Monday, May 8, 2017

200 Word RPG Challenge

I'm well overdue a proper update, but I wanted to put something up to acknowledge my surprise and delight at being one of the winners of the 2017 200 Word RPG Challenge for my game Route Clearance.

I was stoked to make it to the finals, and even more pleased to be one of winners, especially given the fantastic quality of the entries this year. Congratulations to everyone who entered, and all the others finalists and winners.

A huge thanks to David Schirduan and Marshall Miller for organsing the Challenge, and to all the Judges for their hard work.

I want to say a special thanks to Dale from Imaginary Empire Games for all his support, encouragement and feedback on the draft of the game.

I'm going to do a couple more posts in the future about the origins of the game, but in the mean time feel free to get in touch via Google+ or Twitter if you would like to chat.

I'm also working on an expanded version for the future, so keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dystopian Wars - Feilong Sky Fortress

February sees my Chinese Federation force gets some much needed reinforcements in the form of the mighty Feilong Sky Fortress.

A very useful reinforcement
I have had this model kicking around undercoated for some time, but it finally found its way to the painting table to help fill a large unit sized gap in my force. This way I can send my battleship towards the enemy with wanton abandon while (hopefully) keeping my admiral safe in the clouds.

I love the ridiculously design of the Dystopian Wars models 
The Feilong bristles with weapons, including two 270 degree turrets and a nose mounted fore cannon, as well as node projector for its fury generator, allowing it to ignite fires on board enemy ships and aircraft from a distance. This is in addition to its carrier  ability, which allows it to rearm and retask its 6 stands of small aircraft.

Being a carrier makes the Feilong highly versatile
It also carries 10 assault points worth of angry conscripts, giving it a potent boarding threat. What they lack in skill they make up for in raw numbers.

Red, silver and gold are the predominant colours, but the jade green is a nice spot colour
The Sky Fortress is essentially finished, but it could do with a few touch-ups here and there, which I'll get to later in the week. I spent time on giving it a few shades of a lighter red than most of my force, but I think it really helps the model stand out more on the table (now I need to go back and do the rest of them).

It was actually a bit of a pain to assemble, which is probably part of the reason it has remained unpainted for so long. I ended up painting it in pieces before assembling it at the end with a judicious combination of greenstuff and superglue. I didn't pin it, so lets see if that decision comes back to haunt me.

The Feilong on patrol with two Zhulong Interceptors
It took me roughly a week to paint. I was planning to use it for a game this weekend, which I couldn't make in the end (you can read about it though - sounds brutal). This means I am looking forward to getting it to battle next month, maybe with another surprise reinforcement if I get my act together.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Kapcon 2017 RPG convention

Last weekend was Wellington Anniversary Weekend, as well as my return to Kapcon, Wellington's venerable annual role-playing game convention.

It had been a couple of years since I had last been to Kapcon, due in part to clashes with weddings and other events out of town, but also due in part to the fact I found myself starting to enjoy it less and less. I'm pleased to say that this year I had a great time, and that I really enjoyed the experience.

Kapcon comprises of two pretty intense days of gaming and role-playing, including LARPs, story-games, special kids session as well as plenty more. As usual it was excellently organised, and everyone I dealt with were decent human beings.

Here is a quick overview of what I played:

Session one - Monster's Brawl (DramaSystem); GM - Morgue

First up on Saturday I joined the Games on Demand session, where different GMs pitch the games that they would like to run or facilitate, and whatever gets the most support gets played.

There was a range of awesome games on offer, but I put my hand up for Morgue's Monster's Brawl, a game about inhuman monsters on the edge of society trying to survive as modern day gladiators (think pro-wrestling meets Fight Club). It used the DramaSystem rule from Pelgrane Press.

This was a great game full of strong dramatic interaction, great characterisation from the players and some pretty serious themes around alienation and exploitation. I felt that we covered a lot of ground in a short time, but the pacing never felt rushed or laboured, and the interactions between characters never felt forced.

I backed the Kickstarter for DramaSystem a few years ago, and while I have always love the concept of the game, it has never quite managed to click for me as a rule set. Thankfully Morgue's game helped it all come together, so this is now something I'll definitely give more thought to running again in the future. I can see how it would really shine over multiple sessions.

Now I think I know how you work

Session two - Shadowbrook Manor (Maze Rats); GM - Me

In the second session I ran Shadowbrook Manor, an adventure for first or second level characters (originally for Labyrinth Lord) using the Maze Rats rule set. Maze Rats is a light, free-wheeling set of rules for OSR style gaming that aims to capture the feel of early Dungeon and Dragons.

This session was a lot of fun and I had a table of players that really leaned into the themes and tropes of the session.
I mean, just look at these names...
The band of adventures spent the session cautiously (and not so cautiously) poking around Shadowbrook Manor trying to claim as much loot as possible. Highlights include:
  • All five characters splashing around the dirty water of an old pond trying to kill a giant toad and failing miserably
  • The sprightly magic user Leopold Silverless driving his dagger into brain of a fearsome zombie that was giving the party trouble (rolling a critical hit), and declaring "Now THAT is how you take care of a zombie"as it fell at their feet
  • The party, led by the Ranger Barnaby Cheeseman, sawing a cloak of alignment changing (light side up of course) onto the back of a un-animated flesh golem, before inserting the floating brain that they found in the alchemy lab into the body, thereby creating a heroic ally to join them.
Eventually they manged to conquer the manor and claim their treasure. Although I managed to get a couple of them down to one or two hit points, they all walked away (curses!)

In hindsight, the scenario was a bit too big for a three hour session, and I probably didn't need to start the characters at second level (I was feeling generous). However these are all very minor comments that didn't detract from the experience.

This was a really fun session, and one of the highlights of the con for me. The rules worked really well in terms of pushing the action forward, but without getting in the way. I can definitely see myself using these rules again for another convention game, or even just for a pick-up game with my own group, as it feels like the kind of rules light system for OSR gaming that I have been after for a while now.

There is also an active Maze Rats community on Google+ if you're interested, or pick up the rules as PWYW.

Session three - Death of LegendsFacilitator - Me

The next game I ran was my friend Dale's Death of Legends, a GM-less game of dark fantasy, in which the players tell the story of how their characters grew up to become heroic legends of the Free Territories who once defeated the Great Enemy, and who now must do so again as these evil hands tighten around their necks.

I have played this game a few times now, and it is a reliably good experience, so I was looking forward to running it myself. It does put a requirement on the players to me a bit more active than traditional games with a GM in terms of framing scenes and narrating events, so I was a little surprised when a thirteen year old and two ten year olds sat down to play and wondered how things would play out. 

Despite the young age of the players, we pushed on, which I'm glad I did, because they brought a lot of creative energy and imagination to the table. They had so many ideas they wanted to include, and detailed aspects of their characters that they wanted to share, that I occasionally had to bring them back to focus on the scene at hand.
Things at this stage are not going well
Fortunately the other old players at the table were happy to support the younger players, and we ended up having a really fun time playing up the complex web of relationships we developed for the characters.

Unfortunately the fate of the Free Territories was sealed when we entrusted the General with the weapon of power, only to have him betray us to the Great Enemy. Never trust the quiet ones!

I can't recommend Death of Legends more highly if you're looking for a low-prep game where the system does all the heavy lifting, leaving the facilitator free to join the fun. Check out the Imaginary Empire website for more information.

Session four - Beer and sleep!

Session five - Forget Me Not (Call of Cthulhu 7e); GM - Dale

I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to play in Forget Me Not, a modern day Call of Cthulhu scenario ran by my friend Dale.

The game kicked off with our characters awakening battered and bruised in a crashed van in a rural Michigan back road with no memory of who we were, or what we were doing there.

As we slowly started to piece together our memories, we uncovered that we were the cast and crew of a TV show debunking the supernatural.

However we also stated to learn the sinister truth that lurked beneath the surface of sleepy Clio, Michigan, as well as the dark relationship that the town had with a nearby abandoned farm. The same farm in which we lost our memories.

I can't say much more with giving the central story away, it is fair to say that this was a great, if pretty dark session. Dale ran a strong game, forcing us to make some pretty hard choice, and nailed the 'nice but sinister sleepy town' feel perfectly.

A great new edition of the classic rule set

Session five - Fall of Magic; Facilitator - Deana 

For my last session at Kapcon, I went back to Games on Demand and three of us ended up playing Fall of Magic.

In Fall of Magic each player uses a few key words to create a character to join the pilgrimage of the last Magus as he or she travels back to the place where magic was born,

This journey is represented by a beautiful scroll which the players unwrap as the journey proceeds. The scrolls is like a map with a number of stops, and at each stop there are prompt which the players use to narrate scenes to give some insight into their character, or the world at large.

This was a really interesting game. It had a slow, contemplative, dreamlike feel to it as the three characters undertook both a physical and metaphorical journey. This feeling was exacerbated by the raging storm that was going on outside as we played.

In many ways it reminded me of a European festival film, where the coherency of the story isn't as important as the feeling evoked during the experience.

Certainly one I would like to try again one day, as is Life on Mars from the same company.

Such great game bling

All-in-all I really enjoyed this Kapcon. All the games I played in and ran were good experiences, the people were awesome and feel I did a good job of managing my own energy levels and stress. I guess it took a couple of years of being away to remind me what I enjoyed about it.

I was even lucky enough to win a copy of Young Centurions as a participation award for playing in Games on Demand, so my sincere thanks to the organisers of the con. Keep an eye out for it at next Kapcon.

This is a gorgeous book
Most importantly, attending Kapcon has helped reminded me of how much I love role-playing games. They create an experience unlike any other, and this has really encouraged me to try and fit more of it in amongst my painting, war-gaming and board-gaming.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Holiday update

The holiday period passed quickly and well in our household. Here in the Southern Hemisphere the Christmas and New Year period also coincide with our summer break, so I have had a few relaxing weeks off from work to spend time with family, friends and gaming.

I haven't managed to get as much miniature painting done as I would have liked, mainly because work around the house has taken up most of our time. We have managed to get through a fair bit of DIY over the break, including building a section of a retaining wall, adding extra railings to our decks, and repainting and repairing some metal around our house. In addition, we also replanted the garden and cleaned our a couple of spare rooms (including my gaming wardrobe of wonders), which were really big jobs.

I am pleased we got this work done while the weather was good. We also got away out of town for a few short breaks which was brilliant, including New Years Eve in the Wairarapa and a few sunny days in the Hawkes Bay.

The beautiful Hawkes Bay of New Zealand
However I did managed to get in some good gaming time as well of many different varieties.

My Radlandz gang still lies unloved and unfinished (I'm sorry guys - you're next I promise) on the painting table, but as my buddy Dale organised a game of Dystopian Wars over the break, I busted my arse over a couple of days to quickly get a unit of 5 Zhulong interceptors painted for my Chinese Federation force.

Two of the five Zhulong Interceptors
It was a great game, which you can read all about here. It has gotten me excited about the upcoming release of the new 2.5 version of the rules, which should only be a couple of months away.

There is also nothing like a deadline to help with the panting, and while I still need to go back and finish them off, the Interceptors were a fun and simple unit to paint.

Chi Long Class Assault Flyer is escorted by two Zhulong Interceptors. Note the different in the red between the two units.
I also added an additional layer of highlighting to the red, which I think really helps the model shine and lifts them on the tabletop. The other models in the fleet have a much duller red with a Agrax Earthshade over them, so a job for the future is to go back and repaint them a little so that they all match.

Over the break my gang and I also played a bunch of brilliant board games, including Cuba, Scythe, Terraforming Mars and Agricola. I am a fan of Euro style games which strong themes, so these were right in my wheelhouse.

This game has such beautiful and evocative art work

I also picked up and played some of the Doom 2016 game for the Xbox. While I haven't played much of this yet, the time I have spent on it has been great. It'll be something to get back into when I need some soothing demon murdering to help me relax after a week at work.

Role playing-wise we concluded the main story of our epic Horror on the Orient Express campaign for Call of Cthulhu. Although the good Dr Ambler survived, not everyone did. While we stopped a great evil, the price was very high.

Next weekend is also our annual Kapcon role-playing game convention. This is one of the highlights of the gaming calendar, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm running a couple of low prep systems this year - Maze Rats and Death of Legends - as the organisers are a bit short on games. There is definitely a fantasy theme in my offerings.

Such a wonderful game

With all this going on, as well as getting ready to go back to work, means that while things are busy, it is also a great time to be gaming. I better get back to it!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A weekend away

I have just got back after a long weekend visiting my parents in my hometown, which, combined with a busy period at work and all the usual Christmas functions, means not a lot has happened on the gaming front over the last week or so.

However in addition to seeing friends and family, and maybe drinking a touch too much, there were some hobby related activities.

Mum and dad wanted me to go through a couple of old boxes I had left with them to check whether I still wanted what was in them. I uncovered a treasure trove of old gaming goodies including old gaming books, Magic: The Gathering cards, RPG character sheets, and character sketches. Most things got sealed back up ready for another day when we're passing through with the car, though I couldn't resist bringing a couple of things home.

This includes some classic White Dwarf magazines from way back when I first started with the second edition of Warhammer 40,000. Looking through these is great fun and reminds me about how of a real hobby magazine this was  before it became just glorified advertising in later years (though I should note that I understand it is returning to more of hobby magazine in its most recent incarnation.)

I repeatedly pored through these magazines like religious tracts back in the day, and, looking through them again, I'm struck by how much of the miniature design of this era influences my tastes even today.

I also had to include this classic Games Workshop action shot.

Look at that table...
I also managed to squeeze in a visit to "my" gaming store, the wonderful Mark One Comics and Games.

Mark One was an important part of my teenage years. The kindly owner Chris was incredibly patient as my friends and I spent hours hanging out in the store, thumbing through role playing books, picking up miniatures or looking through gaming cards. He would also generously sponsor local gaming events and tolerate us generally cluttering up the place.

To this day I always make a special point of visiting when I am in town and spending some money as a bit of a payback. Not that this is hard, because Chris runs an excellent gaming store, with a great mail order service. In my mind, it still represents the high-water mark of what a gaming store should be.

Finally I had these waiting for me when I got back home, with only a little bit of water damage from their book depository journey.

I have been looking forward to giving Team Yankee a crack, and although it is unlikely I'll get close to reading through them this side of Christmas, these will definitely be something to get into over the break.

However first up is finishing the Yellow Sign Radlanz gang. I've been making a little more progress on them, but hopefully I can get them knocked off this weekend.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Horror on the Orient Express - Dr Arthur Ambler

Earlier this week I joined my group of Thursday night irregulars to continue our epic play-through of the remastered Horror on the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu.

I have been playing with this same group of awesome people for around five or six years now. We've been led by our talented GM through a number of campaigns for Call of Cthulhu, including Masks of Nylarthotep and Beyond the Mountains of Madness. Now we're reaching the climax on this latest adventure after kicking off way back in July 2015.

We have been having a fantastic time throughout the campaign with many strange encounters, dramatic fights and madness-inducing horrors. We've only got a few more sessions left for the main campaign, and while all the characters have made it this far (sometimes only just), we may not all make through to the end.

Along our the way our GM has been cataloging our adventures while also reviewing the campaign at the same time. It is a great read, and I can see this turning into a fantastic resource for anyone else who might want to run the campaign one day.

My addition to this group of stalwart investigators is Dr Arthur Ambler MD, a family doctor from Arkham who has been caught up in events beyond his control.

Arthur does bear a striking resemblance to President Taft

Although loud and prone to pomposity, I like to think of Arthur as the father figure of the group. It is usually Arthur who tends to offer-up sagely advice, and who helps patch up the others when they come back battered and bleeding. He is also the one whom tends to make the call about how to proceed next when the group reaches an impasse about the next move.

Arthur is tremendous fun to play, and was a case of having a character emerge pretty much fully formed from when I created him. While I get to add an element of humour to the campaign due to his pompous posturing and his habit of always looking for the next meal, I also get to be a bit of a moral compass for the group.

I find there is something of a wandering hobbit in Arthur. He is a homebody who likes his comforts, but whom is now enduring hardships beyond his imagination far from home on a quest to destroy a cursed item. Although he tends to take more of a background role in physical confrontations, he will mix it up from time-to-time to help his friends.

A hard worn character sheet

Poor Arthur has had a pretty rough time of it. He has been stabbed, shot, punched, chased, poisoned, imprisoned and tortured. He has lost and eye and has been magically aged ten years. It is all a bit much for portly man in his 60s.

Arthur has made it this far (mostly) intact despite all this adversity, so I'm hoping he can ride this train to the very end. It's not going to be easy though, so the next couple of months will tell if he gets to make it back to his quiet life in Arkham or not.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Radlandz - Origins of the Cult of the Yellow Sign

Radlandz is a skirmish-level tabletop war-game created by my friend VomKrieg. It is set in a post-apocalytpic future where rivals gangs fight each other across a devastated wasteland for precious loot, fleeting glory, and their own survival.

VomKrieg wrote the game is a fever-like frenzy earlier this year. It combines a number of cool elements from different war-games and board games that we all love, as well as few of his own new, innovative ideas. It is a very good game and a lot of fun.

One of the appealing elements of the game is that it is miniature agnostic, meaning a player can use figures from a range of different product lines. There is also a Necromunda like campaign system, which can see your gang rise up from the wastes to become the kings of the Randlandz.

Building a gang in Randlandz first involves choosing an identity, which is really the key defining feature of your gang. That largely anchors both the play-style and the theme of the gang.

As one of the play-testers for the game, I had to build a gang, which as a first step involved choosing an identity for it. This was a rare case of having a clear concept in mind before I started creating something.

I knew early on after hearing about Radlandz that I wanted to play a gang of cultists inspired by Hastur, and his wicked, beguiling Yellow Sign.

"Tell me, have you seen the Yellow Sign?
So began the Cult of the Yellow Sign. I liked the concept of a group of raving mad cultists roaming the wastes of the Radlandz led by a Lovecraftian wizard who is slowing growing his insane congregation, like a fringe Pentecostal movement. In this way, I wanted the Yellow Sign to be both a symbol of the gang, and a representation of their madness.

Looking down the list of identities, Arcane seemed the best thematic fit for my concept, with access to powerful spells, some pretty neat specialist characters, and some nasty weapons.

I also liked the idea of having a corrupt avatar of Hastur - the King in Yellow - as the cult leader, slinging spells across the battlefield and spurring his gibbering followers on to even more depraved acts.

I will cover the models for the gang in a future post (when I have finished painting them), but I knew there would be some common thematic elements that I wanted to have: masks, robes, wizards, and wicked close combat weapons. I also knew yellow and black would be the dominant colours.

Below is a first model I painted up as a test for the cult. I selected one of the wonderful Chaos Cultist miniatures that Games Workshop released a couple of years ago, which are perfect for Radlandz.

Certainty a work in progress
In terms of combat, I also know that I wanted the gang to favour melee over shooting, given the are all raving madmen. Thankfully Radlandz put an emphasis on close-combat as being the 'pointy end' of the game, and this approach is supported by some handy special skills for the Arcane identity.

In the next post I'll go through more of the gang and how they all fit together.