Sunday, 31 January 2010

Time and Temp and contre-tomps

Tried a new RPG game yesterday, Time and Temp. You're a temp at this agency that sends people through time to fix anomalies. [Although we set this game up a week ago, the GM was surprised when I contacted him 30 minutes before we were supposed to start to ask him if it was still on! Over an hour later he was ready to go, with another player, Alan, I haven't met before.]

I am Henry Mawson, ex-pizza delivery guy, ex-office gopher, ex-lift electrician, now time agency temp. Together with George Broom, we were sent back to deal with werewolves who wanted Teddy Roosevelt. Despite much bickering, and threatening to end all of reality, we managed to pull a success out of the huge bag of failure...

The mechanics are a little complicated, and there should have been more rolling to use the 'matrix' to get 'synchronicity chips' and other factors. Not sure how quickly this could be run in a con environment (which the GM was going to do, so was glad of the sudden practice!).

Get my recording of the game here. Note that there was a skype crash at around 3 hours, but I jammed the two files together so hopefully you won't notice anything major...


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Friday, 29 January 2010

EXTREEEEEEEME commenting policy

I've been getting comments. This is good.

I've been getting spam. This is bad.

In particular, I've been getting lots of spam comment. My usual technique is to simply delete them, although not permanently, thought they are clearly spam.

All of the spammers (that I can recall) are Anonymous. Although not every Anonymous is a spammer.

However, to negate the few the many have to suffer. In particular, I have now set it up so Anonymous users can no longer comment, instead you have to be a registered user, at least in some loose sense. Certainly not more than most people are already registered elsewhere. So this wont impact most people, just the rare few who want to comment without giving away who they are.

In other news: the terrorists have won.


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Thursday, 28 January 2010

I've been watching

Delta and the Bannermen - "I've never seen..." episode one of Delta. Ken Dodd's performance was one I had never encountered before, although one hears tales. Even given that... he comes across as 'Wacky Tollman' rather than as any distinctive personality (the behind the scenes interviews were more revealing about the character, and that Ken Dodd come across as 'always on' for the camera). This just kicks off the main problem with this story, in that it is a series of vignettes rather than any serious attempt at a developed tale. There are various amusing moments, but the whole seems unconnected and messy, just a few too many plot holes. And the incidental music was too heavy handed, a problem many McCoy stories suffered from.

The other music, tied in to the time period, was nice. At this point I'd like to thank the person who did the production subtitles, they were very useful and gave goo dinsight into how much thought the prodcution team put into the atmosphere of the setting. The Chimerian girl wasn't an easy ask, I'm happy with what they did there. Thinking back over it, I'd say the production did a better job than the story did.

The Deadly Assassin - I hadn't remembered that the matrix sequence was over an episode long! A complete change of pace that shows that Doctor Who still has a few tricks up its sleeve. And given the set restrictions, I thought the first half of the story, in the Panopticon, also worked well. That does leave the final episode, in particular the fight with the Master, but I'd rather not dwell on that.

There have been criticisms over this 'stolid' aspect of the Time Lords, which isn't really that unexpected, even ignoring their previous appearances. They are supposed to be 'anti-Doctors', in that they don't intervene (as a general principle), but generally sit back and watch the affairs of the universe, only really getting involved when time travel is an issue, or other Time Lords are problems. It's either a stately affair with heads right up arses, or a country of couch potatoes watching events unfold on some screen (cf Vengence on Varos). Various later writiers have pepped them up, but this is a good story of two cats (the Doctor and the Master) amoung very sedate pidgeons.


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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

War on Scales 4

We set out, having wiped out most of the crypt's inhabitants, with some more people to find. Up and down and stairs and corridors and macra claws and goblins and... oh wait. Yeah, things to fight! Meh, the goblins weren't really an issue, and the macra claws weren't much of an issue either. Frankly, this is just becoming a joke.

After putting them down, we find another of the people, the curator who was happy to get all those items back, and we were more than happy to have someone else carry stuff around. Going back over our tracks, we found a shimmering tapestry that showed the Shadowlands, presumedly a portal into here, but not one we could touch. Huh.

Going the long way to miss those pits, we find a hall of displacer beasts statues with more creatures to fight. Namely... Dire Rats! And goblins! Wooo! Oh, we are so afraid... sigh... really? After putting them down, we save another person who's been broken mentally. We were unable to bring her properly back, but will have to leave it for later.

With only few areas left, we find a room with a trap on the floor being studied by a goblin and two zombies. They move around pretty well, but it's not really a huge problem either. Yes, all these fights are wearing us down, but we still aren't being that overly taxed. We did need a decent rest in the middle of exploring this place, but otherwise we are doing all right. After that particular fight, another person saved. One to go!

The one final set of steps leads down to a large room with mushrooms. A lot of mushrooms. Many, many mushrooms. We pick our way through and find the last person trapped in a magic circle. With an excellent allocation of resources, I tell them what to do, and the other two do it.

With everyone rescued (sans the one who died, we did take him back to be raised), we headed back to town. Good job done all around. After a hearty round of back-slapping we are advised to find more work in the city of Overlook. Sounds like a place to go...


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Monday, 25 January 2010

I've been watching...

Due to not keeping track, I have two copies of Beneath the Surface. Finally, over Christmas, I got around to watching at least one of them.

Doctor Who and the Silurians - I didn't watch this all in one go, but I was surprised by how well it worked. The Silurians don't really show up until episode four, and the series continually throws up one challenge after another. Even if it is padding, it's enjoyable padding. It's a shame there were only six Silurians, but the costumes were well made, and the tri-vision thing is nicely innovative. Even if the production crew thinks it went on a bit too long, it's good to see an actual story develop over time (and we're talking over three hours here!). The new series doesn't come close... (And you can even spot the moment where the universe diverges into Blood Heat!)

The Sea Devils - Yay, Roger Delgado! Which, to be blunt, is the best part of this story. Unlike The Silurians six episodes is too long, with people just wandering around a lot and not much being developed. Have to say the Naval sequences are very good, nice visuals, and the actors playing the crew do a great job. I like the fishnet clothes on the Sea Devils, although their shooting ability is fairly typical. And the Master is unleashed unto the world again...

Warriors of the Deep - This is just not a good story in many ways. The whole Nilson/Solow plot line is useless and completely irrelevant when the Silurians and Sea Devils attack. And the Silurians and Sea Devils are nothing like how they were portrayed. And what is up with that polystyrene door. But there is something that I changed my mind on, and this isn't something you'll hear that often...

The Myrka works. There. I wrote it. Fine, the complete execution leaves a lot to be desired, but there are those shots, where the lighting isn't full, where the Myrka is half-shot... and it works. It's actually scary! A ferocious monster that kills anyone and anything that gets near it. Even martial artist Ingrid Bergman can't stand up to it. It's by no means the best monster ever... but it's not the disaster that I thought I remembered...


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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Speaking of Steam, Steel and Murder

Of Steam, Steel and Murder is a game run by Bert. I thought the game started earlier, I was wrong, and so with not many other opportunities before me, I decided to jump on in. We're using the Fate system, something I haven't tried before.

My character is Gavin Marshall. He works for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, which doesn't have as much to do as in our world given that the Guilds do all the inventing, and the Guilds are basically running the city. (More or less.) Although my character isn't entirely that straight-forward...

Anyway, here is Game 6 (which I just realised I labeled as Game 5!), in convenient hour-sized chunks.


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I've been watching...

Attack of the Cybermen - I remembered the changing TARDIS, that it had the return of Lytton, went to Telos... but there was a lot I didn't remember. Terry Molloy dies at the end of the first part so they don't have to pay him for the second (with the self-cleaning TARDIS). That the Cryon outfits weren't practical, but the characters worked very well (and although they were played by 'statuesque' women, that didn't really show). Eric Saward over packed the script and there was a lot in the second half that didn't go anyway. The Cyber Controller isn't as fat as many claim.

Another good note is that, yes there are the moments where the Doctor is 'shout Shout SHOUT', but there is also a lot of good acting scenes, especially in part two. See the scene with Flast (Flask? Flost?) in the cell with convenient explosives, and at the end. Oh, and the Doctor firing a gun in fine, particularly considering he was up against Cybermen. Go fer it, Doc!

The Five Doctors - The original, not the revised edition. The story works better in the original, even if the effects weren't up to much (the chess board room... sigh...). And I think that Richard Hurndall is a fine First Doctor. No, he's not William Hartnell, but one should not cast for the actor but for the character (a point that underlines the success of the show!). But he does get a kicking in the bonus commentary...

And speaking of the bonus commentary... no, not appealing. They come across as 'superior smug' and they haven't earned it. Very much 'yeah, we did watch it at the time, but we're so much better now'. I get the impression from other documentaries that Tennant had more respect for the old series, so I'm not sure if this is 't
rue colours' or just 'everyone else was trashing it, I went along with it'. Hmmm...


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Saturday, 23 January 2010

I've been watching...

Over the Christmas break I managed to get around to watching some of my pile of Doctor Who DVDs (so many to watch...). Watching now versus distant memories has made my re-evaluate some old fan conceptions, and I've noticed things never seen before.

First up, I watched the two-pack of The Invisible Enemy/K9 and Company.

The Invisible Enemy, yes, okay, there are some dodgy moments where the Doctor and Leela come out of the TARDIS and fail to notice the body at their feet until the appropriate plot moment, and how does one clone clothes, etc... but there were some moments that were great.

I liked the Doctor's mind sequences. Fine, no brain would look like that, but it's big and grandiose and fitting for a Time Lord. The masonry that K9 blasts out is clearly cut that way... but the corridor has been damaged, why wouldn't K9 blast an area already really to fall to pieces? And despite many opportunities for bad make up opportunities, the eye additions for the virus infection work well.

But my favourite touch is the spelling. Such as "Isolayshun Ward" and "Egsit", etc, etc. It's a great nod that over time language changes. (cf The Long Game in which 200,000 AD is EXACTLY like going down Camden Market.) It's there to note, not something laboured and not important to the plot, but does show that they gave it some thought. It's a shame that this lesson wasn't picked up more.

As for K9 and Company... Liz Sladen certainly isn't enamoured of it, if you listen to the commentary. You can't help agreeing with her when listening. However, when watching the story you don't entirely pick up on all that, although there is a definite point where the pace picks up. K9 as Hecate's dog is a bit duff, this was intended as a pilot(*)... but you think they could have done a better story. At least it ends on the sweet point of K9 trying to sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."

(*) Yes, I saw the recent K9 pilot... I try not to remember it...


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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Currently, I am...

As part of a work thing, we were asked to take the Jung Typology Test. (Hmm, I see they've shied away from "personality test".) One of my issues with this is that there is no really objective measure of one's typology. Although some aspects will be largely invariant, other aspects can swing wildly depending on one's mood. If you're depressed, most likely you'll downgrade your abilities, if you are in a good mood then... and so on. Ultimately, your outcome could change depending entirely on when you take the test (and I think there are results out there about this, but I can't be bothered googling for it).

Anyway, when I took the test, it determined that at the time I answered it, I am... ISTJ

(Percentage ratings are also given, but I'm not reporting those. They could really change!)

Also provided are some analysis of the types. By D. Keirsey and J. Butt and M. M. Heiss in particular. Which brings me to another issue I have: the propensity to read oneself into these reports. While maybe not quite as bas as, say, astrology, there are still elements of the Forer effect, confirmation bias and other forms of selective thinking. There are some statements in the analyses I agree with, but not everything. Some of this is related to the fact that the test, in the first place, has limited questions and options, and so one answer might be "of these two options which don't apply to me, this is the one that doesn't apply to me the least" or "sometimes I do A, sometimes I do B, can entirely depend on the context and how I am at the time".

Amusingly, also suggested are various careers of my typology type (note: the text does say personality test). I should be in Management, Administrative Management, Accounting, Computer Programming, Technology Education, Physician(Surgery), Dentist/Dental Assistant, Law, Military Training and/or Security Services. Some of those areas would interest me, some not, but also some areas not mentioned would interest me as well, and I suspect engagement with the career is probably a better indicator of how well one would succeed more than typology type...

And, of course, we get the "famous people with these personality types". Because one can always apply current thinking to old people without issue...

Why not take the test yourself and find out what your personality of the minute is?


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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

War on Scales 3

After a decent rest, we set out across the way where we have been told there were sounds of a young boy. Yet more corridors and doors awaited us (TOO MANY DOORS AND CORRIDORS!), and while we saw zombies further down, we decided to make sure the doors along the way were safe. One room was in darkness, the other... hey, look there's a boy!

While the assassin went to free him, we were surprised by zombies up behind us. Wah! I am attacked! There is some maneuvering, but soon I am out of the way and the others are in the way. Doesn't stop a ghoul eventually getting past to attack me, once the other monsters are down, but I give it a firm gaze and down it goes.

One of the corridors away is suddenly filled with pillars! By which I mean, we are deep in this crypt, bare walls all the way, and yet we have pillars here! We head down the corridor and enter the Throne Room, in which a wight announces "get them" and a bunch on skeletons arise to do so. Amusingly, although the assassin is immobilized, that doesn't stop him from popping across the room and punking the wight in one go. Ha! I stop us from being worried about small damages, and so the fight isn't really that much of a problem.

Continuing on through the dungeon (with the DM removing some encounters because this really is a slog of a crawl), we find some of the loot items, and swing around to find the zombie room, with a pool that is monitoring the rest of the place. We see rooms we have been in and some places we need to visit, including the main bad guy who has other items we need. Unfortunately, we have no idea where any of this is.

Finally with some place of this mapped out, we start back to check out a corridor we skipped and walk through to find Sinrith, the head bad guy! With barely a pause, we get stuck in and start beating up on him as he beats up on us. Although it goes on a while, we win! Of course. As if there was any doubt.

[Have to say, although there is only three of us (and tonight only two of us with the other on a very basic play), we haven't had any real problems with this. (Note: as there is only three, we are playing a level above what a larger party would be at.) One fight put the assassin down to dying a few times, but otherwise bloodied is the worst we've had, and I'm the healer so that isn't really a problem. That said, any harder would just make the fights longer, not more challenging. Still, fun is had!]

However, no rest for us, we need to find the rest of the prisoner...


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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Astro Bot

Now, I have to confess that I never read any of the original manga, so I am evaluating this movie on its own merits.

Basic premise: scientist goes mad and creates a robot boy to replace his son, because his son... actually, the movie skips over that bit. In that we get that the son is dead... maybe. Considering this is based on the world of comics, I think they could have gotten away with the son surviving somewhere to come back later in the movie, but then this isn't that movie. Anyway, robo-son isn't everything daddy wants, so has to find his own way in the world. And get the girl, apparently.

Because if there's one thing we can't have is originality. The son disappoints the father, goes out, finds a place to fit in though he harbours a secret, is found out, becomes wonderful, and gain respect of everyone including the father. Yep, never seen that before...

The big twist this time: robots! Funny robots!! And Astro Boy has machine guns in his butt!!! (That was in the trailer, I didn't spoil anything. Although I do have to wonder about the physics of a robot that can do that, and can jet around without worrying about things like delta-vees and reaction mass and... well, if Iron Man can do it...)

Big names this time include Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicholas Cage. And it is really, really obvious that it is Nicholas Cage. Whenever you hear that voice, you go "oh listen, it's Nicholas Cage!" Have to wonder if it was the best casting.

I'm sure those who know the manga will get more of a kick out of it, otherwise it's another animated movie.


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Sunday, 17 January 2010


When I started watching Gamer, I thought it was like Avalon. Then I realised it was like Death Race 2000! Plus Surrogates!

The basic idea is that death row/lifer prisoners are put into battles for the entertainment of others. The big difference is that they are controlled by other people. We are expected to care for one of these killers because he has a wife and child and has been Wronged By The System(tm).

The deeper story is about what it means to be human. I think. Or maybe about how we treat others. Or about giving up yourself for an easy life. Certainly that making others do what you want them to is bad. Like you're some kind of writer and can make characters do whatever you write for them... or maybe not. But I'm sure, whatever the message is, the movie makes it, so good for it.

Names to look out for include Gerald Butler, Michael C. Hall, John Leguizamo, John de Lancie, Ludacris, Michael Weston and cameos by Maggie Lawson and James Roday.

Not a brilliant movie, sits in the "if you've got nothing better to do", although it would be easier to have something better to do than watch this.


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Friday, 15 January 2010

Cloudy Meatballs

Largely been and gone, but recently I caught up with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, an animated feature from one of the less voluminous studios (and I liked Surf's Up over Happy Feet).

Anyway, this movie is about a son trying to get his father's approval... which describes so many movies. This one is difference in that the son is a "wacky inventor" that comes up with a way of turning rain into food. Not just grain or anything, full on hamburgers, steaks, ice cream, jello... (Not exactly sure how hygiene and nutritional experts would view all this.) Given that the son has largely been a screw up, and this is the first invention that gets the town approval (although not the father's), I'm sure no one will be surprised that things go a little overboard...

Aside from the EXTREME obviousness of the subplots of the father/son dynamic, and of the hero trying to get the girl, this is a fun and wacky movie. I'm not sure how the jello creation actually holds up, but by that point in the movie you're either deep into it and accepting everything or... probably gone somewhere else. By the time of the attack run, there are no surprises left, but you're in the moment anyway.

And look out for voices provided by Mr T, Bruce Campbell and Neil Patrick Harris! This movie doesn't take itself seriously (it would be hard to), and I approve of that.

I think the cinema run is over, but a nice watch if you get the chance.


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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

War on Scales 2

Kassach went running down a corridor with a pit, and Valdurn went running after him. I followed, and managed to jump over the pit. Pity there was a second one. While there were sounds of fighting and sounds of people getting hurt (I can help with that!), I was stuck trying to get out of that blasted hole in the ground. Took me a while, but eventually managed it. Got there in time to help finish off the baddies, and didn't managed to get further hurt.

The room was large, with four sarcophagi and an altar to Bane (that had previously been to Vecna). As the room revealed that this whole place was actually a crypt dedicated to Vecna, we didn't feel bad about looting (we were always going to loot, but it's nice to not get into unpleasantness over it). Found some monies and better armour for the warforged.

Heading upstairs, we encountered a room with zombies, a wight and a corpse. The undead were actually quite a hard fight [I don't have the Turn Undead facility, and one radiant attack power... which I missed with], but we eventually whittled them all down. The corpse turned out to be one of the prisoners. Check that one off our list.

A set of stairs headed down, further than we came up, so suspecting they would lead to the big fight, down we went. All we found were some hobgoblins, some drakes and a goblin with a stick (with feathers on it!). Not much of a problem, to be honest.

Where the goblin was were more sarcophagi (something for the assassin this time), and a priestess that took quite a liking to the warforged as he rescued her. Check off another prisoner. Hey ho, time to rest up for the next random walk through the dungeon...


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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

DW RPG: Our Other Adventures

Our next adventure took place on the TARDIS, in an adventure created by Morgue. We were invaded by a creature that ended up attacking us on a mental plane. We got lots of lovely backstory as it twisted various events around in our heads. Being the empathic one, Schread realised that the creature was just lashing out in pain, and so invited the creature to hide in her. (How? Who knows? That's just the mystery of Schread.) (In many ways, Schread was looking for a good way to die saving someone else, an aspect I would have loved to explore more.) Turned out the creatures live in the vortex, or could time travel, or something like that, and were used by another race to help them do so. The other race did it by converting the creatures into ships, mentally cauterizing them in the process. The big moment at the climax: Schread, joined with the creature, reaching out and awakening all the other creatures. (In a brilliant example of 'Yes, but', Yes Schread did this, But the creature died to do so.)

The last adventure was Power of the Autons, generated by the Titles of Blood name creator. It brought back S's father, who had left her, and we were on a mining station that was tapping into a power source of plastic. (This is were a Stunt in a Chase killed the chase, and we had a great moment where we came upon a river of plastic.) Oh, and there was the military who arrived and created battle, lead by a mad general. Lots of splitting up and running around. The big moment at the end was world epic, it was S trying to save her father from being shot by the general. Great stuff. The story ended with S staying behind to spend time with her father, and Smith and Schread travelling on.

One nice touch we managed was a story that ended on Smith, one on Schread and one on S. Six adventures in total, and much, much fun. Definitely would enjoy playing more, but real life got in the way...


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Monday, 11 January 2010

DW RPG: Our Adventures in Time and Space

There were three of us. Smith (played by Blair) was a CIA Time Lord agent (we sidestepped the issue of exactly when, in regards to the Time War, when this game took place). Schread (myself), an empath androgynous being with an unknown background, but seems to know far more than her (as I mentioned, we used 'her' and 'she') should. Smith found Schread in the heart of some machine that was controlling a population. S (played by Tim), a girl with a limp and an ability with a gun, and daddy issues (later found out that S was short for, I think, Esmeralda). We picked her up from a hospital.

First up, our GM (Morgue) adapted the FASA module, Lords of Destiny. We got split up pretty early on, which while common for Doctor Who, isn't as good during an RPG game. Still we got by, swapping focus from one group to another. The basic setup was that there are a series of ship modules where everything was provided for the population... it was hell in there. Schread was completely without irony in the sense that people should live how they want to, even if that wasn't in luxury.

One important point was that there were no porthole or the like, so the idea of other worlds, etc, was just a story. Oh, and we found out that the ship consumed worlds to feed the population, with another one in the immediate path, so that wasn't good. As soon as I heard that there was a 'viewing area' (globe on top of the ship), that was where I had to go. That wasn't without issues (an amusing moment where my technical ineptitude meant I couldn't operate the lift so got one of the natives to come with me). We recruited an old ex-Lord and got to the area, but not without his sacrifice. It was very moving.

However, it was mainly about Smith, who, fascinated with the technology on display (there were guard robots), ended up talking with the computer at the heart of everything. There was a huge climatic moment at the end where Smith's discussions were broadcast to the ship, as was my commentary from the globe. (I remember spending a Story Point to join the rebels in on the communication. The rebels were there for a while, then disappeared. I felt like they should be there.)

It came down to basically one roll to convince, done by Smith with us pitching in. Nice focus of events. Guess what? We got away, in a broken TARDIS (broken by some strange event), a broken TARDIS which was a plot thread that continued. We got away, to other adventures (to be continued...)


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Sunday, 10 January 2010

DW RPG: I Want to Play

It's fair to say that I think the latest version of the Doctor Who Role Playing Genre has some places it could be developed, but let's not lose sight of one important point: I want to play it! Flaws or not, getting together with friends to have a fun time playing in one of my favourite ever TV shows? Not going to be something I turn down just because some of the rules are a little dodgy.

Although, to be honest, whether it's this, or Timelord or the original FASA... I'd be willing to give it a go. At one Kapcon, we had a system minimal Doctor Who adventure and that was fun too! What matters is the people, not the mechanics.

One thing I can't do is compare the three role playing systems. I haven't played the FASA system, and played the Timelord game once, many many years ago, certainly long ago enough that I can barely remember it (I played the Fifth Doctor, the other player made a version of himself, and we were up against the Dominators...). So, can't comment on one versus the other.

Not that it matters. I doubt I will be playing DW any time soon, unless, I suspect, I start a game (have been thinking about it...). And if I do, will likely use DW ATS as that currently has the flavour of the month to it, and support. But, to repeat above, whatever system it is the having fun that counts (to misquote LV Martin).

To get back to my previous playing of this, I'll finish off this series of posts by talking about our adventures. Next time, on this blog...


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Saturday, 9 January 2010

DW RPG: Points of Story

Most games now have some meta-mechanic for altering outcomes. Whether they are fate points, drama points, action points, poz or, as here, Story Points, they usually effect either the dice roll and/or the story.

Story Points are really powerful. They can be used before the roll to give extra dice. Be used after the roll to boost success (but only to the "Yes, but" level). They can temporarily give skills/traits (if plausible). Can power gadgets. And can also change the story.

I tended to use them, and use them often. We get 12 to start with, and can get more as the adventure goes on. Blair, playing a Time Lord with a sonic screwdriver, didn't have many, and usually used them as soon as he got them. Tim was more prudent and had plenty to spare.

The most common usage was dice boosts, either before or after. Once or twice I used them for story changes, but one has to be careful, and this is a point to be aware of. Story Points, if you have enough, can be too easy to use. In one adventure, we were nearing the end of a particular session, and weren't sure if we were going for another, and I posited that I could blow story points to get us free and clear, but it would be a let down. Fortunately, we did have another full session, so I didn't need to, but it did highlight the possibility.

In many ways they are too powerful. Our GM, Morgue, came up with the rule of dividing by three out of combat, so we would have started with 4 instead of 12, which is multiplied by 3 when we hit combat. Rounding was down, so if one point was spent in combat, then may as well blow two others as they would disappear anyway. This impacted me a bit as I was free and easy with them, but there are times when it really became, for me, important to spend a point to help me at that point.

Fortunately, I was also aware of when we should be given them, so I stayed just this side of empty. Definitely an option not mentioned in the GM book (that I saw) that might be considered if they are making things too easy, but it might just be easier to have less to begin with.


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Friday, 8 January 2010

Power Brokeds

Due to the GM being unavailable, our Power Brokers game has collapsed after barely starting.

However, over the holidays, I was able to cameo in his other game, Genesis, based on the Ghosts of Albion RPG, but set in a world where something bad happened on Earth so people escaped through a Gate to another world and ten or so years later, it looks like that something is following them through. The PCs are 15 year olds out to explore the world.

In the first game, Evil Spies, I join the party and we explore to the west. Note that I am from a different village to the other PCs, a village I call Delta and they call evil. (Due to a small misunderstanding where the leader of Delta tried to take over their village, but that's all in the past now, with no ill feelings at all...)

Then, in The man from D.E.L.T.A, we head to the east, then south, then east again. The PCs have a habit of running from anything resembling plot, which will have no repercussions at all.

(Would like to play more, but need to work. Sigh.)


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DW RPG: Success, and yet Failure

With any roll there is the question of: do I pass? In this RPG, it gets a bit more complicated than than, with degrees of success. These levels of success are given in two different ways, I prefer the version that actually says something about the style of success. (I'll just focus on success for the moment, there is similar degrees for failure.)

"Yes, and" - the best type of success, where you pass and get an extra benefit. "Yes" - a success and you get what you want. "Yes, but" - you get a success, but some other complication happens. It might just be the rolling, or bad target numbers, but our typical rolls put us (sometimes with Story Point boosts) in the "Yes, but" category. Which has two problems.

The first, the "but" component. You get what you want, but something else happens. Which you now have to address. So really, you've just changed one problem for another. So... what success have you really had? At best, you might have changed from a problem you aren't so good at to one that you are, but on the whole it seems a bit of a wash.

The other issue is that, again, this is supposed to be an easier RPG for new GMs to pick up. Now, they have to deal with different levels of success, and come up with bonuses or extra issues depending on the roles. Yeah, no pressure, that's easy.

It does give some great story flexibility (I'll talk later about examples from our actual adventures), but would be more for the experienced among us. Otherwise, it's just more complexity and getting-in-the-way to deal with.


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Thursday, 7 January 2010

DW RPG: Rules

The basic rule is Attribute + Skill + 2d6 to beat the difficulty. However, there is more than just that, and I want to talk about to aspects.

The Combat Round, or Action Round as they are known as. The order isn't by initiative or anything, but by what you are intending to do. Talkers are first (and this means speech or persuasion by talking, as opposed to brief things like "Run!"), then the Doers, then the Movers then the Shakers... I mean Fighters. So instead of having to wait your turn, you need to know what you want to do. It's a nice mechanic, than enforces the idea of Doctor Who not being a fighting game, as they go last.

When we were playing it, there were two modifications we made, and from the looks of it, they took our suggestions on board! First is that originally you say "I'm going to be a Doer". I can't remember if we wanted some mystery or just wanted to get on with it, or what, but we changed that to being "Talkers, and Talkers?... Okay, any Doers?" That seemed to work better.

The other change was that: oh, they did something interesting, I want to change my action into something that technically has gone by. Often a Doer might do something, and then I'd change from a Mover to a Talker (Schread talked a lot). We went with, if you've moved up to before the next type of action, you go first. The GM book suggests you might want to impose a penalty, but we didn't bother, and it also fitted the idea anti-fighting. [We didn't have a lot of fighting with guns, and haven't really tried out the gun system, which looks very lethal to me.] Seemed an obvious thing to consider, but it wasn't in the original playtest document.

The other aspect is the Chase system (which reminds me of the Timelord RPG chasing). [Yes, there are a lot of slow monsters, but not everything is.] If you don't have any running (Coordination + Athletics) you are boned. I used a few story points to avoid failing completely. [Yes, failing can be interesting, but can also slow things down.] If you have any points left over, put them here, even if you just get the Run For Your Life trait rather than a lot of athletics which might not be appropriate for the character.

The easiest trick, though, in Chases (if the Chasee) is to pull a Stunt, where you do some move at a difficulty level you pick where if you make it, the bad guys have to as well. Pick a relatively high target, use a story point to give yourself a boost, and watch the bad guys fail and fall behind. Possibly a bit too easy to do, but an easy way out.

One, in my opinion, rather harsh rule, to also mention, is if you are unskilled. You get a -4 penalty. Given that most attributes are around 2 to 3, you better not try anything too hard. (Although there are story points.) That was one incentive to me making that example character with all skills, to get around that problem. Nasty.


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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

War on Scales 1

[While we are waiting for some players to return, we are taking on the Scales of War adventure path.]

There we were, in a quiet tavern, enjoying a some food and drink (well, two of the three of us, the other being Warforged) when we were set upon by a band on Hob-Goblins! Indeed! The very idea! As Marach, a cleric of Melora, clearly my duty was to smite them, and smite them hard. With Karrach, the Half-Orc Assassin and Valduun, the Warforged Warden, we proceeded to do so. However, there were some casualties, and unfortunately the spirits were burned before we could save them.

Then we heard a commotion on the street, and we found an ogre carting around some more hobgoblins, intent on throwing lit barrels of pitch. I ended up on fire-fighting duty (considering that I was unable to hit anything...) while the other two took care of the source.

While some stood watch for the rest of the night, others of us managed to get some rest. In the morning, we were called upon by Councilor Troius, who wanted us to track the hobgoblins as they had kidnapped townsfolk and stole treasures. Of course we would, with only pausing to question a kidnapped hobgoblin. While threats of death had some result, my discussion on the insignia they used proved more productive, and we found out they were hidden out in Rivensdale, an abandoned fort to the south. We set out immediately, although it was harder going than we expected. Still, we got to the fortress by midnight, heard them carousing, and decided to get some rest and let festivities take their toll.

Thus, next morning, we three entered the castle, and proceeded to set about the initial guards, and stopped them before too much alarm could be raised. However, following the sound of talking, we encountered more "angry goblins". They proved a tougher match, with two crossbow goblin men turning up and eventually running away into a dark corridor. With the initial group put down, Karrash ran off after them...


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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

DW RPG: Character Design

Some notes on creating and bettering characters in the DW ATS system. Note: This is drawing on old memories, so I could be completely wrong...

There are points to spend on Attributes and Traits, to spend on Skills and Story Points (which are a seperate post). It's always tricky to decide on the level of attributes without playing the game. They say 3 is human average, but it's very easy to have 4 as the average. They also think points should be held back to buy traits, but I think most gamers will try to negate positive traits with negative traits. It's common in other systems where good and bad sides exist to do that, so there is spill over here to do the same, and thus end up with higher than average attributes. Certainly, it's what I remember trying to do (and as I said before, those bad traits are so interesting for character development).

It looks like the skills buying system has been simplified. I remember that Areas of Expertise started at level 4 (now level 3) and that getting an AoE was 1 point but increasing the skill at that level was 2 points. This meant that if you wanted two AoEs, you'd be better off just increasing the skills.

However, in this new system, I think it's going to be easier to be more of an all-rounder, although that's never really that interesting a character to play. (I think, under the old system, I developed an example character that took advantage of one or two... not so much loopholes as 'if the GM could be persuaded...' to exemplify that the system wasn't that geared towards specialists, and indeed created a character that while not great, wasn't bad at pretty much nearly everything. I suspect I could do so again, and do so easilier(*).)

On the other side, there is character improvement. Originally there were Improvement Points, but it wasn't clear how many should be awarded, nor how often. And, there is the problem of if Story Points could be converted into Improvement Points, that can lead to people not spending Story Points to try to improve their character (Savage Worlds also has this issue). Now they have the "if the GM can be persuaded that you should be able to increase this skill", which I see can easily lead to arguements at the table and tears before bedtime. (Especially if you are trying to improve a bad skill, but haven't been able to successfully use it because it's bad!) I'm not saying that an XP system should be developed, but one aim of this game is to cater to inexperienced role-players, and this is one area that feels too vague for that concept.

(*)My Firefox spell-checker isn't working, which explains other wrong spellings in this post, but this one, at least, is intentional.


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Monday, 4 January 2010

DW RPG: Schread, Part 2

With the traits sorted out, what of the rest of Schread? (It's fortunate that Morgue sent me a copy of the sheet, otherwise I would remember far less.)

Attribute-wise, given the feeling nature of her, I went for very high Awareness. Strength and Coordination were less important, so ended up low. The others were medium importance, being the more mental side. In fact, there are more mental attributes than physical ones.

Skills wise, there are a few fighting ones. (The other person in the trio of characters, S, was the fighter.) Skip those. Schread was a lot of a know all, so high Knowledge. (She did originally have high Alien Culture, but that was made an Area of Expertise of Knowledge.) Being a talker, she also had high Convince (AoE was Friendship, one we made up to express how good Schread was at making friends in general). And since someone had to have it, high Medicine (although S was also good there) (AoE in Psychological Trauma, keeping with the mental side). Then threw in a dash of Survival for the heck of it. As well as fighting skills, science and technology went out the window too.

And there was Schread. (This, at least, was after some tweaking, but can't remember exactly.)

Improvements that I made was getting the trait Run For Your Life, increasing Coordination and getting some Athletics. Being in a Chase sucked. But that, and other rules, are for later.

Behold the Schread character sheet (the -2s are due to damage I had that I hadn't erased properly).


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Sunday, 3 January 2010

DW: The End of Time Again

"I'll have 50 gallons of milk." "But, sir, the cow's already dead." "I don't care, milk harder!"

20 FUCKING MINUTES!?!?!?! You would have thought that RTD would have learnt from Doomsday, but apparently he learnt "go worse, kill any desire of sentiment, and wring out everything until the cloth tears..."

Consider that the Doctor has willingly given his life for others. The Fifth Doctor died to save Peri. The Fourth Doctor died to save the universe. The Ninth Doctor died to save Rose. And what ending to we get? The Tenth Doctor, bitching, saves Wilf's life, then gets another 20 minutes of goodbyes before finally ending on the line "I don't want to go." Fuck you, Russell. Fuck. You.

(I will grant I never saw the "knock four times" coming, and when it hit it was a great moment, however that greatness was killed by the rest of the episode.)

And of the great return of the Time Lords... the hell? The Sound of Drums was like Bad Wolf all over again (put this message back through time so we can make sense of it now). Didn't work then, not any better now. And that it's Rassilon himself that was the President... where did that come from? And, oh yes, let's kill the moral choice by having the Doctor destroy a piece of plot device, and then end ambiguously with the Master blasting away. We'll never see him back, I'm sure...NOT!

The whole Donna thing turned out to be a fit of a fizz. What was the point? She would remember and die...except the Doctor put defenses in place. Well, that's handy, isn't it?

Still, Bernard Cribbins, eh? Bet some of were fearing sudden plot developments with "I'd be proud to be your dad." Wonderful, wonderful man.

So that's it. Mad, bad Rassilon defeated with hardly a problem, the Master tucked away, and the Doctor bitching all the way to the end. Piss off, Russell, come in Steven.

And wasn't Matt Smith good?

Next time: When does Matt Smith grace our screens next?


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Saturday, 2 January 2010

DW RPG: Schread, Part 1

I want to discuss a few things about the new Doctor Who role playing game, and I'll start by discussing the character I created for the playtest: Schread. Odd name, yep, but what the hey.

Characters have attributes, skills and traits. The basic mechanic is attribute + skill + 2d6, and try to beat the target number. There are degrees of success, but that's a different post. Traits modify the roll, may be good, may be bad.

When trying to come up with a character, I had, like, five minutes of looking through the book. The traits looked interesting in helping to define the character, and there was one in particular that drew my attention. Feel The Turn Of The Universe. It read as "you feel the ebb and flow of the world around you, and can tell something about the world if it is wrong." When I read that, I parsed it as "be a plot conduit for the GM." Don't know what's going on, could do with a hint? Feel the Turn of the Universe and get a pointer.

And decided to base the entire character around that. Now, in the published system, this trait is only available to Time Lords. Schread is not a Time Lord, so it would up to the GM if this would still be allowable. [The background I came up with for Schread could easily still work, even with that requirement.] Good start.

I then developed that Schread would be the feeling one in the group. Feel the Turn of the Universe, and Feel the Feelings of others around us, in an almost psychic way. (Yep, Deanna Troy.) So picked up other good traits: Empathic, Keen Sixth Sense and Voice of Authority (quite useful for getting my side across).

However, there is more than good traits available. I like Bad traits, as they can also suggest interesting character aspects. Schread is androgynous and bald (an 'alien', but not in the sense of the Alien trait) (although technically no sex, we ended up using 'she'), so Distinctive became a pick. Also took Technically Inept as though she was empathic, she was a complete klutz around anything technical (which was a useful character help at one point). I also wanted a 'dependence' type trait, where she clings to Smith (our Time Lord in the game, a CIA agent). Couldn't find anything immediately suitable, eventually settled on Erratic, whereby in a combat situation, if she saw that Smith was in trouble, she would stick with him to try to help, even if running away was the better option.

Lastly, I took Amnesia. There's a minor level (some loss) and a major level (complete loss). I went for the major, whereby she couldn't remember before a certain point in time when Smith got her free of some situation, as it gave lots of plot development space.

Traits are the most interesting part of character creation, I thought. Next time, I'll get onto the Attributes and Skills and other bits.


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Friday, 1 January 2010

Breaker: More Ants

Is it that time of year? I got some more peanut butter, this time Pams. With salt. Tasted very salty too. Not bad, just more salty.

But... now it has ants in it too. Is Pams a subsidiary of Heinz/Watties? Am I contaminating peanut butter somehow?

Anyway, I think I'm off peanut butter for now...


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Goodbye "Noughties"!

And so we wave goodbye to another decade (although some people debate that), the period of years starting with 200-.

Which were called the "Noughties". Really? That's what people came up with? ("Oh, it sounds like "naughty", that's a bit rude isn't it?") When did that become the official name? (There are others, but that's the one I saw the most often.) Did I miss the committee voting? Was there a memo? Did one person get to dictate?

It seems the BBC was the group that came up with the name, but no guarantee that they're the reason why. However, I'm sure their continual repetition of the name would help soak it into the social consciousness. We'll have to wait until tomorrow before we see what they call the next decade.

But any guesses? The "Tennies"? Just the "Tens"? How about we just use the tens digit: The "Onnies"/The "Ones"? (An alternative which is compatible with the decade of yesteryear.) Or a slight distortion: The "Teenies"? Sounds like an award...


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