Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Kirlian Frequency / Ghost Radio

An Argentinian animated series about a paranormal radio station, La Frecuencia Kirlian, aka Ghost Radio, is kind of like Night Vale played straight-ish... and if we could see what was going on in the studio.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

You are being watched...

Surveillance is a major factor of modern dystopian futures, omnipresent in The Handmaid’s Tale and several alternate world characters’ job in the current Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cameras, checkpoints, and informants are recurring threats. Getting around it is a vital step in fighting back.

How possible that is can determine how playable the specific dystopia is, along with how bleak the tone is. (A setting as oppressive as The Handmaid’s Tale would be a hard sell for this reason alone, if not for various other concerns.)

The need for secrecy is common in urban fantasy as well, with the Masquerade in the title of the original Vampire. Demon: The Descent bridges the two with Cover rules for when characters act unlike the people they’re supposed to be. And yes, Person Of Interest starts with that title line...

Saturday, 27 May 2017

WFRP 4 and AOSRP 1

Cubicle 7 have announced both a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and an Age Of Sigmar game using a different system. Good call, I think.

Friday, 26 May 2017

It Was 120 Years Ago Today...

Not sure whether to post about the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or the 120th anniversary of Dracula. Coincidence...?

I’m sure Kenneth Hite could find some way to connect the two. Maybe through Wilde, Poe and Crowley appearing on the album cover... or an attempt to explain the 1974 film Son Of Dracula which Ringo Starr produced and co-starred in as, er, Merlin.

The Batman animated universe is back

Maybe just for one night only, but it’s something!

Batman And Harley Quinn, coming soon.

Home.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Star Wars at 40

Forty years ago, Star Wars opened in thirty-two US cinemas to an initial lack of fanfare.

It came here around Christmas... I might have seen it then, at three and a half. If not, I believe it was shown again, with “Episode IV” added to the opening crawl, a year later. I certainly have early issues of the UK reprint Star Wars comics, giant green rabbit and all, though they may have been handed down from my brother. And the toys, and... if I recall correctly... wallpaper.

I had definitely seen it before The Empire Strikes Back, which I remember seeing pretty clearly (with Black Angel in front of it, which I was relieved to discover really existed) while we were on holiday in the Highlands at my aunt Evelyn’s and spotted it was on in Aberdeen. (My mum went to the Beechgrove Garden instead.) I am similarly puzzled that the first ESB figure I got was a US import of Leia in her Bespin outfit.

I saw it again in a double bill with my dad a year or so later. By then I knew to close my eyes for the carbonite scene.

And then we saw Return Of The Jedi in the USA, which was a bit of an adventure in itself, as part of the summer I got appendicitis twenty feet from Mexico and a hundred and fifty miles from a hospital....

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Need some lost civilisations? 3855 artists offer ideas

ArtStation delivers the goods once again, with a competition to illustrate ancient or mysterious civilisations in game-friendly ways. The examples Kotaku picked out include evocative settings, characters and action scenes.

My last Star Wars game ran with a lot of ArtStation contest visuals, and I could pick a lot of these for fantasy or SF settings. I’ve already earmarked a few for Adventure! and Cavaliers Of Mars.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Sir Roger Moore

I can think of no higher compliment than passing on this story from Marc Haynes:

As an seven year old in about 1983, in the days before First Class Lounges at airports, I was with my grandad in Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I'd just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words "my grandson says you're famous. Can you sign this?" As charming as you'd expect, Roger asks my name and duly signs the back of my plane ticket, a fulsome note full of best wishes. I'm ecstatic, but as we head back to our seats, I glance down at the signature. It's hard to decipher it but it definitely doesn't say 'James Bond'. My grandad looks at it, half figures out it says 'Roger Moore' - I have absolutely no idea who that is, and my hearts sinks. I tell my grandad he's signed it wrong, that he's put someone else's name - so my grandad heads back to Roger Moore, holding the ticket which he's only just signed. I remember staying by our seats and my grandad saying "he says you've signed the wrong name. He says your name is James Bond."

Roger Moore's face crinkled up with realisation and he beckoned me over. When I was by his knee, he leant over, looked from side to side, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said to me, "I have to sign my name as 'Roger Moore' because otherwise...Blofeld might find out I was here." He asked me not to tell anyone that I'd just seen James Bond, and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight. My grandad asked me if he'd signed 'James Bond.' No, I said. I'd got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now.

Many, many years later, I was working as a scriptwriter on a recording that involved UNICEF, and Roger Moore was doing a piece to camera as an ambassador. He was completely lovely and while the cameramen were setting up, I told him in passing the story of when I met him in Nice Airport. He was happy to hear it, and he had a chuckle and said "Well, I don't remember but I'm glad you got to meet James Bond." So that was lovely.

 And then he did something so brilliant. After the filming, he walked past me in the corridor, heading out to his car - but as he got level, he paused, looked both ways, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said, "Of course I remember our meeting in Nice. But I didn't say anything in there, because those cameramen - any one of them could be working for Blofeld." I was as delighted at 30 as I had been at 7. What a man. What a tremendous man.
I donated to the Manchester fundraiser.

Twitter joke becomes film, sounds awesome

An observation about a photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o at a fashion show looking like a high-class con artist and her hacker tech support is set to actually become a movie next year. SOLD.

Monday, 22 May 2017

DARK UNIVERSE

The official name for the new Universal Monsters Cinematic Universal... er, Universe, is DARK UNIVERSE.

When just one World Of Darkness isn't enough?

And after the new version of The Mummy this summer, it rolls out with Bride Of Frankenstein (directed by Boll Condon, of Gods And Monsters) around Valentine’s Day 2019, then Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man some time later. Dracula Untold is back to being standalone, after having been talked up as a provisional inclusion. So presumably we’ll see a new Dracula down the line, and this may be the end for FIST OF BATS. Boo.

Still, the trailer showing the original Universal Monsters before the title drop is great.

Happy World Goth Day!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Demon: Trilogy

Demon: The Descent three-shot ended tonight. Keeping Demonic Form back from the rest of character generation speeded it up a bit, I think. The option to do more is there.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Heartless

Heartless, the Danish not-quite-vampire drama, is the best Monsterhearts game I’ve ever seen.

I see something I don’t recognise in your eyes...

(Amusingly, Godric from True Blood plays one of the clueless humans.)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Star Trek Discovery Trailer

You can’t set a course without a star...

UK-friendly Twitter trailer.

They really should have gone with uniforms for the first photo from the series, not those desert outfits that look Wrath of Khan but also more than a little like Rey’s outfit when it was new... even if the uniforms are a tad Mass Effect.

Grand hall of Klingons!

Unknown objects in space!

Spacesuits!

Doug Jones in alien makeup!

Snooty Vulcan!

Fighting!

Lens flare!

They’re hitting quite a few familiar beats here.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Person Of Interest

I have now seen the last episode of Person Of Interest.

I’m fine.

(sniff)

I’ll be watching the first episode tonight.

The series really ran with the danger that its premise suggested, and the second half made it vitally important. It snuck a cyberpunk dystopia into the gimmick for a modern crime drama. The final battle gave the villains a genuinely compelling argument, and refuted it.

Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country, a new HBO series adapted from the Matt Ruff book by Jordan Peele and Misha Green (with JJ Abrams as executive producer) has its protagonist dealing with the real horrors of racism in 1950s America as well as horrors from the Mythos.

(Did Chaosium coin the phrase Lovecraft Country for their series of Call Of Cthulhu regional sourcebooks, or was it already in use?)

13th Age Bundle Of Holding

13th Age from Pelgrane on PDF, for a good price for the starter set, and spend a bit more to get a lot of stuff including the barnstorming dungeon deconstruction adventure Eyes Of The Stone Thief and an exclusive collection of the organised play adventures.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Monarchies Of Mau

Monarchies Of Mau, a game of cats from the same world as Pugmire.

I'm gonna be a naughty vampire god!

One of the bar discussions at World Of Darkness Berlin ranged across various subjects, including Humanity and the other Paths in Vampire: The Masquerade, whether making them (and the Sabbat, in particular) playable was a good call. I’ve never really liked them, because they dodge around the original “what would you do to survive, or as a short cut to power?” question of the Vampire family of games, as well as a lot of them being played as “The Path Of What I Was Going To Do Anyway”. I definitely prefer the Vampire: The Requiem second edition version where the Humanity issues can be customised a bit.

On the other hand, I can also get the appeal of playing a vampire who doesn’t worry about this stuff. Lestat is more fun than Louis, Severen and Jesse are more fun than Caleb and Mae. Theres certainly fun to be had in playing such a character - it’s just not ideal in a Vampire game where morality is an issue. Something to discuss in advance, I think.

The Triumph Of Death miniatures

I really do not need more miniatures. Let alone more miniature skeletons. No, not even a miniature skeleton army based on Renaissance skeleton apocalypse paintings.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sunday, 14 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Four

Last night was the quiet wind down evening, where I hopefully somewhat amused some other guests, and discovered that one of them is Vicki Earland, the creator of OneDice Raptors, a game that one of my friends ran at Conpulsion. It’s a small strange world...

Also hi Joe and family!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Three

The Vampire: The Masquerade 5 playtest. Some info is out in the world already, and an alpha playtest will go out online in due course. It will probably lack the charmingly last-minute hand-drawn maps of the Berlin pre-alpha, though.

In the meantime, I can say that Hunger Dice are a pretty interesting concept, though the game will have to nail down what a Scene means...

And that the pre-alpha included Disciplines with a pretty MET feel and Virtues and Vices in a very Chronicles way.

And panels, Justin Achilli on why we play games and Mark Rein-Hagen on where these particular games came from.

Enlightenment In Blood

“I started the evening on the floor of an old Stasi interrogation room with half a chair leg stuck in my heart. It went downhill from there.”

Two hundred and fifty people in twelve locations, marked out from the real people by red wristbands (and that we were playing in English) with a simple system that relied heavily on trust as we had about one GM for every twenty players, if that. “Don’t be a dick” was the basic headline of the briefing. Real people being there meant taking care what we did and said in public, which meant the Masquerade felt quite real.

Powers based on phrasing like “you really, really fear me” for Dread Gaze, and combat on comparing 1-5 scores, with ties decided by what would be interesting, and no death for PCs until midnight - the game ran 8.15 till 1. All designed with a one-shot game in mind, not an ongoing chronicle.

Two basic tracks, Inhabit for PCs involved in central groups and major plots, and Explore for wandering the location and setting more DIY goals. I went Explore, being so inclined, creating a character who knew nothing and nobody by default.

Characters joined groups through an online selection system, then picking clans, powers, attitudes and so on. By the time I got round to it, after two weeks, a majority were full and I got into the Staked, anarch vampire prisoners of the newly dead Sheriff, liberated at the start of the game with no real plan.

The plastic sheet for ashes and teeth was a real talking point for our starting location.

“Then someone says "Uhhh those aren't props..." and you back away slowly.” - Brandon Sherlock, joking, I hope.
“Procuring ashes in a major city is not a trivial task, it turns out, but the nightclub across the street had some fire bins and an open mind.” - Johanna Koljonen
“... and a nice shovel, which we found immediately AFTER shoveling those ashes into a bag. Thanks to Zach by the way for getting his hands dirty for us.” - Daniel Thikötter

:D

One of us, a more experienced Nordic LARP player, did have an agenda and ran off to pursue it after checking OOC if that was OK. I next saw her three hours later in the crowd killing the Prince. As we discussed later OOC, we had quite different experiences of the night! The rest of us stumbled off to cause trouble.

The outside of the RAW block
Venues included a shabby anarch bar, a rather nicer Camarilla bar, a pool hall (full of real people when we got there), an otherwise empty church hosting a vampire cult with its own factions (which we robbed) and more I never even saw like the Syndicate Mage meeting and the Bone Gnawer werewolf squat. All the locations were cool, if a bit far in the case of the church.

And I could carry on. For example, I didn’t use the in-character social media site.

Friday, 12 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day Two

News! (Update: official video!)

Mostly on Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition, announcing Ken Hite as lead designer as well as Karim Muammar on rules, and fashion designer and photographer Mary Lee as art director.

A first edition feel with isolated cities and tyrannical Princes inciting the War of Ages with the dispossessed anarchs and the Sabbat as some mysterious danger elsewhere, rather than global conspiracy sects fighting. And a mechanics focus on The Hunger.

Also revealed - The Storytellers’ Vault, like D&D Beyond for this system. Plans to support all four previous editions of VtM to begin with. Hmm. Tempted to write adventures...

GMing! Because by cracky, I will have tabletop gaming happen!

LARP! Enlightenment In Blood took over eleven locations in East Berlin, mostly around an artist’s colony with clubs, installations, and lots of graffiti. As another participant says, “The RAW Gelände looks like a Tim Bradstreet sketchbook.” Fantastic location, if rather too spaced out for my shins’ liking. Interesting game too, though I deliberately stayed on the periphery and got the picaresque found-footage experience rather than driving much story. (Though one of the groups may have survived the night because I said hello to someone...)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

World Of Darkness Berlin, Day One

Greetings from a hotel somewhere in Berlin.

So far I've attended the screening of the World Of Darkness documentary, which is less “before White Wolf, RPGs were for neeeeerds!” than some feared, while still focusing on some areas and skipping over others. Lots of good stuff from Tim Bradstreet about the art, for one thing.

Relics

From Steve D of Tin Star Games, Relics, a game of fallen angels who don’t know why they fell. Hopefully a couple years out.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Judge Dredd on TV?

I am hopeful about the announcement of Judge Dredd: Mega-City One from Rebellion and IM Global, a newish company started by a producer with SyFy and with a lot of licences on the roster. Hopeful, but will wait and see...

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow, the TV series, is to end after four seasons. And I just finished catching up on the first season and a half.

I was advised that the mid-season break there is the point to stop for those who want closure as the show goes downhill after season one. Which looks to be true from that half-season already.

When I started up after the fun pilot, I was expecting it to run at a higher consistent Weird Level than it did, more like Angel than mid-season The X Files, considering it’s about...

Ichabod Crane being a Revolutionary War hero mortally injured in 1781 while fighting the Headless Horseman (and indeed making him headless), put into suspended animation by his wife Katrina who is a witch and revived in the present to fight the Horseman, who is actually one of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, teaming up with an understandably sceptical police officer, Lieutenant Abbie Mills, who has her own issues with demons and madness plaguing her family and the town.

I was a bit let down right from the first regular episode, when the two regular cops who backed Abbie’s story after getting halfway through trying to get the Horseman to put his hands on his head were written out and didn’t become recurring characters. The precinct captain joined the crusade, so having a couple of comic relief guys on the team too would have worked for me.

Another group seemed to be set up as potential allies and got murdered offscreen the next episode. It helped emphasise the danger of the battle against evil... but made the setup episode feel a tad wasted.

And some the real-world occult history was clearly dropped in a blender. (Druids are Greek?)

To be fair, the Weird Level ramped up quite a bit. Fighting monsters on horseback! Zombie Redcoats! Portals made of fragmented reality! Animated suits of armour with flaming swords! This is what I was after!

Though the “more like Angel” thing went a bit too far...

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Playing a family

The Gifted, the new X-Men spinoff TV series, is about a family with mutant children. Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker play the parents, making it seem like they're the main characters.

Having kids is a big issue for protagonists to deal with. I've hardly ever done it or seen it done. It would need the right players.

A Hellboy reboot?

I think Guillermo Del Toro’s first film of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy was great, and the second was a good Del Toro film that Hellboy was also in. A third or more might have balanced things out nicely, because Hellboy Vs. Elric In Faerieland is a fine setup for one of three or four movies about him rather than one of two, but it was not to be.

Now, it looks like we’re getting a new Hellboy movie, starring David Harbour, directed by Neil Marshall. I am okay with this. Harbour isn’t the “of course!” casting level of Ron Perlman but seems like he could pull it off. Marshall’s a good bloke. He brought Dog Soldiers and Doomsday to my local horror festival, The Descent to the same cinema for a preview, and came to the festival another year just to hang out and watch some movies.

Hoping it learns from the previous films and doesn’t keep all their changes. Hellboy being secret didn’t add all that much to the first film, and being revealed took up time in the second, for example.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Local Superheroes

Having mentioned Cool French Comics earlier, I thought I’d highlight Photonik and friends, superheroes created to join French reprints of Marvel comics.

So are they part of the Marvel Universe? Apparently not.

Still, they’re a good example of borrowing characters from local fiction rather than creating them as needed. Although you’ll note that Photonik is set in New York...

See also International Hero.

And Superhero Girl Vs. Canadian-ness.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

France as a setting

Another nation that could provide a rich variety of adventures.

Paris has cropped up a few times in my games as a highly recognisable location for tourist-y adventures, much like its role in many world-spanning movies. In this it’s a bit like London, but not as familiar to players based in Britain.

My first run of a straight spy game started in Paris, inspired by The Bourne Identity and featuring the subway and district divisions as well as more touristy backdrops. I also had a more cinematic spy game feature a car and boat chase along the east bank of the Seine, though I resisted the temptation to include the Eiffel Tower.

It’s also been a setting for adventures like a Doctor Who game fighting Nazis and dinosaurs in the early 1940s, Arthurian knights and Crusade-era vampires wandering all over western Europe, globetrotting adventurers and superheroes with a tendency to get into fights at or around famous landmarks, and Buffy being teleported away from Sunnydale by a monster trying to open the Hellmouth and having to get back without a passport.

I’ve never used it as a location for more than a single adventure or arc in any games, but I have considered it at times, like a supers or SF game mining Cool French Comics for characters and setups, or fantasy or horror cribbing from this thread about The Guide To Mysterious France.

I’ve also played the American translation of a French RPG, In Nomine. The adventure wasn’t set in France, however.

There are also supplements for France (or just Paris) for various real-world-based RPGs, and sections in Europe sourcebooks as well. I’ve seen Dreamhounds Of Paris for Trail of Cthulhu in action too. (Paris is a crater in Trinity. Sorry...)

Swashbuckling RPGs often feature Musketeers or analogues. The Revolution may or may not be an issue.

Likewise, Bretonnia in Warhammer started as just before the Revolution in WFRP 1 and then slid back to Arthurian High Middle Ages in the later wargame setting, while the Empire stayed early Renaissance throughout...

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Grim And Perilous Lego Minifigure

The Battle Dwarf from the new Lego Minifigures set is absolutely not a Troll Slayer from Warhammer. Not at all. Nope.
“Five angry trolls and a rock giant? Hah, what else d’ya got?”
Okay, maybe a little.


The Battle Dwarf is a fierce warrior of the Boar Clan, a brave and proud family renowned throughout the land for their expert iron-forging. He carries the axe Gougetusk, crafted by his own hand, and the legendary war hammer Snoutsmasher, famed for its ability to flatten enemies with the force of a charging razorback.
The Battle Dwarf is as loyal a friend as he is ferocious an opponent, though his hearty back-slaps of comradery are almost as likely to knock you over as a blow from his hammer. The tattoo on his shoulder recounts the tale of how he once faced a fire-breathing sea dragon. He didn’t manage to slay it or anything, but just getting away in one piece was considered a great heroic achievement – and the encounter left him with his magnificent new hairstyle, too!
Possibly more than a little.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Mexico as a setting

Today is Cinco de Mayo, the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, where a Mexican force held off the invading French army who outnumbered them two to one. It’s become a general event celebrating Mexican culture at home and abroad, especially in the U.S. One of the Mexican restaurants in town has a tequila promotion and face painting...

I nearly visited Mexico as a child, but I got appendicitis the night before. I insisted on being carried out to see the Rio Grande before we left the campsite to drive a hundred miles to a hospital.

I don’t think I’ve ever run or played an adventure set in Mexico. The closest I’ve come is the border, as it was in real life. I’ve had a few Mexican NPCs in U.S.-set games.

My first thought when I notice something like this is to look at a country’s history and find a good event to use for a Doctor Who adventure, or dropping a modern adventure in there. Since they’re mobile and facing an international threat, maybe I’ll send my current game to Mexico City for a session or two...

There aren’t very many sourcebooks or adventures for the country. There’s South O’ The Border for Deadlands, Mexico City By Night for Vampire: The Masquerade and Shadows Over Mexico for Chronicles Of Darkness, some Call Of Cthulhu adventures and at least one for Trail of Cthulhu as well... and for the Mexican wrestling action movie subgenre there’s Lucha Libre HERO and Luchador; Way Of The Mask, and probably more.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

God Mode

The moment where you use a rare power-up. Trusting the Force in D6 Star Wars, Apocalyptic Form in Demon: The Fallen, Going Loud in Demon: The Descent and more.

In Person Of Interest, the Machine rarely guides the heroes directly, and the results of God Mode are awesome in both the modern and traditional meanings. (Spoiler: I just saw 5.13, where it happens again in a new way, and it’s quietly terrifying.)

Which games have something like this, where you can occasionally drop a massive bonus or hit an I Win button?

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Scrappers from Osprey

Scrappers is a post-apocalypse squad skirmish wargame, with mutants, robots, cultists and the like, a pretty Gamma World setup all round. It doesn’t appear to have vehicle rules which I really associate with PA gaming going back to Dark Future because of the Mad Max connection, but still looks fun.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was fun, but not as good overall as the first, I think. It overplayed some of the jokes, and I’m not entirely happy about the developments required to defeat the villain.

Also, so many cameos, some of them distracting from the film itself. I was amused by some, puzzled by others. Looks like some of them will go on to matter in later films.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Your writing prompt for the day


“Passage” (2007) by German land artist Cornelia Konrads

Thanks to Alistair Stuart for the link from Women’s Art on Twitter.

Demon: The Descent

I decided to go for Descent.

Now I just have to figure out why a canning plant was closed six months ago by industrial waste leaking upriver and reopened overnight as a computer factory, why the workers sleepwalk through their shifts, why a local human with insight into angels and demons was struck blind when she investigated, and why the overseer is an angel that one of the Unchained characters last saw at the battle of Stalingrad...