Top 5 reasons why D&D sucks

5. Roll-playing Game

While not as bad as some systems (*cough* World of Darkness) in terms of the amount of dice you roll at one time, there are a lot of rolls for resolving single tasks. There are so many extra rules for things (most of which require rolls) that the emphasis is on the rules and dice rather than the roleplaying. You also need multiples of every type of dice – while most roleplayers have these it’s still a bit of a pain. One roll per action – surely that’s enough for any system? Oh, and don’t forget your synergy bonus!

4. Alignment

While I realise that alignment is just supposed to be a guideline, the rulebooks seem to contradict that. You can’t play a Paladin unless you’re Lawful Good at all times. How do you make a Paladin interesting then, while still remaining a Paladin? They’re all going to be shining paragons of justice and virtue. Playing clerics requires adherence to certain alignments, and the same for some other classes. While it might not be constricting for some, to me it’s like someone pigeonholing me simply because of my ethnic background or my accent.

3. Levels

Now that I’m a 3rd Level Rogue, I’m more likely to survive being stabbed that I was last week, when I was a 2nd Level Rogue. Having arbitrary levels which state what abilities you have or can have is so … 1980s. Please, I thought we left that all behind when we left high school. OK, you can use the optional rules (more rules!) around training, to make this a bit more realistic, but still. It bugs me that I can’t be (for example) a Wizard who only knows a Magic Missile spell but can cast 5 of them instead of the 3 dictated by his level. It feels like exactly what it is – a completely arbitrary way of rating characters so you can pit them against random monster enounters (hmmm .. I should have put random encounters on the list too).

2. Two Book Minimum

You want to play Dungeons and Dragons? Then you have to buy at least two books – the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Oh, you wanted a background? One more book (e.g. Player’s Guide to Faerun). Oh, you needed monsters for the background. That’s another (e.g. Monster Manual). Brand new at MSRP that’s $122.80. Even getting them second hand it’s over $50. One list of “essential” D&D books on Amazon has 40 entries totalling $834.75 (that includes Amazon’s discounts).

“But Wizards spawned the whole d20 movement, when they ‘open sourced’ the system!” Oh, really? Great – lots more games based around the same shit system.

1. Rabid Players

So, after spending vast quantities of money on all these expensive and extensive rule books, it seems that the average D&D player doesn’t want to be told that the game is pile of poo. Instead, they defend any slight vociferously, even when blatantly in the wrong (or when they miss the point entirely). And this symptom seems to spread into the other popular D20 games (ever notice how often Mutants and Masterminds players say “System X is no good, you can do all that and more in M&M”?).

Out of Character

A couple of days ago I wrote about and got some very interesting comments about how this is relevant to games.

On the Story Games forum they talk about Improv Theatre and how drama and story is made up of those things which are unusual or out of character as long as there is context and justification.

Meserach writes: “The story in which the otherwise devoted nun kills a baby for no reason at all other than the shock value? Sucks. The story in which the otherwise devoted nun kills a baby, but surrouding material gives us some insight into why? That could be a good story.”

Mark W writes: “In my experience, some people have this notion of character that really doesn’t extend much beyond the “pick two keywords and play them out no matter what” style.”

Like, say, “Lawful Evil” or “CareGiver/Curmudgeon” (because I might as well piss off the D&D folk as well as the White Wolf folk in order to get the most hate mail).

In the WatchTower game there are things happening in the background that I want the players to start moving forward. We’ve just started the creation of the B-Team, named so because they’re the second wave of heroes for WT-NY. After this, the players will make more characters (in a few weeks time), but this time playing the part of the conspirators behind the scenes. It’ll be an interesting roleplaying challenge for some and also an opportunity to add justfication to the actions which have gone before. That will mean giving away some of the plot, but the plot has to be player driven.

I remember back more than a decade to an Ars Magica game I ran in Dragonslayers. At one point we had 11 players and half of them had two characters. And one in particular, played by John D, was given an artifact that when activated would give him the power of a Tenth of Hell. The activation was an old curse which, in order to enact, he had to gather the right hands of thirteen friends. The character did this, betraying thirteen comrades and escaping suspicion due to John’s silver tongue and then decided not to enact the curse after all. Too risky apparently. These were the actions of an ostensibly good but perhaps selfish or power hungry character. His character’s arrogance was that his comrades (grogs, companions, other wizards) were beneath his contempt and he used them. When it came to the ultimate justification of the character, his courage failed. This was a bigger, badder thing than he. And he feared to raise up what he could not put down. It made his evil actions which were out of character all the more tragic when it was made apparent that his primary trait was cowardice. I loved it. It actually made the story. I do feel a bit sorry for the one armed bowman previously known as “the best archer in all of Christendom”. Them’s the breaks.

Status: Refugee – Perspective Selection

One thing that was bugging me about this game was that which we’ve discussed on a number of occasions about different games: scope. If you are playing refugees with only a small number of worlds available to you, the sheer scope for play is mind-boggling. This then probably requires either a lot of work on the part of the GM, or a lot of background information in the form of source books – or more likely both.

Reducing the character roles available (at least in the initial version of the game) would help give this game better focus. It occurred to me that having the players take on the role of police / enforcement would create a lot of interesting roleplaying situations. What happens when a group of refugees on a particular planet start getting angry at their conditions and decide to become militant? What if two large groups of refugees who had rivalries on Earth get transplanted to the same planet? … and so on.

Giving the focus to policing allows me as a game designer to focus on the things that are important to that sort of role. E.g. what are the laws in different alien societies, how many planets are there and how many humans to each, etc. I can more easily create rules of thumb for large numbers of planets, because I’m viewing them from a particular perspective.

For now, as I continue work on this game, I’m going to assume that the players are humans working for this agency. Expect to see some more background information and fictional snippets over the coming weeks.

Heroic imaginations

This is probably more suitable for infurious because it’s riffing off Guy Kawasaki.

Nurturing a heroic imagination takes five actions:

  • Maintain constant vigilance for situations that require heroic action.
  • Learn not to fear conflict because you took a stand.
  • Imagine alternative future scenarios beyond the present moment.
  • Resist the urge to rationalize and justify inaction.
  • Trust that people will appreciate heroic (and frequently unpopular) actions.

Heroism: Not just for people who have a spandex fetish

Look out of genre for ideas.

This thread on TheRPGSite looks for some ideas about how to populate a story based on the theme “Traveller: it came from jumpspace!. Some of the ideas are very good while some of them are little more than a re-telling of Alien.

Look outside of the genre. Watch some movies which are not typically sci-fi. I’m sitting watching The Great Escape as I write this. It’s filled with great scenes. What about Hidalgo? What about The Chronicles of Narnia? Misjump creates breach and characters are forced into a world where time moves differently. And where there are strange alien creatures. And a war.

I could even make a plot out of this.

So, some examples from the horror genre.

Watch “HP Lovecraft’s From Beyond”.
With the jump drive as “the machine”. The jump drive malfunctions and everyone feels ill, on edge, skin sensitive to touch. If you have psychics on board they start to broadcast their nightmares. The creatures which exist in jump space are finally able to catch up with this static ship which is trapped half in and half out of jump space. These creatures can be seen as ghosts and are able to flow through the solid walls of the ship. Close to the drive however they are not only visible but solid and attack. Anyone who spends too much time in the presence of the jump drive starts to be affected…and THEY become the monster prowling the ship…

Watch Carpenters’ Prince of Darkness.
Jump drive fails and people start dying – one kills himself by drinking sealant fluid, another kills herselfby bathing in a technobabble energy vortex. There isn’t anything evil here but the flailing jump drive has attracted the attention of something unspeakably alien which is sending it’s base desires. It can drink sealant fluid, it bathes in energy vortices. We pick up on it’s base desires and emulate them. It possesses a couple of NPC crewmembers and uses their minds and eyes to explore the ship, taking time to dismantle equipment and people just to see how they work. Eventually it will become bored and move on or perhaps it will take a liking to this brave new universe and try to cross with the help of it’s possessed souls.

Watch 28 Days Later
Take the example given about low berths being used to transport animals. Think how dangerous an angry chimp or even the ships mascot could be. Give the mascot psychic powers and heightened intelligence and watch it save those who were nice to it and murder those who were nasty to it. Watch how it takes some people and reduces them from being thinking feeling individuals and lobotomises them into becoming animals fueled only by hunger and fear….

Action is character

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Action is character.”

A few years ago a friend of mine came up with the theory that we often play our polar opposites in games. The players under scrutiny here were myself and himself and our characters were a honourable charismatic paladin and a sneaky cutthroat backstabbing rogue. I disagreed at the time but missed out on the bit where he was calling me a sneaky backstabbing rat in real life. I’ve never been clever with that sort of thing.

Aidan remarked the other night that he believes more accurately that we play characters we would like to be. This kinda still leaves me as a sneaky rat but at least this time I wish I was a paladin.

On the other hand, listening to F. Scott Fitzgerald, we define our character by our actions. This is kinda obvious but it’s good of old F. to help us with making it into an interesting soundbite.

r-Maps (and being ahead of the curve)

There’s a lot of talk of relationship maps.

I’ve been playing with the idea of an r-map for gaming for use as a player aid for a while. It really started to surface when playing superhero games in order to try and keep up with the number of NPCs and subplots that were going on. Later, in Ars Magica, it helped when we had troupe play in effect and every player had at least two characters. Otherwise I’d have gone insane. The thing about r-maps is that they depict the society around the character such as this r-map for NPCs in Amber. That said, I think an r-map showing only the public moods and behaviours would be entertaining.

Now…where was I. Yes.

In Qabal, an r-map was necessary for every player, because Qabal was all about troupe play. The first draft I did of this was circa 1996. I liked the imagery of it because the Tree of Life looked very much like a relationship map and I was quite pumped by that idea. Add to it a card-based mechanic inspired by Blackjack 🙂 using Tarot cards and you had what I thought would be a lot of fun. Likewise in the game currently known as “Illusion”, a relationship map is necessary for the PLAYER to keep track of his multiple characters and his relationships to them. How he perceived them. Same mechanic, standard playing cards but less connection to the Tree. But still a beezer idea.

The difference being that a character sheet then appears more like a series of circles with interconnecting lines and the content of each “circle” is the entire character sheet for that individual. For NPCs, they would be much less detailed obviously and tend to be around the edges until adopted by a player (see, another cool mechanic).

More on sexism and racism in games.

More on New Horizons the game that is going to put racism and sexism into every pulp game. I’m going to have to buy it because …

Alexandria2000 writes: Or if they ARE mentioned, it’s in a stereotypical way that makes my teeth ache. So hell yeah, gimme a chance to inject a little reality in the pulp. Stop ignoring the people I want to play because ‘reality and history were boring and sad.’

Surely you mean to add a little fantasy and unreality into the pulps.

That said – there were stories which were indeed sympathetic. The standard pulp hero is ideed a white man, but he often relied upon other racial and sexual achetypes to get things done and more often than not, treated them as equals even if society did not. I’m beginning to see this supplement being an opportunity to put reality in and I’m really thinking that’s the last thing we want to do. Reality is and was bigoted and ugly.

You have a choice. You either make race irrelevant so someone can play a female asian hero who leads the charge against the darkness (and thus rewrite the genre and change history) or you include reality and run the same character and spend half your time smacking landlords and officials about for their lack of modern sensibilities.

Said like that it seems like a petty revenge plot.

Episode Four – 27th October 2000, PM

Skycrane and Psiren arrived safely on the rooftop of WatchTower and were greeted by a concerned INDIGO and the team Paramedic, Robert. Nothing could be done about Skycrane’s smouldering flesh and Robert quipped that it might “clear up in a day or so”. With them, of course, was a bundle wrapped in a red fore blanket which was revealed to be Stephanie Butler, a marketing Exec from Manhattan. She claimed to have been snatched from the street by this red blanket and that left INDIGO looking puzzled at Skycrane. Psiren, at this point, was still unconscious and could add no testimony. Stephanie Butler was detained under the Dangerous Superhuman Felons Act for 24 hours of observation.

Meanwhile, across town, Balance and Yellowfist were flitting over the rooftops and touched down on a busy backstreet. While attracting a lot of attention, they slipped over to the building they were interested in and noticed that the padlock was missing. Entering the warehouse they found boxes, racks of more boxes and a lift shaft leading down…they investigate the lift and Yellowfirst takes a liking to a mini-forklift and starts to wonde rout loud about whether he should have large heavy, forklift-sized , bladed weapons. Forklift in one hand and superpowered priest in the other, Yellowfist starts to descend the lift shaft into darkness.

Meanwhile across town Skycrane and INDIGO set off for the building, eager to provide backup to their companions. They arrive in a split second due to the T-Jump capabilities of INDIGO’s AMP suit and quickly start to descend into the darkness after Yellowfist and Balance.

At the bottom of the shaft, they find and start to explore the tunnel with a special shield composed of steel, made from the very air by Balance’s unearthly abilities. Along that tunnel they find a passage, smooth surfaced, made by man’s hand which leads them deeper into the ground. INDIGO scouting ahead finds that the tunnel opens into a roughly hewn chamber and inside are four superhumans and nearly thirty of these rag-tag denizens of the darkness.

Yellowfist and Skycrane enter quickly and begin to subdue the superhumans who they identify as Sewer, Killerwatt, Gridlock and Asphalt. These superhumans are subdued easily but the denizens start to attack and only stopped by the quick judgement of Balance who steps in and burns them with his searing, invisible Penance Blessing. The team then set about securing the supervillains. Gridlock was slain by the denizens and Sewer escaped by they have KillerWatt and Asphalt in custody. Not a bad innings!

Once this is done, the team start to investigate the remaining roughly carved tunnels. There’s something else out there, an oppressive psychic presence, but try as they might, they cannot track it down…

The scene ends with the team returning to WatchTower with much to think about and some new captives. They’ll have to put them somewhere….

[Above is a true and accurate recollection of everything that you remember.]

sometimes you have to wear your work clothes to the doctor

SXSW covers “Confessions of Superhero” which shows the strange and seedy world of superhero lookalikes…

We see Joe McQueen demolished by the heat inside his colossal Hulk costume — on a record 106-degree day, it’s a brutal 130 degrees inside the emerald-tinged mass of foam … Superman chugs milk right from the jug; Wonder Woman roots in her glove box through the open window of her car as valet parking guys check out her ass; Batman takes a smoke break.

Here’s the link at SXSW’s site and a review at WIRED DOT COM.

Lastly, here’s the web site of the film. Wonder Woman is kinda hot!

Systems

A posting on RPGnet asks us to describe our homebrew systems. I ended up describing mine thusly.

  • Maths-easy 2d6 comedy with either a manga/anime/mecha or zombie holocaust backdrop
  • Qualitative success using 0-3d10 to create a crunchy yet narrative system which can be considered both rules-lite and “a gun game” with a backdrop of psychic powers and government conspiracies dating back to the start of the 20th Century.
  • Card-based Blackjack-inspired mechanics with backdrop of both Stage Magic and Real Magic. Yes, that game. The one I’m infamous for not finishing…
  • [EDIT: Rules light, coarse skilled d6 mechanic – happy now?]

It’s a fun thread, some inspiring stuff in there.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Literally.

It’s always been a frustration to me that I can’t draw.

Jared and I have debated this a few times during my forays to Paris. Nightfall had the advantage of having DavA, Chippy and Stuart. Lucky bastards.

I need artists for WotW, I need an artist to help me with the imagery for Viride and I think we could do with a concept genius for Status: Refugee. The vision thing is easy but translating that vision into the brain of another who has not been there for the inception is very difficult.

My friend Paul, a graphic designer and branding specialist of some note, suggests I:

start hanging out in the art college.. without looking too pervy..lol

Hm, that’s not going to work.

He also says:

is it better to write around images or should images come from story?.. better to team up with a artist and work together.

That’s the problem. I don’t know many artists. And without hanging out at the Art College with a bag of sweeties, I’m not likely to find any. There’s certainly none in TTN that I can see.

Back to the scribing board for me, I guess.

Episode Three – 27th October 2000

Things started off innoculously enough as Donna the receptionist watched the rank and file of WatchTower New York file into the conference room. Jack introduced a new staffmember, Yellowfist, a Sioux warrior who embodies the totems of both Eagle and Bear providing him with superhuman strength and the power of flight.

Red greeted him warmly as did Psiren and Balance though there was some palpable resentment as Skycrane realised that there was a contendor for “mightiest man in the universe”.

The subject moved from the contentious “Sanction Zero” to the events at Liberty Island three days earlier and how the latter might relate to the recent advisory about Smog, Sewer, Asphalt, KillerWatt and Gridlock. What was Squall doing on Liberty Island?

RedShift was dispatched north to the site of a reported fish kill, something he wasn’t thrilled about while the remainder of the team moved to the roof of the building where Balance fashioned a sturdy two-metre wide silver plate from the air, much to the amazement of the rest of the team. Though it was a little unsteady at first, Skycrane effortlessly lifted the plate into the air and the team stepped onto it before winging their way across the city to Liberty Island. Much more dignified than being carried or suspended in mid-air by SkyCrane’s TK.

As they landed safely on the grass, Balance evaporated the silver plate, secure in the knowledge he would be able to summon it up again should they need it.

They spent the next couple of hours interviewing the security staff at the Island until a chance comment caught Skycrane’s trained ear. There were TWO ways to get off the island other than through self-powered flight? The boat was obvious but on further investigation it was revealed that there was a cargo lift and train that tunnelled under the Hudson. At last, a lead…

The team descended in the lift, inspecting the rooms as they went by and checking the status of the generator room. In the cargo basement they could hear the gentle booming of the Hudson above them and a dark tunnel stretched east towards the city, unlit because the only thing to go in or come out of it was an automated train.

Skycrane, impulsive as ever, grabbed a halogen flashlight and sped off down the tunnel. As his lamp dimmed in the darkness, Psiren gasped and began to worry. There was something in the tunnel. Something….hungry

Psiren’s screams echoed down the tunnel and Skycrane turned on a pin and began to speed through the darkness and burst out into the basement warehouse where Psiren was visibly panicking. She took a long stare down the corridor and shrieked “They’re comingggggggg”.

The next few minutes were a blur of activity as a rag-tag group of men and women burst from the darkness of the tunnel with teeth gnashing and claws raking the air. Yellowfist swatted one and Skycrane bulldozed a group of them with his TK-Ram. They were not just normal humans as they seemed to easily shake off the powerful fists and TK-Rams of Yellowfist and Skycrane.

In the midst of the panic stood Balance, who was holding back from the group as the horrors approached. He could feel something in the darkness, something reaching for him, peeling back the layers of his brain and stroking the contours of his mind with blackened hands. In an attempt to rid himself of the dark and forbidden evil, he let slip with his most devastating attack, right at his two comrades, Yellowfist and Skycrane. A pyrotechnic display of excited atoms and the inner fire from a billion molecular bonds breaking down came from the two as they were immediately assailed by this terrible death-ray effect and eventually Skycrane sagged to the ground, bleeding from every pore. Yellowfist grunted and gritted his teeth through the pain as his Bear-Totem roared within and at that moment his mind was made up. He scooped his team in his arms and summing the Eagle, flew up the lift shaft to safety. Skycrane revived seconds later, though weak from the microfractures in his cell membranes and they waited and watched as their assailants began to scale the walls of the lift shaft.

Seemingly recovered, Balance held out his hand and began to seal the top of the lift chamber with his matter molding powers but not before Skycrane grabbed one of the attackers and hoisted him above where he was bludgeoned into unconsciousness by Yellowfist. Trying to take him outside revived the thing and each time they had to beat him into submission.

To resolve this, they wrapped the unconscious form in a fire blanket and Yellowfist and Balance resolved to travel to the other end of the tunnel and seal it shut as Skycrane took the unconscious Psiren to WatchTower for medical assistance.

What to find?

Insulting the conservatives

Morfedel writes:
“I think its because my conservatives watch Fox news because they (and I) feel that many other news media are liberally slanted. And of course, when you do that as a retreat from “other news sources,” then your news source you do watch is attacked, it comes off as an attack against you as well.”

Only if you’re a dickhead.

Am I being harsh? Everyone else in the world knows that FOX is pro-Bush, pro-War and pro-Conservative (for those of us outside the US, a US Conservative is a extremely right wing individual. Even the liberal left in the US makes the Tories in the UK look like turnip-eating socialists).

It is bizarre that FOX provides The Simpsons.

But to take someone saying “Fox is crap” as insinuating that means “You are crap” shows some deep seated insecurities. It would be different if the individual had said:

Anyone who watches FOX is a weak minded fool with nothing but a pucker on his lips for The American Presidential Rear End

Unborn Ghosts

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

— Richard Dawkins, excerpt from Chapter I, “The Anaesthetic of Familiarity,” of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998)

Watchtower: Just in over the wire

++++ADVANCE NOTIFICATION ++++ WATCHTOWER EYES ONLY++++

Five superhuman individuals have been contracted for operations unknown in East Coast North America, most likely New York. All operatives in the East Coast region are to collect information and relay to WatchTower Central Services Command.

Codenames

  • Sewer (powers unknown)
  • Gridlock (speedster)
  • KillerWatt (electricity generation)
  • Asphalt (solid material shaping)
  • Smog (powers unknown)

KillerWatt

  • Real Name: Helen Schultz
  • Occupation: Burglar, hired assassin
  • Citizenship: USA, has criminal record
  • Known colleagues: Squall, Hellstrike
  • Powers and abilities:
    KillerWatt is armed with an insulating uniform with embedded battery
    packs. She is able to control the flow of electricity in her immediate
    area and has trained extensively with this ability.

Asphalt

  • Real Name: Eugene Benjamin
  • Occupation: Hired assassin
  • Citizenship: USA, has criminal record
  • Known colleagues: None
  • Powers and abilities:
    Asphalt can reform his body into an asphalt-like substance which
    affords him superhuman strength and resistance. He also has
    limited control of other surfaces and materials.

Gridlock

  • Real Name: Richard Carter
  • Occupation: Hired Assassin
  • Citizenship: USA, has criminal record
  • Known colleagues: None
  • Powers and abilities:
    Gridlock can change the speed of himself or others. He usually
    uses it to make himself into a speedster and, at the same time,
    slow everyone else down.

Sewer

  • No information found.

Smog

  • No information found.

++++

Zombie Links

This isn’t a link blog, but these are very fun.

Zombie World News

“ZombieWorldNews.com is , as far as we can tell, a departure from other Zombie sites. Instead of the reader being a spectator, we hope to draw you in through a dynamic, ever changing scenario, that you can just read and enjoy, or jump right in and contribute to yourself. The main focus is on the world wide impact and reaction to a credible Zombie virus. How countries deal with it. Become insular, close borders, increase security, quell panic, fear and paranoia, even make arrangements for undead disposal. We also want to touch on some often overlooked aspects of a Zombie rising. Such as, how do you cope with shooting someone? For most people it would not be like a shooting gallery. It would be horrific. Is there remorse? These were people, friends, neighbors. What is the personal toll? The psychological effect.”

The Zombie Squad

“Q: What is Zombie Squad?
A: Zombie Squad is disaster preparation community.
We focus our efforts towards promoting the importance of emergency preparation awareness and working with local communities around the globe to teach them what is needed to survive whatever crisis may come along like natural disasters or man made disasters. Our mission is to make sure you are prepared for any crisis situation that might come along in your daily life which may include your home being invaded by the undead menace. Zombie Squad also supports other local and international disaster relief organizations/charities. Check out our events page for the latest charity event we have coming up.

Captain America and other patriots

From onegoodmove we have Stephen Colbert on the tragic death of Captain America

One of my friends, Gav, mentioned the Civil War storyline. Cap represents the forces of liberty and Iron man is a defense contractor. I can’t help but think that there’s a writer in Marvel’s hallowed halls who’s sick of the current government situation in the US. But that’s dangerously close to satire and reality so let’s change the subject.

I’ve always liked “patriot” characters. I’ve never managed to make an Irish one though, I’ve always ended up with British super-patriot heroes. Some of them (Yeoman, Lionheart, RUCman) have become staples of my superhero backgrounds. A lot of this is because I was always an avid reader of Captain Britain.

Some of these characters I have a lot of empathy for.

Yeoman, the hundred and forty year old WW1 hero who shows no sign of failing health and yet who is possessed of the most desperate ennui. But he’s a knight of the way and his shoulders are broad and he still has a long way to go.

Lionheart, the modern clone of Yeoman, full of Thatcherite reason and lately New Labour sincerity. Violent and aggressive, just like the general populace.

RUCman, short-lived in terms of the campaign but oft remembered. This superhuman attaché to the RUC has left the shackles of the government since the change of the organisations name to the PSNI. PSNIman doesn’t have the same ring….

Status: Refugee – A beginning

They repurposed I-90 into a massive people-processing line, putting you through checkpoint after checkpoint. This one for DNA scan, the next one for ID verification, the next for health assessment–the list seems endless. You stand under the afternoon sun, sweating (is the sun getting hotter already?), shuffling with the line and lugging your allocated 50 kilos of personal belongings that you quickly stuffed into a backpack.

Your first real glimpse of a K’toaran is when you get to the destination allocation desk. You’ve seen them on TV, but that’s different. Seeing one up close is kinda … freaky. You try not to stare at the big flat head–does this thing even have eyes?–as the big, sewage-colored alien silently offers you a token with one of its many hands. You take it and trundle on, a little shell-shocked. Maybe the extra hands are what make the K’toarans so efficient. Maybe the big head contains a really big brain. Or maybe it’s just because they seem to breathe out their ears.

You turn the colored token over in your hand. It’s made of a dull red metal and shaped like a house, and stamped in some language you can’t read. You shuffle off toward the next checkpoint. Not too far ahead of you, where the toll booths used to be, are the Bridges. It looks like someone built a Roman acqueduct across the highway and put a different world in every archway.

Last checkpoint.

Another K’toaran takes your chit and puts it in a brown blob that you assume is a computer. It spits out a wrist-band made of that same dull red metal which you strap on. The word “REFUGEE” is embossed on it in several languages, some of which you don’t recognise.

A warm, female voice comes out of the blob. “Please ensure you wear your wrist-band at all times. In addition to carrying all your identification and biological data, it maintains your credit balance and any other information needed by your adoptive government. Please follow the red line.”

Looking down at your feet you see a red line painted on the ground leading to one of the archways. As you approach, you can see a room through the Bridge, much like a waiting room at a hospital or a government office, with people sitting half-bored, half-expectant on moulded benches. You take a deep breath as you have one last look at the Boston skyline, then step through the Bridge to your new home.

On another planet.

Local Boy living the dream…

BBC News Northern Ireland writes:

A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard. He told defence counsel Anthony Cinnamond that within his small social circle he had been participating in a game known as Shadowrun. The game was set in the future and the assumed characters were criminals, he said. He told the court his character was a shaman, or magical elf, who carried a small Japanese sword as a weapon.

That’s really quite embarrassing. (Thanks to Graham for the heads up and no, I don’t know this guy). Here’s more coverage of the same event

Episode Two – 26th October 2000

At 9 am, the doors to the conference room open and a motley crew of individuals file in. At the head of the table sits Jack White, the marble-faced CEO of WatchTower New York. Clockwise around the table we see Father Julian Devon (later to be known as Balance), Jason also known as INDIGO and three new individuals. The first introduces himself as SkyCrane (though you can call him Ben), the second calls himself Red Shift (speaking with a deep Southern accent) and the third as Psiren. It becomes apparent that Skycrane can lift huge weights with the power of his mind and fly and he quickly slots into the role of the team “Brick”. Red Shift claims to be “fast, too fast to see proper”. Psiren claims to be a telepath and empath and that she can become the communications backbone of the team.

Father Julian looks confused but is assured by White that everything has been sorted out with his Bishop. More on this later.

The team are informed of the plans for WatchTower. They will be the primary team operating out of TriBeCa. The second team will be operating out of the WatchTower NY training facility in the Catskills. They are also informed of White’s intentions to construct a WatchTower franchise outside of the United States through a special Sanction Zero which has been proposed by the United Nations. He refuses to elaborate at this time.

After this briefing, the team is introduced to Nicole Menshikov, the Public Relations Executive. Her job is to help the team settle into their new role, manage relocations and cement public identities and ensure that private identities are protected. She criticises INDIGO for his lack of insignia, questions Father Julian about his codename (which he eventually relents to, with Balance) and discusses the facilities available to WatchTower staff for keeping identities private. The meeting finishes as the group start to chat among themselves with Psiren finishing questions before they are asked which some find irritating.

The last thing they do is look up the now-deceased Squall. Known accomplices including two superpowered miscreants known as KillerWatt and HellStrike.

As lunch Approaches, Father Julian invites Psiren, also known as Alice, to lunch at Liberty Island. His gesture is more investigatory than complimentary and they spend time walking around the island. He and Jason bring a multimeter and test various objects in the environment. He’s looking out for any signs of Squall’s accomplices.

Psiren is able to detect empathic impressions from the area and she elucidates her feelings on the region. Suspecting collusion, Jason flashes his WatchTower badge at the head of security, a short, balding man called Lopez. He promises to fax over the duty roster for the 24th. The group also resolve to obtain schematics of Liberty Island. There must be something beneath….

All the games I’ve played (and GM’d)

I commented to Matt the other day that the last time I actually *played* in a game was when he ran the original WatchTower game in 1998.

This got me to thinking that although I’ve read a lot of games, and I’ve played in a lot of campaigns, I haven’t really played lots of games.  Here’s the total list, from memory:

  • Advanced Heroquest
  • D&D
  • Marvel Super Heroes
  • MERP
  • SLA Industries
  • Torg
  • Traveller
  • Vampire

While I’ve played a much larger range of games, those are the only ones which fulfil the these criteria:

  1. I’ve been a player (as opposed to GM)
  2. I’ve had a character that advanced in some way (levels, experience points spent on skills, etc.)

(This, incidentally, has led me to a discovery about what I like about gaming … more in a future post).
If I look at it from the perspective of games that I’ve GM’d where my players would then fulfil these two criteria, the list would be even shorter:

  • D&D
  • SLA Industries
  • Pendragon

I think this is because I’ve had a tendency to run long campaigns that I’ve really enjoyed (as has the group), and so there’s been little impetus to switch game.  Pendragon is especially good for this as the game is designed for long running campaigns.

I’d be interested to read about other people’s experiences, as players and as GMs.  Write a comment, or post in your blog with a ping/trackback.

WotW: Earth – System Proposal

Here’s a simple system that would get a WotW: Earth game up and running. Before I go into the details, here’s what was going through my head as I designed this.

  1. WotW: Earth is set in turn-of-the-century England
  2. Player characters are likely to have a base set of skills which can probably default to stats
  3. Highly technical skills don’t really exist, and science is still the realm of the wealthy
  4. Skills matched career very closely, and people generally had one career
  5. My feeling (from reading what Matt has written) is that this is a game about normal people in an abnormal situation, so there won’t be much difference between the characters

And now the system …

Continue reading “WotW: Earth – System Proposal”

WotW: Earth – The Martian Outpost

In another moment I had scrambled up the earthen rampart and stood upon its crest, and the interior of the redoubt was below me. A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it, huge mounds of material and strange shelter places.

“I stood staring into the pit, and my heart lightened gloriously, even as the rising sun struck the world to fire about me with his rays. The pit was still in darkness; the mighty engines, so great and wonderful in their power and complexity, so unearthly in their tortuous forms, rose weird and vague and strange out of the shadows towards the light. “

The pit at Primrose Hill was the largest outpost the Martians secured in Britain and perhaps the world. Their fighting machines collected the materials from their cylinders and brought it to this pit so they start the construction of new machines. Handlers, refining machinery and buildings dot the landscape of the newly turned earth and their trails, dotted with powdered metal and the bones of their victims, weave an intricate web of snail trails.

Lofty towers affording observation of the surrounding countryside and armed with the dread funnel from which smoked the Heat-Ray. The land approach of the pit was of blackened turf and charred ruins of houses, tree stumps and the wreckage of anything that dared come near.

Now, the work of exhuming the dead and giving them a decent burial has occupied hundreds of men and women, eager to work for food, over the last weeks since the defeat of the Martians.

Do women look for more depth?

Inanna Jones writes a bit about this sexism thing here on the IrishGaming livejournal:

So generalising remark: women look for more depth.

I disagree with Inannajones. I think both men and women look for depth. The depth is just in different seas.

There is a group of guys who look for cheesecake art. They like the hawt Drow femmes and they think that Larry Elmore is a god. They are in the minority and seldom are over 18.

So, what’s with “women look for more depth”?

I don’t know what InannaJones looks for precisely, she says:

I play RPGs fundamentally for the sake of a damn good story and being able to be personally, intimately part of that story. I love being a hero, love solving mysteries, love being part of a living, breathing, 3+ -dimensional fantasy world. In my experience, both sexes are allowed to do that equally well.

Okayyyy…..that’s what I like about gaming. I love the story, I love characterisation, I love putting on an accent, I like making twists and turns in a plot and I love it when my players react as their character rather than as a player. As a GM I have to play believeable male roles as well as believable female roles. I have to play hearty heroes as well as vile villains, of both sexes and of variable sexual preference.

She continues:
I have never found RPGs or the RPG culture to be particularly sexist.

On the same post, deannawol writes:

If anything, the cute, fluffy, romantic “for women” games would piss me off. But that’s just me.

It would piss me off too. And I’m not even a woman.

What pisses me off more is being called a jerk and an asshole by an ignorant bigot who knows nothing about the hobby and assumes that just because we’re debating whether there is sexism in the hobby, it must mean that there is sexism in the hobby and anyone who says otherwise is the white, heterosexual, male oppressor.

This is a conversation for the pub, or a convention panel. And if any women want to look at the games I have in development here and on the LateGaming private wiki and talk about whether I am making a game with inherent sexist bias then I’m interested to talk.

It seems I agree with InannaJones.