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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

My FATE is in my hands!

I've mentioned roleplaying a couple of times on this blog but never really expanded on it. However, just recently I found a system that I think is the perfect fit for me - FATE.

Whenever I run an RPG game I always set out to tell a good story. If the players and I all come away with the impression of having read a good book or seen a good movie, then I consider that job done. Likewise, when I play a game I want to immerse myself in the character, but this can be really hard sometimes, particularly if you're spoon fed things that you can do, such as in D&D 4e. For example, I'm currently in a campaign where I'm a Dwarf fighter and I have a fixed set of attacks that I can make, some of them all the time, some just occasionally. Now, there's really no decent justification for why I can only make the more powerful attacks once a day other than the mechanics state that. Obviously I would be using the best attacks  all the time otherwise, so for balance the rules impose a restriction but there's no narrative sense to it. And in this way, the mechanics are completely obtrusive to the game and I basically always feel like I'm just playing an extended board game. I certainly don't feel encouraged to come up with creative solutions to the problems set by the GM. Normally, just hitting something is the best way forward.

Contrast that with the way Call of Cthulhu plays out. Combat in that game is deadly, so you are very justified in trying to avoid it at all costs. Instead, it is a game of investigation, mystery and atmosphere. There are still only certain ways of attacking, etc, but there is also a massive skill list that allows you to try and roll against for most situations. Also, I normally only call for a roll when it is really necessary, so driving a car in normal circumstances doesn't need a roll. Chasing some fleeing cultists across a busy town? Now we need rolls! So, Call of Cthulhu's rules blend a lot better into the background. Most sessions I play in or run actually have relatively few rolls. But, it doesn't answer an age old question - how do you encourage your players to actual roleplay? One of the most common errors I see in games are when players fail to divorce themselves from the character. The player simply ends up reflecting their own motivations in the character, not accounting for the characters past at all. And I have to put my own hand up; I sometimes fall into this trap, but it can be difficult to make your character do something detrimental to them because you know it is!

Enter FATE! In this system each character actually has a very basic set of skills encoded by the rules, but what sets it aside is the concept of aspects. When you create a character you come up with a set of statements that define them, from an overall concept to a set of troubles and relationships. These are all completely free-form, but they actually have an impact in the game and the mechanics. If you fail at a roll or don't succeed well enough, then you can invoke an aspect for a bonus. But it can also work against you! Imagine your character owes another player a debt. The aspect might be "I owe my life to Jacob". In play, Jacob gets captured and you go to save him. When tackling his captor you can invoke that aspect to get a bonus because, narratively, your character will go all out to save Jacob. However, imagine that both of you were actually chasing your nemesis, The Jade Assassin! In our scene, you are just about to capture The Jade Assassin when Jacob is captured by a henchman. The GM can compel your character to have to save Jacob because of that debt and, thus, The Jade Assassin slips from your clutches. Damn your luck! Of course, there's masses more to it than that, but just the bare essence of the aspect rules sets my spine a-tingling with all the possibilities. Here we have a system that actually binds the character concept to rules mechanics and actively encourages the players to roleplay. Genius!

I cannot wait to run this system! If anything I have described above ticks any of your RPG boxes, then go ahead and check out FATE. You can get it from DriveThruRPG or RPGNow. It is Pay What You Want, so you can effectively try it for free (and hopefully reward the publishers afterwards with some of your hard earned cash! I think they earned it!)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Perilous Island Episode 3 - At Death's Door

Definitely been a very slow start to this year! This is partly because I've hardly been to the club since January and I've also not been painting much. However, let's rectify that situation and restart proceedings with another top game of Pulp Alley.

In this game, the dastardly Lo Chan Fu and his Brotherhood of the LOST is racing against Conrad Cortese's piratical band of ne'er-do-wells to find the last clues to the whereabouts of Lord Darrow. This is in the form of a box of Darrow's personal belongings that Customs officials are keeping in a warehouse near the docks. In a daring nigh raid on the facility, both parties must find some clues to where the box is kept before seizing it for their own nefarious ends...!

The warehouse resides in pretty urban area...
...but nightwatchmen still patrol the streets around it.
Xiufang spots some Customs ledgers carelessly left out with some crates.
While the silent and deadly Dragon Warrior moves in the glow cast from the street lamps. Being very dark, line of sight is restricted to 12" so he can't see that far up the street.
Conrad Cortese and Second Mate Andrews spot one of the nightwatchmen. Perhaps he can be bribed or coerced into divulging the location of the box?
Robeson joins the Captain. From another alleyway, Chief Mackenzie leads Ed Hands and Castro.
Accosting the guard, it turns out that he is not easily bribed. It looks like Cortese will have to resort to more...direct means! He calls over Robeson and Andrews.
Wong joins the Dragon Warrior in guarding the alley. They try to keep quiet so as not to attract the attention of the Custom's official who is enjoying a late night stroll in the gardens. Whatever could he be up to...ahem...?
Xiufang begins searching the ledgers, but accountancy and logistics aren't her strong point.
It takes the supernatural talents of Mei Ling, The Dragon Lady to decipher the shorthand scrawled on the pages!
Cortese finally coshes the nightwatchman and he is subdued. What you don't see here, though, is that the burly guard has cleaned both Andrews' and Robeson's clocks!! (Both night watchmen are extreme perils and the card draws were somewhat unkind to Cortese's men)
Wong dashes up the alley at the sound of the commotion and discharges his musket. The ball finds it's mark and Castro falls to the cobbles clutching his belly.
Mei Ling watches while Chao Lee rushes Chief Mackenzie on the other side of the warehouse to buy Lo Chan Fu and Xiufang some time. Mackenzie may only be an engineer, but he is a dab hand at fisticuffs so this is a desperate measure for Chao Lee. Will it pay off?
Clutching a sheet of paper with the location of the box, Xiufang climbs up to the warehouse entrance.
In a stunning display of savagery and determination, Chao Lee somehow knocks down both the Chief and Ed Hands!! This was unforseen! 
Carrying a long halberd into a crowded warehouse is not a good idea. Despite his agility, The Dragon Warrior repeatedly trips and falls in the dark.
Mackenzie climbs back to his feet shaking his head, but a chill runs down his spine. As if the ferocious Tong isn't enough, he feels a ghostly presence at his back...!
The final showdown! Cortese manages to force the guard to reveal the box location, but the Brotherhood is closing in. The Dragon Warrior somersaults backwards, allowing Lo Chan Fu to glide in and seize the box. Cortese unloads his pistol at him, but the mental powers of his inscrutable opponent put his aim off and the bullets strike home harmlessly into the crates about him! With their prize claimed, the mysterious Chinese melt into the shadows. Cortese will now have to pick up their trail and hopefully follow them to wherever the contents of the box point/
Once again, another excellent game of Pulp Alley. I think we put together a really nice looking table and it was a real pleasure to play George's steamer crew. We are now at a point where we zipped through the game in a little over an hour with no reference to the rules at all! It's so nice to be able to play a game like that as the narrative flows without interruption. Most satisfying! :)

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Name that Chapter!

Been a bit quiet of late, but that's largely been due to a number of circumstances, not least that I've actually been roleplaying rather than tabletop gaming the past couple of weeks, plus I haven't managed to do much painting either. However - I have finally decided on a paint scheme and chapter logo for the Space Marines that I've been picking up from eBay:
The first Space Marine squad I have painted in about two decades.
A slightly closer look at the insignia and colour.
 Currently, the leader for their chapter name is Dark Nimbus, but I'm open to suggestions. If anyone has any then let me know and if I like it, you never know, there might be a reward...! :)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Revenge of the Gwan-gee-three!

Tonight, George, Paul and I played the sequel to our Pulp Alley dino wrangling game from last year. Having subdued and captured the terrifying Gwan-gee-three, the jubilant cowboys bring it into the local town, Los Locos, for display. Of course they neglected to tranquilize it sufficiently, so it duly breaks it's bonds and sets off on a rampage across the town. Drawn by the screams of the townspeople and the roars of the beast, more raptors descend from the valley to join in the carnage!

George's league was his usual Wild West one, led by Rooster Hogburn. Paul played the outlaw list that was played by Nick last time. For myself, I decided that Ben Cartwheel was counting his cash on his ranch, so I created a fresh league of US Cavalry men that have been requested to come and ensure the safety of the town. In this outing, we had four raptors and the T-Rex. The raptors would become minor plot points and the T-Rex the major plot point when they were brought down. Completing the plot point was regarded as finishing them off, so there was always a danger that a downed dino could get back up. And, of course, delivering the coup de grace to a dinosaur is extremely perilous!

The townsfolk would activate after the characters, but before the dinos. They would simply move 1d6 inches away from the closest dino. To rescue a civilian, a character needed 2 successes on Might, Finesse or Cunning. This was a long action, so even lowly followers could eventually save someone. Once under the character's control, the civilian had to be moved to the Bank, Sheriff's Office or Hotel to be saved. Each saved civvie counted as an extra VP.

Lights, camera, action...!
The bustling town of Los Locos is about to get...busier!
"What the...!"
My cavalry private (follower) starts to try and talk sense into the local preacher who is raving about repenting sins!
Paul's outlaws shoot down a dino just before it pounces on a luckless mother trying to shield her children.
With a thunderous roar the Gwan-gee-three seizes and consumes its first victim of the day. Now it has an appetite for more!
The downed dino was not injured enough and leapt up to devour the mother! It's snapping jaws only snagged her bustle, though, buying time for the outlaws to save her from certain doom.
Chaos reigns as the townsfolk flee in panic.
The outlaw leader, The Colonel, displays his expertise with double pistols and a dino crashes to the ground. The cavalry close in for the kill!
The other raptor isn't dead yet and lashes out at an outlaw who is casually examining why his pistol misfired. He regrets this lapse in concentration!
As more hapless victims find themselves in the jaws of the beast, the heroes converge on it to lay down fire. The thick hide of the dinosaur protects it though.
The Gwan-gee-three peers down the alley. Amidst the movement its attention s drawn to a sinister looking man attempting to hide in an outhouse...

...and with a bellow it charges! The outhouse is smashed to matchwood and the victim disappears down its gullet! Tasty!
The outlaws spot their chance! Sarge has attempted to get to the downed raptor, but a flick of its tail brings him crashing to the ground. Can they get there to claim a second prize?
Meanwhile, there is a lull in the action on the other side of town as all the townsfolk have either run to safety or been devoured!
Sarge gets back to his feet, but Paul has the initiative and uses it well to claim the plot point.
With guns blazing, Rooster's men try to wound the mighty beast, but all they succeed in is drawing it onto them.
A vicious firefight ensues around the Sheriff's Office as the cavalry men recognise the outlaws for the nasty varmints they are. The Colonel is brought down in the storm of lead!
With a terrible roar, the Gwan-gee-three exults! It's belly is full for now and all the townsfolk have fled. Even the brave heroes realise the virtue of discretion over foolhardiness and retreat. The town is left to the dinosaurs!
What a great game this was! A little unusual as there was very little conflict until the end as all of us concentrated on being the heroes and rescuing as many civvies as we could. In the end, Paul was the clear winner with two minor plot points and about four townsfolk rescued. My favourite moment was the nod to Jurassic Park with the outhouse. This was a completely random happening, the civilian happened to roll exactly the right move to put him there. I just love it when these cinematic moments occur in games like this! And now we are all feeling very inspired to start a Pulp Alley Western campaign, now that the Dirk Drake saga has drawn to a close.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Perilous Island Part 2 - Final Flight

Tonight we played the second scenario of the Perilous Island campaign - twice! As we had three players we decided if we could power through the game twice so that all leagues got a go. The first run through saw Conrad Cortese try to prevent The Rocketeer from getting Lady Elaine Darrow on the last flight out of the small aerodrome, not far from Karnak. The Rocketeer had to make sure he got tickets for Lady Elaine and then get her on the plane, while Cortese was intent on delaying her journey. To achieve this, he sought to steal some valuables from the luggage lying about and bribe a mechanic to sabotage the plane! So, without further ado...lights...camera...action!

Game 1 - Conrad Cortese vs The Rocketeer

The airfield. The tickets are being sold in the compound in the lower left of the shot. The valuable package is just outside the large shack at the upper right.

The soldiers guarding the gate make it a bit perilous...!

The Rocketeer approaches the ticket desk. The ticket officer is accompanied by a surly looking customs official. Getting the tickets will not be easy! They are in high demand!

Murdo Mackenzie approaches the valuables, sidling past the patrolling soldiers.

The haggling is not going well! Neither the Rocketeer or Mr Johnson can seem to strike a bargain. Big Al muscles in through the mob, but he is tripped by someone and falls over.

Mackenzie seems to have trouble prizing the box open. But Cortese soon lends his aid and the valuables are in their hands...

...and they spot the mechanic having a fly cigarette near some crates!

Poppy runs over to him to try and use her feminine charm to persuade him to help them, but he is only interested in hard cash! (To attempt the plot point the character needs the package)

Meanwhile, Prof hears a shout from the Rocketeer that he has snatched the tickets, so he scouts around and finds Lady Elaine.

A gaggle of burly sailors start to push and shove around poor Poppy!

And some of them get knocked down in the ensuing melee!

Zooming over with the tickets, the Rocketeer lands to find that the Prof's eyesight isn't what it used to be. He has found Elena Tarrow! Elaine Darrow is actually further over near the hangar! (The 'red herring' rule is great fun!)

With Cortese leading the bribed mechanic to the plane, a mexican standoff develops under the watchful eyes of the patrolling gendarme! The lack of fighters in the Rocketeer's league, however, are not enough to prevent Cortese's thuggish sailors from clearing a path and the mechanic dutifully makes sure that this plane isn't taking off soon.

 Game 2 - Lo Chan Fu versus The Rocketeer

The next day sees the plane fixed and tickets are once more on sale. However, Lo Chan Fu has arrived and also wants to ensure that Lady Darrow does not depart yet. He hatches had a wicked plan! Why not bribe a mechanic to sabotage the plane? How original!

The Rocketeer and Mr Simpson begin the troublesome haggling again!

Wong gets a bit carried away and takes a pot shot at Poppy, who is hit and knocked out! However, the gendarmes are instantly on the scene to tackle the nasty Tong! (We used the soldiers to denote who had brawled or shot and was therefore in extreme peril)
Under the shadow of the wings, Mei Ling confronts Big Al an Mr Simpson. They are not the brightest and fall under the Dragon Lady's unearthly presence, failing to land any hits on her! (Unearthly is the bane for brawler characters! It means they have to use Cunning or Finesse to fight her!)

After a lot of blocking by the Prof and Mr Johnson, Xiufang hands the mechanic over to Lo Chan Fu, who mesmerises him into 'fixing' the plane!
Another two brilliant games, both played in about two and a half hours. We are really starting to know the rules inside out which helps! We were a bit pushed to get the second one finished, though, hence the brevity of the report. This is an absolute gem of a scenario, though, and played out very differently both times. In the first game, George and Paul both avoided combat and managed to secure the plot points, but it ended up in a last ditch fight at the plane. In the second, there was much more violence and much earlier, but that was my plan, to tie up his allies while Lo Chan Fu and Xiufang did the dirty work. Plus the 'red herring' rule worked a treat and foiled The Rocketeer's first attempt.

All in all, great stuff and a fantastic start to gaming in 2014!
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