Saturday, 30 June 2012

Want to see my weapon?

I don't think I ever posted this, so here it is - a Simba Blaster made up to look like a bolt pistol.

This was someone's  birthday present.

What do you want?

Here's a fun question: say I do finally get my FS larp started (unlikely at this rate if work keeps up its breakneck pace) what do I want it to look like?

Well, for a start, I want it to look pretty. Pretty much every fashion and style can find a place and the game's social nature encourages something nicer than the rougher styles of outdoors larping. I think it's also because I find inspiration in cosplay and want to continue previous successes an bringing non-gamers into gaming.

My platonic ideal of a gamespace is probably UCL - at least, until the Masons let me wander round their grand lodge! UCL had a large, open room with an adjoining 1st floor garden (complete with Japanese marker), large marbled corridors, stairs and so on. Of course, that's not the only one. My old uni had a 7th floor lecture room that made a great Rampart Parliamentaire building, with its floor-to-ceiling view of London's skyline.

Gameplay...that I want to work with. At its heart Passion Play was very much a social game and I want to keep that, whatever system I end up using. Except the combat. Even in the social style, I need violence to be energetic - at best something like Star Wars, at its worst brutal and real.

 It may not be the most sensible thing, but my experiences of combat turning into some round-based minigame mean that I want something else. Besides, I do have my eye on a more traditional questing game in the undecided future, where questers travel, quest and fight with dart guns and rubber swords.

I want social gaming because I want to reinforce the perspective of PCs as the 1%. These are people living in the ruins of a grand civilisation and, ultimately, the scope needs to be the same. Like the best in science fiction, it may have epic wars and stars as its backdrop, but the resolution is found in people's hearts and minds.

 Rather than try replicate every thing (and where would I get armies of serfs and knights on jetbikes, anyway?) I'd rather portray the outside world in slightly more abstract terms of maps, news reports and npcs.

In some ways I'd say that's a more realistic portrayal anyway - just look at MPs, CBI types and the bubble they quite clearly live in. (Also, by focusing on social gaming first and linear stuff later, I can focus on worldbuilding.)

 There's also a strong influence here - Babylon 5 taught me that the best drama often comes from two people in a room...just talking. Remember Londo and Reefa talking about the invasion of the Narn homeworld?

Of Supergods and Men

I've just finished Grant Morrison's Supergods. I have to admit that I've never been able to get into comics - oh, I've read a little Dredd, 40k, The Crow, Watchmen and the bad taste comedy of Lenore, but I've never stuck to anything. Most of my superhero lore, like with the mainstream, comes from the recent spate of movies.

If you haven't read it, it's one part history of comics and one part history of Grant Morrison. It also talks about comic books and superheroes in deeply psychological terms, which is what interests me.

After all, rpg characters are superheroes, regardless of genre. Even Vampire, with its 'gothic storytelling' shtick had characters who represented ideas, who could punch through walls and live soap-opera lives of people who don't die unless they're written out.

And what does this have to do with FS? Well, FS consciously straddles reality and myth. As I keep saying, FS characters are the 1%: mythologised like movie stars, powerful as only feudal lords can be and with technologies that look like superpowers to the common folk. Reading a book that dissects superheroes and the heroic myth can only be useful.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Wrath of the Iron Phoenix (Post-game wrap-up)

Last Saturday saw my FS LARP go.  The plot was pretty simple; a replay of the invasion of Rampart.  It seemed like a good idea; doing it as a one-off allowed players to dictate a part of history, creating the environment they would then have to play through.

EDIT: for the uninitiated, this game is set during the Emperor Wars, a big dust-up between all factions of the Noble Houses, Church and Guilds that defined the 'current' setting.  Essentially, House li-Halan were leaked details of heresies occurring on Rampart - nascent democracy and various techno heresies - and decided to put a stop to that.  

Some say House Decados did this to distract the house from attacking Decados words, while the Guilds are also believed to have shafted their own.  By letting the li-Halan take care of Rampart, the guilds on Leagueheim were able to remove a technological competitor - and while some guilds harboured thoughts of equality, Rampart was far ahead in this belief and the other guilds liked their position enough not to rock the boat. 

There were problems - some of my prop ideas didn't work and I forgot to buy GM radio.  Also I had a grand total of one npc aside from myself, so a lot of ideas were discarded as simply impracticable.  

That said, it went stormingly well.  I didn't catch everything -being GM on the Guild side- but I saw a fair bit.  Including one part where I walked back to the Conseil chamber in time to see the Ukari Reeve pistol-whip the Amalthean!

(Yeah, yeah, about that: basically there was an argument between the Ukari and Amalthean.  The Ukari said that he was happy as long as they caused more casualties than they took, while the Amalthean - naturally - took umbrage at the sentiment.  He got a pistol at his chest and then slapped with it.  Probably not amongst his top five experiences.)

I started with the Guild briefing, sending the other GM to brief the li-Halan.  In an overly-empty Conseil chamber (a masonic hall), a handful of the remaining Guilders clustered around a large map.  Their fellow members were dead or had fled, fearing death or conversion by the li-Halan.

Everyone listens to the Ukari.  There is absolutely no way this can end badly.

Elsewhere, in a brightly-lit room on a li-Halan ship, the nobles planned their assault.

The Guild struck first.  The Ukari Muster ended the li-Halan's occupation of Kempston mag-rail station by sending one of the trains at high speed.  It crashed through the station, killing troops waiting to board and scattering the rest.

They also used their Charioteer allies to set up direct radio communications and shuttle flights (the latter being rather dangerous, with Archangel fighters patrolling the area).

In response the li-Halan chose to reach out to local nobles, landing on Camlaan island and negotiating with the landless nobles there.  Unfortunately their shuttle was spotted leaving the island by the Ukari's Reeve's friends in Bava.  The next time their came back, the two Ukari and their Charioteer friend were lying in wait.  

The li-Halan guild member (right) talks to the li-Halan emissary and her Priest.
The guilders left their captives mostly to their own devices, unsure of what to do with them.  Although the Orthodox priest did come up with escape plans, the noble refused to do so.  She did hope that her father would come for her...

'I'm going to take everything you have.  Including the priest's hat.'
He didn't.  The guilds did try negotiating, but didn't get far - the li-Halan in charge started by saying he had to stop the rot and ended becoming more blatantly about money and power.  He said that he'd spent far too much to stop now - his part of the spoils would probably be dowry for his daughter's Decados husband-to-be.

An Engineer offers weapons of mass destruction in return for forgiveness. 
One of the moral dilemmas (dangling tech in front of the li-Halan) where players don't bite at all. 

Despite repeated negotiations, the two sides kept fighting.

Eventually the li-Halan make a surprise strike to take the Agora, leading to wild rumours that the Battle Brothers were slaughtering captives (they weren't - I had no idea where this came from!) and started pushing towards parliament.  

Anyway, things went from really tense to incredibly tense.  The Guilders prepared to fight, before deciding to leave in a li-Halan shuttle taken at the same time as their captives.  The li-Halan pushed through the parliamentary double-doors, throwing in a grenade...only to face an Amalthean who prayed to bring calm on the crowd.

The guilders then spent all the Wyrd they had to avoid getting shot down by the Invictum Stella, the li-Halan flagship in orbit.  There they became pirates, biding their time until they could return and take their world back.

The li-Halan Duke isn't playing gentle either.  He's purging a couple of levels of tech, as well as closing down the Guild-maintained public schools.

And that was the event.  There's already popular demand for a sequel so I'll have to go back up, though I do want to get a serial game set up down here.

I'll pick the game apart in another post - what worked and what didn't.

The Guild players (L-R) Ukari Muster, Reeve apprentice (and li-Halan spy), Ukari Reeve and Charioteer.

The invaders: (L-R) Amalthean, Battle Brother, li-Halan leader, his daughter and a Decados Orthodox Confessor

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Carlisle event - 2nd week of April (Updated)

>>Updated March 16th - I have about 7 people registering interest in Carlisle alone, plus two other people I contacted directly through  That's enough to do something basic - let's see if I can't double this number!<<

I know a guy who knows some people (you'd be amazed how often a story starts like that), some of whom would definitely be up for a Fading Suns LARP.

I will be in Carlisle,Cumbria, for the 2nd week of April (the 9th to 15th, for those keeping count).  Weirdly, despite not being much of a place (it's like South Park with a rural British accent) it has a damn good gaming scene.  And a bunch of great people I've known for some time, many of whom I introduced to FS.

Guess who wants to experiment on/with them?  Guess which local LARP GM said they'd be interested?

I've got a location in mind (and it really suits).

I've got a Plan (the same plotline I've been talking about recently.  Hell, it needs using).

I just need a few more players.  (That's where you come in.)

If you can get over to Carlisle that week, email me at because I really want to get started.

I got props.  I got ideas for props I ain't even built yet.  I got a couple of outfits (priest and Battle Brother).

And I have guns.  Lots of guns.

Email me. Tell me you're available and that you believe the priests when they say Questing is the greatest virtue.

[Guns Redux] I said, the BEST toys...

This weekend the boys* came over.

I'd finished painting and varnishing my Simba Blasters (available here for about £12, or go to your local Toymaster).

You remember these babies?

(I've ordered some Imperial Eagles from ForgeWorld - I figure the black one looks enough like a bolt pistol to slap on some iconography and use it in the Death Unto Darkness LARP - assuming I remember to book in time!)

Either way, they're going well.  I need to take the undercoat off the cartridge shells and replace them with a single coat of bronze because I think it's actually causing jams, but beyond that it's all good.  The next step is to make some pins out of clay (I'm thinking the Imperial Phoenix and the Holy Jumpgate) - I can either wrap up the handles in leather or just use the small loops on the handles.  I bought some purple strips for that

Anyhow, back to the point.  The boys came over and they couldn't help but play with my weapons# .  I tell you, there is just something viscerally cool about firing off a shot, ejecting the cartridge and hearing it tinkle on the floor.

I really need to get a video of that at some point.

*Lovely couple; nice to see they're back together again


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Blurby Blurb

Well, I've picked up a decent amount of interest in the time (oddly, not from the Rule 7 LARP forums.  go figure) so here's the blurb.  In particular I think it needs a flowchart to help picking a faction, some advertising materials or somesuch.  

In the war of wars, final victory lies in the human heart...
The Empire rips itself apart as everyone tries to make the future in their name.  House Li-Halan seizes Rampart, vowing to end its crimes of mad science and heresy.  Victory is too swift, leaving all sides wondering who did it - and what price they will demand.

The Ten Edicts force the guilds to reject their values in return for peace,  But while the Li-Halan condemn technology and liberty, some fear that technology holds attractions too great to be denied...

If I get < 10 people, then I'm going for a more traditional 'questing' LARP, set around the basic FS group - a noble, with retinue.  The great thing about FS's social order is that each of the three factions (plus Those Who Differ) can have opportunities to lead the group.  I'll probably need to alter the system, make it more boffer based, but hey.  I tested my Simba dart guns last weekend and everything works fine.

Plotwise, that means exploring post-invasion Rampart, experiencing the conflicts that come with occupation and social change, but keeping it on a personal scale.  

If I get more, then I'm going for something more epic: power players throwing assets against each other in order to reshape the future.

Ideally I'd have the resources to do a little of both - power play stuff with section where characters determine actions and then a few (or their alts) go off to commit actions or sideplots. 

I'm also thinking of Con games, but right now there's not much on in the UK.  Also, I have no idea how to write for a con game]...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Attracting a Crowd

Have decided to just go ahead and get something done. 

So yeah, if you want to take part in a social sci-fantasy LARP, comment below or find me on G+.

The setting I want to use is what I'd long planned - Rampart during the Li-Halan takeover.  I'd start with PCs on both sides having to broker a peace, then try to keep it (with attempts on both sides to get their own way and third parties trying to screw everything, of course) with downtime estate management thrown in.

I'm going to run it in London, because I live in Lambeth and don't have a car.  I'm approaching UCL and my old uni to see if I can run it there, but I'm pretty much open to any location that looks right and has a good amount of space for the money.

I'd really love to get somewhere near where I work (we have loads of nice buildings around here), but I suspect The Royal Courts of Justice don't hire out.  I know people who use their local Masonic Hall - maybe the masons will let me hire out their United Grand Lodge.

It's also making me think a lot about how to sell it to other people.  After all, my love for it is one thing, but it is niche and the massive levels of setting details can scare noobs.  I've also been playing a lot of computer games lately, which makes me think of how computer and tabletop games share DNA.

So, how to interest people? (I'm just throwing out random ideas here)

  • Emphasise the power fantasy element.  You are one of the 10%, after all and that kind of power trip is rather nice in these straightened times (guess who's been playing Saints Row The Third and Space Marine lately?) 
  • Say it beats the alternatives.  One of the reasons I'm doing this is because there aren't any good sci-fi shows on.  And I'd rather be in a grand drama than sitting on my bum, passively watching one.
  • Emphasise the courtly drama and maybe cosplay elements to appeal to a wider bunch.  I also like having a decent gender balance - sausage fests aren't my thing socially, and I want to encourage la femmes to come along, so pimp the in-depth social conflict and less of the dumb male violence. 
  • It's cheap; the sheer variety of styles and outfits in the Known Worlds means that you can look in all kinds of places for stuff - vintage clothing, ex-military, cod fantasy and renaissance-style outfits.  
  • Things and stuff...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Rules ideas - starting from scratch (again)

New rules (Take whateverythehellitisnowdearzombiejesuscan'tIjustpicksomethingandgetonwithplayingSkyrim?!)

OK.  I'm knackered from my new job, but I played with some rule ideas of Christmas and this is what I came up with.  I don't have the same guys around to argue it with, so feel free to kick the tyres. 

I have a bunch of principles that basically run along the ideas of keeping it idiot friendly (I'm the idiot in this example; I hate having to remember more than a couple of numbers at a time), easy to grasp but very flexible in the long term. 

Oh yeah, and rules should support play and setting.  You'll see what I mean with the virtue/vice thing.

Characters and character generation:

At this point rewards can change, but the basic system is predicated on using Drama points as currency.  You gain them by playing to their sins (and creating drama) and spend them on boosting your stat+skill test result. Wyrd points are more powerful Drama Points.  Of course, all of this is unstable - it only lasts until I think of better ideas.

           Each character begins with named traits.

Your destiny is your ultimate goal and should be suitably epic; if you are uncertain, or new, ask the ST to create one for you, with some input. 
The reward for advancing your destiny is to receive Wyrd point(s). 
Passions (5)
Passions are your smaller objectives; anything from the political ('become renowned at duelling') to the personal ('woo the lady Serafina'). 
The player gains XP for advancing their Passions.  They also gain a one-off payment of XP upon completion of their Passion. Passions are basically goals and exist on top of the GM-inspired plots.  A little player power in defining what they want to do and getting a reward for it.
The character has taken one of the Seven Virtues to heart (see table).
The player may take a bonus based on ½ their Spirit stat at a critical juncture in their Task.  Not sure about the reward on this one, but I like teh idea of a temporary buff for doing something like that.  
The character is prey to one of the Seven Sins (see table).
The player regains Drama Points in-session by giving in to their weakness and creating drama.  I totally got the idea for this after playing ICONS.  FS is often about human frailty and players are notoriously frit of showing or acknowledging ANY weakness, so this is a gentle push.  

Here are the quick-and-dirty descriptions of FS's virtues and sins.

The Seven Virtues

Paulus the Traveller
Investigating mysteries.
Lextius the Knight
Upholding a pledge.
Amalthea the Healer
Aiding those in need.
Mantius the Soldier
Defending the faithful.
Maya the Scorned Woman
Punishing the guilty.
Horace the Learned Man
Learning something new.
Hombor the Beggar
Selfless acts of charity.
Ven Lohji the Alien
Investigating occult mysteries.

 The Seven Sins

Insisting on primacy; ignoring the social order.
Extracting too much from others, be it money or other goods. Stealing.
Overt seduction, lascivious excess, miscegenation (xenophilia).
Acts designed to deny or take a desired person or object from another.
Failing to advance a Passion.
Becoming angry or violent against those weaker than thyself.
Choosing not to honour agreements/contracts.
Relying on technology to do something for you.

            Characters have three main traits: Body, Mind and Spirit.  These traits act as health tracks and limits - a character cannot have a skill rating higher than their trait rating.

            A character's Body represents how much damage they can take before falling unconscious.  Health is lost through physical conflict, with each point of damage removing one point of health.  See the Combat section for more details.

            A character's Mind is the measure of their mental stability and their defence against the Darkness Between the Stars.  Stability is lost when the player comes across horrific situations (grisly occult rituals, facing the Darkness Between the Stars  and so on).  Players can also make mental attacks against one another, seeking to sow confusion and uncertainty in their enemies through debate.

            A character's Spirit is their worthiness, be it in the Pancreator's eyes or their own.  Theurgic or Psychic characters need a strong soul to control their abilities, while the ungifted may offer their Spirit points to demons in unholy bargains.  A character's conviction is lost when installing cyberwear, or engaging in spiritual combat.

Falling to Zero 
            When a character's trait falls to zero, they are temporarily taken out of play. 
A character with zero Body is grievously wounded and unconscious. They can recover through healing, be it chemical, technological or mystical.
A character with zero Mind is insane and must be locked up for their own good.  Psychological healing is a limited art in the Known Worlds; instead, many go on quests to recover their minds, exploring their history in order to recover their personality.
A character with zero Spirit no longer abides by their own morality; instead they act as they please. A character must either return to their path through spiritual acts, or choose an alternative, such  as soul death through transhumanism, or demon worship.
Stats work like in Dr. Who: the actual stat number is reduced, which has a knock-on effect on taking tests.  Body works fine, and Mind is generally OK (not sure of the PVP thing, but as PVP is a big part of the game I guess I'll have to work something out.  I have no idea how to work this one yet, although I do like the idea of selling soul like a certain Patchwork Prince).  

Combat is sketched out but basically runs like this: a character's total health is their Body + any armour rating (armour is extra health).  If all the armour points are used up, its effectiveness in subsequent battles is 1/2 total until repaired and is halved again every time it's used up.  

Energy shields protect against a range of damage values for X many hits.

Weapons do X damage.  That's basically it.  

Things to add: Feats(?), a proper skill list, crafting and whatever else I've forgotten.   

Sunday, 1 January 2012

[GUNS] I bring you the best toys...

Look at this Pancreator-lovin' gun.  Is this not awesome?

This is the X-Power Shock Blaster from Simba. While everyone's ooh-ing and ah-ing over Nerf guns, Simba snuck out this freaking bolt pistol lookielike

And you see that open bullet chamber?  That's right; once the dart's fired you cock it again and the freaking shell casing tinkles onto the ground.

That's cool.  

OK, so it's not what you's want in a forest shooting match, but in a closed social environment it just looks funky.  Plus, spent cartridges are a storytelling device.  They say 'there was a fight here' without having to do messy special effects and make someone lie still for too long.

I picked it up in Toymaster for £12, down from £16. It isn't coming up any more, but Amazon and other places have them.


Damnit Brain, shut up!

So there I am, lying in bed at grannies' house and pondering a Christmas Mass Effect game.

And my brain decides that's pretty dull and switches track.

"You know what?" it says. "You should dump as many stats as possible and make Fading Suns about Passions.  Flagged ideas that form characters, with skills and stats coming second/last.

"Start each character off with a Destiny, a really big goal the player/character has. Link progress towards this goal with Wyrd point recovery.  Then give them Passions - anything from political ambitions to love stories - and let them gain XP for achieving those.

"You could throw in a Drama point economy, like in Cinematic Unisystem.  Give each character a virtue and a vice, straight out of the Universal Church's seven virtues/vices and link them to Drama points; they can recover DPs if they succumb to their vices and can spend DPs for a bonus if their virtue helps them.  or something.  I'm sure you'll figure out the details."

I love and hate my brain sometimes.  Never did finish off the Mass Effect plot, either.