Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Gracie Is Pregnant

In Star Trek IV: The One With the Whales -- the best one -- it's suggested that in the Kirk era Starfleet doesn't recognise cetacean intelligence; over the course of the -- best -- film Kirk's crew go on a quest to find whales to solve an extinction-level problem, and along the way discover that they are not simple animals, but sapient beings capable of higher communication.

Given the "new life and new civilisations" thing it's reasonable to assume that the events of the film lead Starfleet and the Federation to formally recognise cetacean intelligence.

In other words, is Star Trek IV the secret origin story of Cetacean Ops?

(Oh, and it's technically 21 years since I started the blog! Crikey! Although the first few posts weren't very meaningful so I'm not sure they count.)

Monday, July 08, 2024

Going Over to Sutekh's House

Oh, I didn't write any more about the 2024 series of Doctor Who after all. Oops.

Oh well. I enjoyed it anyway.

I thought the finale, "The Legend of Ruby Sunday"/"Empire of Death", was very good, and there was lots to love. Bonnie Langford's Mel almost stole the episode, and confirmed how wasted she was in her original episodes. Sutekh himself came across very well and I quite liked the "controversial" cgi jackal form, which did much better "acting" than you tend to get in cgi monsters, even more so at this sort of budget level.

It was a bit disappointing that the Doctor defeated Sutekh in basically the same way he did it in the original story, even though that didn't work, as the episode explains, but I'll probably be long dead and unable to complain the next time the villain appears so I'll allow it. I did chuckle when he was defeated with a lead and a whistle. Jackals aren't quite dogs, but close enough for the pun to work.

It was also a bit naff that Sutekh's attack was more or less the Blip from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which was not helped by the turning-into-sand visual effect, or by the episodes being broadcast on Disney+, but I can let that pass. Let's call it an homage.

(Although one difference was an almost throwaway line that suggested Sutekh's victims remained conscious after being "dusted" which is nice and creepy... but alas not at all explored.)

I have seen a lot of claims about the Doctor's solution to the not-Blip also undoing the Flux, bringing Gallifrey back, and so on. I don't think there's direct evidence of that, and all that was undone was Sutekh's Sands of Death™ attack, but there's enough ambiguity there that I could see it being used as a mechanic to bring back any dead characters or locations in future stories.

My only real problem with the finale is that everything builds up to the Doctor going to find his granddaughter Susan at long last -- it's even explored in the dialogue! -- and then he... doesn't. It's a very odd creative decision, that.

I do have one final observation. If Sutekh has been hiding inside the TARDIS since 1975, then...

Friday, July 05, 2024

And Relax

I am relieved, but I am not enthused. We've had 14 years of incompetence, cruelty, and corruption from the Tories, and Labour should be better than that, but Labour's official party stance on the EU, immigration, Gaza, unions, and trans rights gives me considerable pause.

Worse, the rise of R*form as a political force, while fatal for the Tories, is terrifying. I hoped that the British weren't that sort of people, but apparently about four million of them are.

I have muted hopes and low expectations, but it could -- and has for 14 long years -- be worse. Fingers crossed for better.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Tanky Tuesday

Here's an idea I don't have time to explore at the moment, but popped into my head at lunch time and probably should be written down somewhere.

Italian M13-40 tank in the desert 1942
Bog standard fantasy business, except:
  • The aftermath of a war that has left the world an irradiated-but-magical mess.
  • Everyone bangs around in tanks, because tanks provide the best mobility and protection from the environment.
  • Dwarf tanks are big chonky things that move very slowly but are almost invulnerable.
  • Orc tanks are like dwarf tanks but are stuck together with spit and hope, and randomly explode.
  • Elf tanks are speedy and graceful and are more like sports cars than combat vehicles.
  • Undead tanks are ramshackle shells of destroyed vehicles, hanging together through willpower and hatred of the living.
  • Ghost tanks are actual ghosts of tanks, all glowy and incorporeal.
  • Chaos tanks are not tanks at all, but horrible wasteland mutants as big as a tank and just as tough.
  • Players are tank crews exploring the wasteland, looking for supplies, survivors, and loot.
  • Lots of random tables to generate the wasteland, and all the horrible things that can happen.
  • Lots of building and modification options for tanks.
  • "Dungeons" are the remains of huge battle fortresses, some traditional buildings, some gigantic super-tanks; some of the latter may still be rolling around.
It's Dark Sun meets Iron Kingdoms, except with tanks instead of robots. Or Spelljammer, on the ground, with tanks. Or a Tolkienesque Mutant Year Zero with tanks. Or Gorkamorka taken to its (il)logical extreme. Maybe it's a role-playing game, maybe it's a wargame, maybe it's both.

Inspirational viewing:

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Break!! Fast

This arrived yesterday!

I have been following Reynaldo since the old blogging days, through the halcyon Google+ times, and then through the Break!! development, so backing the Kickstarter in 2023 was always going to happen.

The book is lovely. It's very thick -- almost 500 pages! -- and very dense but the design is nice and clean, reminiscent of the beautiful tomes produced by Bitmap Books.

It'll probably be a while before I get to read through Break!! in detail, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It's Not the Konami Code

I have just finished Ian Livingstone's 2022 Fighting Fantasy gamebook Shadow of the Giants. It's not too bad! The main issue is that for the most part there's only an illusion of meaningful choice; decisions either loop back to the point where the choice was made so you can get back on the correct path, or they don't matter because either option has a roughly equivalent effect on later events. As a result things do feel a bit basic and linear, but also more gentle than the Sir Ian of old, who would not hesitate to punish incorrect choices with a gleeful "Your adventure ends here."

(There is one very arbitrary choice towards the end that feels like 1980's Ian, but it's the only occurrence I found.)

So the "game" part is a bit easy and flat, but the "book" part is quite strong. There are some interesting ideas and a few evocative sequences, and there are a handful of compelling characters met along the way. The quest is an interesting one, local in scale but still with real stakes, and I appreciate the twist (revealed early on) about the cause of the calamity. I give it three Yaztromos out of five.

I finished it on my second try. The first attempt was scuppered by one puzzle towards the end. See if you can solve it:

"You see a three-by-three boxed grid carved into the rock wall with each box containing a number."


The book gives us a clue:
"Up down
Left right
Say the number
See the light"

You're then supposed to turn to the paragraph number that matches the solution to progress further. Or, you know, give up and start again. If you want.

After a bit of searching I found the solution online, but I can't work out how you're supposed to get to that solution. These books are aimed at children so I should be able to grok it, but it's gone right over my head! Perhaps my brain is fried after my incident.

I have worked out one way to get to the correct answer -- I'll put it in the comments -- but it feels wonky and I'm not convinced it's the intended solution.

What do you reckon? What am I missing?

Sunday, June 16, 2024


This is an arrow made of some sort of lightweight but strong metal. The name "Saint Sevurdapoy" is carved along the shaft.
  • Feels icy cold -- almost painful -- to the touch.
  • Counts as enchanted for purposes of immunity to normal weapons.
  • Bursts into cold black and blue flame when fired.
  • Flames do not start fires, but do provide dim blue light.
  • Vanishes after use, but reappears at midnight. At the point it disappeared. I hope you remember where you shot it!
  • No special effect versus red dragons.

13th Age:
  • Standard bow damage +1d4 cold damage (+2d4 at Champion, +3d4 at Epic).
  • Does 1d4 cold damage to the archer when fired.
  • When hit, the target must make a normal (11+) save or one random magical effect or spell affecting them is suppressed until the next noon.
Quirk: Your manner is abrupt, brusque, and curt. To-the-point, one might say.

  • Standard bow damage +1d4 cold damage.
  • Does 1d4 cold damage to the archer when fired.
  • When hit, the target is affected as if Dispel Magic has been cast on them, with the archer's level standing in for casting level.
Fighting Fantasy:
  • Standard bow damage + 1 cold damage.
  • 2 STAMINA damage to archer when fired.
  • AFF: When hit, the target is subject to Counter Spell; assume the archer has a Magic skill equal to her SKILL, modified by the STAMINA cost of the original spell.
  • Troika: When hit, the target is subject to the Undo spell; roll versus the original casting, using the archer's SKILL.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

No More Parachutes

This is your semi-regular reminder that Temple of Doom is the best one.


Monday, June 10, 2024

The Ferry Not Taken

I forgot to mention that as well as Rogue Trader, Stuart and I played a bit of the pithily-titled The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game the other day.

It's a fun game, that seems to scale well from small scenarios to full battles without breaking. There's some Warhammer DNA in the rules, as you'd expect, but also some innovations and simplifications that almost look like they are prefiguring Age of Sigmar if you squint. A bit. Ish. It's worth a look even if you're not into Lord of the Rings; Stuart has used it to run old Warhammer campaigns with considerable success.

You can ready Stuart's summary of our game(s) here so I won't rehash the details, but I will mention that I did manage to win the scenario when we swapped ends and played it the second time. I always lose LotR games, so I'm happy with that.

Neither of our attempts at the scenario matched the events of the book -- or even the film! -- but I must admit that I did game the system to scrape my win. I knew that Frodo had to escape for the hobbits to succeed, and I also knew that he and Sam had better game statistics than Ant and Dec Merry and Pippin, so it made sense to get Frodo on to the ferry as soon as possible and use Sam as a blocker, with the other two hobbits as support.

The scenarios are set up so that something like the canon sequence of events occur, but I was concerned only with winning and to heck with the Professor's intended story! In "my" Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Merry-or-Pippin escaped, and Sam and Pippin-or-Merry were -- probably -- shanked to death by frustrated Nazgûl on the bank of the Brandywine. So sad. Please send flowers.

This of course got me thinking about how Frodo's story would unfold with two of his friends dead-by-ringwraith. Would he even get to Rivendell? Would he go to Mordor on his own? Would the Ring -- or Gollum -- destroy Frodo without Sam there to defend him?

(If it were up to me, dependable working class hero Sam would leave landowning toff Frodo to his death and scarper with the Ring, but there's only so far you can eat the rich twist the expected outcome.)

I surprised myself a bit with this pondering, as while I'm familiar with this sort of "what if?" thought experiment, I don't think I'd ever applied it to Tolkien before. Although some have.

Part of me would like to play this alternate timeline out and see where it goes. Perhaps that's a project for another day.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Mission: Starfall

Here's a scenario for Stargrave. Fresh out of my brain and untested. I'll see if I can get Stuart to play it with me.

I may return to this with conversion notes for other systems. Frostgrave should be easy enough.


Intel says the cog-sat is going to crash out of orbit somewhere in this rough location. The people that ran the sat network are long gone, but the data in the pod should still be worth something, if we can get to it first. That's why we're going to be there when it lands.


Place terrain as normal. Note the centre of the play area and then depending on the size of the play area, mark the following points in a diagonal line from one corner to the other:

2' x 2' - Mark two points each 8" away from the centre. Including the central point, number the points 1 to 3 from one corner to the other.
3' x 3' - Mark two points each 8" away from the centre, then two further points each 16" away from the centre (ie 8" away from the previous points). Including the central point, number the points 1 to 5 from one corner to the other.
4' x 4' (or larger) - Mark two points each 10" away from the centre, then two further points each 20" away from the centre (ie 10" away from the previous points). Including the central point, number the points 1 to 5 from one corner to the other.

The numbers don't have to be visible on the table as long as they are noted somewhere, but the points should be marked. Some sort of radar or sensor "ping" token would be appropriate and cool.

No loot tokens are used for this scenario.

Crews should deploy in the corners opposite those used for the diagonal line. If more than two crews are involved, then there should be a deployment point halfway along each table edge.

Setup example for a 3'x3' or larger play area. The shaded areas marked A are for deployment in a two player game, while the areas marked B are suggested deployment points for games if you have lots of friends.


On an Initiative roll of 01-04, generate a random encounter as normal.

At the end of turn three's intiative phase -- and every turn from then on -- the Primary player should roll 1d20 to see if the satellite falls this turn, and if so where:

2' x 2' play area:
01-05The satellite does not crash this turn.
06-10The satellite crashes at point 1.
11-15The satellite crashes at point 2.
16-20The satellite crashes at point 3.

3' x 3' or 4' x 4' (or larger) play areas:
01-05The satellite does not crash this turn.
06-08The satellite crashes at point 1.
09-11The satellite crashes at point 2.
12-14The satellite crashes at point 3.
15-17The satellite crashes at point 4.
18-20The satellite crashes at point 5.

(I prefer a 1d4 or 1d6 here with the satellite not showing up on a 4 or 6 but Stargrave is a d20-only system. I can't imagine any player of Stargrave doesn't have access to other dice, so I leave it up to your conscience.)

The satellite crashes at the end of the turn. Place a suitable satellite data pod type model at the landing point. The force of the crash causes a +4 Shooting attack on any models within a 3" radius, and creates a crater of the same size, which counts as rough ground for the rest of the game. If you have a nice 6" crater terrain piece, now is the time to use it!

Structures within the crater are probably destroyed, although you may decide that durable buildings like bunkers or vaults remain intact, in which case the crater is on the roof or something. Whatever works for you.

The satellite data pod is sealed and must be unlocked just like a physical loot token before the data can be downloaded. Yes, this means it requires two actions to access the data pod.

Option - Data Security: When the data pod is unlocked, the pod's automated security activates and a Sentrabot armed with a shotgun spawns adjacent to the pod. It follows and targets any models carrying the data, or in contact with the pod if the data has not yet been accessed. If no models qualify, it acts as normal except it will never move further than 3" from the pod.


The data in the satellite is valuable and is worth three rolls on the data-loot table to the crew that secures it.

Experience is earned as normal, with the following additions:
+10xp for the crew that destroys the Sentrabot.
+10xp for the crew that unlocks the satellite.
+10xp for the crew that downloads the data.
+15xp for "catching" the satellite (ie, being on the landing point when it crashes, and surviving the impact; just being in the radius isn't enough, it has to be a bullseye!).