This Week

This Week: Leaders, Scenes, Hags, and Silence

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Normally these come out late on Sundays, but I moved this one earlier for two reasons: a) I missed last week, as I was unwell, and b) I won't be able to get everything in order night, because I'll be at Port Robinson & Madeon's Shelter Live Tour in Melbourne! Woo!
(Image from Shelter Live Tour.)
So, without further ado, let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I started playing Terraria again, as it's been many years since last time, and I really enjoyed it then. The game has been updated significantly, and there's now a lot more to do. I don't know if it will keep my attention for very long, but I am enjoying it. I don't have much to say on this topic beyond that it's worth checking out again, if you used to play it!
(Image from Steam.)
I've been diving back into Civilisation VI, trying out the new Poland DLC, and getting ready to try the even-newer Australia DLC. Whilst I'm finding them game is holding me generally less than V did, I am enjoying the faster pace of DLC. I can't remember how I originally bought it, but whatever I did, I've been getting each DLC without paying additionally for it... Maybe I got the deluxe edition, or something? I don't know - I'm pretty confused, to be honest.
(Image from Rock Paper Shotgun.)
Anyway, Poland has been a lot of fun - even if I have every single other world leader angry at me all the time. Which is interesting. I've also been through a nearly 1000 year war with Sumeria, during which time they've sent a total of 2 Bombards and 3 Bazooka troops to my shores. I haven't bothered to retaliate. Yet.
(Image from PC Games N.)
Australia looks interesting, though it's a little distressing to see that there is no mention of our history before European settlement. Which is super weird, given that the civilisation only covers 1-to-2 of the Eras in the game, and just ignores the 50,000+ years of Aboriginal Australian history (and there's some insanely interesting stuff in there). I'm hopeful that we get an additional leader - like Greece - to account for this. But, I doubt it...

What I've Made

I've been working pretty hard on Do or Dice recently, attempting to get the changes brought up during playtesting into the game. I'm having to restrain myself from too quickly and too radically, changing things though - I've been toying around with a new central mechanic, but it would be unwise to jump ship without properly testing out the existing one. I'll be posting up a discussion on which one I settle with, once I have settled!
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Speaking of discussions, I posted up the first piece of Do or Dice rules on Friday, and it's already worked out well. There has been a reasonable amount of conversation surrounding it, and that conversation has already helped me work through it. It's great to start interacting more with the design community, like this. As +Steve Dee said "scenes are good".

What I've Run

I ran the first actual play session of Ameshirel: A World Reforged, using the Do or Dice ruleset, and it's done exactly what I hoped - poked holes in the game. I've always been a firm believer of test fast and early, but it's always been difficult to execute that belief. Do or Dice is now getting fortnightly playtests, and I am hopeful to increase that rate. If any folks out there are keen to get a playtest copy, please let me know!
(Image from Wizards.)
My Curse of Strahd campaign got another session (which brings the total up to 7, with 5 of them still unposted in the diary, for that I apologise, but unfortunately cannot see changing in any significant way, any time soon...) It was a great session, and I finally got to use Old Bonegrinder. Needless to say, the PCs shouldn't have let the Night Hags escape. They'll never sleep easy again!

What I've Seen

For some strange reason, I started watching the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series on Netflix a few weeks ago, and I'm making a lot of progress through it. I find it's interesting enough to have going on in the background whilst I work, but not cerebral enough to demand my attention always. I'm definitely enjoying it, though I do find some of the themes problematic. The first two seasons glorify war a little too much, but the later seasons seem to deal with the bad sides a lot more (which is awesome). I'm enjoying seeing pieces of the EU fall into place with the new canon (like seeing Saw, etc). Worth checking out, I think.
(Image from Screen Rant.)
On Friday night I went and saw Martin Scorsese's newest film, Silence. It's about two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who travel to Japan during a period of religious inquisition, to find their mentor. It's pretty fucked up, to be honest. It's brutal, and it's basically all about torture and resilience. It's also very very long. I'm still unsure if I liked it. It's definitely not a film you can enjoy, but at some point you need to recognise that it was worth seeing or not - and I am yet unsure of that. I think it was worth seeing, but I still need to unpack it a little bit...
(Image from Esquire.)
The visuals and the score were fantastic, though, and if you're a fan of Adam Driver or Andrew Garfield, their performances were amazing, so that may encourage you to see it. I do, however, believe the film will have less impact on you if you haven't gone through some kind of crisis of faith (whether that made you more devout, or as in my case, led you to apostasy). If you do see it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the film!
(Image from BBC America.)
Lastly, I started watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency last night, and half an episode in, I was hooked. I've now watched the first two, and I am keen to watch the third! It's a really weird, really curious mix of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It's also unlike any of those things, and much weirder. I can't really explain it, except by saying that I desperately want to play it as a roleplaying game.

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Puppets, Hacks, Romance, and Challenges!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Run

I ran session #6 of my Curse of Strahd campaign, and finally got a chance to roleplay as Pidlwick II (who is, hands down, one of my favourite characters). I changed him quite a bit from how he is portrayed in the book, but after hearing feedback from my players, it was definitely the right choice. Sadly, it'll be some time before I get around to that campaign diary, as I am massively behind, and massively inundated with work at the moment. Nevertheless, it has given me inspiration to keep working on my backlog of diaries, so the next one will come sometime soon!
(Image from Wizards.)

What I've Seen

I've been reading and prepping (though sadly not playing) Blades in the Dark a lot recently, because v8 was recently released, which means I've also been spending a lot of time on the Google+ community of late (hell, I've even bee writing my own Blades content!). Over there, I got wind that Scum & Villainy, the sci-fi Firefly / Star Wars: Rogue One style hack is in Early Access! I'm yet to get my hands on it, but I am very very tempted to pick it up. If anyone else has purchased it already, please let me know how it is!
(Image from Gamerati. Wrong Scum & Villainy, I know, but still relevant!)
Black and Green Games released Romance Trilogy, and I'm pretty excited about it! Whilst it's not currently available in print in Australia, I have it from +Emily Care Boss herself that inroads to Australian stores are being investigated. Honestly, I'm keen to get my hands on it any way that I can, so I'll probably end up buying the PDF first, anyway (which can be found here, if you're as keen as I am.)
(Image from Black and Green Games.)
The #200WordRPG Challenge is back for 2017, spanning between April 15th and April 23rd! I entered last year with MegaCorp, a cyberpunk storygame about being a director of a MegaCorp and trying to strip it of assets. It was fantastic, and I encourage everyone to give it a try, if you have a design bent. I also encourage everyone to have a look at previous years, as some of the most ridiculous and amazing games come out of this challenge!
(Image from David Schirduan.)
That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Deus Ex, Trenches, PLAYTESTS, and Frontier

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I finally got around to starting Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and I'm enjoying it - though not as much as Human Revolution. Maybe I just need to give it more time, but at the moment it feels very much like it's relying on you having loved the last one to carry it. It doesn't feel enough like a stand alone game. I keep getting the impression that it's pointing to HR and saying "Ay! Look at how cool we still are!"

(Image from SquareEnix.)
But I'm keen to be proven wrong! I loved HR, and I look forward to loving MD just as much. Graphically and functionally, MD is clearly superior, but I've found some things that wrankle me - like the tutorial at the beginning being in places too intrusive, and in others weirdly not intrusive enough. The camera also feels really clostrophobic to me... Which is weird... Anyway, I will report back in 50 years when I get around to finishing it!

What I've Made

After being inspired by Peaky Blinders (which I am now up-to-date on), and with the v8 release of Blades in the Dark (I haven't stopped screaming in excitement), I decided to write a short supplement that covers the Unity War. It's called Remnants of War, and I only just posted it up here on versamus, but for This Week's sake I had to talk about it again.

(Image from Imperial War Museums, edited by me.)
Go here to check it out!

What I've Run

In my continuing efforts to get Do or Dice off the ground, I ran my first session of the proper playtest campaign this week. We're playing in the Ameshirel: A World Reforged setting I am developing alongside it, and things are thus far looking good.

(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
We've got a psychopathic Polder, a gloomy Dwarven coward, a drug addicted Elven alchemist, a mysterious Human necromancer priest, and a Orcish bard who just wants everyone to chill out. I will be posting more about this campaign as it develops, and the rules as they develop from the playtesting! The plan at the moment is to open up playtesting to the public once I have ironed out the kinks with this campaign, and I expect it to be ready in a few months time - SO KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED!

What I've Seen

Lastly, I watched Frontier on Netflix this week (I got through the whole thing, as I've been a bit unwell and idle) and, frankly, I wasn't impressed. The acting, the writing, the... Basically everything felt flat. There were a few cool characters, and some interesting stuff thrown in there - but on the whole it was a mighty Meh.

(Image from Netflix.)
I'm willing to see where the next season goes, and it's worth a watch if you like the time period. Just don't expect anything amazing...

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Alchemy, Gnomes, Elba, and Strahd!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

We purchased a copy of Dominion: Alchemy expansion, and have now had a few games using it. Despite my continued confusion with the Golem card, I am really enjoying the new meta it creates, and the interesting choices it's brought back. A lot of people claim the base game gets boring (though I never found that to be the case), but Alchemy definitely livens the game up a lot!
(Image from Board Gaming.)
 I've also (though this is hardly a new thing for me) have been playing a lot of Mount & Blade Warband, as I eagerly await Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord! If you haven't checked out M&B before, it's a third-person medieval combat/management game where you slowly grow a name for yourself, and hire a group of soldiers who you train into a (hopefully) powerful army. I play with the mod Floris Evolved because I think the base game is pretty bland - but Bannerlord looks like they've learned a lot from their modding community, and have brought in some of the bets parts!
(Image from YouTube.)

What I've Made

Something I've been working on, called A Gnome's Tale, has made some significant progress, and I'm now going to show you a little bit of it (note: this is the first time any part of it has ever been seen online :D) In short, it's a system neutral random encounter drop-table/art book...
(Image from... US! WOO!)
We're hoping to continue to develop A Gnome's Tale and I'll let you know as more comes out that I can talk about!

I've also been working on my ability to Blades in the Darkify photos to make character portraits for my campaign. I think I've got a pretty good system, which is:
  1. Find a photo.
  2. Go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation, and set the Saturation to -100.
  3. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves, and select the Strong Contrast Preset.
  4. Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Cutout, and set Number of Levels to 8, Edge Simplicity to 3, and Edge Fidelity to 3.
  5. Again, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves, and select the Strong Contrast Preset.
  6. And, you're done!
(Original image from ComingSoon.com, edited by me.)
This process is very simple, quick, and easy to tweak (just adjust any of the above values). It even works better with lower quality images, so you don't need to worry about finding the perfect HD shot - even screenshots from Netflix have thus far rendered great results!

What I've Run

I finally got to run Curse of Strahd again (and reminded myself of the crushing weight of being behind on the campaign diary!) which was amazing. I won't go into details here, but I got to use my Strahd voice for a lot of it, which was a lot of fun!
(Image from Wizards.)
I promise I'll be updating the campaign diary ASAP!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Jam, Arrival, Axebane, and Jazz!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Made

Global Game Jam has come and gone for another year, and it's been an interesting one. I tackled the prospect of Jamming alone, and whilst I don't regret doing it, I've answered that question: I won't be doing it again. Jamming alone doesn't allow you to riff off someone else like a normal Jam does. I had my reasons, beyond just answering that question, for going alone but that's a different story all together.
(Image from Victoria Museum.)

Anyway, I did manage to make something, called No More, Molok! which you can find here. I hope you like it.

What I've Seen

I got to see Arrival at Cinema Nova in Melbourne, and it was fantastic. It's rare that I see a film that is actually about hope, and one where I have as few criticisms as I did with Arrival, which was awesome. I don't want to say much about it, because I feel the less you know about the film going in, the better. For those who have seen it though: I wish the last 5 minutes weren't in it. They felt unnecessary and detracting. Otherwise, it's freakin' great. See it while you can! 
(Image from IndieWire.)

After watching the most recent episode of RollPlay: Blades, the cast Geoff passed on the recommendation of John that folks should watch Peaky Blinders. So I did. I'm one season in, and I can't recommend it enough (even if you don't like or know about Blades in the Dark). It's set in 1919 Birmingham, England, and is centred around a gang - the Peaky Blinders - who run a small section of the city. I won't get into why, but they get wrapped into crown-controlled espionage, communist plots, and all sorts of intrigue-filled infighting. It's been so inspiring for me as a GM, and I have so much left to watch! Two seasons are currently on Netflix, so get on it!
(Image from Netflix.)

I became a Patron of Axebane Games who is creating awesome top-down maps with encounter sheets built in. I love the simplicity of the maps - just print them out and jot down ideas, right into them. It's very freeing, only having a tiny amount of space per room, as it forces you to do away with boxed text or complex ideas. Instead, you write down the seeds of your inspiration, and then you improv at the table. I just had to support this enterprise, and I get some awesome coloured versions early to boot, so I'm very happy!
(Image from Axebane Games.)

I watched the first episode of RollPlay: Nebula Jazz this week, which is the newest campaign on the channel. It's bloody fantastic, and other than Blades, I haven't fallen so quickly for a new show since Swan Song. It's a quirky 80's inspire sci-fi game using Fate Accelerated Edition featuring Adam Koebel as the Spacemaster, Dodger playing Eugene - a wise-cracking Slimething, Jesse Cox playing Qin - an Ex-Guardian giant Komodo Dragon-like Lizardman, Strippin playing Rex - an outlaw Sharkanoid, and Pokket playing Aurora - a robot girl with her best friend Sparky. Seriously, the descriptions coming from all the players are amazing, and I can't encourage you to watch it more!
(Image from itmejp.)

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Hosts, Harm, Fate, and Gatekeeper

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

This last stretch should be the last time for a while (unless something else comes up) where I miss a week. Finally - FINALLY - the move is complete, and we're in a beautiful new home! We have internet, and I have a new study/games room. Once everything is up to shape, I'll take some photos and share them with you: it's where all our RPGs will be played from now on (except for at Gatekeeper, but I'll get to that in a sec) so it'll be pretty relevant!

Now, let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I've been without the internet for much of this week, due to the move, so naturally I've been looking for other things to do in my downtime. Whilst packing and unpacking has been a big part of the last two weeks, I would go mad if I didn't play something. And then I remembered a while back I printed out the rulebook for How to Host a Dungeon, a curious little singleplayer game where you generate a dungeon step by step as the ages go through. If you're looking for some inspiration, and just something to take your mind off other things, it works fantastically!

Here's a good example of a map made using the system:
(Image from Planet Thirteen.)
And here's my work-in-progress map:
(Image from me... And Excel art... I'm so sorry.)
Mine's not so great, but I've had a lot of fun with it so far!

What I've Made

I've been working hard on Do or Dice, and I recently made a breakthrough with the rules for harm and damage, and I'm now ready for my first full in-house test. That means Ameshirel: A World Reforged will be beginning in two weeks (and I'll post all the details as they come out). I'm really looking forward to exposing all of the holes in the game, and then figuring out ways to fill them up and then smooth it all back into an awesome game. As this process goes on, I'll be opening up the playtest to more and more folks, so if you're interested, LET ME KNOW!
(Image from RueInk.)
In the interest of working on Ameshirel: A World Reforged, I've been planning my first adventure. I got one look at Randy M's newest map, and I fell in love. It's Patrons only, so I can't show it off, but you should pledge to see it and everything else he's made. If you're planning on playing in Ameshirel: A World Reforged (my players, beware), please don't check it out until we've played. Everyone else, go nuts!

I'll be polishing up this adventure as I playtest it, and I intend to release it alongside Do or Dice and Ameshirel: A World Reforged as the first official adventure - so stay tuned for that too!

What I've Run

I got a chance to run Fate Accelerated Edition at Gatekeeper Games (again, I'll mention more in a sec), which was a blast! I love FAE, but I don't get much of a chance to run it. Also, due to the holidays, I haven't gotten a chance to run much of anything, so when I got the idea to do it, I jumped on it.
(Image from Evil Hat.)
I ran the game for four players at this month's Inclusive Board Game Meet in Melbourne, hosted at Gatekeeper Games in Fitzroy. Two of the four players were entirely new to roleplaying games, so it was even more amazing. Everyone really jumped in, and, in true Fate style, I barely did any work: the players came up with such ridiculous drama that I didn't need to! We ended up flying out of a wormhole inside an organic alligator ship with a crew of two space Elves, a space Skinkwoman, and a space Russian, all while everything was flying off the walls and far too many pipes burst. If it doesn't make sense to you, then I guess we're on the same page.
There was a decidedly camp/Farscapey vibe to the game. (Image from IMDB.)
I loved every second of it.

What I've Seen

And finally, the long awaited (and much mentioned) Gatekeeper Games! Because I've moved, I actually now have a proper Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS), which I haven't had for many many years... And what's more, I have Gatekeeper which, despite the name, is one of the best and most welcoming gaming spaces I've ever seen. This amazing space not only has some of the nicest people running it, and the most diverse clientele I've ever seen in a gaming store, it also has ridiculously low prices for games (seriously, we just bought Dominion: Alchemy for less than $40 AUD)!
(Image from Gatekeeper Games.)
So, I'll be playing more and more games here as well as in the new games room at home. I'll even be running a few games here, if everything goes according to plan. I'll even even be running some Do or Dice here as a trial ground, so again, if that excites you, you better find your way there!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Holidays, 80 Days, Rogue One, and Podcasts

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Before I begin, I want to say HAPPY NEW YEAR! Last year was a shit storm, for a number of reasons, and 2017 threatens to be worse... Which is why we gotta not let it drag us down, and we gotta celebrate the good, and fight against the bad. I'll be talking more about this in the weeks to come, so watch this space.

Otherwise, I've been on holidays for the last just under two weeks, which actually hasn't been as restful as it sounds. Between getting the keys to our new place and moving some stuff across, and visiting family in far-off Newcastle, it's been pretty busy. Sadly, I've also been away from my group so haven't gotten a chance to actually run anything for a few weeks...

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

A colleague introduced me to a mobile game (among a ridiculously long and excellent list of others) called 80 Days, set within the same premise as Around The World In Eighty Days. You play as the manservant of a rich aristocrat, attempting to travel around the world in 80 days, whilst seeing what you can see. It's a text-based adventure game with a LOT of branching paths and agency, as well as charming writing and exploration mechanics. I'm playing it on iOS at the moment (though it is also on Android and even PC), and am really enjoying it - I highly recommend it!
(Image from inkle.)
I also purchased my fiancé a copy of Archaeology, a rather simple yet brilliant set collecting card game. It's super quick to play, and the strategy is quite interesting, with alternate pieces to increase replayability. Who doesn't love pretending to be Indiana Jones? Not us, that's for damn sure.
(Image from Board Game Geek.)

What I've Made

I've managed to squeeze in a few more hours on Do or Dice in the lead up to Ameshirel: A World Reforged beginning its test campaign. Most recently I've been working on magic systems, and I have to say, the basis of Fate Core and Blades in the Dark makes for some really weird things you can do with dice. Granted, Do or Dice is now firmly different enough from either of them to begin losing its recognisable roots, but I still think those foundations allow me to really think outside the box.
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
I'm hopeful to be able to share some actual mechanics publicly soon. The general release plan for Do or Dice seems to be heading down a Pay What You Want model for the core rules, and then small price tags for add-ons, worlds, and adventures. This is a model I've seen and enjoyed personally, so I think it's the one I want to go down.

What I've Seen

Like most of the rest of the known world, I watched Rogue One this past fortnight. I really enjoyed it - I thought it gave satisfying answers to a lot of weird things in IV that I never got (like why there'd be such a vulnerability in the first place) and tied into the flow of the Episodes well, whilst still clearly not being just another Star Wars episode. I did have a few gripes with it, but over all, I thought it was a great movie. I'm glad a few more risks are being taken, and that the studio was happy to sell a less viable movie for the sake of something new. Kudos for that one!
(Image from Wired.)
Every year my RPG group participates in a Secret Santa, and this year one of my lovely friends got me Storm King's Thunder. I'm yet to properly crack it open and read it, but I feel a while after I've finished my Curse of Strahd campaign, you'll probably be hearing about a new Giant-focused campaign I'm running!
(Image from Wizards.)
I also got a new roleplaying game for Christmas - the beautiful Torchbearer, which I've been reading feverishly. The Burning Wheel was a big inspiration for me behind Do or Dice, and the themes of Torchbearer are very similar (but happily different) that I'm able to draw a lot of inspiration and cool ideas from its design. There are parts of Torchbearer which I distinctly want to steer away from (such as class = race, which I've never understood) and yet parts which I've fallen in love with (Nature, I'm looking at you). You WILL be hearing more about Torchbearer from me... Soon.
(Image from A Game of Telephone.)
Finally, whilst driving between Melbourne and Newcastle twice, my partner got me to listen to a few podcasts. Generally, I don't do podcasts - I find my brain isn't good at following a purely audio story (same reason I dislike audiobooks). But the two I've been listening to have changed all that. 

I managed to finish Alice Isn't Dead part 1, a creepy and weird show that fits into that paranormal roadtrip genre that I love so much, from the same folks who brought us Welcome to Nightvale (which I am yet to listen to, for the aforementioned aversion to podcasts). It was great, and if you're into American Gods, Part-Time Gods, Supernatural, or urban fantasy at all, you should check it out.
(Image from Ars Technica.)
I also started Limetown, which is another supernatural investigative series which is really damn intriguing with ridiculous production values (honestly, if Amelia hadn't told me it was fiction before the first episode, I would have assumed it was real). Regardless of what you like, you should stop doing that thing and go listen to Limetown. You'll like that more...
(Image from Vox.)
That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Downtime, Dragons, and so many Games!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

Before we begin, you may have noticed that I didn't post up a This Week for last week, or the week before. The week before, I was actually away from home, camping, hiking, and having fun at the beach. I was almost entirely without internet, so I decided to have a break from versamus entirely and just relax. Which was awesome, as it led to even more gaming!

Then last week, I was surprisingly sick... I was just at home with little to do except read, sleep, and play games. But I'm back now, so let's jump in with what I've done This and the last two Weeks...

What I've Played

As I say, I've played a lot of games... I'll just talk about the big ones, then:

I've been playing more Civilisation VI, and it's going really well! Except for some weird UI issues/designs (like how difficult it is to cycle through stacked pop-ups on the right of the screen, or how the news during turn shift covers THE ENTIRE PLAY SPACE SO YOU CAN'T SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING) the game is superior to Civilisation V (which I really liked). I wish there were more map types and leaders, but I'm assuming they'll come when they're ready.
(Image from pcpop.)

I've also gotten back into Darkest Dungeon and am finally making some ground in it. I'm hopeful I'll actually finish this play through and can finally tick that game off as complete. That's the hope at least. Every time I go back to it, though, I want to create my idea for a Darkest Dungeon inspired Blades in the Dark RPG... Who knows, maybe I will at that.
(Image from Steam.)

Whilst at Wilson's Prom, my friends and I decided to bring glorious battle to the serenity of the beach. We built sand walls and seaweed bombs, and fought tooth and nail for supremacy over our foes. My side quickly became a technocracy with the war cry We Iterate, whilst our neighbours were cuttlefish-worshipping heathens who only just advanced to the seaweed age... But, as I and my fellow world-leader had prophesied before we began, it ended in mutually assured destruction. The UN attempted to conduct peace talks, but our cultures were incompatible, and it ended in fire. Oh what fun we had. I might actually write up our improv rules as a quick little game you can play. It was a hell of a lot of fun!
(Image (of my hated opponents) from Sam Hyland.)

Earlier this evening I got to play my second ever game of Smash-Up, a rather endearing card game where you merge two different trope-y decks of cards together, and get to experiment heavily with different strategies to win. I chose Robots and Pirates, and only very narrowly lost (I initiated the end with a win, but then the Wizard Ninjas came out of nowhere and stole the show accidentally for the Dinosaur Aliens)! If that short report isn't enough to get you to play it, I honestly don't know what you want from a game, anymore... Kids these days... But seriously, Smash-Up is a great example of replayability and player competence, as it allows players to really get into the deep end with the strategy and try many different permutations over the life cycle of the game. If you're interested in game design, you should pick it up!
(Image from Alderac Entertainment Group.)

And finally, I managed to play That Dragon, Cancer after putting it off for so long. As some of you may know, I have a pretty personal connection to cancer, so it was difficult to get through... At least, the first half. The second half was a bit alienating for me, as it got bogged down into a lot of very American Christian-centric spiritualism, which did nothing but annoy me (if you want to know more, I might publish the essay I wrote after I played it). It's a worthwhile experience, and it is very moving, but if you're not an American Christian, you won't get as much out of it, and if you're not a theist, you'll likely get even less... Which is a shame...
(Image from Kotaku.)

What I've Made

In a curious twist (that I can't talk about much) I am getting the chance to leverage my Powered by the Apocalypse knowledge at work, meaning that for the first time I am being paid, in part, to make a roleplaying game. Woo! Sadly, I can't really talk about it much more than this, just because I don't own the product... This one won't have any follow up, it's just a cool milestone for me which I thought you might be interested in.
(Image from Story Games.)

But something I can talk about is Slugball, Sorcery & Secrets! which has gone back in to development! I've been tinkering with it post my playtests, and the new additions should be pretty solid. I'll be playtesting it again soon, and I'll probably upload it after that for anyone who wants it! I might charge for it on PWYW, just to see if my work does have any legs...
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)

What I've Run

I got the chance to play my Curse of Strahd campaign twice which is miraculous in these weeks of holidays, heavy workload, sickitude, and moving house... But they were a fun two sessions. Neither have been written up yet (due to the previously mentioned time blockers) but once they are dried up when I'm actually on holidays, I will write them for anyone who cares to read our ridiculous exploits.
(Image from Wizards.)

What I've Seen

For my birthday, one of my housemates picked me up a copy of Volo's Guide to Monsters which I have been reading through, and loving! Whilst I am filled with gripes about Dungeons & Dragons in general, I have to commend Wizards on this one - the presentation, detail and content is top notch, and they've put in a few good random tables (which I miss from my non-WFRP gaming). The running commentary is humorous (if a little beleaguered in the first section) and the information within interesting and thought provoking. I probably won't use anything as is, but it has me thinking about various species in different ways, which will help to inform Ameshirel: A World Reforged when it comes time to running it next year.
(Image from Wizards.)

Very lastly, I received (this time from my partner, and for no particular reason) a copy of Part-Time Gods of Fate! As many of you may know, I love Part-Time Gods having run it a lot before, and I love Fate Core, again having run it, and hacked it, to death. This tome brings the best of both worlds, and is going to be a treasure on my shelf. I'm looking forward to running it, and in the cracks between my busy schedule, have been jotting down ideas for it... Expect to hear more about a campaign I am currently naming Stockholm Syndrome in the new year.
(Image from Fate RPG.)
That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Birthdays, Murder, Ameshirel & Seuss!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

This week was another special one: it contain my and my partner's birthdays! That's right, we were born 6 hours apart, though in entirely different hospitals (so we can't have been swapped at birth, as I know you were thinking). Subsequently, we tend to combine our birthdays and because this was our 25th, we went big!

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

The bigness was actually thanks to our amazing friend Alex who decided to run a Murder Mystery LARP party for us. It was set in a terrible suburban street in Melbourne, in the 70s, so we had a blast. There was a cult (which may or may not have been a sex cult - we haven't gotten to the bottom of that yet) as well as drug dealers, and all sorts of nonsense. It was hilariously fun, and luckily we got a few photos from our Polaroid. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
(I'm really sorry about the chest hair...)
I just want to add also that Alex has never GMed or prepped a tabletop RPG, let alone a LARP before, so this was incredibly successful for a first game. I'm looking forward to what she runs next (because I know for a fact it's not going to be the last). I'll let you all know how it goes!

We also, this week, got a chance to play both Werewolf and Codenames. Whilst it wasn't the first time I'd played either, it was a lot of fun to play them again, and it's somewhat rekindled my love of social games. I'll be talking more about them - and probably making a few of my own - in the weeks to come.

What I've Made

Speaking on things to come, Do or Dice is now in a properly testable state! The game is ready for some serious live tests, and I'll be looking for GMs to take the reins with a few preview copies early. If this sounds interesting to you, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll see what we can do. But this also means I'll be starting the proper home game for it in the new year... Which means that Ameshirel: A World Reforged is close! I'm very excited for this, because it means I'll have even more content to share with you soon.
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Which leads me to the snippets. You may have noticed that this week I didn't post one up - that's because a) I'm starting to ramp up on a few projects, and I am stretched thinner than I have been previously (I'm also moving house soon, so things are a little extreme right now), and b) I'm getting to the end of the easy stuff to share - the races and basic concepts. That means we're probably going to be getting into more meaty subjects in the coming weeks, which means more time is needed for writing. I'm hoping to release one every fortnight, but they may be a little less or more frequent as the topic allows.

I will keep you all as up to date on Ameshirel: A World Reforged and Do or Dice as I can... I'll probably share our Same Page Tool with you very soon, as well!

What I've Seen

Today I also got the opportunity to visit the Dr. Seuss Gallery in Melbourne which, if you haven't been, you should check out! It's only two rooms, but each is filled with pieces from his life - including his highly political and snarky commentary on his rather stuck-up neighbours at the time of drawing. Located at The Block arcade off Elizabeth and Collins in the CBD, it's a really interesting look into an amazing mind. I've added a picture of one of my favourite pieces that I saw.
(Image from The Art of Dr. Seuss)
There was also a rather fun quote on the wall, which I feel is the best summation of the "What is a Roleplaying Game" section in every single RPG book... "If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good." Beautiful advice!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Free Games, Insanity, Black Mirror & RollPlay!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

This one's a little light. Firstly, I've been very busy (as I discuss below) and it's been very hot in Melbourne (today, at least, which is melting my brain even now). I do apologise.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Made

I released (for free) a super short and sweet game called I'd Like You to Meet which can be found here. This game was inspired by a thread on the RPG Opinions group on Facebook - a rather great group, if you're into RPGs. The thread was talking about games for convention spaces (in this case, PAX Aus 2016) and how a) players want a complete experience in as short a time possible to move onto the next thing, and b) con-floors are so damn loud that often people can't hear each other. So I made a silent game that could be played in a few minutes. Enjoy!

(Image created from pieces at game-icons.net.)
I'll be releasing more small games like this, for free, over the coming months. Expect more weird and (hopefully) wonderful things!

What I've Run

NOTHING! No, seriously, this is getting to be a problem. I haven't had the chance to run any games for a while now. I'm starting to go insane, in fact. Watch this space for more examples of my insanity.

What I can say is that my Curse of Strahd campaign should be starting up again in 2 weeks (right folks?!) and that on December 10th I'm running Sagas of the Icelanders as a one-shot. Thaaaaats about it. Depressing, huh? Things are just very busy at the moment. We're planning on moving house in the next two months, and a few of my projects are ramping up into overdrive (which is good news for those of you who like my work *desperately waves to my one fan*)

Anyway...

What I've Seen

I finished watching Black Mirror at the very start of this week, after a few weeks of watching it. I hadn't seen any before this, so it was three seasons in one go. My honest opinion? It's our generations The Twilight Zone, except that each episode could easily be the news... In maybe a few years time.

(Image from schmoes know.)
Now, I mean everything by that review. I mean it's great, and its influential, and it's important, and challenging, etc. I also mean it's ham fisted as all hell, and in a lot of cases, is pretty predictable (after a while) and pretty gratuitous. Once you get the cadence of the show, everything seems samey (except for one glaring exception, which I won't spoil here). It's also horrendously depressing. Watch it at your own risk, but do watch it, at some point. It's worth it.

Otherwise, I've been watching a lot of RollPlay again. To be honest, after Swan Song and Mirrorshades both ended, and West Marches disappeared into thin air, I lost a lot of interest in RollPlay. The shows that came afterwards didn't grip me as much, and I stopped waiting between weeks for the next episodes... Then RollPlay Blades and Dogs in the Vineyard came up.

(Image from itmejp.)
Whilst Dogs is a one-shot, and therefore I've seen all there is to see (holy hell you should watch it!), Blades is an ongoing campaign. And the cast is amazing. With Geoff, Wheat, Anne, and Zeke, we re-collect my four favourite players in one spot. Add to the John-fucking-Harper, the creator of the game. Yeah, it's incredible. It's no secret how much I love Blades in the Dark, so to see it played every week by great roleplayers is really inspiring (and driving me insane because my next session isn't until JANUARY!)

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: MIGW, GCAP, PAX Aus & Aftermath (Special Edition)

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

However, this is a bit of a special edition... As I mentioned in my last post, it was Melbourne International Games Week over the last two Sundays, so I didn't get a chance to do those two posts. Which means that this This Week is actually covering three whole weeks. Now, I won't go into full detail on everything that happens (and, frankly, there were enough things in this last week alone that I'd rather not write about at the moment - though you can bet I damn well will be talking about it later). What I will mainly be doing is covering MIGW.

Let's jump in!

What I've Played

Whilst it may be strange to hear, but I don't often play many games during MIGW. I spend most of my time talking to people - sometimes whilst playing games, but usually with undivided attention.

However, I did play two gems this year, which I want to talk about. The first was a tiny, one-button prototype from Sky Pirate Studios, who recently got their game Help! I'm Haunted on Steam Greenlight. The prototype was called Tokyo Sword Club, and the rules could be explained in a matter of seconds. Two samurai face off. Tap once to jump back. Tap again to dive forward. Tap a third time to slam your sword down. Kill the other dude. Simple.
(Image from Sky Pirate Studios.)
I saw the Sky Pirates pitch, and present, this game eagerly to dozens of people, who all got it within seconds, and were jumping at the chance to play another round of five straight after. Honestly, I want to buy it now, but they (quite wisely) want to finish up with Help! I'm Haunted before they release Tokyo Sword Club. Which means we need to give them as much support as possible now so they hurry up and release Tokyo Sword Club!
(Image from Flick White.)
The other notable mention was Putty Pals from Harmonious Games. It's a co-op side scrolling puzzle game. Super cute, and super tactile. I actually went back for seconds on this game - playing the demo twice because it was damn good. It's the first title from this ambitious studio in Melbourne, and it's pretty damn fun. I'll be getting it when it comes out, for certain.

What I've Run

I got the chance to run a demo - the first public demo, actually - of Do or Dice at PAX Aus this year. It was pretty great, to be absolutely honest. I think I would have been more nervous about it, if I weren't so exhausted (this was on the Sunday afternoon, with the weight of 6 full days of MIGW behind me).
(Image from me... Sorry about my photography lack-of-skills.)
The players were all receptive, and the rules were taught in part at the beginning, and the rest during play and example. I ran a very simple adventure: meet a crime boss in a tavern, get a map to a dragon's hoard, raid the hoard. But, as players are want to do, they made a massive scene in the tavern talking to the crime boss, and we decided to just focus the entire adventure on getting the map. We had bar fights, boasting, espionage, infidelity, ambushing, magical phenomenon, all sorts of nonsense. We tested just about every part of the MIGW Preview Rules I made especially for the week, and the only negative feedback I got was that the character sheets - the ones I threw together the Friday before - were a little cramped and confusing. Which is great news!
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Expect to see more out of Do or Dice soon. I might even just throw that Preview up here for everyone to download, if there's interest (let me know in the comments if you want it).

What I've Seen

Now for the big part... What I've seen. I saw so much, and learned so much more, that I'm probably going to do an entirely separate post on What I Learned at MIGW 2016, so for now I'll just stick to the ridiculous and amazing.

One of the best things I saw during GCAP was the final keynote from Innes McKindrick, an incredibly inspirational speaker, who's a Programmer on No Man's Sky by Hello Games. Listening to Innes speak was incredibly hopeful, and gave me a good view from the shoulders of my industry's Giants. I feel a lot of what's going to come out of my mind from here on out is going to be fuelled by GCAP, and by Innes in particular (among others, certainly!)
(Image from Lauren Clinnick.)
I was able to see Objects in Space, a retro submarine-sim-IN-SPAAACE at PAX Aus this year, which was amazing! If you don't know anything about Objects in Space, check out the developers at Flat Earth Games. Basically, they build the bridge of a freakin' space ship, brought it over from Sydney, set it up at a booth, and had people flying around space all weekend. The booth was so busy I didn't even get a chance to get into the inner circle and say "Hello!" to the developers properly, which was a shame, but a great sign. People are keen. I am one of them.
(Image from Flat Earth Games.)
I was also able to meet up with a few RPG personalities that inspire me constantly (specifically Steve Dee and Anthony Stiller - both awesome people) as well as a bunch of my local and interstate comrades in arms. Recently I've been thinking that its ridiculous that I don't know more about my fellow RPG Designers in Australia, so I made motions to change that - yes, I set up a Guerrilla Panel (an unsanctioned, totally illegal, underground, edgy-as-all-hell panel on the landing between some of the Lecture Halls at PAX).

The panel was great! We talked about the RPG dev community, and why it's not great now, and how we could make it into something amazing. Things are in motion, and I will discuss them more later... However, if you are an RPG Designer (or want to be) in Australia, let me know now and we can get you in on the ground floor. We want as diverse a crowd as possible, so please please let us know, whoever you are in all your wonderful varied ways!
(Image from warpkey.)
Speaking of diversity - this MIGW was by far the most diverse I've ever seen (in fact, it's by far the most diverse anything I've ever seen). There are still some gaps - we still have an overwhelmingly white community - but things are getting better. Games are for everyone, and games culture has a lot of work to do to prove that. But I met with some amazing people, who I now count as amazing friends, who are doing great things to make it better, and who were willing to share insights into how I can help. I'm not armed with that knowledge, and determined to make it better.

And last, but certainly not least, there was a fantastic panel called Game Development with Sock Puppets. Frankly, what it was, was all in the title. Two great people - whom I'm lucky enough to call my friends - backed by a team of hilarious individuals, set up a small stage with a horde of sock puppets, and enacted a play about game development. The crowd got involved, and I could tell whilst everyone was having a good time, they were also learning about the realities of this craft... Which is a GOD SEND! We need more people to understand that we are human and that we need rest and that what we is difficult and that it doesn't take one week to encode multiplayer. It was a lot of fun, and I believe it was all filmed for Twitch so you can watch it here (the link goes to the whole Game Spot Theatre stream, set just before the puppet show!)
(Image from Amelia Sarif, please excuse the quality!)
That's all for This Week this week. Sorry about the length, but hopefully this is an insight into just how awesome MIGW was. Maybe you should join me, next year?!

I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Forges, Conferences, Blades & Art!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

Smiths of Winterforge, a beautiful and highly strategic board game for 2-5 players went live on Kickstarter this week, and my partner (Amelia Sarif) wrote a review of it. Which means I got to play it! A few times, actually! You play as Dwarven forgemasters attempting to fulfil a royal contract before anyone else. It's pretty awesome, and Australian-made to boot (cheers Table Tyrant Games). Amelia says it a lot better than I could, so go check out her review over on Another Dungeon. And if you like what you see, go back it!
(Image from Table Tyrant Games)

What I've Made

As of Friday I discovered I'm going to GCAP! Wooo! GCAP stands for Game Connect Asia Pacific, the largest conference of its type in my part of the world. This is like our industry meet up, and Academy Awards rolled into one. It's a big deal. This means I'll get to rub shoulders with a lot of amazing people - some who I know by reputation, some who I only know online, and some who I have met before but haven't seen in a long time. It's a place to discuss ideas, and share projects.
(Image from GCAP)
Which means Do or Dice needs to be up to snuff! Whilst I'm not going to be hawking it there, I will be bringing along a copy of the rules - as trimmed down as possible - to share around. This is the first time I'm publicly sharing it, so I'm pretty nervous. But also very excited! After this, I'll be sharing it at PAX Aus as well, and then I might be posting it online... Who knows? Watch this space!
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission)
Whilst I'm trying to get that all sorted, I keep coming up with ideas for bits and settings to add onto Do or Dice. As I've mentioned before, the game is going to be setting-less - like Fate Core - and have several micro settings released for it afterwards. I'm calling these Playspaces for now, and I'm amassing somewhat of a list. Whilst I can't say much, I can tell you that they're weird and (hopefully) wonderful. Imagine Viking post-apocalyptic horror, AI Revolutionaries, and a world were ghosts outnumber the living... They're just three that will be coming!

What I've Run

The second session of my Curse of Strahd campaign occurred this week, and the party learned first hand just how dangerous the land of Barovia is. I'll be posting another write up, like last time, this week coming. Look forward to some horror goodness, and lots of angry shadows!
(Image from Wizards)
I also got to (finally) run another session of my Blades in the Dark campaign! Last time round we ended early because we just weren't getting it. This time round, we all made sure to read the Player's and GM's Best Practices, and get into the mood proper. It marked our 4th session, and we picked up where we left off with a little straightening and retconning.
(Image from John Harper)
And we nailed it! It was a lot more Blades and a lot more fun. Of any game I've ever played, Blades is one where I feel you can actually play it wrongly... Which is a great thing - because it means that right way to play is well crafted and delivers a stronger experience. Whilst I haven't started watching it yet, there is an example campaign of Blades in the Dark going on over on YouTube, which you can check out if you want to know what all the fuss is about.

Trust me, the game is amazing, and you should check it out if you can!

What I've Seen

Speaking of Blades in the Dark, I found this gallery which has some amazing Blades-like images in its depths. I'll be using many of these for character reference for my players, and I'm loathe not to share them. Even if they aren't relevant for your games, they're just amazing, so you should check them out anyway.
(Image from Zhang Jingna)
The gallery is called Motherland Chronicles by Zhang Jingna. Please beware that it might be NSFW. I wish I didn't have to disclaimer that, but thems the times we live in, right?

And because I can't get the damned thing out of my head, I better mention Porter Robinson and Madeon's new release, Shelter. It's a chillingly awesome track, with an amazing video to go along side it. It takes 6 minutes. Watch it...
(Image from OMOCAT)
Trust me, it'll inform a few of my future projects, if you know what it's all about!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Stardew, Do or Dice & Too Many Campaigns!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I've gotten back into Stardew Valley. I'm not really sure why I stopped playing, to be honest, but I never finished it. I decided to start again, from scratch, and using the new starting farms (I went with the forest setting). I'm focusing on fishing, and I'm instantly transported back to how relaxing that game is. More so than Minecraft, I feel myself just in a state of Zen when I play it!
(Image from GOG.)

What I've Made

My Ameshirel: A World Reforged snippets continue to go smoothly, and I'm getting some great questions and feedback on them. I'm really excited to keep sharing information about the world with everyone, and I will continue to release out more snippets. One thing, however, is many people I've spoken to are unaware of the other snippets I've released... So I thought I would just post them all again as links here, and will continue to do this as more are added for ease of reference and finding them.
  1. On the Nature of Dwarves,
  2. On the Nature of Orcs,
  3. On the Nature of Elves.

I'll probably be posting about Humans next, and discussing a little bit more about the concept of a Scofflaw, which is central to the setting (at least, that which faces the players).
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Speaking of which, Do or Dice, the system I am writing to go along with Ameshirel: A World Reforged, is coming along nicely! Recently spurred on by a discussion from Vincent Baker about concentric game design, I've been thinking about the rules in a different and more interesting way, and I think it might be getting close to sharing time. I'm not sure how yet that will work - whether I will do a closed ALPHA, or if I'll just post it here and see what comes back in... Needless to say, I'll keep everyone in the loop about it!

What I've Run

...lots, to be honest. Firstly, I started a campaign of Curse of Strahd which I mentioned last week. We had our first session, with a modified werewolf starting hook, leading into Death House (which hasn't happened yet, so players of mine don't click that link). I'll be posting a full write-up of this first session later this coming week, but needless to say it was pretty spoopy. Perhaps 2 spoopy.
(Image from The Githyanki Diaspora)
Then, on Saturday I ran the first public playtest of Blackpowder & Bloodlines! It's the first time I've had LARP rules I've written be shown to the public and played - and, to be honest, torn apart. It was great to see in action, and everyone enjoyed themselves. We gained a hell of a lot of data, and the game is going to be much better for it. We just need to figure out exactly how much (or how little) of this game will be a battle game!

Lastly, earlier today, I ran the first session of a silly little RPG I wrote called Slugball, Sorcery & Secrets. I've spoken of it before, but it's a game about wizards in high school who are forced to do extra curricular sports - slugball - on weekends. Oh, and they solve crimes in a very Scooby Doo meets Buffy meets Harry Potter way. As I said, the premise is weird... And frankly, the gameplay was weird too. The test answered a lot of questions, but gave rise to a hell of a lot more. But it was a lot of fun! Everyone enjoyed it, and had a great amount of feedback to give. I'll be working on version 2 of it soon, and once I test that (and if it performs better) I'll be releasing it!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Aesthetics, Funding, Vampires, and Kobolds!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Made

Well, as you can probably see (unless you're on mobile, in which case, not yet) there has been a significant visual overhaul of versamus! This is being done for several reasons: to celebrate reaching 50,000 views, to homogenise my online presence, and to give my mailing list somewhere to go (sadly, the old layout I was using was very limited in add-ons).
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
I'm going to be doing some work with a few artist friends of mine to make everything even better - getting a new favicon, maybe a logo, who knows? But this whole process has resulted in me re-learning CSS which is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing in that I can once more do this sort of thing, and curse in that I'm now spending too much time doing this sort of thing...

Anyway, as I mentioned, I have now set up a mailing list! The mailing list at present will send you out a copy of each article posted, in case you missed it being posted, and will later send out some extra goodies... But more on that later!
(Image from Blackpowder & Bloodlines.)
This week also saw the IndieGoGo for Blackpowder & Bloodlines, the LARP I've been writing with an amazing team of friends, hit 100% funding! That means our basic plans are all going to go ahead, full steam. We still have a lot more we want to do, so if you like late- / post-Renaissance Age-of-Sail LARP, and you're in or around Melbourne, check us out!

To build upon this, on Friday night the team got together and did a whisky and rules session. Basically, we drank a lot, and argued well into the morning of the next day. We made some amazing progress, and I had more fun than I have in a long time. Hopefully, in the near future, I can show you what we've done.

What I've Run

Whilst I haven't run it yet, this evening I will be doing a character creation and "session #0" for a new Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition campaign: the Curse of Strahd. I wasn't planning on running more D&D yet, or perhaps ever, after Ameshirel: A World Undone, but the lack of GMing was getting to me... So I started this up with some very enthusiastic players!
(Image from Wizards of the Coast.)
I intend to share what we do, and how it goes via a Trello that I will set up. I'll keep you all posted on how that goes.

What I've Seen

A colleague of mine at EA Firemonkeys (click the link to check out our awesome new office!) lent me a print copy of the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, so I've been getting stuck into it. If you're unfamiliar with Kobold Press's Guide to series, you should really check them out. Each one is filled with essays and articles by some pretty big names in game design, roleplaying games, and writing in general. My personal favourite is the Guide to Worldbuilding, which is a frequently used tome on my digital shelf.
(Image from Kobold Press. Just look at this cute little guy...)
Whilst I'm not really in the habit of making board games, the lessons taught in the Guide to Board Game Design are widely applicable, and I'll be using much of that advice as I ramp up design on Do or Dice!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Do or Dice, Updates, & Icelanders!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

This week's This Week marks the 5th edition of this particular series, and I have to say thus far it's been going swimmingly! I'm enjoying the drive to write each week, and I'm finding it demanding enough that I an encouraged to do it, but not so difficult that it's a chore. What's more, I'm finding myself writing the posts well in advance, and adding to them as the week goes on (for instance, I wrote this little bit on the 26th!)

Feedback has also been very positive! People have enjoyed hearing how things are progressing, and the follow-up nature of the posts.

Sadly, this week I've been quite busy! I haven't had much time to play, or make games, so it's a little light. Anyway, let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Made

As you may have seen already, I posted up the first "snippet" for a future release of mine. I've been writing a roleplaying game system for some time now, called Do or Dice which I intend to release in the new year (though specifics are somewhat up in the air). The system is "generic-ish" - like Fate Core, it can be used to model many things, but they all have a central tone. In this case, imagine if Moldvay/BECMI-style Dungeons & Dragons was revived but built using bits of Fate Core, Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark).
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
I want to release a default setting for the game, so that you can pick it up and play without having to do some serious world building first. I might even end up releasing multiple settings for it, who knows? But the first of them will be Ameshirel: A World Reforged. This setting is going to be teased more and more with snippets like this week's over the coming months (I'm aiming at one snippet a week). I really hope you enjoy them!

Work also goes full steam ahead on Slugball, Sorcery & Secrets! which should be ready for release soon. It's going to be free, and (I hope) a lot of fun! Watch this space for more news on that front. If you don't know what SSS is, it's a silly little game I wrote because no other system perfectly captured what I wanted - which was teenage wizards in a Warhammer/Discworld-like setting solving crimes between classes, and playing in a weekly "wizard" sports league... So, it's basically Harry Potter meets Discworld meets weekend Rugby... Just go with it, ok?!

What I've Heard

Finally, I'm getting ready to run a game of Sagas of the Icelanders in a month or so, so I am going through the rulebook with a fine-toothed comb. This will be the first time I've ever run the game, and I intend it to be something of a weekend - we'll start on a Friday afternoon, and go through to Saturday. I'm intending to light a bonfire, cook some of the recipes in the book and serve them, maybe even encourage a bit of Nordic dress-up.
(Image from Worm Gear)
I'm also intending to play some music, which leads me to Vàli - a Norwegian Neofolk artist who makes amazing acoustic pieces that just perfectly fit with the game. They have two albums released: Forlatt and Skogslandskap - both of which beautiful to listen to. I encourage you to listen, and then purchase them both!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Warlocks, Slugballs, & Foreshadowing!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

A long time ago, in 1982, a book was published called The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. It was the first of a series called Fighting Fantasy, which were amazing gamebooks (like single-player roleplaying/choose-your-own-adventure games) that transported many people to the lands of Legend. For a young Ben Scerri, they were my first proper foray into a fantasy world, and from them I was hooked. (I also managed to pick up an original copy about a year ago, which I am still chuffed about...)
(Image from Gamebooks.org)
In 2016, an Australian games studio released The Warlock of Firetop Mountain as a video game, but replete with a working over. There's new content, characters, mechanics and stunning graphics done to look like miniatures on a gameboard. I began playing to this week, after my partner Kickstarter'd it for me as my 2015 birthday present. Just like the original, I was, and am, hooked! I'll be playing it more as I get the time, but you should all check it out. This isn't a review, but if you want to see how they took a gaming classic and revived it to be innovative and relevant to the modern day, then you'll be hard pressed to find a better game!
(Image from Tin Man Games)

What I've Made

Lots! This past week I've been making a roleplaying game system called Slugball, Sorcery & Secrets! which aims to model silly Discworld-esque Apprentice Wizards from various Colleges of Magic whilst they solve crimes, meddle in the affairs of their betters, deal with teenage angst, pass their exams, and ultimately play a Rugby-like magical game called "Slugball"! I was originally going to use Bubblegumshoe for this, but I found the system didn't really capture all the things I wanted it to.
(Image: Wizard stock art from Slugball, Sorcery & Secrets! from William McAusland)
So instead, spurred on my an inability to sleep, I hacked Apocalypse World and Ars Magica together to make this weird mini-game. I aim to run it for my regular group some time in the future (soon), and to publish it for free here.

I've also been working on some various LARP things, which I hope to tell you more about soon, but are at present secrets...

Speaking of LARP, though, our IndieGoGo for Blackpowder & Bloodlines is going along swimmingly! As of this writing, it's at 83%. We're doing amazingly well, thanks to all the support thus far, but we need just a little more to get us to our goal. If you live in Melbourne and want to interact with an amazing new LARP game, please check it out. Otherwise, if you just want to support people doing some pretty innovative things in gaming, please pop over to hear the better-written spiel!
(Image from Blackpower & Bloodlines)
That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Parahumans, Blackpowder, & Narcos!

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I got the chance (finally, after a million scheduling conflicts) to play in a friend's Parahumans one-shot, based on the web-comic Worm and using the Wild Talents 2nd Edition rules. For those of you unfamiliar (which I was) it's a superhero setting with registered heroes and villains. It was my first time being exposed to this particular setting and system, so it was quite an interesting experience. It's also the first time in a while where I've just played an RPG, instead of being involved behind the screen in some capacity.

(Image from NeoWorm)
The session was a heist - braking into a covert vault underneath a cafe - but it quickly became complicated. As it always does. We fought other Supers, did some sweet safe-cracking, and eventually caused, or at least coincidentally witnessed, a horrendous apocalypse from a giant Kaiju-like destroyer of worlds. The story line was great, run by a friend of mine and fellow GM Laith. The system was a bit confusing and felt like it wasn't well achieving what it was trying to do. Next time I think it would do better using Masks or maybe City of Mist when it comes out properly.

What I've Made

Whilst I didn't make it this week, a LARP project I've been working on for a while now went public with its first teaser event. Say hello to Blackpowder & Bloodlines, an intense and innovative LARP being run in Melbourne, Victoria in 2017. I've been working on the rule system for it, and I'm incredibly excited about it. I can't say much yet, beyond what's listed at the website.

(Image from Blackpower & Bloodlines)
To fund it, we've set up an IndieGoGo campaign, so if it sounds like something you'd be interested in, please check it out!

What I've Seen

Narcos! I've been getting into this Netflix series pretty heavily recently, and finished season 1 last Sunday, and have been watching season 2 this week. I'm not sure what it is about Netflix series, but they keep consistently knocking it out of the park for me. In the last few months I've watched Stranger ThingsOrange is the New Black, The Get Down, and now Narcos, and each one has been amazing. There have been a few blunders from Netflix that I've also watched and regretted, such as Hemlock Grove, Between, and The Returned, but I guess they can't all be winners.

(Image from BreatheCast)
However, the one trait I can see between all of the series that I do love is that they're telling stories that no one else is from new perspectives:

  • Stranger Things gives us a few female protagonists who are absolutely bad ass - between 011, Joyce, and Nancy, I seriously don't want to mess with any of them. 
  • Orange is the New Black is giving us a look inside a topic people don't really want to talk about - that prisoners are just people (and in most situations in the TV show, they're more human than those outside). 
  • The Get Down I fell in love with immediately, and it gave me a deeper appreciation for a culture and time period I know little about (being born neither in that time period, the same country, nor anything similar to the same culture). I got a little window into that - a window that's usually ignored. 
  • And finally Narcos gives us a view into something we're also often afraid to face - just why people fall in love with monsters... Seriously, if you need inspiration for how to build a sympathetic bad guy, or to give answers to the question "why would anyone follow the villain?" you need look no further! 

I might continue my What I Learned... series (1, 2) with these titles - as each and every one has taught me a hell of a lot about games. And I may as well continue it with Netflix as my focus, like the last two times!

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Rebels, Tendrils, Divinity, and Dungeons!

Welcome to This Week, a new weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's jump in with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I've begun playing Rebel Galaxy on the urging of a friend at work, and I have to say: I couldn't be happier with this purchase. It's a space-faring game about mercenary work, merchant trading, pirating, and awesome real-time space battles. It's not too expensive on Steam, if you have the cash to spare - and I encourage you to if you do!

(From thisisXBOX)
Best of all, it's got an amazing sound track that really puts me in the mood to run or play in a Firefly roleplaying game... Maybe more on that later?

What I've Made

In preparation for the final session of Ameshirel: A World Undone (my 2-year Dungeons & Dragons 5th campaign that I talk a bit more about below) I wanted to get some minis together to represent the big bag dude - that being Dominion, the creator of our universe which is an amorphous, transcendent Overgod. Otherwise known as the "Black Morass". Part of its shtick is to send out thought tendrils with which to dominate and destroy...

Sad thing is, I couldn't find medium-sized tendril/tentacle minis that really captured the concept of star-stuff made into the darkness between stars. Funny, huh? No one makes minis that look like nebula tendrils. So I did. A box of green stuff, some basing sand, black paint, dry brushed coats of dark red and purple, then blue ink, then bright purple, then varnish mixed with pink. I'd say they worked out pretty well, right?

(From my terrible camera - sorry.)

What I've Run

Speaking of which, on Friday-night and Saturday-day I ran said final session of Ameshirel: A World Undone. The PCs climbed to the peak of the Temple of the Four (based on Dyson's amazing map), journeyed through its world bending halls to uncover the final secrets of existence, and in the end faced off with Dominion. The PCs became Gods themselves, and through their actions drastically changed the cosmos forever. Now they're its guardians...

(From Amelia Serif, at our table. Apparently I'm casting magic, in this photo. I also tend to GM standing, for some reason.)
And they loved it! We had an amazing and emotional final session, followed by a great debriefing where the players asked me questions that never got resolved, and I asked them how they'd reshape the world around them with their new powers. This is all leading up to a new game I'm intending to run called Ameshirel: A World Reforged set centuries later, and explores how the world has changed for better and worse. I'll be writing more about that soon, so keep an eye out.

Now I'll leave that topic with some artwork made by one of my players - Flick - of her character Noam Chopsky, a Gnome Barbarian, riding her Allosaurus mount "Chomper". She ascended to godhood taking the mantle of the Dragon-God of Victory Clarion, Ever Burning, but instead taking the godly name "The Raging Flame".

(From Felicity, an awesome artist who always seems to LOVE the colour red!)

What I've Seen

I've also had occasion (perhaps too late for Ameshirel: A World Undone, but not too late for Curse of Strahd) one of my players as a parting gift for the campaign bought me the Dungeon Master's Guide! I've never had much use for the book, or books like it, but it's nice to have to complete the set. The sentiment behind it is also definitely appreciated...

(From Wizards.)
Lastly, I discovered, this week the blog Trilemma through my browsing on Google+, brought to my attention by +John Harper. The blog is run by +Michael Prescott and is filled with some amazing content. Most recently, a series of videos on isometric mapping, but previously (and frankly, my favourite) are a stream of 1- and 2-page dungeons! They're posted for free, but if you want to (and you most certainly should) you can support him on Patreon. It's well worth it!

The dungeons are almost perfect right out of the box for a lot of games, and specifically (and coincidentally) for Ameshirel: A World Reforged (so I advise my players not to look closely at any of them). Otherwise, the way they're laid out, it's very easy to print them out and take scissors to them, rearrange from a selection of them, and then fill in the gaps yourself. I've begun doing this with a few that don't quite fit my vision of the campaign, and it's been a blast already.

That's all for This Week this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

This Week: Prisons, Endings, NPCs, and Two Strings

Welcome to This Week, a new weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week.

Let's just get on with what I've done This Week...

What I've Played

I've been diving back into Prison Architect (which is currently 75% off on Steam, by the way!) It just received its final update, so it's now "done". I've also started watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, so it's a nice companion to the gaming. The strategy elements, and the way the game (and show) make you think about an otherwise out of sight, out of mind topic really breeds good RPG fodder to me.

It's especially made me want to run a prison-related game, and I've been looking at Behind the Walls for Fate Core. You should check it out too, as it's PWYW!
(Image: PCGamer)

What I've Made

Sadly I haven't had a chance to run anything this week, as I've been focusing on planning. That is, planning the final session of Ameshirel: A World Undone - a 2-year long campaign homebrew campaign using Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. This marks the 75th and final session, and will see our heroes make the final decisions between life and death for a universe, and their ascension to Godhood... If all goes well, that is.

This final session has had me reviewing all my old notes, and tying up loose ends. It's made me think about where this campaign started, and where I thought it would end (spoiler: no where near where it's ended up!)

It's also made me start thinking (really thinking) where I'm going next. I've got a few irons in the fire, with the intention to run Curse of Strahd some time soon, and continuing my Blades in the Dark campaign. Maybe I'll revive my dead-in-the-water Dark Heresy game, Verum Arbitus... But mostly I've been thinking about what's going to happen next for Ameshirel, and I've started writing serious notes for the next instalment: A World Reforged. I'll probably be seeding more info about this game in the following weeks, after I run the final session next Friday-to-Saturday. As a little teaser, it's going to be the flagship testing campaign for a system I've been developing called Do or Dice, which mixes a bit of Fate, a bit of Blades and a bit of Apocalypse World into my dream for a fantasy RPG.

What I've Seen

Over on Google+, I was shown an awesome article about "Marm" Mandelbaum, "The Queen of Fences" - one of the first crime bosses of New York. She's pretty much, straight out-of-the-box perfect content for any non-modern urban campaign, but specifically for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or Blades in the Dark.

Everything from the name, to her deeds, just screams perfect NPC. Check out the article, to see what I mean. I'm going to be putting her into my Blades in the Dark campaign - perhaps mixing her into an NPC that already exists, or making a whole new one, and I'm sure you'll be able to find a way to use her in your own.
(Image: Library of Congress)
Finally, the greatest thing I've done this week is see Kubo and the Two Strings in the cinema! If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading this and book a ticket. It is well worth it. I may write an entire article on what it can teach you about storytelling, but if I don't, know this: it can teach you heaps... So go see it.

More specifically, it can teach you better ways to introduce new characters to a party, better ways to think about what makes a character, and interesting ideas for non-combat related conflict resolution. It also has a very interesting magic system woven into it. Frankly, I'll likely end up running a game set in that world using Fate Accelerated, if I get the chance.
(Image: Geeks of Doom)
That's all for This Week, this week. I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible!