Thursday, 18 January 2018

2018 Goals

Once again I am a little late with a 'New Year' post, caused again by the UK tax system and the end of January deadline which too many people think of as a target.

So, let's start by looking back at 2017.

Again, a very disappointing year gaming-wise. Really nothing of note happening and ideas still percolate around my brain. The desire to get over this is there, but it seems the resolve has not been.

Rather than rake over my failures (which you can ultimately read in my 2017 post!) I'm going to reveal the possibilities for 2018.

Fringe Spacer

I really like the Five Parsecs from Home background. It's sketched just right for me, so I fancy doing something with it. This could be running it with the rules as written (like that's ever going to happen!), using Solo Traveller/Cepheus Engine or maybe 5150 Fringe Space.

I could continue with an old Dexter Krupnik false start. Originally this was going to be a run through of the solo investigations but I'd like it to be something else, more of an action-investigation hybrid. Alternatively, I could start a completely new campaign with somewhat random characters in a classic traveller-style campaign.

Star Wars

Well, enough said really. Probably a Clone Wars-era or Rebel-era game. This is the one I'm most likely to swap out and play with my kids.

Solo Investigations

This keeps hanging around. I never seem to be in the right frame of mind to actually start playing, although I do want to.

I have a few options here, including Judge Dredd-based as a means of blowing away the cobwebs. Whether I will ever get through all the investigation system options I identified is debatable as I've not got through one yet!


I've been on a swashbuckling kick, and I've a campaign all ready to run which I originally posted on one of my other blogs. I just need the energy/inclination.

Skirmish gaming

I still want to push little men around the floor (or table). Either a modern or future setting with rules of my own devising, which I've tested and enjoy.


This is a couple of options, dungeon delving using the boardgame Advanced Heroquest, or random hexcrawling.

Advanced Heroquest is a gem, an old Games Workshop game with a system that I describe as Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing light. All the same stats, just using a d12 and opposed stats for combat instead. It really is quite good.

The hexcrawling really would be a blank map and random tables. I'd need to source the perfect random tables for me though.


I've settled on Fudge and Freeform Universal (FU) as my systems of choice. FU is so rules light it can be run in a cinch (if I'm enthused), and Fudge is my system choice of development, with some of the Fate mechanics creeping in - although clearly not Aspects.

I still can't shake the feeling of wanting to use other systems, Barbarians of Lemuria and the other games based on this being one, the Danger Patrol beta in my own bastardised form, and Mini Six as the crunch heavy alternative. Well it is crunch heavy in this other company!


I'd also love to get in some more games with my kids. This is probably beyond the remit of this blog, but again something I want to do.


I still want to produce something, although that will be developed on my Fudge blog.


So, what's different this year?

I've decided to set aside a dedicated time slot for gaming. Which means I should be able to get some of this done this year.

Friday, 3 November 2017

First game setup

As this is SGAM, I thought I would detail the process I use to get going, often one of the problems I have is simply getting to this stage.

I begin by drawing a table 7 x 7 (actually I put it in a spreadsheet).

I label the first column 1 to 6, leaving the top cell blank for the other column headings.

Next I label the second column headings onwards, Name, Location, Organisation, Item, Threat, Event

If you've followed along you will see I will generate six of the above each numbered 1 to 6. These correspond to a d6, and can (and will) be generated in play.

To generate these first, I use Everyone, Everywhere to generate 6 names, randomly male or female. I then assign them jobs using Two Hour Wargames New Hope City game line (5150 and NHC PI).

Next, I generate the locations using Kellri's City Blocks.

Organisations I generate using the charts in Stars Without Number.

Items I come up with myself (if anyone knows a good broad sci-fi/cyberpunk item generator let me know!).

Threats, again I usually come up with these myself. These tend to be dangerous people or groups.

Finally Events come from Kellri's City Blocks again, just using the last page.

I will call each of these entries Clues for ease of reference.

Now I start by randomly generating 3 Clues, these form the nucleus of the mystery 1 to 6 for category then 1 to 6 for each item in that category. I write these in the middle of a sheet of paper, and connect them with lines. It will look like a pyramid.

I then have a think about the connections of these Clues, and write each in pencil on the corresponding line. Until I am assured of that connection it could change.

Now I have that mystery I introduce my character(s) and the mystery in the first scene. Each scene I gain another Clue and connection to the mystery no matter what. I connect it as it makes sense, the category also being chosen or random. If I select an already connected Clue then I can link it, or ignore it and select the following one down, rolling around to the top if necessary.

Eventually you get a weight of interconnecting Clues, and it just makes sense. Play out the denouement, or solidifying the connections as time/whim demands.

This may sound automatic, and to an extent it is, but my character's interactions determine sometimes the nature of the Clue, and also how certain I am of its connection. Once a connection is certain I write it in pen, so it can't be rubbed out.

Sorry if the above sounds a bit Mickey Mouse, or is unclear (it could be either!). I will show my workings when I get into my mystery proper.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Aurum PD Setup

So, Solo Gaming Appreciation Month is here once again.

I thought I'd use it as a motivation to actual solo game for the first time in ages. I had a bit of a false start with designing the characters, but I'm over that now.

I thought I'd lay out my characters and the initial setup, plus list the tools I will be using and maybe a little background on my setting, the planet of Aurum.

Because I just wanted to get on with it, I thought I'd grab the most intriguing and trustworthy tools and just do it, they are:

Freeform Universal
My quick RPG of choice it turns out. I had considered others, but FU had speed of use and narrative encouragement that the others lacked.

5150 New Hope PI
This has the tables I wanted for initial crime setup, plus a great people generator and a quick building type generator. I'm adjust the initial crime table by replacing 7 with 'In progess' and re-rolling. If I get another 7 I'll consult Mythic instead.

Judge Dredd Traveller edition
This has details on the weapon used/armed/committed with, which is the only table I'll use.

Kellri's Sci-Fi City Blocks
Great random tables for location generation, plus a very good city wide event generator for good measure.

The Everyone, Everywhere List
My stock names generator. I generate a list of names and then randomly select from there during the game. In fact, I do this with most of the generators I use. I just generate enough that I don't know where or who is going to come up during the game.

I'm not using this one exactly, just ideas from it, notably the mystery/investigation structure. Of all the investigation structures I've looked at, this is the one that makes the most sense. I have run it for my kids in a Scooby-style game, and it worked really well. While I will work through the others, as a quick pick up, this is the one that grabbed me.

Fate Core
Again, not really using this, I just like the nice, compact skill list. Sticking to these skills removed my character creation block.

Finally, I will be using Mythic - mostly. What I will actual do is substitute the Mythic dice mechanic with a d20 based table while rolling a d10 independently for generating random events. I've then streamlined the focus table to a d20, so I can roll 1d20, and 2d100 simultaneously.

I've got a few other tables I've either copied from somewhere, or come up with that I'll use as appropriate.

That seems like a long list of tools, but during play it actually only amounts to a list of people's names and locations, in addition to the details for Technoir mystery, the Mythic charts and a few tables, maybe 4 sheets of paper.

OK, with all that set I needed a character, and decided a new detective, fresh from Arcturus Prime, and a veteran detective to show him the ropes would be good options. Why ditch the stereotypical cop show tropes? Here's the details for both:

Joe Blacklock
New recruit to Aurum Police Department
+ Athlete
+ Investigate
+ Rapport
- Resources - an apartment in the poor part of town
Description - Scruffy

Henry Benfield
Veteran Aurum Police Department detective
+ Contacts - built up over a long career
+ Drive
+ Investigate
- Athletics - Overweight
Description - Short & overweight

They both have significant help from the Aurum PD HUD and Standard issue firearm, giving
+ Notice - Aurum PD HUD, a face recognition and environment analyser
+ Shoot - Aurum PD issue PKD Special 'handcannon'

Here's the quick overview of Aurum:

A mining colony on the fringes of human space, rich in gold deposits, which are essential for electronic component construction, particularly in 'andys'. The planetary government leases the rights every five years, ensuring no company has exclusive use of it's valuable resources.

Incapable of being terraformed, a small 'bubble' outpost exists comprising three inter-connecting domes and the attached starport. The atmosphere is unbreathable to humans, although a few hardy creatures do exist on the meagre vegetation.

Enormous mining vehicles scour the planet's surface, sifting the rubble and gold before dumping the spoil behind it. These vehicles can mine at the rate of 1 mile per hour, or travel to new sites at 20 miles an hour.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Adventure Starters

If the title is not enough to give it away, I've decided that I'm going to pursue my Adventure Starters goal.

One thing I have thought about is getting some support, either something like an editor to keep the pressure on me, or at least ask me how I am getting on occasionally, or some people to split the work out amongst.

So what exactly are Adventure Starters?

Basically, random tables. To be more precise, genre-based, but setting specific tables. The idea is that when you want to run a game you pick up, open, or print out an Adventure Starter and it includes all the random tables you need, hopefully not just for an adventure but a whole campaign.

Each Adventure Starter is based on a particular setting in a certain genre. So Nexus City in the street level superhero setting, with the people and places that make that particular setting unique.

There will be an element of generic locations and people, but the specific answers will give the overall flavour of the setting and make it more than just another set of random tables.

They won't include any game system details or any form of GM emulator, these are things you provide yourself as tastes differ so widely.

I have a number of genres I would like to produce, but I would like to get someone, or some people, onboard and then we can make a decision from there.

So if this sounds like something you would like to help with please let me know!

Monday, 16 January 2017

2017 Goals

It's that time of year (well, sort of) when we reflect on the year passed and look forward and set goals for the coming year.

So what can I say about 2016?

It was pretty rubbish.

Well, at least as far as gaming is concerned. On a professional level my company is doing well and it is clear that I can make a pretty decent living after all. In truth I always thought this would be the case, but it's just been confirmed in the last few months.

And it is that trade off of work versus hobby time that has killed 2016 for gaming. Work will always be prioritised, but hopefully this year I can actually do something on the game related front.

So what are my goals this year?

Solo Investigation Gaming
This was my Solo Gaming Appreciation Month pledge for last November. In the end I got nowhere with it, but I still want to see it through. I've got the setting decided, and just need to line up each game. Blogging about it too will add a layer of complexity, but we'll see how that goes.

Kids' Adventure Gaming
As a gaming Dad I've often run games for my two daughters. As time's go on I've honed the gaming into something we all enjoy and quite simple. As there's nothing else out there quite like I run, I thought I'd try and put something together and possibly release it as Pay What You Want. I'd use the money generated to improve it over time, especially adding artwork. The trouble started when I wrote down everything I wanted to include, which was larger than I imagined it would be, this sort of stole the wind from the sails, and with no time or energy it's still becalmed.

Skirmish Gaming
I've always been a wargamer and a role-player. As a role-player I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got, but as a wargamer there's always something shiny to catch my eye. Add in my kids also like skirmish games and the wealth of solo systems and it's something I'd like to do. Put 15mm minis into the mix and it becomes super cheap too.

The Veil
This is the working title for a role-playing game setting I've got milling around my mind currently (it will have to change due to a recent cyberpunk game called this). It's a swashbuckling game with supernatural elements, in either Fudge or FU (or possibly both, I can't decide). I've got a basic plan, and it's rules light so it isn't too heavy to write (potentially), but then even a rules-light game takes a long while to slog through.

Adventure Starters
I'm not 100% set on the details of these (or the name). What I initially wanted to do was create genre appropriate random tables that enabled someone to pick one up and get going with a minimum of fuss (both regular GMs and solo-ists). In essence I wanted to include the people, places and other bits that make somewhere great for gaming. I'm starting to wonder if I can't modify it to become simple RPGs in their own right, which have everything needed for an evening (or many) of fun.

A novel
The big one. I've got an idea (amongst many) that seems pretty commercial and somewhat unique (at present). This would probably be the biggest slog of the lot, and I'm not sure I'll ever get around to writing it. Still if I leave it on the list I haven't given up on it completely.

The next challenge is to prioritise my goals so I can concentrate on one (or two) and actually attempt to complete them.

Friday, 25 November 2016

SGAM 2016 - Progress, or lack of!

Hi all

November hasn't been a good month for me. It started fairly well, the first few scenes of my Unity-based game were hustled through but then it hit me that I was playing a chase scenario and not immersing myself in any mystery - which was the whole point of my SGAM challenge!

So, what to do, rather than shoehorn a dramatic change of direction for my existing game I decided to start again with a different setting and character. It just seemed easier.

Now a few (many SGAM) days later I'm in a position to start again. This time I'm taking a slightly different approach and immersing myself in a cyberpunk city as a rookie detective - this should allow me to have a mystery defining opening scene from the off.

I've just been assigned from the regional academy to Aurum, the planet of gold. I'll fill in more details as I go through my exploits (hopefully) although more work commitments mean this may be a longer burn - for which I apologise.

If only my damn boss would stop arranging these appointment! Oh, hang on, that's me. Yes, working for myself does mean that I have to put it a very big first, maybe one day I'll be able to retire (only 30 years to my official retirement date!).

Still I will get these done, and I'm sure once I'm into the swing of it it'll come quickly and easily, it's getting it started that's the problem.

Friday, 28 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - Investigation Systems

So now towards the meat of SGAM as the month draws closer.

I want to detail the various investigation systems I plan to game with. These are all what I would call plot systems, that is something to hang the characters, setting and game system on to give it structure.

Let's give you an example, in the brilliant Danger Patrol Beta John Harper espouses a story structure that follows:

Previously on Danger Patrol...
Suspense (then back to Action>Interlude>Suspense until the adventure is over, usually with an Action scene)

This fits in perfectly with the pulp 50s genre it is trying to emulate. This style of structure is also brilliantly demonstrated in John Fiore's 9Qs, which is made for solo gaming in particular (but not mysteries).

So I could just stick to this style of structure in my mystery games, I'm sure there are masses of mystery plot advice, let's have a quick look...

OK, so I could use the tried and tested:

Mystery>Introduce the suspects>Plot twist>Progress>Plot twist>Progress>The Reveal

Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this would be satisfying in a solo role-playing game however. The puzzle pieces that make the great reveal are not necessarily hidden from me, and while Christie can have great fun leading the reader astray only to reveal that X is true in the end is only possible because of her complete control of certain story elements.

OK, so despite all of that there have been a number of attempts to re-create mystery style games for solo-ists. Here's my list:

Mythic (Mystery Theme)
That Grande Dame of solo RPGs Mythic has a specific mystery theme in it's Variations book. Ultimately this is a different random theme table. In case you don't know when a random event occurs in Mythic you have to roll on a table to determine the type of twist.

Random events are incredibly important to me when I game because they make the game take a different direction, or provide a different viewpoint or angle that I wouldn't have injected myself. This makes the game seem alive rather than a series of questions I have generated myself.

While I can see the potential, the very nature of random injection means that they could come at any time and short circuit the plot or, as is the cae with Mythic lead to numerous threads that never get closed.

I would run this completely as intended, which means that I would ignore my usual solo system of FU and Mythic.

Two Hour Wargames Larger than Life/New Hope City PI/New Market Round
Two Hour Wargames make skirmish wargames that are playable solo. They have a number of products out, covering a wide variety of settings. One of the game styles they cover is investigations, either in pulp, the future or during the renaissance (respectively).

Basically it is a numbers game, you need X clues to solve the crime in Y amount of time, then a framework to find and solve those clues against a time use element. This is why it can be ported so easily across genres.

This is a fairly simplistic structure, but that doesn't mean that it won't work.

Scarlet Heroes (Urban Adventures)
SH is a solo fans' favourite. The Urban Adventures structure requires you to go from one semi-randomly scenes, based on what happened in the scene before, to another.

There seem like a lot of combat scenes/options in this structure which had made me think about using it for a one off Judge Dredd style adventure, but I want to stick to my setting for SGAM so if it goes that way, it'll just be an action episode.

GMless Mystery Explainer
This recently popped up on the Lone Wolf G+ and looks to hold promise. It was created for group GMless games where the designer noticed that groups were happy to create mysteries but not to tie them up. This system is directly applicable to solo-ists, basically you create 8 mysteries/mystery elements, you then create a connecting solution for two of those mysteries and when you have two or more connections you solve the overall mystery.

This one I think also holds real promise. You start with a table of six elements in six categories, you begin by generating three and connecting them on a sheet of paper, this is the initial mystery.

As you investigate you draw new elements into the mystery and connect them to existing elements. Eventually the whole structure becomes apparent and then you have reached your conclusion.
I have actually used this one on a holiday with my kids when I came up with a Scooby Doo adventure on the fly. It worked pretty well.

The Department of Fabricant Management
This is another skirmish wargame centred on an investigation style of play. The bad guy is determined at the beginning and then you use police budget to attempt scenes which generates evidence that you can use to attempt other scenes. I'm not totally sold on it as a system, but should time allow it might get a run out.

This is an example of the Fate fractal and how it can be applied to most situations. It has three skills, Secrets, Lies and Shock. Each has a slightly different function, and it becomes a task to 'attack' the mystery and solve it. I get the impression that this may work better as a side quest, but if I get the time I will give it a try.

Location Crafter
This is another Word Mill games product. This time it is set around generating locations and things present in those locations.

As any fan of police procedural's knows often the detectives go from place to place interviewing people and finding clues. So a system that generates those places and things present could be used.
I'm not entirely convinced of my own logic, so this one is on a back burner, but if I get the time I would like to see if there is any mileage in this system.

I've had other systems mentioned, but lack of time and immediate pick and play-ability has somewhat stymied this. I will give each a look and play through as I intend to continue with my investigation games after SGAM has finished, although at a slower pace.