Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Playtest

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!

Conpulsion 2015 – Games I’m Running

As some of you may know I’m running a few games at Edinburgh’s Conpulsion 2015. This is Scotland’s biggest gaming convention, and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been. I’ve got some great news – thanks to Red Scar Publishing‘s Marc Langworthy (a fellow blogger, writer and convention survivor), I’m running a playtest of the Modiphius Entertainment‘s Mutant Chronicles adventure, The Purging of the Crucible from Red Scar Publishing. Only at Conpulsion!

I’ll do a future review of my Conpulsion experiences in a future blog article. Below are some summaries of the games I’m running and some of the background.

Saturday Afternoon (3pm-6pm): The Purging of The Crucible

I’m honoured that I’m being allowed by Modiphius and Red Scar Publishing to run this playtest game.

Although I’ve known of the Mutant Chronicles series for many years, I’ve never actually played the first or second editions, or Doom Trooper. I do own Warzone: Resurrection. I picked it up at Q-CON last year, but haven’t played it yet! On the strength of what I’d read I decided to back the Modiphius Kickstarter for the 3rd Edition. I may also watch the movie. Oh, and as part of the Kickstarter, I’ll also be in the books somewhere as an NPC…

The Solar System is a roaring mayhem of death and war. The surfaces of the inner planets have been swept clean by the violent onslaught of the Dark Legions storming hordes of Nepharites, Razides, Pretorian Stalkers and Undead Legionaries. In the enormous cities of the far and distant future, heretics devoted to the destruction of humankind stalk the dark backstreets and gloomy alleys spreading their teachings of greed, jealously and war.

In the late 21st century a growing madness of plagues, wars, terrorism and environmental collapse led to the rushed terraforming of the colonies by the major corporations, an exodus from Earth and the final cataclysmic nuclear war. It takes hundreds of years to re-establish life as we know it on the inner worlds of our solar system. Imperial, Capitol, Bauhaus and Mishima now rule from their homes in the steaming jungles of Venus, the caverns of Mercury, the deserts of Mars and the many orbitals and asteroid homes of the solar system. Luna City is a vast neutral sprawl, many hundreds of years old, built up and over the first colony and mines.

A fateful exploratory mission to Pluto unleashes an ancient evil force ‘The Dark Symmetry’ upon the thinking machines of man. As technology fails (and even fights back), mankind is beset with conspiracy and corporate intrigue from within. Dark things gather on the edges of the colonies and whilst corporate war consumes the greatest armies of man, the Dark Legion’s citadels rise up throughout the worlds of the solar system and terrifying armies march out to consume all. They were defeated long ago, they will not be defeated this time…

As the Dark Symmetry’s malign influence on humanity grows, the Brotherhood with their strange powers, arise to unite the corporate armies as one and fight back.

Set in the time of the First Dark Legion War, The Purging of The Crucible is a dark tale of survival and technological torment created by Red Scar Publishing for Modiphius Entertainment and their Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Roleplaying Game.

The best of intentions are the stuff of nightmares.

Exclusively at Conpulsion for the first time ever – this playtest game will take four players and plunge them headlong into the world of the Mutant Chronicles, as also featured in the Warzone and Doom Trooper games. It will may give players the chance help shape the final adventure and perhaps even the Mutant Chronicles universe.

System: Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition (4 players)


Other games I’m running are:

Saturday Morning (10am-1pm): For a Mouthful of Water

I’m usually a bit reluctant to buy or run post-apocalyptic games, but I was pleasantly surprised by Mutant: Year 0. There’s going to be a review of it in a future blog article.

Of course the world ends. It was always just a question of time. When it’s all over, Earth is still. Nature invades the ruined cities. Winds sweep through empty streets, turned into graveyards.

Yet life remains. In the Ark, a small settlement on the edge of a dead town, the People live. You are the spawn of humanity, but not human anymore. You are twisted funhouse images, mutated freaks. Your bodies and minds have incredible powers, but you are unstable. Fragile. None of the People are over 30 years old.

Except the Elder. Your leader, but not like you. One of the Old People. He has always warned you: Stay on your guard, stay in the Ark, or the Rot will get you. Or worse. So far, you have obeyed him. Chased off every stranger who came close to the Ark. Few dared to go out into the Zone. That is what the Elder calls the outside world.

But the safe days are over. Food is running scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent. You hunger. Factions are forming, bosses on top and slaves on the bottom. In the middle, fixers who try to turn a profit from anyone and everyone. And the Elder is dying. You’re on your own now.

It’s time to venture out. To explore the Zone, to search for artefacts, for knowledge. To build, grow the land, seek out others, create a new civilization on the ruins of the old. Seek your origin. Maybe, one day, you will find Eden of the legends, the Old People’s haven in the middle of hell. That’s where salvation and truth await, the stories say.

Maybe it’s all bullsh*t. It doesn’t matter. You have no choice. This is the beginning.

This is Year Zero.

In a post apocalyptic future, a group of mutant PCs search for fresh water in the ruins of the Ancients, vital to their survival and those within the Ark.

System: Mutant: Year 0 (4-6 players)

Saturday Evening (8-11pm): Straffar Gatan 39

The first adventure using the beta test rules for The Mutant Chronicles, set in Luna City.

Straffar Gatan 39, a rundown tenement in the Nines – a particularly nasty part of the Perimeters. Dispatch has received multiple calls from residents reporting screaming on the third floor. Dispatch receives calls like this all the time and they mostly go unanswered, but after the sixth call a Patrol unit was dispatched….

System: Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition (4-6 players)

 Sunday Morning (10am-1pm): The Truth Is Out There

Marc Farrimond, local Edinburgh gaming svengali created this RPG. Based on the making of movies, this uses a fun system for running various types of games. Check out my article on RPGs – Cinematic Style if you’re unclear on what I’m talking about. Marc regularly runs this game at Q-CON and it’s hugely popular, so hopefully it’ll be as popular at Conpulsion.

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered why the characters on the screen have a tendency to do things that no sane person would ever consider. People investigating strange noises in an abandoned house, or splitting up and exploring the area, even though they know that something is going on? Well, these are the clichés that we as viewers come to expect – even if they do make us groan out loud.

Welcome to Cliché, a roleplaying game with a difference. Cliché uses a narrative driven basis for its simple mechanics and will offer you hours of fun and entertainment without being bogged down with dozens of complex rules, tables or charts. Cliché is also completely dice-less meaning you can play more or less anywhere!

So what is Cliché? Many game systems use a complex formula of math to work out who goes first, how the player hits someone, or even things as simple as opening a door.

Cliché offers something far simpler, that retains the playability of a roleplaying system, and is driven as such by the actions of the players and the way that they respond to situations. Cliché is a game of modern cinema, and the use of clichés adds to the fun and can keep even the best Gamesmaster on his toes.

Cliché uses at its very root, the idea that an expression can allow a character to do something that will affect the outcome of an encounter.

Got your torch? Got your gun? Well, gear up because there’s something very wrong in Edinburgh Below… A game of monsters, magic, and mayhem – Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the X-Files.

System: Cliché: The RPG of Making Movies (4-6 players)

Saturday Evening (3pm-6pm): A Prayer for St. Nazaire

I’m a big fan of the Modiphius Achtung! Cthulhu setting. I ran A Prayer for St. Nazaire at Q-CON last year and also at Dragonmeet – both were well received as Call of Cthulhu games, but I’m trying Savage Worlds this time at Conpulsion. In a future blog article I’ll compare how it ran with both systems, plus review the game.

Discover the secret history of World War Two – stories of the amazing heroism which struggled to overthrow a nightmare alliance of science and the occult, of frightening inhuman conspiracies from the depths of time, and the unbelievable war machines which were the product of Nazi scientific genius – and how close we all came to a slithering end!

Play a huge range of classic wartime heroes such as Russian political officers, German U-Boat commanders, British commandoes, RAF pilots, US rangers, Washington investigators, London journalists, Hollywood starlets, and resistance fighters from all across Europe, who must all unite in the battle against the darker side of World War Two. Play a full campaign leading from the opening shots of the War in 1939, through intrigue and adventure in Occupied Europe, the siege of Berlin in 1945, and finally the cold wastes of Antarctica in 1946!

March 1942: A small commando force are dropped behind enemy lines to silence a Nazi listening post in the Loire valley. However, there’s more to Batz-sur-Mer than meets the eye.

System: Achtung! Cthulhu (Savage Worlds, 4-6 players)

See you on the other side!

D&D4e – A Watch Upon the Border

I’ve always been someone who adapts to circumstances as they happen, but hate being an early adopter! Working in IT, I always wait until the first service pack is released before upgrading an Operating System (OS) and I tend to carry that over to gaming rules-sets as well. I’ll freely admit that Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (4e) hasn’t really fired my imagination as previous editions have done, although Ashes of Freedom was originally a 4e setting.

Looking back now I can see where I went wrong with games like Against the Odds and season 1 of Ashes of Freedom (I run campaigns for a year usually then take a break, similar to the format used by TV). I was trying to shoehorn a rules-set into a campaign setting, not the other way around. 4e is heavily combat-orientated, designed largely with the power-gaming “Munchkin” player in mind or so I’d thought – similar to most computer RPGs. I’ve decided to give 4e a second look. As part of a drive to get more folk participating in ORC Edinburgh‘s activities, I’ve decided to run a short mini-campaign, possibly to get some would-be GMs fired up to run their own games too. It is probably going to focus on a group of low-level PCs stationed on the border between Volkrania and the Eastlands.

It will be called “A Watch Upon the Border”. Most likely it will feature pre-generated characters (from Essentials/PHB), although those first in will have a choice. It will focus on adventures in the east of Volkrania, the Ashes of Freedom setting, but will take place some years before; between the end of the Orcgate War and the Purge of Fire. The PCs will be low level, but there will be plot hooks aplenty that I can work in as the stage is set for future events in AoF. Player-wise, I’d be looking for 4-6 players. It’s only going to be a short campaign but by using pre-gens it means anyone can pop in and play. The forum thread I’ve created at ORC Edinburgh can be found at http://orcedinburgh.co.uk/forum/Games–Players-Wanted/13411-d-d4e-border-watch.

One of the biggest problems for me in the past has also been the miniatures and terrain – and that’s expensive! However I think I’ll be able to muddle through with the miniatures I have, and an improvised “battlemat”. The miniatures I ordered as part of the Reaper Miniatures Kickstarter (Vampire level) won’t be here until next year. However, I’m also investing in the Legendary Realms Terrain Kickstarter as well – their stuff is very nice. There’s another reason too: Legendary Realms is the Official (TM) 🙂 scenery of The Secret Fire RPG, a game I worked upon last year, both in development and playtesting. Look out for the Demons supplement I wrote coming out soon from Secret Fire Games!

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Signal to Noise

What we do in life echoes in eternity

– Maximus, Gladiator

I began clearing out a lot of old bookmarks the other day. I’m surprised at how many sites have disappeared from the ‘net over the last few years, many of which were actually quite useful! While sites like http://web.archive.org are useful, it got me thinking just how much stuff is lost on the net – looking back over some of my early blog posts, I’ve realised that I first started blogging in 2006.  There’s something very sad about the disappearance of many of these other sites, many of which were RPG resources that were at least of some use. I currently have an online presence in a number of formats outside of themandragora.com so if the website ever becomes archived, most of the posts will at least continue to be available at places like Facebook, Twitter, and  LiveJournal. So I guess there will always be a part of me out there on the ‘net.

Many independent websites likely continue to exist out there, but they are often rarely updated. Usually they start off with the best of intentions but run out of steam within a few weeks. Often the hosting provider folds or the expense of keeping a website going (both time and money) leads to them getting buried. So here’s to all those RPG websites that failed their save vs. deletion.

It’s very much the fact that there are huge amounts of people blogging now about RPGs, where once there would have been a handful. More and more frequently there are posts that are little more than opinionated rants, rather than anything useful (I’m as guilty as the next person of this though!). It seems that the days when you could actually do a search on a particular RPG or subject, and/or download materials has now become a quaint custom. There’s been a huge change in the last few years with more emphasis on portal sites and web 2.0, like Obsidian portal, ENworld.org and rpg.net.

I’m participating in the May of The Dead blog carnival, with a post on the 18th about playing Undead. Whilst I’d like to do more I just can’t find the time – it’s also why I don’t like posting or visiting forums such as Enworld, as there’s so much chatter or noise that it becomes difficult to follow or things just become unpleasant (like RPG.net’s occasional overzealous mods and those posters who seem to take umbrage at anyone with a different opinion). However they do have their uses, especially if you’re looking for new players. I’ve never used Obsidian Portal but it also looks like there are many dead games on there too, so it suffers the same problem. I think, in the end, there are too many damn gaming forums! 🙂

Here’s a case in point: there’s been so much talk about the next version of D&D (a.k.a DNDnext) that I’ve given up trying to follow it online. Everyone and their dog has an opinion on it, on a game that hasn’t really been created. Instead, I’ll get the playtest rules when they come out at the end of this month – at that point I might start paying attention to the online speculation, but right now I just can’t be bothered wading though it all.

DNDnext: Epilogue

Well, considering how everything has worked out since my earlier post, I’m quite surprised at how much speculation exists out there regarding the next edition of D&D. Monte Cook chose not to see out his contract period with Wizards, but his departure has fuelled a number of conspiracy theories. The playtest is available from later this month but speculation is already rife when DNDnext (which would be a better name than 5e) will be actually available. Some internet RPG “pundits” are suggesting September, but I don’t think any real thought has gone into it, or at WotC HQ.

Here’s what I think is happening. It takes time to test a system like Dndnext that is literally is going back to formula. With the input from the D&D community at large, plus a corporate bottom line, it will require a lot of testing and marketing. Current players don’t want to play a board game with cards, although 4e was close. WotC is the publishers of the Magic card games so it looks towards its strengths in that regard. If they can get Magic: the Gathering players to start playing D&D with the same cards, then they’ll reap the whirlwind.

I think DNDnext is at least a year off. It takes time to print and edit a book, let alone a franchise. A board game costs a lot to print compared to a book. There’s counters, cards, the board, and the packaging – plus the overhead from artwork or graphic design.

I’ve a suspicion of my own: will DNDnext be a basic board game of counters and cards, with “Advanced” books that are available later? Something similar to the Expert and boxed sets that they produced in the 80s? However, my suspicion is that they will lean towards a series of books that expand upon a common structure – extra monsters, feats, powers, etc.

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