#SJWRPG – Class: Social Justice Barbarian


Signature social justice barbarian

Social Justice Barbarians are all about the rrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaage.

Full of snark and nastiness, if they weren’t Social Justice Barbarians they’d just find someone else to bully and pick on. Luckily for them they’ve happened upon the one arena in which it’s socially acceptable to be a total arsehole to people with impunity.

Level 1: +2 Proficiency, Shitfit, Trigger 1, Unarmoured Defence.
Level 2: +2, Shut the Fuck Up.
Level 3: +2, Spittle Attack
Level 4: +2, Ability Score Improvement
Level 5: +3, Extra Attack, Trigger 2.
Level 6: +3, Reason Immunity.
Level 7: +3, Bully.
Level 8: +3, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 9: +4, Sonic Scream.
Level 10: +4, Trigger 3.
Level 11: +4, Unstoppable Shitfit
Level 12: +4, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 13: +5, Super Bully.
Level 14: +5, Trigger 4.
Level 15: +5, Self Righteous Fury.
Level 16: +5, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 17: +6, Ultra Bully.
Level 18: +6, Mighty Stupid.
Level 19: +6, Ability Score Improvement.
Level 20: +6, Trigger 5, Laughing Stock

Class Features

Hit Dice 1d12+Constitution Modifier per level (12+Con modifier at first level).

Proficiencies: Light and medium armour, shields, blockbots.
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons, keyboards, YouTube, Twitter, blogging.
Tools: Yes, yes they are.
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution.
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Blogging, Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival, Twitter and Vlogging.

Special Abilities

Bully: Anyone lower level, or lower Challenge Rating than your level, you get +1 to hit and +1 damage against. Super Bully increases this to +2, Ultra Bully to +3.

Laughing Stock: Years of losing your temper online have made you a laughing stock, but also given you a thick skin. +4 Con and all damage you take from any source is reduced by one.

Mighty Stupid: Any magic attacks or attempts to use social skills on you fail so long as your Strength is higher than their Intelligence.

Reason Immunity: You cannot be affected be mind-altering magic or effects.

Self Righteous Fury: Your Shitfit now lasts as long as you want it to and while shitfitting you don’t get knocked out until you die.

Shitfit: When triggered (see trigger) you enter a mindless rage. This gives you a bonus of +1 to hit and do damage at level 1, +2 a level 5, +3 at level 10, +4 at level 15 and +5 at level 20. Shitfits last 3 turns.

Shut the Fuck Up: Once per encounter you can bellow at an enemy, making them unable to speak or cast verbal magic.

Spittle Attack: A breath weapon with a 2m cone, you spray anyone in the area with spittle, doing 1d4 damage for every five levels – or part thereof – that you have. Anyone caught in the blast can make a Dexterity saving throw to take half damage. The DC is equal to 8+Proficiency Bonus + Strength Bonus. Usable once per combat encounter.

Sonic Scream: A breath weapon blast with a 10m radius around you, this deafeningly shouted obscenity does 1d6 damage for every four levels – or part thereof – that you have Anyone caught in the blast can make a Constitution saving throw to take half damage. The DC is equal to 8+Proficiency Bonus + Strength Bonus. Usable once per combat encounter.

Trigger: You can only enter a shitfit if you’re triggered. Every few levels you get to choose a new trigger. Triggers might include spiders, thin people, the mention of fruit or being contradicted.

Unarmoured Defence: Works as per normal 5e barbarian ability. This is NOT an excuse for furry bikinis which are bad and wrong.

Unstoppable Shitfit: Your Shitfit now lasts six turns.

#SJWRPG – Traps & Triggers – Character Creation

24f735ff785848948d5b3Traps & Triggers (not to be confused with Tunnels & Trolls) is an RPG based on the system of 5th Edition D&D, but better, because it incorporates Social Justice™ into every single aspect of the game. In order to play you will need a copy of D&D 5th Edition and, more problematically, some friends.

You are a hero of the enlightened and beautiful Bay Queendom. An enlightened and egalitarian land, surrounded by chaotic and evil lands full of monsters, The Chan Fiefdoms. These enemies threaten the glorious Bay Queendom every day.

Character Creation

Step 1: Don’t Choose a race – Race is a social construct and makes no difference to your character. Shortness, pointed ears, beards or immortality are nothing to do with genetics whatsoever.

Step 2: Choose a Class – Classes will be described later.

Step 3: Level – You all start at level 1, though level is explicitly not a measure of a character’s worth. Everyone levels up at the end of a game, no matter how badly they did.

Step 4: Ability Scores – Pick any numbers you like for your abilities, between 3 and 20. You are encouraged, but not forced, to take at least one Ability at a really low score so you can empathise with the differently abled.

Step 5: Describe your Character – Your character can look like anything you want, you can choose any height, weight or anything else you like. You can choose any hair colour at all, blue, aquamarine, navy, anything.

Step 6: Equipment – Start with any and all basic equipment and weapons you want. You also start with a trust fund that gives you 1,000gp at the start of each session.

Step 7: Positive Discrimination – Minority gamers are too rare and must be encouraged to play RPGs, even forced. In order to encourage them to play any player who can identify themselves as a minority receives a +1 (or equivalent) magic item of their choice and an extra 1,000gp each session from their trust fund.

Crowdsourcing: Kagai! Design Assistance.

school-uniforms_00410775So Kagai! (which is my game of gory, Japanese B-Movie, ero-guro action) is just about done – it’s only a mini game – but I’d like to solicit some help.

I need to know what people would like to know about the setting and the game elements, if they were going to play or run it. What guidelines and assistance they would like to have. Here’s some basic info on the game, tell me the kinds of things you’d like/need to know so I can wrap this puppy up!

Elevator Pitch

The world has been invaded by monsters straight out of people’s nightmares and most of the world population is dead, or at war. One place is a little bit safer, a hyper-consumerist, high-tech Japanese arcology. Most of the remaining population is women and you’re a class of schoolgirls from the arcology who do a bit of vigilante monster hunting on the side, in a game styled after the hyper-kinetic, b-movie gorefests of Japanese B-list cinema. The system emphasises team tactics and differs from many games in that you roll first and then describe what you do from what you’ve rolled, rather than vice versa. You can also save dice for following turns, or push them into a pool for everyone to use.

Example Character

smoopIma Hasegawa – Age 18
Factory worker family.
Mother was killed by monsters, Father died in the war. Twin sister, Imako. Younger sister Ami – 16
She fights for kicks, getting a perverse excitement from it.
She fights with a baseball bat, Power +2, Accuracy -1.
Punk style.

Power: 3
Agility: 3
Coordination: 3
Fitness: 3
Social: 2
Beauty: 3
Awareness: 3
Smarts: 3
Health: OOOOOO
Defence: 2
Initiative: 6
Genki: OOOOO

Design & Technology: 1
English Language: 1
Geography: 1
Gym: 3
History: 1
Japanese Language: 1
Mathematics: 1
Science: 1
Social Studies: 1

Art: 0
Computing: 1
Home Economics: 3
Music: 4
Religious Studies: 0
Extracurricular Activities
Baseball: 4
Jiu-Jitsu: 2

Hand to hand attack: 5D, Power 3D.
Baseball bat attack: 6D, Power 5D.

tumblr_mrdlofu9sl1s4p4pro1_500Example Combat (Minion)

Ima is exploring a blood-stained contraception clinic in the lower levels when a pantsless zombie falls out of a cupboard and lurches at her, groaning ‘Booooobs…’

Ima only manages to roll one success for initiative, while the pantsless zombie she’s fighting manages to get 2.

It lunges forward, but it’s not pantsless exactly, they’re around its ankles, so with zero successes it fails to grab hold of her.

Backing away, Ima swings her bat and gets one success. That’s enough to hit a zombie (defence 1) but leaves her no extra dice. Rolling damage she gets two successes and decides to do that as damage, to make it easier to kill later on, if need be. It’s not a special hit, just a Health hit, a solid smash in the chest, fracturing a couple of ribs.

This time the zombie grabs hold of her, practically tripping over its own pants and tumbling into her, all stinking hands and foul, drooling mouth. The zombie barely hit and did one damage – rolling a 5. Rather than do any damage though, the Games Master pulls the zombie’s dice, saving it for another action.

Ima tries to get it off her, struggling using her jiu-jitsu. Neither her, nor the zombie, roll any successes but since she’s already grappled she remains grappled.

Pressing the attack the zombie gets two successes – enough to hit – and bites at her for 3D damage, getting one success. The Games Master decides to hold onto that two, giving the zombie two extra dice in his pool of pulled dice.

Ima strives to struggle free, getting one success – matched by the zombie. Spending Genki gets her an extra dice and a success. The zombie tries to use his own pool but fails to get any more successes and is thrown off, landing with a thump and immeditely scrabbling back at her but failing to get hold.

meh.ro9030Ima throws everything into her next attack and gets two successes, one more than she needed, which she throws into damage. With the bonus she rolls four successes for damage, but wants to get five so she can take out the zombie with a single stroke. Spending more Genki she fails – sadly – to get the success she needs and so banks the four successes with a pull action. The swing lashes out, over the head of the zombie, stalling it and giving her a great wind-up for her next attack.

Desperately the hunched over zombie makes a grab for her legs, but only gets one success – where it needed two. Its hands slip of her legs.

Ima swings down, dumping her previously banked dice into the attack. She gets four successes and banks three of them for damage after the one to hit. On the damage roll she finally gets five successes! Enough to damage the zombie’s smarts (1) and crush its skull.

“My bat strikes the top of the zombies head and smashes its skull open like a rotten gourd. Brains splash in all directions, staining my legs. A fragment of brain hits my cheek. I lick it up with my tongue and spit it out onto the zombie’s corpse.”

“Gross, regain one Genki.”

rape_zombie_ps201Sword-Fodder and Big Bads

Zombies aren’t the real point of the game, ‘big bads’ are. Tough and very dangerous monsters that require luck and friends to destroy. Being able to push dice means that characters can work together, help each other out and be good at things – like causing distractions – that aren’t directly combat, but which help everyone else.


So what would you want to know about the setting, the rules, the background? What tools would you like to help you run games? A random monster generator? Some example monsters? How in depth would the background need to be? What could I do to make it cool and to sell you on the idea?

Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service (Film)

poster_3118786cTL;DR – This is a brilliant spy movie pastiche of the old school (pre-Dalton). It is a delightful mix of nods to various spy films – most especially Bond – but also a nod to the gentleman spy genre on a meta-level. I’ll try not to spoiler things too much, but if you’re a fan of the surreality, gadgets and sense of fun of the old Bonds (or Our Man Flint) this is a film you have to see. At the same time its a film with more depth and nuance than a lot of older films, with commentary to make about class, moral grey areas, Malthusianism. It’s also presented in a much more modern style, with some of the viciousness and dirty humour of Kick Ass, as well as a modern sensibility to the fight scenes. All the better.


Did you grow up liking spy films? Bond’s the obvious choice, but there were plenty of others. Still, Bond looms large over the whole espionage genre and the Napoleon Solos, Flints and later examples don’t hold a candle to him.

I loved Bond. Maybe it was the gadgets, maybe it was the cars, maybe it was his way with the ladies (maybe it was just the way they’d swoon and say ‘Oh James’, the name we share. One must also consider the fact that he was British, in a sea of American heroes. Whatever it was, I was hooked. Connery, of course, was the best Bond but the films I loved the best were, perhaps, two of the most camp ones. You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me.

Kingsman-Hollywood-film-6-14I even liked Moonraker.

The new Bond is definitely an improvement on the – sadly poorly done – later Brosnan Bonds, but while the deadliness and sociopathy harks back to Connery’s early stint the cheekiness and sheer, hell-for-leather enjoyment has been missing.

These things move in cycles and perhaps Kingsman represents a push back to the more joyful, over-the-top enjoyment that has been missing.

The Story

I don’t want to give too much away as this is an early review (the film was only released today). However, I think a certain amount of synopsis should be alright.

The film revolves around the relationship between ‘Eggsy’, a young lad growing up on a grim London council estate and Harry Hart, a member of the Kingsmen. Eggsy’s father was a prospect to join the Kingsman organisation who was killed saving Hart on his graduation mission.

Wracked with guilt over what happened, Hart presents his widow – and young son (Eggsy) with a medal and the promise of a favour in the future.

Things don’t go well with Eggsy and his mum, they end up beholden to an estate thug and Eggsy grows up poor and borderline delinquent, washing out of the Marines and generally having no prospects until things go badly enough that he calls in the favour his family is owed and ends up being taken into The Kingsmen – who recently lost another member.

The film takes on three strands. Eggsy’s training and competition to become a Kingsman, the plans of the supervillain (played by Samuel L Jackson) and the efforts of the Kingsmen to uncover that scheme – largely headed up by Hart.

This results in an inevitable climax at the villain’s secret lair, but without much consideration for a sequel, the film is freely able to ‘go large’ and Eggsy is able to earn his stripes, and a fine prize to boot.

kingsman-bladesThe Presentation

This is a slick film, presented in a refreshingly clear style that allows you to see and appreciate what is going on. The story is fairly simple, playing to existing tropes and ideas and it does’t spend needless time explaining them. This may seem shallow and predictable – and many of the story beats are predictable – but something doesn’t need to be that sophisticated in order to be fun.

The film also has fun undermining and playing around with the tropes and uses the common language of the genre to convey a slightly more subversive twist. Where Bond is establishment, Eggsy is ‘common’, though his chief critics for his low status all get satisfying comeuppances.

The villain’s mission isn’t, actually, evil. [SPOILER] Concerned by global warming, his idea is one that has been proposed before in relation to overpopulation and famine – cutting down the human population. While he is, no doubt, a pretty evil man all told, it’s hard to argue with the logic.

Some of the class issues are a nod to the fact that despite his status as gentleman spy, Bond was often played by lower class people. Connery came from a very poor background, Lazenby too. Moore had something of a more privileged background, at least in terms of education, but despite playing many gentlemanly roles, he was from a middle class background at best. Dalton was the only one really to have a relatively privileged upbringing so making the ‘playing at gentleman’ more explicit is a nod and a wink to the Bond films on a more… meta level.

The fight scenes are fantastic, brutal and balletic. Pub, church, base. All wonderful and Colin Firth as an action star is a surprise and a delight unparalleled since Liam Neeson started growling into telephones. I hope he does more.

Also, blades are cool. Despite Oscar Pistorious.

The Score
Style: 5 (While it misses a few beats here and there and the final conflict runs out of steam it’s not enough to dock a point).
Substance: 3 (You don’t need to know much, but I’m a stickler for backstory and the hints here and there weren’t enough).
Overall: 4 (Go out and see this film immediately.

Now I need to buy a suit…


#Gor – The Elaine O’Hara Murder

B5XSn1iCYAEk_d_Tragically, in what is going to be a sensationalist story for the press, Elaine O’Hara, a vulnerable woman with mental health issues was killed in Ireland in 2012. With the trial under way details are now emerging and amongst those details it has become clear that she was involved in the Gorean lifestyle and such salacious detail is bound to grab media attention and draw a sneering eye to the BDSM community in general and Gorean lifestylers and roleplayers in particular.

I have it on good authority that this woman was known to be vulnerable and the actual BDSM community had been acting responsibly in relation to her. Unfortunately that appears to be part of the reason she ended up in trouble, looking beyond the community to be fulfilled and falling afoul of someone unhinged.

This is, of course, nothing to do with the Gorean or BDSM communities, there are psychos everywhere and they’re no more likely to turn up in relation to kink than anything else. Indeed some studies suggest that kinksters are more stable psychologically than those who are not.

Needless to say, I take the side of the Gorean and kink communities in the face of another shitstorm.

Mental health issues are also hugely important to me and it’s clear that this poor woman wasn’t getting all the help she needed. I would take this opportunity to appeal to everyone to support mental health provision and the extension of nationalised healthcare, in every country, to provide more mental healthcare.

My thoughts are with Ms O’Hara’s family at this difficult time and I hope people will not fixate too much on salacious detail or use this trial to attack kinksters.


Review: HuniePop

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:09:48

(Disclosure: I got a copy in order to support the producers and show willing against fuss, censorship and wild and crazy missing-the-point that was going on. I am absolutely biased in favour of supporting adult material being available and against prudery).

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:10:36

Ladies, ladies, one at a time!

The Game

HuniePop (Hunie to rhyme with Honey) is a strange hybrid of a game, part ‘Dating Simulator’ and part ‘Puzzle Game’. It combines a cast of characters that you are trying to seduce by giving them gifts, learning about them and taking them on dates with a match-three game in the style of Bejewelled. Its a peculiar sort of mix and given that there are plenty of free, pirated or dubbed dating sims and erotic games out there (courtesy of Japan and teams of dedicated western perverts) why would you buy one?


In one of a great many knowing winks to the audience and the stereotypes of the genre, HuniePop starts you out as a hopeless loser with all the sexual charisma of a dugong in a blue rave wig. You have the lucky stroke of haphazardly hitting on what turns out to be a Love Fairy from the magical land of Sky Garden and she sets out to straighten you up and unleash your inner stud.

This consists of teaching you how to tell women what they want to hear, to give them gifts, to remember details about them when they ‘test’ you, and to play the match-three game as an abstract representation of your conduct and capability on dates. Play the games well, say the right things and you’ll impress them. Eventually you’ll impress them enough to get them into bed and with persistence and skill you can bed every character in the game and unlock new characters to seduce in turn.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:13:00

All your panties are belong to me.

The game does lack an ‘ending’. Some of these sorts of games have you choosing a particular girl at the end to settle down with and to end your ‘playa’ days. That might have been a good cap to the game story, even though story in these games is most often just a veneer to supply a reason for sexyfuntimes, and that’s fine. When you’re paying for a game like this you might want a little more.


Talking to the girls is mostly a matter of figuring out their stereotype and understanding what answer is best to give them. The game has taken a bit of flak for its stereotyping, especially when it is playing up to national stereotypes, but it is done with a nod and a wink and in terms of gameplay it gives the player a decent ‘in’ into figuring out what to say to them.

Gifts cost money and you get money for completing dates. You can also up your skill in things like ‘sexuality’ or ‘romance’ by earning points in conversation with the girls and giving them gifts. The more gifts you can give, the more points you can get to make your skill better and that, in turn, makes the match-three game easier to complete.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:13:55

Beli is my waifu.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:15:28

Outfit and hair customisation is a nice touch.

You’ll also get gifts in return, special items that you can use during the match-three game for special effects like extra turns, removing bobbles of different types (they’re thematic and different characters are more impressed by different types) and so forth.

You can also buy food and drink which lets you talk to your date longer or get her tipsy, which lets you be more charming and earn more points. After you’ve finished talking you can invite the girl onto a date and once you’ve succeeded on a date four or five times you can angle for a night date, which if you succeed on lets you take the girl to bed.

In the bedroom you play a different version of the match-three game where it’s really all about speed. You get a bar that constantly decreases and you’re trying to match bobbles as fast as you can to push the bar all the way up to the top – at which point you’re rewarded with the ‘pay off’. A bare booby shot in the censored version, a money-shot in the uncensored version. There’s no fail-state on this game and that makes it more frustrating than rewarding, a separate mini-game with a fail-state might have made this part more interesting and given the game greater longevity.

Gifts and dating success also unlock other, more innocent, images which the girls text to you – a nod to modern dating – as well as unlocking customisation options for the girls – hairstyle and clothing.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:16:27

The dating screen.



The art is done in an anime-ish style, part of the weird circle of influence from the US to Japan and back. It’s pretty good and well executed. The girls have a distinctive look and the voice acting is a nice touch, making the game more charming and fun (even when you’re being sworn at by the megabitch) than its free alternatives.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:21:10

The sexy fun-times screen.


The writing isn’t fantastic, but you do get a sense of the personalities of the different girls. Much of the reason for the writing issues, such as they are, is as a result of playing up to the expectations of the genre. What girl would really be impressed at you asking her bust size, let alone remembering it? (Unless you were buying her lingerie as a gift).

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:23:19

Beats the hell out of unsolicited dick pics.


The game’s well done, it runs on linux as well as PC and Mac, which is nice. The lock-out of the adult content on Steam is annoying, but fairly easily fixed. It’s just a pointless, needless, roundabout way of doing things and you really might as well just have the full-on adult version available on the platform.

There’s barely any animation, something that would have been nice to see and would have helped the characterisation some more.

All in all you don’t need great presentation for these kinds of games, but by the standards of these games this is very nicely done.

Please note that typical magazine/site scores are biased upwards. On my scale 3 is truly average – and that’s not to say anything bad. A 3 is a perfectly worthwhile and fun game, it’s just not outstanding.
4 (Nicely presented, fun, charming characterisation).
3 (There could easily have been more depth, more options in conversation and some more spins on the game. A decent end to the storyline and a bit more writing and ambition could have improved this massively).
3.5 (Worth buying in order to stick-it-to-the-man and to see if the studio can do even better).


There’s the review. Here’s the opinion:

Dating Sims Vs Bioware

The dating sim is a weird subgenre of games and one I’d likely not have heard of if it hadn’t been for being an early-adopter on the anime front back in the 80s and 90s or my fascination with sexuality in media and games. HuniePop definitely plays up to the expectations of the genre and they’re not particularly flattering to men or women (lie and buy your way into people’s pants and be shallow enough to be fooled by that, respectively).

Dating sims, especially the erotic ones, get a lot of flak. Partially because any and all pornography and erotica does but also because of the reasons I gave above. There’s an element of taking it too seriously when you’re talking about a wank-game, but there’s also an element of truth. I give HuniePop props for understanding the ridiculousness of the genre and making fun of itself (one of the characters even calls you racist – with a laugh – for giving stereotyped gifts) but the next step is probably to go beyond parody and to try and improve the genre.

People who criticise games like HuniePop as being shallow, but praise Bioware’s games such as Mass Effect or Dragon Age for their romantic and sexual components are, frankly, being hypocrites. To bed a Bioware hottie you do exactly the same things that you do in HuniePop. You tell them what they want to hear and you give them gifts (sometimes in the form of quests). Indeed, you could see Dragon Age Inquisition is simply being a really, really over-bloated dating sim.

The success of both Bioware and HuniePop dating sims definitely shows there’s an audience for romantic and sexual material, beyond the bounds of the ring-fenced niche of the porno-game.

Steam & Censorship

Steam – in the form of Dread Lord Gaben himself no less – recently stepped in to reverse a decision to censor the game Hatred. A rather graphic game of mass murder. This was the right decision, absolutely to make. However, in order to unlock HuniePop’s truly adult version you have to dick around with adding a small file to your install to remove the restrictions.

This is pointless.

This is especially pointless when there’s a thread on the Steam forum itself, with Steam’s blessing, telling everyone how to get around it.

What may be going on here may be a problem relating to payment processing, advertisers and some of the other companies selling via steam. Some of these services are weirdly touchy about adult material, don’t want to be associated with it or use the shaming that adult material encounters as an excuse to add surcharges.

HuniePop’s fix to this issue might be a pointless and needless workaround, but it also might be a way for Steam itself to hold up the middle finger to censors. There’s no real way of knowing, but it’s a frustrating situation. Adult material should have access to the same markets and points of sale as anyone else.

Ambitions for Adult Games

The idea of treating adult material in a mature and integrated manner is one I’m somewhat obsessive over. HuniePop and others make me want to work on adult material more and make me want to move forward on erotica versions of Choose Your Own Adventure books. The form needs to be more ambitious though, to go beyond eye-candy to engage the mind in the way that the best written erotica, a very few films and experiments with erotic ASMR have been going. Equally, it would be nice to see the big development studios truly commit to the half-hearted efforts in Bioware games or The Witcher.

The rise of the indie is an opportunity to do it right and to aim a little bit higher.

#RPG Artist Scholarship – 5 Days Left!


This could be you.

The Darkzel Scholarship ends in five days.

I’d like to raise a little more money.

I’d like to see young artists entering their work for consideration.

I’d Like to Donate#
Go HERE and do so, or you can donate via the paypal link on this page, to the right.

Alternatively, if you have no money, you can donate art as stoc art,which will be sold to raise funds each year to go into the pot for the scholarship.

Otherwise you can PLEASE help by passing on word about the scholarship.

Donations will be accepted for the next five days, art can be donated at any time.

I’d like to Enter

If you’re an art student at high school, college or university with an interest in science fiction, fantasy, horror or other genre fiction you can enter by sending a high quality (300 dpi) image of the work you’re submitting to grim@postmort.demon.co.uk

Entries are open until the end of February. You stand to get somewhere over $500 and your work will potentially see a lot of use in RPG products and be seen by a lot of people who might want to employ you in the future.

Review: A Red & Pleasant Land by Zak S.

Reviewing Zak’s work – when he strays into RPG territory – is difficult. Zak has an outsider’s perspective and so he does things in unconventional ways. He’s also primarily an artist, which brings a different perspective to game design.

Vornheim was tricky to review, but less so than Red & Pleasant Land.

Ostensibly its a setting book, a world for your Old School gaming. That’s not really a helpful thing to call it though, as it doesn’t convey what the book is. It’s a hodge-podge of nonsense and weirdness, tables, rules, asides, sketches, art, peculiar maps and so forth loosely connected by a theme that is a mash up of Alice in Wonderland, Balkan mythology and D&D.

This isn’t really D&D though. It’s ‘Old School’, which harks back to a simplistic, nostalgic, half-
remembered version of the basic game that a lot of people started with back in the 80s. It’s like you and a bunch of friends got together with no plan, sank a few too many shots and someone suggested ‘Hey, let’s play D&D!’ and then through the drunken haze you cobble together something vaguely like it from memory and have a blast.

1Until you realise someone spiked the shots with acid.

This isn’t really a setting book either, it’s more like a grab-bag, a lucky dip. It’s kind-of organised, it has a contents with page references organised – vaguely – along various lines. It’s full of tables of weirdness, motivations, searching bodies and pecularities which are great for inspiration but if you’re not that sort of ‘wing it’ Games Master they’re going to leave you floundering. The only product I’ve seen with even greater love of randomness is McKinney’s Carcosa.

There’s always tensions in the design of an RPG book and each one generally operates to the detriment of the other.

Do you want to write it to convey rules information effectively? Setting information? Do you want the reading experience to reflect that setting? Do you want to make it easy to spot things and look them up? Are practical and financial considerations the primary factor? How important is the art?

RaPL definitely conveys the setting. Reading through it is a borderline-hallucinatory experience due to its randomness and grab-bag design. This doesn’t necessarily make it easy to use during play.

The physical book has a built-in page marker, but as anyone who plays RPGs knows, a single ribbon is never going to be enough to place-mark everything you need to mark and they don’t – as far as I know – make the cat-o’-nine-tails, rainbow page ribbons an RPG book would need at a bare minimum to be useful.

2So usability suffers a bit, the D&D styling is minimal and will only be vaguely familiar to newer gamers, but is sort of the ‘machine-code’ base level operating system for all RPGs so with a little work they should be able to get it to purr along smoothly – it’s just that extra work that may not appeal to gamers pressed for prep-time (I’d probably convert to old-school Storyteller, D6 or FATE if I ran it).

RaPL shines – particularly – in its monsters. Some of which are familiar from Alice’s adventures or vampiric mythology, some of which will be unfamiliar and new but which owe some inspiration to Burton, Gaiman, Mieville and other puveyors of weirdness, it’s just a lot more bloody and direct.

So how can I sum up?

Conveys the setting via its design and presentation.
Cool monsters.
Inspirational tables.
Physically lovely object.
Novelty! Difference! Experiment! – Far more so than many Indie-darlings.

Feels like reading a Burroughsian cut-up.
Bewilderingly trippy.
GM-work heavy.
Novelty! Difference! Experiment! – Not all of it works and the traditionally minded will be lost.

Final Score
4 (It’s a divisive style, it appeals to me greatly but I understand that it will be offputting to others).
Substance: 4 (There’s a lot in here, much of it is useful, but the organisation can make it hard to access).

I have illustrated this review with images from Jeff Noon’s Automated Alice, which added to the mix as inspiration would bring in some clock/steam/weirdpunk vibes.

#RPG In Game Griefers & How to Deal With Them

mark-39951_640There’s always one arsehole.

That guy.

The one who insists on his character going off and doing his own thing.

The one constantly distracting the GM with notes or wanting a private conversation.

The one so wedded to his character concept he won’t bend with the consensus of the group.

The one who always wants to be in the spotlight.

A lot of the time we go along with these people and games often suffer because of it. You don’t want to ban anyone from the table and the usual social contract between players of give and take – that normally evolves organically – isn’t working or isn’t established yet. What can you do if you don’t want to kick them from your group, upset them and disrupt the game?

In the past, one thing I’ve found useful to help groups focus is to ‘gameify’ disruptive behaviour so that it penalises the player engaging in that behaviour. They are still free to do all these things if they really want to, but it stacks up negatively on their character and gives them penalties, making it harder for them to do things.

I called these ‘Black Marks’ and I would award them for engaging in too much non-game banter/discussion, playing around with phones and laptops (other than for game related things), taking too many smoke breaks and arseholey things in game like needlessly splitting the party, fighting your fellow party members, thieving from them or hogging the limelight.

We used little black tokens to mark these negative points and 1-3 were awarded each offence. I would then cash them in during play to reduce a player’s damage, make them miss or – at the end of the game – to penalise their experience points.

Assuming a d20 basis, each point was equal to a -1 to a roll and these could really make a difference during play.

Not all groups will go for this, some will react poorly and it can lead to more argument over whether they deserved the black marks or not, but for many groups this may offer a solution to bad habits and disruptive players.

#RPG Fistful of Modern: 1 – RELEASED


From the author of the ‘100’ series of Adventure Seeds books, a new, shorter form source of inspiration for Games Masters. They might be adventures, non-player-characters, monsters, places… all ready to be dropped into your campaign, regardless of system.

In this booklet:

Drive, He Said: A pair of ‘fast and furious’, car-oriented gangsters to drop into your modern or crime games.

Flirty Fishing: Sex sells and can even be used to sell religion. Cults know this and will use this most obvious human failing to their advantage.

Fat on Bread: The cops are just another gang to the people on the street, but who is really running the show amongst the bent cops?

Meth Hunters: The days of driving really fast in an old muscle car to escape the law are gone. So are the days of moonshine. These days its meth and guns – and rednecks know guns better’n Cooter knows engines.

Hero Cop: Hero, vigilante, gun-wielding psychopath, all three? The hero cop can be an ally or an enemy – or both.