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…

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 They also have a boardgames and miniatures shop in the basement, 6S2Hit.

As well as Rogue Trader, which I didn’t make it to half as often as I would have liked, we started the year off playing on the Dresden Files RPG on Wednesday nights, followed by the Pathfinder (Isador) game. My workload hit nightmare levels though and I was forced to drop the Wednesday night games.

Yet again, I didn’t make it to Conpulsion, the Edinburgh RPG convention run by Edinburgh Uni’s RPG club, GEAS. I really must try and make it there. I’m considering running my eBranch game there as a one-off next year. It uses the Call of Cthulhu rules, and features physic spies and Brian Lumley’s Wamphyri vampires. It is set in the New Forest, close to Southampton where I was born.

ORC Edinburgh – RPG Retrospective

No RPG Retrospective would be complete without me mentioning ORC – Edinburgh’s Open Roleplaying Community. ORC Edinburgh saw many new faces and also a number of new games, and we had a lot of fun at the pub meets throughout the year. This gave us a chance for many of the community to socialize outside of scheduled games and actually lead to the creation of at least one group. However, the last one wasn’t quite so well attended and the venue let us down somewhat.We’ll need to think about an alternative next time.

We definitely need more GMs at ORC – we had games running at the Meadow Bar, the Games Hub, Illegal Jacks and also Cafe Renroc. Unfortunately these were often on the same day – many of our GMs are also players too, but some of us (like me) rarely get the chance to play. This is partially my choice, but some of the other GMs would love a chance to kick back and let someone else do the work (and so would I really). And of course anyone wishing to try their hand at GMing should feel free to do so.

Call of Cthulhu was definitely popular this year at ORC. We had two home-brew campaigns running (and one still is) and the also Cubicle 7’s Shadows of Scotland campaign – which was over-subscribed at one point! I’d thought about running my Arunstoun setting, but didn’t need to in the end. It did feature in Cthulhutech though! I considered running Masks of Nyarlathotep, but it has significant flaws and pretty much suffers what I call Cthulhu Syndrome where the PCs get drawn to a remote location for a minor reason and the players just know the Mythos is involved.

I put my Cthulhutech game, Through the Looking Glass, on hiatus (to give me a break really). The Dark Edinburgh setting really worked and I’ve been looking forward to getting my mitts on the new Burning Horizons supplement. With Pacific Rim out in 2013 (Guillermo del Toro‘s new movie featuring giant robots – mechs or mecha), I can see there being a few mecha-based games turning up in the future (Cthulhutech or otherwise). Wildfire, the makers of Cthulhutech have had a bad year with distributors so I hope things pick up for them in 2013!

Pathfinder was also popular this year at ORC and continues to be a successor to D&D. The campaign paths of Jade Regent, Raging Swan, Carrion Crown, and Kingmaker all put in an appearance, along with Dee’s Critical Missions home-brew. Nuno’s Shapes of Grey home-brew setting returned in Pathfinder form too. For those of us looking for an alternative to 4th Ed. D&D, Pathfinder provided the necessary fixes it seemed.

This naturally brings me to 4th edition D&D (4e). Oft-requested by players, yet only a handful of people were willing to run games. I’m not going to go in a debate about the version wars, as I’ve posted about that elsewhere. EmbraCraig continues to run Perils of the Nentir Vale at the Games Hub fortnightly, but Jill has wrapped up her War of the Burning Sky game. Radonir’s Scales of War continues to run, although he had some early recruitment problems with players.

At ORC, I began running the WFRP Enemy Within Campaign. As campaigns go, its tough to beat – there’s a lot of background info, not fluff for once, and I’m enjoying running it immensely. I’ve a good bunch of players to work with too, most of whom are enjoying themselves immensely I hope. I started recording the sessions but they’re such a large size that I’ll need to work on compressing them down to a manageable size.

However, my biggest disappointment of the year was Marvel Super Heroes (the original set from the 80s). We had a full session of character generation, but a third of the group then dropped out. As a result I (somewhat petulantly, I admit) decided to cancel the game in its entirety. I’d planned to run the Nightmares of Futures Past storyline, having fond memories of when we played it back in the late ’80s.

We even had a game of Vampire: The Masquerade scheduled to run at ORC at one point. For one session. Then the GM involved disappeared. VtM is one of those games that seems to be something of a Macbeth for ORC RPGers! Every time someone mentions they want to run it something happens, and the game only lasts a few sessions. Many of hose who liked the original VtM have now moved onto the Embraced and Isle of Darkness LARPS (I’d never be able to suspend my sense of disbelief for LARPS – I’d continually have to bite my tongue). I’ll possibly be running Werewolf: the Apocalypse in the future so who knows? Maybe we will get a proper Vampire campaign at ORC too!

And of course there’s D&Dnext, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Surprisingly there’s not been much interest in the Playtest packs at ORC. I think that everyone has largely adopted a wait-and-see attitude, possibly brought on by the whole 4e debacle. There’s a couple of games going on, but no one is seriously participating right now.

We also ran a few pub meets that I’ve mentioned  elsewhere – these have rapidly proved to be a great way to meet other players in a non-RPG setting. So that’s the year at ORC really. Here’s to another year of great RPGs there!


2012 for me was the “Year of the Kickstarter”, or more likely “Year of the Stretch Goal”. Also “Year of the Stretched Bank account”. I backed a number of Kickstarter campaigns, some of which are still ongoing.

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 🙂

My view from the Bridge – Bill Heron – 2011

My view from the Bridge – Bill Heron

It’s been quite a year for me. I’ve blogged far more about RPGs in the last year than anything else. Consequently I’ve trimmed a lot of the dead wood from my blog to make it easier to read, as well as making the site easier to find in both search engines and within the site itself. Hopefully related posts will now show up for some of the blog entries and pages – I’ve removed the BlogGlue plugin I was using as it didn’t really add anything to help find related posts (back to using the revamped YARPP – Yet Another Related Posts Plugin). I’m also intending to use the new featured image of WordPress more often as well as making the site a little easier to read.

I’ve already covered events at the Open Roleplaying Community (ORC Edinburgh) within a previous post, but there’s a few things I’ve not mentioned within as they were more of a personal nature.

As I posted, THE SECRET FIRE RPG (then known as Legend & Labyrinths) was playtested by ORC in May. As a result of this, I helped write much of the flavour text (flavour text being the descriptive text used to describe monsters and magic spells/prayers, etc.) for the game as well as participating as a game developer. I’m also hoping to begin work soon upon the Demons part of the first supplement: FRAGMENT I: THE WAY OF TREE, SHADOW & FLAME, and will likely end up doing some more of the flavour text for THE SECRET FIRE. It feels very weird seeing “Bill Heron” in the credits of a published book!

CLICHÉ: THE ROLEPLAYING GAME OF PREDICTABLE HORROR is another RPG we playtested at ORC, from an Edinburgh RPG design studio, Drunken Badger Games. I’m hoping to hear more from them in the future, as the game I ran at ORC was quite good fun – CLICHÉ lends itself well to having a few friends around for some beers without being too hard on the old brain cells!

I also managed to get my CTHULHUTECH: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS game off the ground at ORC, running on a fortnightly basis, with a decent group of players. I’m also preparing a blog article on how to run a CTHULHUTECH game and campaign –  stay tuned!

My Ashes of Freedom D&D game reached the end of its story arc. I’m quite happy with the way it ended, with a doomsday device beginning a countdown and an epic battle in the Hammerfall Pass caverns resolving a number of the story arcs. There’s a definite possibility I’ll be returning to it later in the year, as the setting was popular and we had a great time playing it and running it in my case. The chariot race will go down in legend!

In the personal kudos stakes, my The Art of Winging It article also gained a mention in an article on the Wizards of the Coast website! It’s only a brief mention with a link to the page but it still feels good to see things like this happen!

And finally, work began upon my big project the MANDRAGORA: ASHES OF FREEDOM RPG. I’m trying this as an experiment in self-publishing and will likely be blogging about this a lot in the coming year or so, and hurling some ideas around out there.

So it looks like 2011 was a pretty good year for me RPG-wise. As well as the above I also had the chance to play in a lot more RPGs, including the Dresden Files RPG, 40k Deathwatch, Rogue Trader, and even some Call of Cthulhu and D&D!

An ORC Horde

As I recently posted on the ORC Edinburgh site and Facebook page, ORC has a lot of players and the site is the busiest I’ve seen it in a while. I find it a little ironic really that D&D is the most popular game, yet so few want to run it. With that in mind, I’m planning to raise ORCs profile a little – I’ve already had a few nibbles at Edinburgh Gamers Journal on Livejournal. Hopefully a few more GMs will stick their heads above the parapet! it wouldn’t even have to be 4th edition either – AD&D, 3.5 or whatever would be as popular as the next. Every day, there’s someone new on the site and there’s a lot of activity.  I feel quite proud of what ORC has become over the last year; the site ticks along nicely now: occasionally there’s the odd hiccup (like the fire at the Meadow Bar, Cafe Nero closing, etc.), but like it says: we’re going to be around for a while.

I’ve never considered myself an overly creative person – given the amount of stuff on this site that may surprise some people – but I do have a certain knack for getting something right as it were. I think about things. That’s how I got the ORC site to the level it is now. Most of my settings are somewhat derivative, yes, but on the other hand, they work as a setting! Or they usually do: unfortunately I’ve decided to halt my Against the Odds D&D campaign for now. I think it needs more work and a fresh perspective upon it, as well as a better plot. I may return to it sometime in the future, but it is shelved for now.

I should be getting the first playtest pack any day now for the Legends & Labyrinths game in May. This is going to be quite cool, and its one of these things that I can go and do without a] having to over-think things as I’m wont to do, and b] don’t have to provide a follow-up. As of this posting we’ve still got a few spaces left at ORC.

I cringe every time I read the Urban Predator story I wrote years ago. For me it exemplifies the arrogance of youth as it were – and my writing technique makes it look like I wrote it with a chainsaw. I’m glad to say I’ve improved somewhat over the years – hopefully the fiction I wrote for my Cthulhutech: Through the Looking Glass adventures so far (Under a Heavy Rain, Corporate Ties, and Vanguard Vengeance) show a marked improvement in my writing skills.

I’m looking at completing the story arc in the Ashes of Freedom campaign. I still have a few sessions to run, but I’m winding it down: running it as a set of “seasons” has proven quite rewarding and I will likely return to it one day in the future. The seasons give me a chance to create a decent story arc, as well as an occasional breather! Now that I’ve had time to polish the setting a little, I feel it has actually come out pretty well for a setting I invented in a morning!

Although Against the Odds, Ashes of Freedom, and the New World are winding up (or have ended), I’m still going to try and get something lined up. I’d intended running Call of Cthulhu or Cthulhutech – but ORC members are definitely in favour of me running Cthulhutech. I’m going to use my Through the Looking Glass setting again, and it’ll be more of a “war in the shadows” style game where soldiers, Mechs and Tagers will be very much on the periphery – and the game will concentrate more on mortal “mundane” characters from agencies like the GIA or OIS. While Tagers are cool, they are a nightmare to run a game for. I plan to run some one-shot games too for those unfamiliar with C-Tech – and they may well include Mechs, soldiers and Tagers! It will also feature the Arunstoun setting once I’ve got it ready.

I’ve actually come up with a decent concept for my Edinburgh of the future: Dark Edinburgh. Its a nice simple concept, and one that I can use to link together my concepts of Arunstoun and Edinburgh in the future. I’ve actually use it before: Urban Predator had the first aft as it were, and I ran a White Wolf game where my friends were all twenty years older and working for Fenris Caine, the detective I describe in Urban Predator. It used the mortal rules for Vampire: the Masquerade as a ruleset and the group hunted down a vampire in Gilmerton. I guess that was the beginning of it really – Arunstoun is going to be a very weird setting for me: it came to me in a dream – no kidding, it did! One of these days I could approach someone at Embraced or Isles of Darkness (the Edinburgh Vampire LARPs) to see if they’d be interested in a game in that setting: who knows?

I’ve also decided to retire from the New World D&D game: playing Rafael de Fabrizi was great fun – especially considering the luck I had with dice rolls – I’ve lost count of the number of natural 20’s I rolled while playing him, especially when he picked up that magic +3 sword. However, time has now become something of a premium: I can’t play and run two campaigns as well! As I’m also committed to a Shadowrun game on Wednesdays, and Rogue Trader on Thursdays, my calendar is pretty full – I need some time to do other things!

I’m going to try and write another article when I’ve got a moment (and will add it to the GMtoolkit)- this time I’m planning to deal with combat and how to make it faster. Obviously this will be as time permits: stay tuned!