Saturday, November 03, 2007

Creating Conan Characters part 1 rolling dice

Well I've decided to start with the Conan RPG published by Mongoose. As an OGL game it probably is not something that appeals to all gamers, but I like it and consider it to be a good version of the Hyborian age using the D20 rules concepts. Enough preamble, now to use the dice.

In Conan character generation race (human subrace) and class are not rolled for, but selected by the player thought the DM may choose to restrict options, e.g. not many Vendhyan characters in Aquilonia.

Six rolls of 4D6 discarding the lowest gave me 14, 11, 11, 14, 10, 12 not superb, but no negative modifiers.

Heroic method
I don't know how it happened, but the D10 I selected for this seemed to be rolling very high so I ended up with 18, 15, 11, 17, 15, 18 for six rolls.

Now to turn these into characters

Number 1
I decided to make this character using the standard method as an Argossean Pirate. In assigning the rolls to characteristics I thought that as this would be a lightly armoured character high Dex and Con would be good ideas. I assigned the rolls like this:
Str 12
Dex 14
Con 14
Int 11
Wis 10
Cha 11

Number 2
This one I decided to make a Stygian Scholar, as that is a combination that I haven't done so far for a character or NPC and it could be useful for my gaming. With the die rolls that I got for stats it would be easy to create an effective character for any class, and if a player had come to my table with these I would have been highly sceptical, but I saw the dice fall. This character was generated by the heroic method, but has ended up with much higher average statistics than the method would normally generate (15.6 as opposed to 13.5).
Str 15
Dex 11
Con 18
Int 18
Wis 17
Cha 15

To actually start fleshing these characters out I'll use separate posts for each one to avoid this becoming too much of an epic.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Geek books revisited

Now I've had some time to think about this topic - probably too much! I've actually got my picks and it's similar in some ways to the one that set me thinking about this, but with differences due to what I've read and obviously my perspective. Some authors are doubtless unjustly neglected by the simple fact that I've not read them, though I am trying to get more time to read fiction now and hopefully will be able to revist this list in some time and see what I think deserves to be changed. I've restricted my list to 10 choices in no particular order as I think this post would have taken all eternity to finish otherwise.

  1. Cryptonomion by Neal Stephenson - not actually my favourite of his books, but probably the most geeky because of the sheer amount of research dumps into the text and the cryptographic themes. The Baroque trilogy also suffers a bit from the information dumps, which are more controlled in the earlier works like The Diamond Age and Snow Crash.

  2. The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester. Largely here because Gully Foyle is one of my favourite characters from SF and I always enjoyed Bester's books.

  3. Neuromancer by William Gibson. For the opening line at least: "The sky over the port was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel". The visualisation of computer networks as the matrix in this was a real innovation at the time. The whole cyberpunk movement did help shake up science fiction in a way that was needed, but like most of these movements it turned into self parody after a while. The whole mirrorshades and leather trenchcoat, etc bit did make itself too obvious.

  4. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. The three laws of Robotics and the introduction of Susan Calvin with a much more positive view of robots than most 1950's fiction. This influenced a lot of subsequent fiction with ideas of how intelligent machines act, especially the three laws of robotics which frequently turn up in other authors work.

  5. The Shockwave Rider John Brunner. This is a book that I've only recently read and I'll have to look at Alvin Toffler's work that inspired it. It is in some ways prophetic of the current scenario of pervasive electronic communication and some of the ideas are still quite relevant. The basic idea of 'Future Shock' where people are unable to cope with the rate of technological and social change leaving them disorientated is increasingly relevant given the increasing pace of technological and social change in the developed world.

  6. Earth Abides George R. Stewart. This is one of my favourite books depicting a post apocolyptic society arising from the collapse of western civilization. Its plague destroying society scenario is not necessarily impossible and probably more plausible than the post nuclear war scenarios in some books. As an early entry in the genre it has less development of some themes that become common such as struggles for resources and emergence of armed groups, but is still a powerful novel. David Brin's The Postman has a similar reason for society collapsing except for the plague being released through military action rather than nature and it also shows a greater number of survivors, some of whom's actions help to precipitate the decline of society.

  7. Last and First Men Olaf Stapledon. This is included because of the sheer range of its subject with the continual evolution of new species of men. This was one of the books that I remember reading when I was a kid that really made me go wow in SF apart from the usual "its in space" bit.

  8. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams. This is included because of the sheer amount of influence that it has had over the field of SF and humour writing. The first two novels are brilliant, but after that I did feel that the quality started to drop off a bit and I felt that Adam's often was struggling with getting past writer's block and the desire to work on other projects rather than keep putting out more Hitchikers books for all that they would be guaranteed megasellers. I was a fan of H2G2 from the original radio broadcasts on wednesday nights on Radio 4 back in 1978 and still have my vinyl records with the first two parts on as well as the paperbacks of H2G2 and Resturant at the End of the Universe.

  9. Mort Terry Pratchett. The reason I've selected Mort out of the many Discworld books is because I think it is really the title that shows the tropes having really settled for many later books in the series unlike the Colour of Magic or the other early titles. Those characteristic tropes to me are the romance subplot between one of the main characters, who is a nebbish young male and a fairly independent young woman, the world being threatened by some form of device or main villain and the usual cameo appearances by a range of recurring characters. My actual favourites in this series are Small Gods, Nightwatch and Going Postal.

  10. The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien. Mainly selected for its influence on the development of the high fantasy novel than for any particular love for it on my behalf. Now I've got older and read more widely I should perhaps revisit it as like many other books it may well have differences in meaning now I've changed. Probably the last time I read this was as a teenager, so many years ago before I had the understanding of the world that I have now, probably I'd try reading it after reading Beowulf and some of the viking sagas to have an appropriate knowledge of the literary traditions that Tolkein was trying to work in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creating characters for all the RPG I own

Inspired by this thread on I've decided to make a character for every RPG I own, using all the character generation methods possible, e.g. the Conan RPG has standard and heroic so I'll make one for each. This will help me get my project for reviewing RPG back on track too.

I'm not going to do these in any particular order, but the games will include:

  1. Conan
  2. Castles & Crusades
  3. Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition
  4. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition
  5. Bushido
  6. Paranoia
  7. Paranoia XP
  8. Bunnies & Burrows
  9. Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo
  10. Metamorphosis Alpha

For kick off I'll do Conan.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Which Tarot Card are you.

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On-line humour

The web has made it easier for certain groups of people to establish themselves like cartoonists who if they've got a product people want don't need to go through the old hassles of establishing links with publishers and syndicates.

I think a good example is Rich Burlew's Order of the Stick where the success of the online strip has allowed him to quit the day job and make his income from books, merchandise and advertising revenue. Not that it is anything like the income that say a Scott Adams gets from Dilbert, but this is still a niche audience.

Anyway my favorites apart from Order of the Stick are:
DM of the Rings

and not a cartoon and from an author whose work was appearing in print prior to the web Verity Stob at the Register

Quite a lot of other humour sites have developed a bit slowly, e.g. The Rockall Times, which I think is down to the difference between online and print media. Several attempts to do a Private Eye on the web have not entirely worked. I'll return to this theme later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To show that I take blogging seriously

Your Score: 7331 Cat

50 % Affection, 71 % Excitability , 60 % Hunger

Lolzergs have nothing on you. You are swift and ruthless, cutting down whatever and whomever necessary in order to obtain the foodz.

As one of the first lolcat known to man, your ancient skills in location-declaration and object-verbing have been passed down several generations, keeping the spirit of felinity alive.

Link: The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Return of the Urban Dead

or things to do in Malton when you die. I've just started playing the Urban Dead online RPG again. As I couldn't remember any of the old usernames I had for it I've started off with a new character and the usual frustrations of being 1st level in any game. So I have a job staying alive and also getting XP to advance with.

So far I managed to earn enough XP to reach level 2, but have now been killed and zombified, meaning that I'll have to wait around for a revive to get back to playing how I prefer as a survivor. I may go and actually fight some other zombies in the time I'm zombified to earn XP which can help when I finally get revived.

It seems that there are a lot more groups than when I played before and things like organised assaults and defenses of things like the malls and forts are more of a feature than the time when I played before a couple of years ago.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

So which marvel hero faction do I join?

Your Score: X-Men

64% organization, 74% responsibility

You're an X-Man! You fight for acceptance and equality (and to save the universe from the occasional Dark Phoenix Crisis...). You have a deep respect for diversity and human rights, but won't hesitate to step in and stop the world from blowing up. Of course all your battles aren't just fought in your Nemesis's lair, but in the classroom teaching future generations, and on the steps of Washington pushing Mutant rights. Your struggle for the greater good seems endless, but you know it has to start somewhere. Famous Members include: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Storm, and Rogue.

Link: The Marvel Hero Faction Test written by SpaceCowboyRemy on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Saturday, May 19, 2007

FA of a Cup

Well a disappointing FA Cup final this year with the winner decided by a goal against the run of play, even though neither side looked all that much like scoring for most of the game. I think really a result for Chelsea's defence rather than anything else and it will help Mourinho avoid a blank season after the Premiership and Champions League failures.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Comparing Fantasy Games rules

Well I've decided to make a project out of comparing three or four currently available fantasy role playing rule sets that I know well. These are D&D 3.5, Castles & Crusades, and Warhammer FRP. Though I am tempted to include Conan RPG as an alternative to the D&D tropes using the D20 ruleset.

I'll take step by step through comparison of character generation, advancement, combat and magic. Setting isn't really something that I can compare as only Warhammer and Conan have a default setting assumed, though it can be argued that all D&D is based around the Greyhawk world.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back to life or at least blogging

I've just realised that my total blogging activity for this month in terms of completed posts is a mere one. Wanting to improve on this I thought that I'd look to see why I've not blogged. Its been a mixture of reasons including limited access to IT for blogging as my laptop was damaged and I had to wait for a replacement. Lack of time largely due to personal commitments and involvement in three active play by post roleplaying games. Now I'll make good this deficit over the next few weeks and complete some of my many unfinished posts.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Favourite Films

I've been trying to think about my favourite films and identify what, if any, common themes exist in them or that would link them. With certain directors like Kurosawa and Kubrick it has been difficult to know what to leave out.

Kurosawa's films have been something that I was glad of seeing many in the cinema when the NFT in Britain sponsored a season allowing me to see them on a large screen rather than TV adding to their impact. The films I've seen include The Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Kagemusha and Ran.

From Kubrick's films the final choice I think was relatively straightforward as 2001 is a film I've seen many times and there are very few of his others that have quite the same impact on me.

Other choices are based on a mixture of factors like most people when it comes to favourites rather than best, so some are as much about when and where they were seen as the actual qualities of the film itself.

  1. 2001 A Space Odyssey

  2. Ran

  3. Touch of Evil - I think this is actually my favourite of Orson Welles' films above even Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and Othello.

  4. Vertigo - I didn't feel honour bound to include a Hitchcock film, but it stands up well enough on its own to make it into the list.

  5. Aliens - Well it may seem to be a SF movie, but in many ways it is really a war film. Whatever it is, its done right. Strong performances from Sigourney Weaver and Lance Hendriksen

  6. The Piano - One of the few films that I'd want to see on a reasonably frequent basis and one of the less 'boys movies' out of my list.

  7. A Night at the Opera - it was hard to choose a Marx Brothers film as all of them have their moments, but few hold up in their entirety. I really did want to include them as they have given me a lot of entertainment over the years.

  8. Beau Travail - this is one film that really needs to be seen on a large screen to get the full effect from it. It makes it way into the list partly because of the look of it, partly as it is an interesting approach to taking a story from another medium into cinema.

  9. Bride of Frankenstein - I've always been a fan of horror films and this is one of the best ever made. James Whale gets good performances from his lead actors even if some of the minor parts are pure ham.

  10. Dracula - one of the best Hammer films made with both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And my alignment is

Another silly poll and pretty ironic as one of the big things that I tend to dump in D&D is Aligment (or else change it away from the 9 way with the good-evil axis).

You scored as Neutral Good. A Neutral Good person tries to do the 'goodest' thing possible. These people are willing to work with the law to accomplish their goal, but if the law is corrupt they are just as willing to tear it down. To these people, doing what's right is the most important thing, regardless of rules, customs, or laws.

Neutral Good


Chaotic Good


Lawful Good


True Neutral


Lawful Evil


Lawful Neutral


Chaotic Evil


Neutral Evil


Chaotic Neutral


What is your Alignment?
created with

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


FreeCol is a freely available version of the Colonization game created by Sid Meier in the 4x genre, it was developed in Java and is on SourceForge. So far I've found it is an amazing thief of my time, just like Civilization was before it. I enjoy it, but I know that there were issues with the content of the game as discussed in the wikipedia article.

The current version is not file compatible with the previous version meaning that saved games will not open. As it's still very much a development game there can be odd times when it hangs or performance drops drastically, partly a problem of Java which is not really ready to tune yet as the full functionality hasn't been added. Personally the odd problems haven't put me off and its really down to my self discipline to avoid spending too much time on it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Miniatures Wargaming

Wargaming with miniatures is pretty much where I started from with gaming. Initially with soft plastic figures from Airfix and Matchbox, then moving to include other soft plastic miniatures companies like Atlantic. Which is something that I've discussed before when I started my blog.

I also moved to using metal miniatures in the late 70s, with the first company that I really used being Miniature Figurines of Southampton, Minifigs for short, one of the longest established British miniatures companys. I've still got many of the old figures that I bought way back when, some of which were never painted.

These days I've moved away from 25mm figures for most periods and games though I will admit to having a frequent desire to add new periods and ranges to the 25mm part of my collection I am being reasonably successfull in just adding to the fantasy and medieval groups that I use mainly for roleplaying and probably some game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

The biggest frustration is not having time to really get on with my figure painting as I feel the need to reduce my unpainted lead and plastic to single figures which will take some time. At the moment my main projects are a 15mm Fantasy Arab and Eagle Rider armies from Peter Pig, some assorted 25mm fantasy figures and a 25mm Warhammer Lizardman army.

It is most likely that I will end up gaming again soon using the Hordes of the Things and De Bellis Antiquitatis rules from WRG as these are simple fast play rules that I can use on a small table with each side only having a limited number of elements and small amounts of terrain to deal with. I'm also looking at playing some SF games with the Dirtside and Stargrunt II rules from Ground Zero Games with the 15mm Stargrunt range of minis appealing as I can mix it with my existing 15mm SF figures for Laserburn. I think that the Stargrunt rules with the greater emphasis on command and control appeal more these days, but I'm sure I'll play through Laserburn too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Which Science Fiction writer are you?

Another of these internet quizzes which I occasionally waste time on.

I am:
William Gibson
The chief instigator of the "cyberpunk" wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Not too bad a choice I suppose as I'm nearly a contemporary of the Cyberpunk authors and Gibson has been an author I've read heavily.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Well it looks like despite a long period of avoidance I'm getting sucked into the world of Warhammer Fantasy both with the RPG and the Fantasy Battles game, which will be referred to as WFRP and WFB from now on. I think some of my resistance has been due to Games Workshop's habit of talking about it as the Games Workshop hobby rather than the gaming hobby and the RPG being out of print. The setting being more early renaissance than the more feudal period of many fantasy games.

With the miniatures game I have been slow to buy in as I have quite a number of other miniatures rulesets including Reaper and Hordes of the Things for fantasy gaming. The quality of their figures is good, but the prices seem to be going through a phase of rapid increase.

Now I'm going through the WFB rules though it is the 6th edition rather than the latest 7th edition. From what I understand the rule changes between editions have been incremental rather than wholesale.

The WFB rules are quite traditional using an "I go, you go" turn sequence where one character completes all their actions before the other player goes. In each player's turn there is a sequence of phases with only the final close combat phase involving both players. The mechanics of rolling D6 with a target number to beat is very traditional with similar mechanics described in Donald Featherstone's rules from the early 1960s. Generally the rules look to be readily playable with a fairly consistent approach to the mechanics which has added to their ability to support new players starting.

Monday, January 08, 2007

En Garde!

En Garde! is a RPG set amongst the French military in the era of the Three Muskeeteers, which is one of the first games I remember to have a substantial element of social interaction as part of the requirements. As the first edition was published in 1975 it is definitely one of the first RPG to look at this, most other games at the time were much more from wargaming perspectives, particularly D&D and its imitators where morale is the main psychological factor considered.

I have rarely done what this game is really good for, which is extended campaigns having generated far more characters than I ever played (not unusual with a lot of games systems) and used the duelling rules quite often even for other games when it seemed more appropriate than those games core ruleset (neither Traveller or D&D gives a particularly good feel for that intense one on one combat like a duel).

The requirement for characters to keep a diary of events makes it particularly suitable for play by mail or play by post games and the continuing support has been from the pbm community and now the online community. There have been variations in setting used from the fictional Paris of the original to London or Rome. There are active games in many languages and the official site lists them.

Friday, January 05, 2007

More RPG that I have encountered

Time to try and wrap up the theme of different RPG soon, but I thought that there were a few more to mention that I have played or in one case wanted to play that haven't been covered.

Chivalry and Sorcery was always one of the most detailed RPG in its period and did try to set a game actually in the middle ages with pretty much historical magic and attitudes. I didn't play much of it preferring D&D then RQ for the more fantastic approach. From what I remember the rules were very detailed and this meant that character generation was a lengthy process and actually playing was quite slow, but this may be my memory playing tricks on me.

Warhammer FRP is a game that I love the setting of, as the old World and new World in Warhammer contain plenty of interesting stuff, with my own personal preference being for the new World of Lustria with its many lizardmen and their aztec/mayan styling. Warhammer I've read and created characters for, but never actually played till now when I've signed up for a PbP game at Warhammer FRP has many legendary scenarios which I've tried hard not to learn too much about as it would only spoil playing in them, such as the Enemy within.

Pendragon is a game I'mfairly surprised that I haven't played as it is based on Arthurian myth which I have been interested in since I was little (probably not unusual in a Briton). This game has a very different approach to most RPG in that significant time can pass in a session with characters aging and their descendants continuing the quest if needs be. The game is based on Chaosium's BRP system so would not be unfamiliar to me as a player of Runequest and Call of Cthulhu, but with some additions to deal with the out of adventure development and social interactions.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Baron Munchhausen

The extraordinary adventures of Baron Munchausen. This makes my list of most important RPGs because it was the first really freeform game I played. It is one of the few games I know that can readily be played without any reference to the rulebook. Of course if you visit Critical Miss they will worship at the feet of James Wallis the designer of Baron Muchausen and author of the famous Warhammer FRP scenario The Enemy Within.

Mechanically it is one of the most simple games I have come across, with each player having a pool of tokens (usually coins) that are used to reward the player with the best story and in the challenge mechanism. This game must be the purest storytelling game possible with each player assuming an identity as a nobleman and in turn reciting their tale on a topic given to them by the person on their left who was last to buy a round of drinks. While telling their story a player can be challenged by another who wagers a coin which can be won or lost by the active player being able to incorporate that challenge into their story. This continues round the table until all the players have told their stories and the players vote with their remaining coins to produce a winner. Who then buys the next round.

I think this is a great game both for its simplicity of rules and emphasis on storytelling, together with what at least for British gamers is the opportunity to combine RPG with drinking.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Other RPG I have known

Having bought and played many RPG as well as those listed in my top five most important ones I thought I would discuss some of the other ones I enjoyed too. Originally I was going to call this post "Other RPG I have loved", but decided that not all of these are truly ones that I've loved, even if I would still call them.

As well as Traveller I played Metamorphosis Alpha heavily, which in its first edition days had a ruleset similar to early D&D, but I always liked the setting trope for MA with the lost starship. This has had a number of new editions which I haven't bought and I have to admit the more detailed setting for the latest edition is actually something I'm not so keen on as I prefer to make my own details of the setting and have tried different reasons why the starship Warden lost its way and the organisation aboard collapsed.

Toon is a game that I still like for its emphasis on fun and that the rules are there as guidelines rather than to be obeyed in all circumstances. I didn't play it that much as I got Paranoia not that long after and I preferred the darker humour with the game.

Bushido was a game that I played a lot less than I wanted to, largely as by this point we had already been playing D&D, Runequest and Traveller for years and yet another game system did not appeal to the players despite the appeal of Japan as a setting. The mythic Japan is far closer to the historical model than the setting of Rokugan used for D&D's Oriental Adventures. It is a hell of a long time since I looked at it though I still have my copy tucked away in my collection.

Bunnies and Burrows was one of the first RPG I actually bought in the original FGU edition. I always had a certain amount of difficulty getting players compared to D&D as to teenage boys (as my group was at the time), but this did have a lot of ideas that were new for a published RPG: martial arts, a skill system and most unusually for a RPG at that point no human characters. In fact pretty much all the characters would be rabbits, thought the stats would allow other species IIRC.