Getting Game Monday, Jun 27 2011 

Masks of NyarlathotepMim is the karaoke queen. Though her thyroid has nerfed her singing voice, she’s still managed to warble her way into Rising Star Karaoke’s grand final. But to get her there, we’ve been putting in long Friday nights in the tune mines at Chatswood RSL.

We usually don’t get home till around 4am, though, and that means that I’ve been too tired to play D&D4e at Blacktown Games Day this month. I probably won’t make it back until Winterfest, and of course, I haven’t been around to GM as I promised last post. Both suck greatly.

On the other hand, I’ve signed up for a weekly Call of Cthulhu game at Ministry of Game at St Ives, which is a hell of a long way to travel, but hey, it’s Call of Cthulhu.

What’s more, it’s the classic campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep. I ran the first scene for a group about a decade ago, before the group imploded, and I’ve been waiting on The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion before I try it again. But I’ve also longed to play the damn thing for almost 20 years, and it looks like I might finally get the chance. Understandably, I’m very, very excited at the prospect.

Apart from that, not much to report. I’ve been too busy running around and studying and settling in, sadly, to write the scenario I’d hoped to enter into Chaosium’s Halloween Adventure Contest. It’ll either have to wait for next year or find its way into a monograph to see the light of day; it’s pretty intrinsically tied into Chaosium’s Lovecraft Country supplements, and it’s not the kind of thing I could sell to another publisher like Miskatonic River Press.

I’m (glacially) gathering research materials for another monograph, but it’s such a huge undertaking that it could well be years before I can even start writing it. By then, though, Scrivener for Windows should be stable and feature-laden enough to take on the task.

And that’s about it. On the subject of games, though, I’d like point you towards Asylum: Exit Australia, a web-based simulation of the travails of a refugee suffers when seeking a safe, new home.

TV network SBS commissioned the game to support their series Go Back to Where You Came From (which I’ve not seen yet, but intend to as soon as I can make time). Design house Chocolate Liberation Front—how’s that for a name!—has obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the game’s design. Although its production quality is impeccable, I hesitate to call it good; I think harrowing is a more accurate assessment. Nevertheless, go play it now.

What’s Been Happening? Part II Sunday, May 1 2011 

Since the events of last post, it’s been relatively clear sailing.

Old friend Adam R rather nicely invited me to see Sir Terry Pratchett speak at the Sydney Opera House, and a good time was had by all and sundry. I’ve been meaning to catch Pratchett ever since I was wee lad in Canberra, and was glad to get the chance before his Alzheimer’s exacts too great a toll.

I’ve had a short story published in Issue 19 of The Unspeakable Oath, which you can pick up in PDF, or in PDF and in print. Look for Dying Sunlight at the back of the magazine. To my knowledge, it’s the only Call of Cthulhu-related magazine currently in print, so if you’re you’re a fan of the game, please give it a look.

(No word on the fate of God Wills It Thus, however. I’m not holding out too much hope, but stranger things have happened…)

I’m also bandying about an idea for Chaosium’s 2011 Halloween Adventure Contest. Hopefully, I can get something written and playtested before the July deadline. (I also have an idea-and-a-bit for one or more MULA Monographs, but they’ll be well down the track: I need to establish a regular gaming group first.)

In other gaming related news, I attended Eyecon 2011 on Easter/ANZAC Day weekend, in and around long train commutes and the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Martin Place. Not much sleep was to be had, but the games more than made up for it. Aside from my usual staple of D&D4e Living Forgotten Realms modules, I also played the vaguely OD&D-inspired Gencon 1976 and got my first taste of GUMSHOE-powered Mutant City Blues with Law & Order: Heightened Crimes Unit.

(Katana Geldar gives a good summary of the con over at Level 1 GM, incidentally. I played Law & Order and a D&D4e game or two with her, and yes, that is my shiny pate at the bottom left of her con photo. My male-pattern baldness is famous now.)

Starting from June, I’ll be helping run Living Forgotten Realms games at Blacktown Games Day. They’re running a little short of GMs at the moment, and well, it suddenly struck me that it’s been nearly six friggin’ years since the events of the Three Years of Sundays (here and here) burnt me out.

I need to hop back on that particular horse. And besides, I’d like to get a fortnightly group going. Playtest some stuff. Maybe even run an epic Warhammer FRP 2e campaign.

And that’s about it, so far. We still need to get the rest of our stuff from Young and Cowra, and now that there’s actually work available, I need to get myself a job. Mim needs to recover from her ailments. Charmaine needs to adjust to the madhouse she’s found herself in. And the cats need to settle into their new home.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to blog in the near future, but you can always keep track of me via Twitter.

Further Links from the Pile Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

Yes, even more links. I can feel my PageRank shrivelling away into a nub.

The Real World:

Roleplaying:

  • RPGNow has an earthquake relief bundle: $20 gets you over $330 worth of gaming PDFs, with the proceeds going to the Red Cross to assist victims in Christchurch. And Two Scooters Press offers this bundle to delay a single mother’s impending blindness from retinitis pigmentosa.
  • 2011 looks to be a busy year at Chaosium. Another edition of Call of Cthulhu is on the way. We’ll get a Cthulhu Invictus Companion and a new, expanded third edition of Cthulhu by Gaslight. We might even see the second edition of Beyond the Mountains of Madness in English! (They’re also looking for ideas for a hardback to be released later this year. I’d like to see a revised Shadows of Yog-Sothoth finally released.)
  • Miskatonic River Press’ epic Cthulhu Invictus campaign, The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, is on its way, too.
  • James Maliszewski looks to Chaosium’s new Call of Cthulhu as the very essence of how to release a new edition. And maybe he’s right: CoC players are uniquely placid about edition changes.
  • Campaign Mastery features a very in-depth, continuing series on pulp gaming, a must-read for fans of Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu.
  • Runeslinger (from Casting Shadows) looks at chases in Call of Cthulhu, and the value of running away.
  • If Call of Cthulhu (and Trail of Cthulhu) are a little too complex and rules-heavy for your tastes, KORPG Games offers Call of d6-lite, a simple, one-page alternative.
  • The blog Exchange of Realities certainly looks worth delving into, dealing as it does with the intersection between fiction and roleplaying techniques.
  • Geekcentricity defends mediaeval gaming, and shows the benefits of quasi-historical settings over pure high fantasy.
  • Planet Algol reveals the real reason why there are no Dwarf women.
  • JP Chapleau delivers a cogent opinion piece on the future of D&D 4e, the RPGA and the Living Forgotten Realms campaign.
  • The Red DM delivers an equally cogent plea for game designers to adhere to the KISS Principle, over at The Red Box Blog.
  • And in a similar vein to Inkwell Ideas’ link from Sunday, the awesome Chuck Wendig reiterates that worldbuilding is a kind of masturbation. (Oh, and I like italics, too.)

Of course, there aren’t many old links here, but I suppose that’s what you get for going from the top of the pile… So yes, there’s still plenty more to come. In the meantime, check out The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets’ 20 Minutes of Oxygen.

All the News You’ve Already Read Sunday, Feb 20 2011 

From left: Damian Lewis as Major Richard Winte...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been nearly six months since I’ve had a reliable Internet connection. However, there was one spot in the house at Young where I could get sufficient coverage to browse Twitter on my mobile, and I got into the (bad) habit of emailing interesting links to myself to view later.

That was some 2200 links ago. I can’t find anything in my inbox now. So, I’ve finally decided to go through them and share the best of them here. Most of them were of only passing interest, but a few were worth passing on:

The Real World:

Roleplaying:

More links as I get to them.

How the Grinch Stole D&D Thursday, Nov 4 2010 

On Saturday, November 13, I’ll embark on a long and arduous journey. At approximately 2.21am, I’ll step on a train to Sydney, arriving at around 6.55. From there, I’ll grab some breakfast and head out to meet friends at Blacktown. I need to leave Blacktown by about 6.45pm to find dinner at Central and board the 8.40 train home; Mim (I hope) will meet me at the station at around 1.07 the next morning.

It’ll be a big day. It may also be the last time I play D&D.

Let me break this down a bit. I live just outside of the rural town of Young. There’s a fair-sized gaming community (by which, I mean, they advertise their existence) in Wagga Wagga, about 2 hours southwest. There’s another one just a little bit further away in Canberra, to the southeast. About 2½ hours to the northeast, another gaming group meets in Orange, and the group in Bathurst is about the same distance in the same direction.

But none of these groups play 4e. For this, I need to trek back to the group with whom I played Living Forgotten Realms when I lived in Sydney: the Blacktown Games Day Association.

As you can imagine, it takes a buttload of time, effort and money to get to these games. In terms of time and money, the rail journey is my cheapest alternative, because I don’t have to pay for accommodation or spend 4½ hours—each way—on the road. As a consequence, I only get to go to BGDA’s monthly game days 3-4 times a year.

Even the BGDA struggles to support 4e, though. They used to run 8-12 tables of LFR across two sessions, but now, most of their experienced GMs are running Pathfinder or Traveller; nowadays, between the lack of GMs and waning player interest, they struggle to run two tables a session. Even with the new rules allowing player characters to start above 1st-level, it’s still hard to find a module I can play, and haven’t played before with a given PC. As it stands, however, LFR offers my only opportunity to play 4e.

Now, regardless of what you may read on other blogs, Character Builder is essential to play LFR. Aside from Character Builder, I have little use for D&D Insider; all the LFR-legal mechanics from Dragon end up in Character Builder anyway, and as I don’t currently GM games, neither Dungeon nor the online tools hold much appeal.

As you may’ve heard, Wizards of the Coast will cease support for their downloadable Character Builder software and move to an online model on November 16. Michael Wolf (of Stargazer’s World) covers the technical problems with the new platform in depth; one of its other downsides is that WotC is tightening up Character Builder against use by non-D&DI subscribers. But the truth is—and I’ll be honest—I use a friend’s D&DI login, one that he very rarely uses himself, as he no longer plays 4e.

In this instance, at least, Cyclopeatron is correct in labelling WotC’s new subscription model the 4e Tax: I simply can’t justify paying an effective $3/hour tariff to play D&D, in addition to everything else.

Although I dread the cost of picking up Pathfinder—by far the most popular incarnation of D&D over here—so late in its product cycle, the official D&D brand and I have to part ways. I started playing D&D in earnest in 1985, and I daresay it’s been a good quarter-century. It saddens me to close off such a significant chapter in my life, but there are always other games out there.

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