200 Word RPG Challenge 2018

I thought I’d missed the 200 Word RPG Challenge this year. I’d decided I was fine with that as things have been busy. Then I found out it hadn’t happened yet and knew I’d have to contribute something when the contest began.

I love the idea of Wind of the Path, a duelling RPG to play with other players you might meet at conventions. It reflects wandering ronin meeting and fighting each other and was found in the Gauntlet’s superlative Codex zine, specifically the Iron issue.

I also love Pokémon, ever since I worked at a comic shop and was handed a pirated version of Pokémon Blue on a floppy disc as ‘research’ for the incoming Collectable Card Game which we knew was going to be a big thing.

This year I’ve combined them both into the following game:

Sticker Monsters!

You’re a trainer of monsters, questing through the land to do good with your adorable companions!

Find your monster!

• get two stickers, combine them into a unique monster

• draw a box around it

• draw some special effects

• give the monster a name and a type (e.g. Stachebear, grooming-type)

• write three Moves (e.g. Entangle) and a type each Move belongs to

Find other trainers!

Either out in the wild or in your own home.

Solve Problems!

Look around and pick something to turn into a weird, fantastical problem. You both need to provide one Move each and one to combine with the other trainer’s monster. Describe your monster and narrate these moves to solve the problem! Mark 2XP each.

Or You Can Battle!

Describe your monsters, pick and describe a Move. Both briefly discuss which would get type advantage. They win the round. Play a second time with remaining moves and a third if there’s a tie. If still tied, flip a coin. Winner marks 3XP, Loser marks 1XP.


Every 5XP, add a sticker, a new move and a type for it. At five stickers, retire your monster to the wild and start again.

Here are some sample monsters I’ve made:

Here’s the link for the game on the 200 Word RPG site. Even if it doesn’t get anywhere in the challenge, hopefully some people will have fun with it.

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Early 2018 Update

I wrote an update for where I’ve been at, what’s been going on and where you can find me. Then I didn’t post it and life kept changing. WordPress reminded me that I should actually pay for their service and I realised I should actually do more than simply hermit away, which I realise has been my default response to things.


I’ll try to keep this part brief.

Our family home is almost signed over to my brother and me. It’s taken way too long but we’re nearly there. The place is still a haven of half-unpacked tat, although the biggest thing to happen is the workroom. Originally my mother’s woodcarving studio, Emma pretty much singlehandedly transformed it into a writing studio for us both.


The workroom. Emma’s desk is the nice one with the skulls, mine is the one with the shrine to Cyclops on it. Rothko’s is the cushion on the right. He’s not a good writer.

The garden has mostly been overrun by grass and spiders. That’ll be one of the next challenges as it’d be nice to get it habitable in order to have some barbecues before the nice weather goes away.

As well as the house and a large amount of woodcarvings, I also inherited a dog, Rothko. He’s wonderful, weird and if you’re a follower of mine on Instagram or Facebook, you probably see a lot of photos of him. He’s ancient now, at almost 15 and a half years old. He’s a lot more shaky now, both physically and mentally, so there’s been a lot of adapting to that.

Rothko 2018.JPG




I feel so sorry for my wonderful, beautiful idiot children of the Lightningverse, who have been neglected for a while.

The last few years have been a bad place to edit Lightning given the (mostly) lighter tone. It’s a comedy about aliens living on Earth, trying to be human despite their powers and weird tropey backgrounds coming in to interfere.

Lightning Banner 0102 Bill Meets World

The title banner for Lightning Episode Two

I’m getting back on track with editing Lightning Episode Two: Bill Meets World and intend on at least getting that published this year, along with the relevant side fiction. Hopefully I’ll also get Episode Three: Nemesis, edited and ready to go as well. I’ll be mentioning more nearer to the time here and at www.lightningtales.com.


Who Dares Rolls

I’m still writing for Who Dares Rolls and taking part in their podcast. I want to get into a few different things and rework the ‘actual play’ style articles as while they provide content, they’re a bit too bogged down in minutiae and lead to me spending a lot of RPGs taking notes which I’ll then barely be able to read.

Hopefully I’ll get some more one-shots run and reviewed as well as articles about aspects of gaming which inspire and intrigue me. I’ll also be taking part in the Who Dares Rolls live show at the UK Games Expo on Saturday the 2nd of June from 8:30 until 9:30. It’s our fiftieth episode and we’ve got a fun tabletop quiz show prepared. If you’re there, it’d be great to see you!


WDR Live!

I’ve added some tabletop site recommendations on Meeple Like Us recently, hopefully something I’ll do a few more times in the future.

Some smaller games chatter like my actual plays of Hostage Negotiator will probably still go on Faked Tales rather than elsewhere.


Mad Robot Comics

Here’s a big positive change; I’m going to be writing a couple of comics.

Matt Hardy of Mad Robot Comics asked whether I had any ideas for an anthology set in his Cadavers-verse. I immediately threw Matt my ideas about the blob character featured in the background of Cadavers issue one, who I felt was a private detective. In the last few months I’ve handed in a script for that and another story in the Cadavers anthology and have been stunned by the quality of work from the artists involved. I don’t know if I can say anything about the non-blob story, so instead here’s a preview page from Blob Detective:

Blob Detective Preview

A preview page of Blob Detective, featuring the blob themself, femme fatale Legs and the villain, Snubnose Mancini

The art is by Russell Mark Olson and if you think this is impressive, just you wait until you see the full story. I’ll be keeping you up to date as things continue.


Faked Tales

So what of this site?

This is still my hub for any updates about my work, so if anything of mine gets published anywhere on or offline, I plan on putting it here. I also have a few short stories I want to get done, some chatter about the popular culture which doesn’t have anywhere better to go.

Hopefully this site will get more full of life, which is also my personal goal. Let’s see how that goes!

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NaNoWriMo 2017 – A Virtual Pub Crawl


I’m back running the Brighton community for National Novel Writing Month this year, which includes organising a ton of events.

My co-Municipal Liaison and I have already hosted a couple of weekly write-ins a week at coffee shops, a virtual write-in and a social night where we can think about anything other than writing.

As well as weekly events, there’s one which is a one-off, mainly as it’s pretty big. The virtual pub crawl. I’m not sure how it started, but since I started running the Brighton Wrimos, I have curated them.

The idea is that in our group chat room, I put up a post on the hour, every hour. They take the form of a fictional pub and some flavour text, then challenges with normal and hard modes. Then finally an optional writing prompt in case people are stuck and need something to throw into their novel.

People drop in and out regularly, sometimes only doing on challenge or two. If they’re maniacs, or me, they can write take part in the whole thing. We have had several 5,000 and 10,000 words days, just from this marathon.

The 2017 Challenges

Just in case anyone wanted to see what the challenges are like, or to try some to boost their own word count, here are this year’s selection. The theme for NaNoWriMo 2017 was superheroes, so I was able to flex my knowledge of fictional pubs and coffee shops. I did stop just short of referencing the Nine Worlds Ice Cream Parlour from the Legion of Super-Heroes, so I count that as being very well behaved, so I could have done much worse.


The home of the Flash is also the home of some strong coffee. Everyone’s rushing around all the time, which means take out customers and a lot of empty tables for us to write at. We start to write and then realise that frequenting Flash’s local coffee shop is possibly a bad idea; garishly dressed villains hold everyone inside hostage! Flash will be here soon, so will we be able to quietly write without his Rogues noticing us?

* Hide behind the counter and write: Word War for ten minutes! 

* Try to convince the Rogues you’re a writing-based villain collective and here to help them out: Word War for fifteen minutes!

* Option: Someone does something really fast!



“A Town with Pep” it says on the sign into Riverdale. Hopefully that’ll spur us on to making more words! A girl claiming to be a teenage witch directs us to the Chock’Lit Shoppe which looks like a 1950’s diner. We realise there aren’t many plugs after some kid named Archie blew out most of them with a hare-brained scheme, so we’ll have to write as fast as we can while our batteries last!

* Help fix Archie’s mistakes: Sprint ahead, writing for solidly for the next 300 words!

* Race Jughead in a burger-eating contest: Sprint ahead, writing for the next 500 words!

* Option: An act of extreme clumsiness!



A little pub hidden away, perfect for mutants and hopefully for writers. We settle in to the blissful sound of silence while X-Man after X-Man angsts quietly in their own booth. Part way through writing, a bouncer asks us exactly what kind of mutants we are…


* Convince the bouncer that we’re X-Men from an alternate universe: Sprint until you hit the nearest 000 or 500.

* Convince the bouncer that we’re all his alternate future clone’s twin: Sprint until you hit the nearest 000 or 500… then keep going until you hit the next one.

* Option: Consider an alternate version of a character, maybe in a dream, in a hypothetical conversation or something similar!


13:00 – WARRIORS, OA

You know where’s peaceful to write? A police bar. No one’s going to interrupt us there, right? We settle down in the official pub of the Green Lantern Corps and try not to make any jokes about bad Ryan Reynolds films. We don’t succeed, but we do try. The problem is, while there may not be criminals, there are some rowdy as heck space cops in here.

* Tell the Green Lanterns to keep the noise down: Word War for fifteen minutes!

* Paint our laptops yellow and threaten the unruly Green Lanterns with them: Word War for twenty minutes!

* Option: Add something green into your story



This is a place where Inhumans can… pssh, I’m just kidding, no one cares about the Inhumans. Let’s avoid this place and just have lunch instead.

* Ignore the Inhumans and have lunch in New York somewhere nice.

* Be crazy dedicated to the cause and take part in a quick ten minute word war before eating!

* Option: Add some food to your story!


This is a safe place for supernatural creatures in the DC Universe, a good hiding place to write. The wifi is surprisingly good here, as well. The only problem is the occasional shady magic user like John Constantine, The Demon Etrigan or the Shadowpact. We’d probably best try and avoid them in order to get some words written!

* Stick with Zatanna and the less shady magicians – Type /rolldie 400. Write that many words!

* Embrace chaos magic with John Constantine – Type /rolldie 666. Write that many words!

* Option: Add a little magic, real or fake

* Other Option: Rhyme a sentence if you can, in the style of Etrigan!


This is a hangout for supervillains, but they’re good at hiding, right? It’s the home away from home for people as great as Kingpin, as lowly as Stilt Man (and Lady Stilt Man). We try to cultivate a bit of a villainous look at first, just to keep ourselves incognito amongst the criminals… but then The Defenders attack and all heck breaks loose!


* There is only one challenge! Put on the YouTube link below to get your adrenaline pumping and then write like crazy!

* Option: Write a fight scene!

Alternatively, if you want to keep on theme, here’s a superhero one!



Okay, the last place was a bad idea, I’m sorry about that. Superheroes and villains fighting is rarely good for productivity unless we’re the ones writing them.

This pub is a neutral zone, so heroes like Knight and Squire can socialise with Jarvis Poker the British Joker.

* Hang out with Milkman, Salt of the Earth and Captain Cornwall: Word War for fifteen minutes! (you’ll stop on the first message)

* Defeat Morris Major and his Morris Men assassin army!: Word War for twenty minutes! (you’ll stop on the second message)

* Option: Add something excessively British


Back in New York, we find a place which is pretty much empty. The only people inside look weirdly familiar. Were they the heroes busting up The Pub with No Name?

“Were you hanging out in that villain bar earlier?” A blind lawyer asks.

There’s only one solution to break the tension…

* Shots! Three ten minute Word Wars!

* Shots and a chaser! Three ten minute Word Wars with a 15 minute chaser!

* Option: Drinking ensues


How did we end up somewhere so classy? I have no idea. Still, it’s spacious, it’s air conditioned. It’s also suspiciously bird-themed. As we start to write a few of us notice the clothes of the people in here. It’s not Halloween, right? So why is that guy dressed as a clown? Why are people dressed as plants, harlequins, big lumps of clay? Something bad’s about to go down and we should probably

* Juryrig a laptop into a makeshift bat signal: Sprint to 1,000 words!

* Pretend you’re a bat-themed hero and get them to calm the heck down: Sprint to 1,667 words!

* Option: Bats. It’s always bats. Add one to your story.


Good luck writing! Feel free to nab this for your own writing marathons or if you’re desperate to get more words, run yourself through some of them.

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Six Role-Playing Games to Get You in the Halloween Mood

Halloween Header

Halloween or ‘Spooky Christmas’ is a fantastic time of year, and the perfect excuse to get watching horror movies and playing horror games.

There are plenty of great horror board games, but board games can only go so far. They can present the tropes and themes of horror, but if you want people to actually feel fear them here are some role-playing games to immerse and terrify your friends.


Halloween Dread

Dread, if you want to see the tension build, build, build and then come crashing down
Dread is amazing. If you want to see your players go about playing a game like they’re defusing a bomb, this is the right place to go.

Dread’s character creation is gloriously simple; it’s about nine questions per character on a questionnaire. That’s it. The GM side has a little more work but you’ve got three premade scenarios in the book and a few others on RPGgeek.

When a player tries to do something, they have to pull from The Tower. They can give up at any time but will know they’ve failed to go what they were aiming for. If they pull the block, place it on top of the tower and nothing falls then they’re good and do the thing. If the tower falls then that character is killed or otherwise removed from the game. Dread is short, so player elimination isn’t too bad. There’s also a kid version called Dread House which lets eliminated players take on the role of monsters (elimination in this case being the characters fleeing the spooky house rather than being killed).

The book itself goes into ‘the metaphor of the tower’ and what it means, but most people can already guess. The players start out confident and as they pull more blocks from the tower it gets shaky. It’s like the rising tension in a horror film and the moment when the tower falls is when everything goes to hell. Then the eliminated player rebuilds the tower (less a few blocks, to start things in a more tense position) and we continue.

My full review is here and the book can be found here.

Halloween Final Girl

Final Girl, if you want to watch several people getting picked off one-by-one
In Final Girl, you get to play both the monster and the characters it’s hunting. This game could reflect Scream, Friday the 13th, even Predator.

You get a rough premise and build a deck of characters who should be simple tropes, “Clyde, the creepy twin”, “Margo, the crazy cat lady” and “Gerry, the first-time cultist” are all good examples.

The characters go through a few scenes to see who’s got relationships with each other and then the murders begin. You all trade the killer around, picking off at least one person per scene. These could be near-slapstick style deaths like in my full review or a direct attack from a brutal John Carpenter monster like in my most recent game. Attacks are played using a simple card system, looking to get a high card with suits breaking ties. People might go back and forth with the monster, just about escaping or running out of cards to protect themselves.

This is a game where you are encouraged not to be precious with characters. Play their tropes hard and watch them get destroyed, all but the Final Girl. Whoever had the most characters die decide whether or not the Final Girl gets away. Like Dread there’s timing for the game and the narrative baked in, giving it a finite conclusion. This is where some games can perfectly represent a horror film experience.

Final Girl is a pay what you want game by Bret Gillan and can be bought here.


Halloween WoD

Chronicles of Darkness, in case you want to be the monster
American Horror Story is a great fun show, which often starts out with humans but focuses increasingly on monsters. They could be vampires, ghosts, witches… They’re all intrinsically human in their own ways, but they are still horrors often facing off against even greater horrors. Some wrestle with their humanity and some give in to their inner monster at the perfectly worst time.

The Chronicles of Darkness (formerly World of Darkness) line of books are all about personal horror. You can make a human using the core book, but Vampire: The Requiem and the other books all allow players to be the monsters from horror movies. The thing is, it’s always at a cost.

You’re a vampire; cool, disaffected, given all kinds of weird powers. But you’re also a person with a life, an aversion to sunlight, specific dietary requirements and some weird new local politics to contend with.

You’re a werewolf, but you’ve inherited the duty of protecting the spirit world and rival tribes of wolves are looking to destroy those who would keep their humanity.
You’re a mage filled with hubris, a ghost trying to live life to the full, a Frankenstein trying to become human.

Unlike a lot of the games here, Chronicles of Darkness works really well for campaigns. There are two premade campaigns completely free for you to read and play, which are possibly some of the best premade games I’ve run. All the rules you need are contained inside them, but the proper CofD books themselves make for good reading.

Danse de la Mort has the players take the roles of freshly-turned vampires, tasked with finding out who made them.
Gloria Mundi is a Mage storyline where spirits representing the seven deadly sins have taken the appearance of the group and are running amok.

Halloween Monsterhearts 2

Monsterhearts 2, if you want to experience the mad horrors of adolescence while also being a monster
I’m going to have to write about Monsterhearts in a longer article one day. It’s one of my favourite uses of the Powered by the Apocalypse rule systems and one of my favourite RPGs hands-down.
In Monsterhearts you play a monstrous teenager, in the style of trashy television shows & films, but there’s more to it than that. The influences are things like Buffy, Vampire Diaries, Moth Diaries, Ginger Snaps and even Twilight, to set the tone and give you an idea about what you’ll be getting into.

Like all that media, monsterhood is a metaphor for the teenage experience, a special kind of horror we’ve all been subject to. The Mortal is like Bella Swan or Xander Harris, co-dependent on things much bigger and stranger than them. The Ghoul is a walking dead person who binges on fear, power or human flesh. The Infernal has a devilish sugar daddy who’ll give them a fix for a cost. The Ghost sits in the back of the class, invisible to most, blaming anyone other than themselves for their lot. I was definitely a ghost.

Where D&D can be an RPG about resolving most things through fighting or stealing, Monsterhearts’ stats, moves and rules are all about what’s important to these kind of paranormal dramas. Characters’ stats measure how Hot, Cold, Volatile and Dark they are. You’re a kid so you ‘lash out physically’ instead of simply fighting. This means you’re likely to go too far, give away some weakness of your own or trigger your Darkest Self. The Darkest Self is permission to do terrible things in line with your particular kind of monster. A Witch starts cursing everyone, a Werewolf goes berserk, a Mortal betrays the supernatural.

The part which made this game a tricky sell initially for my group is something which other PbtA games also often have. Sex Moves. As you can probably guess, these are rules which trigger when characters have sex and they are important to the game. They will not happen all the time, but sex in these kinds of shows is important, it’s relevant to the characters and there are consequences. In Buffy season two she slept with Angel and he went evil. It was a massive change in the show and one their relationship never quite recovered from. In Monsterhearts there’s a lot of talk about embracing the queer narrative of this kind of media. It’s the first time I ever saw this in an RPG and has only enhanced the gleeful, horrendous angst we’ve all felt in our games.

I’ve only triggered a Sex Move one once so far, as a Vampire in a Google Hangout game. Cassius was incredibly vain, so of course the one person he could find true love with was a Cuckoo who looked exactly like him. It went from weird stalking (from both sides) to something kind of charming. Then when they went off to a private room in a house party, I realised the Sex Move of the Vampire was to deny a person, sexually. Of course, Vampires are cold and aloof, despite being hypnotic and drawing people in. I had to break that Cuckoo’s heart and it was a wrenching scene. I think we still all shipped the pair at the end and if the series carried on, I’m sure we would have all wanted Cassius to get over his fool self.

I ran Monsterhearts 2 at Free RPG Day and one player was completely new to role-playing games. She’d created a Queen and played her hard. There was one point where she got up from the table and looked like she was going to leave in disgust at her horrible manipulations of her minions and the other players. She’d touched a nerve and hadn’t even used any supernatural aspects in the scene. Then she returned to the table and I checked in to make sure she was okay. She was and channelled this self-induced horror to get a better handle on the character. The Queen was a brilliant, horrible part of the cast for the game.

Monsterhearts 2 is the current incarnation of the game. It’s able to be bought here. Avery Alder is possibly one of my favourite game designers of all time and even if you’re too scared to run MH2, I would recommend reading it as a way of learning how to present your books.

Halloween Lovecraftesque

Lovecraftesque, if you want Lovecraft-style tales of a single person investigating horrors, probably leading to their own downfall
Lovecraftian fiction is almost always about an individual who discovers things aren’t as they seem and begins picking at clues like the skin of a horrific onion.
As the journey continues, things get weirder until everything goes to hell, often meaning a dark end for the protagonist.
There are Lovecraftian games like Call of Cthulhu, where groups of investigators can fight monsters or solve mysteries, but this game by Josh Fox and Becky Annison did a great job at distilling the fiction and what Lovecraftian characters do.
Players take turns being one character owned by everyone, the Narrator who challenges them and Watchers who add flavour to the story. You can make your own scenario or choose from tons of premade ones, setting up a mystery everyone will define as they play.

You’re encouraged to leap to wild conclusions about where the story’s going, especially as each player will only have knowledge of one aspect of the mystery. This helps direct things as you go through a couple of investigative acts and then a Journey into Darkness where everything escalates out of control. The final act whirls around from player to player, making things faster and darker as we get to the end and the horrors that wait.

As a final note, Lovecraft is difficult to talk about without bringing up his racism, sexism, issues with mental health and so on. Much like Fantasy Flight Games, Lovecraftesque’s presentation is brilliantly inclusive. Beyond that, there are essays about how to make Lovecraftian horror while being inclusive. In this game, you actually get to be better than Lovecraft was in his fiction, but also embrace the specific style of his horror stories more than Call or Trail of Cthulhu.

Lovecraftesque can be bought here.

Halloween DoN

Dead of Night, if you want a trope-fuelled story about surviving monsters

The Descent, Dog Soldiers and 28 Days Later are all games which come to mind when I’ve played Dead of Night. The latter especially, as a designer of the game has run, “28 Months Later” for me and some friends at the Dragonmeet convention.

There aren’t strange new mechanics like Dread or Final Girl, but instead they skew a little closer to traditional games. You have stats and you’re rolling a pair of d10s to beat a difficulty rating. The thing is, there are some mutations. There’s only one pair of dice and once you’ve rolled them, you can’t roll them again until someone else has. This creates a ‘talking stick’ style of giving control over scenes to other players. It’s difficult for more vociferous players to dominate conversations and an elegant way of living without initiative to keep track of when things happen.

The stats themselves are paired in combinations like Obscure/Identify, Assault/Protect. You split points between each of them, but you can use Survival Points to flip the stats when it’s dramatically relevant. You can also use Survival Points for moves like, “I’ve Got Just the Thing!” to locate a handy weapon or reveal that the keys were left in the glove compartment. Oh, but Survival Points also count as your health. You lose them and you’re dead, or a zombie, or a weird Cronenberg monster. You gain them by playing along with horror tropes; investigating mysterious noises alone or dropping a weapon immediately after hitting a monster with it.

Dead of Night focuses on monster-based horror, but the scope within that realm is huge. There are premade adventures, small pitches in the form of synopses of fictional horror movies and a lot of resources to hack the system.

Dead of Night can be bought here and my review is here.

Honourable Mentions
These are honourable mentions, only because I haven’t played them yet. I’ve read each of them and they look fantastic.

Annalise – A Gothic horror in the style of Dracula, Carmilla and The Moth Diaries. Players are drawn into the web of some strange, enticing monster. Can you resist it, or will you become prey? You can make your own horror to face or use one of several playsets including a retelling of Dracula, compromised superheroes or a doomed voyage of the East India Company. You can buy the book here, and it’s recently launched a print on demand version.

Bluebeard’s Bride – An incredibly dark re-telling of the Bluebeard’s Bride fairytale. You all play The Bride, each taking on an aspect of her character, passing control back and forth or stealing it from each other. You were married to Bluebeard and left alone in his home, allowed to roam in all but one room. The exploration of the rooms and the horrors within test the bride. It feels reminiscent of Silent Hill and the works of Guillermo del Toro. I would definitely recommend listening to the Actual Play podcasts by The Jank Cast and the One Shot Podcast. The game itself can be bought here.

Cthulhu Dark – This is a micro-system which deals with Lovecraftian horror. The rules themselves can fit on a bookmark, they’re so small. It’s nice and simple, with rolls divided between ‘investigating’ and ‘not investigating’. If you fight a person it counts as the latter and if you fight a monster you just die because this is Lovecraftian horror and frankly what did you expect? You can risk your mental stability to get a better chance at success with your rolls. Like Lovecraftesque, this feels like something more thematically resonant with Lovecraft’s work than Call of Cthulhu. I love the simplicity of the game which can be found here. There is an expanded edition due out with ideas for hacking the system and settings to use. You can find out more here.

Ravenloft – Okay, this one I’ve played but it’s here because it’s not really horror. Ravenloft is a campaign setting (world) to use for Dungeons & Dragons. Originally this world was used for one fantastic adventure pitting players against Strahd von Zarovich (fantasy Dracula). More games used the world and it became a weird haven for horrors. Mists confine people to different domains ruled by different Deathlords, both rulers and the ultimate prisoners of Ravenloft. Every time I’ve run it, terrible things have happened to players. My favourite example is when werewolves captured them and gambled on the group pit-fighting a giant wolf. My brother’s old character became an evil god and was trapped there. People lost their health, their favourite items and their shadows to Ravenloft. It’s most recently been seen in the Curse of Strahd adventure for D&D 5th Edition which looks pretty awesome. D&D is a power fantasy though, and a tricky beast to make into a horror game.

Ten Candles – In an RPG, atmosphere can be everything. Ten Candles oozes with atmosphere; a tragedy where the world is going dark, lights are going out. You use ten candles in the centre of the table, some recording devices to create an opening journal entry for each character, then you play through their last days. As scenes close, you snuff out candles, getting further and further into darkness until all light is gone. This isn’t a horror story you survive, it’s a tragedy. No one is getting away, but there might be some beautiful, fascinating moments to be had in this world. You can find out more and look at photos of candles here.

Those are my suggestions about games to make for a fun, spooky experience. If you’ve had some fun times with horror games, throw some recommendations in the comments!

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RPG a Day, Part Two

RPG a Day

August’s over and RPG a Day with it. Here are my entries for the second half of the month. The RPG a Day challenge has been an interesting look at the RPGs people have played and their experiences with them.

17 – Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?
I think the one I’ve owned the longest and not played has to be either Changeling: The Dreaming or Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade. I loved World of Darkness and read these games, but never got round to them. Then the nWoD came out and I never bothered to look at any games older than Orpheus.
They’re both sold now, as I’ve had to have some massive culls, which have meant a lot of games I’ve not played/am not likely to play have been casualties.

The one currently in my collection and not played is Pendragon. It’s the kind of game which looks great, I’ve skimmed the Great Pendragon Campaign but I feel like I’d need a whole other lifetime just to be able to run a game of it.


18 – Which RPG have you played the most in your life?
I’m going to break this down into two:

The RPG system I’ve played the most is a tricky one to pin down In recent years I’ve flitted from system to system, enjoying a bunch of classics and a ton of new hotnesses. I think Legend of the Five Rings might be the one I’ve played the most, with three big seasons, a couple of botched reboots and a few short campaigns run by different GMs, I think this one’s it.

Close contenders are World of Darkness (failing just because there are so many different games and I wasn’t counting them under one umbrella), Dungeons and Dragons (initially played a ton, then completely dropping off for years before 5E).

The RPG I’ve played the most if Fallen Kingdoms, a home campaign which has been played over multiple groups and several systems.
It started as a cobbling together of any second hand AD&D book I could find in the 90’s, eventually becoming its’ own world with simply Ravenloft-ish places and Al-Qadim-ish places. The group were a mess, as you’d expect overly powerful heroes played by chaotic teenagers to be. The world ended as second edition came to a close.
We did a ‘Next Generation’ set in that world using D&D Third Edition, followed by a troupe game which shifted systems from D&D 3E to All Flesh Must Be Eaten and WFRP. With WFRP as the preferred system we went back to our main continuity.
After a while, that ended and we did a ‘gritty BSG-style reboot’ of that world, using D&D 4E, Fantasy Craft, World of Darkness and Fate. One player’s moved across the world and Fate wasn’t seen by all as a great game to use, so we’ll find a new system to finish that version of it one day.


19 – Which RPG features the best writing?
Monsterhearts. Totally Monsterhearts

I was going to mention flavourful RPG writing for games like Buffy, which are done in character and they’re mainly good. Still, the conciseness of Monsterhearts is fantastic. In less text than a lot of the games, Avery manages to express the themes, the tone, the mechanics and their relationship to each other. It’s aspirational in its’ style.

If you want to learn how to write PbtA then go here, if you want to handle heavy subjects in play and around the table, same here. Monsterhearts is a clean, clear book which gets everything across.

20 – What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

The charity bring & buy at Dragonmeet and UK Games Expo. That’s where I’ve picked up old books, also where I’ve got rid of a ton of my old books. There have been some stalls like House Atredes, which is pretty expensive but has been the last resort for some friends who have been desperate to complete book collections.

I have a couple of collections to finish off, however as my life and storage situations have been in flux for the last 18 months, I’ve not been able to list what I need or really think about whether I’ll be keeping what I have.


21 – Which RPG does the most with the least words?

The 200 Word RPGs, right? It’s been a fascinating thing to see and to take part in. Despite the extreme limitation, there are a lot of great ideas which have been collected in the official PDFs or featured in Josh Jordan’s Imposters, in the Codex magazine and I’m sure several other places.

If I’m expanding out to actual products, Cthulhu Dark and Vast & Starlit are great uses of a small about of space to provide a game. Cthulhu Dark is playable using something a little longer than a bookmark and Vast & Starlit is business card size. I want to find a good way of printing them onto objects that size so I can have them in my RPG travel kit.

Cthulhu Darkvastlibrary


22 – Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

I think it’s a combination of system ease of use and available resources. Dropbox is pretty much where my RPGs reside, so a lot of them can be done as soon as people need them (Cheat Your Own Adventure, Erika Chappell’s games, Cthulhu Dark). Some need accoutrements such as Quiet Year, Dungeon World, Fiasco and Monsterhearts, so I have kits for all of them. With those resources I just need people and an excuse to run any of them.

If we’re talking more than just practically what’s easiest to run and including what’s easiest for me to get in the mindset of and have an idea from the get-go, I’d stick with Quiet Year, Dungeon World and Monsterhearts, but also add Masks to the mix. Give me a minute for a pun-named villain like Bear Arms or Edgelord and I’m good to go.

quiet year 01


23 – Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
I admit I’m a sucker for pretty art. Most recently Josh Jordan’s Imposters has really wowed me. I’ve grown to like a game anthology and it mixes images indicative of weird conspiracies and the games they’re representing. Then there are little notes, like scrawled coded messages throughout the book.
Some slightly older and very pretty games which I’ve yet to play but love the look of are Daniel Cruz-Chan’s RPGs. God-King’s sumptuous colours and simple system make it look like something I want to get a printed copy of some day. The same goes for Haunt Me and The Legerdemain Betrayers.


24 – Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
I’ve actually had an interesting chat on Twitter with Erika Chappell and Paco Garcia Jean earlier today about this. I assume Paco saw this question and was asking about PWYW as it seems like not too viable a business model unless you want people to take your book for free. I asked Erika who was informative about the model.

Erika was the best person I could think of to recommend outside of big folks like Evil Hat who don’t really need me to help promote them. I recommend her RPG books at http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/4945/Newstand-Press, especially her Arnold Schwarzenegger games or the Lasers & Feelings Rose Buddies hack.

Also back her Patreon, which is here https://www.patreon.com/opensketch/

25 – What is the best way to thank your GM?
Just thanks. It’s simple, it’s probably a bit trite, but it’s the best thing.

I mean, coffee’s good. I had someone bring me a beer mid-way through a convention game of Spycraft when we had to stop due to a power cut. Those were pretty nice.

Still, a verbal thanks is genuinely a good thing. I wasn’t entirely sure about how my first session of Masks would go as I’d not tried it at all. I’m also a huge superhero fan and was totally worried about fucking it up. When I finished the first session and we were meandering out of Dice Saloon, there was a genuine, unprompted thanks from the players and all my worries about how I’d done were gone.

Sometimes sessions can end abruptly if they go a bit long, so it can feel like a lot of work’s done and then the players are gone and I’m left to pack up, so some kind of acknowledgement like a ‘thanks’ can go a long way.

Support is something which goes on both sides of the table, of course. Encouraging players during and after sessions helps get them pumped about the game. A lot of modern games even weaponise this sort of support with ‘fan mail’ mechanics, Team Pool, bonuses for spending Hero Points on other players. Basically this kind of positivity all round is good.

26 – Which RPG provides the most useful resources?
Spycraft, specifically Spycraft 2.0.

The later edition of Spycraft was a book large enough to kill a bear with a single strike, filled with enough rules to warn you not to dare read it front to back like a normal textbook. As such, the resources were a godsend.

The gear tables had a separate PDF to print out, there were character sheets, dynamic initiative sheets and regular missions which could be downloaded for free from their site (three of which were written by me, admittedly).

It’s a game which is pretty huge and clunky by today’s standards, but I loved the support it received. It helped me run multiple campaigns across the two editions, as well as tons of convention games.

If we’re looking at ‘live’ games, then there’s Dungeon World, which has a wealth of resources in the DW Tavern. Enough for me to make a massive kit.

27 – What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Index cards. Admittedly post-its will do in a pinch, but index cards. They’re great for:
Sessions – Just sketching down scenes which need to be hit
NPCs & Monsters – Stat blocks, interesting details
Maps – I love being able to make maps with index cards and move them around. That’s why Inventory Quest uses them, why my Mario Kart RPG will and my Assassin’s Chores one will use cards roughly the size of them
Random stuff – Aspects in Fate, table tents for names, items to hand out
The X Card – Having one index card in the middle of a table and even the act of drawing it while describing it gets attention when you’re starting a game with newbies.

I may have an index card problem. Just a bit. You can’t tell, can you?

28 – What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

A long time ago it used to be Monty Python. I used John Wick’s white/black token jar idea just to curb that as it would get done to distraction.

These days I don’t know if there is anything like this. Dark Heresy had a lot of, “take off and nuke the place from orbit,” which is what actually happened to a vast amount of worlds.

In the past there’s been a lot of Aliens, Lord of the Rings, Firefly and so on. You know, indicators of geeks of a certain age and influence-base. I guess as tastes have grown and diversified, as players are much older and younger, it’s less easy to pinpoint uniting factors like this.

29 – What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?
There are a few contenders here, maybe because I’ve backed way too many projects.

Blades in the Dark had a beta document which regularly updated, clear updates about what was happening.

Monsterhearts 2 was radio silent for a lot of its’ journey which is good and bad. The radio silence made me question what was happening. Still, the updates were great when they hit. Avery did a lot of research into what to do and presented information, kept frank about certain issues and delivered really promptly.

Bluebeard’s Bride was evocative with each post having fictional snippets in each update which were so good.

Cthulhu Dark only closed recently, but content has been landing fairly regularly. The Cthulhu Dark 0 book was a good start to see the project and even though video games have me wary of ‘season pass’ content, the material here has been great.

Fate was possibly one of the best value for money Kickstarter campaigns, with so many books launched out of it, some of which I’ve received earlier this year, having thought everything was already released. 7th Sea is proving to be pretty similar to Fate for sheer value of content and support during and after the campaign.

I think there’s an amount of balance needed in what’s done:
* Updates which are regular enough to remind you of the project but not so frequent they’re off-putting
* A beta or demo document really early on, to give people a test of your rules
* Coverage on podcasts – Spire, Bluebeard’s Bride and Damn the Man were featured on multiple podcasts during their campaign and that helped entice me into backing them
* Written support online – Here’s where I’m a dick for not finishing my Spire preview before the campaign ended, but Brie Sheldon’s normally on this way better than I am. Her ‘five questions’ have turned me into a backer before, as have SUSD’s previews in their news section.
* Fluff – Being pretty and/or flavourful in the campaign helps. They’re not essential, but sell the style of the game. This doesn’t even need to be a video, although the presence of them shows you’re putting the effort in.
* G+ – A lot of Kickstarters I’ve been on have had G+ communities which are great at providing hype, direct interaction with designers, hacks and updates outside of the official ones on the KS site. Spire has a Discord, which has covered this sort of role in a slightly different way.

30 – What is an RPG genre-mashup you would like to see the most?
Oh, I am so well-served by the RPG scene these days. Drow revolutionaries getting sloshed and fighting? Teen superheroes getting into scrapes? Hacks of games like Noirlandia allowing (similar but legally distinct) Mushroom Kingdom film noir mean existing games have a ton of scope to be playing with.

My main genre things are: Teens, Superheroes, Swashbuckling, Trash Supernatural, Spies and Feels.

So maybe add dinosaurs to one of those. Like dinosaur superheroes or pirates, or spies. There we go, Dinospies. Give me that, world, and it will be glorious.

31 – What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
I would like to get one of my microgames finished and published somehow. I want to run more one-shots for randoms at Dice Saloon and for my group. My home group’s changed a lot in the last few months and I hope it keeps going through 2018.

In the RPG world:
This year saw the adoration of PbtA evolve into versions further and further away from its’ original form or use separate systems as a counter to that. More of that evolution and change in the landscape would be cool.

Kickstarter will still be big. A lot of companies and designers have really honed their methods of making RPG Kickstarters. It seems like it’s been a good business model for a lot of games. There will always be some people jumping the gun with their project or coming up with something unwieldy, but that’s how it goes.

We had Misspent Youth and Spire as tales of resistance in a world where it’s becoming more of a necessity. I reckon we’ll see a few more attempts to examine our current global climate. Most will be well-intentioned and hopefully a few of them will be good.

I worry that this is a tiny industry with little scope for gaining new players, so something I would like to see is more outreach to folks. I admit with Who Dares Rolls part of my aim is to point board game people at RPGs in ways which show how fun and not at all daunting they are. The same with Free RPG Day, where I was able to run games for first time players, which was a wonderful experience. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop having a couple of RPG episodes was good too, but how do we grow out of just being board gaming’s weird little sibling?

I hope that we’ll see a lot more inclusion in gaming. While White Wolf’s new incarnation seemed to be filled with horrendous edgelordisms and hatred of the people taking part, Wizards of the Coast really made an effort to show that these games are for everyone. That’s good, so more of that, please.

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RPG a Day, Part One

RPG a Day

For the last four years there’s been a thing on social media called “RPG a Day”. I’ve been trying to keep up with it this year on Google Plus and thought it would be good to compile my answers here. This post is for the first to the sixteenth of August.

1 – What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

Right now? Dungeon World. It’s been a while since my last campaign and I’ve been discussing it with my former GM, Graham, who is learning to run it. I’ve also been hearing stories from one of my current players who ran it for some of his students. I really want to be running it now.

Dungeon World Cover


2 – What is an RPG you would like to see published?

A spy game, but lighter than SpyCraft 2.0. I loved it, but I develop hives when I see that many pages in a game book and that many tables these days.

I tended to run SpyCraft First Edition as somewhere between 24, Alias and Metal Gear Solid, so something which embraces the dafter side of spies that play things seriously instead of looking for any kind of real world accuracy.

Spycraft Table

3 – How do you find out about new RPGs?

The blog of Brie Sheldon as they seem pretty in touch and on it as far as good new games. The Gauntlet podcast which has caused too much damage to my wallet. I keep an eye on Kickstarter projects.

4 – Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

7th Sea Second Edition. At eleven sessions it’s just slightly longer than our usual campaigns. As a lifelong GM with few experiences as a player, it was nice playing in one of my favourite settings with a lovely new system. I’ve been writing up the sessions here.


5 – Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

The literalism of Blades in the Dark’s special edition, along with how very pretty it is. Look at it, the twin blades as the only points of light, the tome-like quality. It’s dark and spooky, which is perfect for the game.


6 – You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do?

I’d go through the many shorter games which I’ve not had a chance to play yet and try them all out. My collection is way too big and while many are small, I simply haven’t had the time to give them a go. Seriously, this is just a quick glance at my ‘indie games’ folder.

Collection oneCollection Two


7 – What was your most impactful RPG session?

I was a player in a homebrewed system by my friend Andy. He wanted to run a kind of crime-based Tarantino-ish game. We did a couple of seasons, each with Raveonettes-inspired names.

They were dark, but comedic at the same time. The first one, “The Day I Shot Your Heart”, had a chase and a fight in an old circus. One of the group was an asthmatic mobster who slept with his gun and inhaler under his pillow, inviting a tragic accident.
The second was, “Pretty in Black”, with a mostly new group. My character was a scumbag hitman called Johnny Shades, who’d just about survived the previous game powered by expired Serbian painkillers and a trunk full of coke.

We were doing some low-level mook work, trying to find out about a twisted pair of crime boss siblings. I had to interrogate a mechanic who was pretty mouthy. We roughed him up and got what we could. Then I shot him. We needed rid of the guy and given the game, given our characters, it was expected.

I asked whether I needed to roll. We’d got used to the system and my character was good at gunplay, so he’d be rolling higher than the rest of the group.

Andy said I didn’t need to roll. I just kill the guy. He described the ease by which Johnny finished the mechanic off.

I froze up, shocked at what just happened. How easy it was to end a life, admittedly a fictional one. This was an NPC, one with a name (time has eroded the exact name, but Johnny Shades sure as hell knew it). Dice acted as a kind of moral shielding, blocking me from how terrible an action I was taking because I could roll badly, the enemy could roll well. It was gone and I was just left with the bare horror of the action I took.

I’ve often thought about that, both as a player and a GM. There’s a lot of power in not having to roll, “Say yes or roll the dice” and all that. Well you don’t always need to roll and while that’s liberating, it’s also daunting when it comes to things like straight up murdering a defenceless person. It’s something which taught me about combat, murder and our interaction with it in games.

I found D&D and older RPGs often encourage the ‘murderhobo’ kind of player sociopathy. This made it interesting seeing how this moment made me question combat in games, the need to roll dice as part of an action and whether they’re necessary in a game.

Pretty in Black

8 – What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

I like the idea that you can run a lot of PbtA games at conventions for only a couple of hours and I’ve come close, but I waffle a lot so they’re off the table.

Dread’s good, but I’ve recently had a game where because of the tower pretty much refusing to fall, things went on about twice as long as any other game I’ve had.

My two suggestions are the following:

The Final Girl – Now where Dread has the chance for death, this strictly manages death. Every scene a minimum of one person will live and a minimum of one person will die. It cuts things back quickly and draws focus narrower and narrower as the game continues.

One Ugly Motherfucker – This lasted 90 minutes exactly, the minimum time for a film to run. That’s apt as this is a Predator RPG. You play a bunch of macho characters with a Loud/Quiet balancing stat like Lasers & Feelings’ core stat. In this, you set up challenges and a monster closes in on the characters. Things flip a bit near the end, giving the remaining hero a little more power than the victims in Final Girl.

There, two games with a similar style, both very good at funnelling the gameplay into narrower play as you progress.

I reviewed Final Girl here and One Ugly Motherfucker here.

9 – What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Most of them, right?

I love a good one-shot for its ability to tell a whole story in one go, but it’s really satisfying to be able to have a ‘season’ of a game with a beginning, middle and end.

Blades in the Dark has been fantastic for showing how you and your gang evolves over time, as well as the repercussions for actions the group takes. In my game, the group have managed to get a good force but with very few people. They’ve decimated one of the gangs in their neighbourhood which summoned someone mysterious buying up all the damaged property and encouraged Ulf Ironborn (now a vampire thanks to the group) to get more hostile. The growing saga and the toll taken on the group couldn’t be expressed in a one shot.

As a fan of teen drama, I want to run a campaign of Monsterhearts rather than just one-shots. The idea of having the evolution of a bunch of characters over a longer timeframe feels like it could be very satisfying, as well as quite bloody.

10 – Where do you go for RPG reviews?

Not many places these days, so I’m hoping other peoples’ responses will add a few places to my RSS feed. It’s something I want to be better at with at Who Dares Rolls. Shut Up and Sit Down do the occasional RPG review. On G+ I try to keep an eye out for anyone posting reviews, although they tend to be posted directly to G+ or on individual blogs rather than a specific site.

I tend to use other media: whether they’re actual play podcasts or shows like The Gauntlet.

On YouTube I’ve found very little, I think just Game Geeks with Kurt Wiegel.


11 – Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

This one’s a little odd, as it’s kind of being reborn.

I loved Alternity. The system was a little fiddly, but I adored Star*Drive and Dark●Matter. We had a few campaigns in those worlds, I bought the novels set in them. It was great.
Star*Drive was basically about a section of space in the year 2501 which had been cut off from the main galactic governments for 100 years and gone a bit weird. Two planets were still fighting the (now long-over) galactic war which isolated them. A prison planet let everyone out when they realised backup wasn’t coming. The Lighthouse, a mysterious teleporting station (long before Mass Effect’s Citadel) was a hub of activity. It was Firefly meets B5, meets Mass Effect and a tiny bit of Starship Troopers.
Then Dark●Matter, which was “If X-Files was a whole company”.

I loved them, so when I saw Alternity was being resurrected on Kickstarter, I was pretty pumped. Then I saw the product. The rules are streamlined in some sections and even more fiddly in others. The settings are (probably for licensing reasons from WotC) entirely gone.

While it has an original designer, it doesn’t feel at all like the Alternity I grew up with and loved for so long.

What I’d love to see is Star*Drive and maybe Dark●Matter as either system-agnostic books or an Alternity system with maybe half as many skills or a simpler way of generating characters which won’t terrify players as much as having to list your trained and untrained skills back in the day.

Star Drive

12 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Dead of Night Second Edition has some fantastic art, which was even given away as postcards at conventions.

First edition’s art was cute but pretty rough. Still, I enjoyed the hell out of the games I played and ran. DoN Second Edition was not playing around. From the evocative cover (especially as the game I played once and ran a bunch of times was a werewolf-based one).

The game was fairly simple, so as well as the system, there were essays on horror and tons of plot hooks. The main interior art panels were fictional horror film posters, each one nicely evocative and with plot seeds within the book.

As I said, there were postcards handed out at conventions. It must have been Dragonmeet where I picked up my copy from the author, Andrew Kenrick, who’d GM’d for me a few times there. I thought the postcards were just tangentally-related fluff, but ended up using them in some of the games I ran.


13 – Describe a game experience that changed how you play?
The Buffy RPG by Eden Sutios. It taught me a lot of skills which I found codified in story games later on.

I was a massive fan of the show and thought it’d be a harder sell to my group than it was. From there I started planning episodes, which would each be a self-contained session compared to the endless slog that our Hackmaster 4th Edition game was, ending when we timed out at the end of a Sunday afternoon.

We had a Big Bad and I laid seeds out through the episodes. We also had character arcs. Some of the characters fell in love, got frustrated at each other, had moments of pensive angst.

The love triangle… ah, the love triangle. The Zeppo re-enactment nerd and the jock werewolf both had a thing for the visiting werewolf girl who turned the jock. It was brilliant, brutal and punched a bunch of us right in the feels. Bleed, as Kate Bullock calls it. No one came away from that encounter well or in a good light. It was perfect.

It brought a lot of the ‘fiction first’ play which my group would be based around, even though we didn’t know it at the time.

It also brought the idea of fan-casting and soundtracks to my group, both of which have often been staples of my RPGs. I even made cards for the Buffy CCG which were based on our campaign.

Brighton and Preston cemetary

14 – Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

I’ve got a couple of nominations here.

Dungeon World is perfect for open-ended campaigns, with Fronts framing a challenge but not railroading players in a specific direction.

My first campaign, set around the land of Wall, had players draw landmarks, cities and mysteries. This meant that there were threats to investigate or bump into all around the world and potential for escalation or evolution of them. The second, set in a high fantasy Mega City One called Exodus. I had the players establish certain sections of the city of cities, as well as the rules of their district.

Hunter: The Reckoning was great for open-ended gaming for my group. I created a small town with a few secrets, had the players stumble into their imbuing on one night and a Twin Peaks-ish mystery to solve relating to it. As the game went on, there were a few things in their town and the nearby city which they could delve into with however much or little attention as they wanted. There were some repercussions for things abandoned, such as the golf club which they let the vampires run or the wayward-led murder cult which butchered some supernatural contacts of the group. There were two later seasons, each set seven years after the previous one (and shifting from Hunter: The Reckoning to Hunter: The Vigil).

Hunter The Reckoning

15 – Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

World of Darkness, specifically the nWoD/CofD version.

I loved the old World of Darkness, but it was a right bastard trying to get it all to interact. nWoD fixed that by having a basic system for normal humans and then the splats. It meant you’d make normal people who happened to be monsters, instead of superpowered beasties from the get-go.

It also meant that you could modify the system and use it for whatever you wanted. Tales of shifting morality and personal horror were the main directions to go, but that was fine, I used it for that.

I ran three seasons of Amnesiac City, where characters built their characters as they went. They were in a city of a million people with no memory, armed with a random object each. Then, the monsters came out at night.

I also used it for a high fantasy game, converting what had been a D&D campaign. I changed skills, created magic systems and totemic powers. It brought a closer, more introspective view to the characters and the setting. In retrospect I should have changed the morality system further.

AC New Logo

16 – Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?
Oh man, this is difficult. I was thinking maybe Monsterhearts, but I’ve run it twice and could easily see myself hacking it. I’ve not run 7th Sea Second Edition yet but might add elements from the Explorer’s Society.

Blades in the Dark is probably my current pick, as the mechanics and setting are bound together in a way that I love it as it stands and can’t see hacking it myself. I’m sure others would and the extra settings may change things, but at the moment it’s good as it stands.


That’s it for my first half of RPG a Day. Feel free to check out my daily entries on Google Plus, or come back here at the end of August for the second compilation.

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Hostage Negotiator Crime Wave – Part One

Lijah Ramone isn’t your usual abductor. She’s someone who appears to have no impulse control. She hit and killed a pedestrian on his way home from work; it’s still unclear whether that was intentional. What Lijah probably didn’t expect was the police car turning into the road at the perfect time to witness the crime. A high speed pursuit followed, ending with her swerving into an Arby’s, crashing through the window and taking the inhabitants hostage.

We’ve got three members of staff and five customers trapped inside with Lijah, who is armed. She’s incoherent and wants to get out ASAP, she has no other goal at this time. The situation’s escalated out of everyone’s control and this is why I’ve been sent in.

Hostage Negotiator Case 1 Lijah.jpg

Lijah: Attempt One

I selected the negotiator “Ana Langston” as she was the one on the conversation cards for the game. She would be able to spend some money in one turn in order to gain a free card later, when it might matter.

It started easily enough; I found out that Lijah wanted a fast bike to get out. Maybe she wanted to leave in style, maybe she thought she’d have a better chance against the police.

Things were patchy at first, but after a few wounded hostages were identified, Lijah was willing to give them up. Her anger kept flaring up though, and while she didn’t hurt any of her hostages, it slowed things down dramatically. She found a secret exit, possibly an old prohibition tunnel, but wasn’t willing to use it yet. She knew we’d rush the place if she tried to leave. Some little compromises on our side and a secret extraction while Lijah was distracted managed to clear all but two people out.

Then the Terror deck ran out. I was out of time with six hostages rescued and two left behind. Lijah won. Damn it. I realised I’d not used Ana’s ability at all, or felt like I had time to, so I switched to a different character.


An Introduction to the Game

Hostage Negotiator is a solo board game, which originally came out on Kickstarter. The theme appealed to me, being something outside of the orcs, zombies, Cthulhus or space kind of genre. I love those, but sometimes variation can really help. That’s where games like Viticulture can be a breath of fresh air.

I spent a lot of time on my own in early 2016, so I became acclimatised to a few solo games. A few of these were featured on Who Dares Rolls, even getting a, “Playing With Ourselves” brand. When I first saw the substantial, interesting-looking Kickstarter for Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave, I decided to try the original game.

It was good fun, fairly quick and compelling, able to be played over breakfast or while waiting for people to come round.

Hostage Negotiator is a card-drafting game, where your hand consists of ‘Conversation’ cards. Each one gives you the outcomes of good, middling or bad die results. If you’re like me, you’ll get used to the bad results. You play cards, roll dice and hopefully keep the abductor’s temper down while generating currency to buy better Conversation cards. Anything played gets put back in the pile, so you’re not building a deck but investing in temporary resources.

Some cards are essentials, such as the, “Consider This…” card in Crime Wave, which lets you reroll a die when things go wrong. And things will go wrong.

Hostage Negotiator Case 1 setup

Crime Wave starts out the same kind of size as the original game, but grows from there. You get the cards for the Conversation deck, the Terror cards which add unpredictable events throughout the negotiation and a trio of abductors who each have their own mechanics.

Lijah, the abductor from my first attempt, had the smallest resources. Normally they have their own ‘major demand’ such as money, tenure or medical help for a loved one. Lijah’s hit and run followed by an impromptu hostage situation meant she only wanted to get out alive. She had no major demand, just escape demands, which grew and multiplied the more people left.

The Crime Wave box also included space for the original game (doubling the components I listed above), as well as having dividers for different card types. As extras, there were specific negotiators who could be picked for a once-per-game bonus, a card allowing the abductor to be a mystery to the player initially and seven packs with extra abductors. These range from a crazed CEO to a framed cop to a cult. They all look great and are staying in their packs until I reach them in my playthrough.

Oh, and there are achievements, which I do love in my tabletop games. Scythe had some, which were pretty cool. Sentinels of the Multiverse had some, but they got too numerous for me to bother with.


Lijah: Attempt Two

I picked a different person to take on Lijah; The Defender. This character was a cop who would allow me to reroll all dice if a Threat Roll would kill hostages.

I thought this was going to go far worse than my first try. Bad rolls meant I was generating very little conversation and Lijah’s mood was only worsening. I drew a couple of Terror cards where Lijah got really angry and then would calm a little the next turn. After the first one I panicked, lowered her temper and then the next one hit, which would have caused a death. One person did suffer her wrath though, taking a shot from the Terror deck. They couldn’t have been saved, which is always terrible and a harsh part of these negotiations.

Lijah’s demand was that she simply walk out. This meant rolling dice at the start of every round and if I got all ‘1’ on the dice, she’d leave, probably into police gunfire. Later she demanded a radio which I was more than willing to give to her, secretly extracting some hostages as we went. I played hardball with her and managed to keep her in a fairly good mood despite that.

I hit the final turn with two people left and once that happens, the cards you buy can be used for a final push. Lijah had a human shield, but the person was bleeding out. I asked for them to be surrendered to us. Miraculously I rolled two successes, allowing that hostage and the remaining one to be taken out. With no one else there, Lijjah had to surrender. Phew!

Hostage Negotiator Case 1 Complete.jpg


Next time, I’m going to deal with Barrett Mullins. I have no idea who he is, but he’s got a shotgun, so I’m sure this will end well.

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