FARSIGHT GAMES

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

5 Tips On Using Dreams In An Adventure

There are many great stories that talk of the destinies or paths of the heroes, and these paths are sometimes described in a manner that every person can relate to in one way or another – dreams and nightmares.

How many times have you woken from a dream so vivid that you felt as though you are still within it? How many times has a nightmare moved you to an emotional response?

It is said that dreams are an indication of the subconcious thoughts and feelings of the individual (there are plenty of books on how to interpret dreams in circulation) that are given form in the subconscious. There is also a supernatural quality to dreams and nightmares that has been addressed in many writings as views of possible futures - and this is what makes them great as a role-playing tool.

Although I will use the term 'dream' throughout the text, it also refers to nightmares, which are a stronger, more violent version of a vivid dream. The one you use will depend on the game you're running, but basically they have the same effect.

Dreams As A Plot Device

What has been, what is, and what is yet to come. These are the three strongest indications of the past and possibility a dream might deliver to enhance the dreamer's situation and possible future. By splitting the dreams into these three areas you can decide how they will fit into your story.

What Has Been
The character dreams of things that have happened to him/her in the past. These might be just situations and encounters the character has had and can be used as a reminder to the players of what has come before.

It can be more entertaining to remind players of past plots instead of simply sitting down and explaining the story up to that point, and it's also handy for trying to inform the PCs of an important item or plot point they have missed or disregarded during play.

Dreams can also be useful when a character dreams of things that have happened to other people or places he/she might never have seen or visited. Wouldn't it be spooky if you dreamt of a man you had never seen before who leans towards you and says 'I love you, son'? This creates a mystery that might be unraveled as the plot unfolds. Perhaps the PCs are chasing someone they believe to be a threat and yet the dreams are trying to tell one of the PCs that they are chasing the wrong person and that what they see in their sleep is what actually happened. Remember, we face the future by learning the lessons of the past.

What Is
This is the least used of the dreams as it is simply an indication of what the character is going through at the current time. What it might be used for though, is to indicate whom the PC can trust or to provide a hint as to the true nature of other personalities, PC or NPC. This does not necessarily mean that the character who appears in the dream will change their ways immediately – wait a few games down the line for when the dream has been pushed to the back of the mind and the character shows their true colours. Remember, we have the ability to change the now to improve the future.

What Is Yet To Come
This is the most widely used yet tricky type of dream to use in a game. You don't want to show too much of what is to come and give the PCs lots of avenues of success, and you don't want to ruin any surprises that are coming.

To combat this, keep the images cryptic and have dreams be more of a series of symbols. For example, a symbol of a threat to the PC's face, perhaps a clawed hand reaching from darkness or the trademark great Flaming Eye, might be an indication that the enemy is closing in. A symbol of a tearful Elven maiden standing in the charred smoking ruins of a wood might be an indication that something terrible is about to happen to the Elven Kingdoms.

A great way to alarm dreaming players is by having a known major NPCs shown in great danger or laid out dead. Use this not to indicate what is going to happen to the NPC personally, but as a symbol of great peril to come.

For example, a dream of the PCs' King might show him being crushed to death in the icy grip of a huge gauntlet – this might not mean that the King himself is in danger, but the Kingdom as a whole. As the dreams continue the larger picture slowly start to emerge, so the players, having thought that just their friend's life was at stake, start to realize there's a greater peril.

Also, the dreams could show the PC's future if they fail – the enemy crushing their armies, enslaving their people, destroying their lands. This acts as a plot device as it makes sure the players see what it is they are fighting to stop and gives them impetus to stop it. Remember, the future is always in motion and is subject to change, for better or worse.

The question that will be asked at some point is this – why are the dreams coming to the PCs? What is making them have these dreams which have such a diverse affect on their futures? This can be answered whichever way you choose, but the main plot points can be:

A powerful ally could be sending the dreams, not able to get directly involved but surreptitiously trying to influence the direction the PCs take.

A powerful enemy is trying to mislead the PCs by sending them information that is detrimental to their success.
One or all of the PCs have a destiny to fulfil and the dreams are fate's way of guiding them.

A natural/racial gift is possessed by a PC that enables them to have these dreams.

An item one of the PC's possesses enables the PC or the whole group to have the dreams.

The Gods are deciding to interfere in the fate of mortals.

(My personal favourite) The PC having the dreams is simply a bit of a nutter and it takes three games of running around for the group to realize his dreams don't actually mean anything.

Dreams As An Atmosphere Enhancer

The supernatural quality of dreams might help the plot by giving it that sense of otherworldliness, a vision of a reality that everyone sees because our dreams are of the same construction, a bundle of images and noises that do not wholly connect but have an impact on our thoughts and feelings.

All the players at the table might have their own idea of what the game world is like and how it is represented in visual terms, but the inconsistency of the content of dreams makes it palatable to everyone. It's not necessary to go into minute detail as far as the dream is concerned. Just give enough to give the player the images they need.

Most images we see when sleeping flash by and only the more vivid ones leave a lasting impression, like a snapshot of a moment in time. This should be the way with the dreams you describe – quickly say what they see and then move on. If they miss it, well, they can always dream about it the next game-time night. If you want to go into detail then by all means do so, but remember that you run the risk of giving away too much. Unless the PC can go into a lucid dream or have control over their interaction with dreams, then it's best to keep them as observers and nothing else. This not only works as far as trying to show the impact of a vivid dream, but also enhances the fantasy atmosphere these kinds of dreams help create.

Dreams As Road Signs

Dreams are a great way of getting the players on track, or even back on track. Let's say that they've been hunting the Pearl of Wisdom for a couple of games but they have hit a dead end – they've missed or forgotten about a vital piece of information. However, just reminding them GM-to-player or through an NPC seems a little contrived.

Instead, a PC could dream of a great fiery mountain surrounded by water guarded by the hordes of darkness. This image means very little at the time of the dream, but as the plot continues hints are dropped to the existence of such a place and the players realize that this is where they must go. It's not a good idea to have a blatant dream where a gnome with a road map jumps out and says 'go this way, the pearl is in a big volcano' as this is just telling the players what to do next with no realization or deduction on their part.


Dreams are handy as reminders of forgotten facts or items in a roundabout kind of way. Don't get me wrong – thinking that the players are having a problem and having them dream their way out of it every time is not a good idea as this cheapens the effects of dreams and their meaning. See Tip 5 – Dreams at the Gaming Table for more information on this.

Dream Team

The question is – who has the dreams? It might be a character trait that one of your players has and this is the PC the dreams are channelled through, for better or for worse. This means singling out one player and giving them the information. This might take the form of notes or direct telling. Notes are a good idea as you can prepare them ahead of time and hand them to the player and let them read it.

If you want the dream to be more realistic you could take the note from the player after a certain time and they will have to remember what they can – this reflects the fact that dreams fade with time. Other than that, you can take them from the room, sit them down and tell them what they dream. What they then choose to communicate to the other players (what they remember, that is) is up to them.

Group dreams are a little more complicated but do add an extra dimension to the game. If all the PCs have the same dream then there's definitely something weird going on! Group dreams also help because each player will remember different things. You might even want each player to have a different dream which, when combined with the other dreams of the other PCs, makes more sense. This is hard work though, and might lead to misconceptions and then errors in judgment. It's usually a lot simpler to give them all have the same dream and then let them decide on its meaning from there. Group dreams can make for some long, interesting discussions as interpretations differ.

Dreams at the Gaming Table

Here are some hints on the actual use of dreams and nightmares in a game.

Don't make it a regular feature - A dream every night or even every game can be overkill and it reduces the importance of such dreams. It might get to the point where the PCs roll their eyes and mutter 'oh, great, here we go again'. Make it a special moment that heightens the drama and creates another dimension for the players to deal with.

When explaining a dream to a player, don't just reel it off and then get on with the game - Get them to sit and relax, close their eyes and place their hands on their laps. Then explain in a soft calm voice what it is they are seeing. If it's a nightmare, slowly raise your voice and keep it menacing.

If you pass a note to a player that tells them what they are dreaming, make sure that the text is kept to a minimum - All you want is imagery and symbols. A long, flowing, descriptive narrative will distract the player from what it is you want them to remember.


Make sure the players are comfortable with the genre you are playing in before introducing the concept of dreams - Dream interpretation is sometimes a serious subject and you don't want to confuse anyone.

Make notes on what it is you want to say, how it will affect the plot and then stick to it - You don't want to give away too much information and hand the story to the players on a plate.

Use dreams as a plot device and not an escape route - If there's a problem with the forward momentum and the players are a little stuck, don't just have one of them dream up the answer to their problems. This cheapens the effect of dreams and characters with some kind of skill in the area might use it to solve situations off-hand. Always remember that dreams are supposed to be special. Having them like they were going out of fashion with each one helping the PCs out of a mess will ruin the impact. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Review - Judge Dredd setting book for Traveller


Judge Dredd RPGJudge Dredd setting book for Traveller

By Lawrence Whitaker


This is a very difficult book to read, and a difficult review to write. You see, I’ve been following Dredd since 1981 and I’ve picked up issues and graphic novels for the last 32 years. I’ve followed him across the Cursed Earth (I used to have the Killdozer toy, with proper launching missiles!), in his search for the Judge Child, through the Apocalypse War, watched him fight against Judge Death, the Angel Gang, watched him hunt down P J Maybe and Marti Zpok, seen him battle through the Necropolis, watched him beat the ever loving Grud out of perps, punks and paramilitaries, deal with futsies, uglies, fatties, batgliders, boingers, chump-dumpers, Umpty addicts, sugar peddlers, mutants, monsters and Mega-City One mayhem… and all the way through he kept that stern, chiselled visage. All Dredd needed was the Law. The Law and a standard-issue Lawgiver sidearm.

Oh, yes. I’ve got a hell of a lot of love for Dredd. My 2000AD issue signed by Wagner, Grant, Bisley and Davies has pride of place on my shelf.

So this is a very difficult book to read. This is because I’ve seen Dredd in many different lights, drawn by many different artists and written by many different script droids for three decades. Judge Dredd can be funny, satirical, heartfelt and violent. It can cover science fiction, social commentary, horror, fantasy, the supernatural, adventure and mystery. It can make you laugh, cry and grit your teeth in anger, shock and exhilaration. How on Grud’s Cursed Earth can you possibly get all of that into one book?

*Ahem*. Anyway, that’s my 2000AD and Dredd credentials out of the way. Let’s get on with the review.

THE BOOK

The 290 page full-colour hardback book is quite robust and well presented. The hero shot of Dredd on the cover is particularly striking and the rear of the book has a selection of his greatest foes leering above the cityscape. Already they’re building up the atmosphere and it doesn’t stop there. Inside the book its all glossy colour pages with art from the comic and the words in double columns. It’s all very clear, well-presented and easy to follow. There’s a really good map of the entire world inside the front cover showing Dredd’s world as it is now. It’s pretty impressive.

THE CONTENTS

The book wastes no time and throws you straight in after the Introduction chapter, which tells you about the setting and what you’re expected to play (a Judge, of course).

Chapter One – Academy of Law gives you everything you need to know about creating a Judge character. The training starts at age 5, the normal entrance age into the Academy, and you take the character through 4 terms of training as you would a normal Traveller character, with the first term being three years instead of four. This will give the character the fifteen years of training a Judge goes through before they hit the streets, unless the player wants a more seasoned Judge, then they can run through extra terms to simulate time served nailing perps. During training players also have the chance to specialise in a specialist branch; they can be a Street Judge, a member of Psi Division, a Tek Judge or a Med Judge. Each has it’s own requirements and bonuses. There are also plenty of mishaps and situations that trainee judges can run into on the random tables that add depth and a chance at creating some good background.

In general, it’s no different to rolling a standard Traveller character, with just a few changes to reflect extra skills and the special training Judges undergo. At first I was wondering why there wasn’t any options to create a civilian or an alien or even a perp, but there’s no need for that in this book. If you wanted to play any other type of character you can just roll up a standard Traveller PC and, with perhaps some modifications to drop certain space-based skills, you have your citizens.

Chapter Two – New Skills and Special Techniques cover the extra skills that Judges have access to, and techniques that give them the edge in certain situations. These skills are pretty Mega-City One specific with skills such as Gun Combat (Lawgiver), Drive (Lawmaster) and Mega-City One History.

Chapter Three – The Justice Department gives you the lowdown on how the Halls of Justice work, gives details on the different sections and departments and focuses on some of them, such as Psi Division. In here you’ll get the history of the Justice Department so you’ll understand why it is the way it is, how it’s organised, and how the specialised divisions work.

Chapter Four – I Am The Law! Gives you everything you need to know about applying the Law in the Big Meg. The crimes, the severity, and the expected sentence. So, now I know that a Code 7 Section 2 is arson with intent to damage property – that’s 30 years to life in an isocube, punk! A Code 5 Section 4 is Trespassing – that’s 6 months, juve! It’s great. I could do that all day. That’s a Code 15 Section 2 traffic violation, creep! Dangerous driving! That’s 10 years, banned for life!

Chapter Five – Equipment gives your judge a few extra toys to play with. The Lawgiver and it’s selection of bullets, a bootknife, a birdy lie detector... its all here and ready to use on patrol.

Chapter Six – Megways and Skedways is for vehicle information and it covers pretty much everything that rolls across the ground or flies through the air. Now, even though there is space travel in Dredd’s world – and I’m sure there are players who’d love to hop onto Justice One and go on a Judge Child quest of their own – starships are not covered. The starship rules and designs in the Traveller core rulebook are more than enough to take care of that and, even though it would have been nice to have stats for certain starships, there is really no need as Judges won’t have much in the way of starship skills, anyway.

Chapter Seven – Mega-City One Guided Tour takes you through the sprawling, urbanised hell that is the Big Meg, the city that covers the northeast corner of the former United States. Huge mile-high plascrete ‘blocks’, miniature cities in themselves, rise from the nightmare of the lower levels and 800 million souls, 97% of them unemployed, are crammed together. It’s no wonder it’s so dangerous in the future. The guide covers the layout of the city, what little politics there are, the economy, how city blocks are organised (and a great sidebar in how to name them) different locations, weather control, landmarks, leisure, sports and fads, food and groups and clubs. It also helps you with bringing the city to life and takes you through, step by step, how to build your own unique block. There’s also a brief section regarding cities and locations across the world and how the Big Meg interacts with them, but its surface detail and is beyond the scope of this book. Of course, if you’ve read about these places in 2000AD and know them, then there’s nothing stopping you from running games there. This book has given me loads of ideas for a Brit-Cit game already.

Chapter Eight – Thought Crimes covers Psi Division and the extra rules for them, and expands on the psionic rules already found in the Traveller core rulebook so everything is compatible and fully interchangeable.

Chapter Nine – Crazies, Fatties, Muties and Creeps covers the general adversaries and/or weirdoes a Judge may come across. From aliens to crazies, fatties to mutants (and plenty of mutation rules to go with it) this section gives you an idea of what a Judge is going to have to deal with on a daily basis. There’s also some stats for adversaries, such as intelligent apes, the alien Klegg mercenaries and the secret, cult-like troggies. These are then followed by some famous individuals and their stats, such as the Angel Gang, Judge Death and Chopper. These are all well and good and help give you an idea of what Judges are up against but something this section sorely lacks is illustrations. I want to see what a Klegg looks like, or what Chopper looks like, or what a Judda looks like. I know who they are, I’ve been reading this stuff since I was a kid, but some players might not. Images of the baddies would have been a massive bonus and it’s a shame they left them out.

Chapter Ten – Robots talks about how robots are used in the Big Meg and how they’re perceived, and there’s plenty of details on how to design, build and stat a robot with plenty of samples.

Chapter Eleven – Mac’s Databanks give you a timeline from 2023 (the end of the Volgan War and the first steps towards building the Mega-Cities) to 2131 (the victory of Senior Judge Dan Francisco in becoming Chief Judge). In here you’ll also get some great advice on how to run a Judge Dredd campaign, with one-off crimes, incidents on patrols and story arcs. It’s a great little section and gives you plenty of ideas on how to structure a game and emulate the comics.

Finally, Chapter Twelve – Sector 13 details an entire city sector to be used as a complete campaign setting. It contains details of the Sector House and key personnel, the local gangs and criminals, the City Blocks, and a selection of adventure seeds to get the players cracking skulls with small incidents and larger campaigns.

An index, character sheet and a cool illustration of the Mega-City One cityscape finish the book.

CONCLUSION

So, my first question is – does the Judge Dredd setting suit the Traveller core rules? My answer is a most definite ‘yes’. Dredd stories can be anything you want them to be; serious, funny, satirical, horror, action adventure – anything at all – and the Traveller rules are quite capable of handling each of these with little to no problem at all.

There are no real new rules in here, just tweaks and additions to the original game so there isn’t really a learning curve, so Traveller gamers will have no problem. Apart from the slight change to the terms for specialist Judge training, the game is the same and anyone wanting to play norms on the streets of the Big Meg can easily knock up a standard Traveller character and use them. The NPCs in the Traveller core rulebook are fully compatible, too.

Were they able to cram the Dredd world into this book? Well… yes and no. They’ve certainly managed to get in everything you need to know about Mega-City One in here and they’ve managed to convey the bleak, dangerous world exceptionally well, so anyone picking up the book, not just Dredd fans, will enjoy it. Of course, nothing will replace experiencing the city via the comics and reading every type of story and epic so that you truly get that feel of the world. The book can only ever really touch on the depth of the world of the Mega Cities, it’s the comic where you’ll find the real meat, but there’s more than enough to make sure that newcomers to the setting are catered for. You can also run games in any period of Dredd’s history, so you can go right back to the early stories or set it right now during the modern era. There’s certainly enough here for me to run the Apocalypse War game I’ve always wanted to run.

The lack of artwork let me down a little, and this is a usual gripe in my reviews. It’s especially harsh in this game because Judge Dredd is a comic, ego it’s a hugely visual work and there’s decades of imagery to choose from. They do have some wonderful art in there from the greats – Ezquerra, Bolland, Kennedy to name just three – but it’s never where you really want it to be so that you can see what they’re talking about, especially chapter nine when they’re talking about the baddies. For a book based on a comic that’s a bit of a shame.

Now that I’ve been through the book I refer you to the opening of this review – as a massive 2000AD and Dredd fan, what did I think of this book?

Well, I thought it was pretty drokkin’ wonderful. I’ve owned two previous versions of the Judge Dredd roleplaying game and this one is by far my favourite content wise. I enjoyed the way it’s written, I think it gives enough information on the world of Dredd to get any gamer going, fan or not – on fact, even I learned a thing or two reading this – it looks great and the system suits the setting. I can’t wait to get on my Lawmaster, get on those streets and start shouting ‘Armour piercing!’ and ‘ Suck my kid glove, punk!’ at the top of my lungs.

Highly recommended. Creep.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Interview - John Griffiths


Please join me in welcoming John Griffiths of Spica Publishing!

Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for inviting me! I run Spica Publishing, a UK-based third party publishing company. We produce material for the current edition of Traveller, but we’re hoping to expand our range of products and genres. I work for the NHS in my ‘proper’ job.

Tell us about your RPG history - what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

I first started playing RPGs at upper school in 1980. I was introduced to D&D, Traveller and Runequest by some friends and we used to play at home after school and at the weekends. We formed an after-school gaming club where we played D&D, T&T, Aftermath! and Traveller. A bit of Starfleet Battles and a small amount of fantasy and SF wargaming were thrown in for good measure. After I left school the RPG scene began to shrink in the 1990s and I had stopped playing by then. I came back to Traveller in the early 2000s, then into publishing in RPG 2006.

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

It’s the social interaction, the sense of a shared enjoyment and the ability to imagine a gaming world that can be truly yours. I particularly enjoy it when things go wrong for players in a game through sheer bad luck or a terrible dice roll (but I try not to be a mean GM!). I like to have humour in my games, so turning bad dice rolls into something funny is something that has happened regularly in my games in the past.

What's your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

I can’t honestly say I have a favourite game or system – all of them have good points and bad points, but Traveller is the system I know best. I particularly like the simplicity of Diaspora, which is based on the FUDGE system, and I love the rule in Diaspora that says “say yes or roll the dice”. I also like parts of the d20 and d100 systems.

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

Unfortunately I don’t get time to GM or play, although I would love to do either if I had the chance. At the moment the Traveller system dominates my RPG thinking, but that’s only because it’s the system we currently use at Spica Publishing.

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

The RPG hobby survives because those of us who were around at the start of the hobby (or, in my case, just after) are still getting together to play.  The rise of PDF publishing has made access to old and new gaming materials far easier and cheaper for players and GMs but people still like print books, and the various print options available to publishers and customers fulfils that need.  There are already a wide number of game systems available, which can be off-putting for a new gamer and fragments the market. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to see just a few systems dominate the market and stifle the development of new systems. The RPG hobby still needs new players and GMs and will continue to do so if the hobby is to remain viable.  Online gaming now occupies the traditional ‘core’ of new players in the 14 to 18 age group and it’s looking increasingly difficult to tempt new players to try tabletop RPGs.

Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud of everything we produced at Spica Publishing, and I’ve really surprised and pleased at how well Outer Veil, our own Traveller setting, has been received. Out of the Spica Publishing books I’ve actually contributed to, I have to say Allies, Contacts, Enemies & Rivals is the book I’m most personally proud of, although I am also particularly pleased with the character height/mass, physical appearance and family background rules I wrote for Career Book 3.

You’ve no doubt mixed with other great names in the roleplaying community – do you have any stories or anecdotes to share? Any horror stories? Be as frank as you like!

I can’t honestly say that I have ‘mixed’ with any of the big names in the RPG community, so I don’t have any anecdotes to share. Sorry!

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment Spica Publishing is working on more material for the Outer Veil setting, some more generic Traveller source books and  we aiming to put out some print books with our partners at Chronicle City.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Mini Review - Sleeping Gods campaign for Dragon Warriors


Sleeping Gods is a complete seven-adventure campaign in the Lands of Legend, the gaming world of the Dragon Warriors RPG. It’s designed for new Gamesmasters and players to the RPG hobby and this particular fantasy world and the level of difficulty increases as the adventures progress. In fact it has been designed so that groups can carry on from the adventure ‘The Darkness Before Dawn’, the adventure in the Dragon Warriors core rulebook, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

The book is split into eight chapters, Chapter 1 being the introduction and the next seven chapters being each individual adventure.

Chapter 1 covers the basics – it fills you in on the locations, how to use the book and other information pertinent to beginning the adventure.

I don’t want to go into story details as I don’t want to ruin it for any prospective players but the campaign starts proper with Chapter 2, ‘The King Under the Forest’. This is a simple beginning adventure for first rank characters. In fact, Chapter 3 ‘A Shadow On The Mist’, Chapter 4 ‘Hunter’s Moon’, Chapter 5 ‘The One-Eyed God’ and Chapter 6 ‘Sins of the Fathers’ are all of the same ilk. They are basic adventures set in an underworld location, with a series of rooms interlinked to build to a final face-off. It’s not until Chapter 7 ‘Mungonda Gold’ and Chapter 8 ‘The Greatest Prize’ that the adventures properly pit the players against some seriously good outdoor encounters but even then they return to the tried and tested underworld locations.

There’s nothing wrong with that but there is a danger of a lack of variety if the game progresses from one adventure to the other – experienced gamers might find the adventure far too linear. To help offset this the campaign allows for the player characters to travel away and go on other adventures between the ones in the book, allowing for breaks between the chapters. It’s a good idea that any of the adventures can be inserted into any other campaign quite easily, even independently of the rest of the campaign.

As the game unfolds the PCs come across all kinds of characters and beasts and there is a real sense of progress for players new to the game as they tumble from one adventure to the next. For experienced Dragon Warrior groups it’s a great adventure but there’s also plenty of material in here if you don’t intend to run the adventure as it is written, with maps, locations, characters and stats. There’s a wonderful Dragon encounter in ‘The King Under The Forest’ that I used in a game outside of the scenario, so in that respect you can even get this book for higher-rank adventurers. You can use the locations, single encounters and other bits of the adventures for your own game, or even change the difficulty of the adventures to suit.

All said it’s a nice, atmospheric publication with some fun encounters. It may be a little linear for experienced gamers, but as a first campaign book for the Dragon Warriors RPG it’s a good product.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Interview - Nicholas Caldwell and John Seal

Please welcome Nicholas Caldwell, the publisher and licensee for the Iron Crown Enterprises- ICE - set of games, and John Seal, the IP owner.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

John Seal: Hi! Well, I'm an American living in London England and work in the finance industry. I have a family and recently started gaming with my two daughters, a big development for our household and everyone is having a lot of fun. Hobbies include all sorts of gaming - I run a board games night at my local church every other month, have a regular poker group and I'm addicted to conquerclub (online "risk") I was introduced to the former owners and founders of Iron Crown Enterprises in the late 90's and when ICE went into bankruptcy, I acquired nearly all of the assets and intellectual property of the company. ICE was then run by Mjolnir for ten years, and as of 2010 is mainly run by Guild Companion Publications in terms of game creation and development, which is a good intro for Nicholas!

Nicholas Caldwell: Hi! I’m originally from Northern Ireland but have been living and working in Cambridge (UK) as a researcher for a very long time. My principal hobbies are reading and gaming. I got my start in the rpg industry as the freelance writer of Rolemaster’s Mentalism Companion for Old ICE and as the chief editor of an online zine (www.guildcompanion.com) which I founded and managed for over a decade. I’ve freelanced for Steve Jackson Games (writing GURPS Age of Napoleon) and did some modest work for Pelgrane Press’ Dying Earth RPG before writing Rolemaster’s Construct Companion and HARP College of Magics for Mjolnir. Eventually I saw a way to better run the ICE properties, approached John (in his Aurigas Aldebaron LLC capacity as IP owner) and presented him with an offer he could not refuse! He agreed, I created my own company (Guild Companion Publications Ltd), and the rpg licenses were transitioned to it.

Tell us about your RPG history - what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

John: My best friend at the time brought home a game and said "we need to play this!" We were both into LoTR and the Hobbit so it was a no brainer. I That was way back in 1979 where we started with D&D and I wrote massive amounts as a DM for several campaigns through the school years, playing several games. Things were quiet for a few years in my early thirties but I have been playing off and on until recently again.

Nicholas: Red box Basic D&D (complete with the obligatory “Where’s the board?” comment from my grandparents) and the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I migrated from D&D to games published as slim paperbacks (Dragon Warriors, Maelstrom and Tunnels & Trolls) because I was GMing on the hour-long bus trip to and from my school, and played MERP & Rolemaster. At university, I started running epic Rolemaster campaigns. I’ve never stopped gaming.

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

Nicholas: When I’m GMing, it’s all about creating the world and the story, and then having fun watching my players strive to get themselves heroically out of the mess I’ve (or they’ve!) got themselves. When I’m playing, it’s about the camaraderie of friends battling, problem-solving, or fast-talking our way through some fiendish plot and building up a character.

John: I think the tangibility of making a fantasy story "very real". I love sci fi and fantasy, so to be able to be part of "writing a story" at the gaming table is even more entertaining as is the whole social aspect of it. And that's it really, just "living the dream" with friends.

What's your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

Nicholas: Rules-wise, HARP and HARP SF, I’ve played them, GMed them, and wrote large chunks of the material. Setting-wise, I still love the pseudo-medieval world of Dragon Warriors’ Legend and the freewheeling old-school Titan setting for Advanced Fighting Fantasy. The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport is one of the gaming products on my shelf that simply makes me jealous. 

John: Fwooo...tough one. Well, I'm a nut for a Risk game because I love strategy. For RPGs, I have a soft spot for old AD&D. It never really got better from there, except arguably Hackmaster's take on it. But of course at the top of the pile and near and dear to my heart is Iron Crown's HARP as I had a lot of input into that and will continue to do so. I'm running an even more streamlined version of HARP with the kids.

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

John: Yes but not as much as I would like, but getting a game in once every two weeks. And, playing the streamlined HARP with the kids, "testing" it out.

Nicholas: Yes, usually about once a week subject to everyone’s schedule. Currently I’m playing in a Warhammer 2nd Edition game using the Al-Qadim setting. I have a suspicion that it’s my turn to GM next once that campaign ends.

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold its own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

John: Well, having been to a recent con, the thing that worries me most is the demographic profile of the attendees. Sadly, just not enough young people. It’s a real risk and I'm not sure the tide can be turned. But we have a strong original fan base that will give us years to turn that tide, so we have a chance. What is interesting is that the board games night at my church has been a massive success - kids love it as do parents because they are not watching tv, they are not on the computer and they are socialising with real live human beings.

Nicholas: There’s a lot of competition for people’s time, so anything that makes it easier for gamers to keep gaming, whether it’s ready-to-run material to reduce prep time or the virtual tabletops that allow dispersed groups to play over the internet, is a very good thing and we need more of it. Longer-term, we need new blood and to train up the next generation of players and especially GMs

Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

Nicholas: Now that’s a tough call. In terms of stuff that I have written personally – it has to be  HARP SF & HARP SF Xtreme. I wrote those two together as one manuscript at a time when my health was endangered, put through them private and public playtests and led them through to final publication with my own company. In terms of a project that I didn’t write personally, then the Shadow World Player Guide stands out as the wonder book that still amazes me in terms of quality.

John: I suppose my involvement with HARP where I had substantial input into the drafting of the rules is my most proud “creative” project.  But of course I’m really pleased to have saved ICE from oblivion and managed to have kept it going, though I wish the results in the 2000-2010 decade had been better.

You’ve no doubt mixed with other great names in the roleplaying community – do you have any stories or anecdotes to share? Any horror stories? Be as frank as you like!

Nicholas: I’ve met a number of the great and the good of the industry typically by attending or organising conventions. And they have all been good people that I am very happy to have met and spent time chatting with or gaming with. People, who in some other industry might be at daggers drawn with a potential upstart competitor, are keen to share their advice and help you get started and avoid their mistakes. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t a few bad apples or companies who don’t meet their end of a contract for whatever reason (paying freelancers isn’t optional), but I keep in mind the Hogshead motto of not doing business with idiots.  

John: Ahhh...you want the dirt! Well, I have a policy of trying not to bad mouth anyone if I can help it, or unless they really, really deserve it. But actually, despite some bad behaviour by a couple individuals in all these years, I can honestly say no one (not even those individuals) has been terrible or appalling and almost everyone I met in the industry are really good people! The thing is, I'm an outsider and I don’t know lots of "industry people" - I'm a player and a fan and that’s where my head is at. I bought ICE to save it, but I haven't run it - others have. And I won’t ever make any money on it - I don't intend to - I want all the profits to be plowed back into the business. I am more involved now only because I'm older and have more free time (and more money to "help"). That means I can bring fresh ideas to the industry and to the running of the business, but since I'm a professional investor, I also realize the difficult straits the industry is in. There is still too much piracy and too many cheap (in price and, as a result, in quality) alternatives which cut into the profitability of good stuff. There is no barrier to entry and anyone can start writing up product and chip away at the market - there is tons of free and cheap product...and you get what you pay for...so then people become disillusioned with the hobby on both the cheap stuff as well as less product due to less profits to be reinvested by the larger players, where they struggle to retain fans. Again I say this more as a professional investor in that it’s not an attractive industry to be a business owner, and the behaviour of fans, customers, start-ups and established company alike are all beating down the industry. We have managed to go to a near virtual company model where almost all our costs are variable, which has helped considerably, and we are trying to educate all ICE fans that the more the fan base grows, the more profits can be plowed into new product, the more support product there is, the easier it is to play, etc. – a virtuous spiral, so to speak. So, we can only be the vanguard of the ICE army - we need all those soldiers, the fans, to really make the model successful. The more fans we and the existing fans can help us attract, the more input and involvement they have on our forums and with product development and therefore the more products produced and purchased, then the more value, choice, aid and accessibility will be created for the fans.

What are you working on at the moment?

Nicholas: I’m shepherding a lot of projects at the moment. The giant project is the new unified Rolemaster where we have the first three core rulebooks in a public playtest on the ICE forums (just register on the forums at www.ironcrown.com) to be able to download beta copies and be involved in creating the future of Rolemaster. Terry Amthor will be shortly handing me his next regional module for the Shadow World setting, Emer III: The Southeast, to edit. For HARP Fantasy, I have enhanced versions of Martial Law and College of Magics ready to enter rapid layout, with a wholly new Bestiary being constructed for the line. And I’m also working my way through previously published and unpublished Cyradon material in preparation for a proper relaunch of the setting with multiple supporting adventure modules. Hopefully by the second half of next year, I’ll be able to devote much more of my time to finishing off my own manuscripts and get them ready for publication.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review – Darwin’s Diaries 1: The Eye of the Celts


01 - The Eye of the CeltsDarwin’s Diaries 1:The Eye of the Celts

Eduardo Ocana
Sylvain Runberg


At its heart, Darwin’s Diaries has a very interesting concept; what would happen if Charles Darwin, the man who bought us the Theory of Evolutuion and one of the world’s most forward thinking naturalists, was exposed to fantastical beasts that did not fit into his natural order? 

Victorian England. In Yorkshire, several men and horses working on a railway line have been killed—slaughtered, really. The police suspect some kind of wild beast. The government calls upon controversial naturalist Charles Darwin to help with the investigation. A reasonable move, but one that is dictated rather by the least known part of his work: research on what other people would qualify as legendary creatures. It won’t be long before the scientist discovers that he may be right about them after all…

Eduardo Ocana’s artwork is very evocative of the time and he manages to capture Victorian England exceptionally well, and the colouring of Tariq Bellaoui - who does a great job of giving the images depth - helps this. There’s a sense of dim, muted light cast over everything. The artwork is incredibly good and manages to convey the era extremely effectively; for example, on page nine there’s a panel that depicts two men talking in a meeting room and you can see the length of the room to the windows, the wall coverings, the table covered in a cloth, the bookcases, the tiled floor, the paintings… in this one image it captures the period and transports you into the story. It’s also gory when it needs to be without being gratuitous, and the images are suitably disturbing. The action scenes are full of dynamism, and there are several frames that really capture speed and movement. It’s very impressive and leaves a satisfyingly exhilarated feeling when the moment has passed.

Sylvain Runberg’s writing is what I’ve come to expect from him – excellent. The characters have depth, the dialogue is sharp and flows naturally and, even though there’s a slightly predictable feisty female character that’s independent and forthright in this world of Victorian stiffness controlled by men, the characters are well developed and interesting. The story is carried completely by the dialogue so there’s no narration to consider, and that’s fine as the dialogue is very good and even reads as you would imagine them talking in the Victorian period – parts of it read like a Charles Dickens story. The primary character, Charles Darwin, is the most interesting of the lot, of course, and as the story progresses you realise that he’s nothing like what you expected. In fact, the things he does later on in the story downright surprised me but I shan’t ruin that for you here. Fair to say that, even though the plot doesn’t progress very much in this first volume, the story will keep you intrigued and wanting more.

This is an excellent piece of work that I can highly recommend.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Basic D&D Character Generator

I'm working on a 'Game of Thrones'-inspired Basic D&D campaign and something I've always liked for all my long campaigns is plenty of random NPCs to hand to make sure that I'm covered for extra bodies in case certain important characters bite the dust sooner than planned. My problem with that is that I find it a bit tedious to roll all those dice and fill out all those sheets.

To that end I always search out random character generators, and I've found one for Basic D&D that fits the bill. Not only can you create random characters of every kind of character, you can print it out on a PDF with the character sheet graphics so that it looks all nice and neat.

LABYRINTH LORD CHARACTER GENERATOR

It's designed for Labyrinth Lord but it works perfectly well for Basic D&D. I'm going to get quite a few NPCs out of this.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Farsight Blogger Facebook Page

Hi all - 

This is an open invitation for you to invite your gaming friends to 'like' the Farsight Blogger Facebook page page. As well as using this as a place to advertise new posts on the blog, it's also being opened up for anyone who 'likes' the page to be able to promote themselves, add news, reviews or anything else they please to help support the roleplaying hobby. 

Report something cool you saw on the net, link to your favourite gaming sites, promote your new game or your company, support local gaming shops or groups - everything and anything tabletop gaming related is welcome. 

So, ask your friends to join, lets build up the members and use this as a place to advertise and report. The tabletop roleplaying hobby can be as big as gamers want to make it.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Review - Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits!


Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! Boxed SetAncient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits!

By Brett M. Bernstein


I got my start in roleplaying games in the early 1980s with the wonderful world of gamebooks and the simple game systems that came with them. Once I’d mastered these simple games and gotten my head around the roleplaying hobby and all it’s facets, I moved onto more complicated systems, from six hour character creation sessions that covered all the bases to three hour long encounters, with pages and pages of tables and charts to add ‘depth’. There’s nothing wrong with games like this and I enjoyed them immensely – well mostly, at any rate – but as I moved into my third decade of gaming and time became precious I started to look back at younger, simpler systems to save time. Gaming sessions were few and far between and to spend one night a month playing out a single combat wasn’t my group’s idea of roleplaying; we wanted to cram as much as we could into the session.

One such simple gaming system I have come across is Precis Intermedia’s ‘Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits!’ which advertises itself as an introduction to the roleplaying hobby. It’s a simple system that is supposed to suit new gamers to the hobby as well as veteran gamers looking for something a little smaller and flexible.

Just one thing before I start this review – I have here both versions of Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits!, the 92-page pocket edition and the three-booklet boxset. The game content is pretty much the same, but I’ll be covering the boxset more than the pocket book as I do think it’s the better product. Any scores or opinions I give in this review will be for the boxset, but you can pretty much assume that the pocket book is up to the same standard of content. I see it like this; if you’re an old hand at gaming then the pocket book is for you. If you’re new to it all, then the boxset is for you.

THE BOOK

The 92-page pocket booklet has full colour covers with black-and-white interior, and the paperback size means it’s more than portable. It’s laid out very well with very minimal art and has everything you need to get you started.

THE BOXSET

The box is a hard cardboard container of good quality, like a smaller version of classic boxsets, and has inside two six-sided dice, a ‘what’s in this box?’ one sheet giving you the lowdown on what you’ve got, a Basic Play booklet, a Dungeon booklet, a Further Adventures booklet, a Reference booklet with all the charts and tables you’ll need (it’s like a mini GM screen) a Conflict Action Map, and a selection of character and monster sheets. Each book has colour covers and a black-and-white interior.

THE GAME

There’s a brief introduction at the beginning of the book that lets you know what to expect in a roleplaying game and what it’s all about but this lasts only three pages. It covers the RPG hobby well and pretty much tells you what it is but for an introductory game it seems a little lacking. There are nice little examples called ‘Learn By Doing’ throughout the game and these are handy, so new gamers should get on quite well, all things considered.

The game can be played three ways; solo, group or group with GM. The game is designed with many random elements so you can roll for what is in a room, what monsters and treasures are in there, traps, doors etc, and then face off with enemies or deal with problems as they appear. This means that a single player can put their new player character through it’s paces, a group can get together for a random dungeon bash, or a bunch of gamers can meet up with a GM for a proper full-on roleplaying session. That’s a great little feature and it means that you don’t need to worry about who can and can’t make it to game night; you can roll up a random dungeon as you go with whoever turns up.

Character creation is very easy and takes minutes. You can choose from four races; human, elf, dwarf and hobbling. There are then three Vocations to choose from; Rogue, Warrior and Wizard and each gives different Pursuits (skills) to choose. Each character has three Ability scores, Fitness, Awareness and Reasoning, and these have a random number between 1 and 5 which can depend on race. Pursuits are the skills that a player can choose and there are 16 to choose form, each with a score between 0 and 3. Wizards choose spells, and that’s it, you’re ready to go. Character creation can be done completely randomly, if you want, but it’s easy enough to pick something you want and then roll randomly for other things, if you want. It’s very simple and you can create quite rounded and specialised characters. There’s a very simple post-dungeon experience award system that allows you to increase the abilities of a character, but not so much that you’ll max out on everything in no time.

Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! is a very simple roleplaying game that uses six-sided dice. You roll 1D6, add the applicable Ability and Pursuit ratings, and try to beat a difficulty rating the default of which is 7. And that’s it. There are a few little modifiers depending on certain situations and opposed rolls, but that simple mechanic is the basis of the game and one that will pretty much dominate. It’s quick, easy and intuitive and if you want a very quick decision on an average action you can just say something like ‘roll Fitness and Climb’ and the player will know what to do and just do it. It’s really quick and easy, and it’s also why it works well as a GM-less game as everyone knows what to roll and how it works.

There’s also a neat little Conflict Action Map that you can use to decide on who is doing what. Instead of trying to move pieces around the gaming table like an intricate chess game, what you have is a sheet of paper with five boxes on it, each one labelled. There’s ‘The Enemy’, where you put counters to represent the opposition to the PCs, ‘Closest’ where the players who are simply getting stuck in should be, ‘Farthest’ where the ranged players will be, ‘Sneaking’ where the players trying to flank the enemy will be and ‘Behind’, where the players trying to backstab will be. It’s a simple way to tell who is doing what, and what kind of Pursuits can be bought into play and what kind of bonuses the characters re entitled to. It doesn’t really support complicated encounters where there are multiple characters all over the place, but for simple face-off fights or GM-less games it’s really handy in that everyone knows what they’re doing and where they are during the fight.

There’s quite a generous sized introductory dungeon ‘In Search of the Lost Child’, and then there’s plenty of instructions on how to build your own dungeons for further adventures, with plenty of random tables, traps, monsters and ideas.

CONCLUSION

I’ve become a big fan of this game. I’ve played it solo and used it as an introductory game for someone who wanted to try out the hobby and I found it worked really well in both cases. I like the system as it’s quick, easy and intuitive, and I like the random dungeon design as if I’ve got an hour to kill I’ll just take out Wulfgun the Bold, my PC, and run him through a quick adventure just to see if I can get his stats up. As of writing this review, Wulfgun is recuperating after a nasty confrontation with a Gnome Reaver after getting through eight rooms unscathed - I’d like to wish him a speedy recovery before next Sunday’s game.

I would have liked to have seen more material aimed towards new gamers in there as I don’t think three pages explaining the hobby with a quick example is enough. It tells you what you need to know but I’m a big believer of taking complete RPG novices with no idea what to expect by the hand and leading them through the entire game step by step. That doesn’t reflect on the quality of the game and I’d have no problem handing the box to new players and telling them to have fun, but I would expect a lot of questions from them as they make their way through the game.

There’s a lot of playability in this and even though it’s aimed at one-off dungeon bashes you could get a great campaign out of this as player characters can be quite well-rounded, not so much with the social skills but that could be remedied. There’s nothing stopping you form adding extra Pursuits to the list to reflect that.

A great game with an excellent system, with ideas and options that could keep you going for quite a while. Highly recommended.

Some basic tips on writing scenarios

When writing a scenario for any kind of game of any genre, the author must take some things into consideration.

First, the style of the game must be established, meaning that the atmosphere must be created for the game effectively. If the game is energetic and fast, then the action and style of writing must reflect the speed and urgency of the situation. Alternatively, if the game is to be slow, mysterious and dark, then attempts must be made to keep the atmosphere smooth and detailed, so that the players can absorb the story and characters.

To maintain the atmosphere during writing, and to keep the style consistent, it is best to keep your surroundings similar every time you sit down to write. Keep an ambient music tape playing softly in the background with a tune that will reflect the game. Play this every time you sit to write your material. If your writing a fast-paced game, play the action-orientated parts of the soundtrack, keep up the adrenalin with the thought that the film you are trying to emulate will be what the players are expecting to play. If your writing a low-intensity game, keep the tone dark with a sombre brooding part of the soundtrack, and try to draw the atmosphere into the scenario by trying to imagine how players would react to the designs you are creating.

Secondly, figure out what kind of game the players are used to playing, and also think about each of the Player Character’s aims and styles of character. Try and give a little of something for each player to do to spread out the involvement of each player, try not to create a scenario that only one player can really get stuck into. If all the players are used to high-energy games, then create an original story but with the same amount of guns and action. The flipside to this is to turn the entire story on it’s head; the players are big action characters, so turn down the fire and get serious, switching the explosions for dark corridors and torches, or something a lot more investigative. Many players will respond quite eagerly to a complete change of style of play, and then be more willing to explore different aspects of the game.

The plot is the biggest thing of all. It is the flow and content of the story the players will remember. Don’t just concentrate on what you’ll be pitting the players against. Think of the personalities they will come across and how they fit into the plot; how they fit into the surroundings you have designed. If all the players remember is how they took down the enemy, blew up armies or defeated the bad guys, then they should be playing a wargame and not a roleplaying game. If they kill enough nasties and uncover enough plots they will soon get bored by the whole thing and look for something else to play. If you make games memorable with the situation you put the players in and the problems and characters they come across, the players will be a lot more interested to ‘see what happens next’. This is what makes soap operas successful.

Most important of all - remember this is a game where everyone comes together to have fun, so be sure that adventures abound.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Die, die!

Last night my gaming group settled back into Big J's Basic D&D Greyhawk game, the first session of the new year, with a mind to play it for the next few months. The sessions we've been playing since September last year have been primarily dice-based, and we've had some fun with a couple of dungeons and a whack of wilderness encounters.

All that changed with the last session. Throughout the entire two hour game there were only two rolls made, one to see what the weather was like and one Charisma check. The rest of the game was rest and recuperation from the adventuring, meeting new NPCs and catching up with NPCs we already new to see what other missions could be done, and impressing the Lord of the estate. It was an evening of roleplaying.

I stepped up and did my part. I love roleplaying, actually playing a character and acting out a role, carefully weighing what to say and do and then acting how I see fit. That's what roleplaying games are all about to me;   if I just spent the evening rolling combat then as far as I'm concerned it's just a boardgame.

Most of my best gaming evenings have been about the roleplaying. Yes, I've had plenty of exciting combats and I remember the cool times but the dramatic, character driven moments are what stick in my mind. I don;t ever remember doing much of that with basic D&D - although, to be fair, I was in my early teens when I started playing so smacking stuff in the face with a sword was as cool as it got - and it was a great feeling to know that I could get that level of character involvement out of the game. It's like my 1980s teenage 'kill 'em all!' self has joined with my 1990s 'what is my motivation?' personality. I like it.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Review – The DramaScape Collection

The DramaScape Collection

By Simon Powell

  
I don’t usually use miniatures in my games. It’s not that I don’t want miniatures in my games – I love them – it’s just the cost can sometimes be prohibitive to have these little plastic or metal models on the table. I’m not a huge fan of flat counters as these can be a little dull although they are easy to manage and get hold of, so what I’d ideally like is to have something that meets both types somewhere in the middle.

header

With the wonder that is the internet and colour printers DramaScape have given me the ability to do just that.

Not only have DramaScape created paper miniatures that are easy to print and make, they’ve also made floorplans. But these are floorplans with a slight difference…

First of all, let’s have a look at a selection of what’s on offer from DramaScape. Each product is a full colour PDF download that can be printed on paper and, if you like, be taped or glued to a cardboard backing. The floorplans are square, hex and VTT compatible.

The miniatures were a little fiddly as you’ve got to cut each one out. They fold four times and you’ve got a stand-up full-colour figure. It’s best to stick the paper to card, but I managed to fold normal copier paper and glue them to a simple square piece of cereal package cardboard and they were just fine. If you leave them like that they can be a little weak as the smallest gust, even from someone quickly moving past, can blow them over, so I also stuck a paperclip between the paper of the miniature and the cardboard to add a little extra weight. It made all the difference and after that I had no issues at all. There were a couple of duds thanks to my dodgy scissor skills and some glueing issues but that’s what’s great about these things; if you make any mistakes you just print them out again.

For the floorplans, I stuck my printouts to a large sheet of thick drawing paper and it worked just fine and it was handy as I could fold it away for easy storage. For the technically minded among you the print layouts are set to 1 inch (square or hex) = 3ft, and the VTT images are set to 100 ppi (1 inch = 3ft). I just printed them all out on A4, did a bit of trimming and went from there – I had no problems at all. It probably took me about fifteen minutes in total to print and stick.

There’s an added bonus in the floorplan PDFs – the 360 view. There’s a small image in the file and if you click on it you can have a 3D 360 view of the room as if you’re standing in the middle of it, and you can look up and down and zoom in and out. It’s excellent, and even though I never put it to use at my gaming table I’m sure that groups who utilise laptop and tablets at the gaming table will get some great use out of it.

The selection of PDFs I printed were:

Marines & Aliens: 48 paper miniatures of soldiers in various armours and with various weapons, and a selection of aliens for bug hunting. The detail is pretty good and you get the two faces of the figure front and back, but there’s not a lot of diversity on each page. In general it’s the same figure in different poses. That’s fine for a wargame but roleplayers may find it a little limiting, especially for a diverse group. To be honest, because the characters are on paper, my group took to drawing on the images to personalise the figures and we got some great results. Personalised armour, different weapons, even a mohican on one guy. There’s plenty of space to draw on and around the figure so you can write names on there to tell them apart if you have to. It’s great you can do that and it helps to individualise the characters. Of course, if you’re just playing a straightforward wargame then they’re perfect as they are.

Sci Fi Marines Quarters: Well, all those marines you just printed out are going to need somewhere to bunk, so here you go. The scale for all the maps is perfect for the miniatures, and you get the special 360 degree view, which is always cool.

Metro Station: This is a subway station, again with the 360 view.

The Protocursor: This one is excellent – full deckplans of a crashed starship, and you can use the plans for a normal vessel and the surrounding terrain as a normal terrain map. It’s got 360 views of the bridge and engine room. It’s great for a PC runabout.

The Tug: More starship deckplans, this time of a tugboat. You get the 360 view of the bridge of this one, too.

Med bay: This final one is a medical facility with a 360 view. I think between this and the Marines Quarters you could start to build a small base for your miniatures to live in.

Of course, I’ve only covered a part of what DramaScape do. There are plenty of other sci-fi and fantasy locations they cover and you can visit www.dramascape.net for their full catalogue, all of which you can purchase from DriveThruRPG.

This is an excellent set of really handy PDFs that will get a lot of use. If you’ve got a central location your players will be spending a lot of time at then I can recommend this. Even if they’re not going to be staying long the low prices of the PDFs make them very attractive. I found them great for what I needed them for; the crashed starship deckplans I now use for the ship my group is zipping about the galaxy in in their Star Wars game, but they’re just as good for Traveller or any other sci-fi game you can mention.

There’s more maps than miniatures so I’d like to see more of them, with more variety in the images, but I’m sure my players will get their pens out and modify them as they see fit. In that respect they’re better than proper miniatures because there’s no end to modifications you can make.

Highly recommended.