Wednesday, June 22, 2022

North By North West Corner

This is an advert for my book Strict Time Records Must Be Kept. Sort of. Ish.



It looks like I completely forgot to mention that I'd written the book, or that it was out, so er, it's out. You can get it in print here and in pdf here. I don't think copies have got to North America yet, but keep an eye out.

Monday, May 30, 2022

CHOMPA

This small, scrappy shield -- almost a buckler -- is made from the stretched face of some hideous swamp-dwelling creature, and was created by an insane goblin wizard, or so the story goes.
  • Growls and jabbers all the time, never forming coherent words, but making stealth pretty much impossible.
  • The gob leads to an extra-dimensional space but everything there is consumed; this could be annoying or useful.
  • Goblins recognise CHOMPA as an important cultural artefact, and will be predisposed to be at least neutral to the wielder.
13th Age:
  • +4 Hit Points.
  • On a natural attack roll of 8, CHOMPA bites a mêlée opponent for 1d4 damage per level.
Quirk: You are always peckish.

B/X:
  • +1 Armour Class.
  • On a natural attack roll of 8, CHOMPA bites a mêlée opponent for 1d4 damage.
Fighting Fantasy:
  • +1 SKILL.
  • On a natural attack roll of 8, CHOMPA bites a mêlée opponent for 1 STAMINA damage.
(I am inclined to restrict the extra damage to a roll of double 4 but this seems a bit churlish in comparison to the other systems, so you may allow it on any roll of 8, although that may be too far the other way.)

Monday, May 23, 2022

LIMB OF WOE

This is a withered severed leg with dirty bandages wrapped around the stump.
  • Two-handed club.
  • The wielder counts as unarmed for any relevant effects or purposes. For example, if they are a character that normally must fight bare-handed, or if they are casting a spell that requires touching a target. That sort of thing.
  • The wielder also registers as undead to abilities or effects that detect or track the living dead.
  • The knee joint gives it a wild, unpredictable swing.
  • The LIMB OF WOE has a strong smell of something like old leather and pickling.
  • Every morning at 2am, it twitches for two long, creepy hours.
13th Age:
+1; small, two-handed.
The wielder has a 1 point conflicted relationship with the Lich King, in addition to their other relationships. If they already have a negative or positive relationship with the Lich King, then things just got complicated!
Quirk: Tap your foot constantly.

B/X:
+1 to hit and damage.

Fighting Fantasy:
+1 SKILL and +1 to the club row on the damage table.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Stranger Days

I loved Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness! But then I've been a Sam Raimi fan since I was about 10, and the film is more or less Evil Dead 4 with a Marvel budget.

I found the first film interesting -- not least how it rejects the traditional hero origin narrative -- but I'm not sure I liked it. I very much liked the sequel. It rattles along at a great pace and it's full of fun ideas and bold action and wonderful imagery, leaning away from the almost mathsy weird geometry of the first film and more into liquid dreams and nightmares and horror, which is not surprising given the director. Sam Raimi was an excellent choice.

(Although I would love to see what Guillermo Del Toro would do with Strange; I suspect it would be even better.)

The big fan-pleasing moment in the middle is perhaps the least interesting part, which is a surprise. Still good, but overshadowed by the rest of the film.

It's not perfect. There are some generic cgi bad guys in the finale that look like they've wandered in from a PS3 game. There's also no real character development; America Chavez is introduced but never becomes anything more than a plot device, which is a shame. Strange sort of learns a lesson over the course of the story, but it's handwaved and feels disconnected from the rest of the narrative, suggesting it's a remnant of an earlier draft.

I've seen some comments that the film ruins Wanda and negates WandaVision, and while I see where that criticism comes from, I disagree. I think it follows on from WandaVision without contradiction, but I do think the film wastes the character a little. WandaVision suggested an interesting, and probably extended, story arc for Wanda, one I'd have expected to see developed over multiple films and TV programmes, and while it is sort of addressed in the film, it's almost as a throwaway thing, and it does feel like potential squandered.

All that said, there's nothing to say that the suggested arc couldn't be explored in future, and even if we don't get the Wanda I wanted to see, Elizabeth Olsen does a fantastic job with the Wanda we do get. She's more or less a co-protagonist -- and a very interesting one, but I won't say more for spoiler reasons -- to the point that much as I love the title, Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch would perhaps be more apt.

It's not as good as Thor 3 or the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but it's in the top tier of Marvel movies for me. I give it four Crimson Bands of Cyttorak out of five.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sort-Of-Savage Initiative

We've been playing D&D5 again. Our GM has lost his fancy magnetic imitative tracker, a gadget he's been using since the days of D&D4, so that got me thinking about how to track turn order in a simple but visual way.

I very much like the way Savage Worlds tracks initiative using standard, non-nerdy playing cards; there are all sorts of funky game effects involved which are irrelevant in D&D5, but the basic idea of having a card in front of each player so everyone has a clear idea of who goes when is appealing. So how about this:

  1. Everyone rolls initiative as normal to determine the order.
  2. Everyone gets handed a token that marks where they are in the order; playing cards work as well as anything, unless you somehow end up with 14+ separate combat groups.
  3. Everyone forgets about their rolled initiative number, because it's no longer relevant.
  4. (Optional, but probably useful) Everyone flips their cards over when they have completed their actions.
And that's it! It may be wise to hand out all even or all odd cards in step 2, just in case there are late arrivals that need to slot in between other combatants, or you could just hand out new cards to anyone affected by the new turn order. I would be tempted to have any new combatants either go first (if their entrance was a surprise) or last (if they were heard coming), but we're getting into the long grass of house rules there, so I'll stop.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Terror in the Youtubes

Here is a very generous review of my adventure Terror in the Streets:



The adventure is available in print in Europe here and in North America here; the fancy boxed set version is only available in Europe, alas. A pdf version is available here.

Work continues on even more adventures, and I hope to have some more news soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Cosmic!

I'm not sure what this is or why it popped into my head.

Monday, April 18, 2022

It's Not Quite a Jaguar

A couple of weeks ago, Stuart and I ventured into the Outside World to play a round of Battlecars, a game from the early days of Games Workshop, designed by Gary Chalk and (Sir) Ian Livingstone. Stuart had long wanted to play it, and I had a copy knocking around from a few years ago when a generous blog reader decide to give his game collection to me.

Alas, that battered old copy was lacking instructions, but I pieced together a playable set of rules from the Battlebikes expansion, a rules summary that I thought I'd got from Board Game Geek but seems to be absent now, and a remake called Cars That Do Battle. As it turned out, all that wasn't quite enough and we had some minor issues during play, but nothing that caused too much trouble.

I also decided to draw my own board. The original game uses boards upon which flat card terrain pieces are placed, and I could see the whole thing going flying if nudged during the game. The previous owner had used blu tack to attach the terrain to the board, but that seemed an unsatisfying solution and I was worried about damage to the components. Plus, I could draw the board at a slightly larger size so that neither of us would have to do as much squinting.

I didn't have a chance to come up with a similar fix for the car templates, but there was a certain tactile fun in applying the little red damage counters and removing components and weapons as they were damaged and used.

The game was good fun. Playing a new game for the first time always takes a bit longer but we managed it in just over two hours and once we got used to things it rattled along; I was worried that it would be slow and fiddly and wouldn't capture the feel of Mad Max style combat at all, but it did feel fast and, um, furious, which was quite a surprise from such an old design. By the end of the game both cars were burning wrecks, but I made an error of judgement and had my driver leave his vehicle when staying put would have been more sensible, and Stuart punished my poor decision making with a burst of machine gun fire. Ratatatat!

Poor Terry Hawk, gunned down in his post-apocalyptic prime!
Both Stuart and I are keen to play again. I have now found a copy of the actual rules, and we have decided to make use of a variant initiative system as the original game's approach is a bit inadequate and unfair. I have access to a couple of scenarios with different win conditions, so we may also give those a try.

Day, made.
You can read Stuart's thoughts on the game here. We are thinking of giving the more complex Car Wars a try soon, and perhaps even Dark Future, as I've long wanted to play it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Emergent Cannibalism

My group is playing its way through Patrick Stuart's Silent Titans on Sunday nights. It's going fairly well. Sort of.

The players have just left a coastal village in which the inhabitants were "eating OYSTERCATCHERS from the flats". The emphasis is Patrick's.

This is an oystercatcher:

Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

I didn't know this as we were playing, so I described the villagers munching on large chunks of meat, and nibbling at very long bones, because I was thinking of this sort of oyster catcher:

Oyster Farming

Oops.

There's a concept in role-playing games called "emergent storytelling". The idea is that you don't prepare a plot beforehand, rather you present the characters with a situation, and the "story" emerges through play. I suppose this is an example of that, although I'm not sure what sort of story it's becoming.