Friday, 25 November 2016

This Old House (Part 3)

The third and final part in a series of short AP reports for the game of Blood & Water played as part of the Gauntlet Hangouts' Story Games Sunday.

Act Five:Brokering Bad

Three montages open this episode: Charlie going about his business with the weeping woman always standing at his shoulder, unseen by others; Manfred rehearsing with the band and cooking, as more and more of the band's followers succumb to necroherpes; and James murdering three more of the people on his revenge list, by the end of which his spiritual form is wreathed in coiling smoke and drifting sparks.

Image result for bonfireDue to staff shake-ups at Channel 5, Charlie is sent with Geoff the cameraman to film some local colour for the weather report and ends up at a new age ceremony intended to re-align the world's chakras after the bout of freak weather that has been experienced. He meets a woman there who can see the weeping woman, but he gets caught up in the ritual before he can speak to her further and we later see a viral video of him dancing naked around a bonfire.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

This Old House (Part 2)

Part 2 in a series of short Actual Play reports for the game of Blood & Water being run through the Gauntlet Hangouts as part of Story Game Sunday.

Act 3: The Mourning After

Following their gig, Manfred skips the hedonistic after-party and goes home to cook, but the next morning, an urgent call from Jack, the lead guitarist for the band, summons him to the squat-like commune other members of the band use. Upon arrival, Manfred finds that Jack wants some assistance of an initmate, medical nature, after catching necroherpes from a night spent with Anyanka, the Meso-American mummified handmaiden, who simply followed the band out of the museum after their last practice. Manfred recommends some bean extract to relieve the itching, but it seems Brandi, Charlie's girlfriend, will be in need of it too, as she has also crashed at the band's place after the gig...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

This Old House

This is a short Actual Play report summarizing the first session of the online game of Blood & Water I am running via The Gauntlet Hangouts.

Image result for ghost manDramatis Personae

Our first three residents, who are all rooming in a low-rent New York boarding house, are:

James, a Ghost: a stockbroker killed by his own colleagues 20 years ago, the murder was covered up and he is determined to avenge himself.

Manfred, a Mummy: a passionate amateur chef (and drummer in a noise-drone band), he was caught intruding on the sacred rites of a South American cult and mummified as a punishment.

Charlie, a Skinwalker: a student who inherited his powers upon the death of his natural father, but he has little to no idea about what his nature and destiny.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Elephant in the Room

This is a short game originating from a throwaway comment about killer whales and Agatha Christie mysteries... yes, the mind is a mysterious thing indeed.

The Room

Image result for victorian parlourYou'll need 4 or more players for this game: the more of you there are, the longer the game will take though, so 6 is probably the optimum number, but as many as 8 could work. If there are more of you, split into two groups to keep things manageable.

As with many other short games on this blog, the first thing you need is a situation, but pick something unusual rather than mundane, such as:

  • A board meeting for a company in dire straits.
  • A parlour where the detective has gathered all the suspects in a murder.
  • A team changing room at half-time.
  • A family therapy session.
  • A dorm in a prisoner-of-war camp.
  • A political leader's office at a time of crisis.
It's best to pitch one of these examples when you suggest playing this game, along with suggested characters that the players might want to portray, e.g. in the last example, you would want a President or Prime Minister, Head of the Armed Forces, Chief Treasurer, a spin doctor, leader's spouse, etc. Get everyone to choose roles and make themselves comfortable.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Oil & Water

This is another reskin of Blood & Water, taking inspiration from sources as disparate as the 50th Anniversary of the Cybermen in Doctor Who, the TV series Humans and the musical performances of Steam Powered Giraffe; enjoy.

Service Manual

Image result for steam powered giraffe
The current Steam Powered Giraffe lineup
In this version of the game, the residents are all mechanical lifeforms who have found their way to each other with the common cause of hiding the truth of their existence from the human race in general and learning what it truly means to be alive. Choose a house as usual, but keep in mind the specific needs of androids & robots over supernatural creatures: they must have access to some kind of technology to maintain themselves, as well as to be viable creations in the first place.

The service manual for each character is quite different from the resident's book: not only are there different questions to answer, there are also different assumptions made about the characters throughout. On the first page, replace the normal introductory statements with the following:

Friday, 2 September 2016

Flotsam & Jetsam

I opened my house to some players on the Saturday before the Bank Holiday for a game of Blood & Water using the first ever printed copy! Such excitement! I pitched a game set around being students in their first year, but once we sat around the table, this loose concept evolved into students at Berkeley in California during the 1960s, continuing the theme of supernatural equality that has crept into many of my games of late. The players and their characters were:

Image result for berkeley california 1960sElaine as Alyssa, a Witch: she gained her powers when she read a forbidden book she found in the library and gained a unique understanding of all things, plus the ability to practice ritual magick.
Daniel as David, a transformed dog: an escaped lab animal who had become human during an experiment that went wrong and felt caught between the human & canine worlds.
Jane as Yukiko, a Japanese umbrella: after 100 years, the umbrella spontaneously generated a soul, which manifested as a young Japanese woman, who sadly was immaterial and could only interact with the world via the umbrella she could not be separated from.
Lloyd as James, a Deep One: sent to dry land to study the human race in depth, he yearned to return to his family and the sea he felt outcast from.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Quiet Night In

File this under 'Playsets That Never Were': it's one of two rough ideas for playsets that I toyed around with as additional content for Blood & Water but just couldn't quite make the concept gel. I think Nick Reynolds had the right idea in pitching a strong, distinctive setting for the game and going from there as usual, which is the approach I use myself at conventions now and I recommend to anyone else wanting to give a taster of the game to others.

Still, there's this...

The Best Laid Plans

Morgan, Tara, Walter and Jean share a house in an unassuming part of town: they keep themselves to themselves and have undemanding jobs that pay the bills. Also, they are not human: Morgan is a banshee, who is drawn towards the dying; Tara is a succubus, who feeds upon male lust; Walter is a djinn, who just can't stop himself from granting wishes; and finally, Jeanette is host to a legion of disembodied spirits who need to be contained lest they inflict great harm upon the world.

It's best for all of them if they have as little contact with the human race as possible, but's what best is not always what's done and compromises must sometimes be made. Tonight, they are all going to get very compromised.

This playset provides the complete resident's book for each of the above four characters, plus suggestions for the mediator to weave this into an appropriate narrative for a one-shot.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nightmare Housemates from Hell!

My second full game is now available on DrivethruRPG: Blood & Water is an original, stand-alone game, not a PbtA hack or indeed a hack of or supplement for any other existing system. Here's the back cover blurb:

There’s this werewolf, a vampire and a ghost who share a house... but this is no joke. As it turns out, death is not the end for everybody, though it usually puts an end to your social life. Somewhere between being human and being a monster you’ll find the characters in this game: people who cannot return to the family they knew but aren’t ready to embrace the thing they have become. They say that blood is thicker than water, but when your own blood turns against you, you have to find a new kind of family, one who will accept you for what you are.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


This is a short freeform ideally suited for 3 or 4 players in a comfortable location: some prep is required, but this can also serve as an excuse to bust out the art & craft skills of your group. If you use this as a lunchtime or teatime game, you can add culinary skills to the mix too.

Meet & Greet

Before you can play, you need to agree upon a situation the game will explore: something simple and domestic works best, but you can add genre elements to this in order to spice things up.
  • Meeting the significant other's parents... and you're all vampires.
  • A neighbourhood watch meeting... in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Tea after the weekly church service... for the Cult of Dagon.
  • A baby shower... for the mother of The Foretold One.
  • A monthly book group meeting... for superheroes and their sidekicks.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Saving Throw Down

Explicit Content Warning! This post is NSFW and contains explicit sexual references and profanities; it is not suitable for anyone under the legal age of consent and probably not anyone over the legal age either. Do not attempt to play this game with strangers or friends, or at all, really.


I think it might work with someone you were fucking, though.

Whores on the Orient Express

This game does for published scenarios what the porn industry does for Hollywood: it turns them into porn. That's the whole premise of the game, which is intended to satirize... something or other, I don't know; look, they can't all be deep, socially relevant metaphors because sometimes all you want is a good shag.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Zombie Dice: Rerolled

There are a lot of games out there with their own customised dice, which is fine for the game they are designed for, but what about using them in other ways? 'Rerolled' is all about re-purposing custom dice to get more game play out of them, focusing on dice included with board or card games rather than those designed for promotional purposes or for use with a specific role-playing game.

This will be the first game tackled by Rerolled where the dice have no numbers on them at all; the players in Zombie Dice take on the role of zombies who are chasing after living humans in search of tasty brains to eat. You get a set of 13 dice with the game, which appear in three colours and there are only three different symbols that appear on these dice:
  • Brain: You get to eat a victim's brains!
  • Footsteps: Your victim gets away.
  • Bang: Your victim shoots you!

Monday, 20 June 2016

A Life of Games

It's been some time since my last post, again, so this is more of a catch up than anything else: there's some good stuff, some bad stuff and some very personal stuff, so skip this if you just want new game things (though there are some new game things mentioned haphazardly.)

So, all the way back at the end of March, when I last posted, I'd recently started a series of posts under the banner title of Rerolled (and there are still more of those to come: one is about one-third complete at the moment of writing and I have ideas for at least two more after that) and Concrete Cow was a pleasant memory... well, kind of pleasant. The day itself was as wonderful as ever, marred only by Neil Smith's announcement that, after 10 years, he was stepping down as organiser and handing over the reins of authority (the moment had been prepared for) but in myself, I was not happy. In the three months preceding this day, I'd lost my father to a sudden acceleration in his long-term illness and also the children's centre where I had worked for a dozen years had closed its doors for good, so two big tent-poles in my life were abruptly jerked away. I suspect other people noticed on the day my lack of energy or enthusiasm, which affected my morning & afternoon games, both play-tests of systems I'd loved creating but was finding it hard to remember why.

Which brings me onto the first good game thing: New Gods for an Old Town,the self-contained playset for Just Heroes, my super-heroic hack of Apocalypse World. I've had a chance to run this playset at two different conventions now, with 8 different players, and I'm quite happy with how it works: you don't get the full experience that you would in a true Just Heroes campaign, but you get a good feel for how the superpowers work, how the characters interact and how it creates an authentically comic-like experience from those things. It's persuaded me that the hack works, mechanically, but I still need at least one lengthy, multi-session play-test to really find all the kinks and bumps so I can smooth them out.
The playset comes with four ready-to-play characters who are built from the double-playbook style of the Just Heroes rules: each hero is composed of an Origin and a Style, with the former guiding the player though creating their origin story and the latter giving them a selection of powers they can use, either beginning with them in play or acquiring them as they advance.

Back at Concrete Cow, I recovered my mojo at the end of the day by standing up to 'GM' (I can only use the term loosely) an 8-player game of Newton, a very fast and loose, back-of-a-fag-packet game that we playstormed back at Indiecon 2012. The basic conceit, that various sci-fi B-movie monsters, aliens, mutants, androids and mad scientists have been co-opted by the British Government and now live in a purpose built, secret town, goes down very well, but weaving a story out of the chaos that ensues is hard: I think one player suggested that there should be no continuity between games, as Newton is obviously going to get destroyed at the climax of every game.

Speaking of Indiecon, that was the next setback that had to be endured: since first attending back in 2010 to shamelessly pimp my Game Chef entry Never to Die, this has been the gaming highlight of my year. Comprised of a very long weekend devoted to small press & home-brew RPGs, it's a place where you could get players for a game of just about anything at all: 300 dedicated gamers, looking to play morning, noon and night, would sign up to anything, even a blank sheet (yes, I did do that on a bet and all the players who signed up got a glass of the champagne I won.) After announcing a potential price rise in February, due to negotiations between the organising committee and the new management at the site where the con was held, this was followed by news in April that Indiecon would not be going ahead after all; combined with my ambivalent feelings about GMing at Concrete Cow, this left me with a long, blank future of no-gaming ahead of me.

Image result for severn valley railwayIf the three things that keep you going in life are family, friends and career, by mid-April all three of mine had received critical damage and I simply ran out of impetus: the world was going on and I didn't particularly care if it left me behind. With no reason to go out, I virtually stopped doing so, venturing as far as the local shops every other day for essentials; thankfully, I had my partner Philip's support, so I wasn't in dire financial straits, but I wasn't socialising with anyone other than him. I think  I had one good day out, when he took me on the Severn Valley Railway, a restored heritage steam service that runs the 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth: it was a beautiful day that drew me back out of my slump for a week or so.

Generally though, things didn't get better and it was only the prior commitment I had made to run games at the UK Games Expo in June that I was holding onto: not in the sense that it was giving me the hope to carry on, but it was the last obligation I had to dismiss, after which I would be unencumbered by any commitments. My thoughts spiralled downwards, I sunk into despair, my temper shortened and overall I was looking forward to a time when I could somehow fade out of the world altogether.

Fortunately, come the start of June, the UK Games Expo turned out to be great: there were significant changes to the venue this year, as the hotel was given over almost entirely to RPGs, with the trade hall relocated over to the NEC a few minutes stumble away. A friend in need of a place to stop over made use of our guest bedroom the night before the convention began, so it was an excuse to practice socialising again and remembering how to talk to people: there were more friends at the Expo itself, plus lots of new people to meet as well and, overall, excluding the odd hiccup that could be laughed off, I ran three games I was very happy with, providing a metric ton or two or entertainment to the 13 players I had across the two days I attended. The rest of the weekend was given over to my partner, with whom I had a lovely unwinding day on Sunday before venturing out on one of the hottest, brightest days of the year to enjoy a quiet Monday afternoon in one of the many splendid heritage parks in the midlands.

Somewhat recharged, I began to contemplate writing games again, something that had turned into a Sisyphean task in the preceding two months: the Rerolled articles had been left on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I relit the fires under those ideas and let them simmer. Also, I had promised myself that I would publish New Gods for an Old Town after its UKGE playtest, so I got on and did that. Things started to thaw and move in my mind again: perhaps not as freely and fantastically as they had in my productivity peaks, but steam was building and I could feel some solid ideas bubbling up, things I was keen to do and try out. Some more playing had to be done, so I rustled up a game on Google Hangouts: after a false start or two, I finally got my game on, on-line, with at least one more session in the pipeline.

Which brings me up the present day and the wheel that keeps on turning: following on from Indiecon, one of the other great UK conventions held at the same site, Conception, also announced that it would cease to run, not just for this year but for the foreseeable future. This is a great blow to the UK gaming scene, it was possibly the largest RPG-devoted convention in the whole of the British Isles and had attracted guests from Europe, America and maybe even further afield in its time. It was a highlight of the UK games calendar, people looked forward to it, prepared special games for it, turned their lodges into bar/restaurants at it! It was where I met gamers who have become, I hope, lifelong friends and I will apologise to them now for not sharing many of the thoughts on this blog with them sooner, but if coming out as queer is hard, then coming out as depressed is a hundred times harder.

So as not to end on a bleak note, my writing seems to be getting back on track and today I did something I haven't done for quite a while: this morning, I sat down to write a new short story-game and this afternoon I published it on Drivethru. Some of you will recognise Underfoot from it's earlier appearance on this blog as the first subject of Rerolled but this is a slightly meatier version with somewhat tweaked rules: as before though, you play a fae-creature or wizard's familiar trying to get by in a city that will crush you as soon as tolerate you. It's not a metaphor, but I can't stop you from seeing it that way if you want to.