Monday, January 26, 2009

Running Up the Score

What is it with Americans treating keeping your best team on the field/court/whatever and running up a big score as a sign of disrespect? I don't get it. Here, as with pretty much everywhere else I know about, taking top players off the field and easing up shows far more disrespect. Surely if you respect the powers of the opposition to challenge or defeat you, you will keep your top team on and endeavour to raise as many points as possible while you are in the ascendency. If you don't have respect for them and/or wish to insult them, you would rest your top players and take it easy, secure in their inability to hurt you, right? Why do people in the U.S. think the exact opposite? I don't get it!

Esoterrorists Supplement Review

Check out Marcus Bone's blog for a pre-release review of The Esoterror Fact Book. Marcus' blog is great for all things RPG. Just forgive the typos!

Battlestar Galactica Boardgame

Just hit up boardgamegeek this morning and found that BSG has had a whole bunch of new content created for it, both official and unofficial. If you're naywhere near as much of a fan of this game as I am, check it out at and

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Repost of Appreciation email to NZRaG

Thanks to all the organisers and GMs who made this yet another great Kapcon and worth every penny of the trip down from Auckland. Thanks especially to Ivan, Liam, Erik, Barry and Mike who GMed the games I played in. As a GM for my group up here in Auckland I really appreciate the time and effort that needs to be put in to GM a game as opposed to just rocking up on the day armed with dice and imagination. I *can't* even imagine what it means to do that and then shoehorn the game into a limited time slot and play with a bunch of people you've never even met before. Great job, guys. I'll see you all again next year (or perhaps sooner).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jumping the Sharky

GM: Mike Foster

The Boss is laid up in hospital, his right hand man on the run and his best men scattered far and wide. Someone's putting the pressure on and there's no time or chance for a gathering to plan their counterattack. But the distance separating them may yet prove their greatest strength, as each man is able to carry out his part of the plan unnoticed while the enemy thinks they're too scattered and distant to be a threat. Of course, communication is key so that every member of the team knows exactly what he has to do, but in this technological age long distance isn't the problem it used to be.

Homebrew, indie style (mostly systemless with quotes, names and events from cards for inspiration. Shared GM style).

My Character: Lance, the wheel man. It should be noted that each character sheet had something that the character was supposed to be doing, followed by the words "it's all gone a bit wrong". I was supposed to be picking up a shipment for the boss somewhere on the south Cornwall coast.

Review: This was definitely the most unusual game of the con and one that I was a little leary of getting into as I often find the indie-style shared GM game to be difficult to do. I'm glad I took the plunge on this one (inspired by the fact that Mike was GMing and I *had* to play in at least one of his games) because the sheer calibre of the players in the room meant that this was my second favourite game of the con (and, indeed the last year), losing out only to "The Long Lost Boys".

The basic setup of the game was that Don and the boys were variously separated on different jobs, each of which had gone wrong. The game took place as phone calls between different members of the gang with Mike chiming in with calls from various NPCs where required to drive things along. There was a deck of cards with quotes, NPC names and situations. When one of the players did something which might succeed or fail (or if they just needed inspiration), they would roll a die numbered from -2 to +4 (no zero). On a plus, the player would draw that many cards, choose one or more, and integrate their contents into the narrative of their success. On a minus, mike would take the cards and choose one for you. You would then narrate your failure using that card's ideas. Of course, with the group we had, just about everything was a failure of sorts (as they are much more amusing anyway!), and we often didn't bother with the cards, or just picked some randomly for inspiration.

I managed to come up with a plot for my character involving a cargo ship hitting a bridge, a biohazard container, a terrorist plot to blow it all up, a James Bond lookalike, cranes, the british army, truck chases, people smuggling and somehow managed to tie it into some of the other's stories too. With all this, though, I had a complete imagination failure near the end of the end of the adventure and needed some help getting bailed out (thanks Conan!).

All in all, another hit from the Mike Foster foundry - keep 'em coming Mike!

Personal Highlights: 1. Lance: Don, I got the crane like you said, but now there's a bunch of [censored] shooting at me! They're all wearing camo gear and these poofy beret's...
Don: You called me in the middle of a [censored] firefight?
Lance: Yeah. What the [censored] should I do?
Don: Well, you've got a [censored] crane haven't you? Drop a [censored] container on them!
Lance: [censored]. Good idea Don! {to crane driver} No! To the [censored] left you [censored].
Don: Just make sure it's not Sharky's container, for [censored] sake!
Lance: Sorry, Don - you're breaking up. CRASH!!!! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepppppppppp......

2. The Scotsmen trying to get into the warehouse full of Italian families.

Other Highlights: 1. Billy and the briefcases!
2. Kev 'dealing' with four kids and their [censored] dog because they wouldn't shut up about ginger beer.
3. Billy managing to crash a Mafia wedding and marry the don's daughter by accident.
4. Don being put upon by *everyone* calling him at the start.

The Journey

GM: Barry Baker

Blurb: It's a fantasy story as old as time - a group of adventurers have a mission to travel from a town to a distant House of Contemplation. All that is missing is a smoky Tavern and an old man in a hooded cloak.

But this mission is a little different, the world a little more gritty and grey, our brave adventuring party know nothing of dungeons and trapdoors. The small group is comprised of a withered Nursemaid, a impetuous man servant with regular features, a retired soldier and a pure example of young female innocence.

System: Dragon Warriors

My Character: Jonathan, a young man striving to conceal his spanish heritage while attempting to woo the above example of female innocence (here we go again) and control a fiery passion which, in the past, has led him to murder.

Review: This adventure was much more standard RPG fare. A little slow to start as we stepped into our characters, but we were soon travelling along nicely. Along the road complications arose such as bandits (who we killed), thieves (who stole our stuff from under our noses) an orphaned child (who we tried and failed to find the parents of) and a bunch of burly young men (*all* of whom seemed to want some alone time with Emma). Things came to a head when it was discovered that Emma (the female character who I had been trying my hardest to convince to elope with me and forsake the convent) actually turned out to be a promiscuous wench, which crushed my character's fragile little soul, almost led to a murderous rage, and ended up with his suicide. The game was somewhat hurt by not actually having a fourth player, which yielded less of the intra party conflict which really drove the adventure along, but it wasn't bad as a first session for Sunday morning.

Highlights: The number of times we managed to return to the same Inn (nice work by Emma, there, who was trying to delay arrival at the convent). My character's breakdown and transformation in attitude to Emma from doe-eyed love and loyalty to hatred and scorn.

The Long Lost Boys

GM: Erik Andersen

Blurb: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out…” - Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie

System: less

My Character: Match, leader of the Lost Boys in Peter's abscence. The oldest, strongest and bravest among them. Bearer of Peter's sword.

Review: Some games are forgettable, some you'd rather forget, some are good but nothing special, some are great, some are even better. A very very few are transcendant, their memory lasting for years to come. This was one of those.

Peter has been away from Neverland for eight years. In that time things have become relatively peaceful. The pirates are gone, the indians have settled down, even the lions, tigers and bears exist in harmony with the island's other inhabitants. The lost boys have grown older, if not yet grown up, and the nature of some of their games has begun to change.

But now a chill wind blows, and a familiar crow is heard. Peter is returning and the island begins to wake...

Everything about this game was excellent. In most systemless games there comes a time when you feel that you miss some sort of mechanic to add a sense of danger or to resolve a conflict. Even the *thought* of this didn't arise in this game, though. The essence of the game was that a fairy visited and reminded each of the Lost Boys exactly what they would lose with the return of Peter. The boys had to decide whether they would stand against Peter's return - especially when doing so meant standing beside a certain 'Dark and sinister man'.

Two of these amazing things about this game:
1. Everything was *so* cinematic, helped by the amount of time everyone spent in character. Just about every scene played in my mind like it was up on a movie screen.
2. The incredible balance struck between the innocence and the fantasy element, and the darkness in what Peter represented and the moral choices that had to be made. It resonated perfectly with the original story.

Highlights: The cucumber hunt, the fight against the panther, the meeting with the fairy, the flying, the fight with the pirates, Peter's return, the capture of Tinker Bell, the vitriolic showdown with James (played by Marcus)... oh hell, the whole damn thing!

Notes: My only regret was that I couldn't work in the (you guessed it) romantic subplot between my character and I-won't (the resident female Lost Boy) who had recently given Match a thimble.

Erik, very deservedly IMO, picked up the award for best rated individual session for this game.

An event from this session (nominated by myself) also won the best individual nomination award for this CMOA:

Delivered ice-cold as the character crushed the above fairy by clapping his hands together "I don't believe in fairies"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eagle One Down

GM: Liam Jones (a good friend of Marcus)

Blurb: A transmission breaks the squelch on the radio at Forward Operating Base "Freedom". The operations officer picks up the hand set and waits
....., Static.........., “This is eagle one approaching LZ over”,
“This is zero alpha rodger over”,
“Eagle one, LZ in sight drop off in five miles over”,
“Zero alpha acknowledged over”,
“Eagle one approaching from the north, LZ looks clear, wait... Contact contact”,
[M60 Machinegun fire],
“Oh my god, were going down, oh my god, what is that!”, Static...........

System: Call of Cthulhu (BRP)

My Character: [something] Luong, Vietnamese Translator (ex Med Student). To almost no-one's surprise, he turned out to be a VC spy.

Review: After the first session this was, as expected, a far more gritty and serious follow-up. Although Liam described the style as 'Predator meets apocalyspe now', I found that the game had little of the the former's paranoia or feeling of entrapment, nor much of the latter's darkness of tone or eclecticness of character. Much of this was, I suppose, down to the way that players played their charcters (all of the soldiers were apparently *very* professional). When Marcus played in this game later in the con, I could tell from his report that the characters had shown a bit more colour and that the game had been all the better for it. I feel that a few red-herring threats could have added to the paranoia and fear, though. Nevertheless, the Vietnamese jungle made a great backdrop for a tale of alien terror and there was a lot of potential in the story of a group of US soldiers stumbling across an old Miskatonic University expedition and the ancient evil they were hunting. Liam was also well prepared for a number of different paths that could be taken by the characters - everything from hunting the mythos creatures throught the VC tunnels and back to the much older tunnels that they had unwittingly breached to cowering in the native village and calling for aid (our group was more the latter). I suggested to Liam that making the translator a traitor was a bit obvious and that having him be loyal and someone *else* be the traitor (perhaps doing his best to implicate the translator) would be *much* more interesting.

Personal Highlight: Being caught (because everyone had been awakened by an NPC screaming loudly before committing suicide) returning from the forest having used a secret radio to contact a VC patrol in the area and managing to deflect attention by pointing out that they were so incompetant that they had managed to get someone killed in the time it took me to take a crap.

It's Glargle Past Threep

GM: Ivan Towlson

Blurb: Join the Time Police, they said. It's a cushy life, they said, in the Women's Auxiliary of the Xenochronometry Division of the Standards Inspectorate. Snappy uniform, they said, government pension and nothing more laborious to do than fill out the occasional B11 Notification of Noncompliant Measurement Units (Revised). Yeah, right. Because since breakfast you’ve been shot at twice, erased from history six times, trapped in five temporal paradoxes and narrowly avoided having sex with your own grandfather. And it’s still only glargle past threep. Again.

My Character: Vicky, even more airheaded and incompetant than the rest of the bunch (which was saying something). Previously fired from burger-flipping and shelf stocking jobs for gross incompetance.

System: Just roll a die (any die) and the GM will make something up.

Review: An amusing romp through time, space, shopping malls and the vatican. Not nearly as good as the blurb, though (I suspect, from also hearing about other games, that Ivan's better at coming up with the ideas than with executing them). A decent start, though. Basically involved a plot by certain extremist members of the organisation 'Sentient Beings for a Sensible Calendar' to retroactively assassinate Pope Gragory XIII.

Personal Highlight: Completly confusing the GM with the non-sequitur 'White with one sugar, please' (it made perfect sense to Vicky at the time).

Overall Highlights:
1. First roll of the game (as the GM did say *any* dice) - North and Smily Face.
2. A number of Charles the Seconds (from different time periods): "Let me out, I'm the King of England!"
One of the characters: "Which one of you is the King?"
Kings: "All of us, it's the royal we!"

Kapcon 2009

Well, Kapcon 2009 has come and gone and if there's one thing I have to say it is that, once again, it really amazees me the quality of the games, players and GMs that frequent Wellington's premiere RPG convention. Having travelled in the past year to the gaming Mecca that is Gencon Indy, this quality simply stands out even more.

Don't get me wrong - the games I played at Gencon were great fun, they just didn't present the same depth or role-playing challenge that the GMs at Kapcon regularly present, particularly the inestimable Mike Foster. Gencon, of course, more than makes up for this with the activities available outside the games themselves, and somewhere within the hundreds of games being run there must be the equal of those run at Kapcon, but if I want constant quality, a game run in Wellington seems the way to go.

In my next few posts, I will review the games I played.

P.S. Why is it that in every game I play that has one, I *always* seem to get the character with the romantic sub-plot?

A Blog

Yeah, returning from Kapcon 2009 and reading Mike's Blog has inspired me to actually try my hand at one of my own. Surprise, surpise. Let's see how long this lasts.