Tuesday, February 26, 2013

There's "Old School" and then there's OLD School

Okay, sent the way-back machine to a series of posts pretty early on in the "Roll Your Own Life" series of posts, when I started talking about the old gaming group from my little home-town.

After that initial game of Traveller, I found myself in one of the two/three AD&D groups that existed (or at least, that we knew about) in the town, before the groups started to merge, mix and shift about. Old school D&D was where it was at, and those first months of gaming was really the hard-core original games - AD&D, Traveller and Runequest.

The group I used to play with, originally called the Rheinrhehm Travellers, became affectionately known as "The Eight" (despite the fact that there were rarely occasions when eight of us were present). We also used to visit the local pub (The Alexandra) usually at 8pm - a practice known as "Alex at Eight", so it really was eights all around.

Where am I going with this? Well, one of The Eight used to DM one of the other groups when I first started gaming. Pete used to DM ours, while Milo ran his group on the other side of the town. I've known Milo since the dawn of time, probably since I was about five years old, and he DM'd in a very different way to Pete. Pete's game involved 1st-9th level characters, my 9th level Paladin never levelled up in all those years of play. The games were cool, strategic and subtle.

Milo's games were the complete opposite. They were just as cool, but in their main game it was almost as if Deities and Demigods was the Player's Handbook. Characters were frequently triple multiclass, usually level 10-30 in each, and strode across the battlefields (and planes of existence) like the heroes of  legend.

Both games were very different, both used the same rules, and both were just as cool.

Something I've had problems with since the newer versions of D&D seems to be the focus on tactical wargaming. I know this is where D&D originated, but the use of miniatures and a battle map seems to be a little limiting to me. I love the way that RPGs can fire the imagination, how you can do anything, and having a little plastic dude (that looks mostly like all of the other heroes in other people's games) sitting on a dungeon map takes me out of the moment. I somehow think that with all this battle-map and minis, the idea that you could run the game with such powerful and god-like characters is probably frowned upon.

While I own 3.0, 3.5 (the deluxe versions) and 4th edition (and will probably buy 5th), I've only really played it once - a far cry from the three times a week we used to play original AD&D back in the 80's. Maybe the potential's there to do the big and the epic, and to play purely in the imagination. Unfortunately, I don't have a D&D group to experience this. Maybe one day. Hopefully, I'll have a bash at 5th Ed when it comes out. I'd like to see if it still captures my imagination like 1st edition used to.

I was very pleased to hear that Milo, my old DM and constant friend to this day, has not turned his back on his old 1st Edition roots, and his illustrations have graced the cover of the latest issue of "&" Magazine, a fanzine for players of 1st Edition D&D. You can download the latest issue here. (Milo did the cover of issue 4).

On the subject of incredibly retro gaming, I was alerted to this website PlaGMaDA which is compiling player and GM created maps and drawings from old school RPGs. I must admit, most of the maps and illustrations on the site really take me back to those old days of gaming.

The old days when you didn't need a computer to play. When your friends were in the same room as you. When you used your mind and imagination to create worlds, not just wander around a computer generated environment shooting people.

Okay, I'll stop being all nostalgic and get back to work. Until next time, stay multiclassy!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's so WILD about it? (Part 1)

I'd been ignoring WILD for a little while, looking at other projects that I've been working on, or should have been working on. It was only recently that I really thought that I should get back to the game, write a bit more about it.

I printed out all that I'd written so far and filed it in a neat and portable binder so I could read through it on my lunch hours at my stupid day job. As I mentioned briefly last post, strangely I felt that there was simultaneously both more and less than I thought I'd written for the game. Part of me was convinced I'd hardly even started, while other parts of me thought I'd written more. Ho well.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the game, and how little I've actually explained about it to the outside world. So here goes - without giving the game away (so to speak), here's a brief explanation of what has been dominating my gaming thoughts for the past year or so.

I guess it all started with Inception. I love that film. I came out of the first screening in a daze and I think I ended up seeing it a couple of times more, especially when the local cinema installed their Imax screen and Hans Zimmer's score literally made your trousers vibrate with bass tones... However, the more I watched the film and thought about it, the more I noticed didn't work. It doesn't make me like the film any less, it's just that the rules of the universe that Nolan has created for the film are not adhered to. On top of that, it didn't really explore the bizarreness of dreams - everyone's subconscious seemed to be rather mundane. Maybe this was a side effect of going into the minds of people who ran energy businesses...

Then came SuckerPunch. I hated that film. I came out of it thinking it was one of the most visually stunning movies I'd seen in a long time, but the plot, the rules, the storytelling all sucked big-time. But it kept nagging at me, and I saw it again, and again, and the more I looked into the film, the more I appreciated it and liked it. It's not a work of genius, it's not a revolutionary movie, but it showed a little more of what could be experienced inside the mind and the unconscious.

Much like Inception, the rules of the film were broken, and both films could be viewed as having one of the laziest storytelling get-out clauses ever... "And then I woke up, it was all a dream."

In my head, the perfect movie would be a mash up of the two. The real world would be one where the technology existed to allow dreamshare - it could be used for therapy, recreation, training and espionage. It wouldn't be common, the tech would be expensive, though some devices would canibalise the tech for dodgy underground uses, like the Squids in Strangedays.

The realms of the unconscious would depend upon the dreamer. The rules they mention in Inception wouldn't work, everything would rely on the dreamer whose dream you were going into. And the scope of these dreams would depend upon the imagination of that dreamer. Going into the dreams of an office clerk may be a little more mundane than a fantasy author, but the potential for ANYTHING would be there. The big difference between the dreams of the two examples would be if you tried to change anything while you were in there. Summoning a dragon in the office clerk's dream would probably result in him realising he was dreaming, and start to wake. Changes could be made, but they'd have to be researched, and done carefully with some subjects.

Then there's the randomness of dreams. You may think you're in control, and in some cases the dreamer is, but a lot of the time the dream can escalate and run away in its own weird and random direction.

So that was the basics of WILD. I know a couple of people who thought the name meant that the game was a pulp adventure game of safaris and stuff. WILD is an acronym - Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming.

So that was the concept. An RPG where you could experience anything, even the impossible.

I just needed a game system and a backstory.

More on those later...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lights, Camera, Inaction

Just a few updates this week, as I'm still trying to get back up to speed with the various projects. Let's have a look at what's been going on!


I haven't really touched the video camera for over a year. It was a nice one, on offer online, that I bought when we were convinced we were going to take over the world - be the new "The Guild" and make us the next big thing. When I left, I hadn't had the heart to even take the camera out of the case. I thought about selling it, I'd thought about new ideas for webseries comedies that involved tabletop gamers, but I just didn't manage it. The camera stayed in its case, the script for the pilot episode came to a grinding halt, just sitting on the harddrive...

Then I started thinking about the games. How I was concerned that people were reluctant to purchase some games because they couldn't see what was inside the boxes. After all, the 11th Doctor Core Set for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG is awesome - I was blown away by the presentation and the quality of it, and I thought about making an unboxing video so you could see what it's like.

But there was that video camera, just sitting there. And who wants to sit through five to ten mins of some boring bald guy opening stuff?

This week I felt determined to have a go, but first I needed to work on some titles. Rather than cheat and use stock footage, I wanted everything to be original. Music, titles, everything. So I bought some red fabric, and bingo - red flag.

Well, it's a start. The "Green Screen" effect on iMovie isn't great, so it cut the gold trim off of the logo, and I couldn't flip the "K", but it's a start. For a first attempt I'm happy with it. So, I need to perfect the superimposition of the logo, change the title test, and come up with some music. Something military, like Prokofiev... Soviet sounding... 


On the downside, when I loaded up iMovie for the first time in months, an older upload from my phone appeared. I forgot I'd shot a video of myself, a guided tour of my mum's house, about two weeks before she died last year, as a reminder of what it was like. 


It's been a little while since I looked at WILD. The madness of Christmas working in retail had delayed a lot of work on it, so I thought I'd print out what I had done so far to remind myself where I was. It's strange how it can look like there's both more and less than I'd expected of it. I really should get back to it.

I should also reread the WILD novel I did for NaNoWriMo, and do a second draft... 


However, I have been proofing the fourth book of Conspiracy X (the Conspiracies Sourcebook). A mammoth read, and a huge book when it hits the printers. Should be awesome.


Besides that, there are other things I've been working on - pitches, proposals, and other assignments. I can't talk about those, but you never know. Strange things may be afoot at the Circle K. (No, it's not a Bill and Ted license).


Well, that's about it. I'll do something a bit more interesting next week, honest.

Until then, stay multi-classy!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roll Your Own Life (16) - There can be only one!

I'm getting a little ahead of myself with bringing up Conspiracy X. Let's rewind a bit to 1999.

We moved to Bournemouth. Wasn't a great idea, but it was one of those "If you don't try it, you'll never know and regret it the rest of your life" decisions. My lovely wife had an excellent job offer doing layout and design for cool video game magazines, and the move to the other side of the country seemed like a good idea.

We met some awesome people who we're still in touch with, and some awesome people we've lost contact with as well... but we just didn't really get on with the city. We knew it was a bad sign when the local council were encouraging people to come to the place by equating it with Ibiza.

Odeon Bournemouth
I got a job at the Odeon, and while it wasn't brilliant pay, the job was fun. I worked in the box office, on the food stand, and ushering in an ancient building that once saw the Beatles perform on stage, before being converted into a six screen cinema with an ominous collection of dark corridors, old dressing rooms and a deserted flat on the top floor that looked like something from The Blair Witch Project.

Initially, I was taken on to work just for the duration of the new Star Wars movie (Episode I: The Phantom Menace) as they knew it was going to be huge. I remember seeing it for the first time at the midnight test that the projectionist was doing to make sure the film worked and coming out at 2.30am feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. This is what they'd done to Star Wars? I loved Star Wars, and this was what they did to it?

The benefit of working at the cinema was getting to watch it many times, and after the eighth or ninth time I grew to love it. It's not a great film, but my favourite out of the prequels. I do find Episodes 2 and 3 almost painful to watch sometimes.

But the cinema also showed me films I would never have normally seen... Fight Club was certainly one of them. I had no interest in Fight Club. The posters just looked like a dull film about bare-knuckle boxing. Not my sort of thing. But ushering meant I got to see the first ten minutes... and I was hooked. I saw it as many times as I could, and read the book, and until Inception came along it was my all-time favourite movie.

However, the town lived up to its publicity, and I remember coming home after the midnight screenings of the Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had emptied, in the cabs the Odeon had laid on for the staff. As we turned the corner, there were crowds of drunken revellers pouring out of a nightclub, swarming around a police riot van, rocking it and trying to tip it over like a mass of zombies.

That was one of the defining moments that told us we should move.

But that's not the reason for the post.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten, 1st Edition Core Rulebook
There was a cool comics/roleplaying games shop on one of the roundabouts that we passed every morning and evening on the way to and from our works. Going my Google's street view it doesn't seem to be there any more, which is a shame, but they had some really cool RPGs in there. While I didn't have a game group in Bournemouth, I did pop in every week or so to see if there was anything cool in there.

It was then that something caught my eye. A game book smaller than the others on the shelves, with a rather gross colour scheme that looked a bit like brains. The game was "All Flesh Must Be Eaten", and I picked it up purely out of a strange fascination with the cover more than anything else. Maybe it was the same thing that drove me to buy Kult all those years before...

All Flesh Must Be Eaten was cool. A really good, simple system (Unisystem) where one roll was used for everything. There was none of this "The rule for jumping is this, but you roll different dice for an attack or use a different formula for using magic". Unisystem - one rule for everything. The problem was, I didn't have a gaming group, and I didn't think they wanted to play zombie survival horror.

While AFMBE was cool, I was drawn to the artwork in the back in the adverts. It was CJ Carella's WitchCraft. A gorgeous piece of artwork that meant I had to go back to that game shop and order WitchCraft the following week.
WitchCraft, 2nd Edition cover.

WitchCraft was awesome. Still is, and it wasn't long before I decided Unisystem would be my system of choice now, and promptly started converting those Kult characters (formerly World of Darkness characters) over to WitchCraft.

I'll stop rambling about my time in Bournemouth and continue the history at another time. Meanwhile, you can see just what I was so enthralled about by downloading the WitchCraft core rulebook here, legally, for free! Give it a look if you haven't before. It's rather fab.

Until next time, stay multi-classy!