October 1

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 17: Favourite Fantasy RPG

In my twenty-five something years of gaming I’ve read, run and played in a fair few number of fantasy RPGs,  so trying to decide my favourite is a bit tricky.  In the end I think I can boil into down into two distinct types; favourite system and favourite background.

How many times have you cracked open a game to find that it is indeed just another western style D&D clone or Middle Earth facsimile? I think when it boils down to it, most of the times it’s someone’s house-rules masquerading as The Next Big Thing TM.

Favourite Background:

Legend of the Five Rings wins for me here, this game just oozes style and atmosphere especially since the whole background draws upon a number of Eastern mythologies to give you something that is very different to what you may be used to.

Runner up:

King Arthur Pendragon.  A classic retelling of the Arthurian legend, where the players can partake in a campaign that spans three or so generations of play.

Favourite System:

Dungeon Quest.  I haven’t had a chance to play this yet but I love the whole idea of how it works, the simplified combat adds another dimension to it and the character bonds are a really good way of connecting the group together.

Runner up:

Runequest.  Another one of those games I looked at when I was getting in to gaming, the Games Workshop editions were released as a set of hardbacks and owing to licensing rights Glorantha couldn’t be used so a fantasy Europe was used instead.  I loved the percentile mechanics but not the really deadly combat, later on the system would be used in a modified form for King Arthur Pendragon.

Favourite overall:

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  I bet you didn’t see that coming 😛 .  This for me was a real alternative to xD&D.  You had career based progression, deadly combat, some really odd creatures to battle and a wonderfully dark humorously horrific background; in short is was everything that xD&D wasn’t at the time.  Oh and it was completely British so it had some really oddities.

Runner up:

I have to tip my hat to the often forgotten Middle Earth Roleplaying Game.  While the system was a bit overwhelming and there could have been more in the way of examples it did justice to Middle Earth and the background was very well presented.






September 29

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 16: Longest Game Session

When I first started gaming and I had an almost unquenchable thirst for gaming I would think nothing of gaming for seven nights a week but even that wasn’t long enough for me as occasionally we’d game Saturday and into Sunday or Sunday into a bank holiday Monday.  One time we even played right into the new year so we could all wish ourselves a happy new year!

Looking back on it now, I realise it may have been a mistake to try and play longer and longer without much rest,  I recall arguments over trivial things when we were all sleep deprived. Stupid things like can someone with super-leaping drop down a height they can leap?

I know, daft things that seemed really important at the time.

These days I tend to game responsibly and try to not game for too long as I don’t appear to have the endurance for it these days.  Call of Cthulhu isn’t much fun when you’re unable to process the clues but tend to connect you to the great green giant itself 🙂




September 28

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 15: Longest Campaign Played

In all my years of gaming I have only really participated in one long campaign; Games Workshop’s The Enemy Within for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

With the exception of the final chapter I was using the Hogshead reprints of the classic adventure and with the additions of the Doomstones campaign which also got inserted into the mix as well as The Dying of the Light, the campaign ran for three years of real-time play.

It was such an epic campaign that I think of it a lot and wonder what I could do to try to recreate the mammoth scale of adventuring;  I did add in my own touches to the scenarios keep the players guessing as to what was coming next.  From barge burning, to unexpected pied piper style shenanigans within the great city of Middenheim I had fun throwing encounters and random things to the players and they stood up to the challenge and rose above the adversity.

I think what I really liked was seeing the characters improve and grow from lowly street filth to movers and shakers with The Old World.

I still have the books, maps, notes and character sheets from the old game.  I don’t think I could run it again with the same players as I don’t think I could do it justice again and it would tarnish the memory of the whole shared experience.

Perhaps I’ll dig my notes out and scan them for posterity.

August 14

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day Twelve: Favourite RPG Illustration

I make no bones about the fact that I’m very much a second generation or so gamer; I got into the hobby in 1989 but had been showing an interest when the old AD&D cartoon was playing on the television.  I even stayed up late to watch an episode of a show called “South of Watford” hosted by Ben Elton in which he played AD&D with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston, this is what finally got me hooked.

Game books of that era were sparsely illustrated and mainly consisted of line art or in the case of the 1st edition AD&D books used cartoons to fill space.  Is it a surprise then that I tend to prefer the B&W white art of that era as opposed to the full colour that can be found in today’s books?

My favourite illustration is the double page B&W white illustration of the runes that Ralph Horsley did for the Warhammer Fantasy Role-play source book Dwarfs.  The way he made them look like they were carved into stone was spectacular and it truly is awesome to look at.

I have a soft spot for all of the Warhammer art, I find it visually appealing and an idea of roughly what something looks like as it tries to inflict critical wounds upon the characters.

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August 12

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 10: Favourite RPG Publisher

Well this is probably going to be a very tricky question to answer as I’ve met a few of the UK publishers and know a couple of them as friends, I’ve also play-tested for Eden studios so this is going to be a tough question to answer.  Now if this was favourite game designer I may be on shaky ground.

My favourite publisher is no longer in business which makes things somewhat easier as I can’t be accused of favouritism in any way shape or form.

So without further ado my all time favourite is the long lamented Hogshead Publishing. Partly because the reprints of The Enemy Within campaign gave me years of play and was a real joy to referee, I’m more enamoured with the New Style of games that they put out especially The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.  A wonderful story game with subtle humour and a very light mechanic can give you an evening of raucous laughter as you try and out do each other.

Oh and just to be clear about one thing; James is one of the aforementioned friends I talked about in the opening paragraph.

Now did I ever tell about the time we decided to invade the hollow earth armed only with an egg whisk, spatula and the band of the Coldstream guards……….

April 30

RPG Blog Carnival April 2015 – The Combat Experience


This month the subject of the carnival is The Combat Experience and it is being hosted by RPG Alchemy.

Love it or leave it combat is one of those parts of the system that has more than it’s fair share of table time so finding a system that the players engage with is something that is always something I look for.

At school I studied fencing and attended an after school fencing club, the romantic ideal of swinging a blade was what attracted me to the idea. Since then I’ve always checked to see how a combat system models something as simple as feints, parries and riposte.

When I started gaming combat was something I enjoyed, as it gave me an outlet to swing swords or blast away with rayguns.  I remember finding Pheonix Command and relished looking up on the various tables to see where someone had been shot.  While this appealed to me as a games master it was very time consuming for the players as I had to perform a few calculations and look up the result.

While Phoenix Command handles gunfights and the aftermath of being shot I was very disappointed by the hand to hand side of things; even with the hand to hand supplement things never got any better.  Millenniums End also had a novel way of doing things, align a template over a silhouette of a person and then you could work out where you hit.  This also worked for hand to hand and I remember an afternoon of two players consistently kicking each other in the groin for what seemed like ages; the happy spree was broken up when one of the combatants switched locations and axe-kicked his opponent in the head.

I even tried playing Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) but I was confused more by the game mechanics than the combat system, add percentage this to skills etc.

Warhammer 1st edition had a pretty solid combat system that was only slightly wonky but did cater for hit locations.

In the end I decided that I preferred a system that gave me the detail if I was after it, something the narrative games like FATE cater for and the system is a lot more cinematic and pulpy which is something I always enjoy playing with.




November 23

RPG Blog Carnival November 2014 – Races


This month the Blog Carnival has a new home over at Johnn Four’s site http://www.roleplayingtips.com/races-rpg-blog-carnival-november-2014/  and he has the honour of hosting this months topic : Races.

I’ve got quite a few systems sitting on my shelves and for the most part all the pseudo-European Medieval fantasy worlds have the same sorts of non-humans inhabiting them; this I can sort of tolerate but they also appear to have the same racist outlooks on life.

Take for example Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and Goblins.  In many of these books these three races all hate each other but no reason or explanation is even given;  I would hazard a guess that  the popularity of Tolkien’s works may be the core influence here.   This gives a rather similar feel to each world where no thought is given to why they may hate each other.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay does give an explanation as to the rhyme and reason of the hatred.  I can see Dwarves and Goblins hating each other as they exist in a similar niche, just like the Elves and Orcs.  Why then do Dwarves and Elves hate each other since in the cookie cutter fantasy realms they don’t occupy the same regions; Elves like the surface and the forest, while the dour Dwarves toil away deep in the bowels of the Earth.

Adding racial hatred doesn’t mechanically unbalance the races but gives you a wealth of roleplaying opportunities to embrace.

In a recent game I played a Half-Elf who was raised by the Elves and so he had a hatred of them as they treated him as a second class citizen and he had a hard time being accepted as he was caught between two racial divides.  It was tricky to pull off but I found it very satisfying to be able to rail against the expected norms of a Half-Elf.

I would suppose that Half-Orcs have it worst of all, being a creature born of two normally warring sides, trying to fit in would be a real challenge to play.

While we’re at it, why stop with pairing similar bipedal creatures, why not have two different races and mix them together?  You may baulk at this idea but is this any stupider than a creature that is half-owl and half-bear?  You could always use the excuse of a  magical experiment gone wrong or what about a Frankenstein’s monster composed of bits and pieces stitched together and animated by a magical ritual?

If you wanted to do a similar thing in a sci-fi game, depending on what technologies are used you could easily do it, accidents with matter transporters seem to be fairly common in one TV show so why not use that as an excuse?


Using roleplaying like this though should be handled carefully and thoughtfully before you decide to embark on a character like this as there is always the temptation to push the envelope, you don’t want to have your PC swear and curse just because you say its “in character” as I find this is a poor excuse.  Treat it like a seasoning, you don’t want to over salt something as you can ruin it.  Going back to the Half-Elf, he never directly attacked other Elves, he just acted superior to them and made a few cutting remarks in their presence.

Until next month.




August 26

#RPGaDAY Day 26: Coolest character sheet

For as long as I have gamed, there have been character sheets of varying qualities and rapid advancements in modern technology means it is very easy to grab a downloadable copy of a character sheet.  So I’m going to limit myself to official character sheets and the best looking sheet I ever saw for purchase could be found in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay character pack.

This product contained fifty printed sheets on a pad with all the important stuff on it and a wonderful supplement that enabled you to create a background for the character by rolling on several charts.  A fun addition to the rather dry character creation process.


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August 19

#RPGaDAY Day 19: Favourite Published Adventure

This is without a doubt Power Behind the Throne for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

The whole thing is a wonderfully crafted adventure with multiple NPCS, plot threads and there is still room to fit in your own material into the narrative.  I got a real kick out of running it although some of the threads introduced here aren’t tied up in the later chapters of The Enemy Within campaign.

The Hogshead publishing edition also added a linking adventure involving an incendiary incident with a river barge 🙂

May 14

Top 10 RPG list – number 6

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition

I first encountered WHFRP not long after its release and sort of fell in love with the peculiar background; The Old World with its very different fantasy tropes and unusual humour.  White Dwarf carried a number of pre-release adverts before the games release and had a teaser pull-out an issue or two before it was finally available from Games Workshop.  The book was originally published as a hard-cover with colour plates inside and contained all the rules required to play; with the exception of the upcoming magic book Realms Of Sorcery as it took several years before this book was finally  published by Hogshead Publishing.  To round things off there was even a short and very deadly adventure in the back of the book.

The game is known for the dark brooding setting, the use of humour especially puns and wordplay throughout the books; some of which are blatantly obvious if you happen to speak German.  It was also popular because of the critical hit charts which enabled you to describe the gory demise of your adversary.

Character creation.

One of the best parts of the game is the character creation system which had a myriad of character careers rolled from a collection of tables and this determined what your current career is, an advance scheme, initial skills and  some meagre equipment.  Some careers were better than others; for example the Wizard’s apprentice and some were a little underwhelming; for example the jailer.  By and large they were all were fun to play and really gave you an idea of why you decided to take up adventuring.

Advance scheme.

The career also gave you an advance scheme which allowed you to improve your character by giving you the ability to incrementally increase your stats in either +10 or +1 steps depending on whether the attributes were a percentage number or just a plain 0-9 value.  Once you had purchased a single +10 advance, if you wanted to get better you had to locate a career with a +20 advance and so forth until you had managed to get the full +40 allowed.  Upon completion of the advance scheme you would then move on to a new career either by picking a career exit or spending more experience points to select a new career.


The game also had a very broad, diverse and somewhat unusual skill list.  Unlike most fantasy worlds of that era in WHFRP most of the Old World is illiterate, so if you were very lucky your character could posses Read / Write and be slightly ahead of the rest of the world.


The final piece of the equation was your starting gear, some careers gave you access to exotic weapons and armour or if you were unlucky a flask of herbal tea or a bunch of keys.  A quirk of the game was that you had to obtain the trappings of the next career you wanted to advance into once you had finished with your current career, this was great if all you needed was a collection of hats and bottles of coloured sand; not so good if you had to acquire a ship or a mercenary band.


The game also had the usual bunch of stereotypical races to play; Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling and an issue of White Dwarf introduced the Gnome as am additional playable race, if you didn’t have that issue of White Dwarf it was later reprinted in a collection of WHFRP material.   The bestiary had the standard monsters as well as a few creatures unique to the game as adversaries.


The setting is the Old World, a place where magic is a strange force be wielded by trained wizards and the forces of chaos run wild around the forests of the Empire; the Empire is very much like an early renaissance Germany with primitive black powder weapons which certain careers require before you could advance into it.   There is quite a detailed gazetteer and history of the planet in the book mostly using material found in Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition.


There were a few supplements released for the game including the long-awaited Realms of Sorcery but Games Workshop also released a few adventures for it.  There were a couple of geographical source books, and a compilation of articles that had appeared in White Dwarf, including the aforementioned Gnome.

Honourable mention.

Runequest third edition.

Runequest was the other fantasy game I got hold of another fantasy world with its own unique world: Glorantha. At the time Games Workshop had managed to secure the rights to print licensed editions of other companies games and it was the Games Workshop version I had.  The version that Games Workshop published under license was the third edition which spanned  three separate slim hardcover editions unlike the single volume of WHFRP.

I was also a little disappointed that Runequest third edition used a fantasy Europe as a setting rather than Glorantha which was prevalent in the first and second editions.  Many of the printed adventures and source-books still out there used Glorantha and not the new default world and not having access to the earlier editions I was a little confused.  I later found out that this may have been that Avalon Hill had purchased the rights to use Runequest and the name but not the world of Glorantha.

Runequest used percentile dice to resolve actions and could be just as bloody as WHFRP since each limb had separate hit point totals and your arms or legs could be hacked off in battle or if you were unfortunate you could hack your own legs off if you fumbled.