Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Have a Game Plan

Roleplaying games are all about spontaneity, and usually that's a good thing. A high-functioning group is able to improvise an experience that's much richer and more interesting than a pre-planned adventure packaged and run by a GM.

In dramatic play, this can be a problem, however. A lot of times, players will find themselves in a two-person scene where no one has a strong need to push for something right now. Sometimes this is out of a feeling that "it's too early" in the story for characters to have a big conflict, or out of an misguided sense that it's interesting just to place two characters in a scene together "just to see what happens". Usually, without a conflict, the answer to that question is "nothing".

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

BreakOut 2017 Convention Debrief

Whew. After a long weekend of gaming, we're back in Merrie Olde London Towne. And BreakOut Con Toronto, even for a Canadian convention only in its second year of operation, did not disappoint.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Into the Breach

This weekend, Megan and I are going to our first gaming convention. It's Breakout Con in Toronto, and we're pretty excited about it.

Sure, we've been to small gaming conventions put on by the local game club at Western University, but this is a whole other level. It's three days of games, with industry professionals there to run games and sit on panels about the hobby, and maybe, if we're lucky, let us fans buy them a drink or two.

Thursday, 2 March 2017


I wrote here recently about the struggles I'd been having getting my head into a new game. I kept waffling about what I wanted to do, and what game system I wanted to use to do it. I am happy to report that I've made some decisions at last, and I couldn't be happier with the game I've settled on. It's a wonderful D&D-derived game called BEYOND THE WALL AND OTHER ADVENTURES, by John Cocking and Peter S. Williams, from Flatland Games. I wrote a review of it just about a year ago, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Buy it.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Role With It

Most of the time, I write here in my capacity as a GM, an occasional game designer, and fan with his nose in a lot of games (specifically, with an intention to steal anything that isn't nailed down for his own games). Lately, I haven't spent as much time in the Big Chair as usual, so I thought I'd talk about what's going on in my life as a player. My last post was about the formative (pre-formative) moments I go through as a GM when I'm getting ready for a new game, so this is kind of a companion piece about getting ready to play a new game from the player side.

We play a lot of games at our table that are focused on character, so there is always an extra level of pressure on players when a new game starts to come to the table with some character ideas in hand. Sometimes we play games like APOCALYPSE WORLD or its many cousins, which really demand that you generate a character and decide on details on the fly (which is fair enough, because it asks the same commitment from the GM), but often we will go into a game with a lot more ability to create the character we want to play. I think both methods have their virtues, but since HTHD play demands a certain level of commitment and creative investment from the player, it makes sense that they should have the maximum level of freedom to put their stamp on the game. If you're going to be playing a game for 8-12 sessions and reaching for deep emotional places, you need to want it.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Zero to One

"The distance from zero to one hundred is nothing compared to the distance from zero to one." That's a mangled paraphrasing of the great science fiction writer Spider Robinson, who clearly knows a little something about starting up a new roleplaying game.

We've been in a roleplaying hiatus here in Merrie Olde London Towne since October, with occasional bursts of one shots and social gatherings since then. My friend Rob is about to start a TIMEWATCH game, using a hack of the Cortex Plus rules, and I'm super eager to start that game -- especially since Rob has set it in the Weird 70s a la In Search Of.

But I'm a GM at heart, and I'm never happier than when I've got a game of my own to put my creative energies into. So I've been thinking a lot about getting my own game running, and lately my tastes have been running towards running an old-school fantasy game via CASTLES & CRUSADES. I wrote a while back about wanting to go back to the roots of the hobby and see what I can do by bringing 21st century HTHD ideas and indie gaming technology to the party, and that idea still appeals to me. It's everything else that's been driving me crazy.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Past Is Prologue

A lot of blogs are in a reflective mode, this time of year, and I thought New Years Eve was as good a time at any to share this particular look back on ten years of gaming.

A few weeks ago, a friend at our gaming table mentioned in an online post that he was having difficulty remembering all of the games we'd played over the past few years, and nudged me toward the idea of making a comprehensive list. I did, and it was both a humbling and invigorating experience looking back at all the games we'd played at our table over the past decade in London, Ontario. I sometimes say that as an adult gamer, I've played the best games of my life in the last few years, and here was actual proof.