Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dragonmeet report and Winding Down...

It's been over a week already, and I haven't written up what happened at Dragonmeet. That's pretty shoddy...

Dragonmeet was good - though I do feel that I'm not really cut out for the social side of things. I met so many people I know there, mostly fellow game designers, publishers, bloggers, reviewers and generally cool people that I've come to know over the years, and as always struggled to find anything cool to say. I'm really not a social animal as they say.

Was interviewed for the second time by the Wibbly-Wobbly Dicey-Wicey podcast - a podcast dedicated to the Doctor Who RPG, though I'm yet to hear any of their podcasts (or find them online except for a facebook page). I just wish I had some news about the Dr Who RPG. I did the rules for the new edition, and the rest is in Cubicle 7's hands...

Wore that cool t-shirt I had printed for WILD, and had a few people ask "Where can I buy it?" and even had a comment of "You talk about it all the time, I thought it had come out?" This made me wonder if I have been talking about it too much..?

Last year's pitch document didn't result in any pick-up, so it looks like I'm taking another approach - teaming up with Stoo at WeEvolve publishing, who made the cool Aegean RPG we've been playing. Plans are afoot for a smaller intro-book to see if we can get interest building for a larger, full scale WILD release further down the line. It's early days yet, but looking promising. I just need to write a cut-down version of the game, with a solo/co-op adventure that ties into the bigger world.

That's another thing that made me think. I had a nice chat with the awesome Jason Durall, line manager for Runequest and Conan, and all 'round excellent chap. Talking about WILD he asked, "So what do you do?" and I was stumped. It was that problem with creating a huge and playable world. What do you actually do?

It's fine saying "You can play oneironauts using dreamshare technology to investigate night terrors," or "You can play agents hacking into other people's dreams to steal secrets," or "Investigating paranormal events that occur when dream archetypes escape the dreamrealms and force their way into our reality," but it doesn't really pin it down.

I was feeling a bit despondent about it really - just the whole lack of being able to describe it - when I went back to watching the playthrough videos for Death Stranding.

Death Stranding on the PS4

Okay, so I don't own a PS4, and I've been intrigued by the visuals of Death Stranding enough to actually watch playthrough videos. The game is like a massive movie with chunks of walking between cities thrown in between scenes, but it's been playing happily in the background while I've been writing. When the true plot was finally revealed - what the BTs were, the concept of Beaches, and one of the plans to connect them - I suddenly had a realisation. If WILD was a video game, it would be compared to Death Stranding.

But how did Hideo Kojima pitch Death Stranding? I guess he didn't have to, with the game being developed by Kojima Productions, and Kojima having such a reputation with a string of amazing games behind him. But can you imagine him going to Sony and saying - "I want to make a game where you are a courier connecting the cities in a post-apocalypse world." It sounds even simpler than "You're a therapist going into the dreams of those haunted by nightmares."

I just wish, sometimes I had the financial backing (and just a fraction of the imagination) of Hideo Kojima. Mindblowing stuff, man.

Just thinking about that, and the freedom Hideo Kojima has to do whatever is in his mind, gave me the motivation to get back to it. To go back to writing that darn game, and try to get it out there.

Thank you.


Anyway, going back to the title image, it's getting close to the festive season. I work in retail, and it is already madness in the streets. I'm exhausted all the time, and just can't wait for Christmas to be over so I can recover and get back to some semblance of normalcy. I say it every year, and I'll say it again - LAST CHRISTMAS IN RETAIL. I just hope this time it'll be true.

Until the new year, have a good festive season, whatever you celebrate. Be excellent to each other, and don't just dream it... be it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Look out for the bald guy wearing this t-shirt!
It's less than a week until Dragonmeet in London. As I mentioned last post, this time last year I was frantically getting the pitch for my RPG, WILD, printed up and ready to give to a couple of publishers to see if they'd like to collaborate on a potential Kickstarter in the near future.

As I also mentioned last post, there was some interest but it has gone very quiet about it over the months and I need that drive - that "THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN" to keep me working on it. I've redesigned the game system, tested it, and it's going great. I just need that "THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN" to keep me motivated to get it finished.

Anyway - there are plans, and solutions. But we'll see.

The main reason for this post is Dragonmeet. It's this Saturday (30th November) at the Novotel Hotel in London. I hope to be there for a lot of the day, and take in the seminars that Cubicle 7 and Modiphius have planned in the afternoon, but the trains are being awkward (coach replacements for part of it - uggg). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it goes okay.

If you see me there - you can spot me easily, I'll be the bald guy wearing the black WILD t-shirt (see the photo at the top) - say hi! Remind me who you are if I look confused - I do talk to a lot of people online and rarely see them face to face, so I may be forgetful.

Say hello. Happy to talk about anything, so if you need a quick filler on your podcast or anything, just ask.

Above all, if you're going to Dragonmeet - have fun and stay safe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

WILD Dev Diary 3 - Pages and Pages

It's WILD Wednesday again, and first a little update.

This time last year I was building up to Dragonmeet. My idea was to print a pitch book that I could take with me to the convention and show to prospective publishers to show what I had in mind, to see if I could convince someone to help with a Kickstarter or other such launch. To put some money into the project to pay for some cool artwork (always a major selling point) and to help with the business end of the game's development and publication.

While my art skills are not great, I thought the book itself came out pretty well.
Within the book's pages was a summary of what the game setting was like, how I hoped the game would work, and how I envisioned the line developing and progressing - supplements and additional books, etc.

I also provided a sample from one of the chapters (character creation) so you could see how the book was structured, and how it was worded - explaining everything with parallel narratives.

Some of the sample text from within the pitch book
I thought it looked cool, and I talked to a couple of people about it at Dragonmeet. Some parties were interested, but we'll see if anything comes from that.

I talk about WILD a lot on this blog, so I figured I'd take some of the text from this pitch and place it in an easily accessible place. The buttons at the top of the page take you to my Facebook, Twitter, etc. There's a button for the Harry Potter pitch, and there's one for the WILD RPG. That takes you to a static page that I'll keep updating and expanding upon which is basically the text from the pitch book. I've put the setting information on there to start with, while I finish off the rules. Head over there and check it out if you like. I hope it gets you interested and keen to explore the WILD world a little deeper.

Who knows what this year's Dragonmeet will bring?


Meanwhile, my usual WILD Wednesday post is to look through the old Dev Diary that I've been carrying around for the last 7+ years.

We're still quite near the beginning, so a lot of this has changed, but it does seem like my love of square books was already showing only a few pages in. With the idea of a square book within a normal RPG sized box, which gives you space at the top for the cards/dice/etc. Of course, this is back when I was thinking of dice...

Opposite that are some early sketches of devices I'd seen in movies that read brainwaves. Looks like I was doodling the Squid device from the fantastic Strangedays movie. Ralph Fiennes was frakking amazing in that one.

Next few pages, I seem to have made some notes about Objects and Locations as Metaphors. Must remember that...

After a discussion of what happens to injuries over levels of dreaming, I made a few notes while sitting in the local library on my lunch hours. Looking at dream research and scribbling some bits about recording information from a sleeper using EEG, EOG and EMG.

This continues for a bit looking at the parts of the brain that are active during dreaming. This eventually lead to me changing how the tech looked to become a headband with elements that went behind the ears to stimulate the right parts of the frontal lobes, and the hippocampus at the core. Of course, I'm not a scientist so a lot of this is lost on me. If there are any neuroscientists out there who want to chip in, feel free.

Okay, that's enough waffling from me for a week. Until next time, dream big.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

I thought, with it being Halloween week, I'd write about a movie that I've always thought was the biggest influence on my writing for the WILD RPG. No, not Inception, though that's the one that really got me writing the game itself...

No, I thought I'd write about a scary movie that completely opened my eyes to dreams as a game device - Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The UK Movie Poster, which was also the cover of the VHS I bought back in the 80s (I still have that somewhere)...
The only problem is, I started to look into Elm St... It was a long, long time ago, and I noticed that it came out the same year as another movie that was a huge influence on me as well... Dreamscape.

And now I can't remember which one I saw first.

So I'll credit them both with being the biggest influences on WILD.

There's a good chance I saw Dreamscape first as I was a massive Indiana Jones fan (Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first VHS tape I bought as it was one of the first VHS movies to come out at a retail level immediately - and I ended up buying Temple of Doom as a new Rental VHS which cost a fortune... saving, paying for it in advance instalments at my local video rental store... yes, I was that big an Indy nerd). Anyway, I was a big fan of Indiana Jones, and there was this movie coming out that had Kate Capshaw in it - the underrated Willie Scott from Temple of Doom. You could tell someone in the movie's marketing thought "you know, that actor from Indiana Jones is in this movie, let's market it like one of those films..."

Jump on that Indiana Jones bandwagon why don't you?
The amazing Drew Struzan again. I miss movie posters like this...
Original UK VHS Cover
Dreamscape is far from being an Indiana Jones movie. Dennis Quaid plays Alex Gardner, a psychic who is brought into a research project to project himself into the dreams of others to try to help them overcome night terrors. He stumbles upon a plot by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), a government agent using his psychic agents to implant dreams of nuclear terror into the mind of the President, and aiming to assassinate him in his dreams. Gardner sets out to stop the plot, save the President, and aid the nuclear peace process.

Sure the special effects have dated a bit, but the plot's great. It was a revelation at the time for me, and I found the idea of going into other people's dreams fascinating.

If you haven't seen it, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Then, a matter of months later, the TV channels in the UK started running ads for A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The ads were really creepy, and had a lot of the iconic imagery that you expect from Elm St now - Johnny Depp getting swallowed by the bed, Amanda Wyss spinning around in the air, Freddy walking through the cell bars... I was very intrigued. I managed to rent the VHS the day it was released. I have a weird memory of watching it around at one of the game group's house, Milo's I think.

I was mesmerised. Genuinely scary, but when the line between dreaming and reality blurred - when Nancy falls asleep in class but class continues as a weird dreamscape... And the concept of grabbing something in the dream and waking, pulling it into the waking world... I loved it.

I mentioned before on this blog that I attempted to run A Nightmare on Elm Street as a Call of Cthulhu game for my unsuspecting players, but I don't know if it worked. I seem to remember it not going so well, once characters started dying...

Thirty-plus years later, and I'm still fascinated by dreams, and, along with Inception, these movies continue to be an inspiration for my game writing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

WILD Dev Diary 2 - Current Structures and Past Inspirations

Last blog post I explained that I had a notebook filled with every note, inspiration and working-out I had since I started writing WILD, my RPG of dreamshare technology.

Seeing as the builders next door are using pneumatic drills to dig up concrete, my concentration for actually working on WILD is a bit fried, so I thought I'd continue my look at the old notes and see what I'd put.

My next couple of pages are a list of films, TV series and books that I considered inspiration for WILD. You'd probably recognise a lot of them as ones I mention frequently on this blog.

Inception, Suckerpunch, The Matrix, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Wizard of Oz, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, Dreamscape, Sleepwalkers (TV Series), Assassin's Creed, Cell, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, Ink, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The City of Lost Children, eXistenZ, Life on Mars, Parasomnia, The Bridge (Banks), Awake (TV Series), Fringe, Lost, Vanilla Sky/Open Your Eyes, Paperhouse, Escape Into Night, Twin Peaks, House of Sleep...

I haven't gone back and added to this list in a while, and there have been a few I should add. Must do that.

On the next page, I have a list that just says - "To Look At:"

Under that, is "Dream Journals" - something I've done a bit of research into, especially considering the idea of solo gameplay in the WILD universe that involves journaling.
"Lucid Dreaming" - well, that kinda goes without saying, but this was early in the notes.
"False Awakenings" - done so many times in horror movies... "That was a horrible dream, ah, jump scare!"
"Eckankar" - a modern religion whose followers believe that the soul can leave the body and travel to other planes of reality.
"Interobjects" - the dream phenomena of encountering an object that is the merging of two objects but it's incomplete.
"Pre-lucid dreaming" - near lucid dreaming.
"Veridical Dreams" - prophetical dreams, or dreams that contain real events that the dreamer is unaware of.

After that is the page from the photo at the top. The Stages of Sleep (NonREM or NREM) through to REM.

I drew this weird doodle of what I thought the dreamrealms would look like, but it's nonsense. Just the doodles of an idle mind.


That's enough of that for this entry I think. Don't want you getting bored.


I mentioned before that I had a restructure of how the game works, and the game system itself, and I thought I was pretty happy with the way it was working out. I kinda came to a grinding halt actually writing it, trying to get it down on paper. I'd got the basics of it down, and I thought the best way to describe it was to give an example of the system in action.

The Matrix, obviously not WILD... 
So I had a basic example of a hacker trying to get information out of a computer before the guards arrived, and started writing how the "roll" works - I put "roll" in quotes as it's actually a pretty simple card draw looking at some tarot cards.

Then I thought - why make up the results just to show what happens? Why not actually draw cards and type it up? Win or lose, it explains everything.

A couple of draws, and our hero had failed to get the information - three guards burst into the room and she was trapped. Another draw, and she'd kicked one through the office door, smashing the glass, and punched another in the face. Another draw, and she'd managed to knock the second guard out, but the third guard got a shot off, and she was injured from the hit. A third draw, and while she managed to dive to get the memory stick as the guard continued to fire at her, he clipped her in the shoulder and she crumpled to the floor. She was alive, but captured. The memory stick hidden for now...

The "rolls" were super quick, the whole scene resolved in a matter of minutes with action playing out in a smooth flow.


I'm happy with the way the game system works, I just need to try to structure the rules so they are (a) interesting, and (b) easy to refer to - though the rules are so simple you'll remember it pretty quickly.

Right, I guess I should get back to it.

Until next time.

Keep dreaming.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

WILD Dev Diary 1

Synchronicity has a knack of sneaking up on you and before you realise it, the universe has given you multiple signs that all point to the same thing.

First of all, I'm back to working on WILD. I'd had a bit of a break from it while I did some commissioned work on Doctor Who, but now I'm back to getting my head into the dreamrealms. Returning to it when I've had a break from it, I started to see ways to fix it, make it work better, and that involved tweaking the game system rather dramatically.

Second bit of synchronicity came from reading a handful of articles and listening to a couple of cool podcasts about game design and publishing. Most of them included a comment about keeping people interested in what you were working on by publishing a regular "Development Diary", so your potential audience and players could see how the game was progressing, the thoughts behind your design decisions and so on. And while I've been posting the odd update here and there about how WILD was progressing, these articles and podcasts lead me to think I wasn't doing it regularly enough.

And then, the third bit of synchronicity came on Sunday. It rained. I mean, it RAINED. It looked like the fight scene at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. It was hard to actually see through the rain. And, being the fool I am, was walking home from the dayjob in it. No raincoat, no umbrella. Just my suit jacket. And a hat... By the time I got home, my clothes were plastered to me. I hung my jacket up, and it dripped so much water I had to put newspaper under it. Two days later, and it was still wet, and will need a clean.

Inside that jacket, in the inside pocket, was my notebook. An A6 Moleskine-a-like made by popular stationery chain Rymans. This notebook as not left my side in many years. It is where I started formulating the ideas for WILD, making notes of how the game would work, how dreams work, key ideas of dream research, psychology, and inspiration from all sources.

It's like a backup of my brain - all the many ideas that I need to write down so I don't forget, they're all in there. And after the downpour - after my complete drenching - it was a little damp.

Luckily, it was just the black cover that was wet, and the pages were untouched. Lucky.

This reminded me of something I'd planned on doing for many moons - writing up some of my ideas and thoughts as a Developer Diary, so not only you could see how my brain got from "Wow, I should make a tabletop RPG of dreamshare technology" to where I am now, but also so I have a backup of what I've scribbled down, and can remind myself of ideas I noted down many years ago that I may have forgotten all about.

And so begins my Dev Diary posts. Hopefully, this will be fairly regular - and it'll get me writing and thinking more and more about WILD.


 Let's make a start, and look at the first page in the Dev Diary! This is really going back a bit. I have a distinct memory of coming out of the cinema after watching Inception and my head was full of ideas of dream sharing and why there wasn't a game that did that.

I was reminded of the game I ran in my late teens that was based on A Nightmare on Elm St, and how obsessed I was with the third movie - Dream Warriors - and how the characters all appeared in one dream to tackle the evil. And how I loved Dreamscape, and The Matrix, and how I really wanted to write a cool game that captured that feeling.

So I bought this notebook and started jotting down some ideas - each idea has a little box next to it to categorise it so I could keep track of which ones were [Game System] or [Setting], and so on.

A lot of these notes were made sitting in the library, opposite my dayjob, when I'm desperate to escape from the mundane work on my lunch hour and just think about what I'd rather be doing.

That first spread (and the pages that follow) are me randomly writing down ideas that I needed to remember:

[Game System] Do dreams have a number of points for their stability? The more fantastic the elements in the dream, the more likely the dreamer will realise it is a dream and it will collapse, but is this just for people who are untrained and unaware that they are asleep? What about people who have gone in fully aware?

[Note] How much of a dream is remembered upon waking? Some seem to be lost instantly, while others can always be recalled.

[Why?] Why are dreams being explored? Is there a Collective Unconscious? Maybe not so much Sandman-esque dream-realms, but maybe more like Tron - where multiple dreamers, using the technology, have formed distinctive locations through repeated visits. 

[Note] Without the machines can you enter someone nearby's dream maybe through will, etc.? Maybe part of the plot would have to be getting the device onto a target without alarms. (Dreamscape)

[Note] Powerful enough dreamers bringing objects out of the dream realms into reality. (Elm St, Paprika)

[Note] Doing it without a device, only through meditation. Drugs don't work, produce impure results.

[Game System] Maybe a dream has a number of Story Points? As the players use points to manipulate the dream to their own ends, they are used until the dream collapses. A dream within a dream uses a portion of this as well. Architect can increase and replenish a little, trying to hold the dream together until mission end. 

[Note] Actives need to be classified to be different from Projections - the "scenery" characters who are a figment of the dreamer's mind. Do these Projections act hostile against intruder Actives or is that too derivative? (Inception)

[Game System] Injury and death in the dream, does it result in waking or continuing injury into the real world, or both? A threshold for injury? When hit or injured a character needs to make a roll to resist waking... lighter injuries are ignored, but more severe injuries are carried over into the real world. Fatal injuries have a chance of waking - or dying in the dream like the folklore says.

[Scenes] Start in the middle of the action, never describe going to a location. Keep players on their toes.


That's the first few pages. More next time, which hopefully will be less segmented!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dreaming of a Better System

Sorry it's been a little quiet here on the blog. While my other writing gigs seem to have dried up, and the day-job is building up slowly to the crazy panic and frenzy of the festive season, I've been able to turn my focus (pardon the pun) onto WILD.

My problem was, as I was laying out the pitch that I took to Dragonmeet last year (almost coming up to the first anniversary of that - arg!), the more I thought about the game system that I had in front of me, the more unhappy with it I was. I wanted it to be more narrative, but my head was too old-school and hung up on the past.

Thankfully, the last few games I've been playing with my group have really opened up my eyes to different possibilities and I realised where I've been going wrong.

First thing to do was to change the tarot cards I'd produced for playtesting. I realised that while I had four suits that were also the Attributes, I noticed that the suits of the tarot I had assigned to each were wrong and were better suited (pardon the pun again) if I switched three of them around. And then, I realised that I needed to update the court cards from their original names from the first draft of the rules to the more recent revision... So, a lot of Tippex was used and they were tweaked.

Then I started considering the basic mechanic of the system, which was far too much maths. X+Y±Z+card (try to beat difficulty) A, check difference. Blah, blah, blah. TOO SLOW... and boring.

I tried the new system with the newly Tippexed cards, and checking for a success is so bloomin' quick you wouldn't believe. Very, VERY little maths. It's just a little easy to succeed at the moment, so it's going to get a tweak (but not to the actual system, more to the interpretation of the results).

With that major hurdle sorted, it's back to the actual writing.

One day I'll get this bloomin' thing finished!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

New World, New Times, Mutation...

Just a quickie to say that things have changed.

Nothing major, just the basic look and some logo designs. The Autocratik Logo has evolved over the years... originally it was designed to look like Debs and myself holding a red flag, to symbolise how we were being revolutionary - ha! As if. Anyway, back then, when I was a comic publisher, it was the shape of the mast head of a comic - and had the full name - "Autocratik for the Masses" - which was a play on REM's album, Automatic for the People.

When I thought about going it alone again in the world of publishing, doing things my way, the name Autocratik seemed to be apt again and I redesigned the logo. It was a development of the Soviet propaganda art that I always loved, and hence the logo used a Russian "D" - it looked like an A to western audiences, hence A for Autocratik, but in my head it was D for Dave and Debs.

And, with #RPGaDAY ending a few days ago, I thought now would be a great time to rebrand a little. Nothing too major, just losing the Russian lettering and avoiding any confusion. So the new logo is the ultimate in minimal A's...

The typeface of the logo's different now as well. It used to be Impact, which is pretty common. And it's also cut off from the bottom - no it's not a cropping error... it's intentional. Makes the A's look like cool triangles. I like it. It's simple and basic...

Now I just need to do some new normal business cards and do a new T-shirt for Dragonmeet.

www.autocratik.com now directs to this blog, rather than the holder site. All the links from there are presented on the top here, and you can click those to directly follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 31: LAST

Custom Doctor Who Micro Universe figure that's supposed to look like me - well, as detailed as the micro universe got.
Custom Autocratik dice thanks to the awesome www.chimericdesigns.co.uk

Day Thirty-One of #RPGaDAY 2019 - and the final word for this month-long exercise in spreading a little love for tabletop roleplaying games is LAST.

"This isn't meant to last, this is for right now..."

Had to squeeze some Nine Inch Nails in there somewhere.

What has LAST got to do with today? Well, it's the last day of #RPGaDAY 2019. That's an easy one.

Is it the LAST #RPGaDAY? Well, that's up to you.

Is it my LAST #RPGaDAY? Not sure. Next August is a long way off - things may change dramatically before then.

What's the LAST thing I want to say about #RPGaDAY this year? Thank you. Thank you everyone who took part, joined in, spread the word, got involved, made videos, podcasts, blog posts, tweeted, posted on the Facebook page, took photos, painted things, drew things, or just engaged with other #RPGaDAY-ers.

Without you, this wouldn't be possible and it would have come to an end years ago.

In the meantime, please keep reading the blog as I stagger through my creative ramblings.

Until next post - Stay multi-classy!!

Friday, August 30, 2019


Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
#RPGaDAY 2019 nears its end. Just two more posts to go. Day Thirty is all about CONNECTION, and that really is what #RPGaDAY is all about. Connecting with other gamers, with creators, players, streamers, painters, fans, and making new friends. Finding new games to play, new gamers to talk to, and connecting with the gaming community.

While we're connecting, support those who want support. Share the cool stuff you discover, spread the word of the awesome games that are out there, and the amazing creators who are making them.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 29: EVOLVE

Robin is certainly a character who has Evolved! Cool Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk

Day Twenty-Nine of #RPGaDAY 2019 is EVOLVE, and I'm sure (like me) your gaming has evolved over the years. If only I knew then, what I know now. Well, that's true of many things really, not just gaming.

Anyway, back in my dim and distant youth, RPGs were all about killing monsters, taking their stuff, and getting the XP to get better at killing monsters and taking their stuff.

There was no character development - short of gaining XP and becoming more powerful so we could adventure some more. There was very little in story, especially the games I used to run. It was all about throwing bigger and bigger nasties at the characters and letting them fight it.

I guess, it wasn't until I'd had a break from gaming. Everyone had gone off to Uni and I didn't game for ages. It wasn't until I went to Uni myself years later, and was introduced to the local gaming group who were engrossed in a game of Vampire: The Masquerade. Gradually, over time, I experienced the delights of stories, character development, tension, and more. I mean, they were all there to be experienced in our old-school games, but we were too young to really think about it.

The games have certainly evolved since those first ones I played back in my youth, but I like to think my gaming style and tastes have evolved with them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 28: LOVE

Ms Mad Love herself, Harley - custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Eight of #RPGaDAY 2019 and we're nearing the final few posts for this year. Thank you to everyone who has taken part this year, and those who have kept going this long! Today's word is LOVE.

Love of this hobby is what started #RPGaDAY, trying to get people talking positively about the games they play, about the friends they've made, and I appreciate every single one of you who has taken part and shared their posts over the years. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Spider-droid has seen better days, time for a hot bath! Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Much like the Doctor said, "I got away from me, yeah." Day job, deadlines, and so on has meant I'm three... yes, THREE... days behind on #RPGaDAY 2019.

*Insert Charlie Brown Aaugh!*

Time to catch up!


Not really sure what I had in mind for CALAMITY - I guess the thing I always think of when it comes to RPGs and calamities is the good ol' fumble. At least that's where I remember it starting. Fumble tables, when you roll so badly that you really - I mean, REALLY - mess it up big-time. That kinda escalated over the years to become "disasters" or "Despairs" or the like.

Are they good for the game? It's a bit of both really - there's the advantage that it really shakes things up, adds some challenge and often some humour, and can lead to some exciting story developments. However, I've noticed a trend in "Fail Forwards" thinking - you don't get what you want, but something helps with the plot. Can they both exist in one game? Hmmm...


Well, that's always my problem. I have too many ideas for games and not enough time / resources / connections / money to produce them. Possibly the best known of these ideas is the Harry Potter RPG I'd love to write if I could only fund the massive licensing deal and convince J K Rowling that RPGs are a great idea. Then there's the Ka-Tet RPG I wanted to write - roleplaying in the many worlds of Stephen King. I tried for that one, but it was just as the movie deal was being signed for the Dark Tower, so they said it wasn't a property they were interested in licensing out.

Problem is, I watch things and think "That would make a brilliant RPG" - the most recent one was watching 3Below: Tales of Arcadia. Connected to the amazing Trollhunters, and the third series Wizards coming later this year, it would be a great RPG...

And Twin Peaks...

Maybe I should just stick to working on WILD...


Onto today's post, catching up slowly! SUSPENSE! Hate to bring it up again, but our most recent game of Fria Ligan's ALIEN was one of the most terrifying experiments in suspense building I've had at a game for a while. I'm guessing it's because the scenario just kept piling on the tension in the form of infections, secret player character motivations, the knowledge that at least one of the xeno/neomorphs was on the loose in the ship - it meant even moving from one area of the ship to the next was full of suspense.

Great! If very stressful.

Saturday, August 24, 2019


A triumphant toast! Hurrah! Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Four of #RPGaDAY 2019 and the word is TRIUMPH. I guess this would be the best opportunity at "tooting my own horn" as they used to say - and relating a task I was triumphant at. Rather that turn the focus on me, I'm going to turn the attention upon a most triumphant character - Qedra Kovu - Zabrak Jedi apprentice, and new recruit for the resistance before the real Rebellion had even started coming together.

While the battle raged on upon the planet's surface, Qedra piloted his Aethersprite in the edges of the atmosphere, trying to take out as many TIE Fighters as possible, before they could reach the surface and decimate those who would resist the Empire. The Aethersprite did well, but it was eventually destroyed, hurtling down to the ground. But was Qedra killed? No. Was he defeated? NO!! He stood on top of that burning ship, riding it down like a surfboard. Guiding it with the Force. Aiming the flaming wreckage at the Imperial ground transporters. Jumping off at the last minute as the ship exploded, taking out one of the transporters - Qedra landed on another, fired up his lightsaber and started hacking his way into the canopy...


Unlikely, but it's what Star Wars is all about. MOST TRIUMPHANT!!

Friday, August 23, 2019


Gi Shatta Gasha! Jabba also says that the Autocratik dice are thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Three of #RPGaDAY 2019 is a SURPRISE! This one I'm going to leave to the words of wisdom of my wife, Debs -

"You can sometimes surprise your players, but your players will always surprise you."

And Debs is always surprising when she's gaming. Keeps the GMs on their toes!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 22: LOST

Mr Frodo, sir... Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty-Two of #RPGaDAY 2019 is LOST.

Initially, I thought about writing about the TV series. I was obsessed with that series, so much so I even started working out how LOST could be done as an RPG. This was back when I was doing stuff for Eden Studios, and thought a Cinematic Unisystem version of the game would work perfectly.

Of course, it never happened, and then there was that ending of the series which I won't go into... Such a shame. I really loved that series. Got very into it - read Bad Twin, did the online Alternate Reality Games, followed the clues...  Maybe I'll go back to my rewatch. I started a few years ago after managing to get the set on BluRay at a good price, and the opening episodes were still jaw-droppingly great. I loved every moment except that ending.

Anyway, this isn't really talking about RPGs is it? My amazing wife suggested I should write about the fine line between the characters getting lost and the players getting lost - and I must admit I hate that feeling of simply not knowing which direction to go in during a game. Thankfully, we have a great GM who plants lots of adventure seeds, and gives us the freedom to go off on a tangent.

I think I need more practice before I can do that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 21: VAST

That's a VAST Heroclix figure! Goliath!
Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
It's Day Twenty-One of #RPGaDAY 2019, and today's word is VAST. I could use this as an excuse to recommend you listen to some VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater) - I'd definitely recommend the first album, that features the single Touched, which you may recognise from an episode of Angel.

When it comes to roleplaying games, all I can say is that it is a truly unique gaming experience where the scope of every game is truly VAST. There are so many games out there, beyond Dungeons & Dragons, where you can really experience everything you could imagine. From the wonders and terrors of deep space, to the personal struggles of high-school. From inner demons, to outer demons. Gods, monsters, dragons, down to the most personal dreams. There is no computer game that can come close to the range of stories and adventures you can play in these games.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 19: SCARY & DAY 20: NOBLE

Ardent Zungar - whoever they are. They look a bit cross...
Day Nineteen of #RPGaDAY 2019 was the word SCARY, and I completely failed to write this one up in time. Mostly as I was doing something pretty SCARY and went for a job interview. However, it was (thankfully) nowhere near as scary as I thought it could have been, and far less scary than what I'd originally planned to write for today's entry - which was about Fria Ligan's ALIEN RPG.

I know there was an ALIENS RPG many, many moons ago, but I always wondered why no one had attempted a new version of an RPG in the ALIEN universe. Luckily, it fell into the hands of Fria Ligan, the force behind the awesome Tales from the Loop, and we recently played the introductory adventure you get when you preorder the game.

And it was freakin' tense. We'd stumbled across a ship, adrift for decades, and went aboard hoping to unravel the mystery (and gain some tasty salvage).

Needless to say, no one survived. None of us - alien, infected, human or synthetic. All of us toast. Two whole ship crews went out after three incredibly tense sessions with arms being ripped off, ships piling into each other, and plenty of running down corridors with those flashing yellow lights and the computer alert repeating "WARNING: SELF DESTRUCT ACTIVATED"...

Fab. Looking forward to seeing how it'll work in campaign play as the xenomorphs are TOUGH. I know they are in the movies, but they're one hit killers. Nasty! Also want to see how the stealthy sneaking around rules work that Fria Ligan were talking about on the podcasts.

Awesome stuff.

And that brings me up to today.

Another one of those custom Dr Who Micro Universe figures I made, this time the Donna Noble "Runaway Bride" mini,
custom Autocratik dice made by www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twenty of #RPGaDAY is the word NOBLE. The only thing I could think of talking about when it comes to nobility was my go-to character class in AD&D, which was Paladins. But as I'm sat here writing this one, I thought maybe this is a good chance to mention Nobilis again. I know, it's a slightly off-centre interpretation for the day's word, but I did want to say how much I love the 2nd Edition of Nobilis.

The cover of 2nd Edition Nobilis - The "Great White Book" as it's known.
It's so pretty, a marvel of graphic design and layout, and one of the first narrative-driven games I've owned. The sad thing (or should that be scary, to tie in with day 19's post) is that I've still never played it.

It is one of the benchmarks of RPG design and production in my opinion, and something I can only aspire to achieve with WILD.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 18: PLENTY

Plenty of Batmans... Batmen... something...
Custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Eighteen of #RPGaDAY 2019, and I had PLENTY of opportunities to write a cool blog post today about something. I had some notes somewhere about how having PLENTY is not a motivating factor in games - it's more the absence of having something that gets people going...

Sure, I had plenty of opportunities, but then BBC1 was showing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and before I knew it, it was over and sleep beckoned. Sorry...

I'm hoping to do better tomorrow, but I know I have a big day ahead on Monday so it may not happen until later...

I'll catch up! Honest!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 17: ONE

Clea, singing - "I can't remember anything, Can't tell if this is true or dream..."
Day Seventeen of #RPGaDAY 2019 is "ONE", and rather than break out into singing Metallica (which I've been known to do on many occasions), I thought I'd briefly take this opportunity to go solo in a different way...

I guess this is a continuation of yesterday's DREAM as well. I've been working on WILD, my RPG of dreamshare technology, for so freakin' long now you wouldn't believe. I've been doing research into dreams, and dreaming... and most of the books on dream interpretation and lucid dreaming advise that one of the first steps is to start keeping a record of your dreams - a dream journal.

I didn't get very far, but recently I've been told about a form of solo RPG where you keep a journal - the game itself is almost guiding you through storytelling, creating a work of fiction inspired by (sometimes random) events or prompts. I have no idea how it works, and I really want to check some of these cool solo RPGs out, and part of me is really intrigued to see if I could make an offshoot solo WILD game merging the solo journalling RPG with dream journalling.

Definitely need to check out some solo RPGs like this. Any good suggestions where to start?

Friday, August 16, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 16: DREAM

There could only be one choice of figure to go on the DREAM space -
Dream, or rather in this case, Daniel, of the Endless.
Custom Autocratik Dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Sixteen of #RPGaDAY 2019 and the word is one that resonates closely with me - DREAM. After all, I've spent my spare time off and on for the last eight+ years working on an RPG of Dreamshare technology - WILD.

I've always been fascinated by dreams, and tried early on to incorporate them into my games. I distinctly remember trying to re-play the entire of A Nightmare on Elm St as a Call of Cthulhu adventure... And when I was trying to get into game writing, I was eagerly writing Ghostbusters scenarios and sending manuscripts to West End Games. After Spooky Science (Weird Science with yogurt gods) and Back to Transylvania (time travelling with vampires) I started mashing up John Landis' "Into the Night" with Elm St, but didn't get very far before WEG decided to move on to different game lines. Into the Nightmare was going to be a scenario with the Ghostbusters venturing physically into the dream realms to face dream demons and night terrors.

Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to continue my desire to game in the many worlds of dreams...

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Some sort of Hook Horror, with custom Autocratik Dice supplied by www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Fifteen of #RPGaDAY 2019. Blimey, it's catching up with me faster than I can write these things! At least we're nearing the half-way point - it's all downhill from here!

Today's word is DOOR...

Stock photo of guy looking at three doors - just like that VAST record...
I have a sneaky suspicion that some people are going to use this as an excuse to talk about doorways into the hobby, and that's brilliant. The door into our hobby is always open, as it should be.

What I wanted to talk about is how tabletop roleplaying opens doors in the real world. It opens doors to friendships - a lot of the people I used to game with as a teenager I'm still friends with now, but I probably wouldn't have socialised with otherwise. They were in different house groups, and while we all knew each other we may never have become the tight-knit group that we were, and the close friends that we are, without gaming.

Gaming also opened my first door to employment, getting me my first job working as a cartographer for the local county council's nature conservation department. The boss told me later that it was a close thing between me and one other candidate and I got the job as I'd put that I played AD&D on my CV. He said it showed that I could laterally think, problem solve, and work in a team (he hadn't seen the way I played D&D...)

It's a doorway to storytelling, to creative writing, to the best of friendships, to careers, and above all, fun.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 14: GUIDE

Ewoks! Yub Nub!! Cool custom Autocratik dice by www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Fourteen of #RPGaDAY 2019 is the word GUIDE. It could refer to anything! A Guide you've had in one of your adventures, your old copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide... what do you think?

Well, I never had the Dungeon Master's Guide as a kid. It was an unwritten rule in our group (which was really three groups that morphed and merged multiple times) that if you weren't going to run AD&D you didn't need a DMG... in fact, a couple of the DMs even said we weren't allowed to look in them (and I didn't mind - the game was better if we didn't know how many hit points the monsters had, or how they'd put the game together). I didn't really look in a DMG until 3rd edition!

Nope. I ran other games. Never Dungeon Mastered in my life, but I GM'd loads of other games. The"GUIDE" that had the biggest impact on me (and probably got more use than any other book I had) was this...

Zeb's Guide - a massive revision of the Star Frontiers rules
Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space (Volume 1) was a bit of a shock to the system (or rather, to the game system). After years of playing Star Frontiers, along comes this new Guide that changes the game system to add weird colour coded result charts to be more like Marvel Superheroes and the Indiana Jones RPG. It added new species to play, masses upon masses of new tech, and our heroes were quickly suited up in powered armour like Gavin the Walking Battleship... (10pts to those of you who got that reference).

Without the internet, I didn't realise that Star Frontiers fans worldwide were generally unhappy with the changes to the rules. Personally, I loved it. Star Frontiers was my go-to game for most of my teens, and any new material was read until the covers went bendy. I kinda miss my old copy... I wonder if it's aged well?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Doctor Strange Heroclix. Cool custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk

Day Thirteen for #RPGaDAY 2019 is "MYSTERY", and that word conjures up one game in particular in my mind - Tales from the Loop. It's all about solving and uncovering mysteries. So much so, the setting for your campaign is called the Mystery Landscape, and like a great episode of Scooby-Doo you discover that strange things are going on in your neighbourhood. Whether this is the original setting of the Swedish Loop, the US version in Boulder, or one designed around your hometown, the kids discover cool robots, time-travel, dinosaurs, odd technology and weird devices that weave together to make an awesome setting for any RPG.

The games we've played of Tales from the Loop have been great - we've done the whole of the campaign from the corebook - and I'm looking forward to continuing our characters (somehow - one was locked up for his violent tendencies, another ran away) in the darker and creepier Things from the Flood. Same setting, but the experiments at the Loop have let "things" into our reality, and it's all going horribly wrong. 

Fantastic. Love it.

I love the game system so much, and its brilliant simplicity, that I started working out how it could be used to play Harry Potter - after all, that's kids and teenagers uncovering mysteries... You can read about it here.

Monday, August 12, 2019


Red Spartan vs Blue Spartan (HaloClix) - custom Autocratik dice thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Twelve of #RPGaDAY for 2019 is FRIENDSHIP. I've been pondering what to write for this one, and my amazing wife suggested that I talked about character friendship, rather than player friendship. After all, I've mentioned many times on my blog about "The Eight" - the group of friends I used to game with from my school days who have remained the most awesome friends I could imagine to this day.

But there are some friendships that are formed in game between characters that are pretty powerful too. I remember our Mage game when one of the characters was killed, it was a truly devastating moment for the other two players and their characters. While that game has finished, we've found that the friendships formed between the characters can be just as strong - the sense of connection our apprentice Jedi had was almost as close as those Mage characters. And despite any disagreements our characters had during our Aegean game, we'd gladly leap to each other's side when our little village came under threat.

Powerful stuff. You don't get anything like that playing Risk...

Sunday, August 11, 2019


Examine closely those amazing Autocratik logo dice, thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk 
Day Eleven of #RPGaDAY 2019 asks us to EXAMINE. I'm not entirely sure where this one is going to go, but let's start rambling and see what happens! When I think of EXAMINE when it comes to tabletop roleplaying games, I immediately think of the old "Spot Hidden" Skill from Call of Cthulhu, and how some of the earlier games I played had a real tendency for characters going into a location and rolling dice to see if there was anything hidden there.

Sure, it's a skill. You can search a place and find something. But I have to admit, it was a real eye-opener when someone bought me a copy of Fear Itself, a game that uses the GUMSHOE System designed by Robin Laws. Instead of going into a location and searching for a clue, which you may or may not find depending upon how well you roll - the clues are there and if you say you search for them you find them. It's more what you do with those clues, following them to the culmination of the adventure.

It's kinda like the game theory that you should try to let the players succeed at things as much as possible, and even if they fail, they fail forward. "You didn't manage to do that, but you discovered..." and it pushes the adventure forward. There will still be outright failure, especially in a combat situation, but failure shouldn't prevent the plot from developing in exciting ways.

Clever stuff. All far smarter than me.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 10: FOCUS

Is it ironic that the ship's in focus, but the word at the bottom isn't?
Custom dice with the Autocratik logo on them thanks to www.chimericdesigns.co.uk
Day Ten of #RPGaDAY 2019 is FOCUS. I have to say I'd be nowhere without my focus group. Back when I started work on Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game as it is now) we had a lot of playtesters who helped shape the game to become what it is today (at time of writing). One bit of advice I got while I was trying to work my way through all of the feedback from playtesting has stayed with me ever since - "You can't create anything good by committee." A small group who you trust and can rely upon to have brilliant ideas to feed back, with constructive criticism. I needed to go small.

Since then, and especially while working on WILD, I've had a small core group of trusted individuals who I occasionally bounce ideas off of. They're brilliant at making simple suggestions, pointing me in  a new and unseen direction, and thinking outside of the box.

Back when Doctor Who was in its formative stages, there were three individuals who I credited as "The Heart of the TARDIS" - Robin, Derek and Charles. Thank you! Now, with WILD, the focus group has grown a little to eight (technically ten, but two avoid social media), but without them I'd be stuck, have given up, and totally quit game writing and design, relegating myself to becoming a checkout attendant at a filling station.

I'd just like to thank them for their continued help and support over the many, many years of me working on WILD. Maybe one day it'll see the light of day.