RPG retrospective 2013

RPG retrospective 2013 is the latest in what has become something of an annual tradition for me. I’ve let the GMs and players over at ORC speak for themselves on the ORC website, but its been quite a year for me.

Personal achievements

I’ve not written so much on this blog this year, as to be quite honest I’ve not had time. What content I have put up has hopefully been of some use to anyone using the site. I hope to try and blog more over the next year, but will try to include more quality content, both specific gaming content, and otherwise.

Games I’ve been running this year included PathfinderAD&D and WFRP, and Wildfire’s new RPG, The Void (part of the Cthulhu Saga, a review of the game can be found here). The Pathfinder game I ran was part of the Ronin GM idea I had. I used the Sands of Time setting I made up (some of the places are detailed on the ORC wiki here), an Egypt-meets-Cthulhu, style setting. I only ran it for five or six sessions and although it proved a lot of fun to run, I didn’t really achieve aims I had for my role as  “Ronin GM”, although a few people that had never played RPGs or Pathfinder got the experience! I’ve described the Void RPG elsewhere, but it has potential.

AD&D has been something of a cathartic experience. It’s nice to have a simple dungeon bash that doesn’t challenge GM and players yet remains considerable. I’ve run it using AD&D before and its surprising how easy it came back to me, and even new players find it fairly intuitive over 3.5/4e. It also had the first PC fatality I’ve had in a game for quite a while. The group has finally got a full complement after a few folk dropped out during the year, and the new mage seems to even the score a bit. Expect a more detailed description on how I’m running the mega-scenario “The Temple of Elemental Evil” in a future post, or posts.

WFRP has gone from being bleakly grimdark (and po-faced) to something that hopefully has been fun to play and run – after my mistakes running Shadows over Bogenhafen (detailed here), Death on the Reik has been a joy to run. A number of fantastic experiences have been had by the players and the Queen of the Reik (under Captain Priscilla) now feels like home to the party. Heart of Chaos and Legacy of Praag were two of the encounters I came up with to spice up the adventure. I’ve chosen to skip “Something Rotten in Kislev” after Power Behind the Throne, choosing to run Drachenfels instead. SRiK isn’t a good module, and I got bored just reading it.

EDIT: I also ran Fires of Perdition, and, although it ran for a short time, was immense fun to both run and play. This was a mash-up of the Only War rules with the PCs as members of the Adeptus Arbites. Set in the Hive city of Perdition, on the world of Crucible, it was pretty much a knock-off Judge Dredd setting (more info on the setting here). If I ran it again, I’d definitely try to be little less epic – the players said they enjoyed playing a “street level” judge without the whole Chaos-warp-doom that pervades so much wh40k.

Other achievements? My freelance work on demons (and the artist’s interpretation) finally appeared in the supplement: Fragment 1: The Way of Tree Sword, & Flame, working alongside designers such as: George Strayton, Logan Bonner, Tony Reyes, Thomas Reid, Bill Smith, Ptolemy Slocum, Ron Corn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Curtis, John Adamus, Steve Winter, and Jim Ward. I recently appeared on Hazard Gaming’s Penny Red podcast, as part of their “Inside the Roleplayers Studio” series. I was recently interviewed by playbymail.net about my part in the Nova Games PBM partnership, for Issue 2 of the new PBM magazine “Suspense And Decision” (yet to be published).

I’ve backed a lot of RPG Kickstarters over the year (and other games). I’m especially looking forward to getting Deadzone setup and running (although I’ve a few gripes about the mini construction). Also the “Horror on the Orient Express” boxed set for Call of Cthulhu and “Rise of the Drow” Pathfinder campaign are due for release next year.

RPG plans for 2014

As well as running WFRP and AD&D, I’d like to get cracking on my novel idea. I’m not having troubles with ideas of the plot, it’s the actual linking them together and getting the words out of my head 🙂 .I’ve also decided to run a game session on Sunday evening called Survival Sunday; where we play Shadows of Esteren, The Void (the Stygian Cycle in all likelihood), CthulhuTech, and of course, Call of Cthulhu. Once “Horror on the Orient Express” arrives I’ll be running that.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

Fires of Perdition – Only War & Dark Heresy Setting

Fires of Perdition was a game I’ve wanted to run for a while, and is set in the Midwinter Expanse. The group will play Adeptus Arbites (wh40k Judges), solving crimes in the hive city of Perdition.  I though its would be fun to run a game that didn’t focus on Chaos, Daemons, or Xenos – instead one that focused on dealing with the realities of the 41st Millennium – crime, social unrest, and good ole-fashioned bad guys. For more information, there’s more detail on the ORC Edinburgh Wiki here. It’s also given me some ideas for the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign.

What’s interesting (to me, anyway) is that I’m using the “Only War” wh40k RPG for Fires of Perdition. This might seem an unusual choice, as Only War focuses upon Imperial Guard, not the Adeptus Arbites, which you can play in Dark Heresy. There is method in my madness however. Dark Heresy is a flawed book and it has taken several volumes for Fantasy Flight to get the balance right. I’ve played through most of the wh40k RPGs from Fantasy Flight. I’ve a number of criticisms of the books that are more layout related and setting specific – such as being properly laid out, a better index, etc.

They can be pretty intensive with some of the rules (e.g. squad rules in Deathwatch) that to my mind get in the way of a smooth sessions running. Given that a third of the books are usually fluff as well, I’m more than happy to stick to a single simplified rules set. In the past we’ve had these fairly weighty tomes, but they all share a similar rules set. So I’ve basically taken Only War and applied the skill aptitudes to the Arbitrator from Dark Heresy. This was before the second edition of Dark Heresy came out! As you may have noticed, there’s a similarity to 2000AD’s Judge Dredd. This is by design: the Arbites are mentioned as being somewhat similar to the Judges in early editions, and I thought “So why not?”

I’ve also added a little more variety to the Arbites roles, as well as coming up with some decent vehicles that they might have. This way, not all the Arbites PCs will be the same in Fires of Perdition. All Arbites begin with the following skills: Common Lore – Adeptus Arbites, Common Lore – Imperium, Common Lore – Perdition, Inquiry, Scholastic Lore – Judgment. All Arbites begin with the following talents: Weapon training (Bolt, Las, Power, Solid Projectile) They begin play with the following standard equipment: Bolt pistol, Carapace armour (Head, Arms, Body, Legs), helmet with micro-bead and respirator.

Creating Arbites PCs for Fires of Perdition

There are a number of different roles in Perdition’s Adeptus Arbites. Some are extremely specialised, but the majority of Judges are Street Judges (but that shouldn’t stop players choosing, say, PsiDiv). When creating Arbites PC, roll 2d10+20 as normal for stats. For most PC Judges in Fires of Perdition, their homeworld will be Crucible. They can come from a different world – roll a D10: if a 10 is rolled on a 1d10, they can come from a different world entirely (using the rules in Dark Heresy). PCs all start with D4+1 Fate Points and D6 +12 Wounds.

Street Judge (Vigiles Civitas)

The rank and file of Adeptus Arbites are Street Judges. They are Judge, jury, and all-too-often, executioner. They are uncompromising, tough and hard-bitten, and only a few survive to retirement. Street Judges usually know their territory or “beat” extremely well.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Ballistic Skill
  • Starting Aptitudes: Ballistic Skill, Defence, Finesse, Offence, Strength, Toughness, Weapon Skill
  • Starting Skills: Awareness, Charm or Intimidate, Interrogation
  • Starting Talents: Double Team, Quick Draw or Rapid Reload, Take Down
  • Specialist Equipment: 2 Stun Grenades, Power Maul, Heracles (Perdition Pattern) motorcycle

Templars (Vigiles Doctrinas)

Sometimes called Templars and Temple Guards, these Arbites are tasked with keeping the Imperial Faithful in line. As well as being ceremonial guards for the Ecclesiarchy, they also investigate possible claims of miracles or heresy and are well versed in religious law and doctrine.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Intelligence
  • Starting Aptitudes: Ballistic Skill, Defence, Intelligence, Knowledge, Weapon Skill, Willpower
  • Starting Skills: Awareness, Common Lore – Ecclesiarchy or Common Lore – Imperial Cult, Intimidate, Scrutiny, Forbidden Lore – Cults
  • Starting Talents: Cold Hearted, Peer (Ecclesiarchy), Weapon Training (Low Tech)
  • Specialist Equipment: Power Sword, Ceremonial Glaive (Great Weapon)

Tech Judges (Vigiles Vestibulum)

Tech Judges, often called TekJudges or TekDiv, are trained in the ways of the Mechanicus Ominissiah. Most station houses have their own TechPriest, but there is a requirement for technical knowledge in the field. TekJudges are trained to deal in all manner of forensics, computer or otherwise, as well as documenting a crime scene.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Intelligence
  • Starting Aptitudes: Ballistic Skill, Fieldcraft, Intelligence, Knowledge, Tech, Willpower
  • Starting Skills: Common Lore – Tech, Forbidden Lore – Adeptus Mechanicus or Logic, Interrogation or Security, Operate (Surface) or Operate (Aeronautica), Scholastic Lore – Chymistry or Scholastic Lore – Cyphers, Tech Use
  • Starting Talents: Exotic Weapon training – Webber, Technical Knock, Weapon Training (Any two from Flame, Heavy, Launcher, Melta, Plasma, Power)
  • Specialist Equipment: Combi-tool, Dataslate, Multikey, Interface port.

Vigiles Medicae (Medical)

Medical Judges or MedJudges often work closely with TekJudges. As well as carrying out autopsies, they provide biological and chemical forensics. They are also authorised to carry out first aid on wounded Judges as well as forensic work.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Intelligence
  • Starting Aptitudes: Ballistic Skill, Fieldcraft, Intelligence, Knowledge, Perception, Willpower
  • Starting Skills: Interrogation, Logic, Medicae, Scholastic Lore – Chymistry, Scrutiny
  • Starting Talents: Cold Hearted or Jaded, Master Chirurgeon, Peer (Adeptus Arbites)
  • Specialist Equipment: Medikit

Vigiles Psykana (Psykana Division)

The PsiDiv, or Vigiles Psykana, are tasked with dealing with what they call the “Weird stuff”. They deal with reports of mutants in the sewers, conspiracy theories, and other strange events that other Judges cannot handle. They are tasked with hunting down rogue Psykers as well and often are called upon by the Inquisition or Adeptus Astra Telepathica in such instances.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Willpower
  • Starting Aptitudes: Defence, Intelligence, Knowledge, Perception, Psyker, Willpower
  • Starting Skills: Common Lore – Adeptus Astra Telepathica, Forbidden Lore – Psykers, Intimidate, Psyniscience, Scholastic Lore – Occult
  • Starting Talents: Jaded, Orthoproxy, Resistance – Psychic Powers or Dead Eye Shot
  • Specialist Equipment: 2 Stun Grenades, Power Maul

Anti-crime (Vigilum Antisclersis)

Sometimes known as “The Wally Squad”, Judges from this division are used to spending a vast amount of their time undercover in the Hive gangs or within the criminal underworld. They are usually somewhat paranoid, and often display idio-synchratic behavior, a legacy of their undercover work.

  • Characteristic Bonus: +5 Fellowship
  • Starting Aptitudes: Ballistic Skill, Fellowship, Fieldcraft, Intelligence, Knowledge, Perception
  • Starting Skills: Charm or Intimidate, Common Lore – Underworld, Deceive, Survival
  • Starting Talents: Unremarkable or Cold Hearted, Peer (Underworld), Light Sleeper or Street Fighting
  • Specialist Equipment: Las carbine, Autopistol (Compact), Hab clothing, papers with multiple cover identities.

Vehicles of Crucible’s Adeptus Arbites

The Judges of Crucible use a variety of vehicles but the most common vehicles they use are:

  • The Heracles (Perdition Pattern) motorcycle is the most commonly seen vehicle and is as much a symbol of the Arbites themselves. This heavy motorcycle has twin-mounted bolt guns and is amazingly durable; capable of pulling more than five times its own weight easily. It has repeatedly proven its worth in armed pursuits. This is bike is my own creation, so I’ll have to come up with some rules. it probably looks pretty much like the Space Marine bikes but smaller.
  • For general transportation the Imperial workhorse, the Chimaera, is the most favoured. For pure intimidation value or the armour it affords, it provides better cover and security than domestic vehicles or the Heracles.
  • Despite the coverage of pict-corders, it is sometimes necessary for an “eye in the sky”. TekDiv have a small squadron of Landspeeders kitted out with heavy bolters. Piloted by TekJudges, they are rarely seen but are carefully maintained.
  • When the Governor refused to open fire upon citizens during the early Food Riots, the Arbites requisitioned a number of Hellhounds from the PDF. The flamers were replaced by TekDiv with water cannons, and later used in both crowd suppression and the fires that started.

Fires of Perdition Links & Downloads

  • The ORC Edinburgh Wiki which holds details of the campaign and up to date rules.
  • Only War Combat cards – combat summaries that could be used with miniatures or as a reference tool.

Plans for 2013

My work life is pretty much leaving me with very little spare time. Working the hours I am right now, I’m pretty tired when I get back. I’m still able run RPGs, and play in them, but some of my other projects are going to have to be shelved for the time being.

The Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG is a casualty of this, unfortunately. I just can’t find the time right now, nor the energy. With the success of the FATE Core Kickstarter, that could be for the best: if I wait for that to come out, then I might not need to come up with the necessary stresses, aspects, etc. I’ll come back to it at a later date.

I’m definitely going to try and write my short story though, in November, featuring Kayle Wynter. It should be an interesting exercise. It’s going to be a sort of espionage whodunit, set in the world of Ashes of Freedom. I’ve not participated in NaNoWriMo before, so it should be an interesting experience.

I’d also planned to return to D&D and to the Ashes of Freedom world, possibly using some of the DNDnext rules. Again this looks unlikely. There just won’t be enough time. However, its quite likely that I will be running some one-off games at ORC – its a good way for folk to get to know other people outside of what can be a small gaming group. They’re quick and easy and fun to run, plus they give everyone  a chance to try some systems that they may not have otherwise tried. My D&D 4e Watch upon the Border mini-campaign (and drop-in game for ORC Edinburgh) will finish shortly.

I’d also thought about running my Necroscope game at Conpulsion , the Edinburgh University RPG convention. I was going to run the New Forest game (the one that had the burning orphanage – yes, that one!). The game is usually is a blast for those players who’ve never experienced that kind of game… Although it is still some way off in April its probably best if I prioritize my time right now.

I’m also still planning on running a number of wh40k-themed games, as part of wh40kforty. Although I may have mentioned this elsewhere, a number of my friends are hitting 40 this year. The idea behind wh40kforty is to run a number of games, both 40k battles and also the RPGs (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Death Watch, and Only War – plus Black Crusade!). I have some interesting ideas, as do a number of the other folks involved. The real trick will be forging it into coherent whole.

And finally: I’ve a couple of posts that I need to get underway with: one relates to Shadows over Bogenhafen, the WFRP adventure I recently ran; the other to “magic as technology” that is still sitting as draft from December…