R is for Role Playing Games

Traylix waited, he wasn’t nervous but he was pretty sure that something was about to go wrong; it always did. He glanced over to the prince and the two marines standing further down the alley. They all wore long, shapeless cloaks with the hoods up, as did he. Hopefully this subterfuge would deprive any would-be assassins an obvious target.

From up the street Traylix heard the sound of a horse and cart and out of the darkness came  two more cloaked figures, Datura and Winnowen. Behind them was a third figure leading a horse which pulled a cart loaded with barrels.

As they drew level Traylix asked quietly “The gold?”. “In the barrels” answered Datura excitedly.

The figure by the cart reached back, put on the cart’s brake and the stepped forward in a pool of light.

He was a noble looking man and he dropped to one knee, bowing in front of the marines and the prince. “My liege, it is so humbling to finally meet you” he said. The prince stepped forward and put out his signetted hand to be kissed. The noble leaned forward to kiss the prince’s hand and then suddenly leapt up, driving a concealed dagger into the prince’s chest. “The Emperor sends his regards!” the assassin spat as he savagely twisted and pulled the blade out of the prince’s falling body.

Traylix frantically backpedaled to buy himself time as the assassin turned and launched a flurry of blows. In the background Winnowen dragged the prince’s lifeless body out of the way and began casting his powerful healing magic in an attempt to save the prince.

Deadly bolts of magic launched from Datura’s fingers but seemed to wash harmlessly over the assassin. Finally Traylix was able to draw his weapons and counter attack. Boxed in by Traylix and the marines, the assassin tried to put up a  fight but was quickly cut down.

Breathing heavily Traylix and the marines took up guard. He heard coughing and retching over his shoulder and turned to see Winnowen sitting the prince up. He looked awful but alive.

To his left Daturua cursed. Traylix looked over to see that she had been searching the body of the assassin and had uncovered a mark branded into his chest. The Mark of Torquemada… no wonder Datura’s magic was ineffective.

Traylix peered into the dark but there was no sign of any other attackers and the brief fight appeared not to have attracted anyone’s attention.

Well, thought Traylix, that didn’t go too badly… and that was when the gunpowder hidden in the barrels on the wagon exploded and all hell broke loose….

That was a scene from my role playing game last Thursday. Role playing games are kinda of difficult thing to explain to someone. Probably the best way to explain it is, that it is like improv theater but without the audience (other then the other players).

I have been playing pen and paper RPGs since I was a teenager but fell out of the hobby in my twenties. A few years ago I decided to try start gaming again and convinced some of my friends to give it a go. I was somewhat surprised how enthusiastically a bunch of mid-thirty year old professionals took  to RPGing especially the girls (including my wife)!

So how does this thing work?

Well most pen and paper RPGs work as follows:

  1. One of the players takes on the job of the game master or story teller. It is their job to create the world and story in which the other players find themselves. It is the GM’s job to describe how the world reacts to what the players do. This is often the job I take on. It’s quite a bit of work but very rewarding.
  2. The other players each play a character in the story. It is their job to describe how their character reacts to the world around them. To guide them, each character has a defined set of strengths and weaknesses, skills, beliefs and personality quirks. These are all written down on a paper “character sheet”, hence the name: pen and paper RPGs. For instance Tralix is a Doreen (a kinda humanoid dolphin) he is a fantastic fighter and ship’s captain, but he has a loyalty quirk which means he often puts himself in danger to protect his crew and friends. Datura is a female Masaquani, she is somewhat obsessed with gold and suffers from extreme curiosity which gets her and her friends into lots of trouble. Lastly, Winnowen is Kraken (a humanoid squid) who is an powerful wind mage with a morbid fear of whales (it’s a long story).
  3. Some rules  are followed – There are hundreds of RPG rulesets. These basically provide a framework for telling the story. Trying to hit someone with a sword? The rules cover how that works. Want to jump between two buildings? The rules cover that. Fail to jump between two buildings? The rules cover what happens when you fall from a great height. The ruleset my group is currently using is called Savage Worlds.
  4. Lots of strangely shaped dice are rolled. These are used to add randomness to the game. Typically you roll dice when your character is trying to perform some sort of feat. The results of the roll, modified by the character’s abilities (or lack thereof) determine if that feat succeeds or not and affects how the story unfolds.
  5. A setting is used. These provide a world for the game master to weave the story in. The setting we are currently playing in is called 50 fathoms. It is a fantasy pirate setting (think Pirates of the Carribean) where the world is slowly being flooded by a witches curse. Of course it is the player’s mission to stop them. Many game masters create their own settings (I suspect we all think we are Tolkien or something).
  6. Pizza is consumed and fun is had

As I said it’s pretty hard to explain and is really something you need to experience. But take my word for it, it is heaps of fun.

Here is a short clip of a RPG gaming session from the Tabletop gameshow, hopefully it will give you a better idea of what goes on. Although I must admit my gaming group is not nearly as focused but that is how we role… see what I did there :)

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I is for Insel – an fantasy setting I’m working on

Insel is a fantasy setting I’ve been working on for a role playing game. Imagine a island covered by a crowded, renaissance city surrounded by a vast ocean. In all of history no one who has left the island has ever come back.

Metal is plentiful and intricate “clockwork ” machines power the society. Food and “wood” is grown from fungus and giant mushrooms which are farmed in the many abandoned mine tunnels under the city. Fish is the primary source of protein.

The city is governed by a council of guilds and the powerful church. The church also runs the guard of the city who keep the peace and defend the city from creatures which occasionally rise from the depths or crawl out of the mines. However all is not right with Insel.

Lorenzo’s Tale is a short bit of fiction that I wrote to help solidify some of the concepts of the world. I hope you enjoy it.

“Lorenzo’s Tale”

Lorenzo squinted into the night sky as his coracle gently bobbed on the ocean. With just a stretch of his imagination he could make out The Winged Horse raring up to crush The Serpent, the stars of the constellations seemed weak and ill. Grandfather used to recount tales of a night sky filled with hundreds of stars that shone so bright you didn’t need a lantern to walk around at night! That must have been quite a sight, Lorenzo though to himself.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, Lorenzo checked his lines and nervously cast his eye across the small fleet of fishing coracles bobbing around him. The stars aren’t the only things to be disappearing he thought, the sea should be teeming with Shrike on their annual mating run but this year they seem to have completely disappeared.

In desperation, the fishing fleet had been forced to move further and further away from Insel and it’s protective shallows. Going this far out was mad, a shiver ran up Lorenzo’s spine. He lied to himself, pretending it was just from the cool night air and not the dull fear trying to claw its way out of his gut. Perhaps he should have listened to Mora and not gone out with the fleet tonight but the fish were critically important to the city. So important in fact that Guild Master Arvo came down to the docks with Demi-Bishop Ragner to see the fleet off. The Demi-Bishop’s sermon was riveting, his blessing comforting and Lorenzo had cast off in high spirits.

“Lorenzo,” a voice called across the waters. Lorenzo turned to see Zefron hailing him from a nearby coracle, “you catch anything?”. Lorenzo shook his head and shouted back “Nothing! How about you?”

“I…” yelled Zefron. A massive tentacle smashed into Zefron’s boat, a second grabbed Zefron, raising him up into the air and then slamming him violently into the surface, before pulling him under.

“Sweet Mother Mary!” Lorenzo gasped as he stood stunned, watching the wreckage of Zefron’s coracle. Panic took hold and he started to scream “Leviathan, Leviathan…”. Confused shouts and then frantic screams erupted throughout the fleet.

Lorenzo grabbed the crank handle of his coracle’s motor and started to crank for all his worth. The flywheel painfully spun up to speed, the gears meshed and his boat started to slowly move, building up speed. He turned it towards Insel and safety. ”Sweet Mother Mary” he prayed “please let me see Mora’s face again. Please, please please..”

Behind him the catch lights of the fleet winked out one by one and the screams died away.

Paper ship markers for Rogue Trader

I've just started GMing the Rogue Trader game (from Fantasy Flight Games) with my regular gaming group and I realised, I needed some way of tracking ships.

Now ideally I'd love to have some Battlefleet Gothic models out on the table but apart from the expense, I do not want to freak out the newbie (and female) players in the group by plonking down some "toy" spaceships.

So I went in search of some paper markers that I could print out and use. Alas I did not find any,  so I decided to whip some up for myself…

And so I present Rabidgremlin's Tactical Ship Markers. These markers are designed to be printed, cut out, folded and glued together. They come in 3 handy colours: red for enemy ships, blue for neutral and green for friendly.

I got a little carried away and even made them 3D (and perhaps in doing so, have risen to new levels of nerdom).

Here is a pic of an assembled marker.

And here is the PDF of the markers, that you can download and print out: Tactical-Ship-Markers-Coloured-v0.1.pdf

I used standard office 80g paper and they work ok but you might want to use something stiffer.

For those of you who are interested, I used Inkscape to create the markers. Inkscape is a fantastic, open source, vector graphics editor.