A Quick Update – Reclaiming My Productivity

There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment with lockdowns and such, so I’m at the point where I’m trying to push forwards.

I’m still working full time, which is good. My workplace is pretty much prepared for us to work from home indefinitely which is proving distracting at times, especially with paying too much attention to catastrophising about the world. I’ve found that my anxieties about getting old and still not having published much at all is taking back over, so maybe that’s a sign that this is becoming normal for me now.

I’ve got a few irons in the fire and I need to focus on getting them done. So I thought I’d process this all out loud (kind of) and publicly here. This was I’m not only showing you what I’m doing, I’m making myself publicly accountable as doing this, and possibly giving folks some ideas.

First of all, I have a lot of projects, so I’ve started a Trello, and I’m trying to keep things cut down a bit and point me in the right direction.


I have some work I still wants to do for Who Dares Rolls, some of which I need to find my notes for, some I’m fine putting off for a bit as I know I’ve got a bunch of things in the pipeline there already and can prioritise other things. Mistbirch Mythos’ proofread has a deadline of November as that’s when NaNoWriMo starts and is as good of a deadline for a novel proofread as anything.

Emma and I bought a day calendar to hang up in the kitchen and put stickers on when we did writing-based things. It stopped pretty abruptly at the start of all this, so I want to try and get that going again. Basically anything at all writing-based counts, whether it’s searching for artists, editing or making words. I found that in previous years I’ve had issues recording progress with editing as it rarely adds many words and sometimes removes them, which looks odd on a word count spreadsheet like the one I keep. I’ve also modified that to accept a general ‘I’ve done editing’ note on the far end as something to keep my combo of days when I’ve written going.

Lightning Banner 4


Ah, the big project. I’ve noticed that the rolling Amazon KDP license ends on the 26th, so I’ve decided to untick that option and look into using places like Itch.io to host the first novella as well. I’ve been apprehensive about promoting it for a couple of reasons. The cover’s not great. I love Nathan Paoletta, the logo he made and the support he gave. He went along the design specs I asked for and was cheap, too. Still, I’d rather go a different way so I’ve made new covers for all eight novellas. I’ve been concerned about the cold open of it and that I literally used ‘not like other girls’ as a phrase there. It turns out on rereading it that I didn’t, but I still had some changes to make to fit the later novellas. I’m giving it a very quick skim before compiling the version with the new cover. I’ll see where else it could be hosted, as well. I figure the more coverage the better. I’m also still dabbling with the idea of a comic version, but that’s not my main priority.

Speaking of KDP expiring, the Cuckoo anthology is also expiring in June, so if I can sort out Lightning Episode One then I’ll do the same with this.


Amnesiac City

At the moment I’ve been having some help from Matt Hardy at Mad Robot in my artist hunt for this. I’ve got the first three issues scripted and some sample scripts to send out to folks. It’s still something I’m not incredibly confident with, but with some help I’m getting there. I’ve put off starting scripting issue four yet, but I’ll get there.


Explosion High!

I’ve broke the back of this, as I revisited my old version which was a bit too 2000’s era webcomics. It started as a webcomic, so that made sense, I guess. Now I’ve got a lot more energy into it, a larger plot going on, but in the background of individual issues with a couple of fun stories within them. I made a bunch of extras when scripting the first story of the first issue and now I love almost all of them which might be bad, given how joyously deadly the school is. I’ve been adding to the Explosion High! revamped series bible today, along with making the light pass on Lightning. You can see the shocking lack of productivity and my writing day combo meter here:


The number next to the date is how much I’ve written this year so far. The ‘1’s are when I’ve added to the word count or edited something. Again, I’ll be trying to make that combo meter go up more in the future.

I’ll hopefully be posting more here about the upcoming changes to Lightning Episode One, or any comic news, or indeed chattering about games.

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

Roleplaying Games to Play While You’re Isolated at Home

In times like these when you’re possibly self-isolating, working from home more or just not seeing so many people, you might still want to roleplay. Sure, there are online tools and I might get into those at some point, but maybe you’re not keen on that. Here are some games for one player, some games for groups of two or three and a couple of letter-writing games to try out.

These are not the only RPGs out there, so you might want to have a look for others and provide any suggestions you’ve got in the comments.


Games for One


Quill by Scott Malthouse is a letter-writing game for one. You pick a character class, each with a different level of Penmanship, Language and Heart. There are several scenarios which you’ll need to navigate by writing a letter and rolling to see how the quality of your penmanship and your choice of words go. It’s an interesting game with several different expansions including Love Letters, a Lovecraftian campaign and an old school D&D version.


Thousand Year Vampire

Another journaling-type game, where you play the role of a thousand-year-old vampire. You’ve lived too long and memories can only stick around for so long. As you go through this, you start having to discard memories. I’ve only read a prototype of it, having forgotten whether or not I was a late backer in a true act of life imitating gameplay. It looks fascinating and can be bought here.


English Eerie

Scott Malthouse’s Quill may seem a little basic and can be played a couple of times over a lunch hour. If you want something a bit longer, a bit less certain, you might want to check out English Eerie. A journaling game set in different time periods, but all quite specifically English and weird. There are multiple scenarios which each unfold as you play, getting more sinister as you go. I still want to record the diary of my character in The Beast on the Moor at some point. This is the kind of game you think of when you’re walking on a hill on a grey day, looking at broken old farmhouses and barren trees with branches spiking out in every direction.

English Eerie

Metal Showcase 11pm

Did you know my review of this game is the second link on Google? The first of course is the book itself, but it’s neat that I’m up there. Think of this like Fighting Fantasy except you’re a kid who plays metal and needs to get a band together really quickly. It’s a short one-play game, but it’s really good fun. In addition to the usual things you also get to make things up and draw maps.


The Plant

Like Metal Showcase, this is a Bully Pulpit joint. Also one I reviewed. It’s free, which is always good, although you’ll need some cards or bits of paper to draw on. Your daughter has gone into The Plant and you are going after her. This is short and interesting. The more old, abandoned factories and warehouses I see, the more I think they’re the evil fairy tale places of the modern age.


The Beast

Are you definitely alone? You’ll want to be for this. You have found a beast, and have been having sex with it. An unsettling erotic horror game. You draw a card a day for 21 days, and then you reach the end of your journey. Then it tells you to destroy the journal you have made.


Call of Cthulhu: Alone Against the Flames

A lot of the games I’ve mentioned are journaling games of some stripe. This one is a bit more Choose Your Own Adventure-ish, using the system for the Call of Cthulhu Role-Playing Game. I really like the character creation method made through a bus trip. I died when I played this, and I don’t really feel a need to go back to it, but I enjoyed what I played. The PDF version is free on Chaosium’s site, here.



This grim fantasy game is closer to an actual RPG and can be played with more than one player if you like, but has a ton of tools to use for solo play. I admit I’ve yet to finish reading the book, which could be a mark against it for getting you quickly into play, but it’s so well put together that I can’t fault it. There are several decks of cards to help with the storytelling and a dungeon-delving expansion which was recently released.


Or any other RPG using tools like the Conjectural Role-Playing Emulator. It’s not the best solution, but it does work, using randomisers to work out different things and add uncertainty. There are also NPC tools to help with this, too.


Games for Small Groups

Maybe you’re not alone, maybe you’ve got a receptive player or two. Well here are some options for that.


The Quiet Year

One of my favourite games and one which even works with people who wouldn’t normally play a role-playing game. The Quiet Year is a map-drawing game about the life of a community after the end of the world. It might be a bit close to home, but can skew hopeful depending on the group. Each turn a player draws a card, interprets it and draws something on the map. It’s able to be beautiful, silly and dark. You need a deck of cards, some six-sided dice, tokens, paper and pencils to play.

Quiet Year


Oli Jeffery’s melancholy horror game uses a pared down version of the Forged in the Dark system to tell stories like Haunting of Hill House, Oculus and Hereditary. I’ve read Quietus a couple of times and am eager to try it out… Eager might be the wrong word, given the subject matter.


Murderous Ghosts

I didn’t manage to play a whole game of Murderous Ghosts as it’s a two player game and a third player unexpectedly turned up after we’d given up on him. This is a kind of narrative, competitive choose your own adventure. One player is a lost urban explorer and the other player is the haunted building they’re trapped in. It can get quite dark, quite easily.


Mars Colony

In a similar style to Murderous Ghosts, this is an asymmetrical game where one person is managing a Mars Colony and the other is representing the conflicts which appear. There’s a standalone expansion called 39 Dark which flips over to the citizenry and the issues facing them.

mars colony

Star Crossed

A role-playing game about a forbidden romance. Maybe you’re both people from rival families, or an AI and programmer, or cryptid and investigator… whatever the situation, you are two people who want to get together, but external factors prevent it. Played using a Jenga tower, you touch the tower when you talk and when you act, you pull a block from it. The trick is that you want the tower to fall as that’s when you act on your feelings, but you can’t have it fall too early or late. You can find out more about it here.

star crossed

The Hour Between Dog & Wolf

This game looks really interesting and creepy. I admit I’ve not played it but I’ve read Kate Bullock’s review and want to try it after that. This is a cat and mouse game for two players; a serial killer and someone hunting them.


One Missed Call

A very small and short game, you can even play this on a call with someone. You play a series of calls either taken or missed between two people. You don’t know whether the other person wants the relationship to get closer or father apart by the end of the game, but cross off options from the conversation list as you go. You can download it here.


You and I

An anthology of two player games. These include games where one player is a pilot and another’s a mech, multiple epistolary games and one where you communicate only through emails from an abandoned email account. It can be found here.


Dear Elizabeth

One of the winners of the 200 Word RPG contest in 2018, this is a game of Regency heroines writing letters to each other. Nice and simple, playable on either side of a door, but I’m sure you could actually write and post the letters to one another. It’s found here.


These are games specifically made for two players or for small groups. It is possible to run games intended for larger groups with only a couple of players. Let me know if you’re running something for a small group during this time, either from the above or anything I haven’t mentioned.

Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faked Tales Still Exists

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. I thought I’d post a little update.


So How Has 2019 Been?

Pretty rough, with a few good bits. I had some work issues and health issues, both of which affected each other in some non-fun ways. They also helped persistently remind me of my own mortality and how little I’ve done as I crawl slowly towards 40. We’re still in Hellworld, as I’m sure you all noticed with December’s election and the world being literally on fire in places. I managed to get a good secondment at my work which has only just started. I like the company I work for and the sense of helping people out, superhero-idolising nerd that I am. My house things are still in the process of being resolved, but are at least closer than they were. I had inherited my late mother’s house, but it’s got issues and there were problems with the solicitors sorting out the deed transfer and the building society. Those are over, but there are still mortgage things to sort out.


Pity party over, what did I actually accomplish in 2019?

Cadavers: World Gone to Hell was released and received well everywhere it’s been reviewed. Specifically, Blob Detective has been name-checked on every place I’ve heard or read a review on. My dad asked me when I’m next writing Blob Detective as I should capitalise on it. So that’s all kind of cool. I’m still a nobody, but I’ve got something out there. I pitched half a dozen other projects to Mad Robot and have a couple of things I’ve been developing.

Cadavers WGTH Cover

I took part in National Novel Writing Month again, running the Brighton & Hove community. I wrote a new version of Mistbirch Mythos, a kind of cosy murder mystery mixed with Lovecraftian horror. I lent much more on the cosy murder mystery side and feel a lot happier with what I’ve written so far.

nano 2019

I continued to write for Who Dares Rolls and to take part in our currently sporadic podcasts. This included our third ever live show at UK Games Expo. I’m hoping for things to get a bit more organised and regular there in the next year. I’ve liked covering independent RPGs there and hope to shine a light on more games soon, as well as diving into a few board games.

WDR Logo

The biggest new thing has been running RPG community nights at the Dice Saloon. I run my weekly sessions there and drew enough positive attention from passers by and the staff to be asked if I wanted to run a regular RPG night. It started small in January, with mainly the volunteer GMs I’d gathered and a single player. Then two players and no one else. It grew over the weeks to the point where it now needs 3-5 tables. We’ve featured a ton of different RPGs, including some of my favourites like Dungeon World, Zombie World and Monsterhearts 2. I’ve tried out games for the first time like The King is Dead, and we have of course had some D&D as well. It’s been an amazing success and hopefully will keep going through 2020.

rpg brighton

Photo by @arthurli on Instagram


What’s Next?

I listened to a great League Presents podcast about the RPG business and it made me think a lot about what I’m doing. I keep trying to do everything all at once, which Mad Robot’s Matt Hardy has often rightfully pointed out means I never finish anything. I’ve limited myself to the following list:

  • I want to write prose
  • I want to write comics
  • I want to talk about tabletop games
  • I want to talk about comics

If I can get the Blob Detective RPG quickly polished and published on Itch.io, then that’s cool, but I won’t be trying to make any other RPGs until I get other things published. I like the idea of making RPGs, but it’s not a big priority. That benches Murderboi Society (a few small Assassin’s Creed style games), Orphan Harvest (a board game), A Walk in the Dark and Inventory Quest.

A day after Matt helped narrow my comic pitches down from seven to two, I dreamed a great page layout for Lightning as a comic, got up, couldn’t find a pen and scribbled it down on a screen capture I took of my phone. I will be working on a tentative comic script. I also want to finish the rewrites on episode two of the prose version and to work out revising the already published episode one. There are a couple of things I want to change there; not much, mainly some Lena Parker things to avoid the ‘not like other girls’-ing of her. It’s pretty tedious and I owe her (and the audience) better than that.

Screen Capture

This has since changed, but it was a good instigator.

My comic projects are the big, main ones. I have two issues of Amnesiac City scripted and need to find an artist. This isn’t something I’ve done before and I’ve been too exhausted to try, so I’m going to change that early this year. Hopefully I can get assistance from Matt, who has found some amazing artists for his work. I’ve got Explosion High!, which I’ve not formalised a plot layout for and does have one artist (it may end up having more). It’s undergone some big changes going from a webcomic format to a proper comic.

I’ve got a physical copy of Mistbirch Mythos to proofread and cut apart with red pen. My goal at the moment is to get it in a state where it’s ready to publish or burn & rebuild by the end of 2020.

Who Dares Rolls went through some quieter times between work patterns, kids and such. I want a more regular recording schedule for the podcast and my brother was pressuring me about pivoting to video at some point. We’ll see if I can work out how to edit podcasts first and then where I can go. As my Hostage Negotiator Actual Play series felt a bit too small to post on WDR I’ll continue posting them here, although with the Career expansion coming out soon, I might just power through all of the packs, continuing on to the next one even if I don’t succeed at the mission.

Faked Tales still exists and I still pay my renewal fees for it. I want to be more prolific here, even if it only consists of little pieces of writing. I enjoyed writing about comics at first here and then on Google Plus (RIP) so I want to write a few things here about them. I have a short story that’s kicked my arse for ages and want to get out. I’ve also been thinking about collecting, adding to and revising my post apocalyptic Brighton short stories as my horror work from here have been doing okay on Kindle.

We’ll see how far I get with all of these plans. As long as my next post isn’t me doing the same thing for 2021, then I’ll have succeeded at something.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Cadavers: World Gone to Hell is out!

This may be old news for the Kickstarter backers who have had it for a little while and convention-goers who were able to get copies, but now Cadavers: World Gone to Hell is open for anyone to purchase from their site! (Also from Dice Saloon if you’re in Brighton)

Cadavers Cover

The Cadavers anthology’s cover, and a ton of awesome talent listed on it.

It’s a fantastic collection about the last year in the life of a world where monsters and humans live together. In the main Cadavers comic we’ve seen the aftermath, as monsters are refugees from the Spooky Earth and the hate-virus which tore apart their world threatens to destroy the normal world, too.

Matt Hardy put this all together and wrote a good deal of the stories. It was great playing in his and Ed Bentley’s world, as well as acting as a sounding board for Matt’s ideas and helping with the continuity in the anthology.

I wrote scripts for two of the stories.

Blob Detective

The Blob Detective

Blob Detective is a story about a six foot blob who is a private detective. They manage to solve crimes with no hands or ability to talk. The informants, villains and femme fatale are all similar strange creatures brought to life lovingly by Russell Mark Olson who has another Kickstarter out now!



Fractured – Our happy couple.

Fractured is a love story. Kind of. I had an idea for a love between two worlds, but gave it the horror twists the world(s) of Cadavers needed. It’s one of the only stories set in our world, as scientists investigate a fracture in the multiverse and someone falls in love with a ghost. I had some Bernie Wrightson mental images when I went into the scripting, but seeing the work of Rory Donald (of Griff Gristle fame) when we were looking for artists… he was perfect. His moody landscapes create an open yet isolated setting and his shift to sudden brutality when things start to go off the rails was jaw-dropping.

Both stories were lettered by Rob Jones, who put in so much work to the book as a whole, giving each story its own great flavour.

I joined the Mad Robot family briefly at MCM Expo where World Gone to Hell and Murder Most Mundane were going well and Frank at Home on the Farm was debuting. I’m currently working on my next project for Mad Robot which I’ll hopefully be able to share more of once we’ve found a suitable artist.

Oh, and we’ve also had a glowing review of World Gone to Hell on the Talking Comics podcast, found here.

If you’re curious, check out Cadavers: World Gone to Hell and keep your eyes peeled on Mad Robot as there’s a lot more coming out soon.


I know I’ve already posted a picture of Blob Detective, but I love them so much, I had to share more.

Posted in Comics, General, Shameless Self Promotion | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostage Negotiator – Abductor Pack One: Connor E Ogden

Hostage Negotiator: Abductor Pack
Case One: Connor Ogden


“This CEO’s a nasty piece of work, even among CEOs. His decision to invest heavily in goat-powered cars has led to a meeting we’re guessing wasn’t for a raise. He’s gone for the high stakes way of keeping his job; at gunpoint. We’ve got one person on the inside helping us out, but it’s only a matter of time until they’re caught. Now you need to make sure he’s taken out of there, in handcuffs which are a lot less golden than he’d want.”

It’s been a while, which admittedly the statement I make when posting each of these. At this point I might get through them before the campaign mode of Hostage Negotiator comes to Kickstarter, or maybe it’ll be out soon enough and I’ll be slow enough that I’ll just transition from these one offs to a campaign report. We’ll see.

I finished up my reports of Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave and I’ve been very eager to see what the Abductor Packs offer. I went all in on the Kickstarter, which meant I received all of these packs from the previous campaign and Crime Wave. I also exercised a lot of restraint by not opening them all (okay, I opened the pack which enhanced the existing abductors, just because it meant the core set’s content was increased… I’m only human). I even wrote a little about the joy of opening a booster pack specifically because of this game. It was an article I knew I wanted to do and I had to wait until I had time to get on with the Abductor Packs before I could write it.

Hostage Negotiator had some simple changes to the rules for the abductors there, then Crime Wave shook things up nicely, but these sets look like they must all add something bigger to them. In this case, there’s a hostage who’s helping out. They give me extra actions which might help, but it’s risky them doing so. Connor’s also very angry, so I needed to tread carefully. I also took in a new assistant to help me out with this game, as The Rock had been almost too good in previous situations.


Because I kept each pack sealed, I also stowed enough sleeves for them in the box, ready to go.

Connor Ogden: Attempt One
Connor wanted his termination retracted, which isn’t really all that logical given what he’s doing, but I think we’re at a point where logic’s gone out of the window (along with other CEOs if I’m not careful). He wants a golden parachute (non-literal) and a leer jet to escape on. Yep, not really the most realistic demands, dude.

I started out with some small talk and used the points from that to get a life-saving net in place. He showed a moment of weakness, just happy someone was listening to him after all these years. He released George, who was busy taking the minutes.

life saving net

I tried to get him to keep cool and tried a little more small talk, spending a reroll to make sure everything was okay. Using all of this I bought ‘I can get one out of here’ from my buddy in the board room. Connor decided he wanted the company’s documents to get publicised. Little did he realise that I was completely fine with that, stupid Connor. I managed to use this temporary bonus to get another couple of hostages out thanks to my contact. It worked, but angered Connor come more. I had to ditch one of the help cards from the hostage and used that to get rid of the card which checked out his demands, then hoped he wouldn’t hurt me.

I bought ‘Little Compromises’ and ‘Extended Conversation’ and actually had a plan. Oh yeah, take that, terror. I had to remove an internal influence card which felt fine until I realised it was actually very good and I should have used it before. Dang. The extended conversation went down really well and the little compromises could have been better, but did alright. He was on ‘S’ level, which means he’s practically chilled out and may start letting folks go if I’m lucky.

Connor tried winning me round to his way of thinking by making me wealthy, but no, he’s not convincing me given today’s behaviour. I’m terrible with money, but even I know that’s a bad investment.

I thought about getting another ‘Keep cool’, but ended up with a ‘worse before it gets better’ card, which would buy me some time. That and a ‘tight spot’. An attempt at getting hostages out only got one until I chanced it with a reroll and miraculously got two out in one go. An injured businessman and a secretary. I ended the turn with 0 conversation points to spend, but I didn’t care. It meant that I was near the end. He sadly also was near the end of his rope, with ‘time’s running out’ meaning that I had to take a bunch of terror cards out of the deck, speeding up the endgame.

its almost done

This is what it looks like when things go well. It’s a rare sight.

I managed one more hostage escape, put him in a tight spot and used my new helper, The Legacy, to keep him in the green despite these people escaping. It was too useful having him add another die to my pool. Connor decided that was fine, but he wanted food, adding that to the demands. I tried some small talk and got nothing from him. He removed a card from my selection from the game, so I picked the sniper one. If I can go all the way through this campaign without having to kill, that’d be cool. He also stopped another internal informer card. Ugh.

Eventually a lot of small talk, as well as a ‘you talk, I listen’ added a bunch of assistance. I actually promised to give him his sodding parachute in return for the last two hostages. Then my inside contact managed to make themselves known, escorting the exhausted Connor out of the building, where we finally met and I was able to slap the cuffs on him.

This was a very different experience to the last games and I really liked it. We’ll see where it goes from here. I’ll definitely be giving the next pack a go soon. I didn’t get the new card for the pack, where he wants to see the board fly, which was a shame, that sounded like it could be a tricky situation to play off of. Also the last two playthroughs have actually ended well for me. I can’t help but feel the next one’s going to be trickier, just because I’ve evidently used up my luck this time.

Posted in board games, General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanos’ snap came to Avengers Academy

Oh AA how dare you

How could you, Avengers Academy…

The mobile app game “Avengers Academy” closed down recently and I thought I’d talk about it a little.

Loading Screen

I’ve been playing Avengers Academy since mid-2016, I joined just as a Spider-Man special event was kicking off and kept going right until it ended. I’ve still yet to find an equivalent replacement game which hits the same buttons.

So what was Avengers Academy? It’s basically one of those games where you have characters and buildings, then send characters to the buildings to do specific actions for an amount of time. You know them, we’ve all played or heard of them. I’ve reviewed one as my first D+Pad Magazine and it was so tedious that I reviewed it in character as an aspiring insane barbarian lord limited by how long it took to build the simplest things.

Avengers Academy had two big differences which made it infinitely more palatable. The license, of course was a massive draw. Then there was the fact that it’s not just Marvel’s Avengers, but also a weird high school AU version of them. This was something I didn’t know I needed in my life.

Basically the premise is that somewhere in the Marvel multiverse there’s this school run by Nick Fury and Pepper Potts. At first Iron Man, Wasp and Loki show up, then you begin building the school and unlocking more characters. The next people in the roster were a charmingly out of date Captain America, a try-hard brooding goth black Widow and the ultra-fan Ms Marvel. Almost immediately I found myself cynically moaning about how they had to include villains like Taskmaster to fill up spaces because they couldn’t use X-Men or Fantastic Four characters who’d also been Avengers in their time. Still, there was something charming about it.

Tony Blade 1

Tony Stark is very Tony Stark in this game.

So each character has ranks which went up, unlocking more costumes and more actions. Most importantly, you got to see the story of them as they went. Variant costumes (often unlocked with premium currency, but there were also a bunch unlocked for free in events) would come with their own stories. The main ‘plot’ was pretty thin, but created an increasingly large continuity with several different rival schools and hints of some wider conspiracy Fury was keeping. This was more about the fact that this was just one place in the multiverse and students from all over were showing up, but it was a fine contrivance to allow all kinds of heroes to show up. As an example Scott Lang’s Ant-Man and Janet Van Dyne’s Wasp existed alongside a Hank Pym teacher and Scott’s grown-up daughter, all thanks to the vicissitudes of the multiverse. The story segments made sure to lampshade all of this and the awkwardness it caused.

The events were great at first and most of them reshaped the campus a bit. The Daredevil event had a skyscraper appear ruled by Kingpin, who’d kidnapped a bunch of the Netflix Defenders characters. The Halloween event was my favourite, where I actually spent money for the first time to unlock additional locations for the characters to have hangouts. These were ways of increasing their friendships which of course unlocked more widgets and in-game currencies of different types. Still, the mechanics involving friendships unlocking things was fun and like a lot of events, I walked away with a bunch of new characters and costumes. The game would bring back old characters from time to time which was great for someone who missed the British Invasion event and wanted to get Captain Britain (the one X-Men character, unless you count Zabu the sabretooth tiger who’s at best X-adjacent).

So this odd high school AU Marvel Universe had become a weird, regular ritual in my life. A few times a day I’d check in, assign people to tasks, get a hit of story and then carry on. I think I spent money maybe three times in the game and while it made the kind of predatory offers which most mobile games do, it wasn’t that much pressure. There were some characters I didn’t care to put any effort in, like Winter Soldier, although when he did appear from a random drop it was great seeing him as a weird emo poet/busker. I put in little effort for the Inhumans event as part of my bitterness at the comic storylines where the X-Men were suffering in and out of the fiction because of them.

There were Christmas events where the whole campus was covered in snow, the Jane Foster Thor showed up, Angela, the Young Avengers. When the comics had an Avenger no one remembered reappear, she also appeared in the game. There were tie-in characters to the films and TV shows, such as Peggy Carter and Mockingbird. The campus got pretty crowded, pretty quickly. The glut of people made the campus look a little too busy at times, but it was still cool to see random things happening all over the place, especially when bigger characters like Devil Dinosaur showed up.


Old Lace and Devil Dinosaur, two of my favourite Avengers.

The app changed up how it worked a little while ago, shifting from events which changed the look of the campus and new, weird combat systems to one formalised version. There were minor shifts, but a button appeared to reach a combat map. The existing currencies changed slightly and new levels were attached to characters to go along with their ranks. They had attack types and classes, which you could mix and match in fights. It was a little more tactical and time-consuming, including an option to speed up the fights which I always used, or to skip the battles entirely using a resource, which I did during breaks at work. It was a matter of contention on the r/avengersacademygame subreddit which was an invaluable resource for playing this game. Some people left, but a lot adapted. Personally, it was… okay. I had some characters I did my best to cultivate more than others. I loved having Devil Dinosaur as tough as I could get him (as an event character, he’d never be as good as Iron Man or any of the original lot, but he’s a dinosaur so I had to try). You could have them fight in different costumes, a lot of which modified characters. Outside of events, Loki was almost always in their female form. Falcon had a weird thing for penguins in this game (which admittedly most characters did, but him more than the rest) so I kept him in a penguin outfit I won in a Halloween event. I also never let Captain America change out of his Cap-Wolf costume.


You get him, Cap-Wolf!

Again with the weird deep cuts. Cap-Wolf. People who never read the comics with him in, who may have never read Marvel Comics now knew Cap-Wolf existed. Even though the game didn’t have the X-Men in, I got really into the lives of these characters and their eccentricities.


Everyone gives The Hand shade for their mute ninja-ness and rightfully so.

Tony and Blade

Ugh, Tony. AGAIN?

Recently there was a notification that it was all coming to an end.

the end

Oh dang.

People on the subreddit had been warning of this. The content, while fun, was beginning to feel like a lot less was in it. For the last month or so before it went, they gave away a ton of the premium currencies to rank and level up characters, as well as open up their loot box equivalents to unlock more people. It was a nice way of seeing it all off and I realised in the final week or so before the end to stop focusing on the combat side and just push people through their stories while I still could. I unlocked costumes which I’d seen but never encountered before.

Peter Parker’s social discomfort was made much worse with a symbiote costume driving his emotions out of control. Blade got all retro, Punisher found his inner joy when he became the Cosmic Ghost Rider and Maria Hill got a costume which looked like a giant banana. Because why not?


I never actually got Man-Ant Ant-Man, but I did love the look of him.

And now it’s all gone. One day I’ll find an app game which combines the pretty low level of time investment along with the focus on character and story which hooked me in here. I just felt that something should be said about this thing which I’d spent a bunch of time enjoying, to pour one out with words in its memory.


Even the newscaster became a character at one point.

Oh, also there were a few elements which I really hope will somehow make it into the 616 even as a small reference:
The weird fixation with penguins, especially from Falcon
Tony Stark’s dedicated cheese fridge which Jarvis would keep tidying and everyone else would steal from.
Barry the incompetent but well-meaning AIM agent who would spend most of his time hiding in bushes
Boss Wasprus, a giant fluffy, buck-toothed wasp turned mafia boss. I have no idea why he existed
The final resolution to almost everything being a dance party.

And on that note, here’s how I left the game when I went, with the core Avengers Academy people and the Guardians of the Galaxy partying until the lights went out.

Core Cast Dance Party

The core gang, sans Tony who was probably back in the glitter again.

Guardians Party

The Guardians of the Galaxy, who all had partying actions, but I’d never done them all at once before…

Posted in General, Video Games | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hostage Negotiator Crime Wave – Part Three: Renesha Sharp

Hey, you heard of the Wind Rattlers? They’re an all-girl gang led by one Renesha Sharp. She’s young but managed to outwit the police and evade capture for a good couple of years now. Kowalski and LaRoux were staking out the lair of the Fuzzy Dice Gang when they saw she was in there with them. She’d got the drop on the Fuzzy Dice and was torturing some of them for any intel. Kowalski freaked out and now she’s got them in there, looking to use them as leverage. She’s not planning on going anywhere and she’s calm for now. See if you can take advantage of that.

We’re at the end of the core campaign for Crime Wave. Where Lijah started us off by just wanting out of a bad situation, Renesha is fine staying there. She’s got no escape demands and as I found out later, that’s with good reason.
Looking at her abductor card, she gets angrier the better your dice pool is. I think this is to reflect her ability to see through me if I talk too much or try to overthink what I’m doing. The more off the cuff I am, the better I am, unless you count having dice and higher odds of success as ‘better’.

The board and cards set up for the game.

Renesha Sharp: Attempt One

The first thing, like most games of Hostage Negotiator, is to find out her demands. If the mechanics of the abductor aren’t clear from their main card, they will be once you’ve revealed their demand. Of course, this also makes her angry, so it’s a tricky first play. With only a partial success I didn’t generate conversation points but found out she wanted her gang to be left alone. This also put some little markers on the conversation point scale. These are new to this expansion and help point out something important. The demand she had meant that if I generated too high or low an amount of conversation points then things would get worse. This is where an amount of cat and mouse came in, as I had to work in more and more constraints. Oh, and put another demand in play. Much like Lijah’s constant stream of new escape methods, Renesha had more major demands to make. To prove who was in control here, she killed a hostage. A great start.

Renesha’s next demand was more of a boast, which triggered if it was the only demand left, followed by another demand showing up with it. I calmed her down temporarily, just enough to know she’d blow up with the next roll. Making a roll with five dice (three from her disposition and two from the previous roll) really paid off! It was for some conversation point generation and I decided to trigger The Rock in order to double my points. I was still using The Rock as she’s just such a good character for an early game boost. I will change her up sometime soon.

A bunch of Hostage Negotiator dice

This did trigger her first demand of ‘leave the others alone’, but that only lost me one card. I took ‘little compromises’, which I’ve noticed does tend to be the key of so many plays of Hostage Negotiator. With that and a ‘tight spot’, I had a risky round, but a rewarding one, leading out some of the hostages. To close things out, one hostage managed to flee of their own accord and then Renesha killed another, while this was the fate of the cards, it also felt like a dramatic retort to my success.

I managed to calm things down a little bit, using a lot of cards to chill Renesha out to mitigate the inevitable increase she had. As I’d been rolling a lot of ‘roll some extra dice’ results, I was also inadvertently pissing her off. ‘Keep cool’ was a pivotal card for these plays. She calmed down a little and just wanted to be understood. She also wanted water, which was a bit more tangible. I admit I’m a bit hard on the demands, but sometimes the minor ones like water can just about be conceded.

I tried another ‘keep cool’ and she did a little. Another quick bit of escorting and now three people were left, five were out and only one new person was dead.
Now I just needed to keep her calm enough to get the last of them out and surrender. This wasn’t going to be easy. With one partial success and one failure I was able to buy ‘take a breather’ but that was it.

The pretty sweet Renesha meeple

She’d barely calmed down and guess what happened? She’d captured ANOTHER hostage? Where the hell did this one come from? The bastard! I think a paramedic or someone got too close trying to recover the wounded. I asked about her demands for the final one and that angered her again. Still, it gave me +2 dice to the next roll which again would piss her off but allow me to try escorting someone out. Two got out, one died and it triggered ‘I just want to be understood’, which in turn triggered, ‘good game, sucka’, which put an end to my good game.

I was at the end of the Terror deck, the pivotal event. She had one last hostage to get out and no more major demands. I hadn’t come through for her on the water though, which was the last straw.

Bang. The last hostage was killed.

I managed to stop her in the end, but that was it. Three dead, seven saved and Renesha behind bars.

This one was interesting, stressful and a good example of how you wild a game gets when you’ve no idea what the scenario will bring. Next up I have the first of the Abductor packs, which is really exciting as it’s all hidden inside a booster pack.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hostage Negotiator Crime Wave – Part Two: Barrett Mullins

Witnesses heard gunshots in the petrol station half an hour ago and called the police. They ID’d the man as one Barrett Mullins. He’s armed, has at least one fatality under his belt that we know of and seven people left in there with him. We don’t know what he wants, he’s been uncooperative, volatile and keeps yelling about showing ‘them’. We had a look at his social media to see if he’s any clearer there but it’s all frankly incomprehensible. Sorry to say, but you’re going in blind for this one.

It’s been longer than I intended with this campaign, but here we are with part two!

I’ve played through the original Hostage Negotiator a few times (once I’ve done the new abductors I’ll return to the originals as I have bonus cards for them) and expected these three to be pretty similar. So far they’ve not, with Lijah not having a plan but wanting to escape. That was a good way of easing us into the game. Now we’re in pretty deep with a character who’s already at the end of the threat scale, having just killed a hostage. This is going to be tricky. I selected The Rock as my negotiator as she’s a great person to gain a sudden boost of conversation points when you hit crunch time. I’ll change up who I’m using at some point. Just not today.

Barrett Mullins: Attempt One
My gaming table is currently the kitchen table, so I washed up the dirty dishes which were already there, set everything up and then the washing machine broke. The game would have to wait, so I packed everything away in a couple of baggies in the box. Another good aspect of the larger box.

Barrett Mullins: Attempt Two
A couple of weeks and a new washing machine later, I was able to unpack Barrett and finally figure out what the hell he wants.

The biggest problem to start us off was less that Barrett’s motives were unclear; most abductors start that way. It was that he was maxed out on anger and going to kill again if I wasn’t careful. With Barrett’s anger so high, I was only rolling one die to start off with. I’d need to get him to cool his jets before finding out what he wanted or getting some of the good conversation cards.

He initially chilled out a little, at the cost of some conversation points which brought me down to -2. Then a terror card immediately shot him back up to, “K”. The next turn had me low on cards as I couldn’t buy anything. I tried to ask for his demands, failed and he killed another hostage, shouting that I wasn’t listening to him.

After such an abysmal start, the moment I got a good amount of conversation points I immediately used The Rock’s ability, doubling them. I bought some Little Compromises. My victory was short-lived as he got angry and killed again. There was no half-measure with this guy, put a foot wrong and he was back to murder.

The compromises went well and I got him to have a bit of a rest, but the terror deck seemed to be both self aware and hateful of me, with two impatience cards and a show of weakness. While two people had been freed now, the clock had sped up considerably. Three people were dead and things weren’t looking good.

Another breath and my rolling skills went the way of my role-playing group. You would think there are only 1-3’s printed on the dice sometimes. Maybe they’re in cahoots with the Dead of Winter die?

I managed to get more Little Compromises and Keep Cools, bringing him down to a 1 anger. He’d chilled and revealed that I needed to speak to his lawyer. He was having a bit of a problem with his parents’ divorce. Apparently his mum drove away his dad and took him to the cleaners. He couldn’t cope with this and lost all his chill in the most extreme way.

It hit the point where I had one hostage left to scrape a bare minimum victory. I bought back the Little Compromises card and still had the reroll cards from a previous turn. I was ready to get through by the skin of my teeth.

Then one of the hostages escaped! The brave little soldier! He fled and Barrett noticed a moment too late, spraying bullets at the door. I confidently went into the final conversation and Barrett handed over his final hostage before surrendering!

I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s incredible how a game involving flinging some dice can get you so tense. It wasn’t a great victory though, not with those three bodies Barrett left behind. I was totally shocked that I managed to turn the game around and luck certainly played a helping hand with the fleeing hostage.

Next time, I’ll be dealing with the leader of a gang who has many demands, but doesn’t care about escaping. Hopefully I’ll be even half as lucky as I was here.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Thirty-One – Share why you take part in RPG-A-DAY

Share why you take part in RPG-A-DAY

I take part in RPG a Day because it allows me to talk about some cherished memories and revisit them myself.

I’d not thought about some of the things I’ve talked about for years until I mentioned them here. The love triangle in Buffy, the CCG style cards I made for characters. My mention of using Obsidian Portal reminded me to get it set up for Night Witches as it’s a useful resource when you’ve got a ton of NPCs floating around and access to character images from the Nachthexen cards.

A player of mine reminded me that he’s also been reading the articles, which have given a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain about the origins of some things going on in games. I’m generally pretty open with most things in games, but aspects like my RPG metaverse tend to be quietly sowed into a story rather than overtly stated.

I get to see other people’s answers and enjoy those, too. The last couple of years have had some questions which felt a bit like an opportunity to moan about things, but this year’s been more of a celebration. It’s been nice seeing what people like in the community, especially given how some bad actors can make the wider gaming environment seem.

Personally, I want to take everyone’s NPCs they mentioned in the first week, adopt them and give them cameos in my games. Sometimes there are extra challenges set by other people in September, so I’ll be keeping an eye out in case there are any which take my interest.

Posted in General, rpg | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RPG a Day 2018 – Day Thirty – Share something you learned about playing your character

Share something you learned about playing your character

It’s going to sound odd, but go two-dimensional.

I learnt this more from NPCs than player characters, just because that’s what I’m mostly playing. Still, I think this holds true for both.

What I mean by this is that we’re playing a role-playing game. This is drama. You can make an incredibly nuanced character, but you and maybe the GM will know all of the multitudes you contain. I had one player who made amazingly long backstories, filled with secrets, mysteries and plot hooks. He rarely interacted with other players’ characters as he was busy keeping to himself and interacting with NPCs. When his secrets came to light… nothing. Absolutely nothing. No one cared or knew what it meant.

If you keep your character’s secrets and personalities open and fairly simple, you’ll make a lasting impression. We’re after bold, distinctive characters who people will remember and will have fun interacting with.

You can have more aspects to your character, you can have some nuance, but we’re not playing with a massive tome of prose. We’re playing with a character you’ll see for a few hours every week or month for a little while. That’s a small space to get a lot of story done. Be bold and be fine with having that encompass some flaws.

Characters from each clan in L5R

Legend of the Five Rings was a game where I struck on this, mainly because there was a large cast of what is basically paladins. The samurai of L5R are all supposed to be honourable warriors who adhere to strict codes. I like to think that most people can’t keep all of bushido in their heads at all times, especially the younger samurai. They’re going to have blind spots, they’re going to mess up. My brother’s Bayushi Denbe was very shy, hiding a cunning mind. His friend Matt’s Hida character was boorish and fine with bullying people if he was keeping honourable. Alex’s Shiba Majushi was quick to anger and flustered at having to look after a bunch of students. With the NPCs, I kept things in broad strokes. Akodo Satai was a Lion Clan berserker prone to panic attacks and huge amounts of anxiety. Ide Kanekana referred to himself in the third person and was exceptionally vain. There were no half measures with the player characters or NPCs. They were all notable and all my darlings, even if they belonged to other players and even if they ended up dying horribly or getting forced into life as a ronin. PbtA games are good for helping you jump to conclusions about your characters by filling in the ‘look’ sections, which I find is often good narrative shorthand for statements about your character. If they wear a ‘rakish’ uniform instead of a pristine one, this tells us something from the start. You can use these to build a broad picture and construct the rest from there. Your Monsterhearts Chosen with radiant eyes is going to be different from one with unwavering or wounded eyes. Look at those traits, leap to conclusions, run with them and have some fun.

The Chosen’s Identity section

Posted in rpg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment