19 Sep

We’re having a weekend in Berlin, prior to the big INNOTRANS trade show I am attending this week (NewRail has a big trade stand) and it’s Ann’s birthday today.

I got her a Kindle and it’s awesome and I amd just going to have one for Xmas.

She has a bad cold now.. Matt has had it for a week and it’s a bad one, so that’s not nice for her.

My HTC Hero is in the dog kennel after the 2.1 upgrade rendered it useless at making phone calls, so it’s a total reinstall for it when I can calm my temper, and if it doesn’t behave it’s going on ebay and I may well go ultra old school and just have a "phone" for a while.

The OpenQuest game is going well.. I think. It’s curing me of any nostalgia for old skool adventures, I am yearning for some talkie-talkie bits, and the fragility of d100 characters in a D&D setting is appalling.. if it weren’t for hero points everyone would be on their 4-5th character. And hero points are frankly a huge fudge. Not that that means that BRP is duff.. but it’s not built for the very old skool dungeons in the first half of Savage North. Mind you, it gets a lot more roleplaying based after the first arc..

We’ve lost Paul M but we have gained an old friend of Jag’s called RIchard who is lovely and definitely a great new addition to the group (he also wargames and is a great modeller.. we must keep him..). We need more bodies tho’ to balance the ebb and flow we all have.

The big scary news is that we have put the house on the market, we have a "For Sale" sign and all that. The fact that I can barely face leaving my house, that the sheer costs of moving are crippling, and that I am torn apart at the thought of leaving all my friends is giving me nightmares. However I have to be able to manage my research team as it grows to 5-7 people, I need to integrate into the Tyne and Wear region and I need to free myself up write papers rather than project manage. If the house sells soon we’ll be in rented accomodation by Christmas, if not then we may take it off the market again in Nov and start again next April-May.

15 Mar

Gardening, Reading, Gaming,

Branch with catkins in early spring

Image via Wikipedia

Last week was 3 days at home working hard, with a seminar at Sheffield Hallam University by the CILT on the recession (but as usual became a row about bus regulation), then 2 days in Newcastle at the Industrial Research Strategy Group presenting on freight modal shift and it’s decline as crown on EU freight transport policy.
Then Saturday I was up at 7.30 and did some full on gardening, tipping and sorting my compost bins, some great compost from there, and all from teabags and vegetable clippings and cardboard! Beds nicely rejuvenated after I discarded the broad beans that had died of chocolate spot and the cauliflowers that had frankly been frozen and thawed so many times that all but 3 were rotten. Colected my parcels from the Post Office, 2 nice new pairs of trousers, a copy of a Zombies: A Field Guide, and True20: Revised Edition. Sunday was an aching day for me, but we got our act together and went and bought a Pussy Willow tree, a Virgina creeper and a sieve to sieve the remaining compost of the not-quite ready bits of cardboard.. Then a good shop at Asda and home. We’ve been watching Sopranos quite intensively. We finished Season 3 last week and started Season 4 this weekend.

I have been reading Games of Thrones by George RR Martin and (despite the fact that everyone else read it 14 years ago) have really got into it. Will not buy into the current rpg, but I so would like to play it at a con or locally.. hint hint. I have been reading OpenQuest, which  is a very nice lighter (it’s not LITE) version of the RuneQuest I played for so many years. I running adventures set in the Savage North at Cons all year, and I am looking forward to it. I also bought and read the Dungeon of the Bear, the classic T&T dungeon from the mists of time.. Wow! What an amazing artefact of it’s time. Traps, puzzles, swinging doors, utterly inexplicable locked rooms containing 3 orcs who must somehow be in suspended animation to have survived in there. I’ve never run T&T as a GMed game, so I have madly offered it as a game for the March21st TomCon, with Savage North as the alternative. I suspect I may need to re-acquaint myself with the rules. True20 calls me as ever, offering the lost hope of a class/level/d20 rpg that is playable, flexible and doesn’t set my hackles up.. I have already bought more rpgs this year than I will run in 5, so nothing new there, but I hope to sell on quite a few at the Con-Quest bring and buy stall, or ebay if needed.

The weather improves, I have trays of seedlings popping up all over a table in Matt’s room, and having cleared the back bed the weekend before last all look good for the spring garden. It’ll be time to brush off the Leica and Canon and get out for some photography.

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20 Apr

Hellfrost Adventure: N1 – Lair of the Vermin Lord

With the snow already falling, the key to thwarting disaster is the village of Dunross, for here are stored the winter supplies of many surrounding villages. Fresh faced and eager, the heroes are hired by a local merchant to collect sacks of flour from Dunross and deliver them to a bakery.

But things are never that simple.

I ran this Savage Worlds adventure about 66% on Sunday with Matt, Alaa, Louis and Declan. We spent a LONG time on character gen so i am going to have to estimate, but I’d say there are about 8 hours of gameplay in the adventure with middling roleplaying and midding adventuring. It’s a classically laid out and developed adventure, with the story and plot first and foremost and the setting second. It is NOT the curiously fashionable [i]old school retro[/i] minimalist ‘map and some stats’. This is a pleasantly told tale of food, famine and conspiracy in the somewhat Anglo-Saxon lands of Rassilon. The adventure reminded me of a WFRP setup, but that’s partly due to the rats, WFRP always seems to have cornered the market in rat based plots!

The adventure is designed for 4 Novice characters and the lads (with their finely tuned minimaxing skills) have trounced all opposition easily so far. With a group of [i]novice[/i] players as well as [i]Novice[/i] PCs then I’d say it is not going to lead to too many player fatalities. The opportunities for interactive roleplaying abound, much can be made of it by players who like to chat and investigate, bit the plot is not overly complex.. no-one is going to be befuddled by this tale.

That all sounds a tad pedestrian, but that would be the wrong impression. I’d say the adventure is a well crafted starter adventure that conveys the themes of the setting well and both allows and encourages new characters and players to stretch their legs.

Plus we really enjoyed playing it.

tripleacegames.com/store/index.php

11 Apr

Life, Liberty and Gaming

We’re having a busy and yet good bank holiday weekend. We are doing a lot of clearance work getting ready for resanding the wooden floor downstairs, decorating the study and having new office furniture built. I am also clearing the garage and moving my work PC and stuff into a temporary home in the dining room. Somewhere in the weekend I have about a metre high pile of roleplaying books and stuff to put on ebay. Lot’s of Glorantha and the like, which should raise money to buy a new, slightly smaller pile of new rpgs and books!

I played MagBlast and Drakon with Alaa, Louis and Matt the other night. MagBlast is a card game of screaming space battles, you have to provide sound effects when launching an attack or the attack fails, and it seems a great beer and pretzels game. Drakon has a very cute premise, which is that you the players are adventurers captured by a dragon in her lair. She decides to have some fun and says the first to collect 5 gold coins can leave alive, the rest will be eaten.. It’s a very simple tile laying game, and at first it seems overly simplistic until you start to appreciate the tactics of how the tiles, which have limited placement, exit and laying rules, can produce quite intriguing looping effects. Then you start to see how you can thwart your fellow players as you rotate tiles, destroy tiles or replace them. Perhaps the lesser of the 2 games and not as rewarding as Cave Troll which is also a Fantasy Flight Games production, but also a short fast beer and pretezels game. I must dig out Citadels for the next ad hoc session. I have not had time to open Wizard Kings yet, but I am hoping for some block game fun with it.

I’m thinking over the Chinese TomCon on May 9-10th? There’ll be two game, one will be Newt’s Monkey game and the other Qin run by Graham. I am torn between the 2. There will be a full day of jollity on the 9th ending in watching Warlords and Monkey Magic. [Looking for Chinese boardgame/wargame for the daytime.]

I enoyed Dom’s Singularities game, which was good and IMHO a much better version of new transhuman/britSF/Culture SF than Sufficiently Advanced. On Monday I run Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37 for Matt and his friends. I am sure Alaa and Ben will rise to the challenge, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can cope with what is a very typically Lovecraftian adventure. [I’ll not spoil it since you may yet play it one day, it’s a CoC monograph.]

Anyway, back to cables, printers, monitors and a copy of the new Savage Worlds setting: HellFrost which is winking at me from the corner of the room, just waiting to suck my time away..

29 Dec

Games Games Games: 2008 Retrospective

So time has come to try and write a plan for gaming in 2009 which I can then fail to achieve, but which is fun in a kind of speculative daydreaming way. To do that I need to first mull over 2008 and see where I am coming from before I know where I am going to..

I tried in 2008 to focus on setting and not system, I am not so sure how well I succeeded.

In terms of purchases I tried to resist or at least go second hand. I bought quite a bit of Earthdawn second hand or very very cheap (when the USD-GBP rate was almost 2:1) since I loved the setting way back when but never ran it. I have sold a lot of Glorantha stuff and will continue to do so. I bought an AFMBE book, and I rather fell in love with the Paizo Pathfinder Chronicles and bought and read the first three even though they are D&D [I’d probably Savage them]. I avoided buying the new Basic Roleplaying book from Chaosium, which is fortunate since last week I saw a copy and realised that as a credited playtester I was entitled to a free copy.. it arrived today. I resisted the Battlestar Galactica rpg, but will succumb in 2009, I faced down the nostalgic pull of Dragon Warriors and despite resisting Trail of Cthulhu I did buy a few GUMSHOE games (same system) and enjoyed reading them. My ongoing love for the City of Freeport setting went wild as the setting went system free, but I haven’t fully read or played there. My purchase of the Blue Rose rpg must be put down to gspearing geeing me up, although it’s a very interesting setting.

Gwenthia, our shared world fantasy setting, has been getting me down all year. I can’t keep up the leadership role and the creative tensions have driven me away from the setting and all d100 game systems. My angst about this drove me into a cycle that meant I couldn’t face running any games at cons in 2007 or 2008, and as such I have done nothing with it all year.My

I ran Talislanta several times, which was a huge buzz for me since I’ve loved the setting for years, but somehow thought it was too big and weird for my friends. What nonense! It’s like Glorantha or The Forgotten Realms; you take a small area and just game away like it was 1976 and the idea of a huge game world didn’t exist yet.. I was delighted by how simple and smooth the system ran, and I think that all the games have been great successes, especially the one at a TomCon.

I don’t think I ran anything else this year until December when I ran Mean Streets, a noir rpg set in 1943 New York. Very much a settings led choice, since the system is very light and the setting/adventures very generously provided in the cheap pdfs.

My rpg BBS, The Tavern, has pootled along ok this year with only one php insertion attack and one migration between servers which my friend Simon managed well. The migration threw everyone’s cookies bonkers and I am still not sure everyone who wants auto login has it. We hosted the chat forum for the Continuum and Furnace cons, and people seem to enjoy hanging out there in a small cosy environment. I am grateful that when things get sticky Simon helps.

So, did I achieve much? Well for a year when I have been really quite unwell I have played a lot of great games, but not run many. So be it. I have greatly enjoyed playing Wordplay, lots of Savage Worlds, Traveller, Sufficiently Advanced, SCION, Atlantis, D&D 4e (!), Pathfinder Beta, SimpleQuest and many others so I think 2008 turned out to be the year of playing, and in fact it was great fun with great friends!

Next year.. or in a few days.. my 2009 plans!

.

02 Nov

10 Films to Annoy Geeks and Full Frontal Nerdity

I liked this run down of films likely to annoy the geeks amongst us:

10 Films to Annoy Geeks

I also loved this loving tribute to the gaming geeks amongst us:

Full Frontal Nerdity

Whilst I hate to reduce my chances of winning (I have actually won some VNUnet comps) I’d also love a friend to win a Samsung netbook with a 120GB SSD:

VNU net Samsung Flybook Competition

So, less of a blog and more of a list of links, but hey, somedays that’s all you need.

Now I have to complete a Talislanta adventure and I have 3 hours to stat up a Drakken tomb..

“Fly my monkeys.. Fly!”

26 Apr

Facebook is shit, o2 arena and London was fun, had a bad week

IMHO Facebook is pointless shit full of viral crap that promises something and delivers nothing. Avoid. I have just deactivated my Facebook account. I can’t delete it and my friends can’t see that I am inactive (interesting twist eh?) but at least I never will get anything from that cesspool of tat again. [Do I sound cross?]

I have had some good productive chats about a route to market for Gwenthia. My chief wish is the get books into FLGS and get some people enjoying all the hard work of the Design Mechanism. I suspect that the world has legs but I think we also have to conclude that it might be a one-shot wonder, so hard choices need to be made on what to leave in or take out.

I am 75% through laying out the Exodus Matrix as our first ‘all in one’ playable scenario using just the core RuneQuest book. I am about 50% thorugh writing a classic ‘underground’ adventure in the same style. I want to finish them before Continuum, have them printed and sold to create some buzz, and then put them on rpgnow as pdfs.

Work is busy so I have only been able to feed back on the latest draft of Wordplay and not start to tackle the Secret Agent Man theme.

We saw Cirque de Soleil at the o2 arena (formerly the Millenium Dome) last Saturday. Great venue, always knew London could make good use of it. Show was okay but maybe not as ‘groundbreaking’ as all that. Was basically a melange of french graphic novels, pink floyd and a lot of weed. IMHO of course.

My steroid dose went down last week and 7 days later, this Tuesday, I crashed. Could bearly get out of bed I was so tired and unfocused. Looks like below 20mg a day I don’t work. 🙁 I changed my dose back and was fine by Friday.

I now have shedloads of work to catch up on.

Damn.

BTW.. my tests have all been deleted.. Jane knows what I mean.