The last time I was interviewed, it was for a corporate video and I was cut out for “being too boring”. My latest is with Kalum from The Rolistes Podcast. I feature in the first part of his UK Games Expo episode. We coincidently met each other at the gaming table for the first session of my UK Games Expo experience. In the interview, I explained that I treated the convention as a field trip to learn more about game developments that occurred during my ‘deep freeze’ during the 90s and 00s, so what did I learn?
If you want gonzo – then manga is a perfect setting
The first game on the slate was THE CODE OF SHOJO AND SHONEN, An Anime Role-Playing Adventure Game. A rules-light system that recreates the stories familiar from Japanese entertainment. It was GMed by the game’s creator Simon Burley, better known to us GROGNARDs as the designer of GOLDEN HEROES.
The scenario involved the group travelling to Kong Island and various randomly generated plot points provided motivations for the journey, such as, “following the course of a previous wreck”, “in search of a missing sibling” or in the case of Kalum’s character, a chance to rebrand his Korean pop star ‘Bum” for a global audience. Not quite Fay Wray.
Character creation was simply done, around the table, based on three abilities: SHOJO – the feminine aspect, SHONJEN the masculine aspect and SENSEI the non-conflict description of the character’s role in society. My character was Belemy Fudge a botanist with superior strength who was a scientist in search of a cosmic truth. “Aren’t we all?” suggested Simon.
The narrative structure is familiar from Power Rangers where human characters escalate to super heroes, then to super heroes in giant mecha, then to super heroes in giant mecha joined together to form a really, really giant mecha. The multiplication mechanic works quite well as the characters progress through the story, but we found the hooks, quirks and plot lines a bit awkward and contrived at times. The result ended up being fun, but a bit barmy.
By the end of the session, I’d discovered my long-lost brother riding on the back of a giant spider, I’d turned purple, developed a ‘force push’ and climbed up a volcano in a giant orangutang suit and renamed Henshin FUDGE CRUSH!
HeroQuest is has great potential
I wanted to try and unlock the ‘fun’ from HeroQuest, a game that I’ve read and never understood. According to Ian Cooper, the GM, it’s a game that is better played rather than explained, which is fitting given its roots in oral story telling. During the course of the game I began to understand the concepts of contests, extended contests and setting out the stakes, more clearly.
The adventure was based in the Glorantha setting that Ian created in his home game and has been published in the Coming Storm supplement. We were members of the Red Cow tribe who were requested to accompany seven Mostali as they sought mines in Telamori lands. The characteristics of the dwarves were distinct from those familiar from Tolkien as they represented the extreme rational weirdness of a race that perceives the world differently to surface dwelling humans.
I played a rattle-born Orlanthi. The rattle-born are so called because they are infants in the cradle who have accelerated growth when the clan is in need of warriors. A magical rattle creates a fighter who is physically developed as an adult, but emotionally intellectually immature. Not sure why I gravitated towards that character.
Playing the character gave a licence to make irresponsible decisions such as throwing snowballs (thus introducing the alien concept of “fun” to the Mostali patrons) creating magical snowshoes for the dinosaur beasts-of-burden and eventually stabbing myself repeatedly with an iron spearhead when attacked by a ethereal wraith-like being. “Not everything needs to be slapstick,” suggested Jon Hancock, who was also playing.
Ian Cooper, the line editor of HeroQuest for Chaosium, is a fantastic Games Master. If you get the opportunity to play with him, I recommend it unreservedly as he is great at scene-setting, establishing the characteristics of NPCs and balancing game with story. I immediately felt inspired to have a go at GMing the game myself. The mechanic is very scalable and would make a perfect engine for Super Hero games.
There’s more to horror than Cthulhu
I realised that the only horror game I’ve ever played has been Cthulhu. Earlier in the year, I was the special guest NPC in an online one-shot of World of Darkness. I appeared at the climax as a crazed spectre.
The D10 dice pool mechanic caught my attention when we played online, so I wanted to see how it worked with the story elements around the table. A Whole New World was GMed by Amy Williams with a casual, controlled aplomb as she gently twisted the elements of the game to crank up the horror. The set up was creepy as it played on cinematic archetypes: we played teenagers about to head for college, we were about to party at a house by a lake. I was a plucky cheerleader with a pistol in my purse. A group of guys from the North East were playing and they really got into their characters and I rode along with their role-playing. It was a great, memorable session with a stunning climax.
I need to look into World of Darkness much more.
Mingling and tingling
The format says I need a final fumble: I didn’t really have much time for meeting and greeting, but I did bump into a number of listeners and say hello.
I spent a couple of fruitless hours wandering around the tradehall trying to locate people. Everyone looked the same. Each with the a faded expressionless glare into the middle distance as we tried desperately to work out why we were wandering around staring at things. Everyone looked like they were disappointed that they weren’t enjoying the consumer experience quite as much as we thought we would.
Wandering aimlessly did manage to yield a hardcopy of HeroQuest Glorantha, so it wasn’t that bad.
In case you had any doubt – I had a fantastic time.
I urge you to listen to Kalum’s back-list too. He’s warm, quietly persistent, funny and presents an eclectic mix of subjects in a vérité style. I think his interview with Ken Hite is the best of them all, as he manages to poke around in parts of his gaming past that don’t get aired very often. Recommended.