Monday, 11 December 2017

The Core Rules and 'The Hiding Death', another free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

A while ago I released a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', based on the pulp science fiction adventure serials from the 1930s through to the 1950s. I found some free images on the internet and decided to have a go at designing a game that incorporated those images, as well as use it to test out my single die ODDS System.

In fact, if you have any feedback on the system then feel free to let me know as I'm working on a more involved game using the same rules. This free game is a great way to get it out there into the hands of gamers who know what they're doing with it so any thoughts would be appreciated. You can email me at farsightgames (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk.

The core game 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' is available from dropbox here, and the first adventure, 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four', is available here.

So, here's another adventure to be used with the game. 'The Hiding Death' is an adventure in a mysterious asteroid field!

Download the adventure here

'In this short adventure, the heroes must enter the slow moving Sanotron planetoid field to locate a missing Stellar Navy intelligence gathering rocketship, the Tracer IV, which was lost there recently. After being warned of strange goings on and the presence of pirates, they set out to find that not all is what it seems...'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure to help recreate the pulp action genre, giving players the chance to not only stand a better chance of surviving but also giving them the option to take more chances at feats of derring-do!


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Story trumps rules

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising—Special Edition DVD
DVD cover to
Dorkness Rising
I was watching 'The Gamers: Dorkness Rising' (top movie, if you've not seen it) this week and this line sticks in my head - 'Story trumps rules'.

I agree with this to a certain extent, as in allowing the rules to get in the way of fun or immersion can yank a person out of the emotional involvement a game, but to ignore the rules too much takes away any sense of achievement and can make some people feel that they're just wandering through someone else's story. I thought about it more as I read some D&D forums as they talked about 5th edition, and a lot of the posters are very focused on how the rules work and how they interact with each other. In some cases I get the impression that the rules are considered as not just guidelines but strict, definitive instructions on what the players (and GM) can and can't do.

As a GM I've fudged a few rolls here and there for dramatic licence but I do try and at least stick to the rules in as much as the players don't feel like they're being led around by the nose, or that they feel that their rolls don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. If a GM has a definite idea of where he wants a story to go then the rules can get in the way so no doubt will be more inclined to fudge or ignore. I guess it depends on the kind of game that's being played, or the rules system being used.

Does story trump rules, or is it the other way around? Is there happy balance?

Originally posted January 2012

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today


I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever.

If you're a WFRP fan then you'll be aware that Cubicle 7 included a version of WFRP 1st Edition in their recent 2nd Edition Humble Bundle, which raised $150,000 for charity.

Well, now a full-on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today. This version is a very clean scan and is fully bookmarked. It also includes the colour plates from the Games Workshop edition. There are other PDFs in the works with a regular release schedule, but there'll be more details of those in the future.

On to the Cubicle 7 announcement -

We’re delighted to be able to bring the much loved First Edition of WFRP to PDF!

We’ve painstakingly scanned every page, and created a PDF that maintains the appearance of the original. This does make for a slightly larger file than we’d normally produce, but on this occasion, we think it’s worth it for all the great First Edition feel! The PDF is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference.

We released a version earlier in the year via Humble Bundle that did not have the colour plates of the Games Workshop edition, but this new PDF does have all those glorious colour plates we know so well.

Grab it now at DrivethruRPG and re-enter a grim world of perilous adventure!

Stay tuned because we'll be bringing more WFRP First Edition titles to PDF in the coming weeks, including the seminal The Enemy Within Campaign.


Why I began to shy away from complicated RPG systems

Tabletop RPG Dice Set II by jpneok
I began to get annoyed with complicated systems years ago when I had to spend six hours creating a character for Rolemaster under the watchful eye of the GM. When the game started I was killed in the first twenty minutes - I was backstabbed by the GMs damn NPC assassin! All that time in character creation, wading through books and choices and complicated rubbish that would make no difference to who the character was anyway and I don't even get to experience the very reason why I'm in the hobby; playing an RPG.

After that I was loathe to spend any longer than half an hour in character creation. That spread on to the rules themselves. Now, when I run a game, I just want simplicity. I want to be able to sit at the table for a four hour session and be able to have the characters ready in the first 20 minutes, spend the next few minutes making sure everyone is up to speed on the basics of the mechanics and then the next three and a half hours playing an actual game. Then we're sorted for the campaign.

I don't want complicated character advancement, either. Got points to spend? Levelled up? Right, end of session, ten minutes to spend/choose. That's that, ready for the next game. In fact, I'm not that bothered about advancement and would be perfectly happy to continue a game with what we have. Of course, that may not suit all players; after all, part of the attraction for some gamers is the ability to improve their characters over the course of a campaign so I'd have to be sure that my group were on the same page as me.

These days I'm much more focused on the story and you could say that any RPG system could handle that, but there's another factor that works against me: time. These days, with a demanding full-time job and a family, as well as other gaming projects, I just don't have the time to spend getting to grips with rules and creating adventures, let alone whole campaigns. A simple system gives me the freedom I need to not only get to grips with the rules at a moment's notice, but to be able to create a game without having to peruse rulebooks or agonise over statistics or balance. I can sit down for half an hour and have an adventure designed and statted and ready to go. I can even create a whole campaign in a couple of hours depending on the setting and group. That suits me just fine.

I do like my complicated systems as the detail can add so many levels to a game, but these days I tend to play in those games and not run them. Perhaps, when I have more time, I'll one day return to the realm of rulebooks with more than 32 pages.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Dice Men: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985

'A grey day in 1974. Three games geeks are thinking about sinking everything they have into their dream of starting a games company. They go for it, but in less than a year one of them leaves. The remaining two carry on and end up living out the back of a van as they can't afford to pay rent for both an office and accommodation.'

So here's a new book on it's way to us gaming fans - it's about the early years of Games Workshop and it sounds like a blast. It's 'A history of Games Workshop, not just the business narrative but the story of its founders and their journey, along with all the people they picked up along the way.

How did Ian and Steve do it? How did they get to that first Workshop store? What's the story behind Dungeons & Dragons coming to the UK, starting a whole new hobby? How did Games Workshop grow after that? It's now so big that it spans the globe. And along the way they invented an entirely new book publishing genre, too!'

There's a glimpse at Chapter 7 here, so you'll get an idea of what the book is going to be like. It's still funding, so get on over there now and get pledging!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sometimes I panic with my world building

travel map by vectorsmeHow to design a world that is, you know… different? I started to build a campaign world a long time ago for an aborted fantasy game, and I realised (about two weeks into it) that the world was simply boring. Boring, as in I had seen it all before. Reclusive forest-dwelling elves, grumpy mountain-dwelling dwarves, the usual stereotypes and clichĂ©s.

So I decided to mix it up – angry, dangerous elves, friendly outgoing dwarves, a greenskin race that’s not evil, just misunderstood. That’s original, right? Right?

Not, it’s not! It’s rubbish! I’ve simply flipped the standard views of the primary races on their heads and slapped them onto a geographically improbable land, based on a western temperate zone! And gave it a silly name! ‘Esumanara’, or some such rubbish. That’s what I called it. What does that even mean? It doesn’t mean anything! It’s a made-up word that’s supposed to be slightly mysterious and has been created to sound a bit like a fantasy word, or a snippet of a long-dead language I have no idea about. It’s a complete waste of time and doesn’t offer anything new other than some mountains might get in the way at some point; instead of serving vanilla in a cone I’ve served it in a bowl, and threw on some chocolate sauce in the vain hope that people wouldn’t notice that IT’S STILL VANILLA!

So where to begin? How do I make my world new and original? Can I even do that? Has every possible fantasy combination been covered by every game old and new? What races do I want to use? Do I even want to use established races? Why don’t I create my own? But won’t my own creations just be the same as established races but with different skins? What about cultures? Do I take the easy way out and base them on historical cultures, or try to create my own? But will my own have the sense of depth and realism as one based on an existing culture? What about the land? Temperate? Desert? Arctic? Do I want one kind of climate or a mixture? But then that’d be a huge place, right? The size of a planet? So how big do I want to make it? A country, a continent or a world? How big do I need to make it? How big do I want to make it? What age is it in? Antiquity? Middle-Ages? Renaissance? How about a magical steampunk era? How about all of them, all on a huge planet? Or a big country, maybe? How about magic? Is it Gods-sent, psychic, earth-power? Is there a lot or a little? Is it hated or trusted? What races can use magic? How many monsters? Locations? Cities? Towns? Islands? Mountains? Lakes? Rivers? Hidden locations that only one of the races that I haven’t created yet with a history I have no idea about can find with magic I have no idea even works?

What the hell am I doing?

Originally posted February 2012

Friday, 1 December 2017

A free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

A while ago I released a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', based on the pulp science fiction adventure serials from the 1930s through to the 1950s. I found some free images on the internet and decided to have a go at designing a game that incorporated those images.

The core game is available from dropbox here.

It was pretty good fun, I thought, so I've adapted an old adventure of mine to be used with the game. 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four' is an all-action adventure across a war-torn city. It's a bit of a railroad adventure - I originally wrote it back in 1997, so I like to think my design skills have improved somewhat since then.

'The players are instructed to take a rocketship to the Bakk solar system, land on the primary planet of Bakk-Alpha-Four and pick up supplies for the struggling Beta 1-8-6 Stellarstation. Falling foul of the war and chased by the local military forces, can they make it across the war-torn city of Calappa to freedom?'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure to help recreate the pulp action genre, giving players the chance to not only stand a better chance of surviving but also giving them the option to take more chances at feats of derring-do! It should last a couple of sessions and you may get some use out of it in your own science fiction campaign.

Download the adventure here

And tune in next time for another thrilling adventure

'THE HIDING DEATH'!

More Warhammer FRP news from Cubicle 7

Hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement we have further news about the upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, out next next year.

I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever and not only are Cubicle 7 teasing us with some gorgeous covers, they've also got Graeme Davis on board for a 'Director's Cut' of 'The Enemy Within' campaign.

WHAT?!?

Next to a certain horror roleplaying game mega campaign involving a mask, 'The Enemy Within' was my favourite RPG campaign, especially 'Empire in Flames' which was simply epic. Now, I'm not hot on reprints or restatted campaigns from ages past - they've already had their limelight, after all - and I'd love to see more original material coming out of the Cubicle 7 offices. However, calling it a 'Director's Cut' certainly hints at something extra to an already amazing campaign, so colour me interested/excited/curious about that sliver of information.

They've also got a cool interview with Tabletop Gaming magazine - you can see more details on their Facebook page here.

On to the announcement!

Yesterday we talked about the planned release for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition in mid-2018, and gave you the first look at the covers of the initial products. Today we’ve got some news about some old favourites.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition 

We’ve been working on bringing more of WFRP First Edition to PDF. We all love First Edition, and there’s just so much brilliant material that we want to make available in electronic format. The “colour plates” version of the WFRP 1st Edition core rulebook will go on sale this week!

Just like we did for the Hogshead Edition offered as part of the Humble Bundle, we’ve made a very crisp, clean, fully bookmarked PDF. It’s been a joy to revisit the game where our core team began their adventuring careers!

Fourth Edition design lead Dominic McDowall said, “WFRP First Edition was my first ever roleplaying game. Everyone working on the new edition has a deep well of affection for First Edition, and it’s great to be bringing it back!

“But we’re not stopping there. We’re creating some beautiful PDFs of the original WFRP super-campaign: the Enemy Within. Keep an eye on our newsletter, website and social media for more news!”

The Enemy Within – Director’s Cut 

This brings us neatly round to yet another exciting piece of news. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Enemy Within Campaign we’re going to be releasing an updated deluxe, “Directors Cut” edition of The Enemy Within Campaign for Fourth Edition!

The mighty Graeme Davis has joined the team to steer this ship (or should that be river barge?). The Enemy Within was one of the best-loved RPG campaigns ever made, and we want to give the shiny new anniversary edition it deserves!

We’ll have lots of news over the coming weeks and months, so make sure you subscribe to the newsletter and keep an eye on our website and social media!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay news from Cubicle 7!

This isn't rumour or conjecture - this is full-on press release goodness from Cubicle 7!

My favourite game of all time is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition, unbalanced rules and clunky magic system and all, and even though the 2nd Edition had much tighter and, frankly, better rules I always fell back into 1st Edition; the atmosphere, the completeness of the rulebook, it was a wonderful game that I played religiously.

So, now we have the first announcement from Cubicle 7 about the game and the first thing that punches me in the gut is the cover - just look at that! Not only have we got the glossy Warhammer logo based on the original, we've got a whole new bunch of heroes nailing some Skaven. And say hello to the mohican dwarf, the character that sold me on the original game in the first place. John Sibbick's original cover gets some love, and Ralph Horsley is an excellent choice.

Okay - you can mark me down as officially excited and terrified. Excited because this is a great image to get me all excited about Warhammer FRP again, terrified because I can't wait to see what's between the covers so that I know what changes have been made.

Anyway, enough of my excited dribbling - on to the meat.

From Cubicle 7:

We’ve been hard at work on the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and this week we’re going to be sharing the first big slices of news with you!

Release Date

There has been an amazing amount of excitement around Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition – we’re at the beginning of the journey but it’s already been a tremendous project thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of all the Warhammer fans we’ve been talking to since the project was announced. Thanks to you all for being awesome, and thanks for your patience waiting for news!

Design lead Dominic McDowall is on hand to tell us about the game’s development:

“The initial plan was to make some small updates to the awesome second edition, and that would mean we would be able to release the game in 2017. We’re all huge fans of the first and second editions of WFRP, and we wanted to take the game back to those roots. 

“When I got into the guts of the game I started seeing more opportunities to add in some of the things we’ve learned over the years. This more creative direction meant a longer development phase. Games Workshop are extremely supportive of us taking the time we need to make WFRP Fourth Edition the very best game it can be, and so that’s what we did. I’m very excited about the way things have come together! 

“The release date of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition will be set for mid-2018, with a specific date to be set in a few months. Thank you for your patience while we invest the time to make the best game we can.”

We have some exciting events planned around the release date, so stay tuned for the latest new on those!

Covers

The initial releases for WFRP Fourth Edition will be a core rulebook and a boxed starter set. We’ve commissioned Ralph Horsley to paint a pair of covers for these which we’re very excited to share today! As you can see our desperate band have been enjoying some good times in Ubersreik, (or at least some of them have) before a familiar scene unfolds!

We’ll have more to share tomorrow, including news of the return of a multi-part campaign favourite from first edition, so keep an eye on our website and social media!




Over-eager players at the table

Jumper Silhouette by dmenestHaving eager players at the table is great. Players that get right into their character and drive the story forward is brilliant. But is there such a thing as too much of a driving force?

I had this player once – let’s call him Brian – and he loved to get right into the game. He planned, he roleplayed, he played the setting to the hilt and he delved both into the characters he created as well as the adventure he was playing in. In most respects he was the perfect player, a GM’s dream. He made you feel like all the hard work you’d put into creating the adventure was more than worth it as he was excited to experience what you had created. The one-on-one games we used to have were intense and very exciting.

But not all players, or GMs, appreciated this level of involvement. Because he was so driven he always wanted to be sure that the game was progressing, so that his PC could experience what was going to happen next, to keep the game moving forward. It could be exhausting at times; I’d take a breather for five minutes and next thing I know I’m being pushed for narrative and descriptions of the next location and encounter. He’d also be the self-appointed ‘voice of the group’ and take actions that would pretty much help decide what direction the game would go in.

I could handle this. I knew the guy well, I knew his intentions and the way he did things and I could react to it with little to no detriment to the gaming group. There were, however, GMs who couldn’t handle it and I fully understand why. When Brian was on form he’d push the game in all kinds of different directions and as long as you were a seat-of-the-pants GM, fully adept at winging it, you were okay. In fact, he’d make sure that you as a GM would have a great time and keep you on your toes. But, if you were the kind of GM who had carefully structured a game and you knew where it was going and the order in which things were going to happen – railroading, some people call it - you were going to be in deep trouble. Brian didn’t want a selection of options, he wanted the world. If he could think of a sensible way to get around or through something that made sense in the gameworld he would give it a go and woe betide the GM who wasn’t prepared for his out-of-the-box thinking. Double woe betide if the GM was a rules lawyer and the things that Brian wanted to do weren’t really covered in the rulebook. This created all kinds of problems at the table, and Brian, being Brian, wasn’t the most patient of players when there was, as he put it, ‘An unrealistic action-stopping pause’ while the GM tried to work out how to adjudicate the actions he’d declared. More often than not, just to keep the game going, he’d drop the action and do the obvious because his impatience got the better of him.

Other players would sometimes get a little stressed with him, too. He was loud - not annoyingly loud but loud enough to be sure that his was the dominant voice at the table – and they felt that he was overriding their decisions by simply drowning them out. Sometimes, if the group was taking too long to decide on the next course of action, he’d declare an action that would force the other players to react immediately and therefore keep the game flowing. He’d make meticulous plans, sure, but at the first sign of failure he’d just jump in feet first and push on as best he could, dragging the other players with him even though they were calling for a retreat and regroup to try another plan. Some players felt marginalised by his way of gaming and, as one gamer indelicately put it after one session, ‘Honestly, it’s the bloody Brian Show’. They had a good point, it’s true. To be fair, Brian’s way of gaming sometimes forced other players to raise their game and the sessions where they were all energetic and driving the game were simply incredible. Still, if you think you’re gaming in somebody else’s shadow it can be frustrating.

The gaming group broke up after a couple of years – I can categorically say that it wasn’t Brian’s fault that it did – and we went on to one-on-one gaming for a while in which he positively revelled. We had some great games and as he was the focus of attention and he could fully indulge in what he wanted out of gaming we had some of the best games I’ve ever run in my long gaming history. He was most definitely suited to these kinds of games, or maybe with one or two other players who understood the way he gamed, and it was a massive shame when real life took him away from it all. I still hope that we can bring him back into the gaming fold at some point as he was definitely one of the best gamers I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with.

These kind of players are a dream for the right kind of GM and group. They’re a nightmare (throws cloak open) for others! (disappears)*.

*Bonus points if you get the reference.

Originally posted February 2012