Monday, September 19, 2022

(Mis)adventures in Space and Time

Humble Bundle is doing a, um, bundle of the Doctor Who role-playing game from Cubicle 7! As ever with these Humble deals, what you get is a bargain, and it helps a good cause too!

I don't think I've said it on here, but Doctor Who is my favourite television programme. I'm also quite fond of rpgs, which I think I have mentioned now and then. I've heard good things about the C7 Who rpg. You'd think I'd be all over this.

And yet.


I've always been a bit put off trying it. I find the idea of playing a Doctor Who game a bit weird, for a few reasons:

  • Playing the Doctor seems weird. From a practical perspective you could have one person play the Doctor and everyone else play their companions, and then switch that around for the next adventure, sort of like Ars Magica with spaceships. But playing a character as well-defined as the Doctor seems a bit limiting, even with 15+ incarnations from which to choose. It seems odd to go into a role-playing game and playing such a specific character; it feels more like acting than a game at that point.
  • Playing another, non-Doctor, Time Lord is also a bit weird. Why is this Time Lord solving problems instead of the Doctor? Where is the Doctor? One of the unique things about the Doctor is that they care about the "little people" of the universe in a way that the Time Lords in general do not. If you have other Time Lords running about saving the day then you're upending the entire premise to a certain extent.
  • Playing without Time Lords at all also seems a bit weird. If you play as a bunch of "normals" then how do they get around? Do they have a TARDIS? You've got the same questions as the Time Lord Campaign above, except you've also got to work out what the Time Lords are doing, if they even exist at all.

None are insurmountable problems, but they all niggle at my mind as a sort of drifting from the central premise and then I begin to question whether it's worth playing a specific Doctor Who rpg at all.

Still, if I put those reservations aside, I can think of a few fun ideas for campaigns in a Whoish setting. Perhaps an alternate universe where the Doctor doesn't exist, or has been eliminated, and other Time Lords take up their mission. Maybe we play with a hypothetical 15th Doctor -- or one of the "minus" Doctors -- and sidestep the whole problem of playing a pre-defined character, letting the players define them as they do the Ars Magica shuffle. Or perhaps the premise of the campaign is that the Doctor is missing, the players have their TARDIS, and the goal is to find the renegade Time Lord before some cataclysm occurs. Or maybe you would just play a ground-level campaign with the players as some sort of UNIT, Torchwood, or Paternoster Gang equivalent. Or perhaps the Doctor's most recent regeneration went wrong and they split into multiple beings, a sort of meta-meta-crisis.

Hang on, I quite like that last one...

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Eager Watcher of Birds

I have started streaming on Twitch. It's just for fun; I have no illusions about being a Big Time Streamer™ but if I'm going to play the games anyway, I may as well stream while doing so. That way everyone can see how terrible I am at computer games!

I don't have a firm schedule at the moment as my life is about to get a bit... erratic in the latter half of 2022, but if you follow me on there, you will get an alert when I'm, as they say in the business, "live". I am thinking about other things to do on there besides being terrible at computer games. Perhaps I'll do some drawing, if I can work out the logistics.

I don't speak on-stream, in part because I don't have a headset or microphone and in part because I hate the sound of my own voice. In the unlikely event that a community does spring up around me, I may have to reconsider and try to be more gregarious.

You can find my Twitch page here. I'm also uploading the videos to YouTube, because Twitch deletes them after a few days. Here's my most recent stream, part of a -- very slow! -- playthrough of Borderlands 3 on the PS4:

If you do decide to follow me on there, thank you, and I hope I can entertain you!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Votann Boys, Roll Out!

The squats are back in Warhammer 40,000! Although we're not calling them squats any more.

Now they are the LEAGUES OF VOTANN:

Hang on, that sigil looks familiar...

I still quite like the new squats anyway.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Marvellous Movies

My friend Phill has, over the past few weeks, watched almost every Marvel film, and has now ranked them. I'm not going to go into the same detail as he has, but I thought it would be worth a few minutes listing mine too.

I have arranged them into four fuzzy tiers of relative enjoyment. I'm only including the MCU stuff and I'm not including the TV shows, for reasons of general sanity.

Not Great
Eternals, Iron Man 2, Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Not Bad at All
Both Ant-Mans, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther (I may have to re-evaluate this one), Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 3, Thors 1, 2, and 4.

Not Quite the Best
Marvel Avengers Assemble, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, all three of the Captains America, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Iron Man, Shang Chi, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Not Likely to be Bettered
Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (I'm counting it, even if Marvel and Sony won't for whatever reason), Thor: Ragnarok.

Friday, August 19, 2022

I Hear You're (Not) a Racist Now, Father

The first playtest materials for Dungeons & Dragons sixth edition have arrived!

(They are calling it One D&D for some reason, perhaps because they are learning how numbering "works" from the X-Box.)

The first materials concern character backgrounds; for those of you that don't follow D&D, there's been some controversy in the past couple of years over the game's treatment of character ethnicity and species. There are a few main issues:

  • The word "race" is something of a loaded term, and there's a feeling that a better word could be used to describe whether a character is human, elf, orc, or whatever.
  • Saying that, for example, all high elves have a higher Dexterity and Intelligence than other characters is problematic. In fairness, D&D5 doesn't penalise any characters, as previous editions did -- characters only get characteristic increases -- but it's still uncomfortable.
  • From a game design perspective, if all halflings have the same characteristic bonuses, that does tend to channel halfling characters towards certain abilities and skills, and it can make things a bit samey. Oh look! Another high elf wizard!

The D&D6 solution is to remove characteristic increases from the character species, and instead apply them to their background, so now a high elf is only more intelligent than her dwarfish friend if she, for example, trained as a sage before her life of adventure. This does solve the problem. Sort of. Ish.

  • They are still using the word "race". "A character's Race represents ancestry" the playtest document says. So, er, why not just use "ancestry"? For what it's worth, both 13th Age and Pathfinder are using "ancestry" now. For D&D6 to try to have its cake and eat it is baffling.
  • Shifting the characteristic bonuses to backgrounds is less offensive, but "all sages are the same" is still a weird concept.
  • The character channelling problem still exists, it's just been shifted along one column. Now, instead of elves tending to be wizards, it will be sages. Loading feats into the backgrounds is only going to exacerbate the issue.

It's not difficult to fix. Choose your ancestry, then add +2 to one characteristic of your choice, and +1 to another. Job done, problem solved.

You can sign up for the playtest documents here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Getting Cross(-Edition)

Yesterday, I pondered the feasibility of a D&D party made up of characters from different editions. I also asked about it on The Hellsite Known As Twitter, and there Courtney Campbell of Hack & Slash replied with some actual experience of playing with cross-edition characters. Here's what Courtney said:

I've done this. It's fine. 5e characters and 4e characters require some hit point math, but it works pretty seamlessly. Turns out the player side and the DM side don't need the same rules to play, just an interface.

I've done this both in Numenhalla, and in home games with 2e, 5e, and 4e players. They can follow the PHB rules for their class. I just multiplied all damage 4e/5e characters took by 2, and cut their damage in half, and it worked fine.

I get the impression that Courtney is a top-level GM and perhaps it's not as easy as it seems, but it is possible!

Monday, August 01, 2022

All Together Now

Remember when they were developing D&D5 and they said it would be compatible with prior editions, and you could run characters from different editions in the same party? That didn't happen (SPOILERS) but I do wonder if it's a viable idea and anyone has tried it.

What would a cross-edition party look like? Perhaps something like this, says the person with very little experience of anything before fourth edition:

AD&D1: Half-orc assassin, surely?
AD&D2: Gnome illusionist, obviously.
D&D3: Warforged cleric, probably.
D&D4: Dragonborn fighter, presumably, since fourth was supposed to make fighters as special as everyone else.
D&D5: Roll 1d12 or GM's choice. Or a Warlock of Cthulhu, eldritchly.

I very much want to try this now.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Money For Old Rope

Ropecon 2022 is happening in Helsinki right now!

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is there and I drew this for the cover of the Ropecon-exclusive catalogue.

(With many apologies to Chris Achilleos.)

If you're in the Helsinki area, why not pop in and see what's going on at ROPECON!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

It's Hip to Be Square

Back in January I posted the player map for a proposed old-school hexsquare-crawl rpg campaign. I haven't been able to spare the time to work on it and it doesn't look like I'm going to get it to the table anyway, so here's the GM map for you to have a squiz at and use, if you like.

If I somehow find more hours in the day I may go back to this. Perhaps at least I can polish up the bits I did start and share those. Maybe.