Monday, 20 August 2012

Music To Roleplay To: Call of Cthulhu

In honour of the birthday of the big man himself Mr. H. P. Lovecraft, today's entry on Music To Roleplay To we discover our pointless existant role in the indifferent cosmos and other such things man was not meant to know in Call of Cthulhu!

I feel I should mention the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society and their excellent collection audio works, such as the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series. Great stuff to listen to whilst plotting the return of the Great Old Ones. Although most are not well suited for background music, the soundtracks for their two feature films are. Also, Darkest of the Hillside Thickets have great tongue-in-cheek songs about the Mythos if you like to gibber madly. And finally, The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is absolutely phenomenal! They've discussed in detail nearly all of Lovecraft's works from the well known to the very obscure. If you want to know more about the man and his works, check these guys out.

Now, my Mythos collection is one of my larger ones, but mostly because I include a lot of period music from the 20's and 30's, as it's my favorite era to run CoC. But I've chosen to leave out such selections from this list as it will focus on capturing the mood of weirdness and cosmic horror, and thus be appropriate for any era may you subject your doomed players to.

Aside from atmospheric soundtracks, the dark ambient genre of music can provide that lowkey weirdness you're looking for to invoke the proper mood.

© 2009 - Francois Launet / Goomi StudioArtists & Composers

Original Soundtracks
© 2009 - Francois Launet / Goomi Studio
  • Amnesia, and Penumbra by Mikko Tarmia
  • The Call of Cthulhu by Troy Sterling Nies
  • Clive Barker's Undying
  • The Dunwich Horror (1970) by Les Baxster
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem by Steve Henifin
  • Hellraiser scores
  • John Carpenter's The Thing by Ennio Morricone
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street by Steve Jablonsky
  • The Ninth Gate by Wojciech Kilar
  • ObsCure and ObsCure 2 by Oliver Deriviere
  • The Omen by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Quake by Trent Reznor
  • The Shining score
  • Silent Hill scores by Akira Yamaoka
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R by MoozE
  • The Whisperer in Darkness by Troy Sterling Nies
  • The X-Files by Mark Snow

Other RPGs these tunes could work well in: Obviously Trail of Cthulhu, Macabre Tales, and Realms of Cthulhu. This collection could also work well with certain types of horror RPGs like CthulhuTech, Dread, Little Fears, Necroscope, Noctum, etc.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Gen Con News

A couple of bits of news I found interesting from one of the biggest gaming conventions that's happening this weekend: Gen Con.

First of all, the ENnies have been awarded. Paizo cleaned up on most of the categories, but I'm glad to see Cthulhu by Gaslight won both a Silver and a Gold for Best Cover Art and Best Supplement respectively, and a number of other good games/publishers won as well like Cubicle 7 and Evil Hat Productions.

One of the Judge's Spotlight Awards was for a live action game of zombie horror called Shelter In Place, which I find particularly intriguing. To be honest I've never full-on LARP'd before (I've dressed up/cos-played in my steampunk garb many times, and got totally into character during the annual zombie walk), but I do have several friends who fantasy LARP with a huge group up island and occasionally suggest that I join them. I am at times close to accepting their offer, if it weren't primarily for the factors of time and money. Now, as far as money goes, I'm doing fine financially, but it seems that outfitting yourself for a LARP seems to take a considerable initial investment: I don't have a suitable fantasy/medieval period costume, I lack gear like weapons and such, etc. And as far as time, right now we're in the busy season at work so getting time off or swapping shifts can be difficult. Perhaps once the season slows down things may change.

Anyway, back to Shelter In Place. While it might not be considered a LARP in the traditional sense it appeals to me on a few levels:

  1. Everyone loves zombies. 'Nuff said.
  2. It's a live action game you could plan in a number of locations with large groups of people. (10-25)
  3. Unlike many LARPs, it probably doesn't require as much gear outside the book itself. All you really initially have for zombie apocalypse is the clothes on your back anyway (possibly less if you're a zombie).
  4. It might be a gateway drug into full LARPing (Gasp!)

Anyway, it's got me interested enough to grab the PDF for sure, and I'm disappointed I never heard about the kickstarter that got this thing made, as they we're some pretty nice investment tiers. I was hoping I'd get a chance to read it and show it with my gaming group today as we were planning on heading to the beach, but the weather's gone lousy.

Finally, the biggest piece of news from Gen Con that interests me is the announcement that Fantasy Flight (the publisher who took up the Star Wars license after WotC wrapped up Saga Edition.) is releasing a Beta of their RPG called Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. Instead of explaining what we currently know about the game, I'll link to this great article about it.

The general feeling that myself and many other SWRPG fans seem to share is: Cautiously Optimistic.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Sacred Tablet

I've finally got around to picking up a tablet to supplement my gaming and geek needs, an iPad 2 with 3G to be exact (I'm currently not planning on paying for a 3G subscription, as all the places I use it at have wi-fi access). With the 3rd version having been out for several months, I was able to get this from someone looking to upgrade for a reasonable price, less than a new model of the same capacity minus 3G capability.

I had considered acquiring a tablet or notebook computer for a number of reasons:

  • A portable and comfortable device to view the large collection of PDFs I have. I am glad many if not most publishers nowadays are releasing PDFs of their games, but I find that trying to read, reference, or run a game from a non-analogue version presents its own difficulties. Call me old fashioned, but nothing beats having a book to flip through in your hands. I think a tablet would help bridge that gap.
  • Aside from PDFs I seem to have also acquired a couple of ebooks, but have no e-reader to view them aside from my desktop.
  • As I've mentioned before, music is a big part of gaming for me. And being able to bring select playlists to sessions and manage them without having to turn to a computer or stereo is bonus in my mind.
  • Not only is it great place to store all my gaming and campaign notes, but also to edit them as well. Not to mention access all sorts of useful GM tools like notepads, dice rollers, and visual aids one can use.
  • Blogging. Now I'm no longer limited to writing out my posts on my computer, or what I can scratch out on my phone. I'm actually writing this entire post on my iPad, because the wasp nest in the wall of the room where my computer is has created an entrance into said room. And now that room is filled with wasps. Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon, but it shows how fortunate that I am to have a tablet to use since I cannot get to my computer.
  • All those other non-RPG tablet uses and fun stuff.

The guys over at Gnome Stew wrote a great couple of articles on RPG related uses for the iPad that pretty much sold me on getting one. Now I'm no Apple fanboy, and I'm sure many out there would suggest I'd gone with something other than an Apple product to fulfill these uses, but figured hey I've had great runs with my iPods and my phone so I choose to go with something I know. To each their own.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Kerberos Club

Seems that just after getting my hands on my first FATE game Spirit of the Century (which I am two thirds of the way through reading), I proclaim I should hold back on picking up any more RPGs, when The Kerberos Club pops up and entices me with pulp adventure of the Victorian variety.

The Kerberos Club currently has three system iterations: Wild Talents, Savage Worlds, and FATE; I'm interested in the latter given my love for the system and Kurt Wiegel's awesome review of it on Game Geeks. (If you're interested in RPGs like I am, I highly suggest you check his channel out.)

Aside from the awesome sounding weird Victorian-era, alternate-history, I'm really drawn to this since I've played Dresden Files and now had time to read and grasp all the ways Spirit of the Century uses the FATE system: The Kerberos Club's has a different take on the system which they call 'Strange FATE'. Basically, it disassembles the mechanics of FATE and allows you to custom build anything you want using this engine.

One of the new mechanics introduced apparently works great dropped into other FATE games: 'Power Tiers' - Each tier of difference between you and your opponent allows you one to swap out a fudge die for a straight 1d6, granting you a guaranteed positive result with a range from +1 to +6 per swapped die. Pared/balanced with these superhuman results are 'Collateral Consequences'.

Sounds fantastic. All in all, it's made my 'to play' list. :-)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Music To Roleplay To: Spirit of the Century

Today's instalment of Music To Roleplay To we pay homage to the Golden Age of heroic Pulp Magazines and action-filled Film Serials in Spirit of the Century!

Master of Men
Now as we all may know, one of the greatest modern pulp icons and homages to serialized film is Indiana Jones. Thus the brilliant score to his daring escapades by John Williams is a must for your pulp adventures. And don't limit your selection to just the films; video games that star the famous archaeologist like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb or even the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles also have great tunes.

The downside to these scores is that they have very recognisable themes that may distract from gameplay. But fear not, there are a good many other selections you can use. Now, technically many of these soundtracks take place after the pulp era of the 20's & 30's, but I feel they capture the daring-do, two-fisted action quite well. I also decided to leave out selections from the Jazz Age; although great listening, I don't believe it's gritty enough for the genre.
Last Updated: Dec/2013

Original Soundtracks
  • The Adventures of Tintin by John Williams
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire by James Newton Howard
  • BioShock & BioShock 2 by Garry Schyman
  • Captain America: The First Avenger by Alan Silvestri
  • Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge by Stan LePard
  • Darkman by Danny Elfman
  • Dick Tracy Original Score by Danny Elfman
  • Hellboy & Hellboy II: The Golden Army by Marco Beltrami & Danny Elfman
  • Iron Sky (We Come In Peace) by Laibach
  • The Mummy by Jerry Goldsmith
  • The Mummy Returns by Alan Silvestri
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor by Randy Edelman
  • The Phantom by David Newman
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein by Bill Brown
  • The Rocketeer by James Horner
  • The Shadow by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Sin City by John Debney, Graeme Revell, and Robert Rodriguez
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow by Edward Shearmur

Outside of soundtracks, there's a few artists who I believe fit in well to the genre.
  • Dr. Steel fits in great with the whole 'mad scientist' shtick.
  • Good Co's electro swing is a great fusion of swing music with modern influences.

Other RPGs these tunes could work well in: Adventure!, Hollow Earth Expedition, Indiana Jones, Two-Fisted Tales or any other Pulp-themed roleplaying game.

And always remember: The old-time pronunciation of Robot is: Ro-But. :-]

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

I just read/heard some news today on the impending Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition: Here and Here.

I'm liking most of what we're seeing. Dividing the rules between a Keeper's book and a Player's book sounds like a good idea to divide player knowledge from GM knowledge. This concept has been used in D&D and many other games, but not as much to separate basic rules and 'GM Only' knowledge like in Deadlands: Reloaded. (Where it was a great idea.)

Characteristics/Skills/rolls are getting an update to match many modern games. I hope they have a good framework for 'pushing' (re-rolling) skills and the related consequences; as normally in many situations a failed roll could already have disastrous consequences. No resistance table: An interested move as it seems like it's something that's always been apart of CoC.

The Luck stat doubles as a limited resource that can be used as spendable points towards turning a failed roll into success: One point per 1%. Sounds like it might be too soft for something as brutal CoC, but apparently it balances out well because your Luck only replenishes infrequently through your 'Connections'. 'Connections' are a mechanic tied to your character's backstory, which aside from character creation and roleplaying (and any nasty secrets the Keeper may have planned) doesn't come into play much. Most Intriguing. The Idea roll concept was pretty much how I kinda houseruled it. Combat has been cleaned up. I'm definitely interested in seeing more.

On a different note: I've read through about half of Spirit of the Century. It's larger and has a lot more than I originally thought, yet it's not that crunchy rules-wise and still pretty simple to run/play; it just expands on the basic framework to provide more options and combination for resolution. It's awesome and I can't wait to give it a whirl.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Spirit of the Century

Yesterday I was informed that my FLGS finally got a copy of the pulp RPG Spirit of the Century, which I picked up today. It was a pleasant surprise actually, as I originally requested it way back when I placed my order for Unhallowed Metropolis and those two other Savage Worlds books. They weren't able to order it at the time, but evidently they kept trying because they were able to get it in.

It's also funny because I almost ordered it on the web last week, but didn't because if the crazy amount of shipping they'd charge to Canada. Turns out I saved a ton of cash for my patience.

I'm glad I finally have a FATE game to add to my collection, although now I have so many that I need to play I should ease back on the purchases. Also, having a physical copy of the FATE rules will really help designing that Heavy Metal RPG I thought up.

Music To Roleplay To

I listen to a lot of music, and I mean a LOT; it's one of my many interests. And for roleplaying, music means a great deal to me. Now, I don't mean if there's nothing playing in the background during a game, I wouldn't have as much fun as if there was.

What I mean is the right music can really set the mood for me, help me get into character, and/or design something in a game. Thus I spend a good amount of my time searching out great music and compiling it into thematic playlists for various RPGs.

As I have come to build an extensive number of playlists, I've decided to share what I think fits best to play per game or genre over a series of posts.

Feel free to comment with any suggestions you may have or what you listen to whilst gaming!

Friday, 3 August 2012

One Man's Garbage is another Man's Treasure?

Well it looks I might not be running an RPG after all; turns out one of our players' other gaming group decided to move their session from Sunday to Wednesday, thus us losing said player and bringing us under the limit for a solid group. There's the possibility we might find another person or two to join us, but I'm not too choked on not having to run something either.

A buddy of mine, told a bunch of us that he'd come across a boxload of Heroscape tiles and was wondering if any of us would have a use for such a thing. For those who don't know, Heroscape was a miniature wargaming system that uses interlocking hexagonal tiles that allow for construction of a large variety of 3D playing boards. As I mentioned in my 'I Live... Again...' update, I first witnessed the awesomeness of these hex tiles at GottaCon. And as no other of our group was interested in them, they are going to be mine. I figured what the heck, I have tons of miniatures, and although hexes are only supported by some gaming systems and they have their pros and cons over square grids, I'm hoping I can harness the same fun factor I had when I first played on them when I bust them out in a future RPG.

My Dad and his Wife were in town yesterday and today. We hung out and had dinner last night and breakfast this morning and had a great time. After breakfast we browsed around the shops for a bit, and whilst walking by a vinyl record store I spied this in the window:

Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell
Although I consider myself quite the Star Wars fanboy I admit I had never seen nor heard about this before. I'm sure it's not super rare as the few I've seen for sale on ebay and such aren't selling for much higher than the copy in the store is, but the does place it under "long, forgotten un-reprinted Star Wars adventures and nonfiction literature." It was written by Brain Daily who wrote the scripts for the Star Wars radio dramas and the awesome Han Solo Adventures. I didn't pick it up while I was there, but I believe I will soon. A nice little odd gem to add to my useless collection. Check the link out if you wanna hear an mp3 of the record.

Finally, a local used book store that has been in Victoria for decades is finally closing down, and thus they're having a closing sale: Every book for a dollar. I'd visited that place a couple times over the past few years, mostly browsing their RPG section and finding a few gems. The closing sale started at the beginning of the month, but I hadn't the chance to go in till today and unfortunately it's been swept clean already of the good stuff. I did grab a couple things:

First was actually sitting on top of a pile when I walked in and was the first book I set my eyes on. It's a basic, if business-minded, translation of The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Mushashi, which is part of basis of the Legend of the Five Rings fictional settling. An interesting little treatise.

The other items were four D&D 3.5 adventures in the Eberron campaign setting. (Aside: I sold my Eberron 3.5 campaign setting book years ago, and kinda wish I hadn't when we played a 4E game based in the world. But a month or so ago a friend gave me a few 3.0 corebooks he didn't want along with the Eberron book.) Last was a Pathfinder Module. All in all a nice little score for $6 plus tax.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Wednesday Sessions & Heavy Metal

So I've been propositioned to run an RPG on Wednesday evenings. I've been mulling over in my head what I might run, but I've decided to let the group choose from my collection tonight when we meet to decide. My preference is toward playing something I haven't run recently, in depth, or run at all, such as Unhallowed Metropolis, Airship Pirates, Old School Hack, Star Wars Saga Edition, Dungeon & Dragons 1E (using the Rules Cyclopedia) or either of my two Savage Worlds games: Deadlands or Space 1889. But I think I'd be seriously fine with anything outside those options, just as long as it wouldn't require me spending a lot of time planning it. We might sample each of the unplayed systems one at a time.

In preparation for the possibility of running the last two named, I went out and finally got the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook today, I've given it a once over but I'll delve into deeper if I need to know it for Wednesdays' game.

Lately at work, my co-worker and I have been on a huge Heavy Metal kick. It started out with the awesome Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani, but soon grew to encompass all sub-genres. Let's just say we rock out hard on Friday nights.

Thus arose an idea I had: An RPG where the PC's are members of a heavy metal band who travel the Realms of Metal, battling other metal bands, gaining Metalhead followers, and slaying Brutal Creatures on a quest to attain godhood as Legendary Lords of Metal. (Think Brütal Legend and old school Dungeons & Dragons combined.) Bands both fictional and from real life would use song and albums titles to bring about different spell-like effects created by playing the song as a group. But there's room for some good old hack and slash elements against minions and monsters of Metal. As far as I currently know, there are no RPGs out there with this exact concept, though I do know of a similar game based on Heavy Metal (More on that in a bit.)

I originally thought I could adapt this idea to Old School Hack's system; something nice and simple. But it turned out too be a little too basic for several of the concepts I have. I think I'm going to try and adapt it using the FATE system, it's Aspects and Stunts sound perfect. I mentioned to idea to my gaming group, and they loved the idea so much they're eager to both help design it and play it on Wednesdays. As much as I'd like to, I did some preliminary designing and decided I'd like to have a stronger framework build before I try playtesting it. Once I dig into the System Reference Document for FATE from Spirit of the Century and find it suitable, I'll start posting more details on this little idea.

On to my second purchase: Umläut. I'd seen Umläut months ago in my FLGS and was intrigued, but it wasn't until this metal kick I finally bought it. I've already read through it (it's a small book), and I love it. It's a collaborative storytelling game that doesn't use a GM for play. The idea is each player controls a metal band that tries to Make It Big by working jobs, rehearsing, playing gigs, getting in clashes with other bands, and avoiding breakups whilst balancing Hope, Ego, Fanbase, and Cash. Game mechanic randomization is done using a deck of basic playing cards as opposed to dice. The system looks solid and aside from use as a single session distraction, it'd make a great party game for those slightly less inclined to RPGs. 

I'm tentatively planning another Mandate called Meat and Mead, which was going to be a fantasy/medieval themed event with much roasted meat and plenty of mead and other beverages; but now I'm considering changing or adding Metal to the theme, making it Meat, Mead, and Metal. As I know several of those whom may attend aren't hardcore gamers, (but big metal fans) I think Umläut will be perfect for this. (The game even claims that beer, whiskey and a loud stereo of metal make the game even more fun. I'm inclined to believe them.)

One final thing: This I can totally get behind.

Long Live Heavy Metal!