Monday, November 26, 2007

The Playtesting Phoenix

I just had a very exciting, nerve-wracking and mind-bending experience. Duty and Honour just had its first proper external playtest. And not just any playtest either. This one was in New-fucking-Zealand with GM being Malcolm (Cold City, astate) Craig. I mean, honestly, this is getting feedback from a bona fide games publisher. I was TERRIFIED.

And you know, it wasn't THAT bad. Sure some thing just didn't work for them and a lot of that had to do with my writing and a need to be more specific. There were some things that they tried that I didn't foresee in the game (what if there is no officer? what if they all play new recruits? etc.) and they wanted some sections expanded as well. There were some things that I simply hadn't included and some stuff that was definitely in the realms of 'Auther not Included'

However in the end they liked it - they liked the essence of book, the way that it made characters and stories and all that stuff. The innards of the book got a big thumbs up. It just needs sharpening (no pun intended), polishing and better organisation and writing.

Sometimes life presents you with glass half full, glass half empty moments. This could easily have been a half-empty moment but no, it's a half full. And thats a good thing.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Throw of the Dice

Well, I did something today that I have been promising myself I was going to do for months but have never really gotten around to - I wrote to Bernard Cornwell. I asked, very politely, if I could reference Sharpe in Duty & Honour. Not as a licenced product but just out of courtesy. There are numerous books on the shelf that do this - a lot of them source material that I cite in the game - and none of them are obviously licenced. We shall see what comes back. Even if it is an 'absolutely not - no way' then at least the question is answered.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Members of the D&H Family

And after no small amount of swearing, ranting, screaming and general bad temper I have FINALLY got my hands on all of the little Imperial Lego minifigs that I want. I have nine Bluecoats to represent the French, four Redcoats to represent the English and I have even got a little cannon, gunpowder and an ammo chest. I'll dream of getting some horses. Their shit is less expensive.

When Andrew and I tested out some of the skirmish rules on Sunday night, the Legos were really quite useful for positioning people on our imaginary little map. No neccessary but as a tactile fetish they were perfect.

So ... HURRAH!


Friday, November 09, 2007

One for the clever sods

Consider the new high price of petrol in the UK?
Consider the new high exchange with the dollar?
Consider the traditionally lower price of petrol in the US?

What relative price/exchange rate and volume would we have to see for it to become cheaper to buy petrol in the US and ship it over to the UK, than buy it on a Shell forecourt?*


* Yes, I know we wouldn't be ABLE to do it - its hypothetical!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Tale of Four Groups

There was a time when I struggled to get a roleplaying game together. Months - even years - went by without the pleasure of sitting around a table, chucking dice and enjoying the thrill of a good game. The barren years were ... well, barren. More frustrating were the barren weeks - those infuriating weeks when our group couldn't sustain a game past one week or even get it from the messageboard to the table. It wasn't good.

Now however the state of gaming nirvana has reached a new and palpably stable level. I'm now part of FOUR - yes, read that - FOUR gaming groups. Actually thats a slight misrepresentation of the facts. I am part of one pretty large group of gamers who have formed four groups that I am involved in. So, without further ado...

GROUP ONE - Sundays, Matt's House. Currently playing Pendragon with a side order of Spirit of the Century. Easily the longest group, stretching back around six years. We've played D&D, Buffy, Shadowrun, WFRP, Exalted and no doubt some more before we landed at the Great Pendragon campaign. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew, Matt, Ian and Nigel

GROUP TWO - Thursdays, Dave's House. Currently about to play Cold City. The smaller, experimentalist group. We've played a simplification of Primetime Adventures (yes, I did say simplification - its possible) as 'Ben's As Yet Unnamed Horror Campaign' or BAYUHC and we have playtested Ben's 'Liberty Comics Presents...' system. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew and Ben.

GROUP THREE - Sundays (the 'other' Sundays), Neil's House. Recently convened to playtest Duty and Honour for me. Exciting. Current membership - Neil, Dave, Andrew, Ben and Nigel.

THE BOARDGAME GROUP - Saturdays (once a month), rotating venue. This is essentially the overarching collective group that we belong to. Everyone is welcome. Its a night to eat loads of snack food, drink a little and play some silly boardgames like Munchkin and Zombietown. So far the following have appeared at the gaming table: Neil, Dave, Andrew, Craig, Ben, Graham, Mark, Iain and Dave (Horni)

I just wanted to put this moment into evidence. How fucking cool is this much gaming?!


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Omnihedron Productions takes the next step

Baby step admittedly, but another step.

Grabbing the bull by the horns yesterday I rustled up a fledgling website for Duty and Honour under the umbrella. Today's job is to sort out the front page of the site index and then spin out another set of pages suitable for Ben's 'Liberty Comics Presents...' material.

I also sat down and did some of the maths about the monies needed to get this venture off the ground - including printing, artwork, promotional materials, convention attendence etc. and it is all very do-able. VERY do-able. All systems go!


Vacuum vs Purpose

I hate working in a vacuum. It really sucks.

Do you see what I did there? God, light entertainment lost a lot when I chose not to take the stage! Anyway despite my sometime epiphet as 'The Iron DM' I haven't actually refereed anything worthy of the name of a game for nearly two years now. A couple of one shot playtests and a few games of A Faery's Tale with the kids but no ongoing campaigns or such. There have been times that I have felt the surge of the creative spirit but in the end it is always tempered by tiredness and our gaming timetable. And the vacuum effect.

It always hits me whenever I sit down and address that gaming urge - whats the point? I have limited time and energy - why should I be wasting it on game development if I am not sure that it is going to be used? So much of what we do in our gaming nowadays is context-based that designing something 'in a vacuum' is pointless. How can you do anything without the characters there in front of you - as in virtually all of our gaming the characters not only drive the story but also the NPCs and the background! And you don't get the characters until your are in the GMing hotseat.

It even comes down to testing out systems. I have tried SO hard to test out the character generation for The Burning Wheel but without a context it is almost impossible. Without some lens to focus that smorgasbord of generic fantasy into the searing light of an interesting character it all seems ... pointless.

So why all of this self-reflective naval gazing?

Well as astute Bottom of the Glass readers will be aware I have been a tad pre-occupied of late with work and gaming issues. Work appears to have started towards a conclusion, one way or another, and gaming is working out quite nicely too. My involvement with The Collective Endeavour has really given me the focus to move Duty and Honour from the 'yeah, its a game that I'm working on' stage to the 'No really, this is actually happening' stage.

Which means I need to start playtesting! STAT! And that means I have to recruit a playtest group. Thats not a problem. 'Group Three' spawned in under a day with Ben, Dave, Andrew and Nigel answering the call to take the King's Shilling on our 'off-Sundays' from Pendragon. And INSTANTLY the vacuum is filled. Pfoof! (as Billy Gunn says in that Options advert)

So last night I settled down and started the research for 'The Cadiz Campaign' - my playtest campaign for Duty and Honour. And it had purpose and reason and felt like a valuable use of my time. Whacked my favourite episode of Sharpe on (Sharpe's Regiment btw - the one where they go back to England and pretend to be recruits - 'Black as BOG!' Love it!) and it was all systems go!