Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Kickstarter

A Silent Spring!

It’s been pretty quiet here recently. There’s a number of reasons for this, and I’ll come to them shortly: it’s a mixture of good and bad news. Simply put: I’d had a lot of plans but some are going to have to take a back seat. I’ll be attending the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet conventions this year, but no other conventions.

Again it’s down to time – and sanity. I’ve pushed myself to the limit over the last six months, for a number of reasons, most of them personal. They’ve no place here, but suffice to say, I’ve had to compartmentalize things and take some steps.

The following is somewhat bullet-pointed, but it helps me get things ordered in my head.

So, gaming-wise…

I’m running two fortnightly campaigns at ORC now: Achtung! Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis, and the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign (the latter of which I helped write in a tiny fashion). I’m enjoying running both. I’ve good players, decent attendance; and as they’re already published, easy to prep for.

I’m doing freelance work for Modiphius Publishing on the Mutant Chronicles line – the indexes and occasional demented captions in most of the supplements are mine (as well as some of the proofing!). I’ve also been helping stat up the Dark Eden Supplement. I’m hoping to pick up more freelance work in the months ahead. I’m finding it very rewarding, as well as giving me a creative challenge.

I didn’t make it to Conpulsion this year, sadly – nor will I make Q-CON owing to a prior commitment. I hope to, next year; if time and finances permit. I will be at the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, of course! Looking forward to doing a bit more networking this year at them, plus I enjoy meeting other gamers. Not signed up to run anything this time, so I might get to actually play some games this time around.

My Edinburgh Gaming page still proves incredibly popular, so I’ve been keeping that updated! On the down side, I’d hoped to try to get the disparate gaming communities to talk to each other more, but I just haven’t had the time. I try to do it when I can though, but I step back from the politics now: it’s still very entrenched in old rifts and personal vendettas.

Over the years, I’ve been asked to review products or publicise Kickstarters and game launches. I’m of two minds about these. Often, it’s someone looking for free publicity or product evangelist for products that aren’t even ready. Also, getting time to do a playtest or demo review session can be tricky. On the other hand, it’s pretty good fun to do.

ORC’s Games day at the Kilderkin was a big success. There’s stuff we could do differently, and more effectively, and I/we’ve learnt from it. Not sure when we’ll do the next one, but next year I think! We had a lot of new visitors. The Kilderkin has also hosted the Conpulsion’s after-party and the Board Gamers took over the pub at one point. I like to think that I may have had something to do with that.

I ran a fun game of Conan (mid-Kickstarter) at Tabletop cafe , just up the road from the Kilderkin. I hope to run more demo games there soon, when time permits. Good food and drink, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere. I need to visit there more. As part of the Kickstarter, I’m going to be drawn in as a stat’ed NPC in Conan: Adventures in the Hyborian Age. I’ll also be appearing in art and as an NPC in the Infinity RPG.

The novel has been assigned as a secondary aim, along with any short fiction. I know I’m technically capable of writing them; just not temporally! It’s one of those things that I may revisit in future months, but for now, it’s on the back-burner.

I’m part of the Modiphius Silvershield scheme that allows GMs to get credit from running games – in my case, I ran a lot of games last year, so have built up some considerable credit. I also get points for referring new business. You can get 10% off Modiphius products in their store (both PDF and print) by using this link r.sloyalty.com/r/uc3wlqcchb8R

I’m taking my freelance work seriously enough to register with the Inland Revenue for Self-Assessment. Morally, and practically, it is the right thing to do. I’ve done it before, during my Nova Games era. There’s a chance I may or may not have to pay more tax; but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get any tax rebate. I’m certainly not paying for an accountant to do it.

I’ve managed to ask some members of ORC Edinburgh (the gaming community I help run) to take on Moderator roles for the site, so I can start taking a step back from that side of things. It’s an easy transition to make, thankfully. I’ve lost count of the different groups now, or what games are currently running and/or looking for players. ORC is now so big, it’s become difficult to keep track of things, in that respect.

I’m not doing any war gaming or board gaming now, I’m afraid. I don’t have the time during the week, and need to maintain a “normal” life as it were. Plus, I seem to have trouble dealing with some of the more complex ones – I think it might be a side effect.

I’d hoped to get a chance to play some starter games of Cassus Belli’s Infinity game (the miniatures are absolutely amazing), and Battletech. I’d been thinking of trying to develop some of the Cthulhutech setting into the Battletech rules for some time now. I’ll get around to it at some point, I reckon.

I’m still awaiting the RAFM Cthulhu minis from their Kickstarter, and the Cthulhu FATE book, Into the Shadows. I’ve got doubts I’ll ever see these, as it seems anything Cthulhu-related on Kickstarter is doomed to “eternal lie”… but at least the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu shipped (which I should get from my FLGS)!

I’ve tried to do a lot over the last six months and it has caught up with me spectacularly, so I think it’s for the best that I “clear my head” of the extraneous clutter.

In other news…

I’m reducing my time on social media. It can easily consume a huge amount of free time or attention. I’m on Google+ and LinkedIn, but hardly use them. I am still on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier if you spend 15 minutes on there, rather than getting involved in the minutiae! In moderation… I should probably update my profile on LinkedIn anyway to reflect the changes in my professional circumstances (and the About Me part of the site)!

I’m moving out of the flat (briefly) for renovation work, which could take a week or more. Had another aqueous insurgence (water ingress) in January! I can’t say it’s not a stressful place to be in (in every sense of the word), but things are moving forward. Looking ahead to getting it over with: every stage completed is one step forward. Still, it’s a bit of an “embuggerance”. I’ve got to get quotes for removal and storage and have to make it clear to the loss adjuster I’m NOT going to be staying in the flat while they rip down the plaster-and-lathe ceiling.

My day job has recently thrown up a number of challenges. I do a lot of work with virtualised machines (VMware) and field sites. The Chief Executive at my work has personally congratulated me on the work I do supporting the science. I’m becoming far more comfortable with the High Performance Cluster running Scientific Linux at my work. I’ve also manage to remove Flash Player and Quicktime from our PC estate of 1500+ computers. By the way, if you haven’t removed these, you should! Flash in Chrome is “sandboxed”, but not in other browsers like IE or Firefox. Quicktime is longer supported or patched by Apple, and is now insecure.

I need to reorganise this website: make it more simple. There’s too many pages, and this site has evolved, content-wise. It’s gone far beyond what was a simple RPG setting site. In fact, it’s been largely sidelined in recent years, as I’ve become more focussed on Edinburgh’s gaming community, conventions, and freelancing. That’s pretty easy to sort, thankfully. Not sure if I’ll keep using this site theme, though.

I’m also heading down south for the May Bank holiday, to Craster Tower, a 5* accommodation. It’s owned by my other half’s family, so I thought I’d give it a plug! Plus I’ve never really been anywhere 5* 🙂 My girlfriend used to work as an Archaeologist on Ernest Shackleton’s base camps in the Antarctic so we’re heading to London for the Shackleton Centennial service at Westminster Abbey. I’ve been reading up on him, and her experiences there might be very handy when I run Beyond the Mountains of Madness or Assault on the Mountains of Madness (Achtung! Cthulhu).

All in all, feeling I’m in a better place than six months ago!

Reaper Minis Assemble(d)!

Years ago I was something on a miniatures gamer playing wh40k mainly and Warhammer Fantasy Battle ( I never had a chance to field my 5,000 point Undead army though). I’m kind of drifting back into it although I’d prefer Deadzone over wh40k these days (after being involved in that Kickstarter!). Months back I got involved in the Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter too. Today I got around to assembling the minis – and there’s  a lot of them. I’d read up on the materials you need a little and I learned the following:

  1. Use Superglue or other cyano-acrylate glue to assemble the larger pieces (see below), not normal model glue – the plastic is different apparently.
  2. You may need to straighten some of the straight edges such as sword or staffs where miniatures have been compressed in transit. Carefully use boiling water to straighten them.
  3. check how the parts fit together before assembling them, there are no instructions on the bigger pieces.

The minis are all good quality with hardly any flash (residue from the moulding process). I went for three of the larger models – Cthulhu, Kaladrax Reborn, and Nethyrmaul the Undying.There were a number of smaller models that needed assembly: the tail of one of the demons was particularly annoying, extending below the base of the mini. Other than that, only a half -dozen of the minis need straightening.

  • Cthulhu was easy to assemble, although fitting the legs to the base was a struggle. They eventually fit and the rest was a breeze for this piece.
  • Neythrmaul was a nightmare. I should have assembled the head first. There’s two jaw pieces and the tongue – which isn’t immediately obviously form the box. The two shoulder sections didn’t quite align properly until I applied considerable force to click them together and there’s still a slight gap in the rib cage.
  • Kaladrax is a big heavy piece, but was fairly straightforward – the tail (in 3 pieces) was tricky and is likely to come off if knocked – it didn’t fit together so well. I had to carefully check the picture to check how the hipbone pieces fitted. I built the dragon’s (or dracolichs) torso, head and claws first, mounted it on the base then added the wings and tail. It’s bloody massive.

Anyway here’s the complete lot.

Reaper Minis - Bones Kickstarter

Reaper Minis – Bones Kickstarter

RIGHT ON COMMANDER!!! Turn to 400.

It’s the end of 2012 today, so Happy New Year from here in Edinburgh! I’ve been heavily involved in Kickstarter this year. More than I should be, if I’m honest. Maybe it’s nostalgia as the year’s end approaches, but there’s a number of projects that hearken back to the old days for me.

ELITE: Dangerous is one of these. Back in 1984, my family got a BBC model computer. I scrimped and saved the £14.95 for floppy disk version of Acornsoft’s Elite game. It’s long ago enough that I can still remember that utilities was the most expensive thing I’d ever bought at that time – it was the 80s and was 11! I’ve a lot of memories regarding the heavily detailed faux-leather manual, Robert Holdstock’s Dark Wheel novella (a sequel to follow the following year, which didn’t appear), and struggling with the ship recognition chart (usually in the middle of combat!). I remember breaking the Voltmace joystick from heavy use, leaning on the fire button! When I went around to a friend’s for tea (the taper version which took 10 minutes to load from tape), we’d take turns piloting the Cobra Mk.3, and inevitably shooting our own missiles that the other had just launched! Since the BBC I used to have is now long gone, I’ve not played since – although I did finally reach the giddy heights of the Elite eventually. I’ve a lot of fond memories, but didn’t have an Amiga to play the sequels. So I’m happy to hear that Elite is back, in the form of Elite: Dangerous, now 90% funded on Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous). There’s only a few days to go but I’d love to see this game made.

Another bit of nostalgia is the Fighting Fantasy series. This series is the main reason why I am an RPGer, and Jonathan Green, one of the authors is putting together a book on the series Fighting Fantasy: You are the Hero, it looks at the history of FF (as Fighting Fantasy was called), and will involve interviews with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (both wrote Fighting Fantasy and, Jackson the companion series, Sorcery!). They are also known for founding Games Workshop, Eidos Interactive (Livingstone), and  F.I.S.T. (Jackson). It’s been 30 years since the Warlock of Firetop Mountain came out. Scary stuff. When I look at some of the RPGs on offer we’ve a long way since then. Should be interesting to see what their take is on the way the gaming landscape has changed.

I’ve also been receiving twitter messages from @SynnibarrInvictus (don’t bother trying to follow it, the account has been removed for some reason). Apparently that car crash of an RPG has reached its funding goal and will now be re-released as Synnibarr Invictus. AW, HELL, NO!!! – that is all.

Happy New Year everyone.

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!

eBay, Werewolf and Shadows of Esteren Kickstarter, and WFRP MP3s

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 🙂

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