About Me

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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! :)
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