What makes a good bad guy? And what doesn’t?

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Sep 032017
 

As I immerse myself in the source material for the revised version of Duty and Honour, I was thrilled to see that Series 4 of Turn: Washington’s Spies had appeared on Amazon. Turn, the story of the Culper Ring during the American Revolutionary War is a great show and shows what could be done with the game in a different arena. It also happens to have within it the character that I consider to be one of the most despicable – and therefore, best – villains on TV at the moment: John Graves Simcoe.

Simcoe is an absolute piece of work – as happy torturing a man and literally rubbing salt into his wounds, as he is swanning around with the officers and ladies. As he has risen to power within the series, he has had command of the Queen’s Rangers and is now working to root out the spies that have thwarted him throughout the series.

What adds to Simcoe’s mystique is that he is both exceptionally competent and yet stumblingly vulnerable. He has bested a number of major characters in one-to-one combat and in the field of battle. He has a keen mind and insight and knows how to work a room to get what he wants. And yet … he also seems to suffer from the disdain of his superiors, fails in his relationships with women and almost always makes the wrong decision for the right reasons – leading to reprimand. This only feeds his smouldering anger and disgruntlement and leads to yet more desperation and depravity on his part.

There are, however, two major downsides to the character. The first is that the actual Capt. Simcoe was, by all accounts, a very different man. This is always the risk that comes when you use a historical character in a gaming setting. History is subjective with major characters and events being seen very differently by folks on both sides, so some care should be taken to show homage to the characters but not to saddle a real person with a terrible story they don’t deserve. The second downside is, I think, one of perception rather than intent, although it does inform us of some interesting possibilities to avoid when creating NPCs. Simcoe speaks with a shrill, high-pitched very English accent – an voice that sounds a little like the stereotypical representation of an effete gay man. The trope of gay=villain could be at play here, which is something I’m going to watch out for more in the future.

I highly recommend Turn to everyone who can get to see it (I only know of it on Amazon Prime in the U.K.) as it is an excellent source of inspiration for period adventure and it is definitely a period I am considering for a new Duty and Honour setting guide!

 Posted by at 8:36 am

So Many Ideas and Not One Iota of Clarity

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Jun 262017
 

Welcome to my mind.

I’m currently looking at five weeks off work with utter horror and almost anxiety. I have to do SOMETHING during that time and my mind inevitably turns to games design. The problem is – hilariously for those that know my recent struggles with zero inspiration – I have LOADS of embryonic ideas. Too many! Want to read about some of them?

  • Hey, why not update Duty & Honour and Beat to Quarters?
  • Whilst your doing that, why not expand the system to include more social, home based adventures ala Poldark?
  • Why not ditch all of that and finish the BtQ-in-Space thing you started years ago. You even have a name for it: Pulsars and Privateers.
  • How about that ‘The War’ thing where you do the Crimean War in Near Space as a series of Lady Blackbird-esque adventures?
  • What about a nice simple fantasy system where characters are built with cards so everything is all swappable. You like cards, remember?
  • Blood Rose, a throw away comment about a single-shot PbtA game of desperate and decaying bad people in their final days before The Fall, is burning in my breast.
  • That Harlem Heroes/Inferno anthology has ignited my thoughts about a Future Sports game.

Settling down on one thing to do in five weeks of free time is going to prove … difficult!

 Posted by at 10:40 am

So… Novocastria?

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Aug 012016
 

Novocastria is a dream given form… no, sorry, that’s Babylon 5!

Actually Novocastria is something that started out as a daydream, wandering around my home city of Newcastle and riffing off the place names and street signs. A few days later, I did the same with my daughter and we spent an entire afternoon looking at signs and buildings and architectural what-nots and spinning stories about them.  A few weeks after that, I revisited the places of interest we found and started to take photos on my phone. Lots of photos. Since then, I have been throwing around the ideas we came up with then, convinced that they can be part of a great gaming experience.

096I did bring it to the table for a couple of sessions and it worked but life complications meant it never really came to fruition. It did, however, give me some pointers about how I wanted to progress with writing this idea up. Pinning it down to one system is never going to work – it has to be a resource that you can use for your own adventures rather than a system-limited xerox of mine. What I’m aiming for is a gazetteer style entry for each point of interest, with bullet pointed GM resources in call out, looking at key information, key NPCs, sensory triggers and potential conflicts. Each area will have a little random rumour table and text/images linking it to real world Newcastle. A two-page spread should give you everything you need for that particular environment.

Obviously, the entire project is based on Neil Gaimen’s work on Neverwhere, a favourite of the entire Gow clan, but I want this to be a focused look at a city through an urban fantasy lens. So if the work can double up as a great city environment for an urban fantasy adventure, as well as a framework for you to do this to your own city, then that’s brilliant.

I’ll be starting work on this in September.  No idea about format or finish time yet, but I reckon it’ll be a great work out for my imagination before I start into the major work I have planned for 2017!

So, until later, remember … BEWARE THE KEELMEN!

 Posted by at 11:35 am

Test

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Apr 032016
 

…because there is always a test

 Posted by at 11:57 am