In what’s become something of an annual tradition, I’m taking a look back over the year in a RPG retrospective. By that, I mean to talk about stuff that happened over the last year in various RPGs I’ve been involved with over the year. And events at ORC Edinburgh of course.
I’ve had little chance to do much PC or Xbox gaming this year, although I loved the free mod of Half Life‘s Black Mesa (which has a cracking remixed soundtrack for free too) and played through it. It recreates the original Half Life game but with new graphics, audio and game-play. Worth a look – the next part Xen will be worth the wait I reckon. Still no news on Half Life 2: Episode 3 either. I’ve also backed the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter (see below), because I loved that game so much on the BBC micro (and, yes, I did reach Elite status).
Edinburgh’s tabletop gaming scene got itself a new venue in August – the Edinburgh Games Hub. Their Tollcross basement has become something of a Mecca to all kinds of tabletop gamers – CCGs, boardgames, war-games and of course RPGs. I myself can be found there on Thursday nights, continuing the adventures of Diogenes “Basilisk” Valexos in our Rogue Trader RPG. I’d have provided a link but their website has been hacked and shows no sign of getting fixed any time soon, but you can find them on FB at https://en-gb.facebook.com/GamesHubEdinburgh. They also have a boardgames and miniatures shop in the basement, 6S2Hit.
As well as Rogue Trader, which I didn’t make it to half as often as I would have liked, we started the year off playing on the Dresden Files RPG on Wednesday nights, followed by the Pathfinder (Isador) game. My workload hit nightmare levels though and I was forced to drop the Wednesday night games.
Yet again, I didn’t make it to Conpulsion, the Edinburgh RPG convention run by Edinburgh Uni’s RPG club, GEAS. I really must try and make it there. I’m considering running my eBranch game there as a one-off next year. It uses the Call of Cthulhu rules, and features physic spies and Brian Lumley’s Wamphyri vampires. It is set in the New Forest, close to Southampton where I was born.
ORC Edinburgh – RPG Retrospective
No RPG Retrospective would be complete without me mentioning ORC – Edinburgh’s Open Roleplaying Community. ORC Edinburgh saw many new faces and also a number of new games, and we had a lot of fun at the pub meets throughout the year. This gave us a chance for many of the community to socialize outside of scheduled games and actually lead to the creation of at least one group. However, the last one wasn’t quite so well attended and the venue let us down somewhat.We’ll need to think about an alternative next time.
We definitely need more GMs at ORC – we had games running at the Meadow Bar, the Games Hub, Illegal Jacks and also Cafe Renroc. Unfortunately these were often on the same day – many of our GMs are also players too, but some of us (like me) rarely get the chance to play. This is partially my choice, but some of the other GMs would love a chance to kick back and let someone else do the work (and so would I really). And of course anyone wishing to try their hand at GMing should feel free to do so.
Call of Cthulhu was definitely popular this year at ORC. We had two home-brew campaigns running (and one still is) and the also Cubicle 7′s Shadows of Scotland campaign – which was over-subscribed at one point! I’d thought about running my Arunstoun setting, but didn’t need to in the end. It did feature in Cthulhutech though! I considered running Masks of Nyarlathotep, but it has significant flaws and pretty much suffers what I call Cthulhu Syndrome where the PCs get drawn to a remote location for a minor reason and the players just know the Mythos is involved.
I put my Cthulhutech game, Through the Looking Glass, on hiatus (to give me a break really). The Dark Edinburgh setting really worked and I’ve been looking forward to getting my mitts on the new Burning Horizons supplement. With Pacific Rim out in 2013 (Guillermo del Toro‘s new movie featuring giant robots – mechs or mecha), I can see there being a few mecha-based games turning up in the future (Cthulhutech or otherwise). Wildfire, the makers of Cthulhutech have had a bad year with distributors so I hope things pick up for them in 2013!
Pathfinder was also popular this year at ORC and continues to be a successor to D&D. The campaign paths of Jade Regent, Raging Swan, Carrion Crown, and Kingmaker all put in an appearance, along with Dee’s Critical Missions home-brew. Nuno’s Shapes of Grey home-brew setting returned in Pathfinder form too. For those of us looking for an alternative to 4th Ed. D&D, Pathfinder provided the necessary fixes it seemed.
This naturally brings me to 4th edition D&D (4e). Oft-requested by players, yet only a handful of people were willing to run games. I’m not going to go in a debate about the version wars, as I’ve posted about that elsewhere. EmbraCraig continues to run Perils of the Nentir Vale at the Games Hub fortnightly, but Jill has wrapped up her War of the Burning Sky game. Radonir’s Scales of War continues to run, although he had some early recruitment problems with players.
At ORC, I began running the WFRP Enemy Within Campaign. As campaigns go, its tough to beat – there’s a lot of background info, not fluff for once, and I’m enjoying running it immensely. I’ve a good bunch of players to work with too, most of whom are enjoying themselves immensely I hope. I started recording the sessions but they’re such a large size that I’ll need to work on compressing them down to a manageable size.
However, my biggest disappointment of the year was Marvel Super Heroes (the original set from the 80s). We had a full session of character generation, but a third of the group then dropped out. As a result I (somewhat petulantly, I admit) decided to cancel the game in its entirety. I’d planned to run the Nightmares of Futures Past storyline, having fond memories of when we played it back in the late ’80s.
We even had a game of Vampire: The Masquerade scheduled to run at ORC at one point. For one session. Then the GM involved disappeared. VtM is one of those games that seems to be something of a Macbeth for ORC RPGers! Every time someone mentions they want to run it something happens, and the game only lasts a few sessions. Many of hose who liked the original VtM have now moved onto the Embraced and Isle of Darkness LARPS (I’d never be able to suspend my sense of disbelief for LARPS – I’d continually have to bite my tongue). I’ll possibly be running Werewolf: the Apocalypse in the future so who knows? Maybe we will get a proper Vampire campaign at ORC too!
And of course there’s D&Dnext, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Surprisingly there’s not been much interest in the Playtest packs at ORC. I think that everyone has largely adopted a wait-and-see attitude, possibly brought on by the whole 4e debacle. There’s a couple of games going on, but no one is seriously participating right now.
We also ran a few pub meets that I’ve mentioned elsewhere – these have rapidly proved to be a great way to meet other players in a non-RPG setting. So that’s the year at ORC really. Here’s to another year of great RPGs there!
2012 for me was the “Year of the Kickstarter”, or more likely “Year of the Stretch Goal”. Also “Year of the Stretched Bank account”. I backed a number of Kickstarter campaigns, some of which are still ongoing.
- Werewolf the Apocalypse: 20th Anniversary Edition – I had to really. Some many fond memories of running that World of Darkness game!
- Reaper Miniatures Bones – where I picked up A LOT of miniatures. I’ll never get around to painting them.
- Horror of the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu. A classic reprinted, with new handouts and materials.
- Legendary Realms Terrain – this terrain looked great but didn’t make its funding level unfortunately.
- Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary. Why not?
- Shadows of Esteren: A medieval horror RPG – a game which looks amazing.
- FATE Core rules. It’s the least I can do if I intend to use it (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- Kingdom Death: Monster boardgame. A seriously freaky game, with some seriously freaky miniatures (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- YOU ARE THE HERO: a celebration of 30 years of Fighting Fantasy (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- ELITE: DANGEROUS. I’m of two minds about this, on the one hand Frontier have laid off staff and the KS is probably asking for too much, but I’d love to see a proper version of Elite again (STILL ONGOING on KS).
So that’s it. My RPG Retrospective. Sorry if I rambled on a bit, but it has been quite a year. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!
With everything that’s going on at the moment, we’re all feeling the pinch financially: so here’s some suggestions to help you save some cash when it comes to RPGs: RPGing on a budget! In the suggestions below, many involve the internet: if you are using mobile broadband, you may want to check your mobile broadband Terms & Conditions as downloading lots of material may quickly expend your data transfer quota.
Recycle your adventures, and reuse maps when you can. If you run games for different groups you can likely re-use maps from another game. One of the maps from the Call of Cthulhu adventure “The Haunting” has put in an appearance in both my games of Ashes of Freedom and Cthulhutech. I found a load of old school jotters that I ripped up for scrap paper. If you’ve got a pile of old games and miniatures, get rid of them on eBay. Metal miniatures can make a lot of cash for you especially if they’re the old lead ones and are unpainted.
Raid your boardgames for dice and tokens: the dice you and your players can use and the tokens you can use for monsters and NPCs, especially if they are in a variety of colours.
Miniatures can be expensive if you’re strapped for cash. Players may want to bring their own figures anyway – you can always use counters to represent monsters or NPCs.
Use squared paper for floor-plans and draw them so that they can be reused. The backing paper from tackyback (the plastic used to cover books in libraries) is very useful for this. Again, old school maths jotters are useful for these.
Borrow rulebooks from anyone that already has them. Nowhere is it written that a GM must own all the rulebooks! If they’re playing in your game so much the better – they can bring the books with them when they come along. Just make sure you ask permission before you borrow them .
Go shopping for second hand games. Conventions like Conpulsion and Claymore usually have a lot of second-hand stuff for sale, including miniatures. You can also check eBay for old games and supplements, but watch out for the delivery costs that can be levied by unscrupulous sellers – a 128-page softback supplement should cost less than £3 to send in the UK – check the Royal Mail website for some idea of basic prices. If you order from overseas it can cost considerably more. You can also get cheap RPG materials in PDF form from places like DriveThruRPG, rather than shelling out for a dead tree edition.
Be frugal with your printing. Avoid printing in colour, especially if you have an inkjet printer: they expend cartridges so quickly that you’ll shell out a small fortune. If you’re lucky enough to have a laser printer with a duplexing unit, make sure you print both sides. Print in draft mode which will save ink/toner. You could also email/PM your maps to your players rather than printing them. Finally you could photocopy, rather than print, your maps, handouts, character sheets, etc.
Free PC tools and adventures are out there, from PC generators to mapping tools such as AutoRealm. Of course, you need to have an internet connection although you could use a library. The internet is your friend when it comes to finding materials for your games. For instance, the ProFantasy mapping viewer will allow you to view and print the large number maps in their archive. There’s also various collections of adventures and other materials created by the RPG community online, such as my own wiki.
Use Skype or other IM tools if you can’t get your group together to play. One of my friends runs a weekly RPG session using Skype together with a mapping tool/virtual whiteboard and it has been working well for quite some time. With Skype allowing you to make free VoIP calls, it probably works out cheaper than a subscription to World of Warcraft.
Use SRD documents rather than expensive rulebooks if you can’t afford it. Both D&D and Pathfinder have their own SRD documents that are at least usable – they may not be pretty, but who cares? Many games also provide quick-start rules that you can use to run the first few games, usually along with pre-generated PCs.
Write your own. Either write your own adventures or come up with your own system. It’s a lot of work but may not cost you anything, except time. You can also pad out published adventures with your own encounters and NPCs.
Host your game. If you’re really skint, host the game in your own home, saving you the travel costs. You might even get free snacks from your players!
And finally, *SIGH* there are PDFs out there of scanned books. I DO NOT CONDONE THIS. In fact I strongly discourage it – and it is the reason Wizards of the Coast no longer distribute their D&D books in PDF format. Go figure.