Ensign Expendable

I'm going to need a team of Templars ready to mobilise, street level maps of all of Denerim, a pot of coffee, twelve Jammie Dodgers and a fez


A Few Random Thoughts

Posted by Ensign Expendable

There's an exciting new open play test going on. I'm sure you've heard about it. You can find the play test document here.

That's right, Dragon Age RPG Set 3 is on it's way. I'm still not finished exploring the lower levels so am probably not going to be able to contribute much to the play test but it's exciting none the less.

Another new product that you can get free documents to help you try it out is Leviathans by Catalyst Game Labs. It's apparently going to be ready for release as a box set 'any month now'. It looks pretty cool and has evocative fiction that goes with it. Fans of Battletech will feel at home with the rules. You just have to hope that it doesn't become a competitor to Battletech rather than bringing in new players of tactical wargames. I don't think there's much of a market to share around and you would hate to see a dilution of a brand. read on...


Attitudes of Soldiers in your Campaign

Posted by Ensign Expendable

I've never served in the military, neither in my native country England nor my adopted country Australia. However I do run role playing games that contain worlds with soldiers in them. I play those soldiers to the best of my ability without really knowing how they think or feel. Sure, I can look at the characterization of service people in the movies but I have no idea how one movie character or another compares to real people who have seen action in the military.

So when trying to get ideas for how to characterize a military NPC I searched around for a bit of inspiration and found that there is a new research paper from the Pew Research Center that takes a look at the attitudes and challenges of American veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It gives some simple statistics that, while interesting on their own, can give some inspiration for military characters. I'll present a few of my ideas to start you off from a few of the statistics there. I'm using the same subset that was presented in the freakanomics.com blog post where I first found about the paper. read on...

Tagged as: , , 3 Comments

Play a New RPG Quarter

Posted by Ensign Expendable

The guys at Dice of Doom  have been promoting October as Play a New RPG Month. A whole month where you put aside your regular game and not only try a new RPG, but also have someone else be the GM for that month. The idea is that you don't just play a game for one session but you stick with it for the month.

This came at a convenient time for me. My D&D game came to a satisfying conclusion a few weeks ago and we're just about to finish the season of Traveller to switch to Pathfinder in my other group. Now is a good time for PANRPG month. In fact my D&D player and I were intending on trying a few one shots of different games over the next few months as he is often too busy to play recently (he's expecting a new baby, yay). However, seeing that I've been getting excited over lots of different systems and settings recently we're not going to do it as intended. For one, we are not going to just play one new RPG, and two, we are going to spread it over three months. read on...


Skill System in Mongoose Traveller RPG

Posted by Ensign Expendable

It seems like every one and their dog are writing about skills in D&D since Monte Cook started talking about them in his new Legends and Law column at the WotC web site. There's been lots of talk on twitter about it too. If you want to know people's thoughts on the future of D&D skills then some of the blogs I link to on the right are likely to have a thing or two to say about it. All the chatter has made me pretty much shut off from talk about the future of D&D, I'm way past the point where the speculation is interesting and I want to look to different things until it all blows over (luckily it's Play a New RPG Month soon so it's easy to do that). However it has got me thinking about skill systems in other games and how I feel about them. So I'm going to talk a little about one of them and see how they compare. read on...


Using Maptool for the Basics

Posted by Ensign Expendable


Map from my campaign. The party mopped them up.

Recently I mentioned in my previous post that when DMing a one on one game of Dungeons and Dragons 4e over Skype I use Maptool from www.rptools.net as a pretty basic digital battlemat during combat. Seeing that I've heard some people talk about Maptool as if it's only great if you have a lot of time to prepare and learn all of it's features I figured that it was worth writing about how I use it to try to dispel those myths.

Maptool is virtual tabletop software that allows you to display a map and put objects and tokens on the map to represent a combat encounter area in an RPG. It replaces the battlemat and miniatures that you might use in D&D and puts them on a computer screen. It's useful for playing over the internet because players or extra DMs can connect to a central Maptool server and share the play space, including having limited control over it. read on...

Tagged as: , , 6 Comments

Game Day Menu

Posted by Ensign Expendable

Image courtesy of floodllama on flickr, used under Creative Commons License.

I have been thinking about food at the game table. Recently in one of my gaming groups two of us have been taking it in turns to host the game night and we've been having different types of food on our respective nights. He's a really good cook and has been doing ribs and chicken wings while I've been largely sticking to either traditional chips and dips or serving oven baked snacks or most recently antipasto with crackers and bread. This has all been working fine and I'm not complaining but after hearing game food mentioned on a podcast today (the Dungeon Master Guys since you asked, search iTunes for it) I've been thinking about game night food and maybe trying to shake it up a bit.

Now I'm all for pizza, chips, dip and soft drink so I'm not thinking that I'll be dropping those. I'm just thinking of experimenting with a few different things to see if they work. read on...

Tagged as: , 17 Comments

Opinions on Gen Con News

Posted by Ensign Expendable

First let me say that I didn't go to Gen Con, I've never been to Gen Con. Google tells me that it's 11,110.9 miles away from where I live so I'm unlikely to make it in the near future. However I'm interested in it for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's heartwarming to hear how people are enjoying themselves, so I was watching twitter over the weekend. The second is that it's a big time for announcements about products that we should expect to see in the next year. Also people were talking about Gen Con twenty years ago when I first started getting in to RPGs and they are still talking about it now. That's a good thing (despite the ups and downs that the con may have had over the years). It still holds a little nostalgic place in my heart like TSR and THAC0 but is still actively being supported.

So having not been there I'm not the person to ask about what the product announcements were, and how cool the people doing the announcements were. I also haven't seen any of the products I'm talking about. There are plenty of places to get that information. Here's a good one for the WotC seminar. I caught the live tweets of those guys to get the announcements live. They also won an Ennie for their blog.

What I'm going to say here is what my thoughts are on some of the announcements. read on...

Tagged as: , , , 5 Comments

Tomb of Horrors in Space?

Posted by Ensign Expendable

I mentioned a while ago that I was thinking of putting together a session of Traveller based on the old Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors. I thought that it would be fun to mix it up a bit and do a sci-fi dungeon crawl, and it was. Now this post will contain a few spoilers for anyone who isn't familiar with the Tomb of Horrors should be wary. It is available updated to 3rd and 4th Edition D&D so you might find yourself playing it one day.

To convert the module I had a look through and decided that I only wanted to use the first half of the Tomb. There were a few reasons for this. The first was that I only wanted this adventure to last one evening. These guys are space farers, they don't want to be stuck in a dark underground ancient tomb for very long without good reason. The second was that Traveller characters are fairly squishy and the traps and combats become pretty deadly in the second half of the Tomb of Horrors. You can't just find a cleric that's willing to raise your dead crew mates. They are dead and it's back to character creation and a session to introduce the new character into the story.

Next I had a think about how to handle the magic. This is science fiction, there is no magic unless you include psionics so everything had to be technological. This limited some things and a few had to go. I kept one of the teleporters though. The fact that there isn't any teleportation technology in my galaxy made this significant. read on...


Mixing Genres

Posted by Ensign Expendable

When you get a group together to start playing a role playing game then one of the first decisions to make (maybe even before you start inviting people to play) is what game you are going to play. A part of deciding what game you are going to play is deciding what genre you wish to play in. Do you want to play a swords and sorcery style fantasy game? A sci-fi game with cool tech? Post Apocalyptic survival? Horror? Western? There are plenty of games to satisfy all of these genres and more. So you pick one, start rolling up characters and the GM creates or obtains a world(s) for you to play in and you start adventuring. You're playing a game in the chosen genre. Or are you? Your starship lands at what should be a busy starport but there is nobody manning it or in the surrounding town. Your party finishes killing a band of orcs to find their carts are powered by steam. You track down the Cthulhu cultist to find that she's dealing with some 'Greys' to purchase alien (but not *THAT* alien) tech.

Mixing genres together isn't new. Films and TV shows have been doing it for ever and there are entire RPGs that are seemingly based on it [1]. It certainly seems like a science fiction series can't go on for too long without an attempt at a horror episode (I seem to remember a Stargate:Atlantis one going terribly). It's also not unusual to find this in RPGs. D&D has had ghosts and vampires at (or very near) it's core since the beginning of RPG time, and i remember the first Ravenloft boxed set (though not the original module). Star Wars has always had a lot of magic as well as technology. Westerns could have steampunk right around the next corner. It's not unusual to cross genres in RPGs but it's a technique that's sometimes not used enough.

Other times it's used too much, or very badly and ruins a perfectly good setting. read on...

Tagged as: , 2 Comments