Friday, 22 January 2016

Getting people to choose your games at conventions...

And here's an interesting one, looking through submissions for Expo this morning, and I encounter this (the only thing I've changed in the wording is blanking out the expletives) as an actual submission for the RPG's


Name of Game:  Some F***ing D&D

Summary of game: Let's try some minimalist role-playing shit. F***ing d&d is an unbalanced, badly thought-out piece of crap. It uses a massively simplified version of 5e, so even an idiot like you can understand it.

Expect random death, childish humour, unbalanced gameplay, terrible DMing, swearing, and maybe one or two of you will have fun. Bring a drink, that'll help.


And in the spirit of not getting any more submissions like this one, I thought to share a few things about the games that do well at conventions...

1:  Good Title - It's the first thing that people look at, so it's the best chance you've got to hook them into the game, If you call your game "Dungeon Crawl 231", you've given them a description of what you're going to make them do, not what your adventure should be.  If on the other hand, you put it out as "Crouching Claw, Hidden Otyugh", you've already engaged the prospective players minds, you've established it's very likely got at least two named creatures in it and you've referenced a popular film which brings forth an image for those who've seen the film.

2: Description of the game - So you got them hooked with the title, don't fluff it on the description, if you're running a doctor who game and your game description is

"Realities merge, time lines collide….where and when will it all end?"

You're describing the arc and nature of the show, you're not telling the players anything about what you're going to be doing in the game or more importantly, what they'll be doing.  On the other hand, if you have it down as

"In 2020, a Russian scientific submersible, DSV Chilingarov, went missing under the ice at the North Pole. 30 years later a distress signal was picked up from the research base on the ice moon Europa. It has been positively identified as originating from the Chiligarov. The International Space Agency have sent a team to investigate. What will they find? Turn up and find out."

There's the impossible puzzle built in, you know where you're going, what you're after, and that something's very seriously wrong, perfect...

3: Consider the audience when you're pitching the time slot:  If you're running a game that works better for younger players, don't put it in the 8 till midnight slot.  This may seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many people just put their games in one after the other and don't consider that their intended audience might not be around to play it at that time.

4: Work with Classics or move with the times:  Some games age better than others, some games were just better than others to begin with, and when you're putting games in for a convention, you need to consider what you're putting in and whether it's going to be of interest to the players at that convention.  You want to run an Oriental themed game, you have several options, but I'll guarantee you 99% of conventions will want a Legends of the Five Rings scenario over a Bushido scenario.  It's not that L5R is a better game, but more people know of it and might be interested in a scenario as a result.  Consider the edition that you're working in, while many might like an old school rules scenario, many more want to play with the latest edition.

5: Don't run copies:  When you're submitting games, don't put five different versions of the same game unless it's got something in it that no other game can possibly offer, if it has something that no other game can offer, be prepared for the convention organiser to ask what that something is, and understand that "I'll show you on the day" isn't a suitable answer...

6: and perhaps most important - Adult Content - I don't mean include it, but do let the convention organiser know if there's going to be any, it lets them plan for where they can put you (and what they can put around you...)

I could go on all day, but if I do, I'll never get through the pile of submissions that I started with...

Longcon 2 provisional Dates

We've provisionally booked the Garrison for the 9th and 10th of July this year for Longcon 2, as far as we've been able to see, it's not bumping into Paizocon (D'oh) like last year, and Stabcon, while the week before, is a completely different crowd to the one we saw at Longcon last year.

So, the next question is who's running and who's playing?  I'm clearing the website now for submissions, anyone with something they fancy doing, get in touch, let me know if it's one day or two and give me as much detail on the scenario as you can.

I'm waiting on the Garrison coming back to me (they've assured me wednesday of next week) to confirm prices for the venue, but I'm sure the cost difference will not be significant (if any), and then we can get the bookings going.

Last years website is still at

and we'll be adding the new games in as soon as they're submitted.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Expo Awards advance preview - Era: the Consortium

There's still going to be a round up of the games that have been submitted to the Expo awards later in the year when we get closer to the time, but given that this particular one has a kickstarter running for it, we're doing an advance review of the game to give it a bit of a signal boost.

Era: The Consortium is a space opera of Wagnerian proportions from Shades of Vengeance.  The main book is 300 pages, with more than half of that given over to background and campaigns to get the players into the setting.  The artwork is of excellent quality and the layout and design is the equal of many of the publishing houses with far larger budgets.

But how does it play...?

There's more than 500 years of background material listed in the main book, and that material allows you to make a choice not only of the things you are now, but of where you came from and what part your ancestors played in the ongoing universe.  So by the time you get a hundred pages in to start character creation, you should know exactly where you're going.

And that brings us to character creation...

Character sheet is well laid out, some things referred to in the generation aren't present on the sheet, but they're only referred to once, so it's only a minor confusion, nothing serious. The statistics are raised by spending points as indicated on the character sheets, everything that's derived from something else is listed on the sheet including where it's derived from, it's not a flowchart, but it has the feel of one..  Specialities are given to skills with three or more points and give the character a bonus to certain actions when performed, then it's off to choose weapons, implants, and equipment.

The tech level in the game is colossal, the things depicted in here are fantastical to the point of impossibility, and unashamedly so.  Biotech, Nanotech and all things in between, and to give you some idea of the tech levels in question, one of the implants is called Schrodingers Implant, a liquid metal implant stored in a state of quantum flux that can be commanded to become any other implant in the game, it has to remain as that implant, but it gives you a hell of an out if you need one.

The weapons and equipment are beautifully drawn, there were a few things that clearly had inspiration from other sources...

Yes, that's looks a lot like an M808B
But they fit well in the grander scheme of the universe, the information within is clear and well presented through out, very easy to use and there's a good range of things from across the whole 500 years, so if you're playing in an earlier part of the history, you're not neglected.

The rules system is very reminiscent of old world of darkness, D10 base against target number, tens explode, ones are fumbles.  However, knowing that there's always potential for misunderstandings in the rules, they've also included flowcharts and diagrams for the running of combat, skill use, and pretty much everything else you'll ever need.  Is it required?  No, not in our opinion, the system is very simple to use and supports itself well, however, for those who do have issues with rules, the additional simplification is a nice touch that many RPG's leave out these days.

There's enough in the one book to keep you going for a very long time, there's a full campaign in the back of the book and all the information to back it up. It's not detailed to the point that you can't branch out in your own directions if you wanted to, and it's easy to see where a campaign could go after the initial adventures run out.  There are a number of other books being launched for this and given the work that's gone into this, I can see them going far.

Era: The Consortium retails for £30, the copy we reviewed was entered into the Expo awards and was given freely, it's available at

Their new Kickstarter can be found at

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Assistance wanted for very brief playtesting


I'm needing a few people to test run a minigame of breathtaking silliness, it's not even vaguely sensible and I need the results back fairly quickly, so only say yes if you can take a look through straight away and get back to me before the weekend.

Reply directly to this or email me :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

UK Games Expo Submissions going live this week.

Been a bit busy the last few days because we're in the run up to starting things off at Expo, and that tends to eat a fair bit of my other time with all the work that it entails.  However, we're nearly there, the submissions portal will open in the next few days, and while many know the score when it comes to submitting games, there's always going to be new people coming in, so here's the details...

It's between Friday 3rd of June and Sunday 5th of June this year, the trade hall is now NEC hall one, the largest of the halls that the NEC provides and more than double the overall space we had in the hilton last year, and that's just on trade.

But what about games...?

Well, this year we finalised all the roles in the senior team, and I'm now both Organised Play Manager and Floor Manager, but at Expo, we don't do role descriptions the way most companies do, so my entire duties there are as follows.

Floor Manager: Make sure it runs well...
Organised Play Manager: Make it awesome...

And there's the good news...

The whole of the Hilton is given over to gaming, I've had a number of people contact me about various things they want to run, and I'm now at the stage where I can start giving out details of what's going to be happening there.  We've always worked on the premise of doing things at Expo that you can't do at home, because if you can do them at home, why would you come to Expo?

So for starters...

Official Chaosium sponsored Cthulhu Masters RPG tournament.
D&D 5th Edition Epic scenario getting it's first viewing at Expo.
All day 50 player X-com Megagame.
Wyverns Lair game design panel, get your chance to take your game before the UK's best games companies...

And before the end of the month I'll have confirmation on the other games that are going to be there including Netrunner, Xwing, Catan, and others...

But I want more...

We've got the space, we've got the people coming in, there's more demand for games than there's ever been, and I need to fulfill those demands, so here's the thing, I want people to come up with ideas of things they want to see there, of games they want to play, things they want to do.  If I can't do it, I'll at least know it's out there, and I'll work towards it.  Five year ago we were a quarter of this size, and five years from now I want it to be the sort of convention where you can do anything.

But I can't do it without all of you...

Talk to me...

Monday, 11 January 2016

Kickstarter Delivered - Z Mob

I backed this one some time ago, had the look of an interesting game, even if the counters weren't the usual all singing, all dancing fully sculpted figures that most kickstarters are fond of these days.  I backed this one because it had the look of someone trying to make something new and starting small rather than rushing in to try and make something massive before they learned to walk.

Well, he made it...

Now to see if it works well...

Plenty of counters

All the dice you need and a tape measure

The mechanics are fairly simple, in the basic scenario, the survivors are down in the basement trying to protect Doctor Schultz, who has the means with which to end the apocalypse.  This takes twenty rounds, between the start of the game and that point, more zombies turn up and try to kill everyone.

Simple enough?

All combat is done on a D20, there are stats for all the different survivors, modifiers for the rolls, and the D6 are there to show you just how many zombies show up or (in certain combinations of numbers) if super zombies or screamers turn up.  If one of the survivors gets bitten, they'll eventually turn, and the whole point of the game is to ensure that Dr Schultz makes it to the end of turn twenty.

There's a lot of dice rolling, and it plays more like a wargame than a regular board game, there's not enough in the characters to make them stand out different, but it's been well thought out and tested, so it's a solid first effort and I'll be interested to see what they do next...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

White Star RPG review

I don't buy new systems as often as I should, and in truth, I don't try things out as much as I used to (let no one ask of the werewolf LRP session some twenty years back), but once in a while, something gets my attention and I feel compelled to check it out.  I've got very fond memories of Old School games in general, they were the games that I grew up on, but the science fiction games from the time were very different in nature from the fantasy ones.  A side effect of the genre perhaps, but the sci fi seemed significantly heavier on the maths than the fantasy.

Not any more it seems

This is White Star, Old School science fiction roleplaying...

D&D in space?

Not quite, there are a lot of parallels to be made with it, and it's entirely possible to take a character from any OSR system and have aliens whip them off to a different galaxy using this book, but that doesn't make it D&D in space.

Four character classes, four character races, and it's easy to draw the parallels of each one to their counterpart on the fantasy side, but the descriptions are clear and there's no touch of nudging and winking to the equivalents, which I have to say that I liked.  A comparison at this point would be akin to indicating that you know you've used something else, and that's not the way forwards.

A brief aside here, there's a lot in the rules that points out that you're encouraged to house rule things, make things up where you have a better idea, and in general, change it to suit, in the manner of those games so long ago.  While it's not required to give permission to a GM to change things, it is good to have the acknowledgement that we did make a lot of stuff up on the fly back then.

The rest of the book is a basic sector to work in, and the tools that you'll need to put the players into them, there's a sample adventure at the back of the book, but nothing that would keep you going for more than a week or so.  On the surface of it, reasonably bare bones, but the revelation in that is that bare bones is what I started out on, when I wasn't sure about something, it encouraged me to think of what I'd do, and that's where I started to improve, because it wasn't given to me.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing missed in here, you can run it with just the basic book and not have to worry about being lost for something.  The game will be a little more limited if you only use what you find in the book, and if you like what you got in the first instance, you'll need to work at it, there's enough creatures and exotic things in there to keep people going for some time, but you will have to work for it.  There's a bunch of fan material out there already and a lot of people are being inspired to make more by the day, which is the very spirit of OSR as I define it, so in summation, it's a basic document and if you want plenty of ready content good to go, it's not for you.

If you don't mind working, it's an excellent tool kit for the beginnings of space exploration.

And on a personal note to the creators, Starships as creatures, excellent...

Blueprints Game Review

When I was younger, I wanted to be an architect, there's something about construction that has my interest, but it was particularly buildings that fired that interest, the different materials, the way they could be combined, the aspects of the building, how different things could be with the same materials.  Everything about it was interesting.

Sadly that hope never came to pass and the industry I came to find myself in was games, with which I was introduced to dice, and a whole new set of interests sprung forth.  Strange then that I should find a game that has elements of both about them.

This is Blueprints

It's a simple enough idea, each turn, everyone takes a blueprint of a building that needs to be built, and that gives you where you need to build and how high each stack has to be.  Then you roll nine dice to form the construction materials pool and start building from there.  Every turn you play one die from the pool and then take another from the bag and roll it to replenish the pool.

There are bonuses to be had for having dice the same colour, having a series of ascending number, all the same number, or building them in tall towers.

Then the different types of dice themselves have points assigned to them if you manage to get them in certain combinations.

Sound like a lot of maths?

We thought so too, until we started playing, and we learned that it's one of those games that sounds remarkably complex and ends up being quite intuitive in it's nature.  The first few times you build something, you find out some combinations really work and some really don't, but then you get a new blueprint and you find that the combinations that didn't work on the last building really work on this one and so on.

Something with this much glass in the construction could only have been the sixties
And you start to recognise ideas and patterns in the blueprints that you've seen in modern architecture.

Giant stone tower next to a glass lower floor topped with wood...can only be the seventies...

And the combinations continue, I really like this game, it's got the right combination of thinking ahead and planning combined with cursing when one of the other builders nicks that perfect bit of material that you had your eye on, games take no more than half an hour (even on first play), and there's infinite combinations to be had.

Really enjoyed this, recommended.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Do Adventurers dream of Golden fleece...?

So yesterday was Roy Batty’s inception date…

And nearly four years from now, on a rain streaked rooftop, he dies…

And in that time accomplished so very much, twice as bright, half as long as the phrase goes, which got me to thinking about games and how long characters last, not so much in chronological time, but in real time.  Most campaigns I’ve been in don’t last more than a few years, I’ve been in a few where it lasted longer than that, but for most of them, it’s not even four years…

And how many of them go out blazing?  How many more of them just fade away?  Is there not something to this that our characters could learn?  Live like there is no tomorrow, get involved in things, take huge challenges and beat them down, don’t count the gold, the gold isn’t the point, the life is the point, that’s all that matters.

And how many of us learn from that?  How many of us just fade away, piece by piece till all that remains is the hope of what could have been?  How many of us live those lives of quiet desperation, hoping for nothing more in the end than an end to that desperation?  Is that what happens to Adventurers that never finish their adventures?

What more would we do if we only had four years to live? 

Would we do more, knowing that, or would we spend our time trying to find a way to increase the time without watching it going by, achieving only at the end that we’d wasted the time we had trying to increase the time that we have…

Most of us will never know, most of us will never get that determination, the sure and certain knowledge that this is how long we’ve got, no longer…!

I watched Blade runner when I was too young to really understand it, all but that last bit, and the only reason I got it was the voiceover that most people hated.  I could appreciate that something important had happened when Batty spared Deckard, but I needed it explaining, and that explanation played a major part in how I play most characters.

I don’t want my characters to get the castle and retire to rule over a fiefdom, I can think of nothing more tiresome, more inappropriate for an Adventurer to do than cease adventuring.  The only ones that do that are the Murderhobo’s, and they’ve got the whole wrong idea in the first place.  If you make it that way and then go to your castle and retire, be aware, because twenty years later, younger Murderhobo’s come along and raid your castle with you in it and the cycle continues…

I’ve had short lived characters and long lived characters.  Some died well, some got cut short before they really started out (23 minutes including generation), some just faded out when the game ended.  Those are the ones that I remember most unfavourably, the one’s that didn’t finish their story and still live there out in the ether waiting for their closure, and for those, that was very dissatisfying. 

The problem for me is that very few of the games I’ve played in ended on a high note, or indeed ended, rather than faded away, and it’s that lack of ending that I’m looking at now when it comes to the adventures I’m writing.  

So here’s the question, what does everyone else out there consider to be a victory for their character when it comes time to turn the sheet over?

Friday, 8 January 2016

More implements of writing...

Of pens that I received for christmas, the more curious of the two was the Kaweco Classic Sport pen, something I've been looking forwards to trying out for some time.  What interested me most was the design of it, a very oversized cap in the form of the hexagonal barrel that screws on the top, with a very firm Gold nib available in all manner of sizes.  It's quite unlike most pens on the market today, but the hexagonal barrel has with it the distant memory of all the Biros that I've ever used and for those trying out new pens to start themselves back on Fountain pens, the feel of it may be one of the first steps towards moving away from regular pens, keep the tactile familiarity whilst changing the way you write with it...

I also thought to test out the diamine shimmertastic ink in it, as while the nib is EF, it's not as fine as the Japanese equivalents (and had it been, I would not have tried out shimmertastic ink, as it doesn't show up in the same way for those ultra fine lines), and while I'll come to the ink in a separate post, I thought they complemented each other very well.

The pen is very light, it comes in a metal variant for additional heft if people are so inclined, but the cost on those pens is more than I'm happy with anyone shelling out on, so I asked for the basic version.  Despite the size of the barrel (maybe even because of, short fingers on broad hands and all that), I found it very easy to work with, both capped and bare, no exertion from the continued writing on it, and easy to change the cartridge when it came time to do so.  It's very portable, but works better in a trouser pocket rather than clipping into a shirt, so (particularly with jeans) I can carry this in the smaller pocket as a handy pen as well as a regular pen in the shirt pocket.  

The flow is good, not so brilliant on lesser papers, but that's to be expected of any pen and ink, your results are always tied to the equipment that you use to get those results, but I'd recommend this for beginners everywhere, good utility pen and cheap enough to be entry level for most.

Quill - A letter writing roleplaying game for a single player

And so I found myself this morning with a recommendation from Red about a new game that's come out, combining my twin passions of writing and roleplaying, and so I sought it out.

Quill is a game where you (alone) are writing a letter to someone else regarding a particular circumstance, your character has the skills of Penmanship, Language, and Heart, and these determine how well they write the letter and with what words.  On the face of it, it's a number of dice rolls to determine if you scored high, and you can do this without ever actually playing the game...

But where's the fun in that...?

So I chose the alter ego of Sir Robin, a bold knight responding to the unfortunate demise of his old friends son close to his premises, and rather than write the letter according to how I rolled each paragraph as it was scored, I chose to generate the entire score for the letter and then write it to suit the result.

You have to write five paragraphs in each letter, each contains a word from the ink pot which is a collection of words from that particular scenario, but your language skill determines whether you use the inferior or superior word from the ink pot.  Before you choose the word, you can endeavour to flourish the word with an adverb (spit) or an adjective using your heart skill, and when you have finished the paragraph, you roll on your penmanship to determine if the paragraph was well written.

I scored a total of six points, managed to get a flourish on an inferior word which actually lowers your score, which leads me to believe that the person who wrote the game has a love of language because putting adverbs on a poorly chosen word is indeed a sin, and so got the result that while my old friend did not appreciate the manner in which I relayed the tale, he understood that it was not my fault.

The result is the letter included at the top of this review...

Good fun this, especially for those of us who enjoy writing and like to have a slight diversion now and again to flex creative muscles.  I think it needs more scenarios, but given that it's on a pay what you want basis, it's well worth a look and I'll be keeping an eye on Trollish Delver from this point forwards.

Available from Drivethru at

Thursday, 7 January 2016

And new implements of Writing...

So I like writing, and even when I've got what I consider to be nearly the perfect pen, I'm still looking at new pens and new inks, and so it was that I asked for a few things for christmas.  This was one of them.

This is a Sailor Hi-Ace fountain pen, loaded with Heart of Darkness Ink and unmodified in any way, exactly as it came out of the package.  The nib isn't as fine as the Pilot Penmanship, the barrel is plastic, there's no weight at all to it (I've got dice that weigh more than this pen), so on the face of it, I shouldn't like this pen at all...

Except I do...

It's got a very light touch to it, sometimes you have to apply a little more force when writing on papers that aren't designed for fountain pens, the refills are proprietary (I am considering buying a converter), and the surface of the cap is very easily scratched (keep away from keys), but it's a good every day carry pen that lets you try out the basics of Japanese fine nibs without spending the money on Pengineering something like the last pen I put together.  The body of it is very, very light, so those used to using pens such as Biro's and disposables will find it easier to work with on the whole, which in turn will be very useful for those just starting out and getting used to fountain pens.

Overall, very interesting pen, excellent starter and at an excellent (under a tenner) price point, I've been using it since I got it and it's aroused my interest about the rest of the Sailor line.

Tomorrow: The Kaweco

First time playing games at an online table...

In the spirit of investigating how well games work, I've started to look at all the different types of playing that people get up to as well as the ones that I know best.  One thing that has more or less passed me by so far is the phenomenon of online playing in places like Roll20 and Google Hangouts.

I'm not much of a technological person, hand in the air on that one, I'm from the age before the internet, I remember when 2mb an hour was a good download speed, I remember when CD's took longer to burn than they did to play, and if they didn't crash halfway through, you were doing well, so when I say that I'm new to the whole thing, I really mean it.

However, theoretically anyone can do this, so got a webcam, got a microphone, and...

So the first game was one with Paul Mitchener running a game of Mindjammer: Far Havens, my fellow players were Glenn (who I've known forever), Declan (who I've known a while), Josh, and Tore (both of whom I'd never met).  There was a little delay while the technology did it's best to get in the way and we had problems from my speakers causing feedback because they were too close to the Microphone to Paul losing comms halfway through and Tore's computer overheating at the three quarter point, requiring him to leave early.

The second game was with Nigel Clarke running a game of Blades in the Dark, something that I've been looking forwards to playing for some time, my fellow players were Julian (Who I've known a while), and Andy (Who I'd met at Expo briefly).  The tech didn't get in the way this time, but we were all new to the game, so there was some running around to get it going in the first instance, but no more than any other first play of a new game.

My first overwhelming impression was that of a frontiersman standing on the edge of a canyon and looking out at the untamed wilds, I'd never considered this world before, never thought to stand and wonder what else could be there, and there, standing on the edge of forever, I found that I wanted more...

Technology is a niggle, sometimes not being able to hear people (or accidentally muting them), sometimes losing connection, sometimes having the images of people flick about so much you wonder if you're going to lose your eyesight (first lesson is to keep the camera on only one person at a time rather than letting the machine display whoever's making a noise), and the use of onscreen dice rather than those rolling buggers I have millions of was a bit of a revelation, but on the whole, it was little different from any game I've played in...

And at the end, in the quiet words of Julian, "Time to go home?"

No need, we're already there...

Enjoyed this a lot, I'll be looking to do it more and report back as it goes...

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

What are you looking forwards to in RPGs...?

I'm putting the finishing touches on the next article for Tabletop Gaming Magazine regarding what RPG's people are looking forwards to, and I've had a good number of people come forwards with what's really got them interested, but just in case there's anything out there I've missed, drop me a line...

Layout person required for new RPG project...

In the course of last year, a lot of my time (read:All) got eaten by running conventions, planning conventions, and generally getting a lot more people to play games, this led to two different things, the first being that I didn't get to concentrate on the things I wanted to produce, the second being that I decided that I'm not working with amateurs any more, a lot of the stress that I took last year was down to dealing with people that shouldn't be doing the jobs they're doing (and yet have those jobs somehow), so when I found this year that the person originally earmarked for doing the Quest layout was already booked out for the year, I found myself in need of someone new.

So here it is, I'm looking for someone to lay out the finished text and artwork for Quest, I have a good idea of how I want it to look in the end, but I'm always happy to take suggestions and direction from people who know more about layout than I do.  I do have a budget for the work, and am happy to arrange payments to suit whoever gets the job.  It's not a one shot job, there's a number of books in the set, MRB to start with is around 150 pages of text and a good number of pages of artwork.

Anyone interested, please let me know by return, post on the thread or mail me direct.