Saturday, December 30, 2023

Here's your Remedy...

Let's start this post with a little disclaimer. I don't play a lot of video games anymore. I've just found that (a) I don't have enough time, and (b) I'm rather terrible at them. I do still love video games, and I was obsessed enough with some games to actually 100% them - LA Noire, I'm looking at you. Fond memories of trying to sit in every type of car in the game to get that last achievement. 

My problem is, I often get too involved in the story and empathise too much with the little character on the screen I'm controlling. I could just about handle Halo and its sequels, and the lead characters in games like GTA4 and 5 were not pleasant. The tension was there, but if they came to a horrible end it wasn't too traumatic. 

The most recent game I played and completed was Life is Strange - a perfect game of moral choices, hard decisions, and brilliant storytelling, but already that was edging too close to my empathising. I really felt for Max, and that's the genius of the game. Those decisions were hard, VERY hard, and any stealth parts had my palms sweating because I cared about the characters.

And that's the problem, especially when it comes to horror games. I can watch a horror film no problem, but when I'm actually controlling the protagonist in such dire and terrifying situations it often results in me throwing the controller to the ground with a resounding chorus of 'Nope!'

And that brings me to Alan Wake. Man, I loved Alan Wake. I saw the previews before the first game came out and I was immediately hooked. I mean, I'd played the first two Max Payne games and completed them, so when it came to Alan Wake I bought the collector's edition even if the Deerfest T-shirt was too small for me. I bought the guide with the cool artbook. I immersed myself in that game. It was everything that I loved - Stephen King, Twin Peaks, weirdness. Yes!

However, I never finished it. I got to a point, got stuck, and I just couldn't get past it. I'm just rubbish at games. Didn't stop me loving the game though. I watched gameplay videos and saw how it finished, and marvelled at it. 

And then Control happened. Again, amazing concept, super-weird, almost like they read my mind. I mean, secretive government agency looking at weird happenings? It was punching those X-Files buttons hard, and when you go into those early rooms at the FBC and there are people just hanging in mid-air, suspended by unseen forces, that's just an amazing visual.


Why am I writing about all of this? Well, after many, many years, Remedy released Alan Wake 2. Unfortunately for me, it's only on what I'd call 'next gen consoles' (though they've been around long enough for everyone else to call them 'current generation'. Yeah, I'm still on an XBox One...).

I watched the trailers, got really excited, and while I've been unable to actually play it (and, let's face it, it's bloody scary and I'd be rubbish at it - throwing my controller down with a 'Nope!' at the first 'dead' screen or jumpscare) I've been avidly following the design, creation and actual play of the game. Once again, I've just been marvelling at the execution of the game. Remedy have a clear and definite vision (I'm not sure if this is just Sam Lake, or a team decision) but it's absolutely phenomenal and stunning. 

Again, tapping into all of the things I love in narrative fiction and games - FBI agents investigating weirdness in small towns, dreamlike realities that can be distorted and changed, strange cults, paranormal forces... it's everything I'd want from media, whether this is video games, tabletop gaming, or TV/movies.

Here's what really stood out to me as being particularly amazing:

1) Saga's Case Board

Half of Alan Wake 2 is following Alan Wake's attempts to escape the Dark Place, but the other half follows FBI Special Agent Saga Anderson as she investigates a ritual murder that may tie into similar cases that happened thirteen years ago. Yes, Bright Falls is ticking the Twin Peaks boxes for me, but the actual gameplay mechanic of Saga going into her 'mind place' to theorise about the cases is absolutely genius. There, acting like Sherlock's 'mind palace', you can look at clues, and (like Frank Black in Millennium) really put yourself into the minds of the suspects or witnesses and discover additional theories by questioning these imagined versions of the people you encounter.

And then there's the case board, where you take the clues, and revelations from your theories, and put them on a massive wall chart, pinned and connected with red string. As you discover clues, you add them to the wall, working out how things are connected. This is put to chilling effect towards the end of the game where Saga is trapped in her own mind place, the clues forming her own self-doubt and the player has to uncover evidence that Saga is capable and strong enough to escape.

2) Dream Logic

The Dark Place in which Alan Wake finds himself trapped is a weird version of New York, his apartment building, a nearby movie theatre, the TV studios of the mysterious Mr. Door, and the streets in between, but these bleed through into Saga's reality as she explores Bright Falls and the Cauldron Lake area in places called Overlaps. 

There are some amazingly creepy scenes of walking around the same corridors over and over again (a trick that those familiar with Max Payne will recognise) following a dream logic – trapped in a loop (or is it a spiral?) where things change ever so slightly each time you loop. I wonder if Max Payne's nightmarish return to his home inspired the legendary experience that was PT – the teaser for the unmade 'Silent Hills'?

But there's an even more fluid element of dream logic in the Dark Place, as Alan can rewrite the scenario and experience a location in a very different way, depending upon whether he's seeing the location as part of a cult-investigation story, a murder case, or something else. Alan's version of the case board is a writer's plot board, and he can change the story, drastically changing his surroundings with the strange echoes of typewriter keys being struck. Brilliant.

A few of the playthroughs I've watched I've seen a bit of confusion about changing the environment with the plot board as well as using the light switch. Must admit, I got a little lost in places following what they needed to do, but that may just be me. But hey, that's a kinda realistic depiction of dream logic. 

3) Herald of Darkness

I couldn't write about Alan Wake 2 without mentioning that level. Let's start this with another disclaimer – I'm not a fan of musicals. In my head, Buffy was perfect, and nothing can come close, but there's a chapter in Alan Wake 2 where Alan is trapped in Mr Door's chat show and it turns into the most bizarre musical number – all, while you're running around the studio and scenes from the video above play on gigantic screens, and the shadowy entities are attacking, reliving some events of the first game. 

Heck, it's glorious. I loved the soundtrack to both games, and a real highlight of both (besides the excellent inclusion of tracks by Poe) is the in-game fictional band, Old Gods of Asgard. In reality, Poets of the Fall, their music has appeared in other Remedy games (I'm looking at you Control), but the music is great, and bloody infectious. I've had Herald of Darkness going around my head for weeks, so much so that my lovely wife bought me the Old Gods of Asgard album (Rebirth) for Christmas. The Poet and the Muse from Alan Wake 1 is brilliant, and I heartily recommend checking out their music. 

This culminated in the recent Game Awards where the band played live, complete with the actors from the game (and voice talent) joining in. The last moments when Remedy director and writer Sam Lake is on stage, as his character Alex Casey, dancing the same routines as in the game, the look on his face is of someone who is loving every moment of it, and it's a level of job enjoyment and achievement that, let's face it, we all strive and hope for. 


Part of me could go on about the seamless integration between live-action and video game, the perfectly crafted story, the realistic moment when Alan is pursued by the dark entity and is running through corridors looking over his shoulder shouting 'f*** off!', or the genius move of adding more connections to Control and developing the story by playing it through again – after all, it's not a loop, it is a spiral. But that would make this post incredibly long. It's already strange that I've become this enamoured and slightly obsessed with a game I haven't even played. 

However, it is somewhat inspiring to see the game exist – sure it's a sequel, but in a world where I watch the big game presentations of what's coming out and just sit there saying 'shooter', 'shooter', over and over again, to see something with such a narrative, and a focus on investigation, it's refreshing and inspiring.

And this inspiration is something I'm hoping to look at in the new year, on how video games can inspire tabletop game design.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay creative, and stay in the light.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The point comes in a man's life...

 "The point comes in a man's life when he looks to the past to define himself, not just his future."


That line in Picard has really stuck with me for many months this year. As we come to the end of 2023, I can't help but look back on this last year and hope that it offers some insight into what the hell was going on, and what may be in store for the new year.

Last year wasn't so bad. Admittedly it started full of hope and optimism, promising "Big Things"(tm) that, as the year progressed, it was clear wouldn't not be coming to pass. The hope and optimism has faded, and the latter half of the year has been filled with a sense of going through the motions - Buffy would be proud.

Lovely beach

But it wasn't bad. The highlight may have been a trip back to my old hometown. To sit on that beach once more, to see familiar streets and parks, and a quieter pace of life that has left me eager to return... maybe on a more permanent basis. We're working on it at least. 

We played some great games, watched good movies, and an awful lot of TV series (next year I'm actually going to keep track of everything I watch/read). And we had possibly the most active #RPGaDAY in August, as we celebrated its 10th anniversary. 

As for next year? As The Stranglers so perfectly said it in the video above - 'Something Better Change'. One of these changes may have to be a new Mac (it's 11 years old now and incredibly slow), as well as other changes. 

I have no idea what's ahead, I can't even begin to predict. 

All I will say is that no matter where you are, I hope that 2024 brings peace, security, and happiness. 

Stay safe everyone. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Not Everything You Do is For An Audience

After my recent post about how I was frustrated at my drawing and wanting to do something but it being a little... how's the best way to put it?... crap, I received a perfect message on Instagram from a good friend pointing me to a wonderful comic strip by @pascalcampionart (seriously, check out the art, it's lovely).

In the strip (I won't post it here as I haven't asked for permission) the frustrated artist says that he has ideas, but doesn't like them. 

The wonderfully drawn cat says that he should just do it, get them on paper - it may inspire something better. The strip closes with the line "Not everything you do is for an audience". And that one kinda hit hard. Maybe that's my problem. Everything I've done except for a couple of rare passion projects (WILD, and Missing) have had an audience in mind. 

And that is what's holding me back. The weekend comes, I have time away from the dayjob, and I want to be creating something, but I think 'what's the point if I don't share it with people?'. Sometimes you just have to get it out of your system, put it on paper, and you'll feel better.

I need to get over myself and just do it. I mean, look at me, I'm displacing by writing a blog post on a blog that barely anyone reads. 

So here I go. Putting the computer away again, and just going to do something for me for a change. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Genre Defying (continued) - Moving and Behind Your Touch


A few months ago I posted about a couple of series I'd been watching, mostly South Korean series as I've been having difficulty focusing on things. A lot going on in my head at the moment, so I'm finding it hard to sit in front of a TV series and actually watch it, if you know what I mean, rather than having it on while sitting on my phone doomscrolling. 

I found that watching a series that had subtitles meant that I had to concentrate on the screen, not get distracted by anything, and actually taking in the information. It meant that I had been watching some seriously amazing series that managed to defy genres by squeezing in romance, action, supernatural stuff, superheroic powers, humour, horror, and more, all in one series. My favourites so far have been The Uncanny Counter (series 2 was just as great as the first), Sell Your Haunted House, and The Bad and the Crazy

My head has returned to that state of distraction, and when I wasn't watching The X-Files I was getting easily distracted by the slightest thing, my mind wandering to work worries, that feeling that I'm not accomplishing stuff, or doing what I wanted. So I returned to those South Korean series and discovered some amazing dramas.

First up was Behind Your Touch, which really should have been titled the other way around. The premise is incredibly silly - vet Bong Ye-bun returns to her childhood town to work in her family practice, and is out seeing to a cow at a farm when a meteor flashes and she gains the power to see people's (and animals') memories by touching their butts (as she was touching the cow's behind when the flash occurred).

Her power helps her find out the problems of the town's animals, but when a serial killer strikes, she tries to work out who it is by touching people's butts. Grumpy detective, Moon Jang-yeol, wants to go back to Seoul, and thinks Bong is a pervert, but when he learns of her 'gifts' they team up to track down the killer. 

Yes, it's a silly premise, and leads to a lot of hilarious scenes, but there are some seriously dark moments in there with the serial killer. There's a great helping of romance, some red herrings, a subplot of drug smuggling, action, and good ol' detective work. And, as with so many of these series, the characters and the supporting characters are all interesting with great backgrounds and some brilliant acting. 

Really, really good fun. It's on Netflix at the moment and highly recommended.


We finished that series, after a really tense finale, and switched over to Disney+ (Hulu within the US) to check out Moving, a series that seems to be getting a lot of critical acclaim and is heralded as 'Heroes' (but the first series, when everyone loved it). 

It was not disappointing at all. At least, not so far. I've got two episodes to go to finish it, and I seriously hope there is going to be more. 

Moving starts as a simple tale of a few school kids at Jeongwon High School, mostly focusing on Jang Hui-soo, a new transfer who is great at PE, and Kim Bong-seok, a friendly and cheerful student who carries a lot of bags.

We quickly discover that Hui-soo heals really quickly, and Bong-seok floats off of the ground when he's emotional (hence all of the bags full of weights). They become close friends, and it's freakin' adorable. There are other characters who seem to have superpowers, like the school bus driver, and the class president, but the school seems to be a training/clearing ground for potential new powered kids.

It's brilliantly done, and the introduction of a powered assassin adds tension. Then, after seven or eight episodes, the focus changes completely, looking at the lead kids' parents. 

We discover Hui-soo's father's story, who also heals really fast, and we see Bong-seok's parents, the awesome Kim Doo-sik with his flying ability, and equally awesome Lee Mi-hyun who has extraordinary senses. We get seven full episodes of backstory and flashbacks before returning to the present, and it's flippin' awesome. These characters we thought were pretty cool to begin with are suddenly completely fleshed out with complex histories that intertwine, and their struggle to save their kids is even more urgent. 

The final chapter (so to speak), the last five episodes of the twenty episodes, are brilliantly orchestrated, with some amazing superpowered action that puts some of the Hollywood movies to shame. And it's so tense, as you really feel for the characters. The villains are bad and hateful, and I'm hoping something happens to the school principal ("Mr Sniffy" as we're calling him) as he's just... arg!

Seriously can't recommend it highly enough, and if you don't like reading subtitles I've heard it is being re-released on Disney/Hulu in English Dub due to its popularity. 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

If it wasn't so comic it'd be tragic


The old Missing Comics from 1998-9

Many, many, many years ago, back in the very late 90's, I used to write, illustrate, and publish comics. This was back when Autocratik was "Autocratik for the Masses", a play on the REM album name, 'Automatic for the People'. 

My main comic was called Missing, a planned 90+ issue series about a hotel on the Scottish border, after England had become the 51st US State, and after global warming at raised the water levels to the point where cars needed to be amphibian, and highwaymen used surfboards to attack unsuspecting travellers. There were subplots of psycho boyfriends, the local sheriff department, kidnapping of the President's daughter, and weird metal bands. So much was planned, but alas it only lasted four issues and looking back at it now it's a little 90's and a bit cringey. 

After Missing was cancelled due to losing my distribution, I published one more comic for the legendary artist D'Israeli (Consequences) before pulling the plug on comics. I had ideas for a weird story involving a massive cathedral, motorcycling paladins, and an alien creature being worshipped as a god, but didn't get very far. 

Original sketch for I in the WILD major arcana

Since then, things have been very quiet with my drawing. I gave up completely, only really putting pencil to paper when I was storyboarding the webseries, or doing my initial sketches for the tarot cards for WILD

WILD was always going to be a square book, and I found a company making cool square sketchbooks for artists (so of course, I bought three, one of each size). 

However, I realised my art wasn't up to scratch for WILD, and Stoo and I recruited my old friend Gareth Sleightholme to do the Tarot deck, which came out brilliantly.

I thought about using these sketchbooks to do something different, something autobiographical, but I only really got a handful of pages into it before I gave up again, mostly due to the frustration of what was in my mind not making it onto the page.

During the pandemic I was inspired to do something, to finally get drawing and creating again. And again, my mind went to something autobiographical. Maybe it was the stresses of the pandemic, and the weird paranoia it brought on, but I really just wanted to get things on paper.

I went to the art department of our local department store where they had a great deal on A5 exercise books that had blank, sketchbook quality pages. I bought ten of them, inspired by artists I'd seen on Instagram, and thought this was going to be my next creative pursuit...

But once again, what I saw in my mind just wasn't what came out on the page. Frustrated, I gave up again, and those many sketchbooks seem to taunt me from the shelves next to my seat. 

I keep getting the urge to draw, but I just don't seem to be able to do what I want. Maybe I'm too impatient? I remember when I was working on Missing I used to work on that daily, determined to get it done, but looking at it now I kinda think it was pretty awful. 

Will I ever go back to comics? Will I get over my own self-doubt and hyper-critical self-depreciation? 

Who knows, but for now, I'll remain a lapsed comics artist...

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The X-Files at 30 - Close Encounters of the First Kind


Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the airing of the first episode of my favourite TV series - The X-Files. I've talked about The X-Files multiple times on this blog, and you know how obsessive I am, but as it's the anniversary I couldn't help but talk about it again.

Bear in mind that it's not really the thirtieth anniversary for me. Over here in the UK we had to wait just over a year before that first episode aired on BBC2. However, to mark the anniversary I thought I'd do a series of posts about it, picking out my favourite episodes and memories of the series. 

The best place to start is at that very beginning - my first contact with the series. I was obsessed with TV series in my teens. I LOVED TV. I fell in love completely with Moonlighting, watched every episode of Midnight Caller making notes of great lines of dialogue, and then along came Twin Peaks. When I left school I didn't go off to university immediately, and was kinda left behind, trying desperately hard to write RPGs or draw comics, and spending my weekends renting VHS movies by the armful. I watched the VHS of the UK 'Twin Peaks' movie, was immediately hooked and loved every second, so when the actual series started airing in the UK I was faithfully recording them on my parents' VHS so I could watch them over and over again (I still have them somewhere, though I'm guessing the tape has probably degraded a bit now).

This started a trend in me - FBI agents investigating weirdness. Sign me up! Dale Cooper was everything I wanted to be in life, and I couldn't believe it when they left us hanging for so long.

Eventually, I went off to art school, or university as it is now, and even there my love of Twin Peaks influenced my projects (graphic design projects to explain something became complicated flowcharts explaining the relationships in the series). I started buying Wrapped in Plastic magazine, and this only fuelled my love of the series. 

Now, bear in mind I didn't have access to the internet then, and the UK was a whole year behind the States, but whispers of this new series called The X-Files had made it over the waters, and when Wrapped in Plastic dropped that issue looking at The X-Files as well as Twin Peaks, I knew this was a series I had to check out. 

Besides, one of the leads of this new series was iconic in Twin Peaks (as DEA Agent Denise Bryson). That issue featured an episode guide, and interviews, and I knew reading what was in store on The X-Files that I had to watch it. 

Eventually, a year after the States, BBC2 aired the first episode. I have a distinct memory of this as the adverts on TV had already made it look awesome, and a fellow student at art college/uni was also a fan of all things UFOlogy and weird. Debs and I were already dating back then, and we were invited over to this student's flat (we'll call her Caroline, even though that's not her name) to watch. Snacks at the ready, TV tuned in, we all watched, engrossed in the episode.

The Pilot

What is there to say about The Pilot that hasn't already been said? Rewatching it now I can remember the feeling of seeing it that very first time. When the opening caption saying "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts" came on screen I knew I was in for something cool. And I wasn't wrong, when the leaves are swirling around and he light shines down from the sky? Heck yes... I was grinning like a school kid.

The introduction of Mulder and Scully was great, they had a dynamic and a chemistry straight away on the screen, and I instantly loved them both. 

But there was one moment, out of all the cool scenes in The Pilot, that stood out and I remember as the moment when I knew my life would never be the same again. Mulder and Scully investigate the forest where the abductions are alleged to have taken place, but are forced to leave by local law enforcement. On the drive back the radio bursts into life, there's a blinding light, and we see these freeze frames of the agents shielding their eyes in the car. The lights go out, the car has stopped, and they're just at the X in the road Mulder painted earlier in the episode, and Mulder realises they've lost nine minutes of time. 

That was the moment I knew this was the coolest thing I'd seen since Twin Peaks and I had to watch every episode religiously. 

Going by that issue of Wrapped in Plastic, I knew that The X-Files had already taken the US by storm, and had quickly become a favourite. We may have been a year late in the UK, but I was eager to make up for lost time.


Happy Anniversary to The X-Files, here's to thirty more years searching for the truth.

Thursday, August 31, 2023



This is the end, beautiful friend. The end of #RPGaDAY2023. Another year done, and the final question of this year's initiative is possibly the most difficult one of them all: Favourite RPG of all time

Back when I started #RPGaDAY all those years ago, I asked exactly the same question. And my answer?

West End Games' Star Wars RPG

And that's because it was flippin' amazing. The system was great fun, and involved lots of dice to roll. It was great in its presentation, especially when you think it was produced at a time when there wasn't any Star Wars happening... it had been a few years since Return of the Jedi, and that game went on to shape a game system, to shape the Star Wars universe (even to this day characters and places from that game become Star Wars canon). 


Is it still my favourite? Probably. It's right up there with Ghostbusters (also by West End Games) and Tales from the Loop (by Fria Ligan). All of which have relatively simple systems that are incredibly evocative of the setting, and all of them are incredibly inspirational to everything I do. I can only aspire to do something as cool as West End's Star Wars. 


So that was 2023's #RPGaDAY. The tenth time we've done this, and once again I'd like to thank everyone who has got involved - even if it was just the odd day here and there. Every little post spreading a little more positivity about tabletop gaming can get another person playing, or give an unnoticed but brilliant game the exposure it needs. 

Thank you again, and until next year, stay safe. 

I'll return you all to your usual scheduled program.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY THIRTY: OBSCURE RPG you've played

Day Thirty of #RPGaDAY2023 changes things up a little. The first year, the question was 'rarest RPG you own' which kinda devolved down to lots of people saying that they had the Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium RPG. Maybe not as rare as I thought, at least not in the RPG circles I was frequenting.

I switched this out to be less about owning something, and turning it into a great opportunity to talk about those games that don't get enough love online. 

There are certainly a few. There's The Gaslight Club - a really cool game of Westworld style robot theme parks, but you play the 'hosts'... and Action Potential where you play operatives who can switch body-shells - like Altered Carbon but not, if you get my drift. 

You should check them out!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


 This one's a tricky one. Day Twenty-Nine asks about the most memorable encounter. Back when #RPGaDAY began I talked about our old Call of Cthulhu game where one of the player characters had been forceably retired, only to return as the big bad. 

It's still a very memorable encounter, though my thoughts are drawn to that Tales from the Loop game again. After failing to stop the explosion of the Loop facility as teenagers (play progressing through Things from the Flood), there's nothing more memorable than your teenage character's mother appearing, mutated and evil, with crab-like legs and a host of mutated minions under her control. 


Monday, August 28, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: SCARIEST game you've played

 Day Twenty-Eight of #RPGaDAY2023 returns to the question of the initial year, asking what is the SCARIEST game you've played. 

I'm afraid that this answer is the same as the first year - Kult, most notably 2nd Edition Kult, is still the scariest thing I've played. Really cool and unsettling, without resorting to the extremes of its most recent edition. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Game you'd like to see a new EDITION of...

 Onto Day Twenty-Seven of #RPGaDAY2023 and we're into weirdly prophetic territory. Back in the first year of #RPGaDAY I set the same question, and my answers were - 

... James Bond 007, the amazing cool Victory Games RPG of playing agents in the world of James Bond; and Star Trek. There had been the FASA, the Last Unicorn Games, and the Decipher versions of a Star Trek roleplaying game, but since that video I was even lucky enough to be involved in the early development stages of Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures

Since then Star Trek Adventures has evolved into something even bigger than I'd hoped, and it just keeps going from strength to strength. Gorgeous books, lovely minis, and now tackling things like Discovery, Lower Decks, and more. (Personally, I'd like to see a weird alternate timeline book for the Kelvinverse, but that is just me). 

Unfortunately, Bond hasn't happened. And I don't think it will for a while, at least not until EON choose a new Bond and decide what they are doing with the Bond universe. 

So what would I say now? 

I'd still love to see a new edition of Ghostbusters, capturing the spirit (pardon the pun) and humour of that first West End Games edition. I'd love to see a new Star Wars RPG, as things seem to have come to a halt with the Fantasy Flight/Edge version - had a blast playing that one. I'd also love to see a new edition of WitchCraft, maybe using Cinematic Unisystem to speed things up, and add more action, employing the magic system of Buffy. And I'd love to see a new version of Star Frontiers, but we won't mention the horrible one that almost happened recently. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Character Sheets are often the way you can tell what a game is going to be like - almost like when you're in a book store and you pick up a novel and read the back cover blurb. When it comes to roleplaying games, I usually have a look at the character sheet and can fairly quickly tell if it's going to appeal to me as a gamer.

Originally, I mentioned the Numenera character sheet as it's really a thing of beauty. And it's certainly worth looking at the Invisible Sun character sheets, also by Monte Cook Games, as each 'class' of character (and I use the term lightly) has very different character sheets to evoke the methods and feel of the character.

I mean, can you believe these are all character sheets for the same game? Brilliant.

Friday, August 25, 2023


Day Twemty-Five of #RPGaDAY2023 and we're looking those games you buy because you really like the idea or the design, but you just haven't managed to actually play yet. 

Originally, I mentioned Everway, which was quite an inspiration to the look and shape of WILD.

Since then, there have been loads of games that just sit on my shelf - inspiration but unplayed. Atomic Robo I've already mentioned. Delta Green. Flabbergasted. Broken Compass

The one that really stands out is Lighthearted - a game of magical college students in the 80s. Just feels like a great combination of Tales from the Loop and The Magicians. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023


 Day Twenty-Four of #RPGaDAY2023 and the original question from back when RPGaDAY began asked about the most complicated RPG you own. 

I went on about the most complicated RPG I'd played (though played it a bit of a falsehood as we spent so long creating the characters I didn't get around to actually playing it) which was Space Opera, then foolishly went on about D&D - which is still, in my opinion, a bit complicated for me. 

Since then? I still love the simpler systems, and one of the biggest revelations when it comes to how simple you can make rules has to be Tales from the Loop. I remember reading that and looking at the rules section (which must be about 18 pages of the rulebook) and being amazed at how small the rules were, and how much they could handle. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-THREE: COOLEST looking RPG product / book

 Day Twenty-Three of #RPGaDAY2023, and we're asking about the coolest looking RPG / book. Back when #RPGaDAY launched I took the opportunity to talk about square books. I love square books. There is just something cool about them.

I talked about MouseGuard, and Nobilis, both of which were produced as really cool square books. And I talked about WILD, how I hoped to produce it as a square book too - and thanks to Stoo it was!

There have certainly been a load of cool looking books since that video. Tales from the Loop stands out as being particularly gorgeous. And the graphic design of Flabbergasted is really stunning, but the graphics for the forthcoming Triangle Agency really is stunning. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023



Day twenty-two of #RPGaDAY2023, and it's another one asking what you've been buying... weird. When I wrote these questions ten years ago I really was fixated on possessions. 

And my answers for this question the first time around were the first edition versions of CJ Carella's WitchCraft and Armageddon RPGs. 

I don't mind a good secondhand RPG, especially if it fills a gap in the collection. I managed to finally get the Octopussy supplement for James Bond 007 secondhand which completed the Bond collection, and multiple Star Trek RPGs (FASA, Last Unicorn, Decipher) when I was researching during my tenure working on Star Trek Adventures. 

One of my favourite secondhand purchases was the original Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium RPG that was produced before the corporate buyouts and so on. Only 3000 of them printed, and I managed to get it for a not horrific price (though it does smell a bit smokey - I've been trying to fumigate it with cinnamon for years, to make it smell like the spice melange). 

Monday, August 21, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY-ONE: Favourite Licensed RPG


It's Day Twenty-One of #RPGaDAY2023, and it's a very difficult one for me. Favourite licensed RPG.

Anyone who knows me or has listened to me ramble on in my videos or blogs, or even on other people's podcasts, will know I LOVE licensed RPGs. There's just something about getting to play in your favourite worlds, whether it's the oppressed space of Star Wars, or the looming threats of Middle Earth. There's just something about playing in the world of my favourite TV series or movies that appeals to me. 

Back when #RPGaDAY first started I took this opportunity to rant about the lack of a Harry Potter RPG, but times have certainly changed and while I still think it would make an excellent RPG, now is probably not the time for it.

So, to really answer the question. Favourite licensed RPG. It's difficult. Ghostbusters really stands out as that's the RPG that inspired me to write for games (even though I was unsuccessful at the time). The West End Games Star Wars RPG is the stuff of legend, and I still have my corebook, sourcebook, and Star Warriors set. 

Star Trek Adventures, while I did work on the initial concepts I feel I can just about get away with including it in my favourites. It has captured the adventure, exploration, and themes of the series so brilliantly. I may have made some bits a little simpler, but I love what Modiphius have done with it, and the idea that they're allowed to use Picard, Discovery, and even Lower Decks, just fills me with joy.

Tales from the Loop is technically a licensed game, based on the amazing art of Simon Stålenhag. A brilliant, simple, and evocative game that really captures a weird eighties full of robots and time travel.

I'd still love to see a new Ghostbusters RPG, or have the chance to work on Star Wars in some way. I'd really love to get the chance to write an official RPG based on The X-Files or Twin Peaks. We can hope...

Sunday, August 20, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWENTY: Will still play in TWENTY years time

 Day Twenty of #RPGaDAY2023 asks what game you'd still play in twenty year's time. Originally, ten years ago, I talked about my game WILD

- and it was mostly because I'd been working on it for three years and hadn't progressed very far with it. Little would I know that it'd be another seven years before the Kickstarter launched and the game finally reached print. Probably would be something I'd still be working on if Stoo hadn't kicked my ass into gear and gave me a deadline. 

But what would I still be playing in twenty years? Jeez, I'll be seventy... I'd like to still be playing, I'd like to still be kicking, but the last few years have shown us how fragile the world is, how easily the world can be thrown into chaos and misery. I'm not counting on anything. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY NINETEEN: Favourite PUBLISHED adventure


On to Day Nineteen of #RPGaDAY2023, and we're asking about favourite published adventure. Back at the beginning of #RPGaDAY I narrowed it down to the rather cool For Your Eyes Only adventure for the James Bond 007 game by Victory Games, and the Judas Grail for second edition Kult

Has my opinion changed? They're still cool, but since then we've played the great adventures in Tales From The Loop (including Our Friends the Machines), we've done the excellent first Blade Runner adventure, and I've edited a great set of adventures (The Timeless Library, The Echo Chamber, and The Hermit's Lantern) for the Doctor Who Second Edition starter set. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY EIGHTEEN: Favourite game SYSTEM

 It's Day Eighteen of #RPGaDAY2023 and the question is a tricky one - favourite game SYSTEM. When I answered it back at the beginning of #RPGaDAY I was incredibly cheeky and picked the flipping game system I designed, Vortex, as my favourite system.

I mean, how flipping rude. 

I guess you have to like your game system to work with it, and since that video it has evolved into a second edition that's even faster and easier to use. May not be everyone's cup of tea, but I like it, and have another couple of games in mind that I'd love to use it on, if I'm allowed (while I designed it, I don't have complete ownership of it). 

Second Edition was influenced by the eye opening simplicity of the Year Zero Engine. I read Tales from the Loop and was just amazed at how small the rules section is in the game, and how much fun the games were that we played in that setting. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023



Day Eighteen of #RPGaDAY2023, and we're asking the same question as the very first year - just what is the funniest game you've played? 

I think the answer would probably be the same, the old WEG Ghostbusters was hilarious. And if you watch the video, you'll see the wacky adventure I wrote for it when I first tried to get into game writing, called Spooky Science. An adventure about fitness food, and weird cults, that I adapted and converted to become Strange Science for the Awfully Cheerful Engine

Of course, it has changed a lot, and incorporates some of the wacky time-travelled elements from my second Ghostbusters adventure, but I think it's fun and should provoke a hilarious game!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY SIXTEEN: Game you WISH you owned

 Another slightly sad one, as I looked back at the original response to Day Sixteen's question of Game You Wish You Owned, and the video featured a lot of my lovely old cat Marla. 

And there's a bit about 4:10 in where I give her a bit of a pet on the chin. Must admit, made me fill up a little there. I do miss her. 

Back to the topic, #RPGaDAY2023 asks that question again, game you wish you owned. Since I recorded that video I managed to complete my James Bond collection - hurrah!! 

So what game do I wish I owned? I dunno... I'd kinda like to have the old boxed sets of Star Frontiers again - I know they're available as POD hardcovers, but there was something nostalgic about those old TSR sets. 

I'd also like to get my grubby mitts on a copy of Invisible Sun, but I get the feeling I'd just be happy with the books rather than whole cube thing. 

Both of those things take money, so they're not going to happen for a while. Maybe if I see copies cheap at a convention or something.

Of course, the game I most wish I owned hasn't been made, it's still in my head, and requires an even more substantial investment. One day... 'maybe there's hope'.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


We're at Day Fifteen of #RPGaDAY2023, and continuing the couple of posts about conventions as this was when GenCon occurred back in that first year of #RPGaDAY, so the question was about favourite convention game, but I've reworded it a tiny bit to look at convention one-shots and modules, just in case you have a favourite module or one-shot designed to be played at conventions or as introductions that you may not have actually played at a convention... if that makes sense...

My response is probably the same as before - while I wasn't an active participant, the Buffy game run by CJ Carella at the last of the UK GenCons was just a blast. Just listening in to the fun everyone was having, it was great.

Monday, August 14, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY FOURTEEN: Favourite CONVENTION purchase

Day Fourteen of #RPGaDAY2023 and it's another look at one of the first year's questions. When this happened the first time around, this was timed to be a question during GenCon weekend. A little different this time around, but heck, let's go for it. 

Back at the start of #RPGaDAY, answering this question, I mentioned the Thrilling Locations supplement for the Victory Games James Bond 007 RPG. Weird to think I've been to a few conventions since then, and I very rarely buy anything at them (mostly because I'm broke). So it's probably the same answer all these years later!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY THIRTEEN: Most Memorable Character DEMISE

Day Thirteen of #RPGaDAY2023 is a bit of a gloomy one, talking about memorable character demises, but let's try to keep it epic, meaningful and exciting shall we?

I had a look at the original #RPGaDAY video post I did all those years ago for the same question, and it's about my stupid thief characters I had back in AD&D. Though it did make me smile in a slightly sad way, as my late cat, Marla, can be seen in the background of the video, with an ear poking up from her basket on the shelves behind me.

I miss Marla. 

Anyway, since then there have been a host of memorable ends to my characters. A lot of them were in our FFG Star Wars games, where our characters would face unsurmountable odds, battle through and make a sacrifice for the rebellion. One of my characters, Qedra, was a zabrak - a darkside force user who managed to redeem himself, get into the jedi academy, face the troopers as Order 66 happened, and lived through to the beginnings of the rebellion. 

It's been a while, but I remember him being killed in a suitably heroic manner a couple of episodes short of the epic end to our campaign, but he managed to return as a Force-Ghost to tip the scales in those final moments and help the surviving characters in their finest hour. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TWELVE: Old game you STILL play

 #RPGaDAY2023 and we're on to Day Twelve, looking at an old game you STILL play. Originally I talked about the legendary Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, mostly as it was a work of genius and perfectly emulated the series. 

I haven't played anything old for a while now, mostly sticking to fairly recent games like the new version of The One Ring, Blade Runner, and Aegean. However, I have been looking through those old 'little black books' of Traveller again, amazed at how they managed to get complex rules into little 48-page A5 booklets. Kinda inspirational.

Friday, August 11, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY ELEVEN: WEIRDEST game you've played

Day Eleven of #RPGaDAY2023 is slightly different to the one from all those years ago, asking which is the weirdest game you've played (rather than weirdest game you own - what's with all the ownership going on in the original questions?) 

My original response looked at Price of Freedom, a game that has aged really badly considering the current climate. Weird? No, it certainly wasn't at the time when we had movies like Red Dawn or series like Amerika. And it's horribly pertinent now, and not something that should be trivialised in a 'game'. 

My other response was the awesome Neon Genesis Evangelion RPG that I couldn't read as it was all in Japanese. I do still love the look and design of it, and I still love Evangelion (currently watching the rebuilds for the first time - so confused...).

Weird games I've played since then? I played Heart, which incorporated a bit of Spire, and that was brilliant but bonkers. I loved the way you gained abilities until you ended up with an epic ability that would almost destroy massive amounts of things and your character along with it. As characters from the Heart, we fought against the tyranny of the elves in the Spire, and my character's Zenith ability was to eradicate a concept from existence (along with myself). The obvious choice was the remove the Spire from world, and all memory of it ever being there. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY TEN: Favourite tie-in FICTION

Day Ten of #RPGaDAY2023 asks about your Favourite tie-in Fiction, and in the original #RPGaDAY I listed the cool Dark*Matter tie-in novels. They were really cool, but in the last ten years I don't think I've really read any tie-in novels. I mean, I'm reading The Laundry Files by Charles Stross at the moment as I'm working on the second edition of The Laundry RPG, but the novels came first so not exactly a 'tie-in' so to speak. 

Honourable mentions should go to the old World of Darkness novels, I remember the first few Mage novels being pretty cool. And I also should mention that I read the first few Delta Green novels and short story collections, and really enjoyed those too - I think I read Alien Intelligence, Denied to the Enemy, and Rules of Engagement

Ah, those days when I had time to read...

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

#RPGaDAY2023 - DAY NINE: Favourite DICE

 'This is me on Day Nine, baby. This is me on Day Nine.' 

(Obscure Barenaked Ladies reference there - went to a really good gig by them my first year at Uni, must have been about 30 people in the audience in a tiny club, a far cry from their stadium filling gigs overseas)

On Day Nine of #RPGaDAY2023 it's a look at your favourite dice. I don't think things have changed much since the original answer of that ancient d20 I first bought when I started gaming back in 1983ish. 

It's very old, very used, the corners are all worn, the ink in the numbers has long faded, but it is certainly one with some significance for me, and one I'd hate to lose. 

For current dice I don't think I have a favourite set. I've got to the age where I look at those lovely expensive and shiny dice with all the beautiful colours and patterns, and realise that (a) I can't afford them, and (b) I can't read the numbers easily from a distance. I keep thinking I should just get more simple and basic black and white dice so I can chuck them into the dice tray and easily see whether I've succeeded or not.