Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Arunstoun

RPG retrospective 2012 – Edinburgh Gaming

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!

Kickstarter

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.

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!

RPG plans for Summer 2012

I’ve got quite a bit of things planned over the next few months, both on the site and at ORC Edinburgh. And its not just me: there’s a mini-campaign of the Dragon Age RPG kicking off, a Pathfinder game, a GURPS Swashbuckling Superhero game, as well as my own Marvel Super Heroes game.

I’m also thinking of participating in a Blog Carnival about the Undead as part of May of the Dead next month. Although I’ve never been enthused about zombie films or similar, they and other undead have often featured prominently in my games. I’m probably going to focus on what drives them. I may also look at haunted houses too.

I’ve also got vague plans for running a good old-fashioned Dungeon bash – it may even take the form of a tournament, wherein two different parties take on the same dungeon. I’m leaning towards a Liche-created series of traps and a menagerie of monsters, but may also feature some ideas I came up with for a Thieves Guild trial in Ashes of Freedom. Essentially, I improved upon those shown in that sequence in the 1st D&D movie, featuring Richard O’Brien (reprising his role from the Crystal Maze TV show, “Get through the maze and win a prize!”). I’m considering running it under Pathfinder or The Secret Fire RPG rules, both of which lend themselves to this kind of game.

As we get through to the end of summer, I’m looking at the return of my Ashes of Freedom D&D game. I’m hoping to get a number of the original players back for this, although it’ll likely have a few new folk.

Now that I have largely finished a lot of the work that I was doing for TSF I’ve got a bit more free time (despite upping my game at ORC. This means that I may finally get a chance to start work on a couple of stalled projects: an implementation of the FATE RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom, and the Arunstoun setting/adventure for Call of Cthulhu. Both have had some work done on them but as usual, I’ve not followed up on them due to the time constraints involved.

Any day now I’m hoping to hear more about the global D&D playtest (AKA D&Dnext or 5e) for the next edition, so may also work that into my schedule. I’m not sure how good or bad it will be as there’s a lot of information bouncing around the net, but so far it sounds like it will likely provide some kind of framework to run any edition or implementation. Not sure how that’ll work as each edition tends to have overcompensated for the faults of the previous one. Well, we’ll see.

And finally: I’ve got an idea for NaNoWri month in November (National Novel Writing Month). It’s likely to be a bit of a mystery but played out through the eyes of three different characters in three different times. Should be an interesting experiment!

2011 year end retrospective of ORC Edinburgh

ORC Edinburgh has had an “interesting” year – in the same vein as “May you live interesting times!”. This has been my second year as defacto ORC webmaster (and general heid yin) for ORC Edinburgh. I’m going to try to create these reviews on an annual basis.

The year started off in a neo-Ice Age with many us either negotiating the icy planes of Edinburgh or trapped in drifts of snow. However, we persevered, both players and GMs alike traipsing through the snow and ice to game! Then in February, disaster struck: the Meadow Bar suffered an extensive fire that gutted the function room where we played, depriving both us and the Edinburgh University boardgame Society (FAQ) of a venue. It’s happened before: Cafe Nero, The Royal Engineers Club, the Three Tuns…

ORC Edinburgh has a history of getting together and adapting, and its definitely one of our strengths – for a community of (essentially) volunteers we do quite well. Thankfully a member of ORC (Deleriad) noticed that board games and the like were being played in Illegal Jacks, a new bar and grill on Lothian Road. It turned out to be an astute choice of venue, with very nice food and a fine choice of music (I might be wrong, but most RPGers tend to be fans of rock music of some kind).

With Illegal Jacks as our new “base of operations,” we were able to run two or more games a week there. IJ made us very welcome there, even to the extent that we had our own table! It gave us the chance to welcome screenwriter and RPG designer George Strayton and playtest his game, the Secret Fire RPG (then called Legends & Labyrinths). Edinburgh’s own Drunken Badger games also provided ORC with the opportunity to playtest their RPG, Cliché: The Roleplaying Game of Predictable Horror as well.

We also said hello to a lot of new members and farewell to others – and also farewell to some  long-running campaigns. Both my Ashes of Freedom game and the New World were wound down, although it is likely that AoF will return later in the year. We’re also back in the refurbished Meadow Bar function room which has much nicer décor now as well, but still run games in Illegal Jacks and Cafe Renroc as well.

By far one of the most popular games to play at ORC was D&D. Love it or hate it, the granddaddy of them all was still going strong. Regardless of your feelings about the game it remains as popular as ever with many new people entering the hobby. Quite a lot of new players are looking to play D&D – some have been influenced by web comics like Penny Arcade or via computer games such as Neverwinter Nights. There appears to be a bit of a dearth of DMs running games though  – however Embracraig is running a consistent game at Cafe Renroc on a fortnightly basis. This new venue proves popular with those gamers who live nearby!

Another old favourite, Call of Cthulhu, returned in the form of the mini-campaign Cthulhu Brittanica: Shadows Over Scotland. This is currently hugely popular at ORC – I may also run some of these adventures next year myself, as well as finally getting my Arunstoun setting completed! In related news, my Cthulhutech campaign (The Damsacus Road) has finally got off the ground in the Through the Looking Glass setting. The wh40k games have all been popular too with the most recent, Black Crusade, starting a new campaign at ORC this December.

ORC also hosted a few pub meets this year: these proved to be hugely successful and gave us all a chance to socialize outside of a game for once. It looks like we’ll be running a few more of these over the coming year – it gave those new to ORC the chance to chat and get to know the other members, old and new.

I think its safe to say that ORC is going to be around for a while to come. We have a pretty substantial membership now, although attendance fluctuates wildly – however this seems to be one of those things that happens these days. If you’re running a game, I’d suggest you get at least six players. That way you’ll also cover any possible absences and still have a fun game!

Anyway: Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

September break!

I’ve been a busy guy over the last fortnight, both at work and at home. Work has been mad, but I’ve found some time to complete the following at long last.

Secret Fire Games – website

I’ve built a new website for Secret Fire Games, using WordPress and also phpBB3 for the forum. I created the theme with Artisteer. I’m hoping that this will help highlight the Secret Fire RPG, and Secret Fire Games as a “micropress”. Like microbreweries, a micropress is to my thinking, to paraphrase the microbrewery definition from Wikipedia, something that  “produces a limited amount [of product], and is associated by consumers with innovation and uniqueness,” which is pretty much how I’d describe what we did with The Secret Fire RPG. I’d love to hear peoples reactions to the game (and the site!).

I don’t consider TSF to be a fantasy heartbreaker – mentioned here –  despite it having its roots in OD&D (Original D&D) and other FRPGs. What I’m finding interesting is just how polarised reactions can be to a game like The Secret Fire. Some old school gamers love it, some hate it – new gamers love it, some hate it too; but its the level of polarisation that interests me: it gets a very strong reaction often with no middle ground. I’m glad that the name was changed from Legends & Labyrinths and became non-OGL: it instantly become its own game as a result rather than sounding like yet another d20 system  fantasy heartbreaker. Some online reviews have even said it outweirds LotFP  (Lamentations of the Flame Princess): I consider that a job well done.

ORC website update

Again on the web front: I’ve updated the ORC website, but I’ve still to make the move to the next version of Joomla (1.7). I’m worried what happen with the Kunena forum and some of the modules when I do. I upgraded the Community Builder and UddeIM PM software though. I got rid of the Gallery and Mobile version as the latter knackered the site logins and the the Gallery was hugely out of date (and not really seeing much use), so that’s two less things to upgrade.

Ashes of Freedom D&D3.5 Campaign

Again at ORC, my Ashes of Freedom game concluded on Saturday, with a certain amount of sturm und drang: pitched battles featuring undead and Mandragora, Red Mandragora flying the PCs off a cliff, a Red Dragon taking on a Lich, plot revelations galore, and Demogorgon nearly fully manifesting on the Prime Material plane. And a doomsday device beginning to count down…

I’m a little sad that its over, but the game has had a good innings and there’s a lot of material I’m very happy with. It may be that I return to Volkrania again some day as a setting, but for now it is at peace. I think that no matter how you feel about D&D, if you have a good campaign vibe like that, who cares? I’ve left it open to begin another chapter at some point – always a good idea to leave ’em wanting more.

Deathwatch Campaign

Our GrimDark 40k RPG gaming group are reaching the end of their sessions of the Deathwatch game. I’m not used to being in a position of command, but as Squad Leader Sammeal, I’m not doing too bad: patching wounds and leading a bunch of Adeptus Astartes (40k Space Marines) against a Genestealer threat is quite rewarding. I’ve never really thought of myself as having leadership skills – I’m always hero #2 in an RPG – but this has given me a chance to shine for once in a leadership role (or at least glow dully).

So that’s the end of what I’ve been up to.

As it stands, I’m kinda amazed that I have free time to do anything else these days. However, I’m taking September off: ORC can manage without me for a month, and I’m not running/playing anything (yet); we have multiple venues; plenty of folk running games, and the website is updated as much as I can (see above). The Secret Fire RPG is out and the website has been updated. I’ve still got some tweaking to do with the theme – for different screen sizes (a right damn pain, let me tell you), but that’s a minor issue. I’ve not yet begun proper work on my part of the first TSF supplement: Fragment 1: Way of Tree, Sword, and Flame, but I’ve a lot of ideas that I’ll put down later, not to mention an adventure for TSF.

LSD and I are away to the Caribbean, Antigua to be precise, for a week and we’ll be going off-grid. No mobile, email, ‘net, nothing. I’m loading my Kindle as I fully intend to relax: I’m not going running around the island. The accommodation is all-inclusive, and I intend to avail myself of this!

COMING UP!

The Dresden Files RPG

The Wednesday night sessions I play will switch to a fortnightly one. I’ve only recently got into the Dresden Files and love the whole idea – especially a certain scene in Dead Beat which is just… so… mind-blowingly… cool. Anyway, I’m looking forward to playing the RPG!

Arunstoun & Cthulhutech

I’m finally going to get this Call of Cthulhu setting created. With Cthulhu Brittanica: Shadows over Scotland out, I definitely need to run at least one game of Call of Cthulhu in that setting. Even if Shadows over Scotland is set in the 1920s, I may use the events to foreshadow another episode of Through the Looking Glass, my Cthulhutech setting (part of Dark Edinburgh).

Against the Odds

I’m still weighing up this setting for use with The Secret Fire RPG. There’ll need to be some changes to it, but I’m glad to report that at least one of the players from the original 4e game is using some of the events in the game to spur the plot for his own novella.

The Secret Fire

Well, I’ll contributing to Fragment 1: The Way of Tree, Sword, and Flame.

So that’s what I have been, and will be, up to!

Dark Edinburgh

Dark Edinburgh Logo

The Dark Edinburgh Project – Edinburgh’s Dark Side

Dark Edinburgh was originally an idea I had many years ago. At the time I was seriously considering writing a werewolf novel and compiled a huge dossier on things like the Beast of Exmoor and other crypto-zoological entities. I started drafting my vision of Edinburgh in the future (this was the mid-1990s incidentally), and wrote a few chapters before thinking that it was just getting too corny. I sometimes wonder that if I had persevered Fenris Caine might be up there with the *gag* Twilight or Sookie Stackhouse series (True Blood is half as clever as it thinks it is). My first (execrable) piece of fiction set in Dark Edinburgh can be still be downloaded, but it I only keep it here for posterity – it’s safe to say I’m no Jim Butcher or George RR Martin.

Although the “novel” never came to pass, the concept was used in a standalone game of Vampire: the Masquerade, as part of an all-nighter session. The PCs were mortals, actually playing as their own selves 20 years on, using Caine as an incentive and the group hunting down a vampire culminating in a showdown in a deserted tower block in Gilmerton! I’m not the only one to have had this world view: Edinburgh has two Vampire LARPs (Live Action Role Playing). Embraced.org.uk are one of them (don’t be put of by the website – might not be safe for work). The other is Isles of Darkness (part of Camarilla UK).

At this time it was still a germ of an idea, until I picked up Cthulhutech after hearing how it was so cool. Whether you think Cthulhutech is a good game or not, it lead to me creating the Edinburgh in the Aeon War of 2085. This is what became the Through the Looking Glass series of games (at ORC Edinburgh), a somewhat Dystopian view of life in Auld Reekie, and really marks the realisation of what the Dark Edinburgh concept is: a twisted view of Edinburgh. I let my imagination run a little wild, but I’m a little more proud of the fiction I wrote for the Cthulhutech adventure, When the Ocean Wept: Under a Heavy Rain, Corporate Ties, and Vanguard Vengeance. It is not Cthulhutech (CT) canon – that has Scotland under the control of the Migou (Fungi from Yuggoth) and everyone is holed up in Manchester. I took umbrage at this, to the extent of posting publicly on the CT forums on why it didn’t work.

For me, the scariest part of Dark Edinburgh really comes from a dream – actually, a very vivid nightmare – and essentially boiled down to my idea for Arunstoun, a Call of Cthulhu setting. I’ll likely run it at ORC Edinburgh at Halloween or thereabouts. It’s inspired by the A70 road to Lanark, known as the “Lang Whang” (see the wikipedia entry… stop sniggering!). It’s pretty desolate and occasionally there are small communities or isolated farmhouses, the fictitious Arunstoun being one of these. The fact that the road was also used by the grave-robbers, Burke and Hare, to transport cadavers adds a whole new sinister light to it as well.

So that’s Dark Edinburgh in a nutshell – as I said, they’re very loosely connected!

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