Friday, 27 November 2015

Quick and Dirty: Powered by the Dramapocalypse

HILLFOLK made quite a splash a couple of years ago, winning multiple awards and introducing a lot of gamers to the idea of drama-centric gaming. At our table, we played a series powered by HILLFOLK's Dramasystem, "Southern Rock Opera". We found that there were a lot of things that we liked about Dramasystem, but a lot of things we weren't satisfied with too. It felt a lot like a promising first edition of a game that could really be made to shine in further iterations.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Begin the Beguine

The title has very little to do with what follows, other than the word "begin", but what the hell. Here's some beautiful music for you. Thank you, Ella.

An average game for our group these days lasts about 10-12 sessions, sometimes a little more or a little less, not including initial game creation steps or meetings to "check in" or re-set somewhere in the middle. Since our group meets bi-weekly, that means an average game runs about 5-6 months. If you really want to get technical, with an average session length of 3-4 hours, that's an average of between 30-40 hours of play. Nothing like the marathon games we played when I was in university, with sessions that could go 6 or 8 hours, or occasionally all night, and campaign lengths that stretched over multiple years.

Friday, 20 November 2015


On Wednesday night, we played a long-delayed session of a new game I'm running: SHADOWRUN: THE FORKS. It's a once-a-month game with a group that isn't our usual players, a conscious attempt on my part to change up the dynamics and play games a little differently. It's a small group, which tends to lend itself well toward intimate play, and the players (GM excepted, of course) are all women. Women I know pretty well, but still. Different from the usual dynamics, which have tended toward gender parity for at least half the games I've played for the past few years.

Monday, 16 November 2015


Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for any amount of time knows I'm a sucker for superheroes. I have an embarrassing amount of comic books, and also an embarrassing amount of superhero roleplaying games. Old, new, flashy, gritty. I like them all, for various reasons.

A few years ago, Steve Kenson - a name that should be familiar to superhero gamers everywhere, as he created the superintelligent mechagorilla of modern superhero RPGs, MUTANTS & MASTERMINDS - released a thin volume called ICONS. This non-M&M game was meant to be lighter on the rules and big on old-school action, with random powers generation just like in VILLAINS & VIGILANTES, back in the day. A "pick up and play" game, something that you could dive into quickly and have a superhero adventure that would leave a big grin on your face.

That's for me, I said, plunking down my money so fast it may have bounced off the Flash's head.

Check out that sweet Dan Houser artwork. You're grinning already, aren't you?

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Five)

Let's wrap it up with a game idea that's a shout-out to one of our formative HTHD games. My friend Rob was the one who introduced us to PRIMETIME ADVENTURES, a game we've gotten a lot of play out of over the years despite some issues with it (which I won't get into here). He ran us through a series called T.H.E.M. -- a game about super-villains who were more heroic than the ostensible heroes of the setting. I think his intention was for something a little darker, but our tastes ran more toward protagonists who were rebels fighting The Man than straight-up bad guys doing bad things for bad reasons. I think I've got a really dark character in me waiting for the right game, but I wasn't quite there yet.

A side-light of that game was the idea that a lot of super-villains would draw their henchmen from a particular, working class neighbourhood of Our Fair City. HENCHTOWN. Two of the player characters grew up in "the neighbourhood", and thus knew a lot of the small-time players in town, had been to barbecues with the families of low-rent super-villains etc. I liked that idea a lot, but it didn't get a lot of screen time in T.H.E.M., unfortunately.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Four)

I was in university when The X-Files came along in the early 90s, and it hit all my sweet spots. A heady mix of horror, government conspiracies, and science fiction, it might have burst fully formed from my ID instead of the pen of Chris Carter. This was the early days of the internet, where like-minded weirdos traded dodgy stories about Area 51 in disreputable Usenet groups, when a lot of information was still tantalizingly out of reach of the average university student with a taste for strangeness. There really was a sense that The Truth was out there, somewhere, and the difficulty tracking down anything solid outside of sensational magazines and late-night syndicated shows about the unknown - well, who's to say it wasn't a conspiracy?

It was into this era that one of the great modern roleplaying supplements was released, the phenomenal DELTA GREEN. It cashed in on X-Files era interest in UFOs (I had been hooked since In Search Of... and Steven Spielberg in the 1970s) and used them as a gloss for a comprehensive modern-era take on Cthulhu Mythos investigations.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Three)

Every once in a while you'll pull the plug on a game just before you play. Sometimes you do some mental arithmetic and decide the group isn't right for it, for some reason (TRIBE 8 leaps to mind, and I'll discuss that one another time). Sometimes you're not in the right mental space yourself to run the game in question, and that was the problem with our next game, STRANGERS.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part Two)

My wife and I see eye to eye on most things, but sometimes we realize there is a fundamental disconnect between us. She is not a visual thinker, preferring to think in words rather than imagery. I often picture things in great detail when I'm being creative, but perhaps it's something I've developed over time. When I've really got an idea cemented in my mind, I can often "see" it in my head playing out like a little movie. Maybe that's why I used to write short pieces of script for my games, and toyed with the technique of writing film-style "trailers" as a pitch technique.

The game I'm picturing now is SCION.

Michael Kormack's thrilling cover image for SCION: Hero.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Bucket List 2015 (Part One)

You know the games. The ones that have been simmering on the back burner for a long time, deepening their flavours, waiting for the right time, the right group. Sometimes you're not prepared to run a game for pedestrian reasons like not having the time to do adequate preparation, or not being in the right frame of mind. I abandoned a couple of games in the last few years just before running them because something wasn't right, and I'd rather pull the plug than run a game and have it fall apart somewhere in the middle. That just plain sucks.

Sometimes, you wait. And wait.