Thursday, 13 September 2012

Mongoose Publishing - Judge Dredd Miniatures Game Block War expansion

There are 3 things that should keep me from posting this.

First, I'm a bit disappointed by what little I've seen of the new Judge Dredd film... it so very much doesn't look like Mega-City One, and any film with 3D in its title turns me off just a little before I've even started watching.

Secondly, I'm starting to form some very strong opinions about established companies using Kickstarter, which, to my mind, is a bit against its original purpose.  This might explain why I've covered DreadBall quite a bit but haven't posted the link to its Kickstarter... I'm pretty sure Mantic Games could and would have financed this without taking your money early.  It could be argued that it's being used as a promotional vehicle.

Last, the Kickstarter I'm about to post a link to has already been funded, in its first day no less.

However, seeing the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game succeed is really gratifying, even extending to a personal level.  It helped get the ThoughtonBOT and myself back into miniature gaming with its low-commitment entry (a few inexpensive models, and you can get started... perfect!) and wide scope for creativity... the background fluff is already immense and allows for some really interesting stories and conflicts.  Plus, material discussed and written by myself and my gaming group (read: friends) has actually made it into the game itself.  What could be more personal than that?

In fact, it's astounding that I haven't mentioned it on this blog yet.  Hmm, have to see to that in the near future.

So, this link is a Kickstarter for the Block War supplement.  Matthew Sprange explains more on the video linked.  And today, dear readers, I found out that last name rhymes with "strange"... who knew?

Stained Glass Windows of Lord of the Rings Scenes

Bilbo the Hobbit shows off in front of Gandalf, Frodo and Gimli
There's a lot of talent out there, and the internet being what it is, it's very easy for a lot of that to go overlooked.  Thankfully, I managed to stumble upon this gallery by Jian Guo, depicting key scenes from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, rendered as stained glass windows.

I think they're beautiful and that everyone should go have an intense looksie.  Should anyone ever get enough crazy on to make them into real-life stained glass windows, I'd be first in the line to go and see them.

Lord of the Rings stained glass window illustration

Well, okay, maybe not first.  Someone would probably get there before me.  But I'd envy that person.

Makes me kinda excited about the upcoming Hobbit movie.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review: Puppets War Football Orc Heads

Blood Bowl orc heads by Puppets War

One of the fantastic things we've seen develop in the last decade or so in the world of miniatures is the emergence of companies that provide conversion pieces (AKA bitz), often designed to seamlessly replace a component from another company's line of miniatures.  Puppets War is one such provider who hail from sunny Poland, and I just took delivery of an order of their orc football team heads.

It's pretty obvious what these heads are for, but care has to be taken in their advertising.  After all, Games Workshop so fervently pursue retention of their intellectual property that it even resulted in Talk Blood Bowl -- a popular site that you might think GW would be happy to see providing so much free advertising and enthusiasm for one of their products -- being forced to rename itself to Talk Fantasy Football.  Suffice to say, I personally will be using the heads to convert GW orc/ork miniatures for Blood Bowl.

Onto the bitz themselves.

Lots of Bloodbowl bits and bitzThe heads are made from a non-metal resin which holds a very crisp level of detail.  For those already familiar with good quality miniature resin, it won't surprise you to learn that these heads utterly put plastic to shame.  As I look at an open-mouthed plastic GW ork boy's top row of teeth (teef), I can count 4; the Puppets War orc head, by comparison, has 8.  There is some flash, and, as is always expected, some mold lines.  Though, it must be said, they are well positioned and nothing looks too challenging to be cleaned.  I feel as though the material has perfectly captured exactly what the sculptor (Adrian Gaweł) was aiming for, with no compromises.

And, sadly, that brings me to a flaw in this material.  I didn't know before ordering that the jaw-protector of the helmets was actually cast as a separate piece.  For making each member of my team unique, this is fantastic.  However, resin is brittle -- infamously so -- and straight out of the packet you can probably see from the photos that there are lots of breakages on these delicate parts.  Lots.

Orky jaw-protectors on a sprue

It has also meant that in many cases the jaw-protectors have come loose from the much heavier sprue, as have some of the heads.  Where things have stayed on the sprue, there are occasional breakages also.  Keep in mind, I haven't touched these things, other than to remove them from their packaging.

And I've ended up with a pile of very orky-looking bitz indeed.

A pile of bitz dat cost losta teef
The ork in me likes seeing big piles of smashed up fings dat looks well orky.
The sane person in me is a bit disappointed, though.

So, is this the fault of the packaging itself?  Hard to say.  I had the forethought to take a photo of the box these pieces were sent in before opening it, and it looked sufficient from the outside.  It's a solid cardboard box, within which all the pieces were placed in a single zip-lock style baggie, with a small bag full of air to cushion one end.  So, I'm not sure if the taxing journey from Poland to the UK was the cause of the breakages or not.
A package sent to me from Poland via Royal Mail

What I am sure of, though, is that the website advertised 12 heads and 2 balls per set.  Most unfortunately, I've ended up with just one ball (fnar?).  I'm going to contact the company about that shortly, but didn't want to keep you, dear readers, without something to read first.  Many people are happy to make their own Blood Bowl balls from greenstuff and similar, and since I'm presently in need I'll give that a go too, but alas it's not the most convenient solution and greenstuff certainly isn't free.  The inclusion of the footballs was a big selling point for me.

When I start actually making use of the heads, I'll post up some comparison pictures between these and GW heads for scale, and show how well they fit onto the bodies.  But since this initial review is about the products themselves, not what I want to do with them, that can wait for another post.

To finish this, though, I'll conclude that Puppets War have a fantastic sculptor in their employ, who makes characterful and detailed orc heads that I predict will look amazing on the table.  However, the company needs to be a lot more vigilant, and check packages before sending things out.  After all, this is my first impression as it's my first order with them.

I hope I can sort things out with them and it won't have to be my last.

Update 13th September 2012: For those interested, I contacted Puppets War shortly after posting this on the 10th.  I received an initial reply on the 11th requesting pictures of the received package (just as well I documented everything for this here blog, eh?) and sent that, getting only one more communication yesterday to say that the photos were being passed on to "the guys" and "let them tell us what they do with it".  I'll update this post again if/when I hear something more.

Update 27th September 2012: I finally saw resolution of this yesterday when, unannounced, a package arrived from Puppets War containing a new set of heads, and every item accounted for correctly.  It seems the jaw-protectors are most definitely cast in an unsuitable material, since once again they were in pieces.  Since I have sufficient from this and the last pack (and can make do with fuse wire anyway) I'm happy to call it a day and get on with (finally) building my team.  Puppets War dealt with my problems in a reasonable fashion (though more communication would have been welcomed) so I'll likely be ordering from them again when I simply can't resist any more.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mantic Games - Female DreadBall Team

It seems many of you, dear readers, are interested in hearing about the Mantic Games upcoming Definitely-Not-Blood-Bowl game DreadBall.  So, it's my duty to keep you informed, and here's the latest: there could be a female Corporation DreadBall team.

Mantic Games DreadBall Female Corporation team concept art

This early concept work is by Roberto Cirillo.  Mantic have responded by immediately suggesting less armour, which is a shame, frankly, because as it stands I think this might be the most progressive move the fantasy sports tabletop gaming niche has yet seen.

Mantic Games DreadBall Wildcard MVP
Wildcard MVP
One of the things that turns me off some of the third-party (i.e. not GW) Blood Bowl teams is that there's some seriously degrading female stuff in there.  I'm no prude, I like naked breasts on a woman as much as the next guy, but in my opinion that's for the bedroom not the pitch or the battlefield.  At least, not any pitch or battlefield where all the guys are clad in as much metal as they can get away with.

Mantic's thoughts are presently that they'd prefer something a little closer to Wildcard, the human MVP who represents the only creature with ovaries amongst the sausage-fest of the remainder of the DreadBall universe.  Honestly, that's not so very terrible, Wildcard is far from the most sexualised representation that's ever been pushed for, well, anything that's part of this wonderful world of nerd.  But she's still distinctively different, as though her being female somehow marks her as unequal, and that's the feeling I'd prefer to not see come to the forefront if, indeed, we do get to see female human teams in DreadBall.

Maybe you feel differently.  Comments are open and welcomed.

Random Roleplay Table - Character Secrets

Secrets.  We all keep them, sometimes for years, sometimes even from ourselves.  Whether big or small, they're an intimate part of the structure of how a given society functions, and play an important role in everyday life.

So, shouldn't our characters have secrets too?  GM's often give a secret to an NPC that's important to the plot -- the man in the library was really the PC's long-lost father, the elemental was summoned by the cult harboured by the villagers, the expensive antidote is actually a placebo.  But what about those everyday secrets?  Here's a table of minor secrets that won't impact the plot in a huge way, but give shape to characters, making them more realistic and interesting.  It's suitable for PCs (especially backgrounds) and NPCs alike.

Random roleplay table - character secrets
D8 SecretExamples
1. The character was careless some time in the recent past, and it meant they killed or lost a plant or pet.  They might have been looking after it for another character (who?), or it might impact a larger group (their family or community?).  How has the character thus far gone undetected?  Did the plant or pet get replaced by a near-identical one?  Did someone else harbour the blame? Billy forgot to feed the class hamster all summer.  Margaret over-watered the African violets she was looking after for Dr. Shaefer.  CyberShark accidentally targeted L1th1Um's rare tame in the MMORPG and killed it.  Laerian of the Shadowtrees offended the harvest idol when she tried to pluck one of its hairs for a spell; there were no orcs that scared it off, and now the harvest will be paltry indeed.
2. Romantic indiscretions have complicated things.  A given character might have been involved directly, or maybe just knows about it happening between others.  What impact would revealing this secret have on those involved?  On the holder of the secret?  Of everyone else who would come to know of it? Naeth Goldsand accidentally saw the prince's bride-to-be kissing her bodyguard.  Jack Singlebrow, PI, found out about the widow's secret affair before she became a widow, casting doubt on her motives -- now he can make a tidy sum in blackmail.  The sailor keeps a girl in every port, which will eventually lead on to having a family or two; what happens when one sweet gal finds out about another?
3. The character has, or knows about, a secret addiction or vice.  Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, or something else, almost all addictions left untethered eventually become serious.  What stage of addiction is the addict in?  Is there an easy cure?  What will the addict do to keep the addiction secret, and what will he or she do to keep partaking in the addiction? Jagga the half-orc is finding himself really enjoying the kill, more than is healthy... is it a problem?  The vampire calling herself Origin accidentally fed upon one of her own kind, now she can't get enough.  Gostan knows the cortex-nodes are addictive, but the fantasies are so compelling, even if he is down to his last cred.
4. The family tree does not run the way it is widely thought to.  Perhaps as a result of another secret (romantic indiscretions), the fatherhood of a child is incorrectly assumed, or one or both of the assumed parents are wrong due to other factors.  Who knows about this, and why?  When will it come to light, if ever?  Is this a secret for the now, or did it happen in the past, meaning someone is of a different descent, ethnicity or race than they assumed? Miss Salloway gave away her child to the orphanage to keep her job in the manor house; the lord is known for his ways with the servants.  It turns out Galx's mother is actually his grandmother... so what happened to his actual mother?  Faen has never really paid any attention to the pointedness of her ears, but it's certainly a distinctive feature given that both her parents are human.
5. A character stole something.  It's possible someone else lost their job or standing in the community as a result of it -- the other party was unfairly blamed for the theft, or lost face because something like this was allowed to happen or went unsolved.  Maybe nobody has noticed... yet.  Does the character harbour guilt?  Did someone else see it happen? Jennifer stole a panini, and let Jerome take the fall; she knows he's never going to work in this town's coffee shops again after something like that, but the same fate would befall her if she came clean.  The prince's sergeant-at-arms would love to get his hands on whoever took that sword the prince had his eye on out of the armoury; the cost came directly out of the sergeant's annual stipend.  Whoever took that flash drive could not know the value of what was on it -- time to run the tracer program.
6. The character saw something unusual that breaks the wider beliefs of the society they're within, and can't tell anyone at risk of not being taken seriously, being ridiculed or even being ostracised.  How many people share this secret, and do they know there are others who have seen it too? If there's no such thing as unicorns, then why did woodsman Garren see a mating pair that summer in the hidden glade?  Jerry-Rae knows that even if that were a weather balloon, the green-skinned whatchamacallits sticking their tentacles out the sides weren't no weathermen.  Unit 230X knows there's no logical rational behind magic, but that biological creature is making the bot question its programming.
7. Membership in a subversive group or conspiracy can be dangerous for all of those who dare risk it, even if their collective intent is benign.  A character is either part of one such group, or knows of another (or others) who are.  How long can something like this stay secret, and what are the consequences?  What led to the formation of this group, and why does it have adherents?  Is this something in the character's past, or is membership for life? Patrick still believes in the ideals of the IRA, even if not their methods; now he's got a decent job on the mainland, it'd ruin him if anyone from his past showed up.  The king makes unpopular decisions, and has many executions; it's only logical that some of the peasants might get ideas about democracy.  These aren't the droids you're looking for.
8. The character did things to make money that he or she isn't proud of.  That might still be the case.  It might be petty theft, prostitution, dealing in illicit substances, or working for or with someone involved in these or more serious things. Suzie's only clue of her wild past is that tattoo on her thigh; nobody can ever guess what those initials stand for, especially her husband.  Langstrom is the best archer in town, and holds his position of Regent's Marshall very seriously; this would all be ruined if anyone ever linked him to those cat-burglaries a decade ago.  As a neurosurgeon, it's essential Dr. Shaefer has a clean past, and that his side business of selling painkillers and unwanted organs is never discovered.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

LEGO Lord of the Rings Orcs

Sometimes, the old trope is true -- our orcs are different.  And if you need any proof that this is the case for the Lord of the Rings LEGO orcs, look no further than this sweet video by the Brotherhood Workshop.

It really reminds me that maybe, just maybe, orcs are people too.

Also, to buy more LEGO.

Mantic Games - DreadBall vs Blood Bowl

Just a quickie.

In my first post when DreadBall was announced/teased I incautiously criticised Mantic Games for stealing the idea directly from GW's Blood Bowl.

Mantic Games DreadBall RefBot
The RefBot cautions me that any further unfounded accusations will not be looked upon lightly
To be fair, it really did look like Blood Bowl In Space.

But Jake Thornton on his Quirkworthy blog has said the differences are numerous, and DreadBall isn't designed to copy Blood Bowl.  And I can respect that.  And he makes a good case, to boot.

So, I formally retract my accusations of thematic theft*, and I won't speculate further until I've played the game.  And some more Blood Bowl.

* And quietly apologise to Jake, too.  He was always my favourite White Dwarf editor, y'know.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

D&D Next / 5th Edition - Sexism and Shadism

I was lucky enough to attend a pretty cool presentation a few months back on the distinction between racism and shadism, and how the latter is insidious in its tendency to affect people regardless of ethnic background.  A week ago, over at the Douchey DM, HyveMind raised a few points about the perceived ethnicity of demi-humans in D&D, specifically as it relates to the D&D Next playtest.

very pale elves
Vulnerability to sunlight comes as standard
As a white male, I'm lucky.  Part of that luck includes always having images I can relate to whenever I flick through my roleplaying books (not to mention when I watch TV or see adverts on billboards or look at the covers of boardgames).  But should I be alone in this?

Josh Fox doesn't think so, and I agree.  He's asking Wizards of the Coast to be more representative of their imagery in the new edition of D&D, showing a larger percentage of non-white and female characters depicted respectfully.  He's also hoping the demi-humans will not be described as an all-white club any longer.

So, dear readers, if you feel similarly, I suggest you pop on over to the online petition here to ask WotC to consider seeing things our way.

Meanwhile, on a more personal note, I'm all set to give that D&D Next playtest a first run tomorrow.  It'll also be my son's first chance to try roleplaying, and not just hear the noisy idiots downstairs whooping and making fools of themselves.  Me nervous?  You betcha.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ghostbusters International RPG - Character Sheet

printable ghostbusters rpg character sheet
Even more presents for my loyal readers.
My ongoing Ghostbusters RPG campaign has taken a break for a couple of weeks, set to resume very soon.  When we started, I handed out character sheets printed off from scans of the rulebook, and looking through them today they look tatty.

So, I've gone ahead and made some fresh ones from scratch.  Here they are, for you, dear readers, should you be able to make use of them (which I heartily encourage -- the Ghostbusters International game is unquestioningly one of the rules-lite classics).

Ghostbusters International RPG PDF character sheet at 1 per page (A4/Letter)

A bit of Google Fu tells me this isn't the first GBI character sheet on the web, so I'm going to give a shout out to the unknown hero who released this in 2007.  Well played, sir or madam.

Mini-teaser: this might not be the last mention of this character sheet here; I've got some plans.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mantic Games - DreadBall

Mantic Games DreddBallSomething just came and hit me out of left field (do you see what I did there?).  And that's Mantic Games sending out a teaser for their new game DreadBall.

Mantic has already established itself as the Company Not Afraid to Rip-Off Games Workshop (which has a poetic justice to it if you consider how often GW can be accused of intellectual theft).  Where GW were afraid to include Squats in their Warhammer: 40,000 universe, Mantic stepped in with their Forge Fathers.  Where GW didn't want to release Space Hulk again, Mantic stepped in with Project Pandora: Grim Cargo.

Wait, hang on.  GW did re-release Space Hulk, and it was a huge hit for them.
Mantic Games Project Pandora Grim Cargo
The cargo is grim.  It's rats.

And Studio McVey are doing their own take on it with Sedition Wars.  Meh, what am I complaining about, I like Space Hulk, and welcome all new takes on it.

Back to Blood Bowl being ripped off.

Mantic Games Warpath Enforcer SergeantMantic aren't the first to this, either.  Impact! Miniatures have Elfball, and there's a handful of other companies with other fantasy sports titles to boot.

What makes this one different?  Well, for starters, it's sci-fi not fantasy, so it's more Speedball than Grave Yardage.  From the teaser image, it looks like it'll use Mantic's Marauders from their Warpath game and pit them against the recently released Enforcers, who to my mind look like the lovechild of a Necron and Iron Man.

I can't say I'm 100% sure about all this, but it's quite stimulating news regardless.  Given my cash flow issues at the moment, there's no way I can guarantee I'll even seriously consider a purchase.  But if someone else offered to host a game with their copy... I have to admit, I'd jump at the chance.

D&D Next - Saving the Industry or Killing It?

I'm going to make three contradictory statements in a row.
    Wizards of the Coast Magic the Gathering
  • The pen and paper roleplaying industry is in decline.  It has been for a long time, since the release of Magic: the Gathering in '93 which thinned the number of people already in the roleplaying scene by providing an alternative, addictive hobby in the form of collectible card games.
  • The pen and paper roleplaying industry is in decline.  It has been since the popularity of the internet spiked, and anyone with a scanner could upload an electronic version of a book, sharing it with the world, thus decimating book sales.
  • The pen and paper roleplaying industry is in decline.  It has been since massively multiplayer online roleplaying games came on to the scene, and stole the hearts and minds of kids who find their monster-slaying needs more than fulfilled by a monthly subscription.

Which of those three is true?  To an extent, each of them.  Yet the roleplaying industry persists.

In understanding why that should be so, we're faced with an underlying truth of marketing and economics.  No matter how perfect a model we create to understand a market, it will still be innately less complex than the reality of a given situation.  There are multiple caveats and addendums to the above three statements, for example, and counters to all of them.
  • The CCG market isn't what it used to be, and can be considered a complimentary element to the roleplaying hobby not an opposition.
    World of Warcraft
  • E-publishing is bringing fresh ideas into the hobby by allowing indie products to come to prominence as never before.
  • MMORPGs are sparking an interest in fantasy gaming bringing it further into the mainstream and attracting an audience that the roleplaying industry alone never could have.

So, there we have put a different take on each of the three causes of decline in the industry.  Maybe you agree with one statement more than another, maybe you disagree with me entirely.  Hey, feel free, the comments are just down below all this text, all views are welcome and nothing will be deleted.

But, despite how each of us feels about the above, I think we can all pretty much agree with the following two statements.
  • We need people buying roleplaying products, or there is no roleplaying industry.
  • We need need people playing roleplaying games, or there is no roleplaying hobby.

With that in mind, I find it difficult to dislike what Wizards are currently doing with D&D Next.  Let me explain.

When Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition came out, opinion was divided, to say the least.  But it was clear that WotC were attempting to open up D&D, making it more accessible to a new generation of players who were more comfortable with the wargaming and MMORPG-like elements.  And that new generation of players is important to the industry, because nobody is immortal, and those of us who intend to roleplay and buy roleplaying products for the rest of our lives are not the only ones in the hobby.  It's true, people drop out of the hobby.  Sometimes to return later, sometimes not.  Real life gets in the way, people decide it's not the best use of their time or will never be as engaging as when they were young.  It's all very sad, but it's a fact, and we can't pretend otherwise.

D20 Dungeons and Dragons Next D&D 4th Edition 4E 5th Edition 5ESo, did Wizards mess up by making 4th Edition something D&D wasn't?  Opinions are very divided.

Will Wizards mess up by making D&D Next different again?  All signs point to them not wanting to.  Whether or not crusty old grognards will loosen their steely grip on their Tunnels and Trolls First Edition, and nervously reach towards the new D&D book, eyes bright and alive like they haven't been since the mid-70s, the industry will plod on without them.  It pretty much has to.

Personally, I see the Forgotten Realms Sundering to be an attempt to make it so new people can get into that setting without reading eleventy-billion books (although the cynic in me does notice that Wizards are releasing eleventy-billion fiction books to get people up to speed on the new setting...).

It's a fine line, walking between pleasing the old crowd, and attracting a new one.

This post here is just the tip of the iceberg.  I could write about this at greater length*.  Instead, let's wrap up with a little slice of what the rest of the internet is saying about all this.

Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern suggests that D&D Next is shaping the way for the whole industry.

Andrew of the Iron-Bound Tome contends that changes to D&D would be more readily accepted if not done as part of a continuation of the editions (and that it's kind of sad).

Timothy Brannan of The Other Side played the whole gamut of D&D editions with his family at Gen Con, and loved it.

Share your thoughts below.

* But won't.  Breathe a sigh of relief, dear readers.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Advanced Heroquest - Character Sheet

Advanced Heroquest Character Sheet Hero Quest
Click above if you're happy using a PNG file, look below for the PDFs
Not quite a board game, not quite a roleplaying game, definitely a miniatures game but entirely unlike a wargame, Advanced Heroquest is somewhat of a forgotten gem, in my mind.  Preceded by Milton Bradley's Hero Quest and succeeded by Games Workshop's Warhammer Quest, it has the difficulties of the middle child, but it's somehow always been my favourite of this type of game.

And, arguably, the internet's least.

A good few years ago, I ran AHQ regularly for a group, and we had a blast.  As a result of that, I made up loads of my own houserules, and supporting miscellanea -- like this character sheet I'm posting today.

The character sheets that came with the game were printed on the back of the rulebook, and occupied one half of a page of A4 -- the other being given up to graph paper that dungeons would be mapped out on by the players themselves.  My players always found that to be insufficient cartography room by far, so I always handed out full sheets of A4 graph paper for them to map away to their hearts' content.

The character sheets I'm posting today have been updated just a bit to be suitable for the outside world.  It's 100% my own creation based off the original design, but otherwise this is a product from an age that has passed.  It's my fond hope that at least a few of you will get some use from it.

Advanced Heroquest PDF character sheet at 1 per page (A4/Letter)

Advanced Heroquest PDF character sheet at 2 per page (A4/Letter)

Tudor Risus Characters - Henry VIII

Do you ever use real-life famous figures in roleplay?  It's a pretty hot topic in fiction, with opinion firmly divided into those who think it's cheesy and cringeworthy, and those who think that (if done well) it increases the audience's appreciation of a historical setting by giving them something familiar.

Does the same hold true in roleplaying games?  I'd love to hear some thoughts.

In the meantime, for those that fancy giving it a shot, I've started writing up the Tudors as NPCs for S. John Ross' ultimate beer-and-pretzels system, Risus.  Risus is absolutely perfect for writing up NPCs if you're not sure what system you're going to use them in yet.  If you're on the bus and an idea for one pops into your head, you can scribble it down on the back of a chewing gum wrapper if you have to.

The system is easy to remember too - ten dice, no more than four in each pool.  Later on, if you decide you want to use them in a crunchier system (though Risus is perfect for the larger-than-life Henry VIII), you can pin down the concepts in more detail. 

"Hello, laaaadies..."

Henry VIII

Debauched Old Lecher (3)
Angry Old Man (3)
Dyslexic Agnostic Insomniac (2)
Bard to the Bone (2)

Henry VIII cliche guide:

Debauched Old Lecher

Best known for having 6 wives, numerous dalliances and possibly dying of syphillus.  Before marrying Anne Boleyn, Henry was accused by one of his parliamentarians of sleeping with both her mother and her sister.  David Starkey writes: "The double charge of incest stunned Henry into blurting out 'Never with the mother!' It was left to [Thomas] Cromwell... to try to rescue the situation by insisting 'Nor with the daughter neither!'"

Angry Old Man

Estimates of the number of executions carried out by Henry VIII range from 57,000 to 72,000, including two wives, his good friend Edward Stafford (who carried Henry's crown at his coronation) and poor old quick-thinking Thomas Cromwell (see above) who got Henry his break from the Catholic church and his first divorce.

Dyslexic Agnostic Insomniac

Okay, so we don't really know if Henry ever did lay awake all night, wondering if there was a Dog.  It's likely that he was certain in his own mind that there definitely was a Dog... God, I mean.  But he was given the title of "Defender of the [Catholic] Faith" and went on to get excommunicated for separating from it... so, it's fair to say he had flexibility in his approach to belief, even if he wasn't actually agnostic.

And he was given the title for writing a pro-Catholic book called "In Defense of the Seven Sacraments" so he probably wasn't actually dyslexic.

I've no idea if he suffered from insomnia or not, but I really wanted to get that joke in.

Bard to the Bone

You can see from above that Henry VIII was a bad boy, but he was a lover as well as a fighter.  In his youth, as well as being great at the typical manly pursuits of the time (jousting, hunting, riding etc.) he was known as an excellent dancer and could play the lute and sing pretty well too.  He may or may not have written Greensleeves, but even if he didn't, his love letters to Anne Boleyn were hot stuff.

"MY MISTRESS & FRIEND, my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands, beseeching you to hold us commended to your favour, and that by absence your affection to us may not be lessened."

Be still, my beating heart... (as my head bounces into an executioner's basket).

So, that pretty much wraps it up for Henry VIII, the giant of a man who so over-shadowed his daddy Henry VII and his much-wanted son Edward VI.  Unless it turns out that I'm the only roleplay nerd who has a favourite Tudor, next time I'll do the ultimate Other Woman - Anne Boleyn, recipient of the love letters.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Ghostbusters GB Roller - Minor Update

I've cleaned up the code for my Ghostbusters RPG dice rolling programs GB Roller and GB Roller Legacy.  It's only a tiny bit of cleanup, so if you're already using either one of them, don't trip over yourself in rushing to upgrade.

Since I've upped them to version and had to re-upload, I thought I might reconsider where I'm hosting them.  And you know what?  FileFactory sucks.  So, no more of that for my dear readers, oh no.  You're all much better than that, and you're dear to me.  So instead, find them hosted below for your convenience, where you won't have to wait to download them or enter a validation word or anything silly.

Download GB Roller

Download GB Roller Legacy

Double Review: Hive & Hive Pocket

Title: Hive
Title: Hive Pocket
Publisher: Gen42
Players: 2
Play time: Around 20 minutes per game
Prerequisites: A flat surface

I'm going to save a little time, both for myself and you, dear reader, by reviewing Hive and Hive Pocket simultaneously ("Is he allowed to do that?!") which is pretty easy since Hive Pocket is basically a travel version of Hive, so they're different versions of the same game.

Let's start with the gameplay.  Hive is sort of like chess, with the different minibeasts* each having its own movement rules (for the record, utterly different to those of chess).  The aim is to completely surround the opponent's queen bee, either with your own pieces or your opponent's, or any combination thereof.  Basically, if she's surrounded, it's croaksville for her.

It's dissimilar to chess in that there's no board to play on.  The playing area is dynamic, dependent upon how play goes -- the hive is made up as hexagonal pieces are added and generally grows through play.  Which neatly brings me to the two choices a player has.  Every turn, a player may either place a new piece, ensuring it is connected to the hive and only touching others of its own colour, or move a piece, not breaking the links of the hive.

Hive Pocket being played on a chess table outdoors in public
The ThoughtonBOT once again forces me into submission, proving that she is amazing and talented, and I really should just give up on games permanently
There's a lot of strategy to it, and practiced players will likely dominate lesser-practiced ones.  That said, I think there is a point where the game can be mastered, although I'm not personally there yet.  I also don't think that Hive could be played indefinitely, but honestly I think I'd say the same of chess, so make of that what you will.

Let's talk about the physical components and practicalities of play.  I've mentioned before, Hive is a play-almost-anywhere game, and because it's relatively short-form I recommend taking it to exotic places to play, like beaches, restaurants, mountain tops and your friend's houses.  There's no board, and the pieces are made of sturdy Bakelite.  I've dropped them a few times, and none have ever cracked or chipped (warning: that's not to say they can't or won't).

So what about Hive Pocket, and how is it different?  Well, as expected with a travel version, it's smaller, which means you need less space to play it in -- not that Hive was really demanding much space to begin with.  It's also lighter, which for me means I'm much more likely to put it in a bag that I take with me "just in case a game breaks out".  It also comes with the two expansions, namely the Mosquito and Ladybug, all as part of the standard game.  The original Hive didn't have these pieces -- to get them, you'd need to buy the expansions, which my own LGS carries, though asking a little more than seems fair for two hexagons of Bakelite.  The new pieces do change up the game just a little bit, but nothing is compelling you to use them; just put them back in the drawstring bag if you don't feel like including them today.

Would I recommend Hive?  Absolutely.  This is a fantastic little game, and a perfect gateway boardgame (even if it technically has no board) to get people interested in playing more than Monopoly, as well as standing on its own as a fine game for veteran gamers.  It asks players to think strategically, but can happily be played while conversing or drinking tea or beer or motor oil**.  Between the two versions, I'd recommend Hive Pocket.  While it might be a little easier to lose the smaller pieces, it comes in at about 60% of the cost with two expansions included, and the game doesn't seem to suffer or get fiddly due to the smaller physical components.  Now I own both, I think the travel version is the one that'll see the most use by far, and there's really no reason to break out the bigger set unless two sets of people want to play simultaneously.

So, yeah... go ahead, push some bugs around, it's good fun.

* A more accurate term for bugs or insects.  But there's a spider in there, which is technically neither of those two.
** Hey, I'm not judging.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Gen Con 2012 Keynote Speech - The Future of D&D

Elminster of the Forgotten Realms
I didn't get to go to Gen Con this year, or any year (yet) for that matter.  I'm sat in a Starbucks 3,800 miles away, yet thanks to the magic of the internet, I can watch the keynote address on the future of Dungeons & Dragons.  (For the record, the internet is also what told me the distance... what a world we live in.)

If you're interested in seeing it, it's available here.  Kinda long at over an hour; you might want to skip to 8 minutes in to save some time.

It's full of nerdly references, with real-world references to initiative, box text, and Star Trek (...yeah, that felt a bit odd to me, too).

Ed Greenwood creator of the Forgotten Realms talking about Dungeons and Dragons Next at Gen Con 2012
Ed Greenwood and the mystery of where Elminster's beard came from solved!
I really haven't been into D&D for a while, bypassing 4th Edition completely (although I did give a couple of books a bit more than a skim).  With the way the Forgotten Realms have been brought to the forefront for D&D Next, the ethos feels a lot more like when I first started learning about D&D (or AD&D as it was then).  Obviously, the announcement that Wizards are going to republish old editions and sourcebooks didn't hurt this feeling whatsoever.

Is this a return to the roots of D&D?  It's hard to say, right now.  But feel free to comment if you think you know the answer. ;)

(And, for the record, I could listen to Ed Greenwood speak all day...)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Secret DM Competition

Fine readers, I know amongst you are those that show bafflingly intimidating competence in the creative arts, and who also love a good old-school dungeoneering expedition.  You may be interested to know, then, that the Secret DM is running a competition, inviting writers to honour the memory of Gary Gygax by submitting 10 - 20 room dungeons in old-school style (yet OGL friendly) to win a complete set of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Reprints and have their submission converted into a professional quality .PDF for e-publishing.

Submissions should be sent to with the subject line "Gygax Contest".  Full rules and details can be found at the competition page.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Random Roleplay Table - Special Creature Details

Sometimes, you've got a bunch of monsters to throw at the players and it's nice to mark out one (or more) amongst them as special.  This could be the leader of the group, the alpha, or maybe the designated champion.  Perhaps it's the one that's carrying the treasure the players are after, or is otherwise important to the story -- it could be the one that crept into town and killed that old man.

These little extra details will help the players, too.  Not only will they better imagine the critter (it'll stand out more in their minds if it's exceptional in some way), but they can more easily discuss tactics if their foe is easy to name, and can do so in-character too if there's an obvious detail.

This table is mostly useful to games where hoards of monsters or hostile creatures are common, like in fantasy settings such as D&D.  I haven't included any system-specific rules, but there are suggestions in the second column (feel free to ignore these if you'd like the detail to be purely cosmetic).  Some of the details represent different levels of experience (a critter with one less eye might easily be a veteran), others denote minor biological differences, and could be used to trace genetic lineage ("That must be the brother of the one that ambushed us a week ago!").

Random roleplay table - special creature details
D10 Extra DetailRules
1. One less eye than normal.  If the critter usually only has one eye (cyclops, beholder, etc.), the eye is milky or looks cracked, or it has other notable scars or old wounds. Minor penalty on ranged attacks, minor bonus on morale.
2. Horns.  If the creature is usually horned anyway, it has two sets, or an especially long set. Gives the creature a bonus attack with the horns.
3. Unusually gnarled-looking skin, maybe scaled or rock-like.  If the monster has no discernible skin (gelatinous cube, ectoplasmic ghost) it has a film over it, like custard. Extra constitution or resistance to physical attacks, minor agility penalty.
4. Musical or noisy.  The creature continually barks out a war hymn in its own language or whistles an eery melody (if intelligent), or howls or screams with ear-shattering volume for the entire duration of a combat (if low intelligence or mindless). Depending on your whim, the critter might gain a sonic attack.  Makes it impossible for the creature to hide or surprise once it starts making noise.
5. More teeth.  If the critter doesn't usually have teeth or a mouth, it does now. Gives the creature a bonus attack with the teeth.  Might intimidate enemies if particularly unnerving (a slime monster with teeth is a bit more scary than one without).
6. Not the same creature as the rest.  You can go subtle with this one, or crazy.  Perhaps introduce hybrid creatures or unusual modifiers (a lizardman-orc, or a vampiric gnoll).  Sci-fi settings may feature mutations and artificial hybrids, fantasy settings may have magical hybrids. Modify as appropriate.
7. Marked with runes.  If the creature has armour, it can be the armour that is marked; if not, the runes could be carved in the skin, or tattoos.  Runes could be sigils, or an ancient language. Pick your favourite rules modifiers for whatever the runes represent.  Alternately, could just denote social superiority.
8. Big bones.  The critter is notably more heavy-set than usual, or if not a creature supported by a skeleton is of greater mass than expected. Extra constitution or hit points, minor agility penalty.
9. Elemental affinity.  The monster is surrounded by a field of fire (think phlogiston), or can summon bursts of air at will.  Perhaps it is electrical or plasmic in nature and gives shocks to anything conductive that touches it with an appearance like St. Elmo's fire, or is frosted over and immune to cold attacks. Modify as appropriate.
10. Decorated.  This could be in war paint, or fancy clothes or jewellery (if intelligent), or in blood, or the creature could just be an unusual colour. Slight morale boost to the other creatures around it.

Friday, 10 August 2012

D14s and D18s

Oh my.  Impact! Miniatures (y'know, the ones who make loads of Blood Bowl and other fantasy sports miniatures) have a Kickstarter going to make D14s and D18s.

I'm not much of a fan of most Kickstarter projects, in truth.  The concept of Kickstarter is sound, if not amazing, but usually the projects don't interest me beyond 5 minutes fascination.  But if you say you're going to start making awesome new dice available, well, that's a bit of a different story.

They've also got D16s made by another company available (which were already readily available in the market - who knew?) and a dice game called Dice Farmer.

My pockets run a little empty at the moment (or I'd get on to ordering a bunch of custom-made Ghost Dice for GBI like I've been wanting to for a while now) but I'm going to have to consider this one seriously.  Hmmm, what organs go for the most on the black market these days?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Random Roleplay Table - Hobbies and Interests

When writing up a character, it's all too easy to get caught up in a theme, and forget to add those little details that give depth.  This is true whether you're a player putting the final touches on your trusty alter-ego that'll see you through many an adventure yet to come, or a GM writing what seems like a billion NPCs for the next session.

The strange thing is, the answer to adding depth is staring us right in the face every time we interact with another person.  Small talk covers all the basics, such as job, family and weather (and most characters will have some answer to each of those already), but then it moves on to interests, hobbies, passions.  So, throw some dice and use this table if you're stuck for ideas (or do as I tend to, and read them all picking the ones I feel like using).  I've written this with modern settings in mind, meaning it will work with most sci-fi settings without any effort, but shouldn't be too hard to bend to the majority of fantasy settings either.  Street racing becomes chariot racing, playing guitar becomes playing lute, and so on.  It's not exhaustive, and isn't meant to be, but hopefully will give some ideas that wouldn't have sprung to mind otherwise.  Comments are always open (especially for suggestions).

Random roleplay table - hobbies & interests
D20 Hobby / Interest Variations
1. Origami Competitive origami, Kirigami (involves cutting), paper engineering, paper making
2. Boating/sailing Boating combined with d6:
1. birdwatching; 2. sunbathing; 3. outdoor BBQ cooking; 4. painting landscapes; 5. paragliding; 6. roll again on main table for combine
3. Paintball Customising paintball equipment, airsoft, gun enthusiasm, hunting
4. Flying kites Kite fighting, kite surfing, kite fishing
5. Orienteering Geocaching, letterboxing, BookCrossing, cartography
6. Remote control cars Amateur mechanics, Formula One/stock car racing, street racing, demolition derby, vintage cars
7. Toy models Model rockets, matchstick models, scrapyard art
8. Poker Bingo, casino gambling, backgammon, boardgames, roleplaying games, chess
9. Amateur astronomy Astrophotography, theoretical astronomy, planetary science
10. Cookery Home beer brewing or wine making, home jam making, vegetable/herb gardening, BBQs
11. Playing guitar Playing [insert any musical instrument here], orchestral performances, being in a band, choral singing,

12. Stamp collection [Insert any collectible here] collection (coins, antiques, artwork, Beanie Babies etc.), bird watching,

train watching
13. Pedigree cat shows Dog shows, sheepdog trials, dressage, polo
14. Meditation Reflexology, aromatherapy, reiki, t'ai chi
15. Quilting Needlepoint, puppet-making and puppetry, cross-stitch, knitting, clothes making, cosplay
16. Dancing Old time dancing, line dancing, tap dancing, pole dancing, belly dancing
17. Pottery making Papier-mâché, sculpting, oil painting, candle making
Amateur wrestling
Martial arts, boxing, professional (entertainment) wrestling
19. Tarot card reading
I Ching, reading runes, water divination, metal detection
20. Movies Theatre, acting, celebrity gossip

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Sound Effects for GMs

So, in searching for sounds to use with my dice roller for the Ghostbusters RPG that I released yesterday, I came across a couple of links, and since I'm in the blogging mood thought I might share.
The HProps website has some of the best sounds for ghost busting equipment, and is certainly no secret amongst the Ghostbusters fan community.  While I don't think I'll ever actually build a Proton Pack, two of my players have put these sounds on their smart phones, so when they want to flip a switch that makes a worrying hum they actually can.  If anyone wanted to use them for GB Roller, you'll need to convert them from MP3s to WAV files, but if you haven't got a solution for that already Audacity ( is free and easy to use.

That's all I've found (so far) for Ghostbusters specific stuff; the next two links are good for GMs of all systems and genres.
SoundFX Now! offers pages of sound effects, some more useful than others for GMs (the machine & technology and weapons & war sections might be the most popular, but the other sections have some hidden gems too).  What's good about this site is it offers the files to download if you click the title, but also presents a page full of effects you can play straight from the browser.
Probably one of the better known sources of free sound effects, though I generally find that, because of its open nature, there's a lot of content there, and you've got to really hunt for the good amongst the average and not-so-good.

Okay, that'll do for now.  If anyone's got any suggestions of other sites they use, or wants to point out awesome software for playing said sounds specifically useful to GMs, comments are, as always, open and welcome.

Old Computer Love - GB Roller Legacy

Something I should have mentioned in yesterday's post is that the GB Roller dice rolling application needs Microsoft's .NET Framework 4.  While that's not going to be a problem for the overwhelming majority of people, since it'll definitely run in Windows XP and later, and the setup takes care of installing anything needed, it does mean that those of you using quite old machines are going to feel a bit excluded.

So, I've spliced up a version that will run using .NET 2.0, and that opens it up to anything as low as Windows 98, fully acknowledging I might be the only person left in the whole world who has a working computer that still uses that operating system.  Here's a screenshot!

So, it's definitely not quite as pretty or functional as its older cousin, lacking the fancy mini soundboard, the switch button, and even the options button.  But, GB Roller Legacy is fully ready to help out those people playing a game from almost 30 years ago on hardware nearly as old!  Plus, it's nicely portable (just one tiny .EXE file) and it has so much love to give.  Won't you help it find a home, dear readers?

Yeah, I completely realise I've gone off the rails a bit with this one.  The chances of a Ghostmaster of Ghostbusters International or Ghostbusters RPG coming along to my site and saying "Perfect!  Just what I needed for my 200 MHz Pentium!" is, shall we say, a bit unlikely.  But I love old computers.

If anyone misses any of the features of the real GB Roller, just leave me a comment (hey... I can dream, right?).  I can probably get everything but the opacity setting working, but I'm not going to invest time on it if nobody would find it useful.

Download link:


Update: Link now points to version, and isn't hosted on FileFactory. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Ghostbusters International RPG - GB Roller

So, just a little over a month ago, I started a new Ghostbusters International campaign*.  Things are going great so far, we're only three sessions in and the players seem to be really enjoying themselves, when I'm not scaring them witless.  Actually, things are going great with two exceptions.

The first is that I'm suffering from a lack of players; two of my players have been exceptionally reliable.  But since the game is open to a rotating cast (it's episodic, so ideal for characters to just drop in for a session) it's proving a bit of challenge to get enough people with Proton Packs to effectively deal with the horrific threats from beyond that I'm throwing at the players.  This post isn't here to complain about that, though**.

The second is that I've only got one Ghost Die, and it's getting old.  Anyone familiar with West End's Ghostbusters RPG, or the follow-up Ghostbusters International (the one I'm choosing to run) will know that the system uses D6s, one of which has the 6 replaced by a Ghostbusters symbol (referred to as "rolling a ghost" in the rules) and when that shows up, it means something bad will happen to the players.  Those same people will also probably know that these Ghost Dice were notoriously poorly made, with the faces rubbing off over time, sometimes with very little use.

As a GM, I've often turned to my computer for dice-rolling solutions, so I thought I'd throw together a little application for myself and other Ghostmasters (yes, they actually use that term in the game) to have handy so I'm not always snatching the precious Ghost Die from my players every time I want to make a roll.  And since it's going to be there on my laptop screen anyway, I figured I might as well throw a few other features in there.

Click that lower image for an explanation of the elements.

The result and the UHM (Universal How Much, from GBI) result are the main focal point, but I included the actual dice rolled (the small numbers) just in case there's any question as to which dice resulted in what, and because sometimes you can roll, say, 3 dice and end up with, for example, 9 as a result, and this can happen twice in a row.  Without the dice there, it's not even obvious that you've re-rolled, so they act as a form of visual reassurance.

The mini soundboard can be configured to play 3 WAV files; mine's set to Proton Pack heating up, being fired, and powering down.  Yours could easily be Ecto-1's sirens, a ghost growling and a door creaking though, if you wanted, just change it in the options (the little tool symbol, top right).

The switch button might take some explanation.  If, like me, you have a few things open on your screen and it can all get a bit lost, this will shortcut to an open window you commonly use.  The default is set to "Untitled - Notepad" (you can find this in the options), but there's good sense in setting it to a PDF you often use (just type in the exact title of the Window you want to switch to, e.g. "Ghostbusters International RPG.pdf - SumatraPDF") or, in my case, a TightVNC client running the music on a different laptop***.

While we're on the subject of that options screen, you can set the opacity of the main window there (minimum 10%).  Useful for seeing through to underlying windows, especially since GB Roller defaults to Always On Top.  Hmmm, must remember to add that option in later in case people don't want it.

The link to download is:


Update: Link now points to version, and isn't hosted on FileFactory.


* Huh?  Was that why I haven't been posting much here lately?  Uh, yeah, sure.
** But it's my party blog and I'll cry vent in a manly fashion if I want to.
*** As a GM, I use quite a few technical solutions.  My best so far was a bank of computers (one showing only static) for the Paranoia confession booth in a side room.  The individual screens had a picture of the Computer's eye, with scrolling text messages and warnings as might be seen throughout Alpha Complex.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Portal #21

Hey, you cool peeps into miniatures all know about Portal, right?  Well, issue #21 has just been released.

Of particular interest to me -- and the ThoughtonBOT as well, no doubt -- is Tim Fitch's clever piece about realism in miniatures and fantasy in general.  If you're wondering what I'm talking about, follow that link above; you might as well, it's free.

(As an unfortunate aside, it's a shame the article is printed in the same issue as Maya Morland's guide to painting transparent cloth, as demonstrated on a cheerleader's top.  Mixed messages much, Portal Magazine?)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Importing Guitar Hero World Tour songs into Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Wii)

Before I address the main thrust of this article, allow me to indulge in a little background.

When the ThoughtonBOT and I first started our adventure into fake plastic rock, it was with the original Guitar Hero, on the PlayStation 2.  We had already whetted our appetites for the fake plastic instrument genre (also known as music or rhythm games) with the sadly mostly-forgotten Donkey Konga on the GameCube, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.  At least, we thought we did.  Since that time, our collection of fake plastic instruments has grown to exceed the number of limbs possessed between us.

Of course, it's not really the new instruments that drive us to continue playing, it's new songs.  And one of the easiest ways of getting new songs is by buying a new game -- arguably, it's the only reason, once you're set up with one of the Guitar Hero or Rock Band games, since there is little innovation from title to title.  Actually, I don't entirely believe that last statement, and find myself spoilt by later offerings such as Guitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, that allow up to 4 players using any combination of instruments (including multiple microphones, despite what some internet sources claim).  As such, I prefer to import the songs from previous versions into the later games.

There are some caveats for those unfamiliar with the limitations.  The first is that not all of the songs can be imported.  Generally, it's about half, sometimes less.  And there's a small one-time fee associated with the import.  On the Wii specifically, storage of the songs can be a consideration (my 2GB 4GB SD card holds my songs, and is groaning under the weight of them all).  Finally, you need to own the games new, since there's a unique code on the back of the manuals that can be used only once to import the songs.

And there's my problem.  We skipped over Guitar Hero: World Tour (the 4th title in the Guitar Hero line), going straight from Guitar Hero 3 to Guitar Hero 5.  Now, craving the songs available on World Tour, we bought a copy, and set about readying the process of importing them into Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.  I was familiar with the requirements, having already done it with Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits to good success, and eagerly held my manual in hand to input the verification code.

There wasn't one.

Apparently, Guitar Hero: World Tour manuals for the Wii in Europe don't have these codes.  Precisely why this oversight occurred is probably something to do with how Activision anticipated the extent they'd support downloadable content on the Wii, and it turning out to be a great deal more than they initially planned for.  However, trying to import the songs on Warriors on Rock still required a code to be input.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps yet another oversight.

I tried looking all through the Activision support site -- which, if you've never done it, is an exercise in circular logic if ever there was one.  I've had to contend with this issue before, when a fault developed with the Guitar Hero 3 disc (which went on to mysteriously resolve itself, perhaps due to a system update).  The site will tell you to choose a region, and since I'm part of the pariah community of video gamers that doesn't live in the US, I have to admit this up front.  Then I have to find the game I want support for (I can choose between Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock), and then look for the specific issue that requires resolution.  At this point, the article helpfully says this solution is for the US and Canada only, and to get international support, please select a region.  Yep, I'm back at square one.

To cut out the parts where I swore and even contemplated calling the helpline, I found resolution in an unexpected way, and that, more than using this article to rant about how dreadful Activision is at giving support, is why I hope people will read this, so they too can use this knowledge to import as they please.

Instead of importing into Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, I used Guitar Hero 5.  And that didn't ask for the code.  It just needed to verify I had a savefile from Guitar Hero: World Tour, and was happy with that as proof that I owned the game.

So, I'll conclude by bolding that advice:

Use GUITAR HERO 5 to import songs from GUITAR HERO: WORLD TOUR.  You can then use them in GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK as you please once downloaded.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Sometimes It's Hard to be a Woman (Gamer)

Oh FFS, guys... REALLY?!

I'm a woman. And I'm a gamer. And usually that's just fine. I've been known to eulogise enthusiastically to non-gaming women about the benefits of the hobby - the strategy, the creativity, the great people you meet (guys and gals)... but the older I get, the more I've come to understand why a lot of women wouldn't touch the hobby with a nine-foot barge pole.

The reason can be summed up quite succinctly with a quick gander at Raging Hormones - sorry, Raging Heroes - background fluff on their Eleriel & Alaniel Anniversary edition miniature.  (Link)

I mean... WTF, guys?  REALLY?

I can wearily accept that, with a few honorable exceptions, female miniatures have breasts that would necessitate an ass-mounted counterweight in real life.

I can get over the fact that female magic users, unlike their male counterparts, wear nothing but sexy lingerie underneath their cerremonial robes. I agree that a saucy sorceress with a daring flash of nipple is much more aesthetically pleasing (and easier to sculpt) than a trouserless mage absent-mindedly letting his left bollock hang out front.

I can even, on a good day, roll my eyes and ignore the "female fighters wear chainmail bikinis to distract their enemies" argument, mostly because it's made by people I consider too stupid to be worth arguing with.

But beautiful elf twins being subjected to lesbian dominatrix rape and discovering they <gasp!> like it?  This is well over the line.  Believe it or not, fellas*, most girls don't aspire to be a mass-murderer's personal f'k-toy, along with their own sister.  In fact, most girls don't want to f'k their sisters AT ALL, even without a mass murderer getting in on the action, jewellery and drapes notwithstanding.  A nice pair of earings and good interior decorating just doesn't make up for that shit.

This is SO crass, SO insensitive and SO exploitative, it could be made into a Channel 5 documentary entitled "Victims or Whores? A Sympathetic Portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome in Hot Lesbian Elf-Twins". If this is your understanding of what female sexuality is, I dread to think what The Talk must've been like when your dad explained the Facts of Life to you.  But shying from the horrific is not my style, so here it is reimagined below, in a style you'll find familiar.

Elwin and Alan - The Talk - Anniversary Edition

"Er... listen son, we need to have a chat about women"
"I know..."

Not for the first time did the father and son have this conversation. It kept resurfacing, incomplete, as if no possible resolution could be found. The two spoke softly, staring at the floor, as if lost in a daydream of hideous embarrassment.

Bathed in the rich fragrance of a heady blend of cannabis and nicotine, their shed was a maze of nude calendars and pin-ups adorned with used tissues and half-bricks.

Amidst a thousand vacant-eyed postergirls, the two lay on a huge stained mattress, languidly staring into space, impossible to tell apart other than by the age they were. One had laid his head on the other's chest, who played distractedly with his hair.

"The thing is, son..." One swallowed hard, "I want you to know about women. REAL women"

"Real women like Mum, Dad?" asked the other

"No!" He pushed his hand away sharply, rising. "And not like your bloody schoolfriends, either, with their "feelings" and "personalities" and all that garbage, like men but without the nethers, no..." his voice trailed away, trembling.  "I'm talking about...REAL women. Like... them"

He pointed to the walls.

"Are they so different?"

"Of course! Thing is... I've not met one. But I've read about them. Seen them in special films. And cousin Ned went out with a stripper once.  So I think I can tell you straight... they don't like to be treated like people.  Feel free to rape 'em once in a while. They don't mind after a bit, as long as your love-dungeon smells nice. It's a compliment."

"Could I not just tell a girl she's interesting to talk to and ask her out for a coffee?"

"Trust me, son."

Outside arose the low rumblings of the 93 bus. They were ready to go out on the pull.  They would bear a well-thumbed copy of The Game by Neil Straus. They would lose themselves in endless forum chats about women with other delusional lowlifes.
It was so f'ked up.
Still hugging, they began to cry.

It's just a shame there were no clean tissues in the shed.  But I don't know why they're crying. I mean, I had to read the crappy original this was based on.  In fact, I had to read it twice, because the first time, my brain would not comprehend the sheer level of BLEURGH that was crawling along my optical nerves.

I should be f'king crying.

It may well suit some pathetic men to turn the hobby into a big-boy version of their old tree-house, where they could stick a "No Gurls Allowed!" sign on the door and show their willies off in private.  But my experience has been that the vast majority of male gamers are more than happy to see females getting in on the action and the novelty factor wears off pretty quick.  I hope I live to see the day when we're all just "Gamers", not "Gamers" and "Girl Gamers" - and the BBC don't run articles entitled "Why Do Grown Men Still Launch Tabletop War?"**

But with attitudes like this so easy to find, I fear it's gonna be a long time coming.

* When I say "fellas", I'm talking to the sub-human knuckle-draggers who wrote and/or enjoyed the atrocity my rant is based on, not the vast majority of sane male gamers who don't need this lecture (but hopefully still find it funny).

** That article could make for a whole different rant in itself, but I think CS Lewis says it best.

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

Welcome Thoughton100BOT!

Today marks an important day for Thief on the Flats.

"Why, because after a month of ignoring it you're posting again?" you ask.  Quiet you.  Quiet your insolence.

No, because Thoughton100BOT -- who I promise is a real person -- has joined the team to give her input on game-related things.

"So, you're recruiting other bloggers to make up for your own inability to post things more regularly?" you ask.  What did we say about insolence, dear readers?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Printable Senet Boards 2

Sorry for my minor absence, if that's what you call a little over a week without a post.  I'm sure I'll be able to give you longer and more unexplained hiatuses in the future, so don't feel disappointed if this one wasn't long enough for you, my faithful readers.  All six of you.

Baron vonKadreisehn has sent me a new bunch of themed senet boards, and frankly I think they put my own efforts squarely in their place.  He's granted kind permission for me to include them here, so get your printers heated up and pick your favourite from these three.

Post-Apocalyptic Senet Board
Baron vonKadreisehn explains: I'd recommend using bottlecaps as counters and bolts/nails/chicken bones (boiled clean) as "sticks".

post apocalyptic senet board

Steampunk Senet Board
Baron vonKadreisehn beclaims: Good day sir, may I joyously present for your senet related appreciation a board based upon the theme of steampunkery!  May I recommend gears or small brass octopods as counters and possibly clockhands and slender brass nicknackery as sticks?  Splendid! ...if perhaps somewhat awkward to obtain.

steampunk senet board

Biomech Senet Board
A terrifying whisper permeates from places unknown: Greetingssss two-leg-meat, we the Hissnastypoids have sssubverted your feeble senet board to our biomechy-hivey based purposessss. We demand that as counters and sticksss you use ...pitiful human countersss and sticks (unless you can find nasssty biomech-y counters and sticks upon your worthlesss dirtball.)

biomech senet board