Wednesday 28 May 2014

Alexei Vassiliv

I think it’s about time to introduce you all a bit more closely to Alexei Vassiliv, the character played by my Husbit in our Pathfinder campaign. Some of this is stuff I’ve worked out out of character (ie, this includes stuff Svetlana doesn’t know) and is missing some details: as Husbit says “There are plenty of other things, but they are very private at the moment ;)

Alexei was a street urchin from the city of Restov in Brevoy (this is the nearest city to where Svetlana grew up). His twin brother, Ivan, was stillborn but his spirit grew up with Alexei nonetheless, giving Alexei certain access to the ethereal plane and magic from there.

To earn a living, Ivan would choose a house and haunt it. Alexei would then come in some time later to ‘exorcise’ the house, leaving with his brother and taking minimal recompense for this, just enough to live on for a while. This is, in fact, how he first met Svetlana – the pub in her home town had become haunted and he agreed to deal with this. Svetlana was dubious, but he brought with him the notice that led to Svetlana’s adventures in the Stolen Lands and he didn’t ask for much so she stayed quiet.

Really, I should have found the video for the music from 'The Frighteners', but 'Ghostbusters' is possibly Husbit's favourite film, so this works too.

Rasputin, 'The Mad Monk'
Alexei is mid-20’s. The legend of Rasputin has largely influenced his development and in appearance Alexei does look a lot like Rasputin – initially dressing in dishevelled robes, with a straggly beard complimented by wild hair and wild eyes. However, on promotion to baronhood, their advisor* convinced him to wear something a little smarter and he now dresses more in keeping with his station and his beard is well-kept, about 6 inches in length. He is an oracle and – as is traditional for oracles – he is now blind and sometimes wears a bandage over his eyes. He can see perfectly, it’s just he doesn’t use his eyes (this extends to being able to see as if well-lit even in absolute or magical darkness).
Like the Rasputin of legend, Alexei would survive a poisoning. However, he would do this by not eating or drinking the poisoned food: as well as being an oracle, he is a mythic Hierophant and has taken the ‘Sustained by Faith’ ability that means he doesn’t need to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe. Husbit has taken this further with Alexei, and stated that he is also chaste: even his sexual appetites are sated by faith (which did lead to an orgy that time we were in Absalom and the place locked down). This is not to say he doesn’t regularly lead on women, particularly noble women; with his very high charisma score, even their husbands and closest friends don’t object to the attention he showers on them (this is going to backfire badly at some point, when the King’s sister realises Alexei isn’t actually interested in her: see below).

Alexei is not a combat character – Svetlana has learned to pick up a rapier and hurt someone when she needs to, but Alexei sticks with hiding at the back using ‘Faith’s Reach’ (another mythic ability) to deliver healing spells to the rest of us at range. He also has the leadership feat, giving him a bodyguard by the name of Evander – a fighter specialising in trip attacks. If people do look like they’re going to actually try and hurt him, he relies on his huge intimidation score, enhanced with his previously mentioned high charisma and his ability to cloak himself in shadows. This usually leaves people running for their lives but if it doesn’t he has a couple more tricks up his sleeve – the ability to shape-shift into a bird or beast (Beast Shape 1 and 3 as spell-likes due to his oracle mystery, dark tapestry, which has been thematically altered to ghostliness rather than Cthulu-esque void aliens) and, if all else fails, the dust form spell to escape.

Every time Alexei goes all shadowy and scary, this plays in my head!

In addition to Evander, his leadership feat has given him numerous followers, verging on worshippers. As a further part of his Hierophant mythic path, he has taken ‘Divine Font’, which enables him to grant spells to his followers as a god would its clerics. The domains he grants are life (healing) and death.

Early in the game, Alexei (officially True Neutral) would periodically do actions of incredibly ickiness – for instance, torturing a guy by ripping his tongue out and healing it back in back to front – that would more accurately fit a Chaotic Evil character. The general opinion was that sometimes Ivan would have more control than others**. Alexei has become (again, from the mythic rule set) ‘Beyond Morality’ which means he doesn’t have an alignment at all. Alignment annoys me because it’s subjective – Husbit and I have very conflicting, almost opposite, views of what ‘chaotic’ means, for instance – but this is pretty cool. It means that any effect that changes depending on the alignment of the target, he will always get the best result of that effect. It also means he can be conflicting whilst remaining in character – when he holds Court in the Dawnlands, it also means that at least another of the nobles (ie, Chester, Svetlana, Kieran) or at least some of their advisors needs to be there to make sure he doesn’t order something too crazy.
Despite being an oracle, Alexei has no divination abilities; his powers instead focus on healing and necromancy (life and death). He also has most of the item creation feats – whilst Svetlana believes the recently discovered forge is sealed away safely where no one can get to it, she will probably soon realise that Alexei has been using it nonetheless. What she hasn’t yet discovered is that he has soul gems in his possession: he found some on the way to Pitax and showed them to Anna Hencheck when the rest of the party were distracted (understanding that these were not an item the others would be pleased he had) – she gave him a book to help him understand the gems and it is from this book that a lot of Alexei’s wibble comes (for instance, that whole thing in Absalom in the temple of Rovagug with the dead priests: as best I understand it OC, Alexei meets a guy inside the book and it was this guy who killed the priests just by touching them).

When Svetlana and Noleski got engaged, Alexei chatted up Noleski’s sister Natalya. It is not entirely clear whether he did this because he recognised that she would be frustrated with the match and that a frustrated Natalya could be dangerous, or just because he could: Alexei’s motives are not always clear. Whilst Svetlana’s happy to travel with Alexei, she doesn’t necessarily want him as a brother-in-law…

Natalya is pretty smitten. Alexei’s chastity meant the liaison was not sexual. Instead, he painted her. Painting is not something he has done before but he did an incredibly good job (natural 20 + use of mythic chips) and the painting hangs in the portrait gallery. Her interest in Alexei may cause problems if he accidentally reveals his lack of actual interest before the Crusade: they can probably get away with it for at least the length of time they’re away otherwise, and it should be easier to work around her (and, presumably, her former partner-in-crime to whom we assume she would return, Lord Restocovic) if we’re not half a world away fighting demons.

* the very helpful Gregor, without whom many more diplomatic incidents would no doubt have occurred. I can picture him running around beside Svetlana, desperately repairing the damage she’s done by accidentally greeting the wrong person first before practically teleporting to Alexei to correct something he’s said - and back again to stop Svetlana getting whomever she is currently chatting to drunk…

** Husbit would like it pointed out that Alexei also performs unexpectedly good deeds too. However, I can’t think of any examples, either that Svetlana has seen or that I’ve spotted out of character…

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Pathfinder - 24.05.14

I’ve had a pretty icky chest infection since getting back from the NAF Champs, even got sent home from work on Friday and have taken today off, which is not like me. Have sadly spent most of the Bank Holiday weekend in bed, but did at least manage to be awake for the games (even if Aberrant did end up having to be cut short). Anyway, a quick update on the Pathfinder party and I’ll be back with Aberrant tales and Svetlana & Noleski’s wedding later.

When we last left the party, the Paladin had just resurrected the previous leader of the barbarian tribe, in the hopes that he would be more amenable to opening trade with the Dawnlands. Unfortunately, on his resurrection he thanked Kieran but knelt before Armag, accepting of his defeat and what that meant. Serec, the cleric who had shown the party to Armag, knelt also, but reluctantly. The previous leader (whose name escapes me) explained that Armag had won and by their traditions he would not argue with that. However, it was agreed that the party could earn membership of the tribe (and the right to challenge Armag) by performing some act of great assistance to the tribe.

The tribe had travelled from Numeria around the time of the 9th (or 19th… will have to check with the GM). The Crusade the party are joining is the 15th (or 25th) and they run every 20 years, so the tribe left Numeria around 120 years ago. They were experts in working with the star metals that are found around Numeria (millennia ago, many meteorites or comets or some such fell all around the area). The former elder hoped the party could recover the knowledge of how to work with these metals, which he understood was stored on tablets in their former lands, and also an item he understood was required – if we could retrieve this, then he would be able to give us entrance to the tribe.

So off to Numeria the party went. For Svetlana, the journey was periodically interrupted with conversations with Noleski, keeping him up-to-date with their whereabouts and their doings, and keeping her up-to-date with preparations for the wedding. The journey was swift on the back of giant feline mounts summoned by Mr Tiddles; it was fairly clear when they had reached the region they were aiming for because the landscape changed, became desolate, barren. No wildlife, not even a fly crossed their path. Svetlana quickly discovered that the cantrips she used without thinking wouldn’t work in this area. Stronger magics were possible, although it still felt like casting through honey.

It took several days of walking and exploring to find what they were looking for. They managed, in the meantime, to acquire a country’s ransom’s worth of various star metals (Svetlana’s particular favourite being a small chunk of hot metal she could use to ensure warm baths. No doubt it had other, more worthwhile uses, but warm baths are always positive), and also to recover an ancient skeleton with the intention of delivering it to the Pathfinder Guild – it was human-like, but not quite right.

Finally, in one of the caves Alexei prodded the floor. When no one else knew what he was looking at, he stood and strode forwards through a complicated cave-network. Kieran carefully marked the route in case Alexei was having a moment and just walking, but he led the way to the centre of the network: a room with runic writings on the walls and a large hammer and anvil in a black metal – pure adamantine, not plated like the weapons and armour the party were used to seeing. This would then seem to be their destination. Svetlana carefully copied down the runes whilst the others looked around. Once she’d completed copying them down, she moved on to taking rubbings: it seemed likely that they needed to be exact. As she approached the walls, she noticed that the walls were made of some form of alloy of star metals. Keiran tried to lift the hammer, but could not, although the other party members could.

Alexei, with one of his strange moments of intuition, explained that this was a special forge – that the whole room was needed, not just the anvil and hammer because if you tried to use the anvil and hammer alone, they would basically use your life force to complete the work you were doing but in this room you would be protected from that; the room would feed the anvil for you. However, this hammer and anvil could be used to create nearly anything and much more efficiently than a normal forge. It was decided that this forge should be transported to the Dawnlands: Alexei, Svetlana and Mr Tiddles immediately agreed that the best location would be as an extension to the Cyclops Lich Vordekai’s lair in Varnhold and Mr Tiddles set about transporting the entire cave network there. As they left, Svetlana carefully re-set the rune on the only entrance to the lair before Alexei pulled stone over the doorway to completely hide it.

They returned to the barbarians with the rubbings Svetlana had taken. Kieran carefully (and without lying except by omission) explained that he could not bring the hammer to them but here was the knowledge. The former leader was delighted with this (although it was not clear whether he could read the runes) and a celebration was duly thrown, at which Armag’s absence was noticeable.

The following morning, Kieran sought out the leader and formally challenged for leadership. The fight was short but violent: Kieran was forced to his knees and for a moment all seemed lost, but he pushed himself back to his feet, swung his sword in a mighty arc and cleaved Armag clean in two. As the warlord fell, his torso burst into bright flames and a battered Kieran stood triumphant. He appointed the previous leader to stand as his regent, and the party split up, Arron to the Red Mantis island, Alexei to the Dawnlands, Kieran to his lands and Svetlana to be fitted and pampered and prepped for her wedding.

Thursday 22 May 2014

What a difference your friends make...

The Blood Bowl community is pretty amazing.

There was a problem at the hotel at last weekend's NAF Championships. The story the hotel gave is that 50 rooms suffered an electric failure so a number of us had to be shipped out to another hotel. Reading between the lines and from what the cabby said, they double-booked the rooms. Husbit and I were among the unlucky number who had to stay elsewhere.

I was sad - I've never stayed in a 4-star hotel before so was very excited. The plan for the evening had been to chat and play games and take a nap if needed, but staying at the venue was brilliant because it meant that I could go to bed when I needed to and Husbit could still go to bed hours later when he wanted to. Still, not to worry - they were paying for the taxi and also paying for us to stay someone more expensive, which sounded promising. We were told a taxi had been booked to pick us up 8.45 the next morning and we asked that that be moved forward to 8.15 so we could have breakfast with our friends. Not a prob, we were told, and we parted relatively mollified.

The receptionist at the hotel we were landed at had to get a manager because they didn't know we were expected - the manager fortunately did, but it was a bit of a concern cos I was very tired by now. Neither of us like using lifts so we chose to use the stairs - our room was on the 6th floor, but don't mind a climb. The stairs were basically for emergency/staff use only and looked it but that wasn't too bad - a bit unexpected, but not a problem.

The room itself was small, with a big stain on the already-dirty carpet. The bed was smaller than our bed at home (narrower and possibly shorter, although it might just be the headboard type meant my natural sleeping position forced me lower down the bed). The room was stuffy, and when I worked out how to turn on the air-con we discovered what the rumbling noise we could hear was: the air con in other rooms. We turned ours off - it was too loud. This was exacerbated by the fact the rear entrance to Rock City was beneath our window (the view in the morning also revealed a semi-demolished building) and that the walls were so thin we could hear the light-switches being flicked in the room next door. The hotel knew noise was a problem: complimentary ear plugs were provided with an apology note. They were not comfortable and did not block out the noise sufficiently for a good night's sleep.

We'd finally managed to drift off when the people staying there as they clubbed in Nottingham came back - drunken and rowdy, having had a fun night out. I've nothing against that, but when we were meant to be staying somewhere peaceful and really needed some sleep, this was a disaster.

In the morning, we went outside to wait for the cab. At 8.20, we phoned the venue to make sure the cab was coming. The receptionist would have to phone the cab company and find out why they weren't there. 8.30 rolls around and we haven't heard anything, so phone again: apparently not only was no cab booked for 8.15 liked we'd asked, but no cab had been booked for 8.45 like we'd been told. A cab was now comingd.

By the time we got to the hotel, I was nearly in tears with frustration and was shaking from hunger and lack of sleep. Fortunately, there was food. And, more importantly, friends.

Seriously, friends make all the difference in the world. Everyone rallied around and was so supportive and amazing that my overwhelming experience of the weekend was not the rubbish night but the amazing, amazing people who made me laugh and smile and feel loved. The people who let me rant at them, the people who gave me hugs, the people who did everything in their power to make sure I was ok.

Whilst it was generally amazing, I have to give a special shout to Chance from Three Die Block, a Blood Bowl podcast you should listen to know and adore from now on, and to Nazgob of Nazgob's Blog and to Simon the Glowfather for their special efforts in cheering me up. But really, I could name any member of the Blood Bowl community: I now know the German for guinea pig (meerschweinchen) literally translates as 'sea piggy', which is very cute, and I have been hugged and loved and made to feel amazing by people I'd only just met as well as people I've known for years.

Thank you, guys: thank you for making something potentially so rubbish into something actually so amazing.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

NAF Championships 2014


The plan for a good night’s sleep on Thursday (to help me get through work and the drive up to Cantaloupe’s on Friday) backfired when the Cat decided at 3.30am we weren’t paying her enough attention and leapt over me onto the (fortunately laminate) floor to vomit everywhere.

I got through the day at work and pedalled home to feed the puke-alicious puss before packing – something I probably should have done the night before but, y’know, laziness. Exiles shirts, pyjamas, underwear, book, teddy, toothbrush. Figured it’s going to be hot at hotel so shorts and battleskirt would be in order and full battledress meant hasty leg-shaving. Swimming costume to complete the set – we’d packed the models and pitches and dice and all the important bits beforehand – and we’re ready to go!

Drove up to the lovely Cantaloupe’s and crashed the night to break the journey into stages. Road works the following morning meant we thought we were going to be running late, but we’d all pre-registered so it was ok.


I wasn’t sure what team to take; all I knew was I wanted to take something fun. At Crumb Bowl, Nazgob convinced me to join the Halfling Challenge. Very glad I did! Out of 160 coaches, I believe 15 took halflings in the end and I have shiny new dice and a badge so am very happy.

My team, ‘FlingTastic’, had 2 trees, 9 halflings, Deeproot, Puggy (or at least, a Motty Mottison model pretending to be Puggy), a chef, a babe and no re-rolls. Skill-wise, day 1 was guard on a tree, side step and sure feet on ‘flings; day 2 was block on a tree and another set of side step/sure feet ‘flings.

Game One – vs AntiPixi and NoB lock

Halflings vs Chaos Pact sounded an interesting match to me. My chef exceeded himself, stealing all the re-rolls for the match and, to rub it in, my ‘flings were so well behaved I didn’t use them all.This earned me the nickname ‘Luck Wraith’ and my very favourite Blood Bowl souvenir, this fantastic picture from AntiPixi.

My first attempt at a one turn touchdown nearly backfired  when the fling was a square short even with go for its, but fortunately the rats couldn't keep the ball and after a lot of fuss and bother, Puggy eventually managed to score on turn 8 of the first half. It was then up to the flings to keep the pact from crossing the line in the second half – and a very good job of it they made too.

The match ended 1-0 on TD’s and 1-1 on CAS, and I can credit that entirely to my fantastic chef and Antipixi's terrible dice.

Game Two – vs Pippy and Going for the 24

I don’t think I’ve ever faced Pippy before, so this was a new experience. He was using lizards, a team I don’t see very often. The weather was rolled to reveal (in juxtaposition to the glorious weather outside) pouring rain.

Stunty teams do not like the rain. Fortunately, rolling five consecutive 3’s in their attempts to pick up the ball did not dampen the little guys’ enthusiasm; the lizards were kind enough not to take complete advantage of this oversight and allowed the ‘flings to retain some dignity and they did manage to kill the Kroxigor.

Final score, 0-2 TD and 1-1 CAS. Pippy is a much better player than me and definitely deserved the win. I have no doubt he could have beaten me by a much higher margin, but I think I could have made a better showing of myself if it wasn’t for the rain…

Naz and I go to a lot of the same tournaments, but I think this is the first time we’ve actually faced each other (he's usually much higher up the tables than me, but that win against Antipixi did me good). We settled down for some manic ‘fling on ‘fling action with nearly identical teams (with break tackle rather than guard on the tree, he’d also taken both side stepping flings on day one and support staff rather than a babe). His first game, Puggy had behaved abysmally and been fired so he was now fielding Bertrand Hairfoot (who happens to have the same stats as Puggy…) so it made sense for Motty to reveal himself.

Weather played up again – a blizzard this time. Neither set of flings was particularly worried – trees can only throw a fling so far anyway!

It seemed likely that whoever could take down trees first would be in a good position to win, so having knocked down the Deeproot clone playing for the Marienburg Fireflies as well as one of the Silverbark brothers, but despite 6 assists and easy armour cracks, 4 members of Flingtastic were forced from the pitch with nothing more than stuns to show for it.

Final score 1-3 on TD, 2-1 on CAS. Another very enjoyable and silly game J

Then retiring to the bar for other games – check ‘em out here – and also a few issues with the hotel (but that’s another story).


Game Four – vs scs.sam and The Deformed Stumpy Ninjas

I’ve played Sam before, but never using ‘flings and never against his Chaos Dwarfs. I was a bit concerned – not much sleep and a team with high armour and a fair amount of tackle didn’t sound much fun. However, the game was very enjoyable even if not a single throw team mate landed successfully.

Final score 1-2 TD and 3-3 CAS.

A quick shout needs to go to Nazgob, Bertrand and the Marienburg Fireflies at this point: during kick-off in this round, the ball landed on a tree (the one with block rather than the one with break tackle) who caught it and then walked down the pitch to score – needing 4 turns, 7 go for its and killing 2 elves!

Game Five – vs CrystalMcDoll and the Avalorn Auburns

Crystal’s wood elves were not having a very good tournament – Pug’s ‘flings had rather torn them to pieces in their previous game so they were feeling understandably nervous at facing more short guys. It did look like their bad luck would continue but, after the first few turns, they managed to pull themselves together and ran rings around the flings. It didn’t help that Fling Tastic’s chef had forgotten his seasonings for this game and only managed to secure one re-roll for the flings.

Final score: 0-3 TD and 1-3 CAS but again a lot of fun. I also need to nominate Crystal for the best hair in Blood Bowl.

Game Six – vs Bassman2004 and The Mods

The humans hadn’t been doing very well and were a little frustrated to find themselves at the bottom tables. The game was slower paced than I’m used to – Exiles play fast, and I think most of the people I normally play do too – and my only game of the weekend that came even close to being called (and very nearly was…). I’m used to being among the first to finish!

Final score: 1-2 TD and 3-4 CAS


As an Exile, I’m very pleased that our very own ceetee managed to make it as League Champion (the highest placed person outside of the two players in the final itself). Also, Nazgob won the Halfling Challenge and got to wear the Stunty Cape during round. I didn’t know any of the other winners.

For a list of final standings, see here (you will note I came 153 out of 160!)


Taking a chef instead of re-rolls was definitely the way forward: denying my opponent theirs was far more valuable than having my own. I could see the benefit of Naz’s option of fan factor/cheerleaders etc to ensure winning fan-based kick off results, but for me the babe was invaluable by helping keep players on the pitch.

I didn’t take a team intending to win any games and as a result had one of the most enjoyable tournaments I’ve had in a while. Meeting so many lovely new people, facing so many new opponents and not being so badly outnumbered on gender also helped (it shouldn’t matter, but I love it when there’s a few other women around): I had an amazing weekend.

The drive home was tiring but we were welcomed by a very purry Pusscat and that was lovely too.

Lunch Money, Jack the Ripper, Red Dragon Inn and Love Letter

At the Blood Bowl NAF Championships, we didn’t just play Blood Bowl. A proper post about the tournament itself will follow (once I’ve scanned in the pictures) but in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the other games I was involved in.

Husbit took his NAF and usual online name from this game – he introduced it to my friends at uni the first time he visited me there and they couldn’t all remember his name afterwards but they did remember the game. It’s a card game he particularly enjoys, being fairly simple and playable in a much larger group than the rules say. Everyone uses the same draw pile, too: it isn’t a deck-building game (such as Magic: the Gathering), so success doesn’t rely on spending more money than your opponents.

We played it up at Cantaloupe’s on the Friday night. Husbit won all 3 hands – he’s pretty good. I think, also, I’m a bit nice for the game – I tend not to like finishing someone off and would rather start picking on another player for a bit so everyone stays in longer. This is not the way to win the game.*

The idea is that you’re kids in the playground beating each other up. You have a hand of 5 cards drawn from the central pile. At the start of your turn, you play a card (or, occasionally, more) and then draw back up to 5 (you may have used some in other players' turns and can choose to discard other cards instead of having a turn). The cards are mostly attacks, but you also have defences (blocks, dodges, freedoms and hides), health cards (visiting the nurse) and ‘humiliation’ cards (I think one of the expansions renames these ‘horror of horrors’) that can be used to counter anything played before – if you can come up with a clever story. You have 20 health which is reduced as the other players attack you.

In my opinion, this game is best played with story – rather than just slamming down a jab card, I like it when a description of the action is given “I see you on the swing and come over to deliver a sharp jab in your ribs. Take that, coward!” Other people disagree, preferring the faster paced version of just throwing in cards. But humiliation cards, in particular, are just so much more fun when played with story – “as you ran to me, you misjudged my swing and instead of punching me, my foot caught you in the bladder at just the right angle to make you wet yourself. Nananananah, can’t hurt meee”.

This is one of Cantaloupe’s games. We moved onto it after Husbit proved too good at Lunch Money… He also won this.

The game is a variant on Rummy, with the idea being to collect sets of evidence and related suspects, victims and scenes. You can play a scene any time, but no other card can be played until a victim has been played. If the scene in the same colour as the victim has already been played, you can take it. If not and someone else plays that scene later, they can take the victim. Suspects can be played once 3 pieces of evidence against them are down. The suspect with the most evidence played against them scores double points unless the appropriate alibi has been played by someone else. There are also cards that have effects when played – one that forces any victims in hands to be played and others that force players to discard and so on.

My first hand had the special card “Ripper Escapes”. This card scores negative points equal to twice the number of played victims unless all victims have been played, in which case it is worth 35 points. This sounded like a good way to win, but Husbit very quickly discarded his entire hand and I was stuck on negative points… this happened again in the third round, at which point I basically gave up and we went to bed.

I liked this game – I haven’t played any variant of rummy since school so it took me a moment to remember how the hell you played, but this was very similar and brought back fond memories of wasted free periods in the sixth form common room, stealing polos and spending time with friends. The cards are nice, too, because they all have a little bit of information about the various historical victims and suspects, which I found interesting.

For me, this was the (non-Blood Bowl) game of the weekend. Naz picked it up on Day One of the tournament, and we settled down to play it that evening.

The premise is simple and designed to appeal to geeky roleplayers like me: you are adventurers, back from adventuring and enjoying your hard-earned cash fighting, drinking and gambling at a pub – the Red Dragon Inn. The original game – the version we were playing – gives you the options of a wizard with an insane rabbit familiar, an elven priestess, a warrior and a halfling rogue. The first game saw me as the priestess, Husbit as the wizard, Naz as the halfling and Kare as the warrior. Each character has strengths and weaknesses so as the evening progressed and we played different characters we had a very different game (I think I like the priestess best, followed by the warrior. I didn’t get to play the wizard).

Your turn starts with discarding/drawing cards from your character’s draw pile. You then play an action (if you have one), such as starting a fight of some sort (and reducing another player or players’ fortitude) or beginning a round of gambling. You then buy a drink (which can be given to sit in any player’s drinks pile) and you drink a drink – turning over the top drink of your drink’s pile and taking the effect (usually increasing your alcohol count). If you don’t have a drink to drink, you reduce your alcohol count instead, as you start to sober up.

The idea is to outfight, outdrink and outgamble your other adventurers. If you run out of money, you’re thrown out of the pub and if you pass out you’re also out. This is cleverly worked out: you have a counter from 0-20. You start with your red fortitude marker at 20 and your clear alcohol marker at 0. As you take damage, your red marker moves down and as you drink your clear marker moves up: when the markers meet, you pass out. You can also play cards to make drinks stronger or weaker or to negate other actions or ‘acquire’ money.

As with Lunch Money, I think this is a game where a bit of roleplay/story telling helps – the cards themselves certainly lend themselves to this (one of my favourites is the warrior with her damage-causing action cards “Not another chainmail bikini joke” and “Want to arm wrestle?” It’s fair to say she kinda reminds me of my sister).

What’s nice is that they’ve thought about expansions from the first box set – the drinks include ones that affect trolls or ogres (for example) differently, even though there are no trolls or ogres in the box. There’s at present 4 boxes and a number of individually available characters (including the wizard’s insane rabbit). It worked well with 3/4 players, but I think it would stand up to more players too, because it’s quite fast-paced (even with a roleplay element) so everyone could stay involved.

I definitely want my own copy.

I was intrigued by this game – it looked simple and is set in a fictional realm called Tempest, my NAF name. Also, the idea of seducing a princess the week after getting engaged to a king entertained me highly.

It is very simple: 16 cards of varying strength. You start with one in hand and each turn you draw a second, consider the two you have and choose which to discard. The effect of the discarded card is then played, and the next player takes their turn. Whoever has the highest valued card at the end of the round (or is the only one left holding a card when the others have been knocked out by card effects) wins the round and a little token – the winner is the first to a number of tokens determined by the number of players.

The idea is that the princess and heir of Tempest has gone into mourning and you are one of the many people trying to get your letter to her in the hopes of winning her heart. The cards represent the person currently holding your letter and go from guards through barons, handmaidens, princes, kings and up to the princess herself.

There are tactics to be brought into play. For instance, the second most powerful card is the countess, the princess’s best friend, but if you are holding this card and draw a king or prince (or are holding a king/prince and draw the countess) you must discard the countess. This means if the countess is discarded, your opponent has 1/3 chance of holding a king and 2/3 chance of holding a prince (there being 1 king and 2 princes in the deck and, of course, depending what has already been discarded) and if you can play a guard and name the correct card being held, that’s them out of the game! Ah, except, what if they’re double-bluffing you?.. and so on.

Yes, I liked this game. Simple, but with lots of opportunity for tactical play at a level I can cope with.

*I have spent many years saying I don’t enjoy non-co-operative board games because I get too competitive. It was during this game that I realised it’s playing them with Husbit that makes me too competitive: in myself, I’m not, but he is and I respond to this with a competitiveness that outmatches his and spoils it for everyone.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

More about Chrissie

We are two sessions in to the Aberrant game. This stage is a prologue of sorts, allowing us to inhabit our characters before they become all super and powerful. Here’s what I’ve learnt about Chrissie:

She works at King’s College Hospital, being offered a job before she’d finished her training. She is happy to work extra hours if she’s engrossed in a case or if the right person asks her – she tends to avoid Dr Williams who is often responsible for finding cover, but most other people will get a positive response from her. She fuels herself with strong black coffee (no sugar) and commutes from her flat in Croyden by bus.

When out clubbing, she might have a couple of cheap beers and maybe a social ciggie. She doesn’t usually drink heavily and even then only ever if she has at least a couple of days off to recover in afterwards. Her favourite club is The Styx, run by Bill Drakeford. It’s on 2 levels: a pub upstairs called Charon’s Skiff and the club has one small dance floor area at street level but is predominantly below ground. Bill might have been her brother’s friend at school, but he took her under his wing when he realised how unhappy she was as a teenage and now she’s closer to him than to her brother.

On which note, Chrissie is generally not close to her family. Her parents are materialistic and financially-driven. They want the best for their children but aren’t any good at demonstrating their love – Chrissie has some issues with intimacy and commitment as a result. Her brother went down the route they had intended, earning a lot of money and working a lot of hours. They would have preferred Chrissie to have become a doctor, if she insisted on medicine, but nonetheless funded her through her training.

Chrissie does not have to worry about money. Nursing pays fairly well and she does extra shifts. Her parents paid her way through training so she has no debts. Her flat is nice (nicer than if her parents hadn’t been involved not because she needed their help so much as that they insisted on her having some form of door entry system for security. Left to herself, she would have been happy enough in a bedsit). Her only major outgoing (besides rent) is the occasional adventure holiday with her friends: her general living costs are pretty low.

When she isn’t working or dancing, she either spends time exercising (par coeur is a hobby developed since the game began; she also enjoys climbing, swimming, jogging…) or reading and studying medical journals – her local library are helpful in this regard. She tends to spend most of her time outside, which probably explains why her flat is such a tip. There’s a kitchen filled with washing up waiting to be done. Her clothes are strewn across the lounge and main bedroom. The boxroom/second bedroom is the tidiest room: a set of shelves across one wall contains binders full of the notes she has made as a student nurse and as part of her CPD. There’s a desk in here, too, with a couple of cups and maybe a plate, but otherwise this room is uniquely clutter-free.

She’s pretty good with technology, although she chooses to use the PCs at her local library rather than owning her own. She now owns a mobile phone and is surprised she waited so long to get one.

Chrissie is short and slender. The amount and types of exercise she does has given her a muscular, wiry frame. Her skin has an uneven tan from being naturally pale and spending so much time outdoors. Her hair is dark brown, almost black, and straight. She wears it shoulder length, usually tied back into a ponytail.

PLOT! so far:

We might not be superpowered yet, but the plot that’s going on is interesting enough that it really doesn’t matter. It’s full of implied future problems and the feeling that there’s a much bigger picture than the players are aware of.

Briefly, we’ve been brought together in protective custody as key witnesses in a case against a violent gang – Adam, the other character, had fallen into the gang but got beaten up badly during a protection-racket collection gone wrong and was left behind by his boss. This is when Chrissie showed up, just in time to see the car race away and the teenage boy they’d left behind (as well as the thrashed people they’d been extorting). Once Adam was well enough (surprisingly quickly…) he was moved by his lawyer to an apartment in a block in Canary Wharf, where Chrissie joined him in the adjacent apartment shortly afterwards after a gang member broke into her flat (they tracked her down because she also rescued a young woman some other gang members were hassling, and they worked it out from there).

It’s been a lot more exciting than that, with partying and dancing and Jeff Biscuits and parkour and A&E and violence, but that sums up the key points J

Board Games - Smash Up and Last Night on Earth

A dragon slew our internet the other day. We made a Virgin sacrifice and it’s up and running again, but this is why I still haven’t got around to the next Chrissie post. 
The Virgin technician was very nice and fixed the internet for us, but the model will require some more TLC: the rider's lost a horn and both wings came off the dragon.

My brother and I were meant to go climbing last night, but when it got to evening he really wasn’t feeling it and I’m pretty skint so instead he came over for board games.

Husbit recently acquired Smash Up and has been keen to play it since, but (apart from Blood Bowl) I’m not particularly fond of competitive gaming, preferring things more co-op (รก la Arkham Horror or Pandemic) so had been reluctant. However, I thought my brother might enjoy it so we started there.

The game is pretty simple: there’s a bunch of different factions such as wizards, ninjas, dinosaurs represented as a small deck of cards: you randomly grab two, shuffle them together and that’s you. Your deck has action cards and minion cards: you can play one of each per turn. Minion cards have different ‘strengths’ and abilities and action cards do things!

You then lay a set of bases (the number down depends on the number of players). These have 4 numbers on them, and a special rule. The small font number in the top left corner is the total number of minion strength needed to ‘score’ the base. The other three large font numbers running across the middle of the card are the points scored: the player with the highest minion strength scores the first, the second the second and the third the third. Any other players don’t score anything and in the event of a tie both players get the points for the highest position they are eligible. The minions are discarded and a new base is drawn. First to 15 wins.


Each faction has strengths – ninjas are good at sneaking in extra minions when scoring bases and killing off opponent minions; robots are good for laying down lots of minions; tricksters seem to just be nails; dinosaurs are good for suddenly ramping up their strength to score a base unexpectedly; pirates blow stuff up; wizards have all the actions and zombies keep coming back (I didn’t really notice what aliens did – score extra points, I think). Mashing two factions together gives each game a unique feel.

From playing so far, I like the trickster, ninja and robot decks best, but think trickster wizards would be the most powerful.

For our first game, I drew ninja robots, Husbit trickster (fairy) dinosaurs and brother alien pirates. Brother snatched victory from Husbit with some clever play that left me miles behind. Second round, I drew wizard dinosaurs, Husbit had zombie pirates and Brother had my ninja robots. He thrashed us again!

I am not very good at tactical thinking or paying attention to special effects in play. Despite the seemingly simple nature of the game, that is a disadvantage when not playing with drunk people. However, because the game is very simple and plays well without tactics, it does suit drunken gaming in a way most of our games don’t.

I’d asked Brother to bring Pandemic because I really enjoy it and it’s quicker than Arkham Horror, but he also brought along Last Night onEarth and was very much in the mood for zombies so we got that out. I hadn’t played it before but Husbit had and he begged to be allowed to control the zombies. Haven’t just convincingly lost two hands of Smash Up and having had a long day, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to the rules, so will summarise as best I understood:

There were two people playing heroes, so we both randomly grabbed two characters. I got two male characters and my brother two female. The characters have special rules and health levels depending on age: my priest was the only one with two health, the others were all students. We were playing a scenario where Brother and I had to find 4 townsfolk and keep them alive to morning: Husbit had to kill two heroes or prevent us finding and keeping 4 townsfolk to win.

Heroes can search in buildings. This involves drawing the top card from the deck and (in this scenario) hoping it’s a person. Zombies can walk through walls and smash into heroes, but they only move one square around whilst heroes move D6. Heroes can also change the order in which each goes every round.

When fighting with a zombie, the zombie gets one die and the hero two, but zombies win ties. If the zombie wins, then the hero takes a wound. If the hero wins, the zombie is fended off. If the hero wins and rolled a double, the zombie is killed (there are weapons and cards that mean you get to roll more than two dice and if the die that means you win is not part of the double rolled, you still win and kill the zombie).

It didn’t take long for Husbit to overwhelm the least combat-like heroes, who ran away. We found three weapons, all with a chance to break and all breaking on their first use! We finally found a townsfolk, only for a zombie card to be played that meant he was actually a zombie and then my characters were killed on consecutive turns and the zombies won.

Monday 12 May 2014

Deadlands - Coffin Rock (Part 2)

Quick spoiler alert: Coffin Rock is a pre-written Deadlands scenario. If you haven't played but think you might and don't want spoilers it may be worth not reading the post, although there are previously discussed alterations. (Part 1 here)

Since I last wrote, things have become even stranger. Our Chinese friend has caught up with us, which has been a mighty large help, what with having some sort of fighting experience and all. Ran into him in the saloon and he's busy telling us he's been here months, but we all know that ain't the truth. I've kinda given up keeping track of time, tell the truth. Don't seem much point any more.

Anyways, we ran through our news and he ran through his and a goddamn posse rode through town, causing a ruckus, so out we hightail and they start laying into our shaman, so a bit of gun fire ensues and what do you know? that damn church bell starts ringin' soon as any dead body hits the floor. Well, this is getting a bit too much, as you might say, so we wait for it to quiet down and saunter to the church. Turns out someone's gone and replaced our horses, too. Shame, I liked that beast.

So we get to the church and I dunno what I saw on that window but I don't want to look at it again, that's for sure. Musta been quite a sight though, earnt me a white streak through my locks. Get into the bell tower and it's a bit strange but there ain't no rope to ring the bell, nor anyway to get to the top of the tower, and as we're looking the bell rings again, nearly deafening us, so we stumble out, ears ringing and hear an almighty crashing from the cemetery. Our Chinese partner, he reckons he saw two shadows running off, but I dunno - I didn't and my eyes are usually pretty sharp for that sort of thing. Well, what can we do but investigate? So into the gloom we go and we find John Daly (remember him? He's the one who founded the town and who murdered when his mansion was burnt down)'s mauseleum with John Daly walking out. Now, before we can panic too much, the preacher reminds us that he's told us there's more to this world than meets the eye and this is just one more of those things and I guess it's not so different from those see-through people we saw by that train that time, 'cept solid and rotting.

Well, we lay that man back to rest and I can only he hope he found his peace this time. Figured best thing to do would be to burn the body and we didn't want to do that in town so we headed for the hills. Still dark as you like so we were led by the noise rather than sight of a fight and find a young woman beating off some men seemed to be made of burning, blood-soaked mud, using the end of her colt like it's a club. Struck me as a strange way to fight, but seemed bullets don't bother 'em so there I end up, smacking 'em with the handle too. And believe me, those things hurt if they hit you. Another reason I like my guns, but if they're not gonna hurt the things...

Well, this young lady is none other than Shelley Pearl Daly, the daughter of John Daly and rightful heir to what remains of Coffin Rock. So once we've rescued her she helps us burn her father's body and we head back to town. Long story short, the place is still pretty messy and we think maybe it's time to check out that crazy dancing man on the rock that everyone 'cept me's been seeing. So off we go, Shelley in tow, and meet this person. And boy is he glad to see us. Seems his totem spirit guide has been taken prisoner by the craziness that's swallowing this town and could we help rescue it, thank you? So we agree and sleep in his camp and head back to town when we wake - only we musta overslept by a way cos it's high noon once we get out and when we arrive in town and it's still high noon and...

Well, we headed to the general store to sort out our bits and pieces and on the way through past the assayer’s office, we see a mob and learn he's been murdering people for the copper. Our man of God, he won't stand to see an innocent man condemned, so we try to find out the truth of it and sure enough he's been killing 'em, only it ain't exactly like he's got a sound mind to be doing the killing knowingly, like, so we manage to talk Bryce into taking him into custody and then we'll get him sent off to some asylum. Bullets flying and all that but seems to work and we head to the general store, which more or less collapses around us.

Thought the hotel might be a good place to pick up what we needed and there's Karl, the manager all ready to hang himself to join his wife, and there she is, all hanging by the door, only she ain't there really so that gets messy, but we managed to subdue Karl and tied him somewhere safe to sleep it off and then headed for the mine. Met some ghosts on the way in, dead miners been sacrificed to raise these demon that's holding on the spirit guide, so we agree to help them and they kinda walked into us - creepy feeling, that. But we walked down and their souls found their bodies (those blood-mud-men when we helped Shelley? More of those) and they kinda melted away so that was ok.

And the spirit guide (Tacheen or some such) was there, held by blue ropes of light over this pit of lava and as we arrived I saw some lowlife jump into the lava but it was like a door into somewhere else, so once we'd dealt with the mud-men, we spoke to Tacheen who kicked us through back to town (not the nicest way to travel, but speedy, it being still high noon once we got there) and we all landed out of any reflective surface you like and high-tailed it to the church. And sure enough, it was the Reverend Cherval who'd jumped ahead of us and sure enough, there he is chanting from behind the alter from some big, creepy lookin' book and the sight of him near enough gives Shelley a heart attack. I swear, I put 2 or 3 rounds right into him but he didn't even blink. All these followers started fighting us too and then this DEMON appears out of the altar (just as creepy as the preacher warned us). So we carry on fighting and the preacher uses holy water from the font at the front and that seems to startle the demon so Shelley and the shaman and me, we all start throwing the water on it whilst shooting the followers and the Chinaman and the preacher try to take down Cherval... and eventually the demon sinks back into hell and tries taking the whole church with him - the last of the followers fell down the pit with him and we got out as fast as we could, through the doors, through windows...

Well, the Chinaman and the preacher, they stayed and tried to make sure Cherval was good and gone to, only instead he vanished right before our eyes, with that big book of his, and so they came out of the church too, as the floor was pulled from under them.

I don't think I'll be going back near one of those places any time soon. Never was all that devout anyway; seems to me that if a church ain't safe from a demon then there's no point going there.

And there we are, shaking and licking our wounds when Marshall Bryce and his cronies show up. There's a look in a man's eyes just afore he goes for his gun and that look was in Bryce's. I knew what was coming and guess I was just a wee bit more shaken by this whole event that I knew, cos if we didn't have the rightful owner of Coffin Rock on our side I'd be resting in jail for murder and he'd be fine with self-defence for I'm sure I went for my gun just before he did.

It's a while since I've been shot that hard and must be a miracle of the words the preacher said over me that I'm alive at all. Not so Bryce. My bullet tore right through him, cut a nice hole through his body and he won't be troubling Coffin Rock no more.

And it still ain't the nicest place, but I reckon with what we've done it can get there.

Deadlands - Coffin Rock (Part 1)

Further to my description of Husbit’s running of the Deadlands Coffin Rock scenario, I eventually managed to find my write up. Turns out I had misremembered some of his time messing, but hope you enjoy.

Quick spoiler alert: Coffin Rock is a pre-written Deadlands scenario. If you haven't played but think you might and don't want spoilers it may be worth not reading the post, although there are previously discussed alterations.

My name is Lisbeth Hunter. Please ignore my youth and gender: I find most men look as scared looking down the barrel of my gun as they ever did when it was my brother they faced. I'm heading West on the trail of the men who killed him, actually. I've picked up a few strange companions along the way. Really strange. I mean, the gambler was pretty normal til he went off on some justice/vengeance thing and shot up the guy was meant to be paying us, then split. Not seen him since, actually... Our Native American shaman and the Chinaman take a bit more getting used to, but they've both been pretty helpful to me. Recently picked us up a preacher - just before we got to this godforsaken place in fact. However long ago that was.

So here it is, the shaman, the preacher and me, we rode into town maybe yesterday. Knew something wasn't right - town ain't deserted except maybe it is. There are people here, sure, but they ain't exactly right and I can't exactly explain the problem. The whole town's just a bit screwy. Like the mirrors - wonder round the hotel and every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection I look older and older - then we find that the wife of the owner went and hanged herself cos of she thought she was getting old too fast, 'cept no one can tell us when that was - 6 months, a year, two years ago. No one seems to know the difference. And the mirrors in that bar where you can see the reflection of that damn rock (shaped like a coffin, town has an imaginative name, huh?) with some dude dancing atop it. Not seen that myself yet, but the preacher and the shaman have - but how could any of us have seen it when the mirror doesn't face a window and even if it did the rock isn't in that direction?

Went into the general store and found a cross nailed up the wrong way - even our native friend knew there was a problem here so we righted it but this town is still all shades of wrong. There's a library which was never opened and a newspaper press, set up but never used. Looked behind the press and found a door with some dead dude trapped in the room behind. Looked like he gave up struggling kinda fast too.

Actually (apart from the rats and if I never see another I'll be happy) this has been the only place we've had answers so far. See, the dead guy had a kept a journal (no dates though, this place is too weird for that) and it gave us some details on John Daly, the guy who founded Coffin Rock. We'd poked around his burnt down mansion (they reckon that was about 6 months ago, or maybe not. Either way, definitely linked to the weirdness) but not found anything. No one can tell us the name of the guy they hanged for the murder/arson, cept he was just some guy and looks like no one thinks he did it but the Marshall, they're all too afeared a him to even breathe wrong. I'm starting to think he has some strange deal with the church and the doctor - like maybe they're sacrificing people to some kinda demon except that only happens in tales and even after the crazy stuff we've seen, I'm not quite ready to take that jump yet. Will have to talk to the shaman and preacher though. They know more about that kinda thing than me. Think the whores might be in on it too. Something about that place unsettles me, more'n most cathouses.

So yeah, these last few months, we ain't found much out cept that time don't run smooth like it should and you can't trust your eyes or ears in this place. The people, they don't make any sense and the town is not as dead as maybe it should be.