Shadows of Esteren
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!
I’m going to try and write a bit more about the last year gaming-wise in a separate post (more on this to appear later). I’ve started doing this every year, as a sort of retrospective of things happening in the Edinburgh Games community, ORC and elsewhere. For now, here’s a very short post detailing some of my plans for 2013, looking forward RPG-wise.
- I’m trying to get the first part of the Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG written, most likely using the FATE rules set.
- There’s a blog article on “Magic as technology” that I want to try and finish.
- I’m waiting on publication of my first RPG work for The Secret Fire RPG.
- DMing an introductory D&D 4e campaign at ORC called A Watch upon the Border.
- Possibly restarting Ashes of Freedom with DNDnext rules.
- Running the AD&D adventures Dragon Mountain and Return to the Tomb of Horrors when the AD&D rules are republished in 2013.
- Running Werewolf: the Apocalypse again – I got rid of my 1st edition stuff years ago, but got in on the 20th anniversary Kickstarter edition. When will you rage?
- Running a game of the fantastic-looking Shadows of Esteren.
- And finally… I’m forty in 2013, so I’m planning a wh40kforty event along with a friend (who also turns 40). We’re coming up with a linked campaign using various RPGs and battles in the wh40k universe, set in the Midwinter Expanse, a nebula of our own creation located close to Ultramar.
Ebay and Kickstarter have a lot to answer for really. I sold off my 5,000 point Warhammer Undead army over 15 years ago along with a lot of my other miniatures, and a lot of my RPG materials. I seriously regret it now. I wish I’d kept them – we’re talking Werewolf: the Apocalypse (1st and 2nd edition), Vampire: the Masquerade, and a huge number of AD&D materials. I’ve also picked up the Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Dragon Mountain, and the Menzoberranzan AD&D boxed sets. I need to watch my spending on them! A few years back I actually made a nice bit of cash speculating on ebay but the time taken to bundle everything up and list items was a nightmare.
There’s also some real idiots out there on ebay who will screw you over any chance they get for postage or Paypal fees. There are also those who claim 100% positive feedback, often through somewhat unscrupulous means, particularly when they are selling multiple items (usually over-priced) through a single listing or “Buy it Now”. Some individuals have huge amounts of games listed but most collectors will avoid having anything to do with those who threaten and browbeat customers – check the Acaeum forum if there’s any warnings and always look closely at the feedback. Make sure that any maps or similar are included as some fail to list these missing items.
I’ve recently contributed to the Werewolf: the Apocalyse Anniversary edition on Kickstarter. I’m not really looked at the game since late second edition when it was beginning to collapse under its own meta-plot weight as with all the original World of Darkness games. Can’t believe it was 20 years ago though! Along with AD&D, it was one of the first games I ever ran as a campaign – and I understand Samuel Haight may reappear (or his clone anyway!)… Also on Kickstarter, I’ve backed Shadows of Esteren, a medieval horror RPG that looks gorgeous and has a lot of extra stuff for backers.I know that Numenra, Monte Cook‘s new game has recently been funded, along with Robin D Laws Hillfolk, but neither really interested me. UPDATE: Unfortunately the Legendary Realms Kickstarter failed to secure their funding so that’s a pity.
I’m starting to see what makes Kickstarter so attractive for established companies – they can offer free PDFs of their stuff and memorabilia and it makes for a good business model. However smaller companies will probably get crowded out – they need to offer something special, rather than regarding it as a revenue stream. Just using it to get your game published is one thing, but using stretch goals is a proven way of raising the bar considerably – it encourages folk to up their pledge. Also, it’s nice seeing a bundle of goodies rather than a single book…
I’ve recently begun playing the Rogue Trader RPG again after a few months break. I quite like the wh40k universe but it does take itself a bit too seriously sometimes. When we play, it’s more Red Dwarf than Dune in style – and we get away with it. Post-game, a couple of the other players and I headed off to the bus stop and we began talking about war-games.It has been a long time since I played a war-game. I think I’ve kind of lost my appetite for destruction in that respect – whether it is wh40k, fantasy, or historical.
Perhaps its just the sheer logistics and the actual time involved in getting the games setup or maybe I’m not as tactically minded as I used to be. I’m just not that competitive these days. I’m hardly ever on the X-box for LAN games these days, and my time seems to just fly out the window these days. Although I’ve been playing Black Mesa (Valve’s Half Life game re-imagined) recently I’ve done very little PC or X-Box gaming. I’m waiting to hear what X-Com is like…
I’ve been looking at trying to get the audio from the last WFRP: Enemy Within sessions uploaded but I need to split the somewhat large audio MP3 file down into much smaller sections, perhaps using Audacity. The files were too large for YouTube! I also forgot the recorder for one session so I’m kicking myself over that. We had two players absent so I ran a game set in Weissbruck as part of the Mistaken Identity storyline. The Bounty Hunter Bad Guy, Adolphos Kuftos will return, despite a crossbow bolt to the head (NPCs can have Fate points too)! The group wound up hunting a Chaos Spawn, who had been attacking and killing townsfolk – a mutant who had been brought back from the Kislevite city of Praag by his father, once overrun by the forces of Chaos.
I pulled out all the stops for this game I’m calling the “Legacy of Praag“- we had bugs in the walls, Silent-Hill style images of mould and decay, and huge (non-monstrous) slugs in the garden. I based the house on the Haunting Horror adventure from The Restless Dead campaign. I decided against running TRD as it stands as it doesn’t quite gel together so I’m planning to use the adventures standalone as part of The Enemy Within, linking some of them together. I might put up the stats and a brief summary for the Spawn in the future, but it looked like a mixture of the Alien Queen, a giant spider, and one of B5s Shadows, so all good
One of my WFRP house rules is that you roll 1d10, not 1d6 as mentioned in the rules. It works well. Although this can make combat deadly it cuts both ways – PCs can get taken down as easily as monsters. It definitely makes things a lot more gritty, more like Joe Abercrombie than David Eddings! NPCs and PCs can still use skills like Dodge Blow, so the fact that the amount of damage can actually cause a critical hit in one blow makes my players very wary of their PCs picking a fight with competent melee opponents! There’s always Fate points too