Friday, 16 March 2018

A 'Dune' roleplaying game

Image result for dune first editionIn my last blog entry I discussed my love of the Dune universe and the fact that I have never been able to run a game with that same sense of intrigue and mysticism. I thought I'd expand on those thoughts a little more and try to make sense of why that is. Bear with me; this is probably more for my own edification than anything else.

I have never owned an official Dune roleplaying game, namely 'Chronicles of the Imperium', so I have never seen an official interpretation of the science fiction and religious elements of Herbert's book in practice. That's a shame in many respects as if I had seen the game I may have had a better understanding of what it was I wanted to do with a Dune game, where I wanted it to go and what kind of story I wanted to tell. However, I couldn't find a gaming group to play that kind of game with. My group was casual and enjoyed having fun with the games - as did I - and even though I tried to surreptitiously sneak games with these grand ideas into the mix they never took off.

I used to think it was a decent game system I required. After all, it was easy for me to have grand ideas of star-spanning adventures, intricate plots and intrigue between the great Houses of the Landsraad, and soul-tearing tales of religious passion and persecution. Would I have run the game on Arrakis, and have the players members of the Fremen, or House Atreides, or even spies for the Harkonnen or the Padishah Emperor? Maybe they could have been simple traders, or smugglers, or perhaps I could have designed a lesser House for them to represent? The scope of Dune is huge and there's plenty that could be done, so all I needed was a game system that could reflect that.

I should mention that my desire to run a Dune game only included the first three books by Frank Herbert, and elements of the universe he created in the following books. I've only read the first two of the Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson books but never continued. I imagine that there is plenty more material to choose from in their books, but they are beyond the scope of what I wanted to do.

At first I went with my standard science fiction options, namely 'Traveler' and 'Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game' (WEG 1st Edition). These are two great games - the Star Wars D6 system being my favourite - and quite easy to create a campaign around. In fact, with a little tweaking the psionics and the Force rules could be modified into something that would suit the Dune universe, and the effects of the Spice could be interpreted by the rules. But, to me, Dune felt more like a science fantasy story, based as it was on feudal houses and mystical prophecies.

So, I looked at standard fantasy systems, mainly 'D&D' and 'Runequest'. I also looked at 'Starfinder', but to be honest the standard 'Pathfinder' game seemed more suited to the setting with some elements of Starfinder included. I came to the conclusion that starship rules weren't really a necessity as space battles weren't the order of the day in the Dune series. D&D was a default option - it was the game that my group played the most - but the leveling put me off as I wanted the players to concentrate on the story and not what their characters could get out of it and how they could improve, which is something that I feel D&D focuses on. With Runequest I found that I had better luck with 'Cthulhu: Dark Ages', what I see as a kind of Runequest-lite. It was quick and easy, and with a little modding I could bring in modern weapons from normal 'Call of Cthulhu' to reflect the weapons in Dune. Pathfinder is good, but I'm moving beyond rules complexity these days and it had the same problems as D&D.

I had choices as far as system was concerned, but I came to the conclusion that no matter how perfect the system was or how well I could adapt it to suit Dune, the real challenge was convincing a gaming group to sit down and play an epic game of intrigue and otherworldly powers.

And that was the real problem, I think. I couldn't force the players into spending their time focusing on a world that they may not have felt the same way about. The general feeling at the table was all about having fun and partaking in crazy adventures, and to ask them to reset their gaming habits to a more serious tone was a bit of an ask. I did try through other games to include a sense of seriousness and drama to test the waters, but inevitably the games reset to the fun factor. My attempts to find a group who were willing to play a Dune game the way I would have liked it to be played were fruitless.

So, I moved on to games that emulated the ideas of Dune but were not Dune; perhaps my players would play a game where they could still have fun but also allow me to introduce these elements into the game to satisfy my own needs?

Firstly, I attempted to create my own game. 'Spirit' was a game set in the League of Seven, seven star systems ruled by the Kerraph Empress Thane Cherin, and was set hundreds of years after a devastating civil war that tore the League apart. Hundreds of other star systems had moved on and created their own civilizations and empires, and the drive of the game was that the League was trying to bring them back into the fold with the promise of advanced technology and, if necessary, violence in the name of their Kerraph Empress, who was descended from a deified person who first created the Clans and the League... oh, I could go on for ages about that. I wrote it up and put it out there for people to play, but it wasn't complete or polished and it was more of a tester to see what people thought.

It never saw much play; I ran a few games using my systems, a D12 system that wasn't great and my own SKETCH system, but I ultimately settled for the D6 system. The games were fine, the feedback was good, but it didn't hit the mark.

So, I decided to read another game of the ilk and that was 'Fading Suns', which is right now being developed by Ulisses North America. It was excellent, the game system was usable and the setting was very close to what I was looking for, with Houses and a pseudo-Medieval culture. Sadly, I never got to play it.

Now I have 'Coriolis: The Third Horizon', but I won't repeat myself here. I talked about that in my last blog post.

So... what did I take away from all of this?

Well, for a start I think I approached the difficulty of running a Dune game the same way I did when I was trying to run Middle-earth games, which I talked about here. I was somewhat elitist in my view on how a Dune game should be played and was most likely rather limiting on options; because I had a definitive vision of what the game should be I didn't take the player's views into account. They may not have been interested in the deeper philosophical elements of the game, but they may have played it with a sense of melodrama that I would have no doubt enjoyed. It's that meeting half-way thing I think I struggled with, the point between getting really involved in a game and simply enjoying it for what it is.

System-wise, I don't think it really bothered me as long as we had a system to use. I don't think I would have enjoyed a crunchy system with hundreds of options as that can sometimes detract from the purpose of the game, but a system that was too light wouldn't have given the PCs much individuality, and detailed characters are something that a Dune game cries out for. I think that's why the D6 system would have worked for me, it's an easy intuitive system with enough detail to have really unique characters.

Actually playing in the Dune setting? Now that I look back on it, I'm not so sure it would have worked as well as I would have wanted. It may have been fun for a few games, but the overarching metaplot of the Houses and CHOAM and the Fremen... the players would have felt that they were playing second fiddle to a much bigger story, and as the fate of the human race had already been decided thanks to Leto II they may have felt that their actions were pointless, with much bigger things hanging over their heads. I get that, and it didn't need to be the case, but once again the vast scale of the setting - and it's fame - would have overshadowed things.

So that just leaves me with 'Dune-but-not-Dune'. I think this is going to be the best way to go. My own 'Spirit' game is always an option but it requires a huge rewrite and a better game system, but it means that the players can do things that will affect the overall story arc which is a much better experience for everybody. If I do use this I'll most likely use the D6 system, primarily the 'Mini Six' system from AntiPaladin 'games.

'Fading Suns' is an excellent choice and I liked the original game, but if I go down this route I'll wait for the new edition from Ulisses North America.

'Coriolis: The Third Horizon' is the game that set me off on this whole thing anyway, the game reminded me of what it was I wanted to do with a Dune-esque setting because of the ethereal Middle Eastern influences on the game setting, which is something I felt was present in Dune. Of all the options I think this will be the one that I end up pursuing as the mystical, intrigue and adventure elements are all there, so it truly is a game that will allow me to meet my players in the middle.

Alternatively, I could keep searching for a group who are as invested in the Dune world as I am. I'm no expert on Dune - far from it - but I feel I would get a lot from running a game such as that. It was what made my Star Wars games of the 1980s/1990s so successful; the entire group were already huge Star Wars fans so their passion for it came out in the games. That's something I'd love to replicate with this.

If you've made it this far then thanks for sticking with me. I think this was more to help me make sense of what I wanted from a Dune game in my head, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Coriolis - The Third Horizon

Image result for coriolis the third horizonNow, this product will get a proper full-on review in the near future, but I felt I needed to share a few things about how this game from Free League Publishing has managed to not only punch me in the face and shout 'LOOK AT ME, I'M BEAUTIFUL!', it's made me think about a level of gaming that I haven't thought about for years.

I'm a huge fan of Dune, Frank Herbert's sprawling epic of feuding worlds, mysticism and cult worship that hasn't been equaled, in my opinion. What always struck me about the story, and this is something I loved about the first three books in the series, was the effect that religion and blind devotion had on some of the characters, not because they had faith in Paul's abilities but the fact that these abilities were demonstrable and therefore quantifiable, giving an entire new level of passion in the beliefs of his followers. It's why I always found the jihad in the books terrifying, not because they were devoted to Muad'Dib and believed in his powers, but because they were actually justified in their beliefs because it was all real. I'm not saying they were right in their crusade - far from it - just that they kind of had a point.

Such was the impact that this had on me as a young man it stayed with me for a very long time. In fact, with the absence of a Dune RPG I could actually get my hands on I tried to emulate it with different systems, or at least find a game that had the same kind of approach. I tried a few different systems and games (quick plug, I had some success with 'Stellar Adventures' but I did write some of that book so I'm biased!) but I couldn't find one that scratched the itch. Not only that, I couldn't find the players to play the game with me as I needed players who were on the same page.

Middle Eastern culture had quite an influence on Dune, I think, with Arabic and Islamic themes that really enhanced the universe that Herbert had created. I loved that; from the feuding houses which felt very Medieval to the sands of Arrakis that felt incredibly Middle Eastern, the themes really stood out.

I ended up letting it go, and instead of trying to game in the world of Dune I decided to try and find a game that emulated aspects of it that I loved.

And that brings me on to Coriolis.

Coriolis wears it's Middle Eastern influences proudly, and rightly so. It even has it's own system of mysticism, with it's fledgling powers and Icons, and the Dark between the Stars. There is true power here and the people of the Third Horizon, with their designs and beliefs shaped after Arabian culture, exist in a world where this power exists, they can pray to it and get results and can exhibit powers that could drive entire nations into a religious fervour.

That's perfect. That's what I'm looking for. It's not the Dune RPG I hankered for, but then I'm not sure a true Dune RPG would ever really work as different people come away from the books with different impressions; some love the feudal warring Houses and the intrigue, some love the environmental references, some like the religious overtones, some love the action and adventure elements. That would make a Dune game difficult. However, Coriolis takes each of those different angles and mixes them all together... well, maybe not so much the environmental side of things. Action/adventure, mystery/exploration, mysticism/intrigue, and to cap it all off there's a metaplot that opens up all kinds of opportunities.

Can you tell that I'm quite excited about this game? Finally I might be able to play in a world that I've thought about since my first attempts at a Dune game, and I'll be able to cater for the different kinds of gamer that wants to sit at my table. I get to explore the effects of faith and belief and my players get to fly around in spaceships and blow stuff up. I think we'll meet somewhere in the middle, and Coriolis - The Third Horizon will facilitate that.


Coriolis – The Third Horizon is a science fiction role playing game set in a remote cluster of star systems called The Third Horizon. It is a place ravaged by conflicts and war, but also home to proud civilisations, both new and old. Here, the so called First Come colonists of old worship the Icons, while the newly arrived Zenithians pursue an aggressive imperialistic agenda through trade and military power.

In this game, you will crew a space ship and travel the Horizon. You will explore the ancient ruins of the Portal Builders, undertake missions for the powerful factions and partake in the game of political intrigue on Coriolis station – the centre of power in the Third Horizon. You might even encounter strange beings from the Dark Between the Stars.

From the Monolith in the jungles of Kua to the floating temples of Mira, the Horizon is yours to explore. You can be traders, explorers, mercenaries, pilgrims or agents. Whatever your calling is, together you will make your own fate. In the end you might even discover the truth about the mysterious Emissaries and the threat of the Dark Between the Stars.

Coriolis – The Third Horizon was awarded the ENnies Judges’ Spotlight 2017 and is produced by the makers of critically acclaimed Mutant: Year Zero (six-time nominee and winner of a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015). Features:

- Create your unique player character – including skills, talents, gear, and relationships – in mere minutes.
- Fight fast and furious battles, praying to the Icons to overcome your enemies.
- Build and crew your ownspaceship, to explore the many star systems of the Third Horizon.
- Experience thrilling spaceship duels, using a game system that puts all player characters at the heart of the action.
- Take part in the intrigue between powerful factions on the majestic space station Coriolis.
- Uncover the mysteries of the Third Horizon, a rich tapestry of cultures that have settled the stars.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

BECMI, and my sadness

Here's something I honestly regret - parting with my original Dungeons & Dragons boxsets.

The Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals boxsets were very special to me; the red box Basic was my very first foray into roleplaying games and I held it in very high regard. The art, the layout, the fact that it was so different from anything I had ever played before, and that it was giving me a chance to expand on my love of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that I had been playing for the previous year.

The first three boxes especially guided me through my first months and years of roleplaying games. I never got to use the Master and Immortal boxes, but it didn't matter as the damage had been done and I was on my path to playing, running, writing and collecting games.

I had a huge RPG collection. I had more than 30 different games and systems of varying quality and some of them had a huge slew of supplements and adventures. WFRP, the WEG Star Wars RPG and Call of Cthulhu especially had dozens of books taking up space on my shelf, and the collection took up a lot of room - and time.

When my son was on his way I made a very simple choice - I had to sell off my collection. I had neither the time or the room to hang on to this 20+ year collection, so I hit Ebay and started the cull.

Some of my games I sold for peanuts, others sold for incredibly high amounts; my original MERP modules and Call of Cthulhu books raked in a lot of cash. In the end, I made enough money to pretty much pay for everything my son needed and the first year or so of his life. The collection turned out to be an investment, and it paid off.

I never intended to sell my BECMI set, but as I was putting a lot of stuff up I got a lot of questions about what else I had and a recurring question was about Basic D&D. So, I checked out some prices.

They were worth a lot. A complete set, two boxes still in shrinkwrap, with all the dice and the wax crayon... I tentatively put it all up for sale. I won't say how much it went for, but I will say that I was stunned.

And that was it. I hung on to some of my books as I honestly couldn't part with them (and I was still using them, to be frank) but my BECMI set was a sale that made me a lot of money, and I miss them a hell of a lot. Just to have them to hand, to read and to enjoy, and to step back in time to the sunrise of my gaming hobby.

I got a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia a few years ago and it's amazing, but it can't replace my BECMI set. That was, and always will be, something special to me.

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Friday, 9 March 2018

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition

Related imageI was recently gifted an original print of the amazing Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness and it's something that I have not looked at in thirty years. I'm ashamed to say that I never purchased it when it first came out, and now that I have it and I'm looking at it in depth I can see so many different avenues my WFRP games could have taken.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is my favourite game of all time. If I reviewed it fully today it probably wouldn't rank very high as far as mechanics go but that's really not the point of the game at all; in my eyes, the unbalanced, easy to abuse system with it's oh-so clunky magic is a wonderful reflection of the chaotic, unfair nature of the world it is set in.

The game came into my life when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I'd been roleplaying for about four years and up until that point I had only experienced the high fantasy side of gaming; Dungeons & Dragons. Heroic deeds, flashing swords and a Hollywood realisation of the European Middle-ages kept me entertained, and the only flash of slight insanity I had experienced was through the playful Fighting Fantasy world and some Call of Cthulhu.

So, when WFRP hit it was amazing timing. I had reached my angsty, nihilistic teenager phase and, coming out of education into a country seething with unemployment, I had nothing. The cover and the content of the WFRP game perfectly reflected my mood and the sheer creativity - this pseudo-historical insanity with Monty Python-esque dark humour and a huge dose of British cynicism - really hit home.

Britain at the time was going through a huge change. This post-punk era seemed unreal and the nation, still under Thatcher, sometimes felt like it was unravelling. The British attitude was somewhat 'yes, it's all quite shit but soldier on' and WFRP seemed to capture all of those elements. The dark, grim world of perilous adventure with it's twisted humans, punkrock dwarves and social elite elves was an amazing twist on the worlds I was used to, with noble heroes and justified slaughter. Now, here was a world where everyone, from Emperor to beggar, was corruptible, damaged and on the edge of insanity. Games were dark, bleak, and dangerous, and the first few games were one of fear and concern as your worries weren't about getting enough gold to buy that new magic sword, but if you would survive the next day without being gutted, going insane or dying from some horrendous disease.

It was fantastic.

The rulebook was dripping atmosphere and it was so complete that it was all you needed to run games for years. However, alongside this incredible game was the campaign 'The Enemy Within', a sprawling adventure about corruption, madness, cultists and sheer bloody carnage. 'The Enemy Within' is one of the campaigns that I feel all gamers thinking of designing their own campaign should read to see how it's done. It not only tells an amazing story but it fills out the Old World wonderfully.

A second edition came along and, as much as I enjoyed it and even preferred the rules, it never captured the essence of WFRP for me. The third edition came and it was very well designed and a good game to play, but it lacked longevity for my preferences. Even Zweihander, with all the obvious love and attention the writers put in to the game, couldn't unseat my favoured edition. I always end up returning to first edition, partly for nostalgia but mostly because the atmosphere the books evoked was just all-encompassing, and really helped me set the tone of the games I designed.

WFRP will always be my favourite game. It's not my favourite gaming system, but the rules and the setting sit so well together - and the game itself came along at just the right time for me - it's going to be nigh on impossible to unseat it from that lofty pedestal that I've put it on.

Image result for warhammer fantasy roleplay cubicle 7

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Why I Fight - character background stories (or a lack of them)

Female Warrior Silhouette by GDJI'll be honest with you - I don't usually look into a character's pre-game history that deeply. When I create a character the personality forms as the stats are created, even more so if I'm rolling randomly, but that's about as much character detail as I like to go into. All I know is that my character will be going on some highjinks adventures (it's why I'm playing the game, after all) and for that initial game I need a reason to get involved. More often than not he'll be looking to take the plunge to improve his lot in life (ie 'looking for fortune and glory').

It honestly depends on the type of game I'm playing - most of my fantasy characters are looking for fame and gold, but my MechWarrior character was a strong Davion special forces soldier who gave his oath to his house, my Golden Heroes character wanted to fight the good fight, my Shadowrun character wanted to haul himself out of the gutter.

In general, though, I like to start my character off with a simple, regular goal so that I don't have to think about who he is, what he's like and why he's doing it. In those first few games I'm looking for some plain, unmoulded clay. As the games go on he develops and the character grows. Depending on what happens to him in the those first few adventures, probably the first few adventures he's ever had, will determine the sort of person he becomes. Up until then he could have been a simple, unassuming person who was just plain nice. After eight games trapped in the plague-riven dungeon of Hell he could turn into a cynical backstabber who just wants to live, or after a few games pushing back the tides of evil he could be a flag-waving do-gooder who fights for the honour and safety of the good people of the land. I honestly won't know until the games have been played out.

For that inital jaunt the majority of my new characters start out somewhat selfish and then maybe find their altruistic tendencies, depending on the game the GM runs. It's not the only choice - and the majority of my players like to detail their backgrounds and dig deep to find their reasons and that's fine - but it's a way of getting initially involved that works best for me because I like my character development to happen during gameplay.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

GMing: Learning from mistakes

Railroad Tracks Lineart by TikiGikiOne of my biggest failings as a GM when I first started out running games was the fact that I felt, as the controller of the game, I not only had control over the direction the game took but I also had control over the fate and the even the decisions of the players.

I think this was borne out of two things; Firstly, I felt that as I was in charge and I had designed the story of the game then the game should progress as I saw fit. Secondly, I felt that the players were there to be entertained by me and so it was up to me to talk them through something that I thought they would find entertaining. It was both a misconception and a conceit, and my first games suffered terribly for it.

This approach to GMing stripped away any control the players may have had, or even wanted. I didn’t simply railroad them, I forced them onto the train and strapped them to the seats. I was literally narrating a story, telling them what was happening and in some cases what they were doing, and I only stopped and asked for their input at certain points, such as when a fight was about to take place or a situation/puzzle needed to be solved. Looking back on it now I can’t even fathom why it is I never noticed the looks of sheer boredom on the faces of the players. It’s actually embarrassing to remember it. I was so wrapped up in the powers that I had been given - or that I had granted to myself – I didn’t even realise that players were the other 50% of the game. I was the GM and I had The Power! I can simply put this down to inexperience but it amazed me, years later, when I took part in games where the apparently experienced GM was running the games in exactly the same vein. I played in groups where this way of gaming was the norm for the GM and the players sat back and let the GM go on and on and on. It was incredibly strange to experience, especially since I already knew these people and didn’t expect it from them.

GMs do not have The Power in the literal sense. They have the reins but they don’t have full control of the bolting horse. In fact, if anyone has The Power it’s the players, as it’s their decisions and actions that drive the game forward and result in an enjoyable fulfilling experience for everyone. It took me a while to realise that and now I feel my games are better for it.

Monday, 26 February 2018

The ODDS System - Time and game design

Has it really been almost 9 years since I created the 'Those Dark Places' RPG playtest document? There are times when I find certain design documents and I think that it's something I put on hold for a short while, but then I see the date on it and I'm shocked by how much time has actually passed.

The ODDS System back then was still a single die, a D20, but it was a little flat and stretched out as I tried to drag as much as I could out of it to make it a fully-fledged and detailed game. The document went out and I had a little feedback on it, but it never really amounted to much and my feeling was that there was no need for another RPG on the market. I also thought that my chosen genre - the dark sci-fi of the 1970s and 1980s such as Alien and Outland - was, perhaps, a little too niche and the dark, grimy and industrial future was a stark contrast to the bright and shiny i-future we were actually in. I didn't think people would go for it.

But, as the computer game ALIEN: Isolation proved to me, that wasn't the case. It could work, and that genre had an audience.

Now that I've created a new version of the system, and it's a lot simpler and allows for much more freeform gaming, there's a whole lot more I can do with it. The new version of ODDS as featured in 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' (see the free download image in the right-hand column) is quick and simple, and the extra rules in the free adventures add options for much more action-orientated games. It was designed specifically for pulp adventures.

My next project for ODDS is a game light years away from that golden age of derring-do. I think 'Those Dark Places' is a good enough title for it and it'd be interesting to try and incorporate some of the themes I was trying to emulate in the original game. I'll have to create art for it, though, and spend more time in laying it out so this will be a totally different beast to my free game.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Fighting Fantasy and me

With the release of another six Fighting Fantasy gamebooks coming up - including the new title 'The Gates of Death' by Charlie Higson - it's a great time to be a Fighting Fantasy fan.

I'm writing adventures for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy roleplaying game but it was the original gamebooks that got me my start in the tabletop hobby.

I've told this story before, but I thought I'd share it again.

'It's 1983. My little sister is still at primary school and I've not long started secondary school. She comes home one night with a small pamphlet filled with small images of children's books; the Puffin Book Club, made available to schools. She wants to know if anyone wants anything as she is going to purchase a book or two.

So, I'm scouring these book images for anything that seems even slightly quirky when my roving eyes fall on the image of some kind of cat/wolf beast with black fur and red eyes, at the head of a long line of beasts all exiting a castle as bat-winged creatures soar through a blood-red sky. It's 'The Citadel of Chaos', book two of the Fighting Fantasy series, and I'm intrigued. An original fighting fantasy adventure in which YOU are the hero? Whatever could this mean? So, bang goes a week's pocket money and the book is ordered. Several days later, I sit down on a rainy Saturday afternoon to read it and I'm perplexed by these scores, dice and apparent rules. After raiding the tattered Monopoly box for two six-sided dice I tentatively have a first go at the book.

I don't remember how well I did, but I do remember missing my tea as I was totally absorbed by the book. I went to bed late and arose early the next Sunday morning. At school the following Monday I gushed to classmates about this book, how amazing it was and how it allowed you to take part in and even decide the outcome of a story. I was hooked, and after I located a copy of 'The Warlock of Firetop Mountain' I began to collect the books in earnest. I loved reading and my over-active imagination loved adventures - how could it get any better than this?'

And that was that - my long-term love affair with Fighting Fantasy had begun.

Over the years the gamebooks gave me a slice of everything - fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, post apocalypse - but it was always the world of Titan, and in particular the continent of Allansia, that I enjoyed the most. The world is rich, imaginative and quite insane. For every standard fantasy trope there's something much more incredible, with locations and adventures that really bring the world to life. When I was a kid I always imagined that each adventure book was the continuing adventures of my own character in the world, so I created a character that I would use over and over again as each new book came out. His name was Bilks Magra, and with SKILL 10, STAMINA 18 and LUCK 10 he wasn't a bad adventurer although he met his doom quite a few times, but with the spell FIP (Finger In Page) and a fudged roll or two he was quite the hero. I didn't complete all the books but it was all about the experience for me.

Of course, I grew up. My Fighting Fantasy books stayed with me and the collection slowed to a halt in the early 1990s. Over the years I picked up the odd book, and I bought some of the re-releases from Wizard, and now I'm buying them all again from Scholastic for both my collection and my son.

Even at the ripe old age of forty(harrrummpph) I enjoy the books even though they were written for children, and the world is still vibrant and a lot of fun. the Sorcery! series showed me that there could be a more involved side to the games, and the RPG has allowed me to flex my own creativity both as a GM and as a writer and artist. No doubt I changed my views and opinions of the world to suit my perceptions and attitudes as I get older, regarding it as somehow a bit more grown up than it appeared to be; indeed, the world is filled with horrors and dangers, and more than once a gruesome death against a fearsome creature from the Pit made it feel a lot more grown-up and mature, but that just tells me that it's a book that can be enjoyed by all ages.

So here we are again, 36 years later, with the books being re-released and a whole new book on the horizon. Fighting Fantasy is in books, computer games, audio dramas, comics and RPGs. The name is still out there. I'm sure there are other mediums it can cover - the board game market is especially huge at the moment and a new and innovative Fighting Fantasy game would do well - and I'd love to see more novels based on Titan with new characters and adventures, but I'll always rely on my gamebooks to give me that thrill and I hope kids of all ages get the same amount of fun and inspiration from them as I did.

Image result for fighting fantasy logo

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

New Fighting Fantasy book covers?

Well, this took me a bit by surprise.

I was browsing Amazon looking for a Japanese language copy of Temple of Terror that I saw on there the other day - as you do - and suddenly these covers jumped out at me from the search page.

Are these the finished covers or the holding images? I have no idea. It's quite a leap from the colourful six books that came out last year. I checked out Scholastic's website and I can't see anything on there about them.

They've got this 1930s art deco thing going on and... well, I kind of like them. What do you think?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Interview - Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance

Shades of Vengeance is a roleplaying games company that has already given us the ERA games, such as the sci-fi Era: The Consortium and the post apocalyptic Era: Survival. Their newest game is Era: The Empowered, a game of superheroes and the world they inhabit, and - as of this blog post - it's running on Kickstarter now.

I had a chat with Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance about the new game.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger, Ed! Tell us something about your gaming history; how did you get into the hobby, and how did you get into the business side of things?

Thanks very much!

I had played before, but I really got into the hobby when I went to university! I joined the indoor gaming society and quickly became one of the regular GMs in the mix. I ran a lot of Paranoia in those days, along with various other things, from Firefly to World of Darkness. There's a tradition at Durham University in the society that we run a 24-hour game each year. 6 GMs create a setting and world, along with a campaign to explore it. The previous year had been fantasy so it was decided to be Sci-Fi.

I worked very hard on that setting, creating two types of alien race, complete with weaknesses, and fleshing out the majority of the setting from the concept of "Firefly", which was where it started. The game went very well, and I stopped playing for several years after that, because I started working.

About a year later, I was really missing it, so I got a group of friends and family together and revisited that campaign. It went extraordinarily well, and my brother asked me to write down the rules so he could run the next campaign.

That really kicked things off, because I spoke with a friend in Canada about it, showed him what I'd written, and he convinced me to publish it.

The rest is history: I've now published 7 RPG game lines (several of which has expansions), comics, card games and more - 38 products in total, so far!

Your newest project is Era: The Empowered, a superhero roleplaying game. Tell us more about the game and the setting.

Era: The Empowered is a special kind of superhero game.

It's based around a timeline which contains the various stages of a superhero world - from being the very first superheroes the world has seen to forming groups like the Avengers, to recruiting sidekicks and a more "Young Justice" feel, to facing extra-terrestrial threats on a scale unimagined by even the most pessimistic individual. You can encounter the troops of Atlantis, face down the Assassins Guild, or anything else you're used to in terms of the stories which we're able to experience through movies, tv series and animated styles in recent years.

In this game, you choose the time period you want to play in, meaning it's every kind of superhero game in one - you don't need to homebrew settings to play something else.

The game itself is based on our critically acclaimed Era d10 Rule Set with some special modifications to allow for superpowers. You can build any superpower you like in this system, using our "power tree" method, and ensure that everyone is balanced. You can also, if you want to add more powers, give your character a second or third power tree!

How did this come about, and what was the attraction to the superhero genre?

I've loved the superhero genre for years, but I've also been working with Johnathan Lewis since I started creating games. He's worked in the comic industry for some time and Era: The Empowered was actually the game I had planned for development second, once Era: The Consortium was complete. We worked together on the storyline, him from the storytelling perspective and me from the universe creation angle.

Back then, I did create the Rulebook Primer, which offered the rules but no equipment. Although I had the mechanics sorted out in my mind, I felt I needed to playtest creation a lot more. Other projects got in the way sometimes, but I never stopped working on Era: The Empowered. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a big inspiration to me on this project - it's the kind of storytelling I aspire to!

I'm happy to have finally got to the point where completing the Core Rulebook is in sight, although there's much more to come!

What makes this superhero game different from the others available?

As I explained earlier, the timeline approach to the history allows people to play any kind of superhero game they like. Most games give you a specific scenario - you're the first hero, or you're the third generation of heroes in a world which has become used to them.

This game doesn't: it gives you the chance to play any or all of these types of setting, by following with a timeline from the moment of emergence to the point where the world looks like it's about to end.

The story actually goes on beyond that, into parallel universes, but that's a tale for another book...!

You've also got fully illustrated comics available. How do these tie into the game?

The comics describe adventures of some of the major characters in the Empowered universe.

Lacuna and Penumbra have both had this treatment, and Blue-Shift is on Kickstarter now!

We've chosen these characters because they are the ones we offer for play in the example sessions we run, as well as being major figures in the general storyline. In short, they expand the universe further through a medium which suits superheroes nicely!

How will the game be supported in the future? Can we expect to see sourcebooks, adventures and campaigns?

Absolutely! In fact, we've already been supporting it with sessions on our Patreon.

As I indicated earlier, the Core Rulebook provides a timeline, but it doesn't finish the story entirely. In the best comic traditions, there is an ending, but things may happen beyond that!

I've also set up the first Source Book as a stretch goal - Golden Age Heroes! The slightly cheesy feel from the 60's with colourful characters and terrible puns will be upon us if we reach that!

Dice and Stuff are also supporting us with another entry in the Cowl Cops series. The first 5 podcast episodes are here.

What else do you have in the works? What else can we expect to see from Shades of Vengeance?

I have loads more in development, as always.

You can expect to see our first licensed property this year - the Battlecruiser Alamo series of books by Richard Tongue is being brought to life through the Era d10 Rule Set. We're also working on several more large games, not least Era: The Chosen, our latest entry for the era universe, which we expect to release in October!

It's a busy time for us, but we're rising to the challenge as we find more and more people who are interested in our work. I can't say how inspiring it is!