Wednesday, 12 July 2017

First There is No Mountain

This is going to sound weird, probably, but it's one of those internal contradictions that make human beings so interesting. I've mentioned in these pages my Twin Peaks-inspired game, LOST PINES, and the game I wrote for Game Chef a couple of years ago, THE LONG SLEEP. I'm unreasonably proud of both of those games, despite the fact that neither one of them have been published or widely distributed. LP is a dramatic game in the style of soap opera, where everyone plays a part in the main cast. TLS is a meditative, internal game that's set in dreams, a kind of free-flowing improvisation on a theme. Neither one of those games has a GM role.

But I'm actually not a fan of games with no GM.

Monday, 10 July 2017


I was a latecomer to the Kickstarter game, mostly because cash is often tight for us, and sometimes a Kickstarter is a dodgy prospect. Eventually, my love of games (and desire to support the people who create them) got me to dip my toes in. MONSTERHEARTS 2 was one of the first products I ponied up the dough for, and I did so without hesitation. The first edition of Avery Alder's now-classic game of supernatural romance was the text that opened up my mind to the world of Powered-by-the-Apocalypse, thanks to Avery's lucid writing and tight focus on dramatic play. Getting the finished text via e-mail recently was like gaming Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review: THE VEIL

I was a teenager when I got my first taste of cyberpunk: Mike Pondsmith's CYBERPUNK, to be precise, a "Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future" that sunk its hooks into me deep. I was at exactly the right age for Mike's heady mix of violence, loud music, black leather, and style over substance, and we played the hell out of that game for a few years. I sought out Neuromancer to get a sense of the source material, and I loved it profoundly, but felt a little cheated. There was so much more to cyberpunk than CYBERPUNK actually brought to the table.

Later games like SHADOWRUN also got a lot of play, but the problem was always the same. Cyberpunk roleplaying games always seemed to get the trappings of the genre, but not the ideas that were its beating heart. Style over substance was the ethos, but it had become a kind of trap, leading us to game after game that was basically a dungeon crawl with guns and grenades.

Almost thirty years later, I've finally found a cyberpunk game that wants more than that.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Have a Game Plan

Roleplaying games are all about spontaneity, and usually that's a good thing. A high-functioning group is able to improvise an experience that's much richer and more interesting than a pre-planned adventure packaged and run by a GM.

In dramatic play, this can be a problem, however. A lot of times, players will find themselves in a two-person scene where no one has a strong need to push for something right now. Sometimes this is out of a feeling that "it's too early" in the story for characters to have a big conflict, or out of an misguided sense that it's interesting just to place two characters in a scene together "just to see what happens". Usually, without a conflict, the answer to that question is "nothing".

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

BreakOut 2017 Convention Debrief

Whew. After a long weekend of gaming, we're back in Merrie Olde London Towne. And BreakOut Con Toronto, even for a Canadian convention only in its second year of operation, did not disappoint.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Into the Breach

This weekend, Megan and I are going to our first gaming convention. It's Breakout Con in Toronto, and we're pretty excited about it.

Sure, we've been to small gaming conventions put on by the local game club at Western University, but this is a whole other level. It's three days of games, with industry professionals there to run games and sit on panels about the hobby, and maybe, if we're lucky, let us fans buy them a drink or two.

Thursday, 2 March 2017


I wrote here recently about the struggles I'd been having getting my head into a new game. I kept waffling about what I wanted to do, and what game system I wanted to use to do it. I am happy to report that I've made some decisions at last, and I couldn't be happier with the game I've settled on. It's a wonderful D&D-derived game called BEYOND THE WALL AND OTHER ADVENTURES, by John Cocking and Peter S. Williams, from Flatland Games. I wrote a review of it just about a year ago, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Buy it.