Wednesday, 18 January 2017

One Score And Thirteen Years Ago - A Bearded Quail Birthday With Bonus Video

When you're born on Friday 13th, all the bad luck stuff associated with it always feels kinda mean-spirited.
Those of you with a good memory may well realise we've passed an important milestone in the Bearded Quail's calendar. The 13th of January is my birthday - this year like the year I was born it was a Friday.  (Unlike the year I was born, there wasn't a snowstorm causing blackouts.

With that I have become older and now scale the heady heights of 33 years old.  I do now own a house so I feel a bit more grown-up than last year, but I still spent a chunk of my birthday reading comics based on 1980s toylines and eating an R2-D2 cake so it kinda cancels out.

Basically every element of my birthday is associated with something negative.  Even though I have the same starsign as Jesus, which you'd think would count for something.
Inevitably my birthday means a few new nerdy odds and ends as gifts.  Some are more vaguely practical, like a whiteboard easel that just happens to be convenient for use while RPGing to track initiative or draw maps.  Some are nerdy but outside the scope of this blog, like the Bluray of Tron and Tron Legacy.

Some, however.... some fit right in.  And one even justifies the first ever Bearded Quail Vlog!  Oo-er, missus!

Not the typical George RPG request
Sister Superior got me an RPG from my wanted pile, the GUMSHOE system based Night's Black Agents.  GUMSHOE is a system I have played once before and which is designed for use in investigative games, in particular to deal with the obstacles that RPGs can have in such premises.  Anyone who run such a game may have a story of occasions where either the players failed to spot a vital clue and so ran around in a circle for an hour or where the GM had to basically throw The Major Clue at them to get them moving- GUMSHOE hopes to prevent that with a system that ensures players always get some clues but good or lucky actions on their part may see them get more clues.

Now Night's Black Agents does not look like the sort of game you'd think I'd be into.  Vampires have a reputation for popping up in games either for angsty goths or for fourteen year old boys who want to rip off people's heads and drink their blood.  But Night's Black Agents premise is one of playing human characters, spies and con-artists, who are fighting the vampires.  The inspirational material section at the back mentions Taken, The Bourne Supremacy and Ronin more than it does vampire fiction - this is a game with something of a "grounding".

Sister Superior thinks that only men would be stupid enough to be inspired by the story of the 47 Ronin rather than think they're all bloody stupid men.

My perusing of this book is still at an early stage so I can't give you the full breakdown right now - painting of the nerd room is now midway through and as you can iamgine that's a priority for me because it means I can finally unpack all my RPG and wargaming stuff!  As such I have a few books, computer games and films still on the to-do pile.

What I can say is that the game covers a few different tones in its rules so theres roomfor the group and I to fiddle with how dark, high-powered or psychological the game is.  The book is written by award-winning RPG author Kenneth Hite whose work is a big part of why GUMSHOE became popular.  It's this man who is the reason I got this book - not so much for the core rules but for the premise of one of it's supplements...

This however is probably more up Sister Superior's alley
 The Dracula Dossier is a GM guide to playing in a world in which Bram Stoker's Dracula novel isn't a work of fiction but a heavilly censored piece of journalism.  A huge cover-up tried to suppress the real story of what happened when British intelligence tried - and failed - to recruit a Eastern European agent into their ranks to make use of his supernatural powers. 

What really grabs me about this premise is that it includes Dracula Unredacted - a copy of the Dracula book but with notes, margnialia and scribbles in which the true story (or the best reconstruction thereof) is theorised.  Your players can take this as a PDF or even receive a hardcopy and research things for help in the game.  That's delightfully bonkers and something I want to learn more about.

"Anything can happen in the next half".... aw, crap, wrong show.
 My regular RPG chum Raj also got me a game - something of an ulterior motive there I suspect, since I'm the main person who GMs for him!  He got me the Thunderbirds Roleplaying Game, a light story game by the people who produced the Thunderbirds co-operative boardgame.

Technically the RPG is a sort of supplement to the boardgame, using several of the same elements - counters from the boardgame are used to track certain RPG elements and the main game-map is suggested as a good aid to show distances around the world.  However, everything that comes in the little RPG box is enough to get you started - crucially it includes the RPG specific card deck.

The deck of cards is a plot generation engine, allowing the core elements of your story premise to be generated automatically to get your creativity going.  There are a couple of key types of card - Crisis, Antagonists, Subplots etc - and the GM can use these as necesary.  If you click on the below picture you'll see several different options or vague concepts are included with each so that even the same card draw could produce two different adventure starts.

And with that the shell of an adventure is generated.  As ever, click to embiggen.

The above story, for example, has a criminal mastermind trying to sabotage some sort of vital machinery which must be protected because the world would be a worse place without it.  A member of International Rescue is actually present at the scene - it could even be a broken down Thunderbird, or maybe Lady Penelope is a passenger on a malfunctioning supersonic jet.  Helpful people at the scene will try to aid the players out but said Criminal Mastermind probably has other ideas....

The game is very bare bones - a simple 2D6 system with larger numbers being better and with levelling up done by a sort of communal voting system where everyone decides who were the "stars" of that adventure and thusly deserve the upgrade.  Discussions on vehicle speed and the like emphasise making things run at Speed Of Plot rather than worrying about how much faster Thunderbird 1 is than Thunderbird 2. 

I can't quite decide if it's a good game for beginners or not - even character generation would need to be added since the game only provides rules for playing the traditional Thunderbirds cast of the Tracy Brothers plus associates.  The game does acknowledge it's sparseness and suggest there's lots of things you may choose to add in if you keep playing, which is fine by me but may be awkward for someone with no frame of reference.  Then again, this might just be the game to get your parents or even grandparents to try RPGs since it's a co-operative premise they'll recognise and in which hardly anyone ever gets punched or shot at.

Maybe the Lustrian Pussycats will get their first game in a while.

Blood Bowl!  The fantasy football game to rule them all hardly needs an introduction - though if it does to you then I should add that it's not Baddiel and Skinner fantasy football but Orcs and Dwarfs fantasy football and hope you figure it out. The existence of a very popular computer game adaptation probably means that even the jocks know what it is, though.

Now, I could write about Blood Bowl, but I'm not going to.  No, I'm going to talk about it instead.  For the first time ever, the Bearded Quail brings you a vlog as I bust open my copy of the latest edition of Blood Bowl on camera and ramble about it.  For those of you who have never heard me speak before, be warned - I am posh Glasweigan, but Glasweigan none the less.

One thing I don't mention in the video is that, in the style of 90's HeroQuest-alike Dark World, the latest edition of Blood Bowl has bases with a little peg-hole in them as well as the figure slot.  This is because the game ball actually has a peg on it and can slot into the bases, make it easier to move figures around without the ball going flying out of people's hands or off of bases.

Having now read the rules I can confirm the changes are fairly minor - I believe Death Zone's campaign rules are similarly mostly the same as before, though in that case the changes (to do with long-term team advancement) are slightly more important.  If you haven't enjoyed Blood Bowl at any point since 1994 this isn't going to be the box to change your mind.

How could I forget 'em?

 One thing I actually got for Christmas but didn't blog about before was the annual tradition of Yet More Weird Dice from Sister Superior.  Above you'll see the latest haul.

Top row, left to right: Christmas D6, Woodland Critters D6, Elephant D6 and fiery orange D6.  Christmas and Elephant have the logo on one face, while the critter  dice has a different animal on each numbered side.

Bottom row, left to right - twelve sided D6 (numbered 1 to 6 twice), D24, nested D20s and a D4.  The D24 and D4 are I believe Gamescience dice, made in their quite distinctive uncoloured and untumbled style.

Anyway: Thanks for reading this blog post and thanks for watching my video.  I'm considering making more and I'd be interested in your feedback.  Obviously the portrait rotation is not ideal for YouTube so that'll be getting amended next time!  I'd be interested to hear if there's anything in particular you'd like me to talk about, review or what have you.

I can't get the orientation of the video right, but I can make a watermark for my channel.  (A NoPrize to whoever first identifies the font used in this.)

Next time on the blog I'll try and catch up on my recent RPGing and wargaming as well as show you pictures of the new Nerd Room.  I might just about clear the blog backlog and get into my new room with a miniature paintbrush in hand before the month is out ...

Doesn't look like your tyipical horror movie setting, but then I'm a bit of an odd bloke.