As I prepare for the first draft of Duty & Honour‘s revised edition, I have been smothering myself in appropriate literature. It’s my modus operandi when I’m writing and well, it’s no hardship. Those that follow me on Facebook will know that I have been reading Iain Gale’s Jack Steel series and comparing it to Sharpe - so it was in trepidation that I started Gale’s newest book ‘Keane’s Company’ - a series set this time in the Peninsular. The concept – an English officer recruits a company of rogues to complete covert, intelligence and exploring missions – seemed sound, but it could easily be just another Cornwell carbon copy.
I was stunned to discover that not only is it not Sharpe by another name but it feels very much like a book written from a game of Duty & Honour! The company has the smell of a bunch of PCs – the Irish rogue Captain, his martially competent Artilleryman Lieutenant, an old washed up Sergeant, a thief, an impersonator with a thing for languages, a sharpshooter, a pugilist and a local soldier. All of the boxes are ticked in terms of interesting character types except a company ‘medic’. Moreover, the structure of the book is all about the missions and the various things the company have to do to get them done. Sound familiar? Again, these aren’t resolved by fighting along. There is one Mission where Wellington asks them to bring the local guerillas on-side and it is resolved through a combination of diplomacy and gambling! Very Duty & Honour! Hell, even the sort of easy ‘it’s just a scratch, sir!’ healing is in there.
There is one dropped ball however and that comes in the form of Gabriella, the wife of one of the men who Keane buys out of a brothel but takes along with the group. She acts as a diversion once and is then confined to the baggage only to appear with a tip-off that Keane’s romantic target is in the area. So much more could have been done with her and I hope she gets a better showing in the sequel as I desperately need more strong female archetypes from the fiction other than Theresa.
It’s not classic literature – I’m not sure I quite gel with Gale’s writing style – but it does give a completely different take on the Peninsular campaign and offers a wonderful campaign framework for D&H. Consider this now essential reading!
So, when the Epoch playtesters start talking about what other settings they could see the system being used for, one of them mentioned ‘Marvel Team-Up’ and I was blown away. For those for whom that means nothing, Marvel Team-Up was a Marvel comic (duh) popular in the 70s and 80s where Spider-man would join forces with a different superhero each month. So one month, it could be Spidey and the Hulk, then Spidey and Brother Voodoo and then Spidey and Black Widow. One shot stories, all over in 28-30 pages. Wonderful.
OK, I’ll fess-up here – I was more of a Marvel Two-in-One kind of guy (the same idea, but with the Thing as the main character and a great run with a linked storyline and George Perez art! Anyway, the next thing I had to do was spin this to meet the Omnihedron moniker ‘Great British Games’ so I delved into my notes and remembered a game I was plotting years ago. MI666 is, effectively, The Laundry but I gave it a strapline of ‘On her Majesty’s Occult Service’. Well, it’s just a nip and a twizzle from there to this – On Her Majesty’s Super Service.
What is the Super Service? Who is part of it? Who do they protect the UK from? More on that … later!
So, I have been reading a lot more non-Sharpe fiction of the era and I noticed that a lot of it is, well, quite formulaic. This got me thinking about some of the untreated themes that seem to be left behind in the relentless rehash of plucky Captain and dogged Sergeant etc. This made me think about the era post-Waterloo. The only books I can remember that deal with this are Sharpe’s Devil and Mallinson’s Hervey books – but they are still very military.
So I was considering the world after the Congress of Vienna and the world of change and opportunity for say, an ambitious former Captain, his long suffering Sergeant, his feisty and adventurous wife and maybe their faithful family retainer … who for some reason I see as Indian and rather caustic. Give them a ship and you’ve got a world of opportunity to play around with – the ravages of Europe, the exotic Barbary states, the East and West Indies, post 1812 America – and a barrel of history coming up to get involved with.
Its a very different game set-up. Maybe something to look at later.
I love this image. Angus Abranson linked to it on Facebook and I was blown away. The artist is Paul Sizer. I love the imagery, I love the construction and I love the ideas it conjures in my brain. A game of the Second Industrial revolution, where the expanding Great British Empire is expanding to new and exciting frontiers – Venus, Mars and the Asteroid Belt (and beyond!). A game where the actions of the players are powered by their loyalties – For Queen! For Country! For Love! For Honour! For SCIENCE! Not steampunk – that’s toss – I’d want something more modern. Electropunk!
This isn’t new, of course – Malcolm Craig and the folks at Contested Ground Studios seeded the idea in my head with their pitch for Everlasting Empire and Paul Bourne’s wonderful image ‘The Hard Climb’ that shows spaceships clearly influenced by spitfires.
You can form line, form square or fire as many rounds as you want per minute but there is one army that not even Napoleon himself could resist for long … the Bots. If only the Omnihedron forum really had 77000+ users! Alas, they are only interested in selling us authentic NFL jerseys, replica shoes and of course, more generic viagra than we could handle.
There are few options I had to evaluate. The first was to do nothing, but in the end that is going to cause grief with my awesome webhost, netweaver.co.uk and I don’t want to do that because well, they are awesome. I could continue my running skirmish with them, but I would rather spend time developing game material. I could just lock down the forums to manual activations, but that would require me to sift through literally hundreds of applications a day to find a human. Sadly, the most sensible option was to close the forum.
So how do you get your fix of Omnihedron news and speak to me?
1. If you use Facebook, you can ‘like’ the Omnihedron Games page
2. If you use Google+, you can join the Omnihedron Games community page
3. If you use Twitter, you can follow @Omnihedron
4. Or you can email me at [email protected]
5. If you see me at a convention, just grab me. I’m very grab-able.
Omnininja Central has been awash with festive spirit as of late – the elder Omnininjas preparing those special rules-shuriken for the little trainee ninjas, dreaming of the time they might actually stop eating cake and use them. They were shocked – shocked, I tell you – to discover that they had actual work to do as the external playtest documents for EPOCH were sent out to our band of semi-feral playtesters (they’re Scottish) and … a volunteer, mad fool that he is!
EPOCH is in its final stages and we are tentatively aiming for a launch at Conpulsion 2013 in Edinburgh. The con has an espionage theme this year and there are plans to put together a ‘superspy’ setting pack for the con, riffing off James Bond and Mission Impossible. More on THAT later. Until then, read your rules and remember – every dice you roll, we’re watching you.
Omnininja Central Out
Here at Omnininja Central, we don’t have time to go to conventions as much as we would like to, but as we scan the fora of the gaming world we have noticed the influence of these events on the games at people’s tables. Whatever happened to the campaign? Why so much love for the one-shot game?
Now we can appreciate the short sharp stab of a well-honed situation, characters pregnant with potential and inter-character conflict and three hours of intense game-play resulting in an almost-guaranteed orgy of blood and overacting. In it’s place, it is absolutely the right thing to do … but it does have some downsides. The aftershocks of such intense gaming can sometimes seep onto the hallowed wood of the home gaming table. We have observed GMs playing at such breakneck speed that they are burned out at the end of a session, like some sort of stand-up comedian after a two-hour set. We have been horrified to see the same ‘lack of consequences’ that plagues con games, slop into home gaming.
Pardon? What was that? Yes, lack of consequences. Look at con games and see people sacrificing their characters left, right and centre. Burning those vital game resources like the game had … well, like it had only an hour left to play! Bending the spirit of the rules to take advantage of the time constraints. A great example of this is Mouse Guard where con-games can see Fate and Persona points being burned with gay abandon and Nature rolls taking brave guard mice to the verge of almost Terminator-style detachment because in the end, there are no consequences to these actions. The characters are abandoned as the players head off to the bar to brag of their achievements (and we are left to make notes and amend our files. Oh yes, we have files on all of you. The ninjas are always vigilant…)
This ‘con creep’ can produce the demand for so-called ‘short campaigns’ which are just con-games drawn out across a couple of sessions. It can produce games which are so strongly paced that the characters barely have time to breathe and grow. Remember, our game playing observees, that the skills of the campaign, the build, the story are all as important as the skills of the bang, pace and impact.
As with so many things in gaming, its a case of balance, not either/or.
There may be some of you reading this who consider this rubbish. You might even want to comment, in defence of your convention game habits. Some of you might even think you are right. Just remember, we’re watching… or at least we will be, after we finish our tea.
Omnininja Central Out
A long time ago, in a forum far far away, someone on the internet was wrong. Almost certainly, they were trying to convince someone that a set of role-playing game rules were written in such a way that you could not … no, worse … were not allowed to, do something or other. It wasn’t that the rules made something difficult – it was that somehow, at your own gaming table, the publishing company would intervene and stop your fun. As these agents of the company (inevitably it would be Wizards of the Coast … it always is!) had never been seen, we assumed they must be ninjas!
Now, never one to be under-ninja’d, I had to go out and recruit my own clan of ninjas. Sadly, this lot are even less pro-active than the WotC ones and allegedly just sit around Omnininja Central and eat cake! Outrageous. So I have put them to work here talking about gaming, games culture and what not. Remember though… if you don’t play by the rules, I can still dispatch the Omnininjas!