Taking the pulse of the Gaming Scene
So, here we are, one year later. Beginning, as many mad ideas do, with a chat at a gaming convention bar, we are now delighted to be bringing out The Gazebo Issue #4. Our original aim was to create a publication which would keep our readers up to date with all forms of gaming, with a focus on Ireland and the UK, to provide interesting well-written articles, and really just to show that all of this could be done. This is still our core mission, however in the coming year we intend on building on the base that we have created, and to continue promoting the hobby of gaming in whatever way we can. We aim to work towards a more sustainable model, allowing us to expand the scope of the ‘zine, build a website, give more direct links to companies, to improve our distribution and perhaps undertake to examine some print-on-demand options. We are aiming to expand The Gazebo Hunting Party, we want to increase audience participation and we want YOU to get involved. If you would be interested in becoming involved at any level, from writing articles, to editing, to designing, to back-end administrative stuff, please don’t hesitate to come and talk to us and we’ll let you know what positions we have available. We would sincerely like to thank all of our readers. At time of publication, the first three issues of The Gazebo have been viewed close to 15,000 times, and have been read in over 25 countries. As ever, we would be delighted to receive any feedback or ideas
that you might have for us. All of this has been a collective endeavour, and we have really enjoyed the past year working with such a varied and interesting team of folks, from our wonderful writers, to our excellent editors, the amazing artists who’ve contributed pieces, our interviewers and interviewees, and our amazing design team– here’s to another year of gaming and to hunting the dreaded Gazebo! Finally, we are hoping to provide a platform for debate and expression; opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily ours, but are perspectives that we find interesting. Happy Gaming, Noirin Curran & Anita Murray, Editors-In-Chief email@example.com
The GazebO EDITORS IN CHIEF Anita Murray Noirin Curran
Rex: Finals Days of an Empire Page 67 Shabadabada Page 66 Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery Page 69
Wayne O Connor Maria Costello Edel Ryder Hanrahan
COVER and BACKPAGE (also Phoning it In) Johanna Tamminen juuhanna.deviantart.com GAZEBO CREATURE (also Inspiring this Gazebo Hunter, Matt pennington interview, TOP 5 rpgs) Wayne O Connor www.pyramidlagota.deviantart.com
OTHER ARTWORK Adam Howie (Plugging In) Find More of Adams work at: illusionaryconstructs.com kimded.deviantart.com
Baal (mummy Review, WRaith Review) Find more of Baal Altamns work at: http://batzbelfry.net/ Mary Lillis (Editorial Backdrop, Spartacus, Star Wars, Empire review) Find more of Mary Lillis work at: www.marv42.deviantart.com www.marylillis.blogspot.ie/ A HUGE THANKS TO ALL OUR CONTRIBUTORS WHO MAKE THE GAZEBO POSSIBLE. ENJOY!
Empire LRP: First Impressions Matt Pennington Interview In Its Defence A Quick Guide to Online Gaming Accidental Games Historian Events Calendar Crafty Games Interview History of Gaming, Part 4 Kicks like a Mule The Inevitability of Invention News
Page 64 Page 50 Page 43 Page 48 Page 73 Page 71 Page 04 Page 12 Page 09 Page 31 Page 52 Page 06
Company of the Silent Step Page 40 Hellas Page 26 Phoning It In Page 28 Plugging In... Page 20 Save the Trees Page 38 Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game Page 36 Top Five RPGs of 2012 Page 17 Walk like an Egyptian (Mummy: The Curse) Page 23 Wraith: The Oblivion Page 33
Game Anticipation, Previews and Reviews Page 79 Net Fu Page 75 Planetside 2 Page 77
Codex Chaos Space Marines Review Inspiring this Gazebo Hunter I Went to a Marvellous Party
Page59 Page 61 Page 56
LISTINGS Irish Gaming Clubs
Every Wednesday 6.30pm Cardgames Tuesday 7pm/Selected RPGS Thursday 7pm Every Thursday 7pm-10pm Every Thursday 7pm-10pm Every Sunday 7pm-11pm
IGA Games Night @ The Dark Horse
NUI Galway (The View, Áras na Mac Léinn) NUI Galway (Check Site) UCC Cork @ WARPS Gaming Paul Street Shopping Centre, Cork City The Dark Horse, George’s Quay, Dublin
QUB Dragonslayers UCD Games Soc
Queens University Belfast The blob, UCD
Every Tuesday 5:30pm-11pm Check the ucdgamesoc website
FanSci WARPS WAC Other Realms
Every Thursday from 6pm
UK Gaming Clubs This is probably the most comprehensive listing :) London Indie RPG Meetup
http://www.ukroleplayers.com/ clubs/ http://www.meetup.com/LondonIndie-RPG-Meetup-Group/ OTHER RESOURCES
GMS Magazine Games Gazette RPG.Net Irish Gaming Wiki IrishGaming.Com The Adventuring Party Cam HP Lovecraft Live Midway LT Profound Decisions Isles of Darkness Age of Essence
Games news, articles, reviews The Oldest UK Amateur Games Review Magazine The place to discuss all things gaming. A website, forum and scenario bank with over 250 convention scenarios.
Podcasts discussing what’s going on in Irish gaming so you don’t have to.
Camarilla Ireland A podcast dedicated to bringing you the works of HP Lovecraft
An ongoing LARP created by Nick Huggins Lorien Trust Live Action Role Play Professional Live
Roleplaying: Maelstrom, Odyssey UK World of Darkness LARP
A new ongoing LARP based just outside London
GAMING CONVENTIONS Leprecon
8th-10th March 2013
22nd-24th March 5th-7th April
28th-30th June 2013
Goldsmith Hall, Trinity College Dublin NUI Galway University College Dublin Queenâ€™s University Belfast UL, Limerick Kilkenny
12th-14th July 2013 September 2013
D4 Hotels, Dublin
NUI Maynooth UCC Cork
25th-25th October 2013 November 2013 January 2014
http://brocon.info/ http://www.uncovertheconspiracy.com/ http://www.gaelcon.com
Concrete Cow 13
9th March 2013
UK Games Expo
Itzacon Vaticon Q-con
Nine Worlds GeekFestLondon Grand Tribunal 2012 Cheltenham Congenial Furnace
Gothic Consequences Dorset Dragonmeet
http://www.mk-rpg.org. uk/ 4th May 2013 http://www.con-quest. co.uk/ 24th-26th May 2013 http://www.ukgamesexpo. co.uk/ 9th-11th August 2013 http://nineworlds.co.uk/ 16th-18th August http://www.grandtribunal. 2013 org/wiki/Main_Page August 2013 http://congenial.org.uk/ 19th-20th October http://rpgfurnace.com/ 2013 21st-23th Novemeber http://www.ishtari.co.uk/ 2013 consequences/ December 2013 http://www.dragonmeet. co.uk/ January 2014 http://www.conceptionuk. org/ 25th-28th July 2014 http://www.continuum. uk.net/ 12th-14th April 2013
http://www.geas. org.uk/conpulsion/ blog/2012/10/15/ conpulsion-2013-espionage/
ALL THE GAMING NEWS Angus Abranson sifts through the current gaming news Catalyst Game Labs
Catalyst, fresh from having renewed their Shadowrun and Battletech licenses with TOPPS, are releasing ‘Shadowrun Crossfire’ this spring. Crossfire is a card game that combines deck-building mechanics with some adventure game elements. They’ve also announced Shadowrun 5th Edition RPG for this summer, a miniatures skirmish game called ‘Shadowrun Sprawl Gangers’ for winter and a Euro-style board game called ‘Shadowrun Hostile Takeover’ for next year – along with lots of RPG support.
publisher Uhrwerk Verlag have teamed up to translate and publish the German version of ‘Space 1889’. The game, originally published by GDW in 1988, is a Victorianera space faring game which has seen Mars and Venus colonised by Europe, America and Japan – and having to deal with the natives of the planets they now inhabit. The German edition uses the Ubiquity system (made famous in Hollow Earth Expedition) and has also expanded the amount of information on the planets and cosmology. The game is due to be Kickstartered this spring.
Cubicle 7 Entertainment
Chronicle City Chronicle
In celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary Cubicle 7 have lined up eleven sourcebooks looking at every incarnation of the Doctor so far. Each book will take an in-depth look at the Doctor in question, his Companions, enemies, allies, gadgets, and the adventures he took both from the actual series as well as brand new ones written for the books. Each book will be packed with imagery from the shows and will be a great fan resource of the shows history as well as fantastic game supplements. ‘The First Doctor’ Supplement is due for release in April.
Angus Abranson Angus started off as a Saturday boy at Leisure Games back in the mid-80s and rose to the ranks of Supreme Tea Maiden before he left in 2009 to concentrate fulltime on his publishing company, Cubicle 7 Entertainment. He has since left Cubicle 7 and has launched a new company called Chronicle City, where he is still making his own tea. He currently lives in Wiltshire near ancient stone circles.
Fantasy Flight Games
The first Blood Bowl Team Manager expansion, ‘Sudden Death’, is due for release this March. The set brings in three new teams and also a number of expansions to the original game (such as new mechanics like enchanted balls and contracts). Also this spring FFG is releasing
the eagerly awaited ‘Relic’ board game. Relic is a Warhammer 40,000 inspired version of Talisman for 2-4 players.
Gale Force Nine
Gale Force Nine, who had a lot of success with ‘Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery’ last year have signed a deal for ‘Firefly: The Game’ – a new board game where each player captains their own Firefly-Class transport ship, traveling the ‘Verse completing jobs and avoiding Marauders. The game is the first in a series of board games and miniatures GF9 are creating set in the Firefly universe.
deep in the ruins of an ancient more expected to follow. Modiphius desert city. Designed by Matt released the first two adventures in Leacock the Achtung! Cthulhu line last year with ‘Three Kings’ and ‘Heroes of (Forbidden Island, Pandemic) the the Sea’ by award winning writer game is for 2-5 players, ages 10 Sarah Newton. and up. Not content on keeping themselves busy with Achtung! Cthulhu, John Wick John Wick has designed many Modiphius have also announced great games – amongst them they are working on a 3rd Edition Legends of the Five Rings, 7th Sea of the Mutant Chronicles RPG, and Houses of the Blooded. He’s under license from Paradox now turning his hand to Pathfinder Entertainment. Mutant Chronicles with a new book called ‘Wicked has been many things before Fantasy’. Wicked Fantasy looks (board games, card games, CCGs, at ‘classic’ fantasy races and gives miniature games, comics and even them a non-traditional twist. This a movie!) but is having a new lease is not only a compilation of the of life not only through Modiphius’ individual PDFs he’s released over new RPG but also through a brand the last year but will also contain new miniatures game called Warzone Resurrection by Prodos some brand new material too. Games Ltd.
Following on from the massive success of Forbidden Island comes ‘Forbidden Desert’ – an all new thrilling adventure game where players co-operate to recover a legendary flying machine buried
Modiphius’ Kickstarter for the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guides has been doing incredibly well. Not wrapping up until 2nd April the campaign has already fully funded both books (compatible with both the Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds systems) and the Shadows of Atlantis campaign – with a lot
An all-new Killer Bunnies game is on its way. In addition to being compatible with the previous games ‘Killer Bunnies: Heroes vs. Villains’ is a non-collectible deckbuilding game in its own right. Players control teams of superhero and supervillain bunnies trying to control cities.
Playroom have also announced two new games set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth – ‘The Hobbit Board Game’ and ‘Lord of the Rings Card Game’.
Wizards of the Coast
Whilst WotC are still hard at work playtesting and designing D&D Next they continue to announce the release of classic reprints which are keeping many retro fans happy. The highlight of them has to be a Deluxe Wooden Box set containing not only the original Dungeons & Dragons ‘White Box” first seen in 1974 (Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasures, Underworld & Wilderness Adventures) but also four supplements (Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes). This set isn’t cheap (but is a lot cheaper than the originals are these days) coming in at $149.99 and due for release in November. Other reprints due include AD&D 1st Ed Unearthed Arcana, the AD&D 2nd Edition Core Rulebooks, D&D3.5 Editions of the Magic Items Compendium and Spell Compendium, and classic adventure compilations ‘Dungeons of Dread’ and ‘Against the Slave Lords’. They have also recently re-released much of their back catalogue in electronic format on http://www.dndclassics.com
Veteran game designer Eric Lang has designed a new ‘classic family Euro-style’ game for Wizkids called ‘Trains and Stations’ to be released later this year. It’s an economics focused game in which players must make deliveries, develop buildings, lay track and expand their own holdings whilst working with (and against) other players. Lots of continued support for their Heroclix superhero miniatures game but, under a new deal with Sanrio Inc, Wizkids will also be releasing a Heroclix Hello Kitty set! They’ll also be releasing a set based on Kick-Ass 2 too.
THE GAZEBO HISTORY OF GAMING, PART 4 Brian takes us back to wargaming in the 1970s and 1980s
t is said, on the front and back of many books and on posters around the world, that in the far future (dark or grim or otherwise), there is only war. Of course a cursory examination of human history would suggest that this sentiment is also true for the past and present. It should come as no surprise, then, that so many games we play are all about war, about killing the other person, or alien, or mythical creature. Wargames, as we discussed in part two of this series, were some of the first modern, formal games and the wish to recreate battles of all types and kinds has, unsurprisingly, never gone away. My own admission is that I’ve never been much of a wargamer at all. I have often marvelled at the artistry involved in figure painting and the patience it takes to set up tables or boards and armies (with miniatures or counters or anything else) for a battle, however those pastimes have never been mine. The appreciation and the great interest I’ve always had in the worlds and mythologies that surround the gameworlds will hopefully suffice for this article. The first miniatures I ever encountered were made by an Irish company and they’re still going today.
Set up in 1976, Prince August not only offer you the chance to paint and play with a variety of soldiers from many eras, but you get to pour the moulds yourself! These figures could, of course, be used with any appropriate game, but they didn’t come with rules of their own. The company held the license for Mithril Minatures in the 1980s and, more recently, bought the remaining stock of Warzone and Chronopia and is selling it via the www.princeaugust.ie website.
I have often marvelled at the artistry involved in figure paintingvand the patience it takes to set up tables or boards and armies.”
Prince August was far from the first company to produce miniatures and many others were making wargames without recourse to actual toy soldiers. Individuals such as Fletcher Pratt, Jack Scruby and Donald Featherstone were writing
Brian Nisbet Brian Nisbet has been gaming since the early 80s and because just doing is never enough for him, he’s been writing about it and organising events since the early 90s. He is more than willing to discuss almost anything to do with gaming, politics, history or networking and you can find him on twitter as @natural20 or in the bar.
wargaming books from the 1940s, but arguably the first mass market wargame was Avalon Hill’s Gettysburg, published in 1961. Over the course of that decade and the early 1970s other companies such as Simulation Publishing Inc, Game
Designers’ Workshop and Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, now of course far more famous for their RPGs) started to publish games and things really started to take off.
The number of people playing wargames, as well as the number of games being published, dropped in the 1980s with possible reasons being the rise of computer gaming and tabletop RPGs...”
Many games from the 1970s, including Squad Leader (Avalon Hill), Starfleet Battles (Task Force Games) and Ogre (Steve Jackson Games), are still played today, albeit the edition number has incremented a few times since then, with SJG just completing a very successful Kickstarter to republish Ogre with 3D cardboard
pieces. The number of people playing wargames, as well as the number of games being published, dropped in the 1980s with possible reasons
being the rise of computer gaming and tabletop RPGs, but also potential changes in the lifestyle of their core 1970s demographic. That wasn’t to say games weren’t being published and played, but the pace at which both were happening calmed down dramatically. Games from the mid-1980s such as Advanced Squad Leader (Avalon Hill) and Axis & Allies (Milton Bradley) are still popular today, but it was in 1983 that the game (or at least the name) many people still associate with wargaming was published for the first time. Games Workshop (GW) had been founded in 1975 in London and initially made boards for more tra-
ditional games and, a little later, it distributed games from the US such as D&D. However, in 1979 they provided funding to help found Citadel Minatures (later absorbed into
Wild Geese to produce their own one-shot games with innovative rules and dramatic, custom made boards & dioramas. Our desire to play with many different varieties of toy soldiers (even for a dabbler like me) doesn’t appear to be going away and a very good thing it is too.
GW, but the name is still used) and in 1983 the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles hit the shelves. It’s important to note that this came before the RPG, which wasn’t published until 1987. Over nearly thirty years the game has gone through eight editions and has spawned a number of spin-off games such as Blood Bowl (now a computer game as well as one of the most fun boardgames ever) and Mordheim. Big as Warhammer Fantasy Battles and its world was and it has remained popular (although the MMO, while still played, never really took off in the way its creators hoped), it is 1987’s Warhammer 40,000 that can arguably claim the title of the most popular wargame ever. With hulking Space Marines and the looming threat of Chaos, the game, now in its sixth edition, has multiple spin-offs, a huge line of novels and comics, a few computer games and many, many players and fans. It’s no real surprise that the statue outside GW’s offices in Nottingham is a Space Marine. Both 40k and Fantasy Battles are very similar in many ways, but it appears dystopian sci-fi is more popular in the long term. As I mentioned before, I am in awe of those who take the time to assemble and paint their armies, putting equal effort into each squad member as they do into heroes and generals. Entries for the Golden Demon painting competition are often truly spectacular and the tiniest details can separate the winners from everyone else.
In part five of The Gazebo History of Gaming we’ll be looking at what happened in 1991 with the publication of Vampire: The Masquerade and the huge changes this brought to both tabletop and live action RPGs.
40,000 can arguably claim the title of the mostvpopular wargame ever”
Of course, wargaming did not end with the publication of Fantasy Battles or 40K. New games and new formats are popping up all the time, with Battle Cry (Avalon Hill) and Memoir ‘44 (Days of Wonder) continuing the card-driven wargames theme started by the lesser known We The People (Avalon Hill) in the 1990s. Games like X-Bugs (designed by Marco Maggi & Francesco Nepitello, published by many) bring manual dexterity into the fray as you try to land your tiddly-wink soldiers on top of those of your opponent. The huge number of available miniatures also allows groups like the Irish
CRAFTY GAMES Brian Nisbet talks to Patrick Kapera & Alex Flagg of Crafty Games
1) Can you tell the readers a little about Crafty Games? Is there a particular niche you seek to fill in the gaming market, or is it all about making any kind of great game people will want to play? PAT: Crafty Games started as a way for us to keep making the Spycraft RPG, and while that’s still our flagship game — Spycraft Third Edition is coming later this year — we’ve expanded and experimented quite a bit since our launch. We’ve spun the original Spycraft engine into the high adventure arena with Fantasy Craft, which is a toolbox that adapts to your world, your characters, and your style of play, rather than thrusting a baked in default on you. Last year we also released our first “indie”-style line, the Mistborn Adventure Game, based on the novels by Brandon Sanderson, and we’ve got a couple
other, completely unrelated projects in the works as well. Bottom line: Alex and I love making games, and while we’ve traditionally developed mechanically heavy toolbox RPGs, we’ve already proven we can do more, and you’ll be seeing other examples of that as the company grows. In fact, you’ll see something completely different from us pretty darn soon...
2) How difficult was the decision to form Crafty Games after AEG cut the Spycraft line? PAT: Not difficult at all. Spycraft has always been an extremely strong line with a huge following. Keeping it on the market was a nobrainer, and we think the best is very much yet to come — both for us and Spycraft.
3) Spycraft 3rd Edition is
Brian Nisbet Brian Nisbet has been gaming since the early 80s and because just doing is never enough for him, he’s been writing about it and organising events since the early 90s. He is more than willing to discuss almost anything to do with gaming, politics, history or networking and you can find him on twitter as @natural20 or in the bar.
listed as in development, how far along are your plans for the game? PAT: We’re currently drafting the second alpha, which is conceptu-
ally more like a beta. All the core rules are in place and the remaining bits are firming up nicely. The playtests we ran over the holidays were extremely positive, and we expect to be entering a more rigorous phase of that shortly. As I mention it’ll be out this year, though the timing is still coming together.
4) What prompted you to go for a 3rd Edition, are there big changes you want to make, or just incremental updates? PAT: We’d been thinking of an update for a while — Spycraft 2.0 released way back in 2005 — but the deciding factor was losing our inventory after our split from Mongoose Publishing. It didn’t make much sense to go back to press with new books for an edition we knew was on a clock, and we didn’t want to leave the fans in the dark about what was happening, so we pulled the trigger and let everyone know a new edition was coming. As to changes, we’ve felt for a while that Spycraft could benefit from a renewed focus. The second edition was a multi-genre modern day toolkit game, and while it had a strong audience it was also extremely rough on new players. It was a dense game that bit off more than most groups could realistically chew, and the needs of supporting so many different story types and styles of play was simply overkill. Spycraft Third Edition brings the focus back to espionage. We’ll also be covering several closely related genres, like military action,
counter-terror, and blockbuster mayhem, but those won’t appear in the core release. They’re being intentionally shifted over to their own releases so we can give them the same royal treatment we’re giving the Great Game in the main line. The system is sleeker now, faster, and nowhere near as crunchy. It’s still a Crafty design, so there’s plenty of meat for rules lovers, but we’ve dug all the way down to the system’s foundation to find the very core of what it’s always done best, and then built it back up from scratch. In the end the changes are all for the better, though I won’t lie
— there are plenty of them. This isn’t the Spycraft of yore. It’s not even an OGL game anymore. We can’t wait to show it off. Everyone who’s ever loved Spycraft, or espionage roleplaying, has something to love here, and modern fans will still find tons to enjoy as well.
5) As you started with Spycraft, it seems like quite a jump to Fantasy Craft and Mistborn, not that there’s any problem with a genre shift, but was there a reason behind it?
PAT: With Fantasy Craft it was a direct response to the fans. There had been pressure for us to build a high adventure version of the Spycraft game system for quite some time but we were always resistant. We didn’t think there was anything new to offer — until we hit on the idea of giving players their perfect fantasy heartbreaker, rather than ours. That was when the whole concept for what eventually became Fantasy Craft solidified. The finished game presents no default setting (though we’ve since developed some to show off how the rules and guidance in the core book can be used to match a wide variety of worlds), and it strips away all the assumptions you normally see with a fantasy RPG. Magic isn’t mandatory, nor are magic items. Gods and Alignments are customized to your world. Monsters are infinitely tweakable and trivially easy to build. Even when they choose the same classes, characters rarely look alike. It’s all those things and more that made Fantasy Craft worth doing to us, and we still feel there’s no better toolbox on the market for someone who wants to play in their own world first and foremost.
was a couple different things working in tandem that brought that game about.
On the other hand, Mistborn satisfied two of our long-standing desires. Alex and I have worked on plenty of licenses in the past — I headed up the Stargate SG-1 RPG and also worked on Battlestar Galactica and others — but we wanted something different for Crafty, something that really set us apart. The Mistborn world is so unique, so bold and wellrealized, we knew it had to be our first license. For a long time Alex and I had also wanted to build an intentionally story-driven game — something like what we were seeing from the indie movement — and Mistborn wound up being the perfect vehicle for that. So it
The game slogan says it all: Fantasy Craft is “Your Dungeon, Your Dragon, Your Way.”
6) With quite a few other “generic” fantasy systems out there, what sets Fantasy Craft apart? PAT: It’s definitely the toolkit. Generic games usually strive to present common baselines that everyone can use — the orcs that we already know, for example, and weapons that everyone can use. They focus on the existing hallmarks. While Fantasy Craft can do those things, and we have an orc species in the book, it’s just one of countless variations you can build for your world, both to play and fight. Weapons feature tons of upgrade options, and we include many more than you might expect (there are even early fantasy firearms in the core release). Magic items and artifacts are also customizable, down to choosing the effects that work best for your story. The book even contains playtested “house rules” to change the lethality and flavor of the system to your liking.
7) What drew you to the Mistborn series?
ALEX: Actually, it was a coworker at an old day job; he’d just read the first novel and was insistent Mistborn would make a great game. Having heard that argument many times before from other people (about other books), I didn’t pay it much mind, but he bugged me for weeks about it. Finally, to appease him, I picked up The Final Empire (the first novel), read about 30 pages and said to myself, “This would make a great game.”
I think what was most attractive to me, then and now, was the clear and unique vision [Mistborn creator] Brandon Sanderson had for his world — familiar enough to our own to be accessible, but with many well-thought out twists, carried out to logical ends. The fact that common metals are used in magic completely changes how people work, what they wear, and what they value: the fastest method for moving messages is via couriers who can Push off of metal sources, rather than horses; the nobility refuse to wear metal jewelry or carry metal weapons lest they be pulled from their hands or bodies; and elements like silver are essentially worthless since they have no Allomantic function, whereas aluminum is considered incredibly valuable due to its special magical properties. It’s that sort of thinking that makes Mistborn so gamefriendly, and let me spot Brandon as a gamer right from the start.
8) Can you tell us a little about the process of turning a series of novels into an RPG? ALEX: Well, it’s not easy, I can tell you that much! On the one hand, we have this very strong narrative, interesting characters, and a welldefined world that is compelling to readers, and on the other there’s so much outside that narrative that’s completely up in the air. You have to walk this conceptual tightrope, where on one side you’re following the author’s vision as set forth in the books, and on the other you’re blazing new territory and filling in the gaps with new ideas — hopefully things that make the world even more compelling and playable. Sorting out where we can insert new things and where we should stick to canon (some of it not yet revealed) means a lot
of research and conversation with Brandon and his assistant Peter. Fortunately, they’re very easy to work with and have been absolutely amazing at answering our questions. They’re helped us out at every turn; Brandon even wrote original fiction and a set of “liner notes” that we sprinkled throughout the book, which really helped the project come together.
our first print follow-up, based on The Alloy of Law, the fourth Mistborn novel. This expansion will probably end up over 300 pages and cover all the tools and rules you need to shift your Mistborn game 300 years into the future. Think of it like the Wild West with Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy, plus koloss marauders, strange new faiths, fancy guns, cars, and steam locomotives. All the exciting new stuff from the book is covered, from Twinborn to gunslinging, and of course a few surprises as well.
10) Where next for Crafty Games?
9) Are there plans for Mistborn expansions? ALEX: Abso-freakin’-lutely! We currently have four, close to five digital supplements in the can, waiting for approval by Brandon’s camp. They’re a mixture of adventures and supplements expanding the novel canon and offering all-new details about the people and places of Scadrial (remember what I said about walking a tightrope?). The first of these products cover the Terris people. It’s a huge release and just dripping with new information and flavor for both fans of the books and gamers new to Mistborn. There’s also a ton of information to help players build and run Terris characters. We’ve also got the first drafts in for
ALEX: On the Mistborn front we’ve got a full schedule of digital support for both the original trilogy and the Alloy of Law era, with products that will push the boundaries of what you think you know about Scadrial and keep everyone on their toes. We’re covering all the heroic races, as well as new ways to play the game, like becoming a noble Crew, or working for the Steel Ministry. We’ve also got a rich and diverse series of adventures coming that take the heroes around the world and let them really make it their own. Spycraft Third Edition is coming, of course, and with it the project that brought me into the RPG industry in the first place: Ten Thousand Bullets. This is an epic crime noir game in which the players take the roles of cops or criminals, clawing their way up from the gutter to own their place in Empire City. You’ll see that hit not long after Spycraft’s launch, which puts it in 2014 sometime. PAT: Fantasy Craft has been quiet for a while, partly because we were busy with Mistborn but mainly because we’ve been looking for the perfect person to shepherd the line
into its next phase. We’ve found that person now, and it turns out it’s me! There’s a lot in the channel for Fantasy Craft, including a massive print expansion called Spellbound that contains almost 900 spells, over 20 classes, dozens more character options for casting heroes, NPCs, and adversaries, and all the worldbuilding goodies needed to fully realize that part of the toolbox. On the digital front we’re spinning up new Call to Arms releases (these are our class releases), the first of which you’ll see really soon, as well as several new adventures and an expansion to the Realm micro-setting first seen in the Time of High Adventure compilation. We also have a couple surprise releases in store for later this year — stuff that’s been covertly spinning up in the background, and which is very close to done. Some of that is for lines you’ve seen, and some of it is all-new. What can we say, it’s going to be a Very Crafty 2013! www.crafty-games.com www.facebook.com/craftygames www.twitter.com/Crafty_Games
DUNGEONSLAYERS OLD SCHOOL FANTASY Welcome to Dungeonslayers, the role-playing game, in which the characters are slaying monsters and looting dungeons in an archaic and old-fashioned way. The rules of Dungeonslayers were designed to be very basic and simple on purpose, to bring the charming flair of old-school gaming back to life. Dungeonslayers is not about having elaborate, realistic rule mechanics nor about playing out pseudointellectual drama filled with egomaniac monologues. Instead it’s about straight-forward plots in your traditional fantasy world, where evil is still evil, where monsters have to be killed mercilessly, where devious traps strike and where phat loot awaits, while pencil and graph paper work their own special magic around the gaming table. Despite the rules’ lack of details or possibly because of this, player characters tend to evolve into highly individual personalities. So, let’s put on the chainmail once again, draw your blade or dig up the spell book, the next dungeon and its monstrous hordes await your return.
Category: Core Rulebook Retail Price: $24.99 / £16.99 Size: 160 pages, softcover, 6” x 9” Interior Art: B&W Author: Christian Kennig Stock Code: CHC52401 ISBN: 978-1-909126-05-3
Ph: +44 (0) 7834 281383 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chronicle City – The New Capital of Gaming
TOP FIVE RPGS OF 2012 Mike Brennan counts down The Gazebo’s Top Five RPGs for 2012
eeing as the world failed to either end in a fiery apocalypse, or transform into a place of magic and elves (thanks for nothing, Mayans), it means that there are people around asking themselves all sorts of probing philosophical questions like “Does free will truly exist?”, “Is there such a thing as a universal truth?”, and “What were the best RPGs released in 2012?”. The answers clearly being “Yes”, “Mathematics”, and “See below!” 2012 was a good year for RPGs. There hasn’t been much in terms of groundbreaking innovation [though Marvel’s milestone system for advancement bears a quick mention], but there has been a lot of refinement. Authors are starting to look at what is being done well elsewhere and refining it to be better. In choosing the top five RPGs released this year, I’ve tried to get as broad a sample as possible, covering the many faces of this hobby. I decided not to limit by original publishing dates, to allow new editions of older games to be included in the selection. I also excluded sourcebooks, only complete games were considered. I started out with 25 games, from major studio releases to a bunch of ‘indie’ games,
and whittled it down to the top 5.
Durance is a Fiasco-like cooperative game set on a harsh, barely habitable planet. The players, criminals press ganged into colonisation, are both guards and prisoners. As the game progresses the line between Prisoners and Guards blurs heavily, bringing into focus questions about the ideas of justice, morality and corruption. Each player has a code of conduct and their own personal aspirations which, while achievable, usually end up costing another player dearly.
2012 was a good year for RPGs. “
4) Adventurer, Conqueror, King
Mike Brennan Mike has been gaming since before he was old enough to know better. Now he is old enough to know better and still hasn’t stopped. He lives in London with his boyfriend and a cat. You can follow him on Twitter @ohcrapzombies if you’re prone to that sort of thing.
Retro time! ACK is Basic D&D updated to give players and GMs more options, while still retaining the feel of classic D&D. If you want your RPG unburdened by endless power options and skill selections this is the game for you.
Dwarves, Ogrun (honourable ogres), or Trollkin. You then paint the broad strokes of your character: are you Skilled (quick on your feet and with your wit), Mighty (Me strong like bear!), Gifted (magic user) or Intellectual (not necessarily an academic, Ulysses would have been this)?
3) Night’s Black Agents
The Cold War is over, the war on terror is winding down. You have a highly specific set of skills, and the market for them is dwindling, fast. So you take a job “fixing” problems for a mysterious Eastern European gentleman with a penchant for capes, and slightly pointed canines... Night’s Black Agents is essentially a cross between fast paced Spy Thrillers and Horror. Think Bourne meets Bram Stoker. The characters are highly skilled operatives working for a Vampire or against them, or usually both at the same time. The game leverages the Gumshoe system to good effect, creating a tense and paranoid atmosphere, where trust is your most precious resource.
2) Savage Worlds Deluxe
Savage Worlds Deluxe edition took on the daunting task of reformatting the Savage World rules into a clearer, more navigable book. Savage World’s setting agnostic rules have been the source of many a heated “discussion” around tables and on Internet forums worldwide. Fortunately, the Deluxe edition cleared up many of the vaguer parts of the earlier editions, and the new layout was much easier to reference. The Explorer’s edition presents the Savage Worlds Deluxe edition in a more portable size. One of the great advantages that Savage Worlds has always had is the low cost of entry for players, and the Explorer’s edition is pocket friendly in both the literal and figurative sense.
Easily the best game of the year.”
Once the fundamental choices are made, you choose your two careers from an exhaustive list. The choice of two careers makes for a wide variety of character choice, and even small player groups won’t find themselves lacking important skills. Some careers are race specific and some are faction specific. There’s also the option to restrict career choices in order to build a specific group, with added bonuses, like a spy ring, or a ship’s crew. The system is a simple 2d6 with modifiers vs. a target number, and the players can use Feat points to sway things in their favour.
1) Iron Kingdoms
Easily the best game of the year. Iron Kingdoms’ world blends magic and steam technology, creating a gestalt that’s immensely playable. The world is fleshed out well in the opening chapters, and the setting’s main focus, Western Immoren, is given a thorough treatment, so even GMs unfamiliar with the setting can add detail and vibrancy to their game. Character creation is interesting, players pick a race from a selection of seven available, humans, elves (two types: civilised or savage), gobbos (goblins to you and me),
All in all a great system, with excellent online support (includ-
ing an expanded bestiary). But what really tipped Iron Kingdoms into the top spot was the setting. While it is quite action-orientated, there is a sense of wonder and excitement in the “fluff ” that was sorely lacking in other games. I defy anyone to read through the first couple of chapters and not find something that captures their imagination.
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game : Fantasy Flight’s interpretation of the Star Wars RPG. Heavily inspired by their edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, it’s a marmite situation. See the full review in this issue, and make your own judgement. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: If you like superhero games, you have no excuse not to own this book. Now available with the Civil War campaign included in the Civil War Premium book. Monsterhearts: Sexy monsters, love triangles and teenage angst. Players create solid characters, with motivations and believable flaws. The game is driven by character created conflict, no standing around in a forest for 4 books then having a big fight for these teenage monsters.
PLUGGING IN... Baz explores what is and what isn’t online gaming
nline Gaming is not a genre. Yet, it has clichés. People know exactly what it is, but at the same time it’s hard to define. To some it is a benign, all pervasive use of the medium of the internet, to others it is a mechanical drug, a social death knell, a place where culture goes to die. It has elements of Hard Cyberpunk but also has the broad strokes of Technological Mysticism. In fiction that touches on Online Gaming, ‘80s supercomputers running DOS are intelligent and entrusted with nuclear defence; ‘90s desktops with 640 colour monitors generate new universes so complex only direct neural interface allows humans full appreciation for their glory. It is misunderstood, mostly by those who came of an age when they thought they had seen television as the ultimate media. The first word that jumps to mind about online gaming is MMORPG, but that’s just a fancy multi-user environment. If we’re going online, we’re going back to dial up modems, tape backups and MUDs. From the days of the most basic GUI and text commands, to modern touch screens and futuristic holography, as soon as someone was online, he was looking for
something fun to do.
One – Telepresence: “I’m here but playing there”
Concerning telepresence, the player may not be there but the game is real. Perhaps artificial reality will never actually surpass the intensity of reality. Also, often, Online Gaming is not about logging on to what, but to who. So, Avatar is diplomacy for alien smurfs. Let’s get that one out early. But think about it; if they can control an extra-terrestrial hybrid over a distance just to pacify the natives, think what could be done with cloned humans, or even robots, in that universe. Similarly, in the film Gamer, we have the idea of a world where you log into someone to play as them, usually in brutal fighting arenas. Surrogates, then, is about a world where people have their ‘surrogate’, their robotic platonic version of themselves - like Second Life with slightly less sex. Even mundane technology, without the use of nanites and cloning and psi-controlled robots, can allow for something in this vein. Wargames has Matthew Broderick’s character play computer games against an AI... that just happens to be hooked up to NORAD and the US nuclear defence pro-
Baz Nugent Baz Nugent is a semi-professional game writer as well as graphic designer, theatre technician and general scatterbrain. He’s been involved in organising many cons, having directed Gaelcon 2010 and Leprecon 29, and done graphic design work for many more. He is also a former NST of Camarilla Ireland, and a founding member of Ireland’s newest gaming convention, Hobocon.
gramme. And when the line blurs, machines learning from man is a common theme - in Wargames, Joshua, the missile computer, averts nuclear war by realising the concept of
Futility and that any nuclear war will lead to Mutually Assured Destruction. Tron “fights for the User”. At best, the computer characters can be identified by being too good. In Mass Effect 2, Geth (a race of machines) character Legion is constantly being banned from shooter MMOs because people accuse him of using “VIs, or Virtual Intelligences”, to cheat, not realising he is, himself, made up of about 10000 Virtual Intelligences combined.
Two - The Game has Changed
There are always rules. Usually they’re related to gladiatorial survival or commanding armies. Very rarely do people get sucked into the digital universe to raise Tamagotchi, although Tron: Farmville would be an interesting piece. One the main things about a virtual world is that it rarely uses our rules. Mostly it utilises the laws of physics, which get paid a rough lip service. Occasionally, all sense of normality goes out the window.
Inception is online gaming without computers, albeit a very small network of players in the game at one time - more LAN than MMO, but still it applies. It’s laid out quite clearly: if you die in the dream, you wake up, and if you try to change the dream too much or try to create something too specific, the dream will eject you. Ok, the rules change halfway through, mostly because of the heroic amounts of drugs required for the plan to work, but still, there are rules, and by and large these are the world’s laws rather than ours. AIs in the game world can be smarter than any human, and yet be outsmarted simply because they can only think in terms of the game rules.
Three - Basecode and Bytes : The world is virtual
Everything is numbers. Everything can be hacked. No system is isolated. Software rules firmware, hardware, even wetware. From the most elaborate Virtual Worlds in universes like the Matrix, down to the ‘mundane’ of Hackers, no system is immune to the L33T
skills of the User. This varies, of course. Back in the ‘80s, when computer graphics were shoddy at best and Apple made news by buying a Super Bowl ad to advertise their computer with a GUI, cyberspace was a mystical universe, of glowing power lines and programmes with anthropomorphic form. Hacking could be done in-universe … literally. Tron was a neon-psychedelic trip into the terrifying concept known as “The Grid”, a digital world that could only be truly experienced through the convenient technomagic of laser-teleportation. This is a totally different kind of sci-fi to the rocketships and rayguns people knew; this was transhuman postulation, wrapped up in the budget of a Disney movie. Moving on, and with the slow creep of technology, it mutates into Virtual Reality: the human being can now directly perceive cyberspace, albeit through sensory deprivation and expensive toys, and no small amount of disbelief in 1990s
graphics. But a theme reappears the base code in there can affect the world out here. Depending on the Hardness of the scifi, this can vary; Virtuosity (with a surprisingly competent pair of leads in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) has silicon android bodies for AIs to inhabit in the real world; Gone a bit too far, the Lawnmower Man has the eponymous character able to bend reality itself, essentially hacking the real world. This is a novel idea, let down by the shoddiness of the effects and clumsy production, but the end result is simple - reality itself is a system, a complex system, but one no less adjustable. The idea of “Reality Base Code” is not often used, especially in movies, and when it is, it’s dumbed down into “you’re in a computer”, although Darren Aronofsky’s debut movie Pi discusses the idea of a 216 digit number sequence that is the key to everything.
ACCESS DENIED: What is not Online Gaming.
Cyberpunk: Oh, it’s attached at the hip; but Cyberpunk is as much about metal as it is meat, and it’s a world where you’re amazed anyone outside of an armoured bunker still has a web connection, given the wholesale destruction going on and the absence of Wi-Fi. Cyberpunk has cyberspace, yet no-one ever really foresaw the idea that normal people might use it. Cyberpunk Deckers are usually peripheral characters in the genre; sure, they are useful, but Cyberpunk is more about leather coats and street-samurai than phreaking. Perhaps ubiquitous Augmented Reality will merge the two, but for now Cyberpunk is still so very deliciously ‘80s. Transhumanism: This is not about becoming the machine; this is
mostly about experiencing the machine, usually accidentally. Gamers: Fiction set about the people who play games is about Gamers, not Gaming. The Guild is about gamers who happen to all be in an online group, but not that much of it is about the game, more the social misanthropy being part of the game encourages.
Tron & Tron Legacy The original Tron wasn’t allowed to enter for the Special Effects Oscar the year it came out because “Computers were cheating”. Oh, how things have changed. It’s iconic and trippy. I’m personally fond of Tron Legacy, mostly because Jeff Bridges is always great, but also because it manages to make a virtual world look good and alien at the same time. Wargames The dark side of Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick hacks NORAD but manages to turn a computer Goth. It’s really good, though looks and sounds so very ‘80s. Inception & Exiztenz Technically more Virtual Reality than gaming, but both create ‘almost real’ worlds, and have their own distinct laws of physics. The Lawnmower Man & Pi WTF. Drill-bit trepanation and cyber-enhanced gardeners. Weird and wonderful, and proof that ‘reality’ is not key to Virtual Reality. Gamer & Surrogates Not particularly good, Gamer is an excuse for a Gerald Butler action
movie, Surrogates an excuse for Bruce Willis to wear a wig. But both are a good approach to real world telepresence. Reboot The characters are computer programmes who live in a virtual world called “Mainframe”, avoiding the nefarious antics of the evil overlord Megabyte and periodically getting stuck in the natural disasters known as “Games”. Here, the user’s feature rarely, and are definitely all Leeroy Jenkins. The graphics have dated awfully but it had conviction. Hackers Like Empire Records, it’s full of now house-hold name actors cutting their teeth, apparently on a lot of drugs and glo-stick clothing. Mostly rubbish, but the hacking scenes are more Tron than Unix. Mage the Adepts
Had to have at least one gaming reference here; the Virtual Adepts, acolytes of Alan Turing and renegades from the Technocracy, who believe that reality, like any system, is run on code. A very hard paradigm to grasp, since people tend to keep it ‘realistic’ instead of realising that yes, you can hack gravity. Thankfully Mage 20th Edition is coming out soon, so these Technomancers will get another look in for a whole new generation of smartphone using gamers.
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN Ronan reviews NWoD’s reinvention of the Mummy setting
ummy: The Curse marks the first new World of Darkness (NWoD) line since the release of 2009’s Geist: The Sin-Eaters. It’s also the first completely new game line to be released since White Wolf ’s creative developer Rich Thomas founded Onyx Path Publishing and bought the licenses for the World of Darkness lines. In addition, it is the first new line to be published under their new totally online publishing direction, using Kickstarter and DriveThru RPG as their sole avenues of distribution. Following on from Geist, a game with a lot of interesting, and flavourful ideas but some crippling flaws, it’s hard not to think Mummy is a game with a lot to prove. Fortunately, it delivers in spades. The version being reviewed is the Preview Edition electronic release, which was sent out early to backers of the Kickstarter. As such, it’s got some editing errors and rules contradictions between sections that the developers have said aren’t going to be in the final product backers with access to the book have been compiling errors to be corrected in the final release (In fact, the Preview Edition itself was delayed for a few days while lead developer C.A. Suleiman went through the book removing vari-
ous references to Page XX, a White Wolf staple and hopefully a sign of quality-control to come.) As such, I’ll be disregarding these errors in this review on the assumption that by the time those of you who are interested in getting your hands on the book actually get it, they won’t be there.
The version being reviewed is the Preview Edition electronic release, which was sent out early to backers of the Kickstarter.”
The first thing you notice on opening the book is the quality of art and art-direction. World of Darkness books have almost always been pretty (Mage: The Awakening’s questionable art direction aside) and Mummy is no exception. The book is laid out in a clean style, with beautiful artwork and minimalist Egyptian-style page borders all presented in a sandy yellowish colour. The intro
Rónán Comasky is a gamer living in Galway, Ireland. His primary interests include music, tabletop RPGs, dead languages, and getting in to violent arguments about his other interests online. He will translate Latin for food and/or hugs, but he’ll argue with you for free. He also has an irrational fear of cows.
and chapter fiction is provided by Greg Stolze, and is therefore brilliant and draws you right in to the world of the Arisen. The only questionable art direction choice is the use, in some in-character sidebars, of a strange font that resem-
bles cuneiform which I found quite difficult to read in places, though it’s not completely illegible. The second thing you notice when you hit the contents section is how the book is laid out in two parts. The first is the Player’s Guide to the Arisen, which features a general description of what Mummies know of their own history as well as the character creation rules and descriptions of their powers along with rules for generating the cults that serve them. The second section is the Mummy Storyteller’s Handbook, which includes The Truth About The Setting, detailed descriptions of various antagonist groups and storytelling suggestions for running a campaign using millennia-old characters that spend most of their time dead (more on this in a moment). This is the first sign that this game is something very different from other World of Darkness lines. Mummy has an actual true backstory which the storyteller knows about and the players do not, and as such the information is kept separate and players are encouraged to only read the first half of the book. This ties in to the game’s central theme of memory, which is so integral to the system it serves as the Arisen’s Morality trait.
Mummy: The Curse is complex, interesting, well-written and the first really innovative New World of Darkness game in a long time.”
In the interest of avoiding spoil-
ers, here is what the Arisen know. They all lived and died in a prehistoric city they call Irem, the City of Pillars, located in the region that would eventually become Egypt. Irem was the capital of the Nameless Empire - so called because it was the first empire ever conceived and it didn’t need one. Rather than Pharaohs or mighty rulers, the Arisen all lived as members of the caste of craftsmen and skilled labourers, divided by their skills into guilds (these guilds serve as the basis for the social distinctions among the Arisen to this day). Their sorcerer-king rulers subjected them to the Rite of Return, making them immensely powerful and immortal servants who would slumber in death until needed, awakening only to fulfil a purpose. When they next awoke, the Empire was gone. They don’t know why, but the drives and commands of their masters compel them across the millennia, and the Arisen have scattered across the world in pursuit of these ends, building cults to serve them. Arisen need the protection of these generational mortal cults because they spend most of their time dead, only arising when the cult summons them, when their tombs are disturbed or in accordance with the Sothic Cycle (roughly occurring every 1,421 years, with the modern day conveniently lining up to this date) when all Arisen are free to awaken and pursue their own interests. This serves two purposes: it means that if your character is active there’s usually a good reason for it which can drive the plot on, and it means you can run a style of game where other players are members of the Arisen’s cult, thus compensating for the ‘if these guys are so rare why are they all together’ issue that plagued Promethean. This unusual approach to immortality (and the Arisen
are truly immortal, no matter how many times you put them down they’ll get back up eventually, even if they need to take someone else’s body to do so) is reflected in their mechanics, which are completely different to other supernaturals in the NWoD. Their power stat, Sekhem, actually starts at 10 when they first arise, making a newly arisen mummy an immensely powerful being. However they are subject to the Descent, which means their Sekhem rating drops over time - and when Sekhem hits 0 the Arisen dies again. Attempting to fulfil the purpose you were resurrected to achieve slows the Descent, which encourages the Arisen to stick to their goals as much as possible. Conversely an Arisen may be interested in trying to regain memories of their past resurrections or their mortal lives, which is tied in with the game’s use of Memory as the morality system. Unlike other morality traits Memory starts at 3 dots: the Arisen knows who and what they are and why they’re awake, as well as relevant details about their cult and so forth, but little else. The game presents an interesting thematic choice - you can be the good servant and forsake your identity to achieve your goals or you can try to resist your mindless role, increase your Memory rating and reclaim aspects of your former humanity. This amnesia also provides endless story hooks when the most likely antagonists and allies your character’s had over the centuries are other Arisen (some of whom will remember past favours and betrayals your character doesn’t), and gives the game a very cool Planescape: Torment vibe. No World of Darkness game would be complete without Cool Powers, and Mummy delivers in this area too. Powers are divorced from the typical one-to-five-dot
structure of other games. Instead Affinities (innate powers that are usually subtle and always on) and Utterances (immensely powerful acts of Biblical sorcery) are single purchase packages of two to three related powers with access based on the character’s Pillar ratings five ratings tied to the traditional aspects of the Egyptian soul, which also serve as five separate fuel stats to replace the larger pools typical to World of Darkness games and which stand completely separate to your current Sekhem rating (in many ways they resemble Virtue ratings from the Classic World of Darkness). As long as you meet the prerequisites for one of the powers you can buy the package, but you won’t gain access to the other powers without the appropriate Pillar ratings. There’s a lot more to talk about in the Storyteller section, but I don’t want to spoil things for people who just want to play, so all I’ll say is the truth about Irem’s fate is heavily hinted at, it’s not pretty, and the truth coming out would have a very profound effect on the nature of Arisen service. In order to avoid giving anything away I’ll wrap up the review with this: Mummy: The Curse is complex, interesting, well-written and the first really innovative New World of Darkness game in a long time. Well worth the look when it goes to general release.
HELLAS Kieran reviews the 2nd edition of this Grecian Space opera RPG
ellas is a remarkable blending of space opera and Greek myth. The game successfully takes elements of science-fiction and bolts on ancient Greek tropes. What results is a flash of brilliance, a largerthan-life world where the Gods exist side-by-side with spaceships, plasma cannons, and murderous robots. The PCs are mythic figures akin to Ulysses, Perseus, Medusa, Medea, and Hercules. They carry the blood of the Gods in their veins and are destined to either become the greatest heroes in the universe or fail so spectacularly that playwrights will write great tragedies in their name. This is the kind of game where you can destroy spaceships with a wellthrown spear and battle spacekrakens naked on a drunken bet.
The characters are members of one of seven allied races, each with its own unique features: Amazoran: Blue-skinned warrior women, splintered from a vast culture that is now at odds with the Hellenes. Hellene: The humans of the set-
ting, favoured of the gods and the most common of the races. Nymphas: Androgynous creatures renowned for their “appetites” and dependant on the natural world for survival. Gorgone: Brutish yet noble snakemen with a paralytic stare. Kyklopes: Dark-skinned giants who blind themselves to gain greater insight into the universe. Xintar: Squid-like creatures who use technological carapaces to get around. Nephali: Mysterious beings of light and air.
One nice touch is that every character has a fate and a destiny.”
Each PC chooses a god that they are the chosen of and gains special abilities based on this. As the PC becomes better known and admired (tracked by a Glory attribute) they gain access to more godly
Kieran Turley Kieran lives under a desk in a mouldy attic surrounded by so many dice that the combination of angles they produce has been known to birth Hounds of Tindalos. Well, no, he doesn’t live in such a place but he would like to. Gief attic plx, also more dice.
powers until one day they join the gods in the “Olympus Cluster”. Note that atheism while uncommon is also a possible choice; you simply believe in yourself! One nice touch is that every char-
acter has a fate and a destiny. Your character’s Fate is a dark death that they might suffer if they should stray too far from their heroic destiny. Fates can be chosen by the players or rolled randomly and kept secret by the GM. The character’s destiny is some epic achievement that they are “destined” to complete. Examples of fates include “To be slain by your brother”, or “To be devoured by the grey children of the lonely wastes”. Character creation is quite front loaded and is a bit of a mini-game in and of itself. You end up doing a fair amount of rolling on life paths to create your PC, which is fun and quite good for coming up background ideas. For those who don’t like all that rolling you have the option to avoid it, but frankly, it’s a really good way to come up with a very rounded character.
Hellas is set amongst the known worlds, against a turbulent political landscape. In recent times, many long-dead enemies of the Hellenes have risen once again and now threaten to destroy all of existence. Hellas works on an epic scale; your PCs are never contacted by a man in a bar and asked to recover a magic gem from a dungeon, they are charged by the King of Thebes with defeating the planet-sized monster Archeros whose very glance causes suns to explode. Hellas has a strong back-story and a metaplot, so if you don’t like that kind of thing stay away. However, if you like a lot of storytelling Hellas is a well worth a look. Campaigns can range from exploration, to warfare, to political high jinks. Due to the nature of character creation the PCs are likely to start with very clearly defined
agendas and laden down with adventure hooks. In short, creating campaigns should be very easy indeed.
Hellas uses the Omni system; a fairly simple system that uses a single D20 roll to resolve actions. The system takes a little getting used to but after a single session you’ll know everything you need to. I like this system for its speed and relative simplicity. The D20 gives a nice range of results and the PCs can use “hero points” to modify results as required. Damage is a set number which can be modified by how well you roll on an attack and by adding hero points. This means that if you really need to take someone down you can usually do it.
If you already own the first edition, then there are quite a few changes.”
The game includes a “force-like” power that allows you to create Jedi-style characters, which is probably better used to create seers, psychics, and magicians, allowing it to keep more within the setting. The rules for these powers are simple yet flexible and I can see them being easily modified to create a generic magic system for a fantasy game.
What has changed?
If you already own the first edition, then there are quite a few changes. On the surface the artwork has been redone and improved, and there’s been a lot of editing work done to simplify the rules. They’ve
also updated the races and divine gifts to make them more complete and balanced. The rules also reflect new and modified rules introduced in the 1st edition sourcebooks.
Hellas has a flavourful setting, straightforward rules, and enables you to create rich characters right from the start. I’d heartily recommend the game to anyone looking for a sci-fi game with a strong background. The only bad thing I can say about the game is that the unusual landscape format makes it tough to read in bed.
PHONING IT IN Padraic Barrett reminds us of the importance of wearing trousers when gaming online
here are times when I really just want to sit down and play a game. Right now is one of them. I’m currently sitting at home writing this article, but frankly that’s mainly because my plans to run Mansions of Madness this evening got scuppered. Not that this doesn’t have my undivided attention, but I wanted to give you some context. Right now I can actually make plans to meet people to play a boardgame or run an RPG, but a few years ago that wasn’t the case. At the time I was living in the arse end of nowhere and the closest outlet for a gaming fix was a 45 minute drive away (which in case you’re wondering I used to do at least once a week). My old gaming buddies were all on the other side of the country and even when I did make it back to civilisation it was usually only for a flying visit. It was, all in all, bloody depressing. Then out of the blue one of my mates suggested trying to run a game using Skype. Now I should say that this wasn’t a new idea to our group and it had been attempted in the past, usually with mixed results at best, but I was, shall we say, keen to give it a go. So first I had to go and get a micro-
phone. Word of advice here, if you intend to use a microphone for anything other than screaming obscenities at some ‘noob’ while playing WoW, pay the money to get a decent one. When you’re not going to be in the same room as the people you’re playing with sound quality is pretty important. I’d recommend using a headset microphone if possible and not eating crisps. (nobody wants to hear you chewing) I went with a mid-range Logitech headset with a noise-cancelling mic and still use it. Checking their website, Logitech headsets currently range in price from £20 up to £150.
Word of advice here, if you intend to use a microphone for anything other than screaming obscenities at some ‘noob’ while playing WoW, pay the money to get a decent one.”
Padraic Barret Padraic has believed for a very long time that he should stop drinking at gaming conventions. He always tends to agree to write/run/ organise stuff when someone is handing him a drink.
Next we had to agree on how the game was going to be run. The first option was to basically just run the game with the guys at one end and me at the other. The alternative was to run the whole game on Skype, with everyone lounging at
home. In the end we went with the second approach, mainly because there were a few of us scattered around the countryside, so it was as easy to organise (and we’re lazy). The upshot of this was that you got good sound quality. The downside was that with the number of people involved you could only use voice chat. This was a bit awkward at first, as people ended up talking over one another, but we all soon learned that there was a certain etiquette in such situations. Namely wait a second before opening your mouth and give everyone a chance to speak.
Of course the biggest obstacle to making this work is often the most basic; people are afraid to try.”
The other approach is one that several friends of mine have used over the last few years, usually so that they could stay playing with their old group or continue a particular campaign. As this is basically a two-way conversation you can use video chat, which is a lot more personal, but with a bunch of guys all talking in the same room, you will have more sound problems. Keeping the ambient noise down at the end with the group helps, not balancing pizza boxes on the mic is also good practice. Note: Access to video chat also allows for a trouser-check. I’m not making this up. Finally we had to work out how to handle the dice issue. At the time
we talked about using online dice rollers, but we couldn’t find one that we all liked. Having tried out a few with some friends the one I’d recommend is on a German website. We ended up going with the ‘honour’ system, where we all agreed to report our results honestly, which is fine so long as you don’t play with cheating bastards. Of course the biggest obstacle to making this work is often the most basic; people are afraid to try. They may think its silly or that it’d be too
complicated or just won’t be the same as playing in person. If this is their argument please remind them that they’re involved with a hobby that is already silly (singing the song of stealth, anyone?), complicated (how long does it take to play Twilight Imperium?) and that this has as much to do with staying in touch with your friends as it is about any game. It worked for me.
KICKS LIKE A MULE “its not another Kickstarter article” insists james
Have you ever thought about getting one of your game ideas into print? A set of rules or an adventure? Beyond slapping it up on the web as a PDF or running off a few copies on the photocopier at work, that is? Have you wondered how that’s even possible, and given up because it seems like too much work? There’s a new way of doing it. You’ve probably heard of it: it’s called Kickstarter. But this isn’t another ‘gosh, wow, Kickstarter’ article. My perspective on the whole thing is different. Hello, I’m James Wallis. I set up and ran Hogshead Publishing (Warhammer FRP, SLA Industries, Nobilis, Baron Munchausen), the first successful UK RPG company since Games Workshop. I founded Dragonmeet, the biggest RPG event in London. I used to hold the Guinness World Record for endurance RPG play (84 hours non-stop), and I created the storygames movement by accident. In other words, I know games and I know the games industry. I’m in the lucky position of being able to go to almost any company and have them listen to my pitch. But I’m funding my latest game, Alas Vegas, through Kickstarter. Why?
I’m in charge. This is my project. I don’t have line-editors or money people looking over my shoulder. Alas Vegas will be my vision and nobody else’s. Granted, I have a pretty good understanding of what makes a game commercial. But I know from cold, hard experience that there really isn’t that much money in the games business. If you’re working for a pittance and you’re not proud of the end product because it’s been watered down by people who aren’t you, why are you bothering?
Kicstarter isn’t all spangles and unicorns pissing money.”
Kickstarter isn’t just a way of raising money to produce your idea, it’s a fantastic way of promoting it too. You’re putting your product in front of thousands of people with money to spend, on a heavily trafficked site. If I’d simply announced Alas Vegas as a new RPG I might have got a few mentions on a few websites. With Alas Vegas on Kick-
James Wallis Award-winning games designer and author. In the 90s he ran Hogshead, the largest publisher of roleplaying games in the UK. He’s also been a TV presenter, columnist, lecturer, and editor of Bizarre. He’s written books and his game designs include Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He runs the games consultancy Spaaace and lives in London with his wife and 1d4 –1 children.
starter I’ve been asked to do four web-interviews, three podcasts and an article for Gazebo — and
the project hasn’t been running a week yet. Which leads me to:
Kickstarter isn’t all spangles and unicorns pissing money. Sometimes a project flops. That may be because you didn’t promote it properly, or your rewards sucked, or you were simply asking for too much money (hint: just because Fred Hicks can make $450,000 and Robin D. Laws can make $93,000 doesn’t mean you can). But often it’s because your product isn’t right. Kickstarter is funding engine, publicity machine and market-research gizmo all rolled into one. Don’t ignore any part of that triumvirate. Usually if a Kickstarter fails it’s because there isn’t an audience for your idea. There’s no shame in cancelling a Kickstarter, rethinking your ideas and your pitch, and relaunching it a few weeks later. Remember, Kickstarter users are actual gamers pledging actual money to back your project. If they’re not backing it then there’s something wrong. Better to learn that now than to print thousands of copies of an RPG and then discover that nobody wants it.
“...Kicstarter lets you bypass all of that and go directly to your end-customers, the gamers. “
In the traditional games industry, the creator sells their design to a publisher, who sells it to distribu-
tors, who sell it to retailers, who sell it to gamers. Not only do each of those people take their cut, but each of them is in a position to say no. So any of these people can stop your game reaching its intended audience. Distributors in particular tend to be a bit conservative, particularly when it comes to new products from new companies. Alas Vegas — my game, remember — is an edge case. It’s not a traditional RPG but it’s not a story-game either. We’re calling it a ‘blast’, a compact mix of rules and an adventure designed to play out over four sessions, like an HBO mini-series. Add in the fact that it’s set in a nightmarish version of Las Vegas with a bunch of PCs who start the game with blank character sheets because they can’t remember who they are or what their skills are — there’s no easy genre for a game like this. No easy category for a distributor to list it in, no easy place on the shelf for a shop to put it. I’ve been here before. In 1998, I accidentally created the entire story-games genre with The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the first of Hogshead’s New Style line. We discovered quickly that it was almost impossible to sell a 24-page RPG to distributors and retailers. Our advance orders were about 200 copies, a pitiful number. It was only after the rave reviews and the award nominations that sales to distributors started to pick up. Meanwhile we couldn’t stuff mailorder copies in envelopes fast enough, for people who couldn’t find it in their local game shop. The point is, Kickstarter lets you bypass all of that and go directly to your end-customers, the gamers. And that’s an incredible advantage over the traditional model. If the
game’s a hit you can always publish it traditionally later — Alas Vegas will be published by Pelgrane Press later this year, but only once we’ve shipped all the Kickstarter rewards.
I mentioned above that everybody wants a cut of the money your game makes. That’s true of Kickstarter too, of course, but their fee works out at less than 10% of your total. You will need a US or UK bank account, but honestly if you can’t organise that then perhaps you shouldn’t be in publishing at all. And while Kickstarter has you set a goal for your fundraising, if punters pledge more than that goal then you can keep the extra. Alas Vegas, for example, asked for £3000, mostly to cover art and layout, and we gave ourselves thirty days to raise it. We hit the target in less than eight hours. LESS THAN EIGHT HOURS. As I write we’re at 224%, and we’ve added more art, more digital formats and a whole new campaign setting by Ireland’s finest, Gareth Hanrahan, to the package—and if the total goes higher there’s much more to come. So: Kickstarter is disrupting the market — not just in gaming but all over — in a way that benefits creators and customers alike. Whether you’re thinking of publishing your own game or you’re just interested in what’s at the cutting edge of games releases, you should check it out. In particular you should check out Alas Vegas. It’ll be on Kickstarter until 28th February, and I think it’s pretty cool. See if you agree. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jameswallis/alas-vegas-anrpg-of-bad-memories-bad-luckand-bad
WRAITH: THE OBLIVION Charles Dunne guides us through the original book of the dead that will be returning to us in 2014...
raith: The Oblivion is a dead game. Born into this world in first edition form in 1994, shuffled off the mortal coil of second ed in 1999. Gone, but not forgotten, especially by those diehard fans who embraced the game as the only truly adult line in the original quintet of the Classic World of Darkness. Wraith was never as popular sales wise as the other four in White Wolf ’s stable and this was for a very good reason: it was harder to play because it demanded more from you as a player and as a GM and as such held the potential to be so much more, so much better than its siblings. In Wraith the players take on the personae of, for want of a better word, ghosts, whether the newly dead who are still stumbling through the shock of discovering they ARE dead to those who may have been haunting an area for several years, decades or centuries. So far so White-Wolftypical in sticking to the template of angsty supernatural alter egos for the players. Wraiths are those dead who have passed over but not passed on. They have unfinished business. Something holds them back from heaven (or hell) and those Fetters, as they are termed, are a vital mechanic in the game.
Those Fetters and the Passions they inspire (another mechanic); fuel a wraith in their journey through the Underworld. Part of every wraith’s personal story arc is the resolution of those Fetters in a fitting manner, and it must be a fitting manner because merely severing your links with the living doesn’t allow you to pass on, it just means you are denied access to the lands of the living, or what Wraith society terms the Skinlands. Seems reasonable so far. What a lot of people who don’t know this game are now asking is: So, this is Ghost, with us as Patrick Swayze’s character? Well, no. Because in Wraith you don’t just have one character, you have two. The second is the sentient voice of every mean spirited, evil, nasty, conniving, murderous, tired and bad thought you ever had, without the voice of conscience to rein it back in and make it behave. It sits in the back of your mind and whispers to you, telling you what you should do, rather like those movies where little devils and angels advise characters on their actions; except the devil is on both sides. Once you died it went from being every evil thought to being its own self, hiding inside your head as another separate personality. This is the Shadow. To make matters even more fun someone
Charles Dunne Charles Dunne has been frequently described as insane, immortal, invincible and sleepless. He is none of these things, preferring as he does a nice snooze of an evening with a copy of The Strand magazine and a slipper of good tobacco. The other slipper he wears as an odd type of shoulder ornament.
ELSE plays it. No, you don’t get to hush it up and ignore it and hope the GM forgets for a bit, rather like a bad flaw you picked in character creation, this thing won’t go away. It knows your every secret. It IS you and it has no shame. And if it
when they do...
can get its way often enough it can temporarily take you over and do... horrible things. If you give in too often it may take over completely and that wouldn’t be good at all.
Oblivion, the urge to destroy and to return to nothingness, drives on all who have succumbed to their Shadow”
The Shadow is why Wraith demands more from players. More responsibility in sharing information about their characters, more honesty in their game play, more openness in saying what they will and won’t accept at a gaming table since they will be dealing with someone else who is actively trying to destroy them as a person and more responsibility from those playing the Shadows to go beyond mere name calling innuendo ridden childishness because they have a responsibility to the game beyond what they normally would. An understanding that the very meta mechanic of the Shadow, if treated right, will enhance their game in a way not seen elsewhere. Being the Shadow means being patient, biding your time and playing the waiting game. Your good side will screw up, and
We need to flip back to the world of Wraith to get perspective on the WHY of all this. Lying at the metaphorical opposite end of Creation is Oblivion. The void itself, curled around its entropic coils in a hyperspace reality that sits underneath the Shadowlands at the heart of a Labyrinth that is at once in the centre of a sea of spectre lashed madness and souls, and also inside your own head. In Wraith everything is relative, it’s just that some relativities have a lot of historical inertia and so aren’t easily changeable. Which is why Wraith has a series of civilisations and cities existing in the Underworld, the chief one being Stygia. People, whether dead or alive, like people things around them. The fact that it may be one giant shared hallucination is entirely beside the point. Oblivion, the urge to destroy and to return to nothingness, drives on all who have succumbed to their Shadow, now called Spectres, and even scarier, some things that were never alive to begin with. Every single one of these things wants you consigned to Oblivion, your Passions extinguished and your Fetters to your former life severed without proper resolution. When the heat death of the universe is over and all that can be heard is the crackling sound of reality cooling for the last time then and only then will Oblivion rest. You are as nothing to them and they value their existence as little as they value yours. Suicide bombers whose reward is their own death and nothing more. They cannot be reasoned or negotiated with. If it looks like they can, they are lying
and something worse is about to happen. Did I mention that they are psychically linked via a hive mind? Did I also mention that the traitor in your own head also has a link to them if one is near enough? Now it gets more personal. You can’t just hang out and make sure your widow finds that missing bank account or the drunk driver that killed you gets taken down or arrested and then happily achieve some form of transcendence. No, all that is important, all of that personal stuff is what keeps a wraith going, gives them something to fight for, but the battle for reality itself sits out there waiting for us all. Civilisations of the dead, organised in Legions and commanded by Death Lords, standing on battlements carved from souls face the uncounted ranks of the Void as it seeks to end reality.
Civilisations of the dead, organised in Legions and commanded by Death Lords, standing on battlements carved from souls face the uncounted ranks of the Void as it seeks to end reality. “
Wraith is a hefty game to get your head around, it really is. It took effort from the GM who had to build a tale that could span the gap between personal death and the death of worlds. I mean, you
didnâ€™t have to run it like that but you could. Mechanically, it operated on the usual White Wolf D10 Storyteller system but as I mentioned above the meta nature of the Shadow changes everything and you really had to trust your fellow players to be adults while still having a lot of fun. I believe that with the proliferation of â€œindieâ€? style games with their different attitudes to game play, shared narratives and the meta reality of characters and character ownership in the last couple of years, a lot of what made Wraith impenetrable to old school gamers may have fallen away. Moody, personal, epic, all of these characterise Wraith, a great game gone before its time. It had a worthy successor in Orpheus (about which more in a future issue of The Gazebo) but that was too little too late. Rewind: It looks as though Wraith: the Oblivion will be getting a 20th anniversary edition in 2014 via Onyx Path and Kickstarter. Someone just got a Fetter resolved properly!
STAR WARS Simon Jones guides us through Fantasy Flight’s new RPG based in the iconic Star Wars setting
he first thing to state is that Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game really is very much a true beginners’ game, it is very linear but that is what a beginner needs. And when I say beginner, I mean beginner. It seems to have been written for someone who has never played an RPG in their life, let alone just being a beginner game for someone playing the system. It takes you through each stage of playing a game from the basic system through to XP and advancement in slow and easy steps. Like the majority of Fantasy Flight Games games, it looks good, the tokens are sturdy and for myself the layout of the adventure, rule book and character sheets was easy to read and follow. My only issue here was the quantity of dice, especially as it was possible for some of the characters to roll dice in quantities larger than those provided. The character sheets were multi-page, covering eight sides; the front being a picture of the character and the back a short synopsis of why the character is involved in the adventure. Then three sets of stats for the character, one for the start, one for after XP and then a blank with a list of skills and talents that could be taken for any adventures past the included
adventure; all were simple to read and anything that would use a dice pool had a little picture of which dice to roll so things would be easy to pick up.
...seems to have been written for someone who has never played an RPG in their life...”
The system is a simple dice pool system. There are seven types of dice in the game; Attribute and Proficiency, which make your basic pool, and Boost dice which you can get by taking aim actions or from the assistance of other characters. Opposing them are Difficulty, Challenge and Setback dice. The seventh type is the Force dice (which only got a small amount of use in our game). In varying amounts a character selects a number of dice of each type, rolls them, then looking at the results determines how they do. There are six symbols across the six main dice. Success and failure symbols, which cancel each
Simon Jones I have been running and RP gaming for the last 22 years and for the last 4 years have been board gaming as well. Started out with AD&D and moving my way through many others including Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Vampire, Fading Suns and all of the previously released Star Wars games, and hopefully this year I will go to my first convention. Recently played Twilight Imperium and it took only 4 hours. other out. If you have more success symbols than failure symbols then you succeed, and the more you have the better you do. Then there are advantage and threat symbols, again cancelling each other, and these are used for side
effects, good or bad, depending on which is more prevalent. The most common use is to use a number of them to cause a critical hit. This is a feature I like as it means you can succeed with a bad effect or fail with a bonus. Then the triumph symbol which counts as a success as well as giving a big boost. For example rather than needing six advantage dice to cause a critical hit a single triumph will do. These only feature on Proficiency dice. The last symbol is the despair symbol which counts as a failure as well as a bad consequence, which could be anything from equipment breaking to accidently insulting a Wookie. Note: the triumph and despair symbols don’t cancel each other out, giving some strange results on occasions. The seventh and last die, the Force die, does nothing during a skill check and features black and white dots, but in the middle of the adventure each character gets to roll it to build a destiny pool. Each white dot gives a light side point usable by the players, while the black dots are a dark side point that is usable by the GM. At any point during the game when making a roll a player or the GM can spend/flip a point of destiny to the other type. If they do they may upgrade one of their Attribute dice to a Proficiency dice, increasing their chance of success, however the opponent may flip it back to upgrade one of the Difficulty dice to a Challenge dice. This gives a rotating pool of power that the players/GM can use, however if used too much then you not only run out but give the other side more points to use. Each character has six stats ranging from 1 to 4 (in the rulebook it notes that they can go to 6 but none of the characters had any this high), then a long list of skills, with
each skill listing the dice pool. Each one is basically a number of dice equal to the linked attribute. An agility of 3 gives a shooting pool of 3 Attribute dice, with a number being swapped for Proficiency dice equal to your skill. For example an agility of 4 and a skill of 2 would give a basic dice pool of 2 Attribute and 2 Proficiency dice, to this would then be added any other dice, almost certainly Difficulty dice (0-5 depending on how hard the action is) and then any others as appropriate, boosts for aiming, Challenge for really difficult things, to Setback if it’s a bit dark and so on.
...fighting storm troopers, fleeing thugs, negotiating with criminals to shooting Tie fighters. “
The adventure was fun and, to avoid spoilers, I will just say that it involves running away from a Hutt. It was set out well: each encounter got its own chapter in the adventure book, each one giving options on what the players could do and what advantages or threats they could get if rolled. There are a total of 7 encounters in the adventure, covering most things, from fighting storm troopers, fleeing thugs, negotiating with criminals to shooting Tie fighters. Overall a good view of Star Wars from a criminal point of view, and very much doable in a single evening, there is even a free adventure that can be downloaded from FFG’s website that continues the story. In summary, overall I liked the game and adventure. I would give it 5 out of 5 as a beginners’ game but only 4 out of 5 if you have gamed before as it may be a bit too linear an adventure for you.
SAVE THE TREES Ronan muses on why all the cool kids are publishing online...
he internet’s rampant growth in the last decade or so has had a huge impact on pretty much every aspect of popular culture; when it comes to TV and movies, VHS is long dead, but even relatively recent innovations in optical media like DVD are going the way of the dodo thanks to digital distribution services like Netflix - and that’s not even getting in to the thorny issue of internet piracy. Similarly, online music distribution means CDs are rapidly becoming obsolete; in the last year huge brick-and-mortar chains like GAME and HMV have taken huge hits, with the Irish branches of both closing down completely. Even that most long-running of all media formats, the book, is starting to see serious competition with the advent of affordable e-readers and cheaper publishing costs, though bookshops are still faring better than their younger cousins. Given that tabletop RPGs are a totally book-driven phenomenon, what does this proliferation of electronic formats and online publishing mean to the industry? Well honestly, things are looking pretty good for the products, though the local gaming shops are probably going to take a pretty hard hit as time goes on.
...what does this proliferation of electronic formats and online publishing mean to the industry?”
Online publishing for RPGs has long been the home of two particular subsets of the gaming scene: the cottage industry of people self-publishing small, indie RPGs they’ve written themselves or with their friends in the hopes of getting a larger audience than their local gaming groups, and people self-publishing unlicensed tabletop systems for existing intellectual properties like Final Fantasy, Star Wars, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or pretty much any piece of nerdculture you can name that someone might want to roleplay in. It’s an attractive option to both groups for various reasons, the most obvious of which is cost: web hosting is relatively cheap, you don’t have to pay a publisher and if you choose to sell your game for cash it means you get more of the profits back in your own pocket, and word of mouth can spread like wildfire
Rónán Comasky is a gamer living in Galway, Ireland. His primary interests include music, tabletop RPGs, dead languages, and getting in to violent arguments about his other interests online. He will translate Latin for food and/or hugs, but he’ll argue with you for free. He also has an irrational fear of cows.
online if you manage to hit a target audience. There’s a special advantage for those making unlicensed RPGs on top of that: if you’re distributing the game freely online out of the kindness of your heart (like the people who wrote the
unlicensed Final Fantasy system Zodiac) and clearly not making money on it, it’s a lot less likely whoever actually holds the IP is going to come along and sue you into the dirt. Even if you are taking a risk and charging people to use your homebrew, the internet’s a big place - you might manage to stay beneath the notice of the likes of Squeenix, Lucasfilm or whichever potentially vengeful company’s peddling your particular brand of fandom. That same anonymity is a double-edged sword and a genuine problem for self-publishing indie writers of course - your baby’s a drop in the ocean. How will anyone ever find it? Thankfully for them, websites like DriveThru RPG and Kickstarter exist, allowing you to sell your wares somewhere people who might be interested are likely to go and even get crowd-funding for your cool idea so you can turn it in to a professional quality product. Even big companies are getting in on the action. For example, White Wolf (whose RPG IPs are now owned by the related and developer-founded Onyx Path Publishing) have abandoned traditional publishing altogether, instead making their back catalogues available for a reasonable price on DriveThru with a Print On Demand option for those who are still in love with having a physical dead-tree book you can use at your table (myself included). Given the wildly popular Classic World of Darkness lines as well as the Aeonverse were relatively hard to come by for years while out of print and are now completely available again, this is a win-win for people who want those previously hardto-find books and the company who otherwise had dead products they weren’t making money on for years. In fact, the resurgence of the CWoD following the popular-
ity of the 20th anniversary edition release of Vampire: the Masquerade means Onyx Path are actually working on releasing cancelled supplements and completely new works. Online publishing has given them the freedom to support the old systems simultaneously to the New World of Darkness; which, incidentally, has also just seen its first new game line since 2009 with the release of Mummy: the Curse, and a new Demon variation promised for sometime later in the year. Even though they’re using Kickstarter to crowdfund their new products, these are just to fund shiny collector’s edition releases for people that want them; the books themselves are still getting written. Since making the transition the company’s release schedule is the most full it’s been in years, and with their apparent successes it seems likely other major RPG publishers will follow suit.
Major publishers like White Wolf aside, what’s good in the world of indie online publishing?”
Major publishers like White Wolf aside, what’s good in the world of indie online publishing? There’s a lot out there and not room to recommend everything, so I’ll give you a good starting place that I’ve been reading through recently as DriveThru RPG is full of interesting self-published indie games you can find on your own. If you’re looking for a good indie RPG, Robert Bohl’s punk-inspired Misspent Youth is worth checking out. It’s designed to run teen-
age characters sticking it to The Man in settings you devise with your players, which could be anything from an oppressive modern cityscape to fantastical or sci-fi settings (one of the examples is clearly a sci-fi spin on Avatar: the Last Airbender). One particularly interesting concept is ‘selling out’ - each teenage rebel has a set of defined traits that make them into lovable, idealistic rebels who want the world to be a better place but who don’t really get how dark things can be. However, there are times when you’re in conflict with the System where you can choose to ‘sell out’ one of these traits; you do something morally questionable which grants you a victory over the system at the cost of your ideals, permanently making your character darker, more mature and a lot less nice - the rebellious teen who’s secretly a good kid with a tough act actually stabbing someone to death and becoming a ruthless thug, for example. It’s a pretty interesting game you can do a lot of stuff with, and its punk aesthetic extends to how Bohl is distributing it: you can buy the game in several formats, but he’s also released the ‘Eyebleed Edition’ for free - a .pdf of the game that’s exactly how it was printed on paper but isn’t designed to be screen-friendly, meaning reading it too long can make your eyes hurt. Online publishing is here to stay, but I think it’s to the gaming scene’s advantage. So if you’ve got that classic gaming idea burning in the back of your mind or you want to try to pick up something a little different, get yourself online. All the cool kids are doing it.
COMPANY OF THE SILENT STEP EL 8; XP 4,800
he Company of the Silent Step are a trio of sneakthieves, confidence tricksters, and spies who can lurk in any large urban centre in a GM’s home campaign. Not the sort to go gallivanting around dark, dank dungeons the trio prefer to ply their trade in dimly-lit alleys, low-brow taverns, and busy marketplaces. A GM can use them in a variety of roles: information brokers, allies, or even foils. With a slight alignment changes, the company can also serve as thieves, assassins, or black-hearted spies.
Desperate for love and attention, Penelor is barely one step ahead of several irate and unforgiving husbands who would dearly love to chat with this incorrigible street performer. Background An unplanned and unloved child, Penelor coped with his parents’ rejection by seeking out attention in the surrounding community. He left home before his 15th birthday and has never returned. Personality An extrovert who craves the attention and adoration of others, Penelor loves public performing. When not active with the company
he can normally be found performing his comedic routines on street corners, in taverns and even in the homes of wealthy patrons. Such activities are an excellent way of learning secrets, seeking out hidden treasure or seduction. A coward, he prefers to leave the actual breaking and entering to Opeelur and Erfanna. Mannerisms Penelor – as any good halfling does – enjoys his food. Consequently, he has developed something of a paunch. Of this, he is self-conscious and thus normally wears baggy clothing. Distinguishing Features Penelor has cultivated a marvellous handlebar moustache. It is his pride and joy (and the reason he has never learnt the art of effective disguises).
Precise, cautious and obsessed with freeing her parents from the donjon in which they languish, Erfanna often lapses into black moods. Background Erfanna’s parents were skilled thieves who terrorised the good folk of a small city for years. They taught Erfanna many of their skills,
Tom Creighton Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduring GREYHAWK fan. An Ennie Award winning designer (Madness At Gardmore Abbey) Creighton has worked with Expeditious Retreat Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he now releases through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at raging-swan.livejournal.com.
but she lacks their larcenous bent. A few years ago, her parents were caught after robbing a rich merchant’s house and have been incarcerated ever since. During their theft, they stole an intricate golden picture pendant that the merchant wants returned (but which has long since sunk into the city’s underworld). Erfanna searches for the pendant still and dreams of freeing her parents. Personality A people watcher, Erfanna loves understanding people and their actions. She can sit for hours in a tavern watching the interplay of the patrons and possesses nearlegendary patience. She also loves a good carouse and is always on the lookout for a certain golden pendant.
Perpetually hungry, Erfanna loves beef jerky. She always has several strips about her person. Distinguishing Features A small tattoo of the ancient symbol for knowledge decorates the base of Erfanna’s neck.
A supremely confident acrobat, Opeelur is plagued by thoughts of his youthful failure to protect his village. With something to prove, he is headstrong and unpredictable. Background A wanderer, Opeelur goes where his whims (and work) take him. Once an upstanding member of his village’s militia, Opeelur left
CR 5 (XP 1,600)
This halfling has deeply tanned skin and curly dark brown hair. He wears the garb of a fool or juggler. Male halfling bard (street performer) 4/rogue 2 (spy) CN Small humanoid (halfling) Init +4; Senses Perception +12 (+16 to hear conversation or find concealed or secret objects, doors and traps), Sense Motive +10 Speed 20 ft.; ACP 0; Acrobatics +12 (+8 jumping), Climb +6, Escape Artist +9, Stealth +14 AC 19, touch 16, flat-footed 14; CMD 16 (+3 armour [+1 leather], +4 Dex, +1 dodge [Dodge], +1 size) Fort +3, Ref +12 (evasion), Will +3 (+5 vs. fear); +4 vs. bardic performance, sonic and language-dependant effects hp 40 (6 HD) Space 5 ft.; Base Atk +4; CMB +1 Melee +1 dagger +10 (1d3-1/19-20) Atk Options sneak attack (+1d6) Special Actions bardic performance (13 rounds; countersong, distraction, fascinate [DC 15]) Disappearing Act (Su [standard]) Penelor can divert attention from an ally (but not himself). All creatures within 30 ft. must make a DC 15 Will save to treat the chosen ally as invisible. If the target takes any action that would cause them to become visible, they become visible. This is an mind-affecting effect that requires visual components. Harmless Performer (Su [standard]) Penelor uses this ability to appear meek and helpless. Whenever an enemy targets Penelor, it must make a DC
his home after being blamed for allowing raiding goblins to get into the village and kill several of its folk. (It wasn’t his fault, the mead was very refreshing). Now a member of the company, Opeelur is the trio’s “muscle” and also the most larcenous of the three. Personality Arrogant and cock-sure, Opeelur scorns those less physically able than himself. Vain as well as annoyingly talkative he seizes any excuse to show off his acrobatic skills. Mannerisms When nervous, Opeelur jingles the coins in his pouch. Distinguishing Features Opeelur is heavily freckled.
15 Will save or be unable to attack him this round (as sanctuary). The enemy loses the attack, but can spend remaining attacks against other creatures. If the enemy was using a spell to attack Penelor it must make a concentration check or lose the spell. (Success indicates it can target another creature with the spell). This mind-affecting effect requires audible or visual components. Bard Spells Known (CL 4th; concentration +7) 2nd—cure moderate wounds, invisibility 1st—charm person (DC 14), comprehend languages, cure light wounds, unseen servant 0—dancing lights, detect magic, message, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance Combat Gear potion of shield of faith (+4), scroll of alter self, scroll of heroism Abilities Str 6, Dex 18, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 16 SQ bardic knowledge, rogue talent (canny observer), weapon familiarity Feats Dodge, Mobility, Weapon Finesse Skills as above plus Bluff +12 (skilled liar), Diplomacy +9, Disable Device +12, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (arcana) +2, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +2, Knowledge (engineering) +2, Knowledge (geography) +2, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nature) +2, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Knowledge (planes) +2, Knowledge (religion) +2, Perform (comedy) +12, Sleight of Hand +10 Languages Common, Halfling Gear as above plus masterwork thieves’ tools, belt pouch, 27 gp and GM determined
CR 5 (XP 1,600)
Opeelur Silverleaf CR 5 (XP CR 1,600) 5 (XP 1,600)
With curly orange hair and sparkling blue eyes this female gnome is an arresting sight.
Short, with long dark brown hair and brown eyes, this halfling is muscular and moves with sure-footed grace.
Female gnome rogue (investigator) 6 N Small humanoid (gnome)
Male halfling fighter (mobile fighter) 4/rogue (acrobat) 2 CN Small humanoid (halfling) Init +3; Senses Perception +11, Sense Motive +0 Speed 25 ft., base speed 20 ft.; ACP 0; Acrobatics +13, Climb +10, Escape Artist +9, Stealth +16 (fast stealth), Swim +8
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +10, Sense Motive +8 (hard to fool) Hard To Fool (Ex [2/day]) Erfanna can roll two dice when making a Sense Motive check and take the best result. She must choose to do this before making the check. Speed 20 ft.; Nimble Moves; ACP 0; Acrobatics +9 (+5 jumping), Climb +5, Escape Artist +12, Stealth +16 (fast stealth) AC 19, touch 15, flat-footed 19; CMD 16; +2 vs. traps, +4 dodge vs. giant type, uncanny dodge (+4 armour [+1 studded leather], +3 Dex, +1 dodge [Dodge], +1 size) Fort +4, Ref +8 (+10 vs. traps; evasion), Will +1; +2 vs. illusions hp 42 (6 HD) Space 5 ft.; Base Atk +4; CMB +2 Melee +1 dagger +9 (1d3/19-20) Ranged dagger (range 10 ft.) +8 (1d3-1/19-20) Atk Options +1 attack vs. reptilian and goblinoid targets, sneak attack (+3d6) Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th; concentration +9) 1/dayâ€”dancing lights, ghost sound (DC 13), prestidigitation, speak with animals Combat Gear potion of invisibility, potion of cure moderate wounds Abilities Str 8, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 8, Cha 16 SQ rogue talents (fast stealth, finesse rogue, hard to fool), weapon familiarity Feats Dodge, Nimble Moves, Skill Focus (Diplomacy), Weapon FinesseB Skills as above plus Appraise +7, Diplomacy +15 (follow up), Disable Device +14, Disguise +9, Knowledge (local) +10, Profession (innkeeper) +5, Sleight of Hand +11 Follow up (Ex) Erfanna can roll twice on any Diplomacy check made to gather information and gains the information for both results. If the lesser result reveals false information, Erfanna is aware of it (if those questioned know it to be false). Languages Common, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan Gear as above plus belt pouch, masterwork thievesâ€™ tools, 17 gp and GM determined
AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 16; CMD 22; Mobility (+4 armour [mithral chain shirt], +3 Dex, +1 dodge [Dodge], +1 shield [mwk buckler], +1 size) Fort +7, Ref +7 (evasion), Will +4 (+6 vs. fear); +1 vs. paralysation, slow, entangle hp 43 (6 HD) Space 5 ft.; Base Atk +5; CMB +6 Melee mwk short sword +10 (1d4+4/19-20) Ranged mwk composite shortbow (range 70 ft.) +10 (1d4+2/x3) Atk Options sneak attack (+1d6) Combat Gear arrows (20), javelin of lightning, potion of cure moderate wounds, potion of protection from evil (3) Abilities Str 14, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10 SQ armour training (1), expert acrobat, rogue talent (fast stealth), weapon familiarity Feats DodgeB, Fleet, Iron Will, Mobility, Weapon Focus (short sword)B, Weapon Specialisation (short sword)B Skills as above plus Knowledge (engineering) +5, Knowledge (local) +6 Languages Common, Elven, Halfling Gear as above plus 15 gp, belt pouch, backpack and GM determined
MATT PENNINGTON INTERVIEW Jamie Allen interviews Profound Decisions’ Matt Pennington about Empire, LRP design and orange juice JA: What was your first project and how did it fare? JA: What first got you into LRP-ing, and what pushed you further into designing your own LRP systems? MP: I first got into LRP-ing by trying it out at a convention in London. Some guys from Labyrinth had blacked out a room in a hotel and we were doing a four encounter linear, throwing us into the same room each time to encounter a different monster. It was the definition of rubbish - but it was a lot of fun. A few months later I joined my local club in Preston and a few months after that they asked me to run it. The big push for getting into LRP design was leaving the Lorien Trust, where I was very briefly an NPC and plot writer. They decided they didn’t need us anymore and canned the plot, so myself and a group of friends decided to go off and run our own events. It’s just been an evolution since then, pushing myself to try to produce the best games I can.
MP: The very first LRP *event* I ran was a small tavern night for a friend. I spent nine months creating the plot for a five hour tavern night - I was a student at the time and able to devote a lot of time to that one project. So I pretty much wrote plot every day. Come the evening of the event I had around three times as much plot as I could physically run in the five hours available to me. The event was okay, but the players complained afterwards that there was too much plot, it came so thick and fast it was just impossible to follow and they couldn’t move for NPCs trying to throw more plot at them. It was a good way to fail really.
JA: What lessons did you take from this and how have you applied them to Maelstrom, Odyssey? MP: To be honest I didn’t really take any lessons from that. I was conscripted into a couple of teams that ra LRP events themselves afterwards and folks like Rob Thompson, Simon White and Sarah Hinksman of Amethyst and
Jamie Allen I’m 20 years old and born and raised in South east London. Started Roleplaying when I was 16 and dived headfirst into it; three months after my first taste of DnD, I was taking up the mount as a Crew Member at a LRP System and since then, it’s become more than a hobby. My dedication to gaming is only measured by the fact I have the triforce tattooed on my back, and the Master Chief, manga-fied on my leg. There is so much more that needs to be done. Currently the Content-Reviewer for “The Role-play Haven” website; a club situated in South East London made by gamers, for gamers.
Guy Berresford and Paul Wilder of Violet Illuminations really taught me a lot. But it’s such a dim and distant past (it’s around 15 years ago now) that I wouldn’t say it really influenced the modern games I’m involved with.
I think a more useful question is to look at how Maelstrom and Odyssey influenced Empire. Maelstrom was a huge game that we ran for nine years and there were things it did that were unique and will probably never be done again in LRP - in part because they took a lot of work to operate on that scale and in part because I think they’re already being superseded by better techniques. There were lots of positives with Maelstrom it proved you could do a massive fest LRP with a rich detailed, well defined world. Games like Grand Design had opened my eyes to that prospect, which I hadn’t previously considered possible, but Maelstrom was the first game in this country to do that at the scale of several hundred players. You can see that heritage clearly in Empire - the focus on giving players a beautiful world to play in, one that they can read about and create characters who are part of it. The failing of Maelstrom was that the downtime system was too administratively burdensome and ultimately detracted from the live experience of the events. The game became the downtime game, no matter what we tried to do to prevent it. There are positives, fantastic positives, to a downtime system. It’s great if the world can respond to the actions of players, can genuinely be different because of things they do, and those changes be tangible and relevant. After Maelstrom (and a previous game I helped run, Omega) was launched, downtime systems were all the rage - every LRP event seemed to have one. And people would say, “It’s important to make sure that the downtime system does not distract people from the game”, but I never saw any evidence that anyone had worked out what was needed to ensure that that happened - and it
was clear from Maelstrom that we ability to take the consequences didn’t know. to every player. So for Empire the design goal was clear: to build a The answer is very simple - every game with a rich realistic detailed single important decision must be setting. To make the players the taken live in the field. There must rules of that setting, the absolute be no important decisions ever rules, no power over them. To give made when interacting with the them the levers to fundamentally downtime system - the decisions change the world around them must already be made before based on the decisions they took that point - on the basis of what live while playing their characters. has happened when playing your And then to use a simple downtime character live and in the field. system to reflect the changes the players had made. But we couldn’t work that out until we’d run Odyssey. Odyssey That may sound very conceptual deliberately had no downtime so it’s worth working through an system, and our challenge was how example. to have the world respond to what the players did, to make sure that Let’s say your character is the their actions were cool. The first general of an army and you want Odyssey was run by Boogieman your army to invade an enemy Games, Neil Hughes and Richard nation. In Maelstrom massively Smithson, and although the game important decisions would come was only partially successful they in in downtime; your invasion had an electrifying idea. The would succeed or fail based on fate of the world was decided on your logistics and planning, all of the result of battles in an arena. which had to be done in downtime, The decisions, the actions, the outside of the event. So the critical outcomes, are determined at elements of your war took place the event. The consequences in downtime. Then you would are updated and fed back to the get the results of your invasion in players in the downtime but the downtime and you would attend important decisions and outcomes the next event to make a rough all take place live. plan on what to do next. After Boogieman Games stopped running Odyssey they very graciously let us have a crack at the idea. We tried to pick up that brilliant core idea and take it further, the concept being to build conceptual levers into the game that players could push while playing their character, which would cause the world to change around them. It worked fantastically well in Odyssey, but because Odyssey was predicated on the insistence that there would be no downtime system of any kind it limited our
How does that work for Empire? In Empire your general will have a political discussion with many other important PCs and make a decision on where to put his army. That decision is the only decision that he makes, there is no need for planning or logistics, or writing out lengthy tactics or battle plans on a downtime system. It’s a major strategic and political decision, taken live. Then at the next event he gets the feedback on how his invasion is going. That’s when he finds out if his war is being won or lost. Now - again live - he has another decision to make. He can
choose to send hundreds of PCs to fight a battle at the event to influence the course of the military campaign. If he can get the political support he can send hundreds of heroes to the front to fight a pivotal battle for him, all done live at the event. That battle will be planned and led by the players. And the outcome of that battle will impact on the outcome of the entire military campaign. In effect the “random factor” of warfare becomes not some downtime simulation but how well the PCs do at the event. In simple terms: if they win, their army wins and they gain territory as a result. Because we have a downtime system that brings increased wealth and power to those characters, i.e. tangible benefits like more money in their pack, winning really means something as the downtime system can reflect the players’ victory. But its potential for distraction from the live events is minimal because the only thing it is doing is providing you with the resources (money and riches) that reflect the actions you took at the events. There are loads of cool ideas in Empire, all evolutions of previous stuff we’ve worked on, like creating mobile buildings we can move with a truck and so on. But I think this final evolution of a downtime system within a LRP game is one of the things that will really make Empire an amazing game to live role-play.
JA: What were the biggest challenges you personally faced in the on-going design of Empire: LRP? MP: Time… time is always the enemy. We spent three and a half
years designing the game, and it wasn’t enough! Development was pretty slow in the early years of course. We spent 12 months talking about what the new game should look like, how it should be constructed, concepts of what a new LRP should be like. Then when we’d done all that, we spent another 6 months kicking some rough ideas for a setting and game structure around. At that point my plan was for a player vs. player combat game set in a ruined desert world where the players teleported into the world’s past to fight battles to loot the resources to keep themselves alive in the future. I’m not sorry the development of that idea stopped there - it’s a great 60 person game.
years of running a complex and sophisticated computer model to handle millions of interactions between PCs and NPCs had given me a real insight into exactly what I wanted for the downtime system for Empire - namely something so simple it could be run with a set of index cards and a half decent filing system. We set ourselves some very, very harsh rules to prevent the downtime system “growing” in the design phase and we stuck to them almost 100% (only one got relaxed!). As a result the system is tiny and a child could use it and it was very easy to design. The hardest part was designing the setting. 20-odd writers produced several thousand words to describe each nation, and then myself and Andy Rafferty had to sit down and edit it into a single coherent world, with a unifying history. It took months to get it right, with hours and hours spent discussing it between us each day. And it was often soul-destroying work, having to take the writers’ stuff and break it back down not because it was wrong but simply because it needed to be reshaped to fit as part of the whole tapestry.
But then we scrapped the entire thing because Mark Nichols gave me a concept for a LRP game that he’d scrawled down in 200 words on a bit of paper. The moment I saw it, the penny dropped and I realized that was exactly the LRP game I wanted to run. The work we’d done up to that point helped, but the real graft then began as we had to start from scratch and start building the setting and the rules from the ground up based on the dozen bullet points in Mark’s 200 JA: What did you enjoy the word outline! most? And the clock has been against us ever since. We’ve been writing and developing flat out for around 18 months now, and it’s all coming together but if I had just a little more time... I could make it perfect.
JA: What were the easiest and hardest parts of designing Empire?
MP: The same two parts of LRP that always gives me the most pleasure - watching talented crew get motivated and do amazing things and watching players get motivated and do amazing things. LRP is such a beautiful medium to work with because you can physically see the pleasure it gives people - reflected in the creativity and energy they put into what they are doing.
MP: The easiest part was designing the downtime system. Nine With Empire we’ve been able to work with some of the most
talented people in the hobby. Bill Thomas and Ian Thomas are both extraordinary talents and both have made contributions to Empire that are staggering, both in the workload involved and in the quality of what they created. Working with Jess Smith on the original designs for the visuals for each nation and then again with Lauren Own, Jude Reid and Emmanuelle Midmer, taking those concepts and building them up into costume libraries and ‘How To’s. In all honesty, for my money Andy Raff is still the most brilliant mind of our LRP generation, working with him on the project has been an absolute joy. We see eye to eye on a lot of things and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together. And then once we began to release the game, to see the players get excited and start creating costumes and kit for the game has just been incredibly rewarding. If you are a LRP organizer then the pleasure of running a game is ultimately in the excitement and enjoyment that the players get out of it. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone create something spectacular, something vastly more beautiful or skilful than you could manage personally, and being able to think that the game I’m involved with has enthused them enough to do that. So, basically, working with brilliant, literally brilliant people, and then having an amazingly enthusiastic and receptive community to release the game to has been the thing I’ve enjoyed most!
JA: LRP-ing is an immersive and expensive hobby; do you find time for other hobbies? If so, what are they?
MP: Honestly? Not really. I take one half day off every third Sunday and go and do some table top roleplaying. I have a three year old daughter now and between her and running a LRP business there is quite literally no time for *anything*. Once we have three events out of the way, I’m expecting things to calm down massively and for me to be able to take something of a back seat. At that point I’m hoping to get back into the normal nerd hobbies, reading books (I have a pile ready), watching films and playing computer games (another pile). It would be nice to get to more LRP games and play a little. I’m a big believer that it’s really important not to just run LRP games, you have to play them as well. It would also be nice to see some old friends and socialise a little more. And that would be quite enough for me to be a very happy person indeed.
JA: What are you looking forward to the most in regards to Empire? MP: The battles, it has to be the battles. Mandala (another incredible team to work with!) have done an amazing job creating 400 Orc masks and are now starting work on 400 sets of Orc armour. We want to try to create the kind of experience you have watching the battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings - but without CGI! And of course since this is LRP, you have to do everything on a shoe-string budget. But the masks look fantastic and the armour is looking just as good. It’s difficult to explain the effect of putting an army of people into matching kit, but it’s very, very powerful. Put
them together on a battlefield and it is going to look mind-blowing.
JA: What advice would you give to anyone who was interested in developing their own LRP? MP: Go to some LRP events, play and have fun. And then write down all the things you didn’t like and all the things you think you could do better. Chat to your mates and compare your notes and then froth about how it could be if it was done right. Rinse and repeat for a couple of months and you’ll start to develop a clear idea of what you want to do. Then spend three months developing your game; at that point stop and ask yourself if you are really genuinely serious about this. If you are then book your site there and then. Then work like crazy to get it written and once you’ve done that start advertising and promoting it. Basically it’s about just doing it. There is no manual on how to do this; it’s an art not a science. Here are some tips: * Go and crew some good events and get some ideas on how they do it. * Start small; don’t expect to run an event for a thousand plus players the first time round, better to assume you’ll get 10-20. * Concentrate on what you like and do that thing. When someone complains they don’t like it (and they will!) - give them a flyer for a different event. * Get good crew and concentrate on ensuring they enjoy the event. If they enjoy the event, they will make the players enjoy it. * Make the rules simple. Then when you’ve done that go back and make them simpler.
* Promote your game. It is NOT ENOUGH to tell people about your game, you must sell your game to people or they will not come. * Steal. If someone has a good idea, take it, file the serial numbers off and use it again. Copying one person is plagiarism, copying many is research. * Listen to the criticism, ignore the critics. Ignore the people who just want to offer their opinion but don’t ever ignore the actual feedback because it’s rare and priceless. * Delegate; incredibly hard, incredibly difficult, but incredibly important; all the best decisions I ever made were the ones I delegated to somebody else. Get some good friends and trust them to do a good job. * Be excellent to each other. LRP is a small hobby and what goes around comes around. Help anyone who asks you for help and they will return the favour when you need to ask them for help.
JA: And finally, what is your favourite drink to carry with you when playing at an event? MP: Orange juice; I’m teetotal; if I drank I would be an alcoholic as I do everything to excess. I don’t much like eating or drinking as it gets in the way of other more enjoyable stuff, but it’s useful to avoid falling over, so orange juice keeps me going at an event, or milk if I can get it.
IN ITS DEFENSE... Johanna Mead sits a role-play prejudice down for tea
n a LARP of short duration - one to three sessions - pregenerated characters are absolutely vital. Hey now, give me a few minutes to explain before you contemptuously click to the next page... It helps the GM in several ways. Controlling what kind of PCs are going to be encountering the plot gives the GM greater ability to know where the plot is likely to go. That’s not to say the plot won’t go into unexpected areas because of course it will, but at least the directors of the story don’t have to worry about half a dozen paranormal investigators showing up at their My Little Pony LARP and now what the hell are they going to do? But when you’ve got a plot that features the Mysterious Scrolls of The Lost City of Ee, the GM is going to be much happier kicking the game off knowing that he’s got at least two students of Ee history on the cast. It can speed up the process of handing out characters. If a GM uses the “three adjectives” method of summarizing a character - or some other short, pithy description at the top of the page - a potential player may be shown just that summary and asked if the character appeals. If not, the character
can go somewhere else and nothing significant has been spoiled for that player. “Cunning, duplicitious and conflicted isn’t your cup of tea? How about patriotic, idealistic and goal-driven?” Presenting characters like this is a fast and efficient way to cast a one-shot game on the site.
Pre -generated characters help a player maintain focus and spare them the risk of distraction by the inevitable slew of closelyloved (and often trivial) character traits that a player builds into a from-scratch concept.”
Pre-generated characters make life a little easier for the players - especially in a one-shot game. Who
Johanna Mead Much to her embarrassment, Johanna has been creating LARPs longer than some of her players have been alive. Her GM portfolio includes settings from The Drones Club of PG Wodehouse to Frank Herbert’s Dune and more. Her other hobbies include writing and costuming. An English expatriate, she currently lives near San Francisco.Visit her collection of LARP Advice at http://johannamead.net/ larpdex.html wants to spend more time putting together a character concept than one actually spends playing the game? (oh hush, Traveler players!). When you’ve got a limited number of hours to play, a player wants to hit the ground running and get
involved as quickly as possible. Pre-generated characters help a player maintain focus and spare them the risk of distraction by the inevitable slew of closely-loved (and often trivial) character traits that a player builds into a fromscratch concept. I will freely cop to having ignored a Big Plotline in a game because my character a jeweler - found herself deep in conversation with another PC who had similar interests. We spent something like an hour chatting about the early diamond trade and rather forgot to notice the worldthreatening monster oozing up through the cracks in the floor. Oops. A good pre-gen character immediately provides goals, personality and motivations for their actions. A great pre-gen character leaves enough “wriggle room” for a player to add in their own finishing touches, which further bonds them to the character and helps counteract that admitted down-side of one-shot/short-term PCs: the player isn’t emotionally invested enough to care what happens to their character and - by extension - other characters. The more your player cares about their character’s fate, the less likely they are to start reading random snippets of the Necronomicon aloud “just to see what happens”. If you’re running a short-but-finite LARP, pre-generated characters should still be considered. Player input could be solicited during the creation process - a request for general character types each player prefers, or the things they absolutely won’t play - and incorporated into the characters as they’re written. Contrary to the beliefs of some, a pre-generated character doesn’t
limit a player’s autonomy any more than a player-created character would. Every character is going to have some limits and boundaries - both in knowledge/ skills and morals/ethics. My aforementioned jeweler wasn’t going to bust out with ninja moves during the game, that would be ridiculous. That holds true whether the character was created by myself or by the GM. Also consider that if something is not specifically stated on your pre-generated character sheet, it doesn’t mean that it’s forbidden. Talk to your GM. Some on-the-fly refinements might be totally okay and leverageable when it comes to solving the plot. “Sure, Mr. Player, I think it makes sense that your dilettante tinkerer has an interest in radio-controlled aircraft.” Of course, the GM is counting on you to exercise some common sense. The jeweler is not and will never be a ninja.
A good pre-gen character immediately provides goals, personality and motivations for their actions. A great pre-gen character leaves enough “wriggle room” for a player to add in their own finishing touches...”
(A caveat: if you decide you want to add something potentially disgusting or repulsive to your character’s
background on the fly - “Could my high school teacher character really like that girl on freshsman volleyball team? Really like her?” - you had better get the approval of your GM (and other impacted PCs) before acting on the idea, lest you find yourself tossed out of the game. Besides, shock-for-shock’s sake is just so mid-nineties....) The key to winning wary players over to pre-generated characters lies in taking the time to match the player to the character. GMs should not assume that they can fling character packets out at random, ten minutes before the game is scheduled to start and everything will be fine. When calculating necessary time for the oneshot LARPs I’ve run, I always allow an hour for meeting with players and assigning characters - but that’s because I use the “three trait summary” technique and so I can quickly run a concept past a player and get an immediate yes/no. As one of my teachers once said “Once you learn how to stay within the rules, you can get away with a lot.” Learn how to work within the boundaries set by a pre-generated character, instead of fighting against them, and you’ll discover there’s a nigh-infinite amount of fun to be had. Trust me!
EMPIRE LRP: FIRST IMPRESSIONS Jamie Allen shares his first impressions of Empire’s eagerly awaited ruleset
So during the run up to Christmas, whilst everyone was getting excited over the inevitable consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, chocolate and turkey, I found myself staring at the Empire LRP dedicated Facebook page, frantically refreshing in the hopes that every click led to the announcement of a new rules release. Christmas came a day early with the First Draft Release (a term I have coined, feel free to use it), of Profound Decisions’ newest addition to their roster of Fest-LRPs, which currently includes the now retired fantasy system Maelstrom LRP and the on-going historically based system, Odyssey. The release sent the Wiki’s server crashing as possibly thousands of would-be players frantically went from their Facebook pages straight onto the Wiki in the hopes of getting the first view of the longawaited rules release. I imagined Mr Pennington standing with his finger hovering over a big red button and shouting “Let the Froth ensue!” as he brought his finger
down, sending the rules live for our viewing, and inevitably our teeth chomping and claws swinging as we picked out what bits we liked and didn’t like.
Why is it so anticipated? Background and Immersion
“Why?” you ask? Why is it that Empire is such an anticipated system? Why has PD’s newest creation already demanded an army of players and fans? Well, for one, Maelstrom and Odyssey were both, and Odyssey continues to be, a fantastic success.
“Generals, and Senators, and Priests, ohhhh myyy!” Not only did they both offer fantastic levels of immersion that normally you would only hope to get if you were induced by some herbal concoction, but the effort that has
Jamie Allen I’m 20 years old and born and raised in South east London. My dedication to gaming is only measured by the fact I have the tri-force tattooed on my back, and the Master Chief, mangafied on my leg. Currently the Content-Reviewer for “The Role-play Haven” website; a club situated in South East London made by gamers, for gamers.
been poured into these systems is pretty phenomenal; this effort has been cloned, and improved upon, then shoved straight into Empire LRP, making it already tastier looking than both of the previous systems.
Second of all, the background information and the possibilities for player driven story are endless with a rich selection of character race, or “Lineage” if you are playing Empire; and a Nation from which to hail from. All of which have very distinct, individual viewpoints on the Empire, how it should be run, as well as their own views on the differing Lineages and their use within the Empire. You also have the option of playing an Orc! Considering that Orcs are also a main enemy (400 to be exact; not close enough for a poorly executed “This is Sparta!”…), I personally am excited at seeing a horde of Orcs go up against… another horde of Orcs! On top of the rich character choice is the fact that the system is PvP based (hold your breath), but guess what? It’s political PvP. There is a Senate, and voting and all the trimmings you would expect from a democratic institution. For some, this would be an intimidating fact, “What? No combat?” you might ask, if you are more physically minded with your LRP. But no, don’t fret! Massive LRP battles to go with your politicians shouting at each other from across the room! Whilst obviously politically the Nations and their respective members will be rivals, they are essentially on the same side, so going off to “forcefully remove” your opponent is generally frowned upon and is Illegal in-character, nothing in the rules states that shivving up your political rival isn’t a possibility. We mustn’t forget that the players not only command what happens in the Senate, they command what battles are fought and when. Generals, and Senators, and Priests, ohhhh myyy! The PD crew have pumped thousands upon thousands of pounds into buying a metric buck-tonne
of goodies to kit out their Crew and the Empire itself; including but not limited to, swords and armour for their 400 Orcs, a twofloored tavern, a Senate building, and street lighting. Nothing gets my froth-glands working more than imagining myself staggering down the marketplace with a wallet full of cash and getting an authentic “Blacksmith experience”. Though, that said I may be too far into the bottle by this point to pay full attention. Empire is about immersion, and the fact that your market stalls and businesses you would usually associate with your Fest-LRPs are going to be part of the game is quite frankly one of the best moves I’ve heard tell of in any new System.
The PD crew have pumped thousands upon thousands of pounds into buying a metric buck-tonne of goodies to kit out their Crew and the Empire itself”
So, you’re not hooked yet? Well, now I have to move on to linking background and working-rules into one paragraph… you may want to make a cup of tea. This is where your mind may be blown just a little bit.
The System and the Immersion are linked.
Okay, so Empire runs on a mix between Locational Hits and
Global Hits; for those of you who have no idea what that means; a Locational Hit is based upon where you are hit, so if you have one hit per location, and you take a whack to the arm… Say goodbye to your arm. Same goes for head hits etc. etc. Global hits means that if you have five global hits, no matter where you get hit, if you get hit five times you’re out for the rest of the battle. Empire runs on locational -armour- and global body hits, so, for example you start with two hits globally but armour protects the location from special calls such as “Cleave” from taking out your leg. These special calls are remarkably simple and easy to to remember; they are called “Hero Calls”. This is where I get all excited and have to take a moment to gather myself *ahem* The crew at PD have brought in the “Hero Points” mechanic; at character creation you would spend one or more of your eight points to create your would-be character on these Hero Points. You expend one point of your HPs, to do something, well… heroic. A few of these are things such as “Cleaving Strike” where you would take a big, controlled swing at your opponent and shout “CLEAVE”. These kinds of calls are very well suited for your combat monsters, whilst there are others that give you hits back in a last stand; PD have termed this Heroic Call as “Second Wind” whilst others allow you to get hits back for your mates; “Get it Together” and “Stay With Me” are examples of this. But for you to actually utilise these skills, there has to be an element of extended roleplaying, so for example, you would make a loud battle-
cry, charge, swing and call “Cleave” or you would pore over the body of a comrade saying “Stay With Me! There is SO not enough blood on your sword for you to die yet!” or other such things to signify you are expending one of your hero points. This is an awesome mechanic for a system, as being tapped lightly and told my arm essentially drops off, is far from what I would call immersive, nor will it be fun if I get drum rolled with “cleaves” or other such combat calls. I haven’t really touched on Magic at all, simply because it is currently in an unfinished state, but the same goes here for mechanics being designed to create immersion, and a lack of maths-doing. Generally speaking, there aren’t many spells. In fact, there are -no- ranged spells. All of them are “touch” based, either with your hands, or with your mage’s staff (a separate skill from “Weapons Master” which allows you to use staffs in this way). Not only this, but some of the spells are Sympathetic, whereby if you hit an opponent with a “Paralyse” spell for example, you are both paralyzed, until the caster moves. This adds a new level to tactical combat with spell-casters, who for the most part will need a big clanky-shield bearer to give them some extra protection whilst they’re hollering out their incantations, which once again, require a few seconds of decent roleplaying in order for you to loose off the spell. Ritual Magic is something that is less complete than other parts, so I will refrain from going into it even though I am extremely excited to see what they do with it.
All in all, Empire’s background is
well thought out, and has taken many an influence from separate mediums to create an immersive and deep history to base the game world around. Not only this, but the rules complement this background with a deep and effective roleplaying based system, rather than dealing with numbers. The rules are simple, and easy to understand although maybe a little too simple for my liking. That said, my LRP isn’t your LRP so that will be for you to decide; personally I prefer a few more spells and combat calls. Character creation is unintimidating and the problems really arise when you are deciding whether you want to be touched by the Realms of Night, Day, Winter, Summer, Autumn or Spring and thereby become a Lineage member; Naga, Briar, Cambion, Changeling, Draughir or Merrow
(not in order with Seasons, I’m afraid.), or even play an Imperial Orc. Simply because there is so much background information to take in and they are all extremely well thought out. But that again is totally down to you and not how the game has been designed. Generally speaking, the crunch comes to the kit and the buildings PD have pumped money into to bring the game world to life; street lighting, a tavern, and did I mention the 400 Orcs? Awesome. So this LRP Season, if you’re looking for something new and can’t decide, your thoughts should take you to the wiki at http://www. profounddecisions.co.uk/empirewiki/, take a gander and see what you think for yourselves!
THE INEVITABILITY OF INVENTION Paddy Delaney investigates the interesting concept of co-invention...
ome time ago, I was a running a long Vampire: The Masquerade campaign for some friends. One of the things they enjoyed was the chance to meet or manipulate famous, historical personalities including Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, and I thought, “What would happen if he had been killed?” Well, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t have prevented the printing device from being invented. Of course its impact would have been delayed somewhat and that could make for a great ‘what if?’ scenario. Though, indeed, invented by Gutenberg - a goldsmith by trade - metal moveable type and the printing press would have come about without him. The Koreans had metal moveable type by the 13th century and there is evidence that Laurens Janszoon Coster of Haarlem also invented a press around the same time. In fact, if we examine history, we find that it is filled with even more blatant cases of co-invention, all independent of each other - these include mechanisms like the printing press, but the list also includes designs, equations and a host of other scientific and mathematical
methods, tools, techniques, processes and phenomena. And all of them are rich pickings as the basis of your RPG or LARP scenario or to spice up your current campaign. Let’s have a look at some of these, before talking about why they give great inspiration.
let’s face it, nothing says my theory is correct like blowing stuff up with gunpowder”
Many of the above were invented relatively ‘recently’ but old technologies were discovered or invented independently on different continents e.g. bronze in Peru and the ‘old world’, pyramids are found in Egypt and central America. Even the wheel arose in several places independently, although Native American tribes never used it for more than toys by the time Europeans encountered them. Oxygen was discovered by both Scheele and Priestly in 1774. Neptune was discovered independently
Paddy Delaney Paddy lives in Galway where he originally started playing RPGs and other assorted madness in the now infamous No. 57. Since then he has moved on to writing and running RPG games. He has written and run games for several cons across Ireland but Itzacon is his home con.
by Adams and Leverrier (both before it was actually observed). Incredibly, the law of conservation of energy was arrived at independently by four people in the same year! The year was 1847 and Joule, Thomson, Colding and Helmholz
all struck upon it. Colour photography was struck upon by both Cros and Du Hauron in 1869, and both Wallace and Darwin had arrived at the Theory of evolution, so even if Darwin hadn’t published it (which nearly happened) we might have had ‘Wallacian Evolution’. Typewriters were invented by several people around the same time, in both the UK and US. Other inventions/discoveries with multiple claimants are; the telescope, thermometer, decimal fractions, the trolley, logarithms, sunspots, law of gases, isolation of nitrogen, pendulum clock, air guns, the flying machine!, the theory of emotions and the theory of colour. The above are all very interesting but perhaps the most important inventions for communications, in many ways, are the telephone and the radio.
Around 1894, Jagadish Chandra Bose demonstrated, publicly, the use of radio waves in Calcutta, but he was not interested in patenting his work. Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using electromagnetic waves, proving that communication signals can be sent without using wires because, let’s face it, nothing says my theory is correct like blowing stuff up with gunpowder. Take that, Marconi. To be fair to Marconi, he did have an equally interesting name which is fun to say - Guglielmo - but who would you rather have your player characters work for?
In 1833, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Eduard Weber invented the electric transmission of signals - the fundamental basis for
the technology that was used in all similar successive inventions. The development of the modern telephone involved a plethora of lawsuits based on the patent claims of several individuals and it all gets very complicated - perfect for a LARP or RPG. In 1860, Johann Philipp Reis developed an early device which he coined the ‘telephon’. An early voice communicating device was invented around 1854 by Antonio Meucci, who called it a “telettrofono”. In 1871, Meucci filed a caveat at the US Patent Office. His caveat describes his invention, but does not mention a diaphragm, electromagnet, conversion of sound into electrical waves, conversion of electrical waves into sound, or other essential features of an electromagnetic telephone. Alexander Graham Bell obtained a patent in 1876 a year after Elisha Gray was granted a patent for “Electric Telegraph for Transmitting Musical Tones” (the harmonic telegraph).
law of conservation of energy was arrived at independently by four people in the same year!”
On 14 February, 1876, at the US Patent Office, Gray’s lawyer filed a patent caveat for a telephone on the very same day that Bell’s lawyer filed Bell’s patent application for a telephone. The water transmitter described in Gray’s caveat was strikingly similar to the experimental telephone transmitter
tested by Bell on March 10, 1876, a fact which raised questions about whether Bell (who knew of Gray) was inspired by Gray’s design or vice versa. Although Bell did not use Gray’s water transmitter in later telephones, evidence suggests that Bell’s lawyers may have obtained an unfair advantage over Gray – oh the skulduggery! All of this provides fertile ground for a game with invention and industrial espionage at its heart and quirky, manic inventors and steely businessmen hiring the characters to safeguard their work and their persons or steal someone else’s breakthrough invention. Co-invention can a be a perfect plot inspiration for Victorian games, steam-punk games, ‘what if?’ scenarios, time travel games or immortal creatures exploring history campaigns, allowing your players to bankrupt Bell or kidnap Gutenberg into the space time continuum without ruining history!
I WENT TO A MARVELLOUS PARTY Five steps to a successful wargames night by Conrad Kinch “I’ve been to a marvellous party, We played a wonderful game.” Noel Coward - I went to a Marvellous Party
or six, and it is a little different to playing games at a club. In many ways, it’s better, cheaper and more fun, but the key difference is that the venue is your own home and that presents certain challenges.
I’m older than I was, though to be fair that is not an uncommon state of affairs. It also beats the alternative. Along with the impedimenta of age (life insurance, cats, career, jury duty, wives, etc) owning your own home has got to be one of the best bits. I’ve grown very fond of it and will grow fonder as soon as Mrs Kinch ceases harassing me about doing up the attic. One of the great advantages, in fact one might go so far as to say, THE great advantage of owning one’s own home is that distant dream of a permanent wargames room is no longer a dream, but a wonderful reality, piled high with figures and terrain and aromatic with the scent of spray primer and pipesmoke. Marvellous. Then, of course, you need chaps to play with. We rarely play two player games, so wargaming is always a social activity for a group of five
It’s a touch draughty at the back in winter, but we’re thinking of cavity insulation.
1. A man’s home is his castle “What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man’s own home?” Tully, Roman Jurist I’ve organised, run and played wargames at conventions for years. I have met a great many interesting people, made great friends and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have ejected players from games for bad behaviour, but I have never turned anyone away without first giving them a crack of the whip. In the atmosphere of a convention or a wargames club, this is perfectly understandable. It’s a public arena and all are and should be
Conrad Kinch Conrad Kinch is late of the Dutch Colonial Service and was last year elected to the Kingstown town council on a platform of legalised Badger baiting. He works well under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat. Excerpts from his memoirs, “I shouldn’t do that, if I were you: A journey in consequences,” can be read at http:// joyandforgetfulness.blogspot.ie/
welcome. I am, on the other hand, a great deal more discerning about who I play with in my home. I would suggest taking a similar attitude. My home is an ever evolving canvass. Mrs Kinch made it with paint and books, furniture polish and the scents of cooking, song and prayer and the music of Stephen Sondheim. It is the
greatest adventure we have ever been on. Discrimination has a bad name these days, though to be fair, that just means we rarely admit to it. Exercise a little discrimination in who you play games with in your home or you could find yourself in the awkward position of having someone as a guest that you detest every games night for years.
vision of my somewhat diverse circle attempting to play nice with each other doesn’t bear thinking about.
cooking, but I find some nachos and dip and possibly a cheese board are an elegant sufficiency. Drink is a trickier matter, most guests will bring their own, but I always try But, to get to the point, a games to lay in half a case of red which night is like a dinner party - never seems to go unmolested. picking the company is a skill and not everyone is going to If you can, have the game set up in mix well together. Everyone has advance of your guests arrival. It friends who irritate each other may not be possible, but I try to at and understanding that is a key least have made a start so that you skill of being a good host. Now, can maximise the amount of time it may be that those friends may your guests have to play games be willing to put their differences rather than spending time setting aside, but I wouldn’t bank on it. them up. Be aware of those who Better to invite them to different will be relying on public transport games nights than precipitate an as a late start will often rob them awkward evening. of the opportunity to finish to a game.
There comes a point when I find it difficult to appreciate your diversity.
2. Sadly, we don’t all get along “My idea of good company is the company of clever, wellinformed people who have a great deal of conversation, that Not just for Scouts, old chap. is what I call good company” Jane Austen 3. Prior preparation prevents poor performance
I have a friend, who bless his soul, once said that what he really wanted and what would make him very happy would be to invite all his friends to a giant party. It would be tremendous fun and all the wonderful people he knew could meet each other.
I hope someday to have a similar sort of party. Fortunately, I will be in the coffin (it’s considered a poor show to attend your own wake) and won’t have to worry about it. The
One scheme I’ve had some success with is the multi-player Kriegspiel. A Kriegspiel is a generic term for a wargame, but in this case it means a rules light, map based game played by multiple teams run by an Umpire. The key point is that the teams are in separate rooms and therefore are operating on imperfect information. If you’d like some more information check http://kriegsspiel.org.uk/, which is a gold mine.
“All things are ready, if our mind be so.” Henry V
This works particularly well if you have a large party; separate them into different rooms and give them each a normal wargame to play. Each group also has a briefing for a Kriegspiel and is asked to give orders in the Kriegspiel game, while they play their own game.
This is very simple. A good host is someone who puts his guests at their ease. I tend to fall down on this one as often as not, but it bears thinking about. Preparation can take many forms, I do my best to have sufficient food and drink laid in beforehand. I’m no hand at
In one example, we played a Waterloo Kriegspiel and three games were set up, one team played Memoir ‘44 in the kitchen, while another played Napoleonics in the War Room and the last team played Dominion in the living room. Every twenty minutes or
so, I would break on their game and ask them for their orders in the Kriegspiel. They would give them to me and then carry on with their game. This is really something and though it does require a little preparation, it is a great wargaming experience.
the game impossible and upsetting the other players. There are plenty of fora in which legalisation of cannabis or original sin can be debated, games night in the Kinch household is not one of them.
Have you played it before? And if so, how long did it take? Doubling an expected playtime is usually a good rule of thumb as it helps factor in all the time spent chatting and drinking.
Man must be governed, often not wisely or well, but yet the need remains. When you act as a host, you become the governor to some slight extent. It is a role that comes with duties. One of those duties is to ensure that your guests have the opportunity to enjoy themselves - I’ve found Rule 23 an admirable aid to minimising disruption in an evening that is meant to be devoted to games.
Is there going to be enough for everyone to do? We usually play Command & Colours: Napoleonics and Memoir ‘44, both of which support multi-player play rather well. I’ve had some success with multi-player Ogre and Savage Worlds (though we had multiple players acting on the same card). The trick is to make sure that everyone has something to do and that they will be doing it simultaneously.
5. Always leave ‘em wanting Alternate activation games (i.e. more... “Above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus affair!” “They have discussed it.”
4. Mentioning the unmentionables “(Rule 23). Discussion about politics or religion should be avoided in the mess when they are liable to arouse ill-feeling.” Hints for Young Officers, 1943 I tend to steer clear of politics and religion in conversation mainly because the exchange is rarely enlightening and often causes bad feeling. When they are discussed it is generally only with very close friends. This may sound like a strange topic to raise when writing about hosting a games night, but “breaking Rule 23” is still the only reason I’ve ever had to escort someone from my home because the parties in question were making enjoyment of
“The artist who strives for perfection in everything, achieves it in nothing” Eugene Delacroix
wargames where I active a unit, then you activate a units, etc) are a poor choice because only one player is acting at a time and the rest are hanging around. Better for an entire team to take their movement phase all in one go.
When some philanthropic body builds a monument to “The Unknown Wargamer” - “Just one more turn and I would have had him” will be written in letters of stone above the eternal flame.
It can be worth implementing a four minute turn limit, if you need to chivvy slowcoaches along. We’ve never actually had to do this more than once, as the slow player has always gotten the message and Not finishing games is the curse of picked up speed. the wargamer and it usually comes down to starting too late (see There is one problem with playing point 3) and taking on more than short games however, there is can be reasonably accomplished always the temptation to finish a in an evening. I have always been game and say, “That was great! We of the opinion that it is better to have time for another, right?” play several short games than one long game. Far better to have time And this is a very easy way to find to talk about the game afterwards oneself heading to bed at four in then to be struggling to finish the the morning, somewhat tired and emotional, after a series of epic required number of turns. battles that will live in story and With that in mind, think about the song. game you intend to play with your When I find a way around that one guests. I’ll let you know.
CODEX CHAOS SPACE MARINES: REVIEW Mike Brown looks at the new 6th Edition
o, how does the first codex of Warhammer 40K 6th Edition look in the cold light of day, now we’ve had time to digest it and play some games?
Given the move to hardback army book for Fantasy, it’s hardly surprising that 6th Edition’s first codex got a serious revamp. Personally, I welcome this change; I’m more than happy to spend a few more quid in order to get a nice looking, well finished book for a codex. However, there are obvious downsides: • Many players are on a tight budget and this change will make keeping up with the current books all the more expensive. • If you’re the type of player that likes to bring a bunch of codices with you (or just two, so you have the rules for your main army and allies on you), the weight difference isn’t inconsiderable, adding further to the gamers’ hunchback from carrying too much stuff about. I don’t think anyone can argue with the quality of finishing, and even the editing seems to have gone up a notch (rules gaffs aside).
While opinions may vary on the tweaks to fluff content, the inclusion of more background to produce a rounder pitching of the army can only be seen as a good thing. Personally, I like the mix of high level grand narrative and specific detail with enough room for those so inclined to carve out a little piece of background for their own army without standing on the toes of GW fluff dogma.
While it’s not quite as extensive as I would have liked (more variety of demon weapons, please), it’s great to have more options for customising your champions of chaos again. Internal balance isn’t great, but there sure are a lot of options available to most characters.
Mike Brown A geek for all seasons, Mike has been involved in gaming of every type over the years. He is a wargamer a heart and has been playing with little plastic men since you could get a whole army of them for £10, but don’t let that put you off.
I think that more divergence from loyalist marines can only be seen as a good thing. Gifts of chaos, veterans of the long war and demon engines all make this army feel nice and chaos-ey. All parts of the force organisation chart have some interesting slots, although, annoyingly, buying enough troops
to claim objectives still feels like a burden. That said, I’ve not had a chance to try out the new and improved noise marines (FAQed to be able to get 1 blast master per 5 models), so they may provide salvation.
On the Battlefield HQ
By far my favorite part of the army list: cheap customisable Chaos Lords/Sorcerers, combat dominating Demon Princes and more special characters than you can shake a stick at. The only HQ options that I don’t find tempting are the Dark Apostle and Warp Smith, who are nice and characterful but a lack of bike/jump pack/demonic mount makes them really difficult to use effectively on the battlefield.
As mentioned before, I think troops are a bit of an issue. Chaos Space Marines start out cheap but end up expensive as soon as you equip them to do a job well. The cult units are all interesting but inevitably feel a little bit overpriced (see elites for more musings). Cultists are nice to have, but I think that once people get over the novelty of a cheap troop choice, they will realise how poor they are compared to similar units in other armies and will stick to one small unit at most.
Relatively little change here: Chosen, Terminators and even Cult Marines are virtually unchanged. Two units are noticeably new/different. Mutilators are basically assault-only obliterators, but the last thing chaos players need is another assault unit that requires a land raider to be effective. The latest FAQ has changed noise marines into a very different proposition: one blast master per five models means you get tasty little units that throw out great ignore cover str8 ap3 blasts. Combine that with scoring (at the cost of a sub-optimal lord) and you have a really tempting option.
Bikes, Spawn and Hell Drakes are all great options and really overshadow the rest of this section. Chaos Space Marine bikes are so cheap and versatile that they are hard to ignore. Few players seem to be breaking them out in force, but once a few armies with 20-30 of these bad boys start hitting the tables, I’m sure that will change. Spawn give you a slightly different option with more wounds, less armor and much fewer options. To be honest, I think the relatively small unit size cap keeps them from really competing with bikes. Hell Drakes provide the best solution for winkling units out of cover, and a reasonable anti-air unit in one simple package. Just don’t get fooled by the Hades Autocannon, it’s almost always a good idea to replace it with a Bale Flamer. A few BS3 shots are just meager compared to obliterating whole units in one blast of flame. Initially, many players compared Hell Drakes to Vendettas and dismissed them as over-costed, that is until they saw what a Bale Flamer does to a unit of just about anything that doesn’t have 2+ armor. Now, they are a staple in most competitive lists and the recent FAQ stating their head mounted weapon counts as a turret is only going to see more of them on a table near you. Which leaves us with Raptors and Warp Talons, neither of which are bad units. But Raptors compare poorly to Bikes and Warp Talon lack of grenades is the straw that broke the camel’s back for this high cost unit.
This is another section where you are spoiled for choice. Havoks have got cheaper, without any real downside. Obliterators are a mixed
bag, no longer fearless and have to change weapons every turn, but in compensation they get a few more weapon options and the ability to take marks of chaos. Landraiders are slightly tweaked, but basically still do the same thing. Defilers are the big losers here, with a massive points hike and little improvement to show for it. Combine this with more competition for these slots and I can see many of these hitting the table. Maulerfiends and Forgefiends are the new kids on the block: neither are over powered but both are interesting. The Forgefiend with autocannons is a dream for cracking transport with 8 str 8 shots, but you pay big points for them and they are going to be hard to keep alive. The Maulerfiend, on the other hand, gives a nice fast assault walker for a relatively low cost, great as a distraction or to add some punch to a fast moving force.
Personally, I love it. Lots of options, competitive but not over powered and generally well written. My only major complaint is that they could have been a bit more imaginative in updating some of the existing units. Thousand sons are still a bit rubbish and Berzerkers are still over costed for a unit that basically doesn’t work without a Landraider. Both of these issues could have been resolved with a bit of imagination. But ,basically: more of this please. See you on the battlefield...
INSPIRING THIS GAZEBO HUNTER: 4 Gazebo Hunter Donogh McCarthy talks about bits and pieces that have recently been inspiring him... Blog
The Anderson Collection is a lovely showcase blog. Every period the author takes his hand to is done superbly, but the latest river crossing set during the Napoleonic era on the Peninsula is a great set piece. Those pontoons look lovely, but so simple. If landing on a defended shoreline
Matador Aircar. I’m a big fan of their realistic take on urban scifi, using quite of few of their cars in my Tomorrow’s War campaign already. While Gamecraft are better known for their modern-day 6mm and 20mm buildings, they also have quite a collection of 15mm historical buildings. This World
Donogh McCarthy Donogh has been gaming in some shape or form since school. Though he’ll happily engage in a quick pickup boardgame or indie roleplaying game, you’ll usually find him running participation wargames at conventions. Read his latest wargaming exploits at Land War in Asia: http:// donoghmccarthy.blogspot.ie/
is his incredibly interesting and informative account of his efforts in building a replica of the Argo and its trip from Greece to Georgia following the route to the Golden Fleece. piques your interest, I heartily recommend taking a look at progress over at World War 20mm as they take on Omaha Beach.
War Two office/residential block would be perfect late-war urban battles.
The Jason Voyage by Tim Severin won’t surprise anyone familiar with his usual approach to the legendary journeys of historical figures. This
Antenociti Workshop continues their sterling line of slick 28mm sci-fi with their civilian anti-grav
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie is set in the same world as The First Law, but follows the fortunes of key individuals during the three days of a battle. Excepting the Black Company, I can’t think of as antiwar a fantasy novel as this. There are some lovely touches to this work and I wonder if anyone out there will do an adaption of the Saga rules for it…
Going slightly off-piste now, I caught the web series Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome recently. I’m not entirely convinced by the actor playing the young Adama, but the action sequences were done quite well and it seemed to fit into the overall series mythology.
I am planning something along these lines at some stage, but it’s a slow-burner of a project so I think you might see it in early 2014…
Michael Yon is an American journalist and photographer whose pieces always impress me. Obviously his work is of importance to anyone interested in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I found two recent posts on mud and tracking incredibly fascinating.
MTG: COMMON IMPROVEMENTS #3 Sam Costello guides us through Card Evaluation
large part of being a good player comes from being able to evaluate cards accurately. This uses many skills, like reading meta-games, knowing matchups, and understanding how decks work, but ultimately, it’s a skill that you have to master if you want to get better at the game. It’s also a skill where you can start small – talking about two cards in a vacuum, and seeing which is better – then build up, bringing in all that stuff above slowly. As a side note, you’re probably going to want to have a card search engine (like Gatherer) open for this article, since I’ll be bringing up a lot of card names.
General Rules of Evaluation
There are 4 basic rules to keep in mind when evaluating cards: 1. Is this the most powerful version of the card? 2. Can this card fill multiple roles? 3. Can this card generate any natural advantage? 4. Is this card worth what I’m paying for it? We’ll start off talking about rule 1.
As a practical example, consider the cards, Grizzly Bears, Ashcoat Bear and Watchwolf. All of these cards are 2 drop creatures, and obviously, Watchwolf is the most powerful version, but what if you have a deck that can’t produce white mana? You’ll never be able to cast Watchwolf. That means the most powerful version of the card for your non-white deck is Ashcoat Bear (Flash is better than not having Flash).
When deciding which cards you’re going to play, it’s important to know which cards your opponents are likely to play.”
Just try to think about what your deck – and your opponent’s deck! can do in all stages of the game. Try to envision what will happen in the early turns, the mid turns and the late turns. Try to think about when you would want certain cards and what you want them to achieve.
Sam Costello I live in Northern Ireland, playing a children’s card game and taking it far too seriously. When I’m not playing Magic, I’m thinking about playing Magic, reading about Magic or playing some sort of RPG or video game. I could stand to be a lot better at this game. I have no right telling people how to get better, and yet here I am!
Try to think about how you want to interact with each matchup, and which cards allow you to do that most profitably. Rule 2 is all about saving space in your deck. When consider-
ing cards for your deck you will always end up with more than 60 cards (or 75, including sideboard cards). If you can find a card that fills multiple roles, such as Azorius Charm, or Huntmaster of the Fells, you should consider those cards; flexibility is worth a lot. As a practical example, consider Selesnya Charm. It’s a 2/2 creature, a removal spell for larger creatures, and a pump spell all in one card. On their own, each of its “modes” probably isn’t worth it, but since they’re all together on one card, it’s a very flexible card, and thus, sees quite a lot of play. This rule is less about what you want your deck to do, and more about considering which situations you’ll be forced into over the course of a game. Sure, you might want your deck to be very aggressive, and in that case Selesnya Charm is a pump spell – an aggressive card. But you may also have to deal with a creature that outclasses your creatures in power. In that situation Selesnya Charm becomes a defensive card – either removing a 5+ power creature, or producing a blocker to preserve your life total or keep you alive. Rule 3 ties into the card advantage concept we talked about before, but ultimately, a card doesn’t need to generate any natural card advantage to be a good card, or be included in your deck. It just helps, and even if a card costs more mana than it normally would for the effect, if it generates card advantage it’s still worth considering. Rule 4 is the real puzzle, though! Whether a card is worth the mana you pay for it depends on a number of things, like what the other cards in the format are, the different deck types, how the card helps you win and especially other similar cards in the format. If a format has a 4/4
for 4 mana, and a 4/4 for 3 mana, you will generally always want to play the 3 mana 4/4, since it’s just more efficient as a card. Evaluating non-creature cards becomes much more difficult. For example, is Martial Law worth what you pay for it? To answer that question, you have to determine how relevant Detain is in the format you’re playing in, and whether getting its effect the turn after you cast it is enough (it generally won’t be).
The only way to get good at evaluating cards is practice, so you might as well start now!”
As always, these rules aren’t hard and fast; they’re just guidelines. When asking the questions above, keep in mind that this is generally only for maindeck cards; sideboard cards follow their own rules, though keep rule 2 in mind when picking sideboard cards.
It gets much more complicated than that when you introduce meta-games and multiple deck archetypes. For example, which is better, Spell Snare or Spell Pierce? It depends on whether your opponent has a lot of non-creature spells you want to stop early on or whether they have powerful 2-drops that you want to stop at any point. When deciding which cards you’re going to play it’s important to know which cards your opponents are likely to play. For example, if the
most commonly played burn spell in the format deals 3 damage (like Lightning Bolt), then 4 toughness is something you should look for in some of your creatures. You also need to consider the speed of the format when choosing your cards. If your card is really impactful and powerful, but costs 7 mana, you have to decide whether you’re going to be able to cast your card before your opponent kills you. This is, again, quite a complicated side to the game, but again, it’s one you get better at over time and with practice. We’re in spoiler season right now so it’s always an idea to apply your ideas and theories to new cards that haven’t seen actual tournament play yet. For example, how good do you think Obzedat, Ghost Council is? What about Aurelia’s Fury? Do you think Evolve is a good mechanic? Do you think Extort, the Orzhov mechanic, will see constructed play, or will it be a good draft mechanic and nothing else? The only way to get good at evaluating cards is practice, so you might as well start now!
SHABADABADA Boardgames Lady recommends this pocket party game for all
It can be difficult to get a full set of English rules for the game. Fortunately, it’s not the kind of game where that’s a big problem. As with most good party games, any rules not clarified before the start of the game can usually be settled by consensus when they come up.
habadabada is a fantastic little game that will fit in your pocket and go down a treat at parties. Because the composition of the teams can change without affecting the game too much, it’s also a great filler game in convention situations, provided you’re not playing around other games that need quiet. It will also go down equally well with gamers and non-gamers. The game is very straightforward. You divide any number of players into two groups. Everyone tries to sing a song using the word on a card which has been turned over. As soon as someone succeeds, the other team has to sing a different song with the same word. This continues until one team concedes and the other team collects the card.
Everyone tries to sing a song...”
The cards themselves are simple, with an English word and a word in another language (at least French and Dutch versions are available, possibly others) on each side of the card. The words are very well chosen for the most part, such that most people will be able to think of at least one or two songs, but the turn won’t last forever. Depending on who’s playing, you may need to house-rule out one or two cards though. The game is also very cheap. And since it’s so small and light, it remains good value even if you need to pay for shipping. Another recommendation from Boardgames Lady.
boardgames lady Boardgames Lady plays boardgames whenever she can and has done for as long as she can remember. She owns more than is probably reasonable and prides herself on matching games to players. She’s also been known to dabble in CCGs, RPGs, LRPs, LARPS, and computer games and organise things so other people can play boardgames.
REX: FINAL DAYS OF AN EMPIRE Shen reviews this precursor to Twilight Imperium FFG is mechanically based on Dune (1979), and the two games share a number of the same designers: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge and Peter Olotka. If you couldn’t guess from the title, Dune is based on the Dune series by Frank Herbert. This, in itself, gives Rex a rich history of not only game design and mechanics, but also gives it a life of its own.
“They were caught on the 82nd day of hell”
Allegiance, betrayal, sacrifice and cunning: Rex has it all. Rex: Final Days of an Empire is a prequel to the epic (I mean epic!) game Twilight Imperium by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure (or frustration) of knowing, or playing, Twilight Imperium, it is set in a time of galactic strife and power struggle, where only one race may rule from the Imperial Throne. Rex occurs 3,000 years before this conflict, telling the story of how a once powerful race ruled the galaxy, which was torn apart by civil war. Rex is a downscaled version from a galactic battle to a planetary battle in which the Lazax (“the supreme leaders”) Empire comes under threat from the other major races in their domain. Rex: Final Days of an Empire by
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Rex is a strategic boardgame, where you fight over key locations (strongholds - imaginative) on the board to win. Or do you? The game works by fighting over resources on the game board, called ‘influence’, which can represent anything from ammunition to valued technology and political gain. Players will have to outmanoeuvre each other to gain an advantage during the restricted eight rounds.
Şenol Leong(SHEN) Shen is a seasoned gamer, from all walks of gaming life. Having worked for some gaming companies (which shall not be named), for many years (but no longer!) he exhibits signs of gaming fever, which has proven to be contagious. Somehow, with his hectic life working in television and film, he manages to find time to play and run games for his peers
Rex: Final Days of an Empire by FFG is mechanically based on Dune (1979)”
You use, or sacrifice, your limited military forces to defeat your opponents, nothing new there. What is interesting is how this game portrays battle. Unlike conventional games using dice or cards, Rex uses something called a ‘battle
dial’. This is a device where players decide in secret how many troops they are committing to battle, which leader to choose, and how many, if any, strategic cards (which do something cool) to play. Once revealed, there is no going back, even if you’ve made a bad decision. It doesn’t end there. If you win, any troops committed into battle are lost. But if you lose, you lose everything. However, things aren’t that simple. If you are thinking of committing all but one of your forces into battle, then you have made a grave mistake, as one of your military units can only seize two influence each turn. Mark my words, that’s not a lot. Every army needs a leader to command it. Each of the six races has five leaders to choose from, individually adding a unique military strength. Leaders simply add a combat value to your battle dial. But, are all your leaders as trustworthy as you think? In combat, after battle dial configuration has been revealed, your opponent has the opportunity (if lucky enough!) to reveal a matching traitor card from their hand. In turn, this makes a very interesting game mechanic; you are constantly second guessing your opponent right ‘til the end. Alliances can be forged amongst players, each individual race giving bonuses. Joint wins can be achieved through these allegiances; however, there are secret win conditions. These random conditions are dealt out in the beginning of the game, and each have a different number. You can choose to betray your allegiance by revealing this card, and claiming the win for your own. There is never an option for a draw; half of the races have special win conditions, covering all the bases.
The most impressive part of this game is the plastic model for the dreadnaught fleet (spaceships). Everything else is represented by a piece of cardboard. Good quality cardboard, I will add, but cardboard nonetheless. The game board is extremely detailed and colourful, making for a very delightful sight. However, the board layout itself can be at first confusing, as there are certain segments of the board which have no proper designation, such as having a part of the board to keep influence. Also, the game board is supposed to represent the capital city of this powerful empire, yet it only depicts key locations on the board, sharing similarities to another FFG game, Arkham Horror. In conclusion, if your gaming group enjoys strategic games where every move must be thought out, if you like games where on the eve of victory you can stab your allies in the back, then this is the game for you.
“Frustration” factor 3/5
“Strategy” factor -
--There are many imbalances in the game, which at first glance can seem unfair. But later, you may realise that these imbalances actually make the game very balanced: each action has a reaction. --As I mentioned before, each action has a reaction. Having to second guess not only your opponents, but also your allies and the game board, you have to be constantly thinking about your next move.
--Quite a simple game to learn for both beginners and veterans, however I would recommend a mixed gaming group or higher for best results.
Replayability - 4/5
--You will never have the same game twice. Due to the fact that the game is possibly won within Rules and mechanics - the first 15 minutes (if you have 3.5/5 the best luck in the world!) or goes --The mechanics were really enjoy- on right until the end of 8 rounds. able, however the rule book could There are no designated strategies have been structured better (we for any of the factions that can missed some rules the first game!). ensure the best possible chance of winning. This game is based on the Quality - players and how they play.
--All of the pieces have a high quality finish, including the amazing plastic dreadnaught fleet. However, everything else being made out of card lets the game down.
“Fun” factor 4/5
--The constant interaction between players adds to the life of the game, creating great dialogue (that can be quoted in future games!) and atmosphere. Overall, a very enjoyable game.
Value for money - 3.5/5
--Rex is good value, as you will enjoy the game. However, for the price you pay the game does not even come with zip-lock bags. Would I recommend this game? Yes. I love this game. I enjoy its depth and strategy options, especially being able to stab my best friends in the back. I can’t wait to introduce this to different gaming groups and experiencing different styles of play.
SPARTACUS Boardgames Lady reviews this boardgame inspired by the hit TV show
boardgames lady Boardgames based on television shows are normally, at best, mediocre clones of existing games. Spartacus is refreshingly different. It is a stand alone game, with great mechanics and interesting game play that just happens to have a television show as the ‘fluff ’. The game plays three or four players, but is better with four. Each player plays the dominus of an ancient Roman house, competing for influence. Each house has different starting resources and similar but different special abilities. There is a slight balance issue, with some houses having an easier path to victory than others. Players can play schemes with and against each other, and buy gladi-
ators, weapons, and slaves from each other and from the bank. All schemes require a certain level of influence to play, and you can get help from other players if you don’t have enough yourself. You do not have to tell them beforehand what it is for, and if you do, you are under no obligation to tell the truth. The rules are very clear on the point that any amount of gold can change hands at any time, for any reason. These all combine to provide a lot of scope for making and breaking deals and alliances, reading and playing other players, and making and calling bluffs. Each turn builds towards the arena phase. Here the player that won the hosting auction invites two players, possibly including them-
Boardgames Lady plays boardgames whenever she can and has done for as long as she can remember. She owns more than is probably reasonable and prides herself on matching games to players. She’s also been known to dabble in CCGs, RPGs, LRPs, LARPS, and computer games and organise things so other people can play boardgames.
selves, to partake in the games, which are played out in an excellent little skirmish game. All players have the opportunity to bet on the outcome. The game ends when someone finishes any phase on 12 or more influence. Ties are settled
in the arena. The full game can be quite long, possibly significantly outlasting the two to three hours on the box. But it is possible to play the shorter versions, starting on more influence, without losing too much of the feel and spirit of the game.
It is a stand alone game, with great mechanics and interesting game playâ€?
Another recommendation from Boardgames Lady.
ACCIDENTAL GAME HISTORIAN Maria talks a little about why you should work with what you love which in her case is 48k ZX Spectrum games
hen I started my MA in design history and material culture two years ago I was convinced that I would be doing my dissertation (which is the real work of the masters) on graphic design. I had done some work as a graphic designer, even going so far as to do a vocational course in it when I realised that I would prefer to combine my practical knowledge of graphics with my academic interest in social and political theory. So off I went to do an MA on the social aspects of graphic design. Two years later I had managed to write 20,000 words on the materiality of 48k ZX Spectrum games. Somewhere along the way I had managed to become a (mini) game historian. “Now, how did that happen?”, I had to ask myself. Of course, if I’m being honest with myself it’s not terribly surprising that I ended up writing such a dissertation. It’s well known among those who know me personally that I’m a retrogame fangirl. This, I tried to convince myself, was exactly the reason why I shouldn’t do research into games. In fact it’s a damn good reason to do research into it provided you’re careful and keep a decent academic distance
from the work. My point here is that I’m sure, dear reader, that you are such a fangirl/fanboy. If you’re also interested in doing academic work and are thinking about doing this work on the subject of games then don’t let this impede you. In the end my lengthy experience of playing games, especially given my particular subject (materiality), was a boon to my writing. I was even able to find references to using such personal experience as evidence in established work on the history of technology.
Somewhere along the way I had managed to become a (mini) game historian. “Now, how did that happen?”, I had to ask myself.”
Before I go any further I think I need to explain my research a little. Just the title or a one-line description is usually enough to produce furrowed brows but not
Maria Costello Maria has just finished an MA on the material culture of retrogames (yes, really). She has an unhealthy interest in Dizzy and actually enjoys reading game manuals and looking at loading screens. In between trying to figure out how to get pieces of her dissertation published she likes to encourage those interested in thinking about games to put their ideas out there.
really enough to produce enlightenment. The title of my dissertation is “Gameplay on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Rethinking Objecthood Through a Study of Early Home Computing in Britain.” I can’t explain it totally here but the
basic gist is that material objects are an important part of digital gameplay (we use hardware, software media and ephemera when we play games) despite representation of gaming as overwhelmingly visual – screenshot anyone? I used the Speccy and its games as an example because: 1. They were really physical – lots of hardware, physical media and ephemera and 2. Both domestic computing and games were pretty new at the time so there was a lot of leeway when it came to defining what they were. Therefore, if you want to look at the role of materiality in defining our experience with technological objects then Speccy games are a fine place to start. When you get into researching games you begin to realise what massive scope there is. There is writing on game philosophy, psychology and aesthetics, on games as narrative, experience and visual and physical works. At the moment research into digital games is really, really exciting and new avenues open up all the time. If you’re wondering if your slant on games will be acceptable then it’s pretty much guaranteed that it will be, even if it’s relatively rare right now. I was researching games in a university department which has no direct link with such research. What it does have excellent expertise in is the study of material culture, design and society. Lucky for me, then, that games are pieces of material culture. So that base was covered and I got fantastic supervisory support for my theoretical arguments. Looking in the game studies literature would not have inspired such confidence in me however. A small amount is written about the aesthetics of games, less about the material aesthetics and even less on the history of games in the UK and Ireland. So, my point is that you can come in
sideways and produce something really worthwhile. There’s really no need to follow in the footsteps of other game studies scholars or journalists. In fact, having help from those who know a lot about the theory and not necessarily much about games can be very beneficial. They can cut through the assumptions made by gamers like you and me.
Just because you love games doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study them in-depth. As [Richard Feynman] said: “It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
This article is really meant to act as an encouragement to someone thinking about doing a piece of written work on digital games. It’s not long enough to provide detailed guidance so as a final point I’d like to give you a very subjective, emotive account of my work. Since the work was on materiality I had to physically play a few games on the original hardware using tapes and the like. You know the way people say that you shouldn’t study what you love because it takes the fun out of it? They’re wrong. I spent a full year beating this thing into shape and there were many parts that were very difficult, intellectual humps to get over and knotty problems with thirty year old pieces of tech. I’m not going to pretend it was all a
bed of roses but it was really, really satisfying. Richard Feynman once expressed how a scientific understanding of a flower can make it even more beautiful and interesting to the observer. Just because you love games doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study them in-depth. As he said: “It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.” If you want to write about games then go do it. This article focuses on writing about games academically but there are so many other fora for such work, of course: blog posts, magazines like this one etc. It doesn’t need to be 20,000 words, it can be 100. Just try it out and see how you go. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and there are plenty of people like you and me who want to read it.
A QUICK GUIDE TO ONLINE GAMING Sarky skims through the myriad of ways we can get our gaming fix online
ince cheap and reliable internets became available (well, everywhere except Ireland), online gaming has taken off like some kind of rocket in a big damn rush. The internet caters to just about every type of gaming imaginable, from frenetic first-person shooters to epic, slow-paced strategy. You can even set up a virtual tabletop and do the digital equivalent of inviting friends around for a game of D&D. Here I present a sampler of the different ways the virtual world has contributed to gaming. It’s by no means exhaustive but hopefully it’ll get you to consider looking to the internet to get your gaming jollies, instead of just your regular naughty ones:
Online video games:
Quite a broad one, this, but also the most obvious virtual gaming on the planet and approximately 37.5 times more popular than God Almighty at the moment. It covers your Halos, your Starcraft 2s, your Mariokarts and World of Warcrafts, your Go and chess and Risk and Civilization, and offers virtually (hurr!) limitless ways in which to give up any chance of a social life. Pros: Being able to meet and interact with hundreds of thou-
sands of different people can make these games very social, and many friendships have been made through MMORPG and Quake deathmatch alike. The shooters in particular have spawned a very successful competitive community, with the likes of Tribes: Ascend and Halo holding regular tournaments. Team Fortress 2 is also the Best Online Game Ever. Some of them are free, like Planetside 2, Tribes or World of Tanks.
Here I present a sampler of the different ways the virtual world has contributed to gaming.”
Cons: You’ll often pay at least the €50/£40-ish cost of a game, and with MMORPGs, sometimes much more on a monthly basis. Getting abuse hurled at you from anonymous teenage scumbags is more common than is ideal. Some of the communities are awfully cliquey. Console manufacturers hate the idea of XBox owners being able to play the same game
sarky Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien is originally from Galway, where he spent long nights in front of a computer screen ranting about how amazing Baldur’s Gate was before he first got bitten by the tabletop gaming bug. After a brief fling with wargaming he settled down into an relationship with tabletop RPGs and video games. He writes for any convention willing to pay him in single malt, hugs and baked goods.
with PS3 owners, and so deliberately stop the two from being able to interact. If they’re not popular enough the developers may shut down servers thus making a game impossible to play.
There are discussion forums all over the internet covering every topic under the sun. Some of them are dedicated to hosting RPGs, using the format of a bulletinboard discussion. A GM will post a description of the area/situation, and the players take turns to post up a description of their character’s actions, thoughts or responses to others. They can cover any system the GM wants to run or invent. A good example would be Rpdom.com, which has dozens of games running at any time, with new games being proposed and looking for players constantly. Pros: The roleplay aspect of RPGs comes to the fore here, as players need to bring their character to life through words alone (and sometimes the occasional posted picture). The one-post-at-a-time nature gives structure and flow to dialogue and scenes, and prevents people talking over each other. You can really take your time to savour games in this manner. Dialogue and story really come into their own. It can be like the difference between watching a TV show and reading a good book. Cons: The discussion forum format slows play down a lot. A single scene can take days to play through as all the different players can be in any time zone in the world, and awake at different times. The relaxed pace works for some people but not others. Combat takes a back seat due to the hassle of posting up dice results and settling bonuses/penalties. Players can just disappear, holding up everyone’s enjoyment.
This is a relatively new concept, but one that could prove very popular. The only example we have right now is Infrno.net, but no doubt
there are others. The idea is simple: GM and players log in to a digital tabletop. The GM can place maps, characters and more on the table, while talking to his/her players via a supplied chat application. Various links to the side allow for easy access to character sheets, virtual dice and notes. It is just like getting your friends over for a game, only they can be anywhere with a net connection and there’s no wasting time arguing over pizza toppings.
“though I don’t
think the real life tabletop will ever be beaten in terms of all-round atmosphere though. And some of us LIKE arguing about pizza toppings...”
Pros: Real time chat allows for all the banter you love at a real life tabletop. The virtual table is immune to spilled coffee or wandering pets. Your players can take part from anywhere in the world, so it’s great for keeping that campaign going when half the group has gone abroad to a new job. Video and music can become props way more easily by dropping a YouTube video on the virtual table. Cons: It can be hard enough to assemble everyone for a real life session, it only gets harder with people in other countries. The vir-
tual tabletop still has a ways to go before it can match the real table for things like sketching out quick maps - unless you have a graphics tablet, sketching a digital map will take longer. More preparation all round may be necessary, having to type up notes for players and the like. So there you have it, the online world is full of different ways of playing games, with vibrant communities and new people to meet and make friends with. Personally though I don’t think the real life tabletop will ever be beaten in terms of all-round atmosphere though. And some of us LIKE arguing about pizza toppings...
NET FU “Be Safe out there People”
nitially, I was going to give a lecture about online abuse and the causes of this but, having read many a horror story, I have reached the frightening conclusion that the majority of you have no idea how to defend yourselves from attack. I’m deliberately not going into specific types of online abuse; rather consider this a general guide to online harassment. To be fair, most of you have become quite adept at dealing with faceless scum trying to steal your data or infect your machines with viruses, but when faced with attack from actual people a lot of you seem to fall to pieces. So, instead of another piece on the causes of and fantastical solutions on online abuse I’m going to give you all a lesson in self defence. Many readers of similar age to me will be versed in these arts already but a recap never did anyone any harm. To begin with a simple exercise, exercise number one, repeat after me: “I am not my Avatar”
real world” The main problem is that a lot of people are simply not using the plethora of tools at their disposal to deal with these things, although there is one notable exception in that non-moderated forums don’t have those tools. If you are using a non-moderated forum, then you have jumped in to a cage with a pack of hungry carnivores and you should expect people to be abusive, sick or just plain wrong. It’s like taking a walk in a bad neighbourhood. There may be no problem but you better be equipped, (in this case emotionally) to deal with problems or it’s not going to end well.
Familiarise yourself with tools provided by sites you use to report, block and otherwise deal with abusive users”
“I am not my profile page” “I am a real person; I live in the
There are many, many sites and
Gerry McEvoy “I am made of victory with a slight tinge of epic and a twist of pure rock and roll” Gerry is currently setting up a new business yet still finds time to be a keyboard warrior, gamer and writer on all things tech. Prone to doing crazy things for charity. @Legendgerry on twitter
ways to interact with people out there so I can’t give you a definitive guide on what to do on each of them. However every site that’s run by responsible people, with that sort of interaction facility will have guidelines on dealing with
abuse and mechanisms. This leads us to exercise number two: Familiarise yourself with tools provided by sites you use to report, block and otherwise deal with abusive users. This includes spammers by the way - two birds, one stone and all that. Also familiarise yourself with the privacy settings. Believe me, this can save you a lot of problems in all sorts of ways. Do the same for any online game you play. The next step is using those tools when necessary. There seems to be a notion that by blocking abusive people, they somehow “Win”, and that’s a lie. It’s propagated by people who get their jollies being nasty online to put people off blocking and reporting them. If they can’t bother you anymore, you clearly win. Now let’s clear something up, there’s a difference between honest debate and abuse. People are going to disagree with you frequently and you are going to have to realise that sometimes you are going to get some things wrong. It is apparently due to a condition known as being human. I don’t like being wrong, no one does, it’s a tragedy but it does happen. Now, other people are also wrong on occasion but some won’t be able to admit it, mainly due to pride and being conditioned by the example given by politicians. This is a common situation that can lead to frayed tempers and people that you might normally get on with saying harsh things. When those things are said, you can engage and get into a verbal battle that ultimately will only have negative effects on all involved or you can choose to withdraw. Much
like when a discussion in real life escalates, you should withdraw. It’s not always an easy thing to do but it is what you should do. This isn’t the type of abuse that we are concerned about but you should still be aware of the proper course of action. The above should be the only real times you come encounter abusive situations if you follow some rather simple rules. • Don’t add people you aren’t sure about. • Don’t allow people you don’t know to add you to things. • For crying out loud, if you don’t like someone or you know for a fact they are abusive when online. Don’t add them! • Also, never read the comment sections. When gaming online, remember that you have the same set of powers, and you can also mute people. Hell, I tend to mute people who are talking about non-game stuff; I want to know when the enemy is swarming point C. I really couldn’t care less about people’s local sports team. So I mute people to save me the distraction. You’ll have the option to report players after the game. Remember: you have control, you can delete posts, you can flag things for moderators, and you can block people and filter things out. If something is going on that you don’t like, you can deal with it simply. Never be afraid to leave, the only way to “win” a “no-win” situation is to get out of it. If you decide to get into a vigorous discussion, as opposed to having one thrust upon you, especially
with representatives of political or religious groups, then all I can advise is to remember Wizards First Rule and make sure that it doesn’t apply to you first. “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.” From ‘Wizards First Rule’ - Terry Goodkind Be safe.
PLANETSIDE 2 Uncle Sarky reviews this tactical online game
wo dozen tanks line up on the ridge, pounding the enemy base’s point defences into oblivion. Overhead, a squadron of gunships rain explosives down on vehicles and troops alike, while interceptors from both sides weave through lines of fire at breakneck speed trying to establish air superiority. Outriders on quad bikes skirt around the carnage, picking off stragglers and marking targets for the big guns. And I’m on foot with 50 other grunts, assaulting the facility, while as many enemy troops have dug in deep in a last ditch effort to repel us. A small squad of infiltrators takes out the shields and we pour through the opening, fighting, killing, dying en masse. War is chaotic and exhilarating. And there are another 20 scenes like this playing out down the road. This is Planetside 2. It is, at its core, a very simple, perhaps even clichéd game: Mechanically, it does little that other games haven’t already done. Battlefield comparisons are inevitable: players choose a class, from engineer to medic to stealthy infiltrator; they can join squads to coordinate their efforts; there are a wide range of vehicles to pilot; the game centres around strategic points which must be captured and protected. The main difference
is one of scale: Each server boasts 3 maps, each a staggering 60km2, each capable of holding a little over 600 players at once. Victories on one map affect the others, and players can redeploy to any map at any time to react to enemy movements.
War is chaotic and exhilarating.”
The territory control is likewise increased in scale. While other games have control points in a small room or building, PS2 has sprawling industrial and military facilities with power generators, vehicle depots, armouries and a main base. Generators power shields which restrict access to vehicles, troops and weapons fire. Vehicle depots allow the enemy to spawn tanks and gunships while armouries allow killed enemies to respawn. Each can be destroyed/ captured, weakening the facility in different ways. While weight of numbers certainly helps, real victory comes from coordinating attacks with your fellows. No one player can achieve victory; it’s always a team effort. There’s a
sarky Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien is originally from Galway, where he spent long nights in front of a computer screen ranting about how amazing Baldur’s Gate was before he first got bitten by the tabletop gaming bug. After a brief fling with wargaming he settled down into an relationship with tabletop RPGs and video games. He writes for any convention willing to pay him in single malt, hugs and baked goods.
wonderful sense of camaraderie and being part of something much greater with PS2. There are three factions you can fight for: The Terran Republic, a military autocracy, the New
Conglomerate, a strange blend of capitalistic freedom fighters, and the Vanu Sovereignty, a bunch of humans who adopted the technology and culture of an extinct alien civilisation. Each faction has their ups and downs. The weapons in each faction differ in terms of damage, accuracy, rate of fire; reload speed, bullet drop-off and more. There are vehicles common to all factions, but each has its own interceptor and tank, with its own advantages, such as the Vanu Magrider, a hovertank with unsurpassed manoeuvrability, running rings around the track-based tanks of the other factions.
Each server boasts 3 maps, each a staggering 60km2, each capable of holding a little over 600 players at once.”
Each side is well balanced, the weapons are all satisfying to look at and fire, the vehicles are responsive and do their jobs well. Controls on foot are crisp and smooth. There is a wealth of customisation options, and the system here bears mention: You can unlock any weapon in the game with XP gained from kills, territory capture, repairs or healing others or you can pay real world cash. Given that the game itself is free to play, this is reasonable, and each class starts off with some of the most powerful weapons anyway, new weapons being more about customising the niche you want to fill in the overall army - does your heavy assault want to excel at taking down ground vehicles or air vehicles? Each weapon can be further customised with a range of optics, ammunition, extended magazines and the like, and these CAN make a big difference - but they can only be unlocked by playing the game, they’re not for sale. It’s a nice little balancing act that means you have to earn anything that provides a real advantage. There are further options such as camouflage for troops and vehi-
cles (which can really help if, say, you’re tired of your bright crimson TR troop standing out on the white snowscapes of Esamir), and if you form an Outfit (fancy word for Guild), you get further options to make your group unique. Planetside 2 isn’t without problems. It’s still a bit unstable, so occasionally the game will crash, or the landscape will begin to flicker. The design of the different factions is fairly uninspired for the most part. And every now and then you’ll come across some hacker scumbag out to ruin everyone’s fun. But the devs are working on all of this, as well as constantly releasing new weapons, hosting bonus XP days or events where you get 3 times the in game cash you paid for. There are new continents and vehicles in the works, and the strategic depth of the game is constantly being tweaked. As it is, it’s a very fun game with a very epic feel to it. And did I mention it’s free? Grab some friends, form a squad, and get stuck in, because as the devs say, this really is an online game unlike any other.
GAME ANTICIPATION, PREVIEWS & REVIEWS Gerry McEvoy talks up, previews and reviews digital games as well as providing some analysis of the demise of THQ INCOMING Defiance
Most people’s game of the year last year was Tell Tale games ‘The Walking Dead’, a spin off game set in the world of the inexplicably successful TV show and comic series. Defiance, created by Farscape creator Rockne S. O’Bannon, takes this one step further! The television show launching on SyFy on Monday, April 15th will have a dedicated MMO running alongside it with in-game events occurring as they happen in the television series. The plot for both revolves around the arrival of a collective of Alien refugees called Votans, fleeing the destruction of their home system. They attempt to negotiate for an area of Earth to settle in but 6 years of talks later, with supplies running low, they are forced to try and seize an area for themselves. The ensuing war lasts for decades. During that time, terraforming equipment is accidentally deployed and parts of the Earth are transformed into something completely alien. Finally, peace is declared. The main character, war veteran Jeb Nolan, returns to his former home
in St. Louis to find that it is little more than a refugee camp for human and alien races alike. Jeb takes on the task of enforcing the law amidst the chaos and the show proper starts there. The main thing to note about the Aliens is that there are 7 very different alien species at large with rumours of an 8th who apparently didn’t make the trip. This leaves plenty of things to play with for any GM with a penchant for post apocalyptic sci-fi and plenty of character choices for the MMO.
Gerry McEvoy “I am made of victory with a slight tinge of epic and a twist of pure rock and roll” Gerry is currently setting up a new business yet still finds time to be a keyboard warrior, gamer and writer on all things tech. Prone to doing crazy things for charity.
The MMO itself looks to be little more than a big ol’ shoot ‘n’ loot. As people may remember, that is one of my favourite formats, however that’s just me and it may fail to appeal to a wider audience, especially if the show isn’t a big hit. Conversely, the show may also suffer if the game is a turn off.
mythos, in the back of my mind a question continually pops up. Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to renew Stargate Universe?
As the project has been in development since 2011, this is a big risk and a lot of money to lay out. It will either be a huge success or fail so abysmally it will become a synonym for failure for generations to come.
If you follow our Facebook p age ( http s : / / w w w. facebook.com/pages/TheGazebo/304728959551717) you may have noticed we broke news that Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin was coming to the Xbox 360. So, what’s the skinny?
While I appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this and the creation of a brand new
@Legendgerry on twitter
Will Munchkin eat my console?
Tinderbox games announced they were working on a Munchkin Game
back in 2011 and nothing had been mentioned since. Except for an occasional “we’ll get on that soon” blog post from the company it had been largely forgotten. So when Steve Jackson Games revealed an image on Twitter, it took most of us games writer types by surprise. So, being the dedicated writer type I am, I have collated the available data. 1) The game will be an exclusive to the Xbox 360 XBLA (that’s Xbox Live Arcade for the unanimated) to begin with, although SJ Games have said they would like to see it on other platforms once the 360 version is done. 2) There won’t be any type of phone app either, at least until after the 360 version is done. 3) It will be the original set only, although later sets may be added as DLC. 4) There is no release date set yet and I would be pleasantly surprised if it was done before year’s end. 5) I emailed Tinderbox directly to find out, for Warpcon Munchkin Tournament winner Colin Scanlon, if the mechanics would allow for cheating. To which they responded: “Is it illegal to wear a Pointy Hat of Power with Mithril Armor in our game? Not if you cheat! (Although it is bad fashion sense)” Tinderbox has been around since 2009 and has worked on numerous titles across multiple platforms including iOS and Wii. You can check them out here http:// tinderboxentertainment.com/ I’m going to start saving up the Microsoft points!
of us with short or overcrowded memories!
Developer: Nether Realm Studios There are limitations; essentially you have two main character types, Launch date: April 16th a fast gadget type like Batman or April is setting up to be a huge a slower overpowered brute force month for gaming and this is my type like (personal favourite of first pick for game of the year or, at mine) Solomon Grundy. There will the very least, fighting game of the be no Kreate a character section year. Injustice is Mortal Kombat as in previous MK games, in the creator Ed Boon’s second game initial launch anyway as Ed Boon based on the DC universe. The has revealed in a carefully worded previous title, MK vs DC, was a bit tweet.
too light for many of the Mortal Kombat fans. Well, they fixed that There will also be mini games this time around. This is not a dispersed throughout the story to break up the Story scene-Fighthappy game. Story scene flow. The example Superman has been driven to being used currently is that when extremes by the ever increasing Batman is charged at by armourhuman-on-human atrocities and suited Lex Luthor, he gets to pelt has finally taken over the world, him with Batarangs for a short assisted by other heroes such as time. When the fight between Wonder Woman. Batman (think them starts, Luthor will have lost Frank Millers ‘The Dark Knight an amount of health proportionate Returns’), realising that Superman’s to the amount of times you hit him new world order is no better than (to a max of -30%). the world they sought to change, begins to build a resistance I’m a bit wary of this particular movement with a band of unlikely idea: quick time events like this tend to become quite annoying in allies and hilarity ensues. most games if deployed too often. The much darker storyline is Other than that, they have really complemented by some hardcore done all they could have to make fighting action; some sections of this a superb fighter. the environments can be picked up and thrown or used as a weapon. You will be able to switch that off as well, if you prefer your action to be strictly old school. Breakable terrain also features and seems to have been created properly unlike Streetfighter X Tekken’s disastrous attempt. You can also switch control STYLES from the traditional up, down, left, right commands to Streetfighter style half or semi circle twirls! One nifty trick is that you can tag a particular move to a button and tap that to get the move displayed on screen as you fight. Very handy for those
Come April. I’m buying it.
Dead Space 3
Publisher: EA Released: February 5th If you were a fan of the previous Dead Space titles, then move on, this is not the game you were looking for. If you are a fan of Bioshock or Doom 3, however, check this out! The previous Dead Space titles were creeping horror survival games, you were usually trying to
figure a fast way out of somewhere and, if something moved, running like hell was generally the best plan. Not in this game. Dead Space has gone full-on first-person-shooter in a style that left me nostalgic for the days of Doom 3. Run! Run! Run! Has been replaced by Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Emerging from the wreckage of their ship, Issac Hayes and John Carver (whom you can play in coop mode) set about completing their mission to explore the frozen planet of Tau Volantis and track down the secret that they hope will end the Necromorph plague forever. You do this while a cult leader exhorts his followers to stop you, à la Bioshock, and various horrible creatures try and inflict nastiness upon you. Gore is a major factor in this game. The best strategy, you are informed, is not the simple head-shot but to blow the limbs off your enemies one by one. You can also do a little stomp dance on their appallingly squelchy corpses to free up some goodies. The control system takes a bit of getting used to, pulling the right trigger only does a melee attack unless you have the left trigger held down to “aim” your weapon. That said, weapons offer the most innovative art of the game: every now and then you will come across a workbench that will allow you to rebuild your weapons by crafting together various pickups that you have gathered along the way. Weapons have 8 sections in total, allowing, among other things, for an over-under arrangement on your weapons. I found having a push back weapon as the under to be the most effective so far, as it bought me space to chain gun the limbs of the hordes of nasties.
You can also upgrade your survival suit, you know, like you can in Bioshock. It uses the same components as your weapons crafting so you may want to upgrade your suit first as it provides your armour and air!
Plot Taking place four years after the last game, the crippled ship Forward Unto Dawn drifts into the path of an artificial forerunner world. This prompts Fortuna, Master Chief ’s pet AI and only friend, to bring him out of cryogenic sleep and once more do battle with the covenant and a brand new enemy. I’m not going to reveal much more than this as it is a surprisingly good story.
Co-op play is the big feature for this game, there are story elements, cut-scenes, and battle strategies that are exclusive to this mode. Which is bloody annoying, as if you prefer to play your horror games solo, like a certain writer, Good Points then there’s a bunch of content The world is gorgeous, the new that will remain unseen. weapons are funky, and the story is good. There are also flying That said, the brooding atmosphere sections that made me nostalgic coupled with enemies that could for Starfox. Not only that, but they come from anywhere will make have fixed the multiplayer which this a hit with fans of Doom 3 and had gone downhill since Halo the Bioshock fans waiting for the 3. Jet packs are still there but are release of Infinite will enjoy this, not as overpowered as they used shall we call it a tribute?, to the Big to be, ordnance drops à la Call of Daddy mechanic. Honestly this is Duty have also been brought in probably the best shooter we will but balance the game, especially get this year, even though it’s not for new players. They have also supposed to be! increased the longevity of the game with things like Spartan I’ll probably still buy it, though I Ops, a feature that adds new just wish I could play it all without missions on a regular basis and needing other people! weekly challenges which involve clearing part of the campaign on harder difficulties or with certain REVIEWS enhancements on.
Publisher: Microsoft Developer: 343 Industries Platforms: PC , Xbox Rating: 16 (PEGI), T (ESRB) A bit of background for this: all five previous games were crafted by Bungie. After a rather conclusive end to the story, they decided to move on from the franchise and pursue other interests. Microsoft, who owned Bungie outright, however, has passed the IP on to 343 Industries. So this is an all new series based loosely on the existing Halo mythos.
Bad points The biggest flaw with this game is tension, or rather the lack thereof. In the other Halo games, there was always a sense of mild panic, which increased to total panic when “The Flood” swarmed out of nowhere. This is non-existent here. When I come across a pair of hunters, the most powerful enemies in the game, I should feel a sense of panic not sigh about how long it would take to beat them. Some people advised me to play on legendary and while it did make it longer it didn’t increase the dramatic
tension any. There is nothing even close to the panic-inducing Flood here. Verdict Despite the failure of the game play to grab me, the story is superb and the new guys are off to a pretty good start. They need to find a way to ratchet up the tension in the next games but other than that it is a fine product. 4/5
Well known games developer and publisher recently filed chapter 11 in the states, after almost 25 years in the business, and sold off most of its assets as a result. in an interview with MCVUK.com THQ President Jason Rubin revealed “To be sure, all triple-A publishers have been under pressure, but THQ had every chance to survive had it not made massive mistakes. “Unfortunately, the mistakes that were made long before I joined, like the incredible losses attached to uDraw, massive wasted capital in the unpublished MMO that was cancelled, sticking with children’s and casual titles far after mobile and tablets had killed the business, bad, late, or otherwise inferior titles like Homefront, and a generally haphazard and inefficient approach to deal making, left the company with too much negative hanging on its books.” Under the THQ umbrella, there were many wholly owned development companies, some of whom have been fortunate enough to be purchased by other companies. Those who weren’t have been shut down and with them go the games they made. So, who will now be making the games and which have passed on from
The game is due out on March 4, which doesn’t leave much time The Survivors for improvements or changes. Company: Relic. Titles: Homeworld, Space Marine, Also, the South Park creators have Dawn of War and Company of launched a legal action against THQ, so who knows what’s about Heroes. to happen there. Rescued by: Sega. Sega recently acquired the Warhammer license and given that THQ Studios Montreal was also Relic develop Warhammer 40,000 purchased by Ubisoft. There had titles, rumours abound that Sega been some legal wrangling between them when the studio moved into will nab that license too. Montreal, and the THQ studios main asset is former Ubisoft Company: Volition employee and Assassin’s Creed Titles: Saints Row creative director Patrice Désilets. Rescued by: Koch Media Koch media also acquired the Whether or not he is happy with Metro IP. Given the similarities his old employer’s takeover is between Metro and Koch’s unknown, but if he is, then some STALKER games, it was hardly a great things could come out of Montreal in the coming years. surprise.
this Mortal coil?
License: Homefront Rescued by: Crytek Not a surprise, as Crytek had been developing a sequel for THQ anyway. Now, they have total control, it’s going to be interesting to see what effect that has. Hopefully we will get a longer game this time around! License: WWE Rescued by: 2K There were whoops of delight on wrestling forums across the internet when this was announced: not so much that 2K got it, but that EA didn’t. License: Evolve Rescued by: Take Two Evolve was an unannounced title. Actually it was called Metamorphosis on the papers, so I can’t tell you what it is, however Take-Two shelled out $10 million for it, so it should be something special!
The casualties: Red Faction, De Blob and Darksiders all are being consigned to oblivion. There was a glimmer of hope for Darksiders developer Vigil however. While they didn’t purchase it outright, Crytek opened their own studio in Vigil’s home town, Austin, and hired the core team to run it. This isn’t the first time something similar to this has happened in Austin. Gearbox Studios, also based in Austin, was set up by and is mainly staffed by people who worked at the now defunct 3D Realms. Hopefully the new studio will have similar success.
While THQ publishing remains in business that is pretty much it for the former giant, 350 people are out of work although it has to be said that number could have been much bigger. I hope they can find work soon, maybe with some of the companies who have got some License: South Park: The Stick of new and exciting titles on their books. Truth Rescued by: Ubisoft
Issue #5 will be out in May 2013 If youâ€™re interested in contributing email: email@example.com