I started role-playing in 1977 when I went to university (Cardiff), haven't really stopped since. True to form, met my husband in a castle dungeon (Treasure Trap, the first live roleplay site) in 1982.
After a doctorate in botany (York), turned to computing and worked in a software house writing planned maintenance systems, then wandered into this new-fangled web thing early and after some freelance work got hired by the local college as webmaster where I hit on the idea of using it to support and enhance learning and teaching rather than just advertise the place...this led to my current role as 'ILT Champion' (how's that for a job title?) at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, teaching computing and spreading the word about uses of technology whatever you're teaching... and got made a Fellow of the British Computer Society in 2007.
And of course the role-playing continues, and I'm never without the plotbook. I run RPG Resource and if I ever get bored there's my other website, Medals.org.uk.
Posted on January 23, 2012 by Megan
As we have come to expect, a wealth of resources for fantasy games – what with archers (and arrows for them) heading up the character-based resources for players, adventures for GMs to run and ideas to help them hone their skills. The focus is on Pathfinder, but there is material for other rulesets (and much can be translated with little effort, provided you are reasonably familiar with the game mechanics of the system of your choice).
The Editorial introduces the issue focus on archery, with an account of how fictional archers inspired the editor, Wolfgang Baur, not only to play archer characters but to learn how to use a bow himself.
Posted on January 16, 2012 by Megan
This is the England that ought to have been, rather than the history of the one in which I sit writing this review. This is the mediaeval England of legend, with Robin Hood scampering around Sherwood Forest, a Good King Richard off fighting the Infidel whilst Bad King John does his best to steal a kingdom, never mind everyone’s hard-earned gold… this is an England in which excitement and adventure are to be found, but where drains don’t smell and nobody worries about the Black Death!
The Introduction outlines this setting, the mediaeval England of stories, rooted firmly in the history of the 12th and 13th centuries but with an eye to the rise of the ideals of chivalry, to the world of ballad and folk-song, the sort of mediaeval England that you’d like to visit. Designed to be used in conjunction with Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying (BRP) ruleset, there’s a handy list of what rules from that work will be of particular use when running this setting. Whilst there’s a whole section about running adventures and campaigns at the end of this product, it’s noted that Scenario Hooks are scattered throughout, to spawn ideas and help Game Masters come up with their own material, or players to develop their characters more fully.
Posted on December 20, 2011 by Megan
This is a monumental work, a comprehensive and scholarly history of the role-playing industry from its inception in the early 1970s to the present day. The focus is interesting, concentrating on the individuals and companies that have made role-playing what it is today rather than looking at the games themselves.
Whilst detailed, the writing flows well, making it eminently readable and often entertaining, a fascinating survey of the companies and people who have shaped role-playing and are responsible for most of the books on my shelves (or, these days, lurking on the RPG hard drive) – and who have provided me with years of entertainment and passion. If your interest in role-playing goes anywhere beyond the next dungeon delve, if you like to know the background and history of the games you enjoy, you should find something here catches your attention… and once caught, be warned, it may be a while before you can tear yourself away!
Posted on November 21, 2011 by Megan
Diving straight in, the work opens with a brief note about how it provides a ready-made, populated location for gamemasters to use, or useful background for players whose characters are scumborn or belong to a scum faction… and just in case you are not sure what that means, it then launches into an introduction to the whole concept. Briefly, a scum swarm is a space-faring community with a very democratic – even anarchic – approach to everything: collective decision-making, consensus… and little regard for rules or reverence to what more settled societies may find important.
From such generalities, the narrative turns to a specific group, the Stars swarm. Born out of industrial unrest in turbulent times, the swarm began with workers in lunar orbital facilities taking control of the resources around them… just when the situation back at headquarters took a turn for the worse, and so nobody was in a position to object as the collective upgraded propulsion systems and took off, gathering many other refugees as they departed. Rather more ordered than some swarms, they now follow a set route around the system, trading as they go but still adhering to their original libertarian collectivist lifestyle.
Posted on October 17, 2011 by Megan
The Introduction begins with an overview of the Druid class – a divine spellcaster drawing on the limitless power of the natural world, and with Wisdom as his primary ability. Special abilities include Wildshape, the ability to change form; whilst druids need to concentrate on the things they are good at with their spells – controlling the natural environment, participating in combat and acting in concert with their animal companion. This page is illustrated with a delightful sketch of a Welsh Archdruid from the 18th century, a time when romantics tried to recreate ancient practices, something that led to the establishment of the Gorsedd and the Eisteddfod, something completely different from Druidism as practiced within a fantasy game!
Posted on September 20, 2011 by Megan
Haunts have been one of the most intriguing and (from my side of the GM’s screen, anyway) entertaining additions to the panoply of challenges to throw at characters… and here they take another novel yet classical twist: the haunt that is associated with an item rather than a location.
The work opens with a pseudo-scholarly account, the sort of thing you might cast before the more intellectual kind of adventurer to send them haring off into the horrors you have prepared for them. This leads in to the promised collection of some 30 haunted objects, by way of a note on persistent haunts, which can be a bit puzzling. As haunts duplicate spell effects whatever they do has a duration which can be ‘instantaneous’ or it can last for a set period.
Posted on September 14, 2011 by Megan
In his Foreword, lead author Mike Selinker tells a tale about a rather hot Thai curry, and thus gives an insight into how his mind works. You may or may not like your curry hot, but reading this book will give you an insight into how a whole bunch of successful game designers go about designing games that people will buy and play. If you want to turn inchoate ideas into workable – and saleable – board games, or just want to know a bit more about how your favourite games came to be, and about the underlying concepts that make good games, read on.
The book is made up of four sections, and a mastery of ALL of them is necessary to create a successful game.
Posted on September 6, 2011 by Megan
This is a wild ride that seems to sneak into every corner of your brain. OK – I am a geek, and one who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, roughly contemporary with the character of James Halliday, who in the book created the most amazing and pervasive system that combines MMORPG with VR and social network and even e-learning… So I ‘get’ (or should that be ‘grok’ – or perhaps not, the one bit of pop culture that’s neglected is the written word) just about every reference, even most of the videogame ones, despite my only ever becoming competent at a single one… which, of course, turns up at the heart of the final challenge!
Posted on August 30, 2011 by Megan
This is poetry! Even when it is prose… I mean, that the writing flows smoothly, honed turns of phrase that draw you in and create pictures in your mind.
The plot continues to follow, in the main, the exploits of Thomas Cale, who is now brought to prominence as the recognised – at least by some – embodiment of God’s own anger, his innate talent for violence being viewed as divinely inspired, and thus admired by an organisation as partial to using force to impose what they see as the will of God on others. Given privileges surprising to one of such young age and lack of experience, he is given battlefield command of Redeemer forces where his unorthodox tactics and personal leadership bring results… mirrored by turbulance in the higher echelons of the church hierarchy as plotters seek power and even the Pope’s throne.
Posted on August 23, 2011 by Megan
Presented as another entry in the JackPoint website/blog, and tagged with the warning to beware of icebergs, here is an eclectic discussion of all manner of things in and under the water.
First up, a discourse on The Reality of Sea Travel. Whilst people and goods are often transported by air, the sea is still used extensively, particularly for the transportation of bulky goods and for recreational purposes. The vessels used have developed, and submarines are no longer merely military playthings but used commercially, but sea traffic is by and large unchanged in its general nature. One thing to bear in mind is that watercraft can be leading, if not bleeding, edge or they can be archaic…and that these tech levels can combine in a single craft – consider a sailboat with the latest navigational and communications gear, for example.
Posted on August 15, 2011 by Megan
Opening with a Setting Introduction, which describes the variety of game types that you can play in this bleak yet chaotic apocalypic future-Earth, a setting rich with a wealth of opportunity for those brave, perhaps vicious, enough to sieze what they want and defend it against all comers. The background is explained, a gradual decline brought about by wars, economic catastrophes and environmental damage: no single apocalyptic event but a succession of disaster after disaster that brought once-green Earth to its present state of barren wasteland scattered with giant city-fortresses ruled by warlords.
Scene set, Chapter 2: Races looks at, well, the races available to players. The default is, of course, human beings – as described in the ‘Humans’ section of the Dungeons & Dragons 4e Player’s Handbook.
Posted on July 5, 2011 by Megan
Nothing quite as sweet as a miniature dragon, perhaps of a suitable size to hold in your arms like a pet… but drakes are not pets, but sentient beings in their own right, fascinating creatures to have around in your game. (I had to add ‘in your game’ lest I start to conjure fantasies of one coming in my back door…).
The Introduction talks about, despite – because of? – their iconic nature, how difficult it can be to actually have a DRAGON wandering around in your game. They’re big, they’re tough, and they tend to amass game-unbalancing amounts of treasure. Moreover, they’re supposed to be the creatures of myth and legend, not someone you meet down the pub for an ale and a few hints about the next adventure.
Posted on June 23, 2011 by Megan
Throughout history, the concept of the ‘lost city’ has always fascinated… likewise generations of gamers have been drawn to explore by legend and rumour, right back to the Basic Dungeons and Dragons module B4: Lost City! Whether it’s fame and fortune, mere survival, or some higher purpose, mention lost cities and adventurers will come in droves. This lost city is no different, and there are wonders to discover for those brave enough and skilful enough to explore.
The lost city of Kadralhu has much to offer the adventurer and much also to offer the gaming group, for it is presented as a ‘sandbox’ adventure, a setting with much to do rather than a single plotline to figure out. Whatever the characters’ motivation for going there, wherever they venture once they arrive, there are things going on, things to discover, enemies to vanquish, allies to be made and secrets to learn.
Posted on June 14, 2011 by Megan
Plunging straight in, this adventure begins with a brief outline of this richly-detailed Japanese-inspired setting. In a neat twist, the characters too are seeing it for the first time, arriving as ‘gai-jin’ (the Japanese word for ‘foreigner’ although it’s a word with somewhat negative connotations) and seeing it with all the wonder of outsiders visiting a new and very different place, even as their players are finding out about a new setting.
Much of the discussion, though, is best kept for the GMs’ eyes. Unlikely to be common knowledge elsewhere, although it may be a topic of discussion in some academic and theological circles, life and death here, the state of the souls of both the living and the dead, is somewhat unusual. Reincarnation gone mad, shall we say, and leave characters to discover it for themselves as they begin to piece together what is going on. Japanese-inspired this setting may be, but it draws on the darker side, on the tales that are told, that create a setting filled with oriental horror.
Posted on May 17, 2011 by Megan
Taking a new tack for Rite Publishing’s “30″ series, this work looks not at items that you might find but a specific type of threat that you might encounter – the haunt. Indeed, not just any old haunts but those which have, for whatever reason, chosen to manifest in a house.
The product opens with an overview of haunts, which were introduced in Paizo’s GameMastery Guide – if you intend to make extensive use of haunts you may find a copy useful. Basically, haunts can develop in a location in which living creatures suffered in some way, and can be accompanied by undead. Despite having hit points and assorted capabilities, they can be thought of more as an atmosphere, an area in which effects are caused, than as actual beings in their own right. (I’m sure learned clerics and mages could argue for hours over that one!). They can only be removed from their location by performance of specific acts, based on the reasons why the haunt is there in the first place, although they can be damaged or negated such that they go away… but only for a while, they’ll manifest again later.
Posted on May 9, 2011 by Megan
Jumping right in, the first chapter – Riddles of Steel: Roleplaying in the Frozen North – explains what’s so special, what’s so different about games set in harsh northern areas inspired by Norseland sagas and Viking lore. The familiar cod-mediaeval or renaissance fantasy civilisations of the majority of games is replaced with a bloodier and darker mindset, never mind that the place tends to be darn cold as well! Vicious monsters abound, and those which walk on two legs live life to the full in conditions that others may see as primitive, certainly more self-sufficient than their neighbours to the south.
But it’s not just a lack of urban luxury, guards to protect you from thieves and villains, and lower temperatures: the whole mind-set is different, and to get the most out of such a setting both GM and players – particularly those whose characters are native to it – will need to start thinking in a different way.
Posted on April 26, 2011 by Megan
This work starts with an overview of the inquisitor, quite a talented chap with plenty of options. Pity the first paragraph repeats itself, perhaps we should send an inquisitor after the proof-reader!
So who is this inquisitor anyway? A potent mix of religious devotee, spy, investigator and hunter (of people rather than dinner): a bit self-serving in the way his powers generally serve to enhance himself rather than the group he is in, but at least he can claim it’s all to the glory of whatever deity he reveres! The special ability of ‘Judgement’ is both powerful and versatile, depending on what judgement is pronounced, and this is coupled with a reasonable number of skills and the ability to cast divine spells.
Posted on April 14, 2011 by Megan
Archtypical bad guys, the evil counterpart to that goody-two-shoes the Paladin… but don’t feel sorry for the seven to be found in these pages, as plenty of love has been lavished on developing them into well-rounded villains all ready to give any good-aligned party a run for their money.
Just as a paladin is a shining example of devotion to his deity, so is the antipaladin. The difference is the nature of the deity that the antipaladin venerates and serves… and often, the precise way in which he serves and what he does in the course of such service. Even they probably see the ‘evil’ in what they do, in what they are working towards – it’s certainly clear to the rest of us – and yet they press on, often motivated by selfish ends like personal power and other rewards, rather than pure love for their deity.
Posted on April 8, 2011 by Megan
A couple of news stories and a police report set the scene before the Introduction runs through the standard background information for the GM on adventure layout and the specifics of running a game in a shared campaign. The Mission Synopsis then lays it all out, and the plot ties neatly back into what has gone before (assuming you played the previous Mission, Back in Business, that is!). How much of this the characters will ever find out depends on how they do during the ‘run, of course, but it’s likely that they will get the gist of it fairly quickly… and then have to make a very Big Decision.
Like most ‘runs, it all starts when someone has a job that needs doing – this time, it’s the law that’s hiring, and the job on offer involves discovering the identity of a mid-level crime boss. But even this introductory scene is well-described with plenty of atmosphere and incidental events that help it all come alive, as well as give the characters what they need to begin their task. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, and a couple of other groups start to take an interest and offer the characters money for information about what they discover in the course of their investigations.
Posted on March 28, 2011 by Megan
The new season of the Shadowrun Missions shared campaign takes the storyline to Seattle, and this first adventure opens with atmospheric fiction as a veteran local ‘runner takes a call about a job and wonders which of the newcomers to town might be up for it…
The overall approach to structure is interesting. With the core use of ‘shared campaign’ scenarios being at conventions or other settings where time is limited, it is necessary to make effective use of the time available and the structure is designed to facilitate this.