When you’re lying awake in the night and dreaming new dreams about far off places and alien races, in science fiction and fantasy, and you think it might be easy to invent something new.


A few years ago, some of us tried to write a science fiction background which included some elements from sci-fi we liked. It was, I suppose, meant to be a slightly more mature outlook on Star Trek, a series most of us watched and a game we generally liked playing (though convincing one ham actor that he couldn’t always be the captain was troublesome).

We only wanted 3-4 alien races to deal with but we wanted them to be very very alien. Some of the concepts were facinating. I loved the Swarm, the Snakes and the “human aliens” (colonies). I had some trouble with the molluscs but I blamed that more on myself. As a biologist I had a good grasp of the weird things out there on Earth and wanted to invent things that were really alien. Others without that background weren’t looking for the same criteria though they were instrumental in tightening the physics because that was their background!

But as an example, look at these beasties, the Water Bears.

Freeze them, boil them, dry them, expose them to open space & radiation – after 200 years they’ll still be alive!

How weird are they? Yet, blow them up a hundred times and instead of a millimetre-long creepie crawly you have a 10 centimetre freaky pet thing. Make it a metre long and, who knows, you’ve got the start of a primitive alien race. Give them money and digital watches and you’ve just invented Croydon.

If inventing new aliens, get a biologist on team. They’ll be able to tell you if the thing you’ve just invented is original or if you’ve just extrapolated the Moss Piglet from first principles (in a similar way to the way I once designed a nasty beastie for SLA Industries and discovered I’d invented spiders without referring to the copious documentation I had, book lungs and all!)

Just remember, if something is humanoid, there’d better be a good reason for it (like, for example, they’re humans and they’re from Earth) and that can open up an entire kettle of fish.

As for the game itself, it was shelved. The fun was in the creation.

Warlock writes: Why don’t you just give it up.

In the comments on the previous post the almost anonymous Warlock (IP: – 24/10/07 – Some Onetel subscriber in the UK who hides by putting false email addresses) writes:

Seriously, you’ve been hacking away at this hobby for donkey\’s years and never produced anything of note other than a blog which demostrates your total inability to GM let alone design a game system.

Why don’t you just give it up?


You download every PDF game going, and buy a shed-load of paper ones too, then mash them up and spin parts of them into candyfloss which can withstand the impact of real players for all of 10 minutes and then you’re off again.

Surely to goodness you’ve noticed by now that you never create anything with any staying power? Gee, perhaps a few minutes effort isn’t the way to produce something of high quality! Who’d have thunk it?

It’s a fair point. Other than a few fans, I’ve not made a significant impact in the world of RPG Design. I’m no Ron Edwards or John Snead. The books of yesteryear made a small impact a decade ago and I’ve not worked hard at it since. I’ve played.

The difference, Warlock, is that I’m not really in the market of producing RPGs these days. I’ve got a lot of spare time and part of the enjoyment I get out of gaming is in the creation of backgrounds. The rules aren’t important to me which, if you’d spent any time gaming with me, you’d know. Sure, I invented the ERIS system in 1996. But it was 1996. And a different faster system for SNCC and Zombi. And yes, a third one a few years later for the Testament/Creed games. That’s not really the same thing.

It’s not about the mechanics, Warlock, it never was. OK, it may be true I have no imagination compared to some of the luminaries out there but it’s a far cry from anonymously whining on someone else’s blog about their “BadWrongFun” I mean – what – were there no adverts on TV you felt the need to complain about tonight?

I write the blog and create games as a hobby. It offends you. Go figure.

It’s true. No-one needs rules to play roleplaying games at all. We did well enough without paper, pens and dice when we didn’t have them. But people write them anyway. And people like reading about them. Am I remotely bothered that the games I create are not in the top ten sellers category in Not remotely. Because the creation of the game and the writing of the background material is a heap of fun for me. I’ve downloaded about ten RPG PDFs from DriveThruRPG (it’s a great site) as opposed to “every PDF going” though I do buy a lot of books (yes, even after all these years) and I only have one regular game going at the moment.

It’s not about self-justifying my position here. I don’t NEED to self-justify my hobby. End of the day, Warlock, you’re a gamer. You can’t really point fingers and declare one part of the gaming hobby to be much nerdier than another. We’re all nerds. Some people are rules nuts. Some people want “realism”. Some people want fantasy. Who are you to tell someone they’re not having fun properly?

I have fond memories of some of my games with people and strangely enough it’s not about whether the rules worked well or whether someone scored a critical hit with a natural 20. My blog is part of the cause of people flocking to RPGs? Oh come on. The RPG industry doesn’t need saving, least of all from me.

Are you defending the 10-year-system-design or attacking it. Or are you just attacking me?


Did I kick your dog? Steal your ice cream? Spill your beer? Jealous?


Great Definition

badwrongfun: Playing “the wrong way”, but having fun anyway. You might be playing the wrong way by going against the expectations of the game (“You can’t run a hack-and-slash game using Vampire; you’re missing the entire point!”) or the expectations of gamers who have decided they are more evolved beings (“It’s not possible to properly role-play in Dungeons & Dragons.”). Primarily used humorously to show that the speaker doesn’t care that it’s “wrong” since it’s fun, or that the speaker feels a slight bit of guilt for enjoying something they feel they shouldn’t.

[Please tell me that everyone knows the D&D sucks rant is satire…trollbait…linkfodder that Aidan wrote for a laugh – I know it seems serious but JESUS it’s just a game. And it’s a game that we’ve enjoyed playing over the years. We’re fucking with you!]

I bought a book today…

…entirely because it was illustrated and designed exactly the way I want Q to be paid out.

I spent a few minutes leafing through it and in my minds eye transposed the text and art to that which I envision for Q. Looking over my Q notes the other day reminded me of the parts I still needed to write though, to be honest, most of it is down somewhere or other.

Some of the notes I look over were definitely penned by someone else. Sure, it’s my handwriting but it doesn’t read like my writing. I guess some of the text there must be 10 years old or so and I was a different person then – and my understanding of some things has matured and so it needs re-written.

I’m always wary of games systems which report on the cover that they took 10 years to develop. Systems take minutes to develop, maybe hours to refine. Not years. It takes years maybe to write prose of the quality you might want. When I hear of a game that took 10 years to create, I always think that it’s going to be 10 years out of date. I mean, a decade ago we were playing Ars Magica, SLA Industries and Mage. I would hope to some degree the world had moved on a little.

Likewise when someone claims to have developed their game system from watching real fights or, (even less impressive, from years of studying fighting in the SCA,) then I have to work hard to keep the bile down. Does anyone really want to see “realistic” fight sequences? Is there any evidence to suggest that SCA fighting is any more realistic? I’m not convinced – but then there are very few people in Western Europe who have witnessed a real fight using swords and armour. When you’re fighting for your life you’re bound to respond differently to when you’re fighting to try to demonstrate a point about fighting. So – 10 years development and based on “real world data” – load of bollocks.

I did read an article in a RPG magazine which took data from shootouts at the Texas border between immigrant, smugglers and the border guard. It made for interesting reading – seems shooting someone is as effective as throwing a handful of stones at them though if one stone hits, there’s a massive chance of instant death. Anyone know the article? I think it might have been in Pyramid?

Back to the book…

So I bought it (and some word flashcards for my daughter). I’ll no doubt get time to read it tonight and then maybe break out my design apps later this week.

Heroics, Risk and immersion.

James “JimJamJom Jimbo” Wallis writes about Heroics:

Of course, a lot depends on how the player views their avatar, whether they regard the game-character they’re controlling as ‘me’, as a companion who they care about, or as a disposable camera and weapon-wielding tool.

But basically players don’t like risk. They like the appearance of risk, the semblance of heroism, but they really hate it when you make them feel like failures or take stuff away from them. Try telling a player that because they screwed up they broke their magic sword, or they’re going to have to sell their plasma-armour to pay for their half-body med-regen. They want to progress on all fronts, not just story and accomplishment but stats, equipment and fortune. It goes back as far as traditional tabletop RPGs: D&D lets you heal away injury and even death with cheap spells and potions; while also-rans like Runequest, T&T and Traveller were far more stingy with their cures.

Apart from making a clear and present declaration on the shitness of D&D, it’s a point well made.

When playing computer games, I get a lot of immersion. My heart pumps loudly in my ears whether I’m delivering the team flag back to my base or trying to make the shot to kill the Commandant of the camp while shells are pinging round me. The Flood parts of Halo gave me the heebie-jeebies, Doom 3 made me jump out of my skin. I love that feeling. I seldom get it with movies where I am a passive observer (notable exception being Dark Water and Audition).

To keep my attention, games have to give me a chill or make my heart burst through my chest.

Rowling casts Evil Eye on Hindi festival

A Hindi community is being targetted by Warner Bros and the Rowling estate for infringement because they’re building a huge model of the Hogwarts school.

The finishing touches are being applied to thousands of similar structures, known as pandals, across Calcutta and elsewhere in India. Many of them touch on popular themes and the BBC’s Chris Morris in Delhi says copyright has never been an issue before.

Aha, but they didn’t reckon on Rowling. She who blocked the Wizards d20 Harry Potter RPG because “she would be the only one telling Harry Potter stories” and vociferously defends her copyright even though:

Many people have noticed similarities between Timothy Hunter — a bespectacled English teenager with family troubles, a scar on his forehead and who has a magical owl as a pet — and the later and more famous Harry Potter. Neil Gaiman has been quoted as saying that while there are similarities between the two they are largely superficial and most likely reflect the fact that both draw on common archetypes.Wikipedia Link

…which is Gaiman saying “She’s got shitloads more money than me”.

Q-CON XIV video

The official video for Q-CON XIV was posted today:

It’s good to see it running as I did all the research for the first Q-CON by visiting cons around the country when I was President of ‘Slayers the year before. I amended the constitution, got it ratified and and then pushed the idea of running a convention to the folk. The following year we had Q-CON. Alan, who died last year, was President of the society and did a good job motivating the rest of us to work hard. I ran half a dozen games that weekend and had previously set up the Star Trek Megagame to be run down in the Mandela Hall. I was ‘Slayer’s first convention director and ran Q-CON 2 and 3 which both turned out to be really profitable in the end. Heh, who could have guessed. It wasn’t all easy and I hadn’t been aware until recently how close to the wire it had been.

Before his untimely death, Alan asked me to run it again…but commitments (like running a business, having my kids on the weekend) were too much to consider it. And, of course, I’d no goodwill left in the society and you NEED goodwill from the folk to get things done.

The Game I’d Play Right Now

I’m having a lot of fun writing half-a-games at the moment. You know – getting the grist of a game together. I’m not really enjoying the layout/art section though I’m sure I’ll get round to it. Illusion is almost ready to go. Six requires about another few weeks. It’s all good.

I have a hankering to play a game though, something I’ve not managed in a couple of weeks.

Not all of these are co-temporal but bear with me.

Brotherhood of the Wolf meets Sharpe In the Company of Wolves for adventure in crumbling post-Renaissance cities darkened by the grime of a burgeoning Industrial Revolution whilst romance poets tread dark gargoyled halls of vast Gothic cathedrals.

Based on the dates below, I think a period around 1798 would be just perfect.

Benjamin Franklin: 1706 – 1790
First Piano: 1709
Steam Engine invented: 1712
First diving bell: 1717
Giacomo Casanova: 1725 – 1798
Captain James Cook: 1728 – 1779
First invention of modern Steel: 1740
Marquis de Sade 1740 – 1814
Antoine Lavoisier: 1743 – 1794
Count Alessandro di Cagliostro: 1743 – 1795
First Capacitor (Leyden Jar): 1745
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: 1749 – 1832
Industrial Revolution: circa 1750 – 1850
Seven Years War: 1756 – 1763
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart: 1756 – 1791
“Mad” George III crowned: 1760
Catherine the Great’s reign: 1762 – 1796
American War of Independence: 1775 – 1783
Jane Austen: 1775 – 1817
Richard Sharpe (fiction) 1776 – 1860
French Revolution: 1789 – 1799
Great French War: 1792 – 1815
Percy Bysshe Shelley: 1792 – 1822
George Gordon Byron: 1788 – 1824
Charles Babbage: 1791 – 1871
Napoleon becomes dictator of France: 1799
Napoleonic Wars: 1799 – 1815

post-apocalyptic rainstorms

The atmosphere is becoming more humid in a pattern consistent with man-made climate change, researchers have found.

“This confirmation that humidity and temperature are increasing as expected has important implications for future human health and comfort,” observed the Hadley Centre’s Peter Thorne, one of the research team.

BBC News

Looks like BladeRunner had it right. It’ll never stop raining.

Your rights … under Section 44 of the UK Anti-Terrorism Act

This kind of thing gives me the shivers.

Two disabled blokes were detained by UK police for suspiciously opening a white envelope and looking at police men in public view

It’s been asked about 20 times now when I’m going to London with the job and I’ve been wanting to put it off. Anything to avoid the steely stare of Airport Security.

YOUR RIGHTS UNDER SECTION 44 (Courtesy Liberty ):

  • The police can only give you a pat down, remove outer clothes (eg jacket, hat), search your bags and have you empty your pockets
  • You do not have to give your name and address
  • You do not have to explain why you are there
  • You are not allowed to flee the search, but you are not required to be actively compliant. You are allowed to ‘go limp’ as passive resistance during the search if you wish not to comply
  • There is no permission to collect DNA data during the search
  • You do not have to comply with any attempt to photograph or record you
  • Women cannot be touched by male police during these searches
  • Make notes about the officers searching you – name, number and police force
  • Note the time and the events preceding the search
  • Note the specific wording used by the police to explain their authority to search you
  • Ask the police for the reason that they are searching you. Specifically, are they searching for terrorists or are they simply trying to deter, delay or inconvenience you?

God forbid you should be having a game in the pub and passing round a copy of the Compendium of Modern Firearms or something.

Even more on Sexism


From the Wonderland blog:
While we’re debating the use of English pronouns in RPG books, we find that Ubisoft have just created a range of games for the Nintendo:DS which consist of shopping, fashion, animals and babies.

The world is imbalanced, side-loaded, lurching: we need more female policemen, actually – aren’t Ubisoft watching Life on Mars? – and female referees, and female politicians, and female military people, and female marketing strategists, and female farmers … and, of course, as evidenced by this latest offering, more female video game personnel.

Their next releases will concentrate on Ponies, Make-Up…..

Jame’s Herbert’s ’48. A review.

I recently read James Herbert’s ’48 which is a post-World War II version of a few post-apocalyptic stories. It was essentially “28 Days Later” or “Night of the Comet” but with Nazis. It read like a muh shorter ‘lite’ version of Stephen King’s “The Stand”. It’s Dawn of the Dead with a swastika.

Sure – there’s some good plot points, some not so good and some decent characterisation. It leaves the ending a little flat but it’s an easy read and not a long book so most people should be able to find their way through it easily enough. Two sex scenes, both where the author gingerly describes genitalia without using real words. Some interesting characters were killed off and the hero – well – I found it very hard to identify with him and his constant internal monologue.

So is this a mashup like we find in so many online apps and also in roleplaying games? Who knows. I liked the book, enough to finish it which hasn’t happened with every book I’ve bought in the last few years.

Along the lines of rehashing plots, new movie The Invasion seems to be just a rendition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Everything old is new again…

Natural Wonders

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most astounding natural formations in Northern Ireland. This got me thinking about the representations of natural wonders in gaming.

In the Aurore Sourcebook for 2300AD, they described a tidal flood plain which was so flat that the tides, sped by the influence of the large lunar satellite on that planet to be a rushing wall of water that destroyed anything in it’s path and whose sonic booms could be heard for miles around. I, of course, delighted at the idea of the players racing along the tidal flat trying to get to high ground before they were destroyed… (and I’d still give my right nut to play some 2300AD with a good group).

When playing MERP we didn’t spend much time talking about the grandeur of the mountain ranges or the dread of Mordor but we were young and we made more of an effort when playing the Decipher LotR game.

Without having trodden the steps (so to speak) or seeing the photos, does the sound of the Giant’s Causeway not sound like fiction?