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Unbridled Blade: Session 1.5 [Jul. 11th, 2014|08:11 am]

Session 1.5: The PCs assaulted the Tower that was Illythia's temple to retrieve Baram's soul mirror. On ascending the tower, they came across an alcove closed by a silver curtain. Achindra, the Jinn, became fascinated by it as it reminded him of being in his jar. Amadi recalled seeing the same curtain when the soulless gladiators attacked the followers of Ebynia. At the top of the tower awaited Arla, revealing herself to be Illythia's head priestess. She revealed that she had given Baram's soul mirror to Eshrigel the Medusa, who had created it in the first place. She also revealed that Eshrigel had brought the Eye of Set to the city. During this conversation, the Eye of Set was unleashed on the tower sending Illythia and her followers into a frenzy, forcing the PCs to flee for their lives. Achindra and Phaedra jumped through the silver curtain sensing it to be a portal of a kind. The other three followed the fleeing Arla to a series of hang gliders on the top of the tower. Bahadur landed in the middle of the Culling Festival, which seemed to have erupted into a city wide slaughter. Stelaro landed back at the inn the PCs were staying at. Amadi chased down, and jumped on to the top of, Arla's hang glider still aloft above the city.

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Kapcon 2015 Plans [Jun. 30th, 2014|09:05 am]
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Its still a little while away, but here are my plans for Kapcon 2015. Like last year these have kind of grown without much planning. Sam is again organising the Con and I will be organising Adventure Squad on the Sunday. So, the idea is for low key games, even if I look kind of busy.

Round 2 - Shadows of the Moon for Atlantis: I kind of wanted to do some straight forward fantasy RPGing this year, but D&D5e feels lacklustre for Con play and I don't want to go up against it directly with something like Dungeon World or Castles & Crusades. Atlantis has been the hit of my last 12 and I have wanted to run a Red Nails homage game for nigh on 10 years now. So, the stars aligned for Shadows of the Moon:

Round 4 - Handful of Dust for Urban Shadows: This will be during the LARP. The RPG has only just finished its KS, but the Archetypes and Move sheets are already in good enough shape to run. The World of Darkness/urban fantasy vibe is strong with this one and along with the Apocalypse World engine, it seems like a perfect fit for the tabletop round during the LARP. I hope to run this mostly 'off the cuff' from player contributions:

Rounds 5 and 6 - Adventure Squad: This year I am limiting my options to just Far Away Land and Golden Sky Stories, both of which have proved themselves excellent for your players:

That just leaves the outside possibility that I may want to run Ryuutama once it hits, though I suspect that it will need to wait until I have a scenario idea, which means its out for this year at least.

So, rounds 1, 3 and 7 are free :)
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Unbridled Blade: Session 1.4 [Jun. 27th, 2014|08:14 am]

Session 1.4: Amadi found himself in the Library of Zorlacc to collect on his reward for helping two Librarians escape the Winged Guard. He met Zorlacc himself in a room where snakes themselves were used as books. Zorlacc recognised Amadi as the King of Dar in exile and repaid the debt by informing him that there were two armies in the city he could recruit - the restless gladiators and an Ophidean horde amassing outside of the city, who wanted to retrieve the Eye of Set. That night Achindra dreamt of the ghost of a Jinn called Tsanda, who warned him that Jinn were being hunted. In the morning, the PCs decided to prepare for a night time assault on the Tower of Birds, being the likely location of Baram's soul mirror. The city was abuzz with the gladiatorial celebration called the Culling Festival. Achindra visited the Library of Zorlacc, where he received a vision of the Eye of Set through a strange black oblong stone embedded in the floor. Tali warned Amadi that the Grey Council were looking for him, though their connection to Stelaro's nemesis, the Great Darkness, remained unclear.

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The Wonderful World of Kickstarter [Jun. 26th, 2014|09:24 am]
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Kickstarter has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride in its first few years of its operation. But I think it is finally hitting its stride.

Initially, it was a bit lacklustre and risky. A few of the projects from those early days are finally beginning to fall over (Quantum) or become so painful that they should fall over to be put out of their misery (Far West). Then there were the boom years where projects were both amazing (Tenra Bansho Zero) and overreaching (Myth and Magic). Now they seem to have calmed down a lot more with a greater proportion of moderate yet still successful projects (Urban Shadows). Some companies have also built KS into their ongoing release cycle with success, bith large (Onyx Path) and small (Khepera).

I have been finding myself becoming more KS savvy too, and I have had three recent incidents where I used the greater interactive nature of KS to get even more from my RPG hobby:

1. Joirel for Far Away Land: Though I did not pledge at the top level, the KS creator considered my contributions on the forums and support generally should be rewarded by being to create an NPC for the RPG. I created Joirel, an NPC based loosely on the archetype of "heroines lost in another world" like seen in Narnia, Twelve Kingdoms and Rayearth. My primary aim was to try and capture my daughters' interest. However, it also brought to the creator's attention the need for greater female representation in the NPCs for FAL, making it a much cooler game in the process.

2. Nihodggr for Atlantis: Atlantis has been a big RPG for me and, as a way to say thanks, I had been preparing to pledge at the top levels in the final KS for the line, being the bestiary Theragraphica. I also wanted to add in my big bad for my Thursday night campaign into Atlantis canon. The amount of art for the book meant it was up against it to just get funded (made even harder as this was the second supplement). There was also very serious doubt about it hitting the same full colour hardcover as the previous two books. Fortunately, my pledge got it over that line, much to my pleasure. Also, my big bad will now be gracing the back cover of that book :) This could be the highlight of my entire RPG hobby career and something I will forever be proud of.

3. The Vessel for Urban Shadows: This KS has been a bit of a gamble for me. Based on my Dungeon World experiences and what I have seen in preview, this could be a good solution for all of the World of Darkness woes that have plagued my last 15 years. As soon as I pledged, I proposed an archetype covering beings where a life force was imbued into something else, like Frankenstein, Golems, Homunculi, and even "Pet Cemetery" like possessed animals. I also commented that the "Wild" Faction could do with a 4th archetype to match the "Power" and "Night" Factions. I even argued for the name "the Vessel" over something like "the Created" in order to broaden the concept. I was surprised to see the archetype, name and all, becoming a stretch goal that is shortly to be reached. Having made a stamp on the RPG, I am even more hopeful it will prove a success for me.
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[Atlantis: The Second Age] Theragraphica Kickstarter in need of support [Jun. 17th, 2014|08:44 am]

Cross posted across the universe, but Atlantis the Second Age's 3rd and final KS is in its final week and though it looks set to hit its funding goal, it could really use more support to reach the $10k level to make it a full colour hardcover book like the previous 2 books.

UPDATE: It got funded and made in excess of $10,000! So, it will be a full colour hardcover. Plus I get to add in my campaign's very own big bad into the book in a big way.
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A Nameless Legacy - Thursday Gaming Group's 5th Annual [Jun. 14th, 2014|07:03 pm]
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I think I have come up with a idea to celebrate my Thurday night group's 5th anniversary. I kind of wanted to run a one-off story like you would get in an Annual for a 70s and 80s comic series. It will be a complete story that will be a continuation of the ongoing story, yet the ongoing story can be followed independent of it.

The key that unlocked this idea was R E Howard's story Frost Giant's Daughter, where Conan has a weird magical adventure that could be explained by a bang on his head.

The scenario also serves the purpose of reintroducing James' PC, who will be absent from now until then, and also help explain some of the setup I had for story two which is set a few months after story one ends.

The crazy thing is that the scenario involves a cross over with two of the previous three campaigns, all of which are for Exalted. It will feature as NPCs at least one former PC for each player. The central situation is an interesting contrasting parallel in those two previous games and the current Atlantis one. I am fortunate to have a big bad who can make some as crazy as this happen.

The result is something different, furthers the ongoing story, poignant, yet it's utterly silly (Batman vs Judge Dredd crossover silly) and simply revels in that. I just need to make sure story one lasts another 5 sessions.
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Blasting past the 8 year mark... [Jun. 13th, 2014|11:45 am]
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In terms of other milestones, I have just noticed that 26 August 2014 is the 5th year anniversary of my Thursday RPG group. I will need to arrange some form of celebratory session on the 21 August, being the closest session (and our 83rd).
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The Road Goes On – The Grand Experiment Part 3 [Jun. 13th, 2014|08:05 am]
So, only after 3 months (though Burning Empire technically went on for another 3 months), the LJ had gone from conception to roughly what it is now – an open diary of my RPG thoughts and experimentation. Two failed experiments only seemed to fuel an early momentum that, in retrospect, seemed almost feverish. Posts like this one:, seem like they are either genius or silly and clearly make little sense.

And this momentum wasn’t confined to me. In those heady days Mash was just as prolific and we saw the birth of Gametime in October 2006:

In November 2006, 5 months after starting the LJ, came my first successful experiment: This was a Game of Thrones game where I took all the things I had learned from that intense 5 months of failure back to a traditional RPG game that I was familiar with. The result was a big success and it is a game that I consider the birth of my modern approach to gaming. I made comments on the experience here: I still use the tools that I adopted for that game in my recent campaigns for Atlantis and Double Cross.


Actually, it wasn’t the end but there was an 18 month break on my LJ. I didn’t even recall this massive break until recently looking over my old posts. 2007 was the year when my first child was born, so the break makes sense. However, I didn’t stop gaming over that time and I stopped posting about 7 months before her arrival, so I think there is more to it than that. I think it marks clearly the end of the LJ’s beginning and my return was from an understanding that the experiment was not yet done.

On 3 November 2008, I recast the purpose of the Grand Experiment with new focus here: Since then the experiment continued to evolve over time, but the course has remained true since that time, perhaps even earlier.

From 2008 to 2013, I continued experimenting. A lot of my RPGing became about just having fun. I ran prewritten campaigns and confined my creative endeavours to convention scenarios (a honing of a skill that is a separate story). So much so that I have seen someone comment that this LJ kind of devolved into just a diary of my RPG life rather than the experiment it started out as in 2006. However, I continued to teach myself a library of different skills as a GM that allowed me to incorporate increasing levels of player contribution. I learned how to use mechanics to let PC actions dictate the result of events, to prep in an open and flexible manner, to use meta-game mechanics to their best effect, and to listen to the players. Also, and invaluably, I played as a player and was able to work out some of this from the other side of the table.

By 2014, I had not returned to the kind of long term campaign of my own creation that had started this whole experiment (Exalted in particular). I had dabbled around the idea but I was not able to do so. I stated this as the “final test” in that November 2008 post with the line:

“However, there remains the final test yet to come and this will likely arise once the family pressure of young babies has eased. That test is to run a successful long term character focused campaign.”

As I entered 2014, with my two daughters now at school, I found that the time for this final test had finally arrived. With it, the Grand Experiment comes to an end TM. I took one step with Double Cross ( and before I leapt into Atlantis: the Second Age ( And so far (early days and all), it is been going great. Atlantis feels like Exalted “10 years on” to me, the two being the books ends to this whole experience. I am fortunate that I was aware of Atlantis in the grand scheme of all this development before getting into it as I think it is really helped me go in with a clear focus as seen here:

It is funny now, looking back over the early posts of this LJ. Here: and here:, I can see myself reaching conclusions that are a fundamental part of how I roleplay today. Sometimes it is eerie, like when you compare this post from 2008: with the meta-game mechanics in Atlantis I discuss here in 2014:

So, my Grand Experiment seems to be producing grand results (and after only 8 years of effort! :) ). To be honest, I don’t begrudge the time as it was a lot of fun. Now I am watching Atlantis to see if there is an new Grander Experiment awaiting me. But until I find one, I plan to enjoy reaping what I have sown.

So, that's post 1,000 and my 8th LJ anniversary.

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New Horizons - Grand Experiment Part 2 [Jun. 12th, 2014|08:19 am]
So, this LJ didn't come to an end when the initial experiment came to a premature end after only 2 months. As can be seen by the last post on the initial experiment (, I was already beginning to explore Burning Empires.

I can't recall the conscious connection I made between the With Great Power/M&M improving genre play and Burning Empires shared narration, but I obviously a connection was made. It was obvious from those early posts that increasing player authority and contributions was bubbling to the fore as one of the main reasons for the experiment, and shared narration must have seemed like a logical next step.

Looking backing at those posts and my use of terms like "shared narration" are a little cringe-worthy. There was a lot of looking for terminology to describe what I was trying to do and falling into a lot of other people's theories as a way to provide some weight and clarity on the matter. Because of this, my best posts were those that I gave all that up, no matter how dumb I thought I sounded, and stated some pretty obvious base principles (often incorrectly :)):

Overall, I can see that this is the start of the period where I really started to deconstruct my ideas of what an RPG was. As a GM, what should I do and what can I do? As a player, what should I do and what can I do? Who is responsible for what? It was all pretty new stuff for me and I seemed happy to swim far from the shores of what I was familiar with. This was fuelled by the fact that regular gaming as I knew it had become impossible to pursue. However, even early on, you can literally see me trying to place all this new information into the RPG world I know:

Predictably, what followed proved to be another abortive experiment with Burning Empires which lasted only two sessions: Like WGP + M&M, Burning Empires was beyond my skill and experience at the time, and I have subsequently come to realise that its an RPG that is just not for me in any shape and form. But it had done the job of expanding the LJ beyond the initial experiment and set me on the (painful yet much needed) path of deconstruction that followed.
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Humble Beginning - The Grand Experiment Part 1 [Jun. 11th, 2014|09:57 am]
I am 3 posts away from 1,000th LJ post and, as luck would have it, I am 2 days away from its 8th anniversary. So, I thought I would do a series of three posts over the next three days that went back and looked at the LJ's humble beginnings.

This LJ was started in 13 June 2006 with this post: I think LJ was already on the decline by the time I made that post, but it had a relatively vibrant RPG crowd at the time.

The purpose of this LJ was very simple to start with. I thought I was looking for a way to reinforce genre in a traditional RPG experience. I was a fan of genre heavy RPGs but often felt that the players were not on the same page as me and the genre. I have subsequently come to realise that what I was trying to do was to just improve and increase player contributions generally so as to improve and increase on everyone's fun and engagement during play.

The experiment itself was specific in using an RPG called With Great Power as a prelude to a Mutants & Masterminds game. I think the idea was kind of flawed to begin with as both RPGs are difficult, my experience in indie RPGs was limited and it coincided with a time of life, where regular gaming was becoming more difficult; first through our move up the coast and second with the advent of children.

The specific experiment came to an end on 21 August, just over 2 months from its inception. I posted about it here: This also coincided with the end of my regular Thursday gaming group at the time that had been together since I had left University in 1999. As such, I think the start of this LJ was also very much the transition of a new era of gaming for me. With a number of successful traditional RPG campaigns under my belt in 2004 and 2005, culminating in Tribe 8 and Exalted, I felt I had got as good a GM as I could with what my knowledge and experience to that point had allowed for. To avoid stagnation, I decided to experiment and try new things to see if I could improve on issues that had always dogged me.
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