I have been able to play the game a few times. Happy ending yes?

Well tune in next time as I explain my thoughts on the game from what I have seen so far.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


I recently read "Drachenfels", by Jack Yeovil (aka Kim Newman). I was aware of the existence of this book back when it came out in 1989, but I never read it. I was wary of fiction lines based on games, as I still am. However on reading it now with the release of the 30 year anniversary edition I did enjoy it immensely.

One thing that surprised me about was that there is something of the Discworld in this book in that the integration of the undead, and especially Vampires into the cities of the Old World smacks more of Terry Pratchett than it does of my reading of the original WFRP canon from the game books. In the book there is a monastic retreat for vampires, and the undead have their own bar that they frequent in Nuln. There is also a lighthearted tone to much of the novel that also makes me think of Pratchett, even though there is not the same level of humor. Of course WFRP is known for its humour, but in general it comes in a darker more satyrical form in the game material.

Since the protagonist of the novel is a vampire, as are many others in the book, I immediately thought of the use of undead as Player Characters in WFRP. It seems I was not the first, as many others had asked the same question on online forums. They were all met with the same response, at least for 1st ed WFRP. No.

GW thought at the time, and I tend to agree with them now I've thought about it, that vampires are not the right power level for WFRP, and did not at all fit in with the power level or themes of the game. It turns out that for 2nd ed WFRP, in the Vampire Sourcebook, Night's Dark Masters, there are rules for this, even if it pretty much tells you not to use them.

So back to Drachenfels. Back in the day, I may not have read the book, but I did buy the game supplement, Castle Drachenfels. I never ran it, as even then it was clear that it would mean a lot more to you as a player or even a GM, if you had read the book, in the way that is described the castle. As a game book it was also hard to fit into an ongoing campaign, as the Castle itself was nothing but a huge meat-grinder, more reminiscent of a dungeon, or a book of Grimtooth's traps, not quite fitting with the WFRP I played. So I put it on my shelf and did no more.

When I was recently going through my WFRP books, I brought it out again, and was surprised to see that none of the characters in the book are stated out in the game supplement, it really is all about the castle as a dungeon. This seems to me to be a huge oversight by the GW team at the time, as the characters were really well described and fit so well into the Old World, crossing many strata of the society of the Empire, and would have been useful to GMs running many different types of game. Even if they all do mostly die in the book. Where i do see that the castle is a character in the book, in some ways more than Drachenfels himself, the other characters are what actually make the book and the story.

Image result for genevieve undeadI've since bought the second book that has also been re-released in this series by The Black Library, Genevieve Undead. This contains 3 short stories with the same main protagonist. The first, a direct follow up to Drachenfels "Stage Blood" is a wonderful little story full of ideas for a city adventure based on the acting troupe and their theatre, with themes and plots threads brought in from the Phantom of the Opera. This also has a sympathetic character that is a chaos mutant, just as in Drachenfels. These two characters are great ways to think about mutants in the Old World, a lot of whom are mutated through no fault of their own. Sounds like PCs to me!

The other two stories also have the same main protagonist, the titular Genevieve, are placed in other parts of the Empire, and are good, and can be mined for game ideas, but not directly related to Drachenfels lore.

So, if you're looking for a book that's a good read, or is based in the Old World of Warhammer, or has vampires, then I heartily recommend these books. They have almost single-handedly brought back my interest in running or playing WFRP. So much so that when back in the old country, I dug a bunch of these out of storage in my parent's attic and brought them home, in the hope of finding players.

Of course, if you really like vampires, then you will already have read Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula" series. If you haven't, then go do so now. I'm currently working my way through those too. Indeed, the author states that Genevieve Dieudonné is the same character in both series of novels.

Finally, there is an interview with the author to signal this 30 year anniversary on Youtube.