I want to run some 4e

I’ve been quite critical of D&D 4 in the past, but as time has gone by I’ve grown to rather like it. (In part this is because I’ve mellowed and in part it is because WotC improved the game over time).

For the last few months I’ve had a bit of a hankering to run some. This has come to a peak thanks to Games Workshop and Fat Dragon Games.

A few weeks ago I popped into GW to get some paint and other odds and ends to finish off a prop for a LARP. I managed to escape the store without buying anything I hadn’t put on my shopping list before venturing forth. I did, however, spend some time going “ooooh” at the current range of paints.

The desire to dig out the unpainted plastic I have and apply acrylics to it has become quite strong and I might have poked around the GW website a little.

Age of Sigmar 2 is on the horizon and, unsurprisingly, this means a nice box with lovely plastic toys is being released later this month. They look really nice. Did I mention I had a box of unpainted figures I really should attend to? ahem.

Meanwhile, Fat Dragon has been sending my files to print scenery with. (This is the squirty plastic 3d kind of printing). A couple of the sets are lovely and reminded me of a Dungeon World game I had tremendous fun running a couple of years ago.

Some of the monsters in the game would be perfectly represented by some of the new AoS2 figures too…

I think I’m doomed.

On the upside, I have a project with a clear goal that involves lots of enjoyable preparation.

While the printer churns away at the next piece of terrain, here’s one I prepared earlier. I’m quite proud of this as I had misjudged the amount of filament I had left and ran out of green three-quarters of the way through the print job. Happily, I was able to hit pause and change the filament so I could finish the job. The colour change isn’t a problem: I was going to paint it anyway.

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Kaleidoscopic Consequences

Consequences is an annual convention for freeform LARPS that takes place on the south coast of England. I’ve been aware of it for a few years, but haven’t been along until this year when the important factors of “Available holiday time”, “Knowing a few friendly faces who would be there”, and “Not trying to sell my home” combined. I’ve very glad I put the effort into going along.

I could have done with a couple more days of annual leave from work, but had to cut short the purely social time and just attend the main portion of the event. After a day fighting an unpleasant technical problem at work, I arrived home, transferred my luggage to the car and set off for the coast. A couple of hours of motorway night driving later and I was more than ready to throw myself on the tender mercies of the Keepers of the Ops Desk. They were well versed in the care and handling of attendees with work-and-travel-frazzled brains.

With my luggage offloaded into my apartment, I was able to able to quietly catch up with a few people I knew (or less quietly in the case of one glittery individual), before drifting off to a lodge party for lots of chat and port. I managed to escape only an hour after I planned to go to bed — a great success that meant I wasn’t a member of the walking dead the next morning.

No, I was very much alive, albeit possessed by a demon in The Apocalypse Agenda: a brilliant game with a clever premise and some fun twists. Simon was playing a priest and his veiled comments were a delight throughout.

Next up, I was Ptah in Carry On Khemet (the P is silent). This was a very silly game in which many crackers were pulled, balloons were wobbled, spears were thrust, and I turned out to be the best muncher. It spoils nothing to say that I was married in-game (my first in-character wedding!) even though it turned out to be the shorted marriage in history due to the unfortunate and unexpected death of my bride a few minutes later.

I had been on a waitlist for the Friday night session, but a month or so before the game an email came along and announced that a new game had been added to the roster and I jumped on it on the basis of “Game!”

Last Boat Leaving promised to be less like any freeform I had played before, so I was a little unsure about how much I would enjoy it. I needn’t have feared, it turned out to be the stand out best game of the day (against some very stiff competition).

That was a pun. I’m sorry.

Character creation was a very collaborative process, a fun activity in itself. If Tony runs it again, he’ll have to decide between starting character creation from scratch or seeing what another player group does with the characters we came up with. Either would be good.

The game itself was a quiet, perfectly paced mystery that cleverly explored of a couple of interesting philosophical questions, via a goodly chunk of interpersonal drama. All accompanied by a great soundtrack (one conversation was perfectly punctuated by Suicide Is Painless ticking round on the playlist) which was used as a timing mechanism; essential for the game as there would otherwise be no obvious end-of-scene.

I had originally planned to take Saturday morning off but was on a waitlist for a game in need of a new title that was set in a Galaxy Far Far Away. One player, tragically, could not make it so I ended up in his spot. The game had a couple of rough edges (mostly revolving around not having bits of information I thought I should have had) but nothing major and I had a good time trying to sort out my problems (manipulating the Jedi into dealing with one of them for me was great fun, it is just a shame that they failed), while avoiding the many woman people were trying to set me up with.

There were three ladies that I ended up attached two (only one by choice!) and I spent a chunk of the game trying to figure out what my official fiancée was up to (I had many theories, they were all wrong) while trying figure out who to vote for at the election (after almost giving my allegiance away to someone promising to sort out a problem for me — in a fashion that I later discovered might destroy the planet — I eventually settled on “nobody”: A pox on both your houses!) and fled the planet with my unofficial fiancée so we could elope and hope our homes were still there when we came back after the various metaphorical fires had been put out. If they weren’t… well, a deal with the banking consortium assured that a good chunk of my personal finances was safe off-world.

The afternoon was given over to Fort on the Borderlands which was a highly enjoyable romp with much running about and questing during which I somehow managed to achieve level 6 and become Castellan of the Fort. As is traditional with the D&D genre, player created backgrounds were weaved into the prewritten plot line and I had the joy of having mine linked to Rachael’s. This led to the delightful moment at the end of the game where I was declared to be the new Castellan which was met with a cry of “But he’s an undead monster!” and James’ response “No he’s not! He’s an angel!”.

I had been given a human body after I found myself on the wrong side of the gates to the divine realms (I didn’t fall, I was pushed), I had no idea that it used to belong to her friend adventuring companion… who died in her arms… which led to her village being wiped out as an act of revenge (possibly, depending on how much I was being lied to). Ahem. Not my fault!

It was a wonderful game that James has very kindly given me permission to run for another collection of players this summer.

As with the previous day, I found myself in a quieter, smaller, intimate game for the evening. Dulce et decorum est takes place during a dinner party in the days leading up to WWII. I was an American outsider getting to know new people, with his own concerns about what was going on in Germany, who found himself surrounded with people who could help him solve his problems but who had their own issues to deal with.

All in all a lovely family drama. My only regret is not having spent some time refreshing myself on the historical details of the period beforehand.

My final game was on Sunday morning: Nakitomi Plaza. A madcap, mashup of madness in which every genre of action film hero collided in a bonkers explosion of … everything. I’ll leave the specifics out because they are better experienced than explained. My kung-fu detective crashed through everything that could be crashed through and blew up most of what was left. A great ending to the con.

Then came time for the closing ceremonies and farewells. With work in the morning, I couldn’t stay for more socialising; hopefully that will change in 2018.

Over the course of the days I was there, I caught up with old friends, got to know acquaintances better, and met new people. Everybody was lovely, and it was a fantastic con. My thanks to everyone who made it happen: The organisers, the volunteers, the game writers, the GMs, and the players along with the staff at Naish who looked after us very well. I played 7 games, and they ranged from “good” to “excellent”. There wasn’t a duff one among them and I’ve booked for 2018 already.

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Conception 2016

My experiences with Conception have been slightly odd. I first went last year, and managed to spent the con suffering from a cold (which rather spoiled my ability to enjoy the event).

This year, the con was split across two sites. The usual areas we used for gaming in were being renovated during the week that we were supposed to be using the site. Luckily, the organisers were able to negotiate the use of another site that was a 10 minute drive away and laid on a frequent bus service to it. Aside from a minor blip on the Wednesday night, I can’t say that I noticed anything but a very smoothly run event, so much kudos to the organisers.

Next year I might experience Conception properly! One site and free of plague!

The Games

I played more excellent games than I care to count, so selecting these highlights wasn’t easy (except for Blood & Water which you’ll see from the length of the write up made quite an impression!):

Dungeon World. I’d managed to end up in two of Richard’s games by just going from the descriptions of the games. It wasn’t until near the end of the con that I’d started to pick up on people’s names and was sold on the game before I noticed it was DW. I really enjoy playing Apocalypse Engine games, and it’s also my favourite system to run. DW is one variant that I’m still trying to get to grips with (it isn’t a genre that I’m confident at running). This game proved to be excellent fun as well as a great learning experience.

In it we dealt with evil forces corrupting innocent townsfolk.

It also introduced me to The Perilous Wilds, a delightful supplement that I’d managed to pick up in the Dungeon World +2 Bundle of Holding but not get around to reading until last night.

I think I shall have another go at GMing DW soon.

The Difficult Life of a Costumed Henchman. LARPing is always fun, so much so that I tend to run or help to run two a year. This one rapidly turned into joyful chaos and left me kicking myself when I failed to put 2 and 2 together at a couple of points. Glorious fun. Thanks to Archie for organising that one.

Blood & Water. Mik ran a two part game of the unofficial (and still unpublished) RPG in the style of Being Human. This became the tale of a Bristol house share between a vampire (with a zero-hours contract at the local meat packing plant), a werewolf (who had lost the use of his legs when his plane was shot down — they did still work in wolf form though), a ghost (of the lead singer in a boyband), and a troll (who guarded the Clifton suspension bridge). Then a Japanese exchange student turned up needing a place to stay … and she turned out to be a Kitsune.

Over two evenings we experienced their trials and tribulations while trying to do such varied tasks as:

  • Arrange for an engineer to come out and fix the broadband
  • Find that banshee that has outstayed her welcome in the city
  • Return a library book
  • Look after Queen Titania’s unicorn, Starshine
  • Attend mandatory therapy sessions in the hope of being cleared to fly a plane again
  • Get a pair of shoes mended (it is practically impossible to find a pair of shoes that comfortably fit a troll)

The unicorn rather dominated the game — it was just so much fun to play with — from dealing with its feeding habits (good unicorns eat rose petals and dew, evil ones eat rose petals, dew, and baby hearts), to getting it out of the garden (it could go pretty much anywhere it liked so long as nobody was looking… and it didn’t like to go indoors… resulting in rose petals being scattered on the roof followed by the fucking quantum pony falling through it and into one of the upstairs bedrooms). In order to stop King Oberon from getting his hands on Starshine Sparkles III (he was having a tiff with his wife and wanted to cut up her pet and send her pieces) we decided to hide it in the petting zoo at Bristol Zoo.

This plan made sense. Well. It made sense to a dead boy band singer with no ability to think things through. And everyone else was so desperate to move the creature that they jumped on the plan.

To be fair, it went very well right up until the point where the troll, the ghost and the fox spirit had got the animal to the petting zoo. At that point Nick and Sue realised that their characters hadn’t eaten all day… so they ate the petting zoo, while the ghost went off to leave them to it as he couldn’t be bothered trying to dissuade them and wanted to make use of the Internet connection in the visitor’s centre to find out what a newspaper headline he had spotted was all about.

Listening to Mik giving one half of a telephone conversation between the night watchman at the zoo and his boss was an utter delight. I’ll paraphrase it.

“There’s been a massacre at the petting zoo!”

“Everything is dead! There’s blood and bits of animal everywhere!”

“Only the horse survived!”

“What do you mean you don’t have a horse? I’m looking at it.”

“Well, I can see that it might step on a small child, but I can see it. It’s white.”

“I’m just telling you what I can see!”

“No! I have not been drinking!”

And at that point the unicorn decided to play its quantum trick and left the night watchman stomping away with a very put upon sense about him.

Meanwhile, after a disastrous attempt to get a new library book out, which resulted in his having to stand in a queue and expose a bunch of humans to his presence for long enough for them to get agitated and and panicked (which is what standing next to a ghost will do to you when you select that as one of your supernatural drawbacks) until the most religious of them starts proclaiming that he should be ashamed to be here, then notices his choice of book, and redoubles her efforts. Not only was the ghost kicked out of the library but he had his ticket taken away from him. This would not be stood for!

Aside. Oh dear. While looking for the link I put in the previous paragraph, I found this Guardian opinion piece and now I have a slight urge to go and actually read that book IRL. Save me now. On a related note, while I haven’t read any of the series, the author of reasoning with vampires has and used the experience to write a very amusing blog commenting on the books.

Back at the house, the ghost was shunned by the kitsune up until the point where she realised he was a dead pop star, at which point she turned into a fan girl. This led to the unfortunate incident of the map.

Part of character creation for Blood & Water involves drawing a floor plan of the house that everyone shares. Since the game was set in Bristol, and since the building was perfect for it, I simply stole the floor plan of a real house which a number of my friends used to share. At this point I will apologise to Sam, Ezzy, Mickey, Katie, Ben, Rob, and everyone else who I know who has lived in that building.

We needed rose petals to feed the unicorn so the kitsune volunteered to go to the florist… but she didn’t know the way and asked for a map. So the ghost drew one. I was playing the ghost. I also grabbed the pad of A3 with the floor plan of the house on and drew something that approximated to a map. It was very much in the style of a child’s drawing of a street.

There was a hill. There was a tunnel under the bridge. There was a road winding through the tunnel and curving around to the shops. The was a nice curvy arrow that curved smoothly around the shaded in oval of the tunnel entrance.

OK, OK. It was an accidental obscene drawing of a piece of male anatomy and I didn’t notice until everyone else started giggling like schoolgirls.

Later, while dealing with the unicorn, the ghost noticed that there was a headline about him appearing in Game of Thrones. Later, at the visitor centre at the zoo he discovered that his manager had managed to do a deal to have the first computer generated simulation of a pop star appear as an actor on television.

It was around this time that the penny dropped and the ghost realised that his manager, the ex-bus driver, had stolen the 220 bus that had run him down and was actually his murderer (and was making a lot of money off the back of his dead fame).

Launching off half cocked he tracked down the banshee that was loose in the city (the troll was supposed to have tracked it down and ejected it but had been busy with the quantum pony) and sent it off to mark the manager for death.

Later on he realised that he deserved some of the money that the manager had been making and launched another half cocked plan which ended up with him scaring the man half to death, acquiring the username and password to his investment banking account and then desperately trying to persuade the vampire to help him launder the money before the banshee murdered the manager.

Since the broadband wasn’t working at home (it had been fixed thanks to vampiric contacts earlier (the vampire lord was very confused by the phallic artwork on the coffee table) but broken again (along with a couple of windows) when Oberon turned up looking for Starshine) these Internet escapades were mostly performed at the visitors centre at the zoo. After the police turned up to investigate the massacre at the petting zoo, that became a no-go area so the ghost switched sites to the library (and stole back his ticket while he was at it).

Meanwhile the vampire was having his own set of problems (involving a lack of milk, the horrors of BT Broadband Technical Support, vampire politics and a dying van), the werewolf was slowly discovering that his therapist was a werewolf hunter, and the kitsune was having her own set of adventures.

Queen Titania had dropped by to tell the troll that she was very impressed that he had kept the beast safe from Oberon, but she wanted him to steal the animal. It was, after all, an evil unicorn and would rampage through Oberon’s court eating the hearts of all his elves (they are so child-like aren’t they?).

With Starshine loose in the city, and with a fondness for eating the vascular organs of children, we ended the game on a mad hunt to track it down. The final showdown featured the werewolf chasing the unicorn through the hospital (I found a theme tune for this) in a desperate (and eventually successful) attempt to prevent it from reaching the pediatric ward.

And so we ended the game with a nurse opening a door to find a dead “horse” lying in a hospital corridor with its throat ripped out, next to an unconscious man, while an urban fox (the kitsune) snuffled their snout in a medical waste bin.

As you may imagine from the amount I wrote, the game left quite an impression 😉

So I’m left looking forward to next year. I think I shall pull my finger out and put my notes for Deadlands Noir: The Case of the Bothered Brother into a sensible order (so I don’t need to keep flicking through the book trying to track down the details of the NPCs and locations I used in that game), generate some proper PCs for it, and then do my first bit of Con GMing.


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About a year ago I took part in the filming of some pre-recorded video segments for a freeform live roleplay game called 12Light30.

The players are responsible for guiding a group of mercenaries who are trying to capture a terrorist (naturally, things are complicated by the player characters have their own agendas).

I helped run it at UK Games Expo earlier this year where we ran into some issues with the technology we were using. The videos were being run through PowerPoint and it developed an unfortunate habit of crashing.

Whispered conversions of “Shouldn’t we have had the next video by now? Umm… maybe?” were a little unhelpful.

I gave in to be need to fiddle with any tech that comes near me and threw PowerPoint out and replaced it with a custom JavaScript application.

It ran again last weekend at ArmadaCon and I’ve had some positive feedback from the game running (who also said all the players enjoyed it).

It’s running again at Imaginary Consequences this week, so if you’re attending you might like to check it out.

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DramaSystem in the Bundle of Holding

Last year I ran Heroes of the City more-or-less every day for a week in a campaign that spawned a 6000+ word actual play write up. Later this year, the group is getting back together to run Season 2 of that campaign. Suffice to say, I really like this system.

The Bundle of Holding is currently selling the core game and a bunch of PDFs very cheaply (with 10% of your money going to charity) so now is the perfect time to pick up a copy for yourself.

You can find the Heroes of the City setting (along with useful advanced rules) in the Blood on the Snow book, so you may will want to beat the threshold price to get that.

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