Running Tabletop Games 0 comments on Science Fiction?

Science Fiction?

This weekend sees the release of a new investigation, Valkyrie-9. After a bunch of playtesting sessions, the time seemed at hand to set the adventure loose on the unsuspecting public. I had a lot of fun running the adventure across several events, each time with a completely different experience and outcome.

Valkyrie-9 finds the players taking on the roles of support drones on a Moon base experiencing massive power and systems failure. Emerging from re-charging into a clear emergency, they have to piece together the thread of events and seek to restore order.

However, something I heard around the sign up sheets was – “I don’t do robots” or “I don’t do science fiction.

Character Character Character

There’s not much I can do about the whole business of not wanting to play a mechanical drone, beyond asking, “Why?”

Role playing games constantly ask that you put yourself in the place of an unfamiliar character with motivations and beliefs that cannot possibly map to your own.

In this instance, the adventure is about the investigation and the strange situation – but the GM can also reinforce that these drones are advanced and highly capable constructs. Think R2-D2 from Star Wars or Huey, Dewey and Louie from Silent Running – or somewhere between the two.

It’s a one-shot, so they’re not committed to running an artificial character long term – and little about the character imposes restrictions on how the player plays them. Yes, they won’t be engaging in emotional responses or spawning some budding romance, but they’re not cold and indifferent. The drones have been around the Valkyrie site for almost two years and spent time in the company of the crew for half of that; they’re stalwart companions with a vested interested in resolving the current emergency.

Not Science Fiction?

Is the year 2073 science fiction to begin with? Or simply Near Future?

Many players expect all Lovecraftian tales to take place in the past – which probably represents a more alien environment that 50 years into the future! The GM selling that time difference must surely be simpler than understanding life 100 years in the past?

If 2073 causes genuine consternation, you could run the adventure in 2020, using a blend of alternate timelines and a healthy splash of real world conspiracy theory.

While one conspiracy suggests that the whole landing on the Moon business never happened, another suggests that visits to the Moon never stopped in the Seventies.

While we see efforts to colonise the Moon as works in progress or simple pipe-dreams, others believe that the apparent loss of interest in lunar exploration amounts to nothing more than a cover-up for a thriving Moon community, possibly funded by more than one Superpower.

In that case, set the investigation in an alternate now, where colonisation of the Moon continued to fascinate the Superpowers and their scientists, but the efforts became secret. It might even tie in more effectively as a Lovecraftian adventure that what should be in plain sight has been obfuscated from the masses.

Perhaps the Valkyrie project seeks to find more than just rare minerals – it might have an imperative tied into the imminent collapse of Earth’s eco-system, seeking sources of minerals, water, power or other resources.

Valkyrie-9 is available to download, as a PDF, from DriveThruRPG. The investigation will also see release in print through All Rolled Up.

Hooks, Releases 0 comments on Brace For Impact

Brace For Impact

For those moments when your players hit the JUMP button too soon or warp right out of the path the adventure has set for their rendezvous with doom, Brace For Impact! takes a leaf out of the random table book established by From Unformed Realms.

Brace For Impact! offers 18-pages packed with tables presenting high sci-fi encounter seeds based at the point of arrival for your unsuspecting characters, with room for taking notes and generating odd details like a ship names, types of debris, and failing systems.

It won’t replace an adventure – but, at a pinch, it will create the seed for an encounter, the in media res moment for a mission, or distract the players just long enough for you to improvise the meat of something else.

Sale 0 comments on Interstellar Travel Events

Interstellar Travel Events

Consult-Appendix-Z-Travel-EventsAs I didn’t mention it in the post yesterday about the 30% off sale, I thought it worth a mention now! Consult Appendix Z: Interstellar Travel Events generates a twist on emerging from your preferred interstellar travel method, whatever system you happen to us.The very reasonable review by Megan sums it up:

The very reasonable review by Megan sums it the functionality and flexibility of the supplement, serving as a means to create a moment of randomness when your players might be praying for a smooth exit from transit:

Like battle plans, scenarios never survive first contact with the enemy… er, sorry, characters… and it’s always handy to have something to come up with on the fly to cope with untoward choices. Roll your dice and it soon will be THEM dealing with the untoward events!

Designed as a generic resource for any game system that accommodates interstellar travel, the concept is simple. Just roll three six-sided dice – either serially, or if you have 3 of different colours, all at once. One gives the section, then another a sub-section within it and the last the detail of whatever is going on. It seems more complex to explain than it is to actually do, sorry. Naturally, you can just read through and select something that seems appropriate, or you may prefer to use this as an aid to adventure planning rather than troubleshooting pesky characters who do not go where you expected!

No assumptions are made about HOW you are traveling between the stars, just that you are doing so, hence, there are no jarring references to a specific ruleset. At most you might be ’emerging into normal space’ – but those sort of encounters are ones that occur in the outer reaches of a planetary system so it doesn’t really matter how you got there. It should be a trivial matter to dress your description appropriately to suit however interstellar travel is conducted in your chosen game.

The actual events are ones that empower you to either make a full adventure out of dealing with whatever is happening or just mention it and carry on with whatever else you want to happen. There are alien encounters, spacial anomalies, system failures on board ship (including something getting soggy… that bugbear of mine, the ‘inertial dampener’ – why do people think inertia can even get wet?) and some truly weird events.

Never be stumped for something to do in space when your characters are getting restless…

Yes, those inertial dampers got sorted.


The sale runs across RPGNow and DriveThru from now until the 5th June.

Original review: Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] – February 2nd, 2013

Events 0 comments on Cover Story

Cover Story

Interstellar Travel Events PlusWith thoughts pressing ahead to the end of May and the whole business of UK Games Expo, I have been busy preparing the papery versions of my three main supplements at the moment. Consult Appendix Z, both CAZ No 1 and CAZ No 2, and The Blessing of St Agnes will all be available in physical saddle-stapled format, with glossy covers.

In the case of St Agnes, the book has a weathered green leather cover-look. I admit that this comes as one of the standards for a basic bit of Lulu self-publishing, but to my mind it fits the adventure setting for some reason.

The second Consult Appendix Z volume, Another Bug Hunt, already has a great cover image from Nicholas Cloister’s Monsters By Email. Nicholas does some truly incredible work and you can subscribe to his Monsters scheme that makes some of the images you receive available for personal usage and others available for wider distribution, like this one.

The first Consult Appendix Z volume, Interstellar Travel Events, felt a little bit like a poor cousin. I used a public domain image from a classic science fiction magazine, black and white, but just what I wanted. I can’t claim to have corrected the balance significantly, but I have engaged in some basic colour retouching to make the picture less monochrome.  I have gone for a bit of a nebula thing and add hints of colour to the shadows and drive streams. Like I say, nothing exactly awe-inspiring, but the end result comes across as slightly less intense than the original.

I now have a box of these print goodies ready to roll – and I hope to drum up some custom at the event and retain the rest for customers keen to acquire physical copies later. Indeed, if you want any of these now – get in touch with me and we can sort something out in terms of cost, postage and so forth.

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Releases, RPG Design 1 comment on Twenty Years On

Twenty Years On


I ran a lot of play-by-mail games in the 1980s and 90s. I also wrote a fair amount about them in a column for Role Player Independent, one of the UKs many transistory role playing magazines.

My first PBM, Darklands, ran for more than ten years. It probably doesn’t warrant the term epic to describe it, but the fantasy story telling game must have resulted in 100,000+ words of stuff. One player managed to clock in almost 60 turns in that period – if nothing else, that seems indicative of the games often glacial pace. I hand-wrote most of the original stuff, something with carbon paper to maintain my own copies. Later, I employed the services of an Amstrad computer and a dot matrix printer.

Another series, the NXS games, focussed on science fiction. I think NXS 3 or 4 turned out to be a wargame with a modular rule set, which allowed me to port it across to different skins or themes. I ran games based on Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Star Wars (the Empire! game in the picture). Players submitted a range of movement commands for their armed forces, investigation angles for research and development, and some role playing to cover diplomacy. I charted the whole deal out in simplistic spreadsheets, copious notes, and push pins stabbed into a piece of cardboard overlayered with a map.

In the last few months I have sorted through a lot of the material I still have stored in boxes, folders, box files and bags. Many of those original game turns remain, both the incoming and the outgoing stuff. I also have tons of maps, notes, rulebooks and various supporting materials. I have found, in the latter, the potential for recycling, as much of the support material amounts to carefully crafted random tables or notes on possible encounters. I have taken a Travel Effects table from one of the NXS games and given it a thorough update with generic role playing encounters in mind. In many ways, I find a lot of this early material free from baggage – I had watched a lot less telly and read far fewer books back in the 80s and 90s. I can update the material now with an eye to expanding what I have in front of me, but not stuffing it with too many derivative ideas. I can polish what I have and come out with something very usable and handy for the rushed and struggling GM. As just such a GM, always preparing games up to the last moment, I can appreciate the occasional helping hand.

Yesterday, I released Consult Appendix Z – No 1: Interstellar Travel Events based on my Travel Events table. I look at the table now and I remember laboriously typing this thing out on a big old electric typewriter, which always seemed to use up tremendous amounts of ink. I recall that I borrowed it from a friend, but ended up inheriting it when he got something new. I do remember it filling a space the size of a small suitcase. I have taken four pages of close-typed tabular randomness and produced this 18-page PDF – available right now on RPG Now and DriveThruRPG for $2.50. I hope you find it as useful as I did the original Travel Event table!

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